Tycoon Mark bets on Africa

Mark Shuttleworth, one of Cape Town's favourite sons, has seen the opportunities for investing in the rest of Africa

Mark Shuttleworth, one of Cape Town's favourite sons, has seen the opportunities for investing in the rest of Africa

Published Mar 13, 2012


Lynnette Johns

Business Writer

MARK Shuttleworth, IT billionaire, space tourist and angel funder, is also a keen investor in Africa.

Shuttleworth, one of Cape Town’s favourite business sons, invested $10 million (now about R75.5m) into a fund devoted to Africa and the Middle East.

The investment was via his Here Be Dragons company. HBD is a venture capital business that was started by entrepreneur Shuttleworth to assist small firms with funding, mentoring and marketing.

Shuttleworth, who is now based in London, has a number of interests including funding the popular HIP2B2 which encourages maths and science pupils.

He invested in Insparo Asset Management’s Africa and Middle East fund in 2009, shortly after it was launched.

The Insparo Fund, which is is heading for its fourth year, has invested heavily on the continent and intends to continue investing in Africa.

Insparo’s chief strategist Graham Stock said they invested in breweries, cement and flour mills. Shuttleworth is the biggest SA investor.

Stock said they managed two funds, a multi-strategy fund, in which Shuttleworth had invested but which did not do any business in SA, concentrating on growing economies like Nigeria.

Their newest fund will invest capital into SA. Stock said they were looking at companies in SA expanding into the continent.

Barlow World was taking advantage of mining opportunities. Ghana was also looking attractive with oil discoveries in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as gas in East Africa.

Ernst & Young’s (E&Y) Africa Business Centre has identified 25 “rapid growth markets” around the world. Four of the 25 are in Africa – SA, Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt.

Wesgro CEO Nils Flaaten said: “Many African economies are looking at growth rates of 7 percent plus, while Europe is facing zero to 2 percent over the next few years.

“It makes sense to invest in Africa, with a number of opportunities beyond minerals. As in most economies there is a rise of the middle class, which translates into the consumption of more expensive food and drink. Other opportunities include construction, notably infrastructure, and hotels as more business people arrive to conclude deals or seek out investment opportunities.”

Michael Lalor, leader of E&Y Africa Business Centre, said many people would be surprised to know that sub-Saharan Africa had been growing faster than East Asia in the past eight years and that it would be the second-fastest growing region in the world in the next 10 years.

“By 2015, seven of the fastest-growing economies in the world will be from Africa,” Lalor said.

In 1999, Shuttleworth made R4 billion after selling Thawte, the company he founded to build VeriSign. It was the fastest-growing internet certificate authority worldwide and the leading certificate authority outside the US at the time. A few years later, he became the world’s second self-funded space tourist and the first African in space.

He has also worked hard at making computers and internet access easier for millions of people, using open-source software.

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