Africa tends to capture the hearts of its guests.
It happened to me soon after stepping off an airplane into the chilly mountain air of Lesotho 14 years ago. My three-year sojourn as a volunteer in the country changed me into a certifiable Afrophile.
Upon my return stateside, I sought to remain as engaged with the continent as distance would allow. I found an Africa-focused job. I read Africa-focused books. I even listened to the BBC’s Focus on Africa over my battered shortwave radio.
Strangely enough, the thought of investing in Africa didn’t even occur to me until years later.
In my mind, the continent was a charity case – not an investment opportunity. I didn’t hesitate to send money to Africa for the purpose of buying mosquito nets, building schools, or granting no-interest loans, but the thought of investing in an African business with the expectation of a return seemed avaricious.
One day, I happened upon the Botswana Stock Exchange’s website. It fascinated me. Here, investors traded shares of banks, a wholesaler, a furniture retailer, and others. Many of these companies appeared to be generating huge profits in one of Africa’s most stable countries, yet the market priced them at little more than liquidation value. Something clicked in my thick skull. These businesses were poised to create many more jobs than any foreign aid organization, but a lack of capital constrained them from doing so.
So, I emailed a local broker, asking if and how a foreigner could purchase shares. He replied the next day. He assured me that I could indeed invest, and he walked me through the straightforward process of opening a trading account. Within weeks, I owned shares of Letshego, a bargain-priced micro-lender.
Further research revealed roughly a dozen more African stock exchanges. I soon invested in many of those, too. Each new market I explored revealed compelling stories. The investment process didn’t always go as smoothly as my Botswana experiment did, but, overall, the rewards justified the time and effort. I was hooked.
My goal with this blog is to help other small investors participate in Africa’s capital markets, and, in so doing, make a modest contribution to the region’s economic growth.
That’s my story. I’m eager to hear yours. What sparked your interest in African stock markets? What information do you need to start investing in the region? Share your thoughts here in the comments or shoot me a message via the contact form.
Disclosure: I own shares of Letshego.