Three things we have learned about investing in African small businesses and in fragile countries

By Jean-Michel Severino, CEO of Investisseurs & Partenaires

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Africa’s small and medium businesses (SMEs) form what is often called the “missing middle” of African economies. The smaller the investment ticket is, the higher the transaction and monitoring costs are, reducing the net profitability for investors. In addition, the poorer and more fragile the country is,  the riskier the investments are. These are well-known facts amongst private equity professionals. Small businesses require small investments but also long gestation periods, as well as sizeable personalised financing and access to specific expertise and knowledge. Fragile countries require in-depth knowledge of the environment in all its dimensions to make wise choices. This is why so few investors are willing and able to finance small African businesses and invest in complex local situations. The choice of supporting these businesses and investing in fragile countries is primarily a choice of impact. It implies several adjustments to ensure the sustainability of the investment fund.

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