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  • Private capital emerges as a pivotal force in unlocking Africa’s economic growth potential.
  • Partnerships between governments, private investors, and multilateral institutions are instrumental in mobilising capital for large-scale projects.
  • The government must create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and establish policy frameworks to favour private ventures.

Private capital emerges as a pivotal force in unlocking Africa’s economic growth potential. Investing in Africa will address pressing development needs and present lucrative opportunities for investors. Following the projected population growth in the continent, the demand for infrastructure, food, and services will soar, creating a vast market for investors to tap into. Moreover, Africa hosts abundant natural resources, offering attractive prospects for energy, mining, and agriculture industries.

As Africa continues on its path to economic stability and development, the critical need for financing becomes increasingly apparent. From transportation networks to energy systems, the continent is ripe with opportunities for improvement and expansion. However, financing these projects remains a significant challenge.

However, unlocking private capital for African development projects requires a conducive investment environment. Governments play a fundamental role in creating an attractive environment for investors, including implementing transparent regulatory frameworks, ensuring political stability, and mitigating investment risks.

Moreover, partnerships between governments, private investors, and multilateral institutions are instrumental in mobilising capital for large-scale projects. Collaborative initiatives facilitate knowledge sharing, risk mitigation, and project structuring, maximising the impact of private capital on Africa’s development agenda.

Scaling towards mobilizing private capital

According to the World Bank report, the global financial landscape comprises nearly $500 trillion in financial assets. Yet, development financing needs are confronted by an ever-rising financing gap, especially in Africa.

The Bank is uniquely positioned to address this challenge. It provides policy, knowledge, and technical support to clients, builds institutions and markets, addresses market failures, and supports macroeconomic fundamentals that facilitate the flow of private capital. However, as it strengthens the private-sector enabling lens, it must help narrow the risk-return gap inhibiting private capital.

A promising approach, from clients’ perspectives, is risk absorption through governments using bank funds to remove risk and crowd out the private sector. 

Investments, even in risk-absorbing capital, can yield returns that are better relative to simply expensing development activities. Market perceptions of project risk tend to overstate actual risk, which for World Bank projects is mitigated by its technical knowledge and project preparation. Risk-capital provision crowds in multiples of private capital, thereby ‘stretching’ World Bank project dollars more efficiently. Being a joint venture brings efficiency gains and returns, even if government returns are pegged at levels lower than for the private sector, to crowd them in. This approach aligns with the Bank’s objective of bringing private capital while maintaining financial sustainability.

Read Also: The role of financial services in achieving financial inclusion in Rwanda and beyond

Bridging demand and supply for private investment capital

The demand for capital for large-cap opportunities in Africa is outstripping the supply.  At the same time, small and mid-caps are underfunded across the continent. This keeps development projects in the continent in constant need of financing, which is unavailable.

The government must create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and establish policy frameworks to favour private ventures to narrow the gap between supply and demand for development capital from private entities.

A stable social and macroeconomic environment should be established to attract investors who will inject capital into infrastructure, agribusiness, tech development, and education.

Value created by the private equity investments

Private equity (PE) firms thrive on their ability to acquire and build great businesses even in challenging times. They are skilled at creating rapid value and adapting their plans as circumstances change. Their differentiated approach has always given them an edge, and their interventionist nature is key to getting returns in a competitive market.

In terms of their impact, PE investments are undeniably the best. The businesses they invest in flourish compared to other companies, mainly because of their hands-on involvement style of leadership displayed by most PE investors.

In addition to generating returns for its investors, private equity also impacts a country’s larger socio-economic environment. PE investments inject international capital into African economies, increasing their stability and growth.

Risk and challenges for private equity firms and investors

Despite the value added by the PE on the African continent, some significant challenges threaten investors’ confidence in the region. Currency risks, specifically shortage of foreign currency and exchange rate fluctuations, loom as a significant challenge facing private equity investors in Africa.

Additionally, though there may be available capital for investments, there needs to be more quality ventures, as most African companies’ policies and structures are geared towards ownership stakes in their businesses. Thus, African companies opt to borrow rather than sell majority equity shares in their companies.

Moreover, PE investors in Africa commonly face the same challenges, as most intermediaries source investment deals only from their confined geographic and professional networks.

Political risks and macroeconomic instabilities are other factors affecting PE investments in the African region. For instance, the discontinuance of the PE investment in the Rift Valley Railways concession in 2017 by the Kenya and Uganda governments failed because the company allegedly failed to meet the conditions under the concession agreement as a result of political risk related to a project of national gravity.

Promises and opportunities through private capital investments

Over the past few years, there has been a notable increase in private equity investments and venture capital, particularly in areas such as real estate, technology, infrastructure, hospitality and tourism, healthcare, renewable energy, and consumer goods. Additionally, impact investments are rising, with many players becoming more socially minded and willing to give back.

Notwithstanding the challenges, there are many promising investment opportunities. A report released by the Economic Intelligence Unit in December 2023 predicted that Africa, thanks to the services industry, would develop at the second-fastest rate among major global regions in 2024.


Private capital is a key enabler and a catalyst for unlocking Africa’s economic growth potential. By leveraging the private sector’s prowess and resources, African countries can accelerate the pace of development, driving sustainable economic growth and improving the quality of life for millions across the continent.

Broadening financial and capital market development, enabling policy reforms, supporting strong pipeline development and knowledge-sharing, staff training, and sensitisation to attract private capital will be critical for sustaining these endeavors.

Financing risk, capital risk sharing, first loss, and credit enhancement lending projects will yield results and promise to leverage more private capital into development and better optimise public funding.

Source of original article: Investing – The Exchange (
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