As incomes rise and living standards improve, Africans are altering their spending habits, said Mthuli Ncube, Oxford University's senior research fellow.
The former African Development Bank chief economist found that as Ghanaians have moved out of poverty, for example, the percentage of income they spend on travel, technology and retail has grown. Expenditures on mobile phones doubled, car ownership and leisure travel spiked— even as the percentage of income spent on basic needs like food shrank. Ncube also noticed similar spending transitions in South Africa.
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These changes in consumer demand, paired with increasing disposable income, are creating investment opportunities. Africa could be the emerging market story of the decade, said Mark Mobius, executive chairman of the Templeton Emerging Markets Group.
He sees demand rising in retail, transportation, and telecommunications. George added that consumer businesses, which include retail manufacturing, banking, hotels and restaurants, hold the most promise.
Mobius's team invests in African companies that cater to those consumption-driven sectors. He said his team visit each company in person, in order to try and ensure they have solid long-term growth prospects supported by rising domestic consumption and good corporate governance.
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"We are bottom-up investors and invest on the basis of individual companies, and not by sector or country," he said.
Private equity firms are also increasingly investing in Africa, according to Ama Baafra Abeberese, a Wellesley College development economics assistant professor who researches developing countries. Those firms are also looking to middle-class Africans for capital.
As Africans move from hourly wage jobs to salaried positions with pensions, private equity firms see the growing number of pension funds as new sources of capital available to private equity fundraising.