Africa, a profitable place for academic endowments

July 8
4:04 AM 2013

The United States' richest universities are looking to Africa for emerging markets.

A study by the Commonfund Institute and the National Association of College and University Business Officers found that 831 university endowments from the US had averaged 6.2% in the past decade. Returns for the US S&P 500 stock index, meanwhile, were 5.3% in the same period.

Academics say they are seeing in Africa today the trends that emerging markets such as China or India had before their own markets went into full gear. Strong economic growth, greater political stability and an emerging middle class are what they consider essential and that African nations are slowly starting to show these conditions.

Even the U.S. President, in his latest visit to the region, encouraged investments towards Africa. Analysts say that the African interest started during the 2008-2009 financial crisis when academic endowments to Africa started to flourish. It is said that up to 15% of these academic institutions are already reaping the benefits from Africa and that up to 30% could be currently looking for deals.

Harvard had investments of about US$200 in sub-Saharan Africa, but this was just 0.5% of its total investments according to its tax filings for the year ending June 30 last year.

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