US' richest universities venture in Africa

July 8
10:29 AM 2013

Several of the United States' most profitable universities are looking towards the other side of the world to acquire outsized investment returns for scholarship funding. The universities are venturing into the Sub-Saharan region of Africa in a move that analyst deem high risk-high reward.

This focus of American academic institutions on Africa is considered to be a significant move in the global investment industry. The nature of these deals are very highly sought after, endowments from American universities are easily invested in projects such as venture capitals, private equities, and natural resources.

This specific group of investors has assets worth over US$400 billion.  The annual net returns of these universities were 6.2% for the past 10 years, according to a report by the Commonfund Institute and the National Association of College University Business Officers. The study was comprised of 831 endowments.

"The growth, consumer spending, improved governance and disposable wealth, they're all positive stories," stated Northwestern University's William McLean. McLean is the manager of Northwestern's endowment worth $7 billion. The team of McLean will be investing in Nigeria and Kenya. He said that their exposure to Africa has doubled since their last look at the African market.

A compulsory 5% is required to most endowments to be used as funding for the scholarships of these universities, as well as salaries of top researchers and new campus facilities.

This new interest in the region signifies a new partnership between a new breed of investors and the African economy.

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