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Ex-UBS adviser: 'investors can no longer ignore Africa'

Ex-UBS adviser: 'investors can no longer ignore Africa'

As markets begin to boom, investors can no longer ignore Africa, according to Africa Wealth Partners co-founder Mario Marconi.

‘Africa is like how Asia was 15-20 years ago. It’s really a frontier market, and people look at it with curiosity, but also with a certain fear,’ said Marconi, who founded Africa Wealth Partners multi-family office in February 2018 alongside Martin Emodi.

Marconi and Emodi worked at UBS for 25 and 20 years, respectively. Marconi most recently worked for the bank as global head of family services group, while Emodi worked as head of Africa.

Marconi told Citywire Switzerland that he and Emodi decided to jump ship when they spotted the chance to support newly wealthy entrpreneurs in Africa who hadn’t yet formed a financial team.

He said: ‘What you come across there that you don’t find in Europe is wealthy people who don’t have a family office or an adviser. These people are a bit on their own, and we saw an opportunity to get into this fast-growing area.’

Focusing on Nigeria, Marconi said investors should keep an eye on the agriculture, fintech and healthcare markets.

‘There’s an upcoming generation of entrepreneurs who are Western educated and returning home to Nigeria. They aren’t going into the traditional business of commodities like oil and gas, but into agriculture, healthcare and consumer goods.

‘There’s a middle class that’s emerging, buying things like refrigerators and TVs. Big things are happening in the fintech space, along with a government strategy to promote local agriculture,’ he said.

On why more investors haven’t yet invested in African countries, Marconi said it’s a combination of fear and a lack of understanding.

‘There’s a total disconnect between perceived and actual risk. When you think Nigeria you might think Boko Haram, but it’s such a tiny element of the country.

‘You have to be part of the ecosystem. Trust is a fundamental element, and establishing the right connections is important. You need to do the right homework, and to not try and invest the same way you would in a more established market.’

Marconi said Africa Wealth Partners is currently focusing on Nigeria and South Africa, though they do plan on exploring Kenya as an option for the future.

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