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Investing in Africa: Misconceptions and Realities

January 18, 2013

Itís easy to fall prey to misconceptions and generalizations about places weíve never been.
-Mark Mobius, executive chairman, Templeton Emerging Markets Group

Itís easy to fall prey to misconceptions and generalizations about places weíve never been: to assume everyone in the United States drives big cars, all the French love croissants and all Canadians play hockey. There are many misconceptions about investing in developing markets, and Africa certainly has its fair share, but itís dangerous to make sweeping generalizations. Itís impossible to know everything about this huge and diverse continent (the second largest in the world by land mass and population) so† my teamís approach has been to keep our minds open to the growth possibilities while keeping our eyes open to the potential risks.

Africa isnít Always Africa

There is often this idea that ďAfrica is Africa,Ē as if every country there is the same. Most people donít realize how diverse the landscape, the economies and the people are. There are more than 1,000 languages spoken on the continent, with climates ranging from hot deserts to tropical rainforests to frozen glaciers.

A common misconception is that Africa is plagued by social ills. We donít deny violence, political unrest and poverty exist in areas in Africa, and we have to be cognizant of these serious issues. But thatís not the whole story. †There is also natural beauty, cultural diversity, and business progress taking place. †Iíve often been asked whether I have felt unsafe traveling in underdeveloped countries, but Iíve been fortunate enough to say my most frightening experience in Africa has been getting stuck in an elevator!

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