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IFC to Invest USD 35M in an Infrastructure Fund to support development of African ICT

THE International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, would invest $35m in the Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund to support the development of ICT infrastructure across Africa, Convergence Partners said yesterday.

Convergence Partners, the investment group which will manage the fund, said it was expected to play an important role in Africa, where information technology infrastructure bottlenecks impede business growth.

The investment focus of the fund will be to address the lack of enabling infrastructure that provides quality, affordable communications services, especially broadband.

"The fund aims to develop and invest in new wholesale, open access networks and related services.

"The fund will capitalise on the potential for communication technology platforms to deliver critical services such as banking, healthcare, education and government programs that contribute to improved living standards," Convergence Partners said.

Andile Ngcaba, the chairman and founder of Convergence Partners, said the investment from the IFC would accelerate the development of Africa through increased investment in critical infrastructure, specifically information technology.

Saleem Karimjee, IFC senior country manager for Southern Africa, said the Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund would further spur Africa’s development.

"Access to communications helps improve economic competitiveness, facilitates efficient government services, increases the productivity of private businesses, and enhances living standards," he said.

The total investment for the Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund is expected to reach $500m and the partners hope to raise more capital into the project from local and international sources.

The fund will be managed by Convergence Partners Management, a project development and investment advisory firm and part of the Convergence Partners group.

The final equity ownership split of the fund will be settled later this year once the fundraising is concluded.

Last year the CEO of Convergence Partners, Brendan Doyle, told Business Day that the fund might be listed on the JSE to give investors liquidity.

Convergence Partners would own at least 20% of the fund. The company, which was established more than five years ago, has mainly been in SA and east Africa, where it has a presence through the Seacom undersea cable.

The company has shares in firms that provide media, telecommunications and technology products and services.

However, it has invested in greenfield projects such as the R5bn long-distance fibreoptic cable called FibreCo, in partnership with Cell C and Internet Solutions, and last year launched a satellite called New Dawn in partnership with Intelsat.

14 June 2012

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