Q&A: Saudi Arabia as a new social impact investor in Africa

Michelle Essomé, CEO of the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association. Photo by: Atlantic Council / CC BY-NC-ND

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is looking at emerging markets to help bring in the ambitious returns it is seeking over the coming decades. Through six separate funds, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is targeting 8 to 9 percent returns between now and 2025.

The African continent holds some of the most promising returns for patient capital, PIF officials told global investors this week. “PIF is a long-term investor, so of course we really do care about the cycle, but we are looking beyond,” its managing director, Yasir bin Othman Al Rumayyan, told the Future Investment Initiative conference this week in Riyadh. “We are looking 2030 and beyond that.”

Devex sat down with Michelle Essomé, CEO of the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, to discuss how Saudi capital could contribute to impact investing, economic growth, and macroeconomic development on the continent. The message from Essomé and other business leaders — many of whom had traveled to Saudi Arabia for the first time — was to stay tuned. Through their sovereign wealth funds, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are poised to play an increasing role both as providers of capital and as influencers in African development for decades to come. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How could Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund contribute to impact investing in Africa?

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About the author

  • Dickenson beth full

    Elizabeth Dickinson

    Elizabeth Dickinson is associate editor at Devex. Based in the Middle East, she has previously served as Gulf correspondent for The National, assistant managing editor at Foreign Policy, and Nigeria correspondent at The Economist. Her writing also appeared in The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Politico Magazine, and Newsweek, among others.