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James DuddridgeJames Duddridge is the Member of Parliament for Rochford and Southend East.

I have just invested £1,000 in an African business.

It may
prove to be a mistake, but I
genuinely doubt it. So much so, I’m prepared to do it again, and again, and again.

And no, I haven’t been
hooked by a
phishing scam. Nor have I donated money to charity.

I
intend to make twelve investments in twelve different African
companies, in twelve countries, in twelve sectors by investing in shares
listed on one of the
fourteen African stock exchanges.

I
believe Africa is a place of opportunity, not a place of wasted aid.  Africa is
a continent where I have seen
numerous businesses thrive and grow.
Of course, there
are difficulties, risks and issues to manage

but there is also
an honest
profit to be made. 

I know this because, prior to becoming an MP, I
lived
and ran local banks
in three different
African
countries. Now, as a Member of Parliament
who still
actively follows the issues on the continent, I was
recently appointed to chair the
All Party Africa Group and am also
a trustee of the Grow Movement, a charity which helps
to
empower African entrepreneurs.  

All this
is set against the
frustrating received wisdom that
Africa is a
never-ending
problem for the others to bail out. It is regarded as a place perennially
looking for a solution. 

In a bid to
shake this erroneous view of Africa, I have decided to demonstrate that Africa is a land of legitimate plenty,
by putting my money where my mouth is.  I have started investing in Africa.

If you are investing in a UK share you can set up an account online and buy shares in less than an hour. Currently, it is not
as easy
to do the
same thing in with African shares,
but I am sure there is a market for a firm to link
the
exchanges together, making it
every bit as easy to invest in Africa as it is to
buy shares
in a FTSE 100 company.

Botswana is the first country I
targeted for investment.  I know it well, as I worked there in 2001/2002 for Barclays Bank. Since
then, Gaborone and Botswana
have
boomed.  The world
centre for the
sorting and selling
of diamonds is now Gaborone,
rather than London, Amsterdam or New York. 
This, and the comparative economic and political stability of the country,
will see growth continue.  I
selected Wilderness, a tourism firm which runs around sixty safari camps
and employs 2,600 people, to invest in.  I know the company from
personal experience,
having been a customer. Wilderness is well placed well placed to
benefit from further increases in tourism to Southern Africa,
particularly the higher spending tourists who tend to visit Botswana.

 If
Zimbabwe gets itself sorted after the elections, there will be a big
increase in regional tourism, particularly with high-spending Americans
wanting to
see both the Zimbabwean and Zambian side of Victoria Falls.  Customers
paying in dollars will also mean investors reduce their exposure to the
local Botswana currency.

A number of emails and calls to old friends
and colleagues resulted in
finding a broker
willing
to take on
my £1,000 investment, normally they would only act for much larger sums. Following a relatively simple process,
I am now the proud owner of a share in
an eco-friendly tourism
firm.

Next month
I’m putting £1,000
into Nigeria. What could
possibly go wrong?

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