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  • Mobile Pioneer Sees Promise In Africa

    As the chairman of the $200 million investment fund Satya Capital, Mo Ibrahim is making aggressive investments in broadband, retail and other industries in Africa. Mo Ibrahim founded Celtel, one of Africa’s first mobile networks, in 1998. Now he is making aggressive investments in broadband, retail and other industries in Africa as chairman of Satya Capital.

    Upstart: Global Business

    As the chairman of the $200 million investment fund Satya Capital, Mo Ibrahim is making aggressive investments in broadband, retail and other industries in Africa.

    Mo Ibrahim founded Celtel, one of Africa’s first mobile networks, in 1998. Now he is making aggressive investments in broadband, retail and other industries in Africa as chairman of Satya Capital. He talks with WSJ’s Neanda Salvaterra.

    Mr. Ibrahim, who founded one of Africa’s first mobile networks, claims the continent offers one of the world’s best returns on investment: Africa was the top performing region over the past 10 years in terms of equity investments, with a 31% return compared with 25% globally, according to the International Finance Corporation, the corporate investment arm of the World Bank.

    Mr. Ibrahim struggled to build Celtel in 1998, when few Africans were using cellphones. Mobile-phone use in the region has since skyrocketed, with 547.6 million mobile connections at the end of 2010, up from 9.8 million in 2000, according to Wireless Intelligence, a market database for industry association GSMA. Mr. Ibrahim sold Celtel for $3.4 billion in 2005.

    As a philanthropist, through the Ibrahim Foundation, Mr. Ibrahim aims to tackle corruption in Africa and create democratic societies. He points to the use of cellphones in the demonstrations that have overthrown leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and continue to challenge regimes in North Africa. “Mobile technology enabled civil society to connect,” he says.

    Mr. Ibrahim also wants multinational corporations to take responsibility for some of the region’s corruption. “African politicians don’t corrupt themselves. It’s like an adulterous relationship; it takes two,” he says. Mr. Ibrahim points to figures from Global Financial Integrity, a nonprofit Washington research institution, that show manipulation of export and import data by companies wanting to send money out of the continent to repatriate profits—so called trade mispricing—reached $35.2 billion 2008.

    Mo Ibrahim, pictured this past September, says Africa offers one of the world’s best returns on investment.

    Mr. Ibrahim, 65 years old, spoke recently with The Wall Street Journal about the early struggles of Celtel, Africa’s growth potential and the benefits of making money honestly. Edited excerpts:

    WSJ: Why did you think you could successfully operate a cellphone network in Africa?

    Mr. Ibrahim: Africa had very few phones: 950 million people and only two million phones. So the market was there.

    Read More:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704495004576265421554727688.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_editorsPicks_3

    Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals

    Filed Under: Global Business

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