Microfinance is one opportunity readily available to invest in Africa. They play an important role in national economies by providing credit to sections of the market that other market players are not willing to take part in. They are predominantly aimed at small to medium enterprises.
MFI's should be socially responsible and belong to self regulating bodies, in Zimbabwe's case the Zimbabwe Association of Microfinance Institutions. Quite a lot of Zimbabweans do not have access to banking facilities for example, and so setting up a Microfinance firm is an attractive proposition. The capital requirement of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is as low as US$5000.
Microfinance companies can target specific sectors like farmers, encouraging small rural farmers to form cooperatives to increase their yield and providing them with the capital to expand and be more profitable. Dr Muhammad Yunus is credited with the success of the industry. He started off in humble beginnings with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh lending small amounts to rural women who demonstrated that the loans could be paid back. It grew enormously from there and he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2006 for his groundbreaking work.
In Africa we have success stories like that of Prince Kofi Amoabeng, a retired military officer in Ghana who later worked in the UK for several years before returning home to Ghana. In 1997 with little capital he started a small microfinance company called UT Financial Services in a small one-room office in Accra and in 10 years had grown the company to be worth over $25million. Today UT is a Holdings company with eight subsidiaries; including a Bank, a Life Insurance Company, a Logistics company, a Properties Company among others with a staff strength of over 1000 people and 26 bank branches scattered over seven out of the ten regions of Ghana and others in Nigeria, Germany and South Africa. I believe with proper research and due diligence there is significant opportunity to replicate this route all over Africa by setting up your own microfinance company.