Black Rhino, a company backed by Blackstone, recently announced a JV with Dangote that will see the two entities invest up to US$5bn over the next five years in power generation and distribution ventures across sub-Saharan Africa.
Speaking at the recent Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai, Schwarzman highlighted the importance of working with local partners in Africa. “When you’re from out of town, you don’t know as much as the people who live there. If you think you do, you are actually delusional.”
While investing in African infrastructure has clear social benefits, Schwarzman explained that such projects also need to provide attractive returns for investors as quickly as possible..
He pointed out that President Barack Obama’s recent US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC was a “highly atypical thing for America to do”. The Summit in August, was one of the largest ever gatherings of African and US government officials, business leaders and other stakeholders. The meeting was generally seen as an effort by the US to boost its business interests in Africa.
Schwarzman said for many US companies the Summit was a “wake-up call” to the opportunities on the continent.
While the US may be slow to invest in Africa, Schwarzman doesn’t see this as a problem.
“I’ve learnt in life that being first isn’t always necessary for success,” he said.
By Jaco Maritz