High-risk investor eyes Kenya’s booming education industry

What you need to know:

  • After making inroads in the country through the media sector, Rakesh Wahi says the growth potential in Africa is enormous if businesses stick to a clear purpose

Rakesh Wahi has all the attributes of money and power. His investment empire spans from media, information technology, education and telecommunication industries across Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

He started doing business in 1990 by investing in real estate industry in Russia and developed a high-risk appetite of venturing into new markets. Today, he is certainly an accomplished entrepreneur worth billions.

The 52-year-old industrialist says he plans to widen his portfolio in the African continent. According to him, Africa has immense opportunities for growth in its manufacturing, transport, infrastructure development, education, agriculture and the media segments.

“Compared to emerging markets, the GDP growth in developed economies is almost zero or negative. What is required is a high appetite for risk, more perseverance and a clear purpose on what your objectives are. In such markets, the risks are much higher, just like the returns,” Mr Wahi told Money in an interview.

Already, he co-owns the ABN Group — a holding company for CNBC Africa and the Forbes Africa Magazine, with headquarters in South Africa.

Having set up the media brands in Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia, he looks forward to commence operations in about 10 more countries in Africa before the end of next year.

He ventured into the Kenyan market with the setting up of CNBC Africa, a specialised business news television station, and Forbes Africa magazine in Nairobi 2008 and September, 2011 respectively to serve the East African market.

However, he says he is yet to recoup his investments four years later having invested about Sh210 million ($2.5 million) in the media business.

“It has been a difficult market in the last four years as our core source of income is advertising and we are looking to win over a significant portion of advertisers and get returns going forward,” he said.

Mr Wahi, an ex-soldier, born in 1960 in Delhi, India, is also planning to put up a university in Kenya. This comes after his success in co-founding Murdoch University in Dubai, with others set to be launched in Ghana and Namibia.

“We are still evaluating the environment, talking to the education officials here and also with a British University for possible collaboration. By this time next year, we shall have an idea on what to do,” he said.

Whereas he says his value is in creating opportunities for people, the businesses that he has interests in are worth over Sh25.2 billion ($300 million). How does he propose to turn around the media business?

“We want to focus more on developing local content to appeal to more audiences and to enter into partnerships with other media and the telecom companies to enhance the distribution of our services and products. This is the main focus now,” he says.

He also says that convergence in the media landscape will open opportunities for delivering content to audiences as well as enabling media owners to earn more revenue through development of content that will be delivered over a range of platforms.

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