In a piece for World Politics Review, Alexander Benard argues for increased American engagement in business across Africa.

The U.S. would benefit from a better understanding of Africa’s business potential. In addition to its expanding population, the continent boasts many of the world’s fastest-growing economies. American companies willing to take the plunge will be rewarded, while the U.S. government would enjoy better leverage and influence if more American companies were active there.

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In an opinion piece for Forbes, Alexander Benard comments on the problem of defining frontier markets:

As frontier markets go mainstream, there is one big problem: Experts cannot agree on what markets qualify as frontier; and the existing frontier indexes are both over- and under-inclusive, thereby failing to provide clear guidance. We have developed our own complex methodology for classifying a market as frontier. In doing so, however, we stumbled upon the realization that our resulting list corresponded almost one for one with what one might call the “Starbucks Test.”

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In a piece for World Politics Review, Alexander Benard argues that corporate governance should be central to US-African business engagement:

Washington should focus aggressively on…helping African countries strengthen their rules and regulations for, among other things, corruption as well as environmental and social mismanagement. It should also help African countries reform their bid processes for large projects to implement a framework that takes account of more than just the cost. Bids should be evaluated based on many other factors, including what the bidder plans to do to promote local employment and training, as well as certain quality-related considerations.

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Alexander Benard provided commentary for the Wall Street Journal on the attractiveness of Ethiopia as a frontier market:

One person who won’t be surprised to see growing interest among multinationals for investing in Ethiopia is Alexander Benard, chief operating officer of Schulze Global, a private equity firm. “We are very excited about Ethiopia,” Benard says. “We believe it has huge potential.” Schulze Global is so excited about the prospects for Ethiopia that the firm has set up a $100 million fund specifically to invest there.

Click here for the full article in the Wall Street Journal.

In an article about investing in frontier markets, Alexander Benard argued that:

“Local governments in frontier markets are thinking about what they can do to raise income and living standards,” said Alexander Benard, chief operating officer of Schulze Global Investments. “The government needs to understand that you’re not just there to make a quick buck.”

Click here for the full article in the Wall Street Journal.

Commenting for an article in the WSJ about developments in Vietnam’s equity markets, Isaiah Schulze remarked that:

“I think the most probable explanation is that investors are closing out profitable positions from the last year or so in preparation for the possible volatility that may hit the market with the slate of upcoming IPOs,” said Isaiah Schulze, an associate at Schulze Global, a frontier-markets fund that manages several hundred million dollars in assets. Schulze, based in Singapore, hasn’t yet invested in Vietnam.

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The latest print edition of the Diplomatic Courier features an article by Alexander Benard titled “Turning Crisis to Opportunity in Mongolia”:

…Mongolia’s economic road bumps are a blessing in disguise. With the right corrective measures, the Mongolian government can help the country avoid the Dutch Disease symptoms from which it was already beginning to suffer and reduce its economic dependence on China, thereby setting the country on a path of more balanced growth in the decades to come.

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The Financial Times has published a feature piece titled “Portrait of a Frontier Investor”, presenting a profile of Schulze Global CEO Gabriel Schulze as well as the activities of the firm:

Mr. Schulze is at the cutting edge of frontier investment, whose promise of reward for risk-taking is attracting increasing interest and delivering returns against the grain…today he operates from Singapore, and likes his investment teams to be based locally so they face “the same realities” as their companies – capricious authorities and the necessity and frisson of relying on friendships without reverting to corruption in “incredibly opaque” yet dynamic markets.

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Real Clear Markets has published a piece by Schulze Global COO Alexander Benard in which he argues that frontier markets are most suitably engaged through private equity (rather than public equity investments):

In frontier markets, the best companies are unlisted. Typically, they are family-owned businesses with successful operating records and a deep understanding of the local market. To reach the next level, however, they require both growth financing and a partner who can help them introduce modern management techniques, systems, and processes. Finding these businesses means spending significant time getting to know the local market; helping them grow typically entails hands-on participation in the company’s day-to-day operations, forming a close working relationship with the company’s management.

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EMPEA hosted an event on investing in the frontier featuring speakers from the IFC and CrossBoundary. Alexander Benard represented Schulze Global. The event included a discussion of frontier market investing generally followed by presentations on Schulze Global and the IFC, as well as deep-dives into what Schulze Global is doing in Ethiopia.

Click here to access a recording of the event.

In a Bloomberg Businessweek article on commercial diplomacy and Secretary Clinton’s legacy at the State Department, Schulze Global CEO Gabriel Schulze noted the importance of receiving support from the U.S. government when doing business in frontier markets:

“We’re working in countries where the government plays a significant role in the local marketplace, so the counterparties in our deals expect—even require—that we demonstrate backing from our government,” says Gabriel Schulze, CEO of Schulze Global Investments, a U.S. private equity firm in Beijing.

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In Christian Science Monitor, Schulze Global COO Alexander Benard argues that the United States can out-invest China in Africa if it begins to approach the continent more strategically.

The American brand in Africa…continues to be strong. US firms are known to provide the best quality and hire the most local workers. They are considered the least corrupt and the most considerate of the environment. And they are generally believed to complete initiatives on time and abide by their commitments. [But] competing against China’s cheap financing and low construction costs will require the effort of various US agencies, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, the Commerce Department, and even the White House.

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Foreign Affairs has published a feature article by Schulze Global COO Alexander Benard on how U.S. companies can compete more effectively in emerging and frontier markets. In the article, Mr. Benard argues that the U.S. companies have lost ground to Chinese ones in many key emerging economies, and that the U.S. government must do its part to reverse this trend:

For too long now, Washington has almost entirely neglected commercial diplomacy, ceding too many economic battles to China. The consequence of such timidity has been that the United States’ rising competitor has managed to devour market share in emerging economies throughout the world, securing strategic resources, winning infrastructure contracts, and planting its commercial flag even in countries that are strong U.S. allies. The United States needs to find a happy medium in which business promotion again becomes a strong pillar of its foreign policy, although not its sole focus.

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In a feature article that appeared in the magazine’s May 2012 print edition, the Economist wrote about Schulze Global’s pioneering, $100 million Ethiopia fund. Noting that Ethiopia is Africa’s fastest-growing non-energy economy, the article stated that the country is finally attracting the attention from foreign investors that it deserves:

The latest proof came on May 9th, when Schulze Global Investments, an American investment firm and family office, announced that it had launched a $100m Ethiopia fund, the first private-equity fund focused exclusively on the country. Anchored by at least $15m from Britain’s CDC, a government-owned provider of development finance, and $10m of the family’s own money, the fund will invest in sectors from agribusiness and cement to health care and natural resources.

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Forbes published a major story about Schulze Global’s unique investment activities in the DPRK titled “Invading North Korea”:

At least one American investor has profited in North Korea…Schulze Global. Three times in 2008 it made loans of hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy equipment and expand, and each was repaid. This summer Schulze lent an additional $1 million to finance a North Korean conglomerate’s purchases of corn to feed its workers.

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