UK firm plans to launch Africa Agriculture Fund

Jon Maguire

Gulf Daily News | 21 September 2008

DUBAI: Cru Investment Management, the UK-based $800 million absolute return investment company, yesterday announced targeting the region and unveiled its plans to offer its new Africa Agriculture Fund in the Middle East early next year.

This fund will invest in commercial agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the aim of helping to alleviate poverty in the region, while not compromising returns for investors.

Cru, which has significant exposure in commercial agriculture in Malawi with over 2,500 hectares of land under its own control and another 4,000 hectares in outgrower schemes, said its Fund would offer investors a unique opportunity to be part of a philanthropic gesture of helping the vulnerable communities of Africa ravaged by poverty as well as earn excellent ROI in the range of 30 to 40 per cent per annum.

Elaborating on the decision to enter the UAE and the GCC region, cru Investment Management chairman Jon Maguire said: "Securing long-term food supplies is a crucial challenge for the world in general but also very relevant to the Gulf in the wake of a rising population and increasing food prices. Through the cru fund we are opening a door of opportunity to partner with us in promoting agriculture in Africa which in turn will support and add value to the worldwide food security initiatives coupled with proven benefits of maximising returns."

"Most importantly, our decision to make the new fund Sharia-compliant will mean that Gulf investors, well-known for their philanthropic initiatives world over, would be participating in community initiatives to generate employment for the poor in Africa and enable them to help themselves out of poverty," he said.

Cru Investment Management has already successfully piloted a scheme in Malawi and launched a fund called Africa Invest on the back of that success. According to the company's estimates, the funds it has raised through its Africa Invest Fund and the Africa Invest Capital Protected Plan for Malawi have generated jobs for over 2,000 people and helped 8,000 families take part in out grower schemes.

It is also supporting 2,000 vulnerables through feeding programmes where orphans, widows, AIDs victims and the elderly receive a nutritious porridge. Taken together, the investment is currently financially supporting over 100,000 people in Malawi.

"Our commitment to poverty alleviation is absolute and fundamental to our business. It was with this motive we went to Africa in the first place. Combined with this, the sustained ROI from these investments has also been excellent." Mr Maguire said.

Cru also aims to establish food processing plants next to the farms and put in irrigation systems in order to increase crop yields. This strategy captures more of the value chain and allows farmers to see more profits from their labour.

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