Education firm teams up with investors to build African schools

DUBAI, July 1 (Reuters) - Dubai-based Investbridge Capital, Centum Investment Company and education firm SABIS Holdings have agreed to set up a firm which will invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” establishing schools in Africa, the group said on Wednesday.

The move will see SABIS, which operates in 16 countries, run the schools which will be financed initially by capital provided by Investbridge and Centum, East Africa’s largest-listed investment firm, with other investors brought in to fund future schools.

It was expected the company would launch more than twenty schools in the next three-to-five years, with each school likely to cost between $20 million and $35 million.

“We expect to deploy hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years,” Mark DeSario, chief executive of Investbridge, told a press conference in Dubai.

Rising incomes among the continent’s vast population have created a pool of customers willing to pay for better schooling for their children, which has attracted the interest of investors and education firms looking to tap into that demand.

The group had already identified the site for its first school, in Kenya, but would look to expand beyond East Africa to eventually cover the whole continent. SABIS President Carl Bistany told reporters his firm already had schools in Egypt and was looking at ways to expand its presence there.

Among the investors the group would seek to bring into the company were endowments, family offices and firms investing “generational wealth” as this was the kind of long-term capital which was needed to allow a school to develop properly, DeSario said. (Reporting by David French; Editing by Mark Potter)