Saharian and sub-Saharian Nations close up  in an small world globe. Photo: iStock
Saharian and sub-Saharian Nations close up in an small world globe. Photo: iStock

Esprit School of Engineering, a privately held Tunisian IT engineering and business school, is considering opening campuses in West Africa and seeking a new strategic investor through the sale of a 30% stake in the company, said Esprit founding member and director Mohamed Naceur Ammar.

Naceur Ammar said that a new strategic investor can enter Esprit through the near-term sale of a 30% stake in the school held by Africinvest, a Tunis-based private equity group. Africinvest serves as a feeder private equity firm of Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Ammar valued Esprit – including its considerable real estate in the Technology Park of Tunis – at between US$100 million and $200 million.

Potential buyers of the stake include Chicago-based for-profit engineering schools such as Chicago-based Illinois Institute for Technology (IIT) and DeVry University and Baltimore-based Laureate.

Another potential US buyer is West Lafayette, Indiana-based Perdue University, headed by former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, through Perdue’s recently acquired for-profit, Kaplan University.

India’s largest private university group, New Delhi-based Amity Education Group, which operates Amity University, has also expressed interest in entering the Tunisian higher education market.

Naceur Ammar said the school, which has grown from 40 students 15 years ago to more than 5,000 today, is considering opening new campuses in countries such as Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire. Ammar said the school already has deals with industrial partners such as Korea’s Samsung.

Ammar said the majority of Esprit graduates are currently working for multinationals such as IBM Corporation in Tunisia, Europe and North America.

Tunisia is rapidly becoming the market of choice for major multinational IT companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle supplier Oradist and FIS (ex Sungard).

Tunisia is setting itself up as the platform for US, European and Asian investment in Africa

Tunisia is setting itself up as the platform for US, European and Asian investment in Africa, said Ridha Saidi, an economic adviser to Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.

In fact, the North African country that has become the only truly representative democracy in the Arab world is also the most advanced economy on the African continent in terms of financial services, IT, manufacturing and agriculture.

The country also benefits from billions in project finance, loan guarantees and political risk insurance by multilateral agencies such as OPIC, European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB), and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

However, the most interesting aspect of Tunisia is that it has already become a center of regional excellence for the blockchain R&D and the development of digital currency such as the Digi Cash payment system developed by Tunis-based Digit US Tech, which was founded by Walid Driss for La Poste Tunisienne (Tunisia Postal Service).

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde highlighted the emergence of Africa as a global leader in IT and financial tech technology at the IMF World Bank annual meetings held in Washington DC last October.

In fact, Africa already matched India and China as a profit center for Microsoft and that trend is destined as African nations such as Tunisia, Rwanda, Kenya, and Rwanda continue to grow their intellectual capital along with their real GDP.

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PK Semler

Peter K Semler is the chief executive editor and founder of Capitol Intelligence. Previously, he was the Washington, DC, bureau chief for Mergermarket (Dealreporter/Debtwire) of the Financial Times and headed political and economic coverage of the US House of Representatives and Senate.

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