Africa Faces Headwinds But Long-Term Fundamentals Remain Intact: Qalaa Holdings Founder and Chairman Ahmed Heikal Makes the Case for Investing in Africa

Ahmed Heikal delivers opening keynote on “the Dream of African Infrastructure” at COMESA’s Africa 2016 Investment Forum, “Business for Africa, Egypt and the World” held under the patronage of Egyptian President Abdelfattah El-Sisi. Qalaa’s leadership featured prominently in the two-day Investment Forum, with Co-Founder and Managing Director, Hisham El-Khazindar and Managing Director for Transportation and Logistics, Karim Sadek also taking part in key panels

“There is no denying that Africa faces headwinds but this is a pause point, not a change in long-term fundamentals,” said Ahmed Heikal, Chairman and Founder of Qalaa Holdings, in his keynote presentation at the opening of COMESA’s Africa 2016 Investment Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh. Heikal presented a powerful case study on African opportunities drawing on his years of hands-on experience as an African investor having built 27 companies from scratch in the past decade.

Qalaa Holdings (CCAP.CA on the Egyptian Exchange) is a leading African investor in energy and infrastructure. Tracing back its roots as a leading African private equity investor, Qalaa has been directly investing in Africa since 2006 with a number of its investments originating in African economies other than Egypt such as Rift Valley Railways (RVR), the national railway of Kenya and Uganda.

“My view on Africa has always been positive. You have resources that are available, better governance that is – by and large –taking hold, and the world’s largest working-age population at about same the time as China’s population begins to decline. All these factors mean that Africa is going to continue to do well,” said Heikal. “Only one growth driver is currently missing, or rather on hold – the commodities boom. Low commodity prices across the board will continue to be a challenge. This has already led to a much reduced debt capacity in most African nations which is causing pressures on currencies throughout the continent,” he adds.

Heikal goes on to point out that despite the challenges there has never been a better or more important time to invest in African infrastructure. The annual infrastructure deficit in Africa today stands at c. US$ 93 billion, of which US$ 17 billion per year is needed to redress the existing efficiency gap in power generation.

“The challenge is to keep dreaming of the infrastructure that will deliver sustainable growth when the up-cycle returns,” says Heikal. “The reason Africa lags behind the rest of the world in terms of its infrastructure development is that in too many cases there has been a reluctance to embrace the private sector. The solution to bridging this gap is to disintermediate the government in favor of a proven model for funding large-scale African infrastructure projects.”

Qalaa Holdings has developed a successful financing model over the years that has allowed it to tap into funding from development finance institutions (DFI’s), Export Credit Agencies (ECA’s), and sovereign wealth funds. Qalaa has used this formula to build and rehabilitate infrastructure assets including the Egyptian Refining Company, a US$ 3.7 bn refinery in Egypt which is due to start production in 2017. Today ERC stands as one of Africa’s largest-ever project finance deals and the largest private sector infrastructure mega-project in Egypt.

Qalaa Holdings Co-Founder and Managing Director, Hisham El-Khazindar, who was selected as one of the top 10 African leaders of tomorrow by the prestigious Institut Choiseul in 2015, participated in a panel discussion on south-south cooperation as a new partnership model for African growth, along with Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, Sahar Nasr and delegates from Zambia, DRC, India and the U.K.

“Attracting the type of investments that we require today in Africa and moving away from the aid model that currently prevails is only going to be possible if Africans start investing in Africa,” said El-Khazindar. “We need to show that we are serious about the continent’s potential by committing from our own balance sheets which is what we have done with all our investments at Qalaa Holdings.”

El-Khazindar also stressed on the importance of bridging the knowledge gap in order for African economies to achieve their full potential. “We must provide more opportunities for youth to lead the way with new ideas and initiatives. Education will be key; from providing youth with the opportunity to pursue international-standard higher level education to ensuring access to public education and vocational training,” he added.

Qalaa’s Managing Director for Transportation and Logistics, Karim Sadek participated in a live televised debate on Egypt’s potential in becoming a key partner for business and trade with Africa.

“At only 12% of the continent’s aggregate trade, levels of intra-African trade are still far too low. African nations are unfortunately not ranked among Egypt’s top 15 export markets which is a situation that we would like to see change,” said Sadek. “We have however begun to see an upward trend in recent years. In the first quarter of 2015 trade between Egypt and other African countries stood at nearly US $1billion compared to a total of US$ 2.7 billion in 2013. The Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry wants to see that figure increase even further to US$ 5 billion within the next three years.”

Sadek went on to explain that Qalaa’s Rift Valley Railways is perfectly positioned to play a significant role in growing the volume of trade between Egypt and the countries of East Africa by offering exporters a unique door-to-door transportation and customs-clearance service that leverages the competitive advantages of rail as the most efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly mode of transporting goods to and from East Africa.

Qalaa Holdings was the platinum sponsor of Africa 2016, a two-day event which brought together heads of state, members of cabinet and top business leaders from Egypt and the continent to discuss ways of enhancing trade and investment amongst African nations with a focus on the rising role of the private sector.


Previous Qalaa Holdings press releases on this subject and others may be viewed online from your computer, tablet or mobile device at

Rift Valley Railways (RVR) is the Kenya-Uganda concessionaire operating freight rail services in Kenya and Uganda on an exclusive basis. The concession company went through a shareholder restructuring in Q3 of 2010 and was given the mandate to operate railway services on 2,352 kilometers of track linking the port of Mombasa with the interiors of Kenya and Uganda, including Kampala.

Qalaa Holdings(CCAP.CA on the Egyptian Stock Exchange) is an African leader in energy and infrastructure. Formerly known as Citadel Capital, Qalaa Holdings controls subsidiaries in industries including Energy, Cement, Transportation & Logistics, and Mining. To learn more, please visit

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