New Blackstone JV to invest in sub-Saharan Africa

The New York-based PE firm has partnered with Black Rhino, an African infra development company, to develop large-scale energy infra projects.

Blackstone’s energy-focused private equity business, Blackstone Energy Partners, has joined forces with an African infrastructure development company Black Rhino to identify, develop, finance, construct and operate large-scale infrastructure projects in sub-Saharan Africa. The projects will focus on the energy sector, including power generation, transmission, fuel storage and pipelines, the New York-based asset manager said in a statement on Wednesday.

Black Rhino, which is based in Johannesburg, South Africa and Dakar, Senegal, chose to partner with Blackstone because of its expertise in the energy sector as well as its experience investing in Africa.

“Blackstone is uniquely positioned as a leader in the greenfield energy space, having undertaken development and construction of over $25 billion of greenfield projects globally,” said Brian Herlihy, Black Rhino’s founder and chief executive.

Within the context of the partnership, Blackstone will also help build the Black Rhino team and on Wednesday announced the appointment of Mimi Alemayehou as managing director and a member of the company’s executive committee.

Alemayehou joins Black Rhino from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) where she served as executive vice president. According to the statement, during Alemayehou’s tenure from 2010 to 2014, OPIC’s portfolio grew by more than 24 percent to $18 billion.

She will also serve as an executive advisor and chairperson of Blackstone Africa Infrastructure.

“Long-term capital investment in energy is critical to Africa’s development,” Blackstone’s chairman, chief executive and co-founder Steve Schwarzman said. “Blackstone is pleased to be partnering with Brian Herlihy, Mimi Alemayehou, and the entire Black Rhino team to develop innovative projects with the power to transform economies across Africa,” he said.

The Black Rhino team comprises developers, construction project managers and development finance experts. Its two other managing directors are Daniel O’Shea and Greg Meneses, who both have experience in the energy and infrastructure sectors.

While Black Rhino is a relatively young company – it was founded in January 2012 – its project development pipeline includes projects in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa.

Blackstone also has a presence in Africa. In Uganda it is a lead investor – through its portfolio company Sithe Global and alongside the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development – in the 250-megawatt Bujagali hydropower plant. In Ghana, Blackstone is a founding investor in Kosmos, an oil and gas exploration company that has worked with the government of Ghana and Ghana National Petroleum Company to develop the deep-water Jubilee oil field, “one of West Africa’s largest discoveries in the last decade,” according to the statement.

The New York-listed investment firm’s asset management businesses, with almost $300 billion in assets under management, include investment vehicles focused on private equity, real estate, public debt and equity, non-investment grade credit, real assets and secondary funds.

As for the energy sector specifically, Blackstone has invested approximately $7 billion of equity globally.