Abraaj Capital announces investment in leading education provider

Published June 17th, 2007 - 03:19 GMT

Abraaj Capital, the premier investment firm specialising in private equity and infrastructure investment across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region, announced today that it has made a significant investment in Global Education Management Systems (GEMS), a leading international education provider headquartered in Dubai.


The investment in GEMS, made through Abraaj’s Infrastructure and Growth Capital Fund (IGCF), comes amidst a backdrop of rapidly increasing demand and limited capacity, straining the region’s existing education infrastructure. Furthermore, while education standards in the region have seen significant improvement over the last decade, there is still a tremendous need for standardised and quality primary/secondary education in the region.


Regional governments are also becoming increasingly aware of the need to educate and train their young populations in order to create 80 million new jobs by 2020, making provision of quality education a key success factor in achieving sustainable and long-term economic growth. Recently, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, underlined the importance of educational provision by launching a US$10 billion foundation that will invest in education and the development of knowledge in the region.


In light of all these developments, private-sector organisations such as GEMS are playing an increasingly vital role in providing quality education.


Currently, GEMS owns and manages a range of schools across the Middle East, including Our Own English High School, Dubai American Academy, Cambridge International School and Our Own Indian School. A leading provider of primary and secondary education, the organisation offers a range of internationally recognised curriculum programmes, including International Baccalaureate, National Curriculum for England, American Curriculum, and various Indian curricula.


Earlier this year, GEMS, in collaboration with New York-based Edison Schools (the largest manager of public schools in the US), established School Improvement Partnership (SIP), which will soon start managing four public schools in Abu Dhabi. In coordination with the government of Abu Dhabi, this innovative public-private partnership programme will focus on raising standards, improving the quality of teaching and learning, supporting staff through professional development, and coaching school leaders to develop overall reform strategies.

In its continued efforts to enrich the lives of students and teachers at GEMS schools, the organisation will also undertake various not-for-profit initiatives that will include, among others, the GEMS Scholar programme, the provision of career counseling, and teacher training services. GEMS also participates in The MENA Learning & Leadership Programme, a three-year programme designed to develop and deliver sustainable solutions for learning and development in the Middle East and North Africa region.


Abraaj’s entry into the education sector is in line with the objectives of its Infrastructure and Growth Capital Fund, which seeks to address the infrastructure requirements of the MENASA region in various sectors, including transportation, healthcare, water, manufacturing, petrochemicals, power and utilities, and education.


Arif Naqvi, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Abraaj Capital, said: “The MENASA region’s youthful population and high demographic growth rate will place great pressure on the economies over the coming decade. As a result, today more than ever, the region needs educational institutions that produce individuals with the skills necessary to compete in a modern and global economy. For nearly 40 years, this is exactly what GEMS has done.”


He added: “It is noteworthy, then, that one of the first investments by IGCF has been made in GEMS, which has long demonstrated its commitment to educational excellence. Not only will this investment strengthen GEMS’ growth potential and the region’s education infrastructure, it will also contribute significantly to the stability and diversification of our own portfolio. Indeed, this is clearly a case of doing well by doing good.”


Sunny Varkey, Chairman of GEMS, said: “Regional demand for world-class education has never been greater, and this investment will aid GEMS in meeting demand across the region. This partnership with Abraaj will provide both capital and management expertise, and significantly strengthen our ability to prepare the region’s next generation of young people for the challenges of a brilliant future.”


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