There are some great ways to give wonderful gifts this holiday season that also help some of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged. If you got the hand-woven baskets from Tanzania for Aunt May last year, the enameled jewelry from Morocco already adorns Cousin Betty’s ears, and you purchased a goat for an Ethiopian farmer in the name of Uncle George in 2008, what about giving them some socially conscious corporate love this year? Buy them stock in a company that’s doing good for the world’s downtrodden.
Think mobile-phone companies providing service to rural and remote communities, drug companies selling life-saving medicines at cost, or even breweries creating jobs and clean water in some of the world’s most fragile places. None of these companies is doing this out of the goodness of its heart, obviously; they see money to be made. Still, …. Give these stocks as gifts to your kids and you might just turn junior into a future Warren Buffett of emerging markets (the Sage of Accra?), all while lowering the interest (or at least capital) costs of the companies in question.
More good news: Adding these enterprises to your friends’ and family’s portfolios will do their finances a favor, too. Many companies active in developing markets are doing well by doing good. African stocks in particular are weakly correlated with the S&P 500 index, making them a strong diversification play. What’s not to love? Here are nine suggestions to get you started. They’ll be far more welcome presents than a bunch of ladies doing tap. (Stock information reflects market closing prices on Friday, Dec. 16.)
Stock price: 44.90 USD
The drugs company gives away deworming drugs for use across Africa, provides rotavirus vaccines that prevent diarrhea—a major global killer—at a small fraction of their developed-world cost, and has a general policy of pricing drugs in least-developed markets at no more than 25% of the prices they fetch in the developed world.
Gilead Sciences (GILD)
Stock price: 37.16 USD
Gilead is providing HIV treatment drugs at cost in low-income countries and providing partners with rights to produce low-cost generic versions. The company suggests that nearly one-quarter of all people receiving any form of HIV treatment in developing countries are using low-cost branded or generic versions of Gilead’s HIV therapies.
Stock price: 27.17 USD
Vodafone is a mobile-phone company working in African markets from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Ghana and Lesotho. In Kenya, the Vodafone-managed Safaricom network has brought banking to millions via an innovative mobile-banking product, M-PESA.
Stock price: 2.98 EGP
If you want to support social-networking revolutions, you can’t buy public shares in Twitter or Facebook (yet). But a lot of the tweets and updates posted during the Arab Spring will have traveled over Orascom’s networks—it owns the largest mobile provider in Egypt.
Philips Electronics (PHG)
Stock price: 19.09 USD
Philips is a major developer and best-known manufacturer of solar-powered lighting that meets the technical specifications for the Lighting Africa initiative, which is trying to get solar lamps to off-grid consumers across the continent. For the 1.6 billion people who lack access to electricity worldwide, a solar lamp is a cleaner, safer, and cheaper alternative to kerosene, candles, or dung-burning to see where you are going after nightfall.
Standard Chartered Bank (STAN:LN)
Stock price: 1,363 GBP
Standard Chartered is the biggest multinational operation in Africa’s financial sector—active in 14 markets, providing valuable services to business and helping the region’s economies grow.
Stock price: 155 BWp
A pan-African personal insurance and micro-lending bank with over 125,000 customers, Letshego is extending the reach of financial services to an emerging African middle class. If you are worried about buying a stock in Botswana, the country’s exchange is probably one of the safest and easiest to work with on the continent.
Procter and Gamble (PG)
Stock price: 65.14 USD
P&G is working at the bottom of the pyramid across the developing world to sell soap and tampons, which help girls keep attending school during their periods. There isn’t another multinational consumer-products company reaching out to the world’s poorest purchasers on such a scale.
Stock price: 2,151 GBP
SABMiller is the first major foreign investor in South Sudan, outside the fledgling country’s oil sector. It provides clean water, tax revenue, lease payments, more than 200 local jobs, and increased demand for local agricultural produce in the capital city of Juba—along with beer, of course.