On a trip to Egypt many years ago, Francis Beddington, now head of research at Insparo Asset Management, inquired about shorting the currency. "We consider that treason," came the reply.
The paucity of shorting instruments on African exchanges remains today, although not quite to the same extremes as markets evolve. Yet being able to hedge downside risk is a key issue for investors, given that African markets - often billed as uncorrelated due to their frontier nature - proved decidedly correlated with big global markets in 2008.
What is more, many have so far lagged the recovery seen elsewhere this year, despite strong economic growth prospects.
Today, Beddington and Insparo CIO Mohammed Hanif manage one of the few hedge funds focused on Africa, the $160 million Insparo Africa and Middle East Fund. "It is not easy, but you can hedge Africa," says Beddington. "You just need to be a little smarter."