GEMS plans $650m investment in emerging markets

Dubai-based schools operator says cash will be spent over next three to five years

Dino Varkey, group executive director, GEMS.

Dino Varkey, group executive director, GEMS.

Global Education Management Systems Limited (GEMS), which owns schools in ten countries, plans to invest up to US$650m in expanding its operations over the next three to five years, its group executive director told Arabian Business.

The Dubai-based schools operator said it plans to concentrate on emerging markets such as the Middle East, North Africa and India as it pushes ahead with expansion plans for up to 40 countries, said Dino Varkey.

“In terms of our next three to five years in terms of the global expansion… we are looking at investing anywhere between US$550m and US$650m,” he said.

“We are of course looking at expanding globally,” he added. “Today, we operate in ten countries from the US to China [and] I envisage that over the next three to five years we’ll look to be in anywhere between 25 to 40 countries.”

The growth will be funded through GEMS’ own funds, borrowing from banks and in the long term the institutional investor market, he added.

GEMS, which operates private schools in the GCC, US and India, opened its first school in Kenya this year and plans to expand into five other African countries including Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique.

A growing middle class across Africa is boosting demand for private schools, said Varkey.

“You are talking about the second fastest growing region over the last decade,” he added.

“Over 30m new households have joined the consumer class so obviously [there is] a fast rising middle class that’s highly ambitious and aspirational in terms of their children’s education,” he said.

GEMS in October said it planned to open ten new schools across the UAE over the next two years. The schools, which will include British, Indian, International Baccalaureate, US and dual curricula across a range of fee levels, are in various stages of development and will be open within 24 months, said Varkey.

New schools in the MENA region may include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Qatar, he added. 

“We see further expansion within Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman [though Oman] won’t be significant expansion but there are opportunities and we should have a school up and running within the next year there,” he said.

“We have smaller expansion ambitions within Kuwait but the key markets from my perspective are Qatar and Saudi within the GCC. Africa, Egypt, Libya, Morocco are key for us,” he added.

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Posted by: Zainab

is anyone in the education business, interested in 'education' ?
The only thing the Varkey Group is interested in , is money .....

I myself am an ex-student of a Gems school & I WOULD NEVER recommend this school to anyone .

Posted by: Tarek Alwan

Libya is indeed a great potential to expand into. I wish you success in your efforts

Posted by: Elges

You are spot on! The whole thing is driven by greed and greed alone! They keep hiking the fees, but pay the teachers peanuts.

Posted by: MGD

Absolute rubbish if you dont mind me saying. Which teacher have you spoken to? The teachers for GEMS are among the best, if not the best, paid in the region. They also allow women to be expats if you know what I mean.

Posted by: Very disappointed Parent

Sadly this article proves that it's all big business but they seem to forget the children in their bid for education dominance. Class sizes far too large especially in Gems Wellington Academy DSO compared to other Private Schools. They are so eager to expand that little thought is given to children's safety getting into & out of school & their limited play area around the school! I'm not surprised to see their success in exams as so much pressure placed on children with very little support & should your child fall behind then it is immediately explained that they have a learning difficulty rather than the school itself looking at how it is teaching!!

Posted by: Maitili Shah

GEMS schools are a money making machine. The management has fine tuned the art of squeezing money out of parents in their Indian schools in the name of "education".

Sadly, the KHDA seems to be in cahoots with them. A 100% hike in fees one year at Dubai Modern High School during the recession. A 300% hike in transportation fees during the recession (they outsourced it to a company in whom GEMS has a stake - called exploiting a legal loophole).

A small hike for worse food.

A 50% hike in uniforms because they changed suppliers. July and August used to be holidays so we never had to pay fees for 2 mths. Now, school goes on till July 15 and opens on September 15, so we pay for one additional mth.

Offer a 6% discount for those who pay fees in advance and then 2 mths later declare a 6% hike in fees. And the education!!!! If a good, new player would come ....

Give one penny with one hand and take 10 back with the other.

Posted by: Geko

Guys dont cry too much, they have a plan to distribute the wealth that they take to built these assets to all the ex-students of their schools after 10 or 15 years!!!!

I am trying to go back in to history that in Kerala. Govt free education or possibly, free by nuns???

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