- George Soros's fund management company is backing a 122-year-old Scottish mining and construction company's bid to set itself up as the biggest provider of Internet access and e-mail in South Africa.
Soros Fund Management already owns 13 per cent of Edinburgh-based African Lakes, but has decided to increase its investment to take an undisclosed share of the new venture to be called Africa Online.
African Lakes was set up in 1877 by by Scottish trade missionaries to build steam ships on Glasgow's River Clyde for Central Africa's lakes. In the following years, the business expanded into construction, plantations and engineering and was listed on the stock market in the 1920s. New management structure in the late 1990s saw the company sell off many of its traditional interests, but it still owns a Malawi rubber plantation.
Africa Online will provide Internet access and information to the continent and funds will also be used to extend the reach of 'e-touch' centres, which enable people who do not have a PC to access the Internet.
Datamonitor research predicts that Internet usage in the developing world will quadruple to 118m by 2005, while European usage will double to just 88m.