AXA has taken a stake in a West African utility company as it looks to increase its infrastructure investment activity.

The investment manager, reportedly moving into direct infrastructure investment late last yearsaid it bought the 18.6% stake in Eranove from Bouygues.

Pierre Vaquier, chief executive at AXA Real Estate, said: “Our investment in Eranove is another milestone in terms of widening the global expansion of our real asset investments as we take a holistic approach to assets and industries to deliver long-term growth on behalf of our clients.”

The fund manager began investing in infrastructure debt in 2013 on behalf of French insurer AXA.

Eranove, majority owned by Emerging Capital Partners and employing 7,800 staff, operates across the water production and power generation sectors.

The company’s main focus has been on Senegal and the Ivory Coast, operating through concession companies CIE, SODECI, SDE and CIPREL.

Laurent Clamagirand, CIO at AXA, said: “The combined factors of a severe shortage of power-generation capacity in Africa and high rates of GDP and population growth give Eranove a significant opportunity to build a leading energy platform across the continent.

“Eranove is already a successful and well-established business, with strong management and a large customer base.

“Our long-term investment and commitment to Africa will support the growth of Eranove, as well as positively impact the countries it serves.”

AXA said it was looking to increase its exposure to Africa’s utilities sector where it saw potential.