Africa’s 24 stock markets should learn to work together better if they are to seize high levels of investor interest, said Nicky Newton-King, CEO of South Africa’s JSE Ltd (www.jse.co.za), Africa’s biggest securities exchange. She was speaking in an interview with agency AFP.
“The appetite for Africa is very, very high. I think everybody is trying to find their way, to participate meaningfully in that. All of us who are privileged enough to run exchanges, need to figure out that these waves of investor appetite aren’t yours by right. Once they come you have to be able to ride them properly. We should not be taking this as business as usual, this is a business opportunity.”
The International Monetary Fund forecasts the aggregate economy of sub-Saharan Africa will grow at around 5.7% next year, presenting a giant opportunity.
Newton-King said on 7 Dec that one way to channel the investor interest through African markets would be to make it easier to invest across borders and to improve liquidity in small markets so that assets can be bought and sold quickly.
The JSE already works closely with the Namibian Stock Exchange (www.nsx.com.na) and she said it is looking to make deals with two other African bourses. She said that creating a single pan-African bourse is not currently on the agenda and the JSE is concentrating on improving the continent’s financial plumbing including allowing cross- and dual-listings and easier order-routing.
“I think it is far more about collaboration. Were we not to have any exchanges on the continent I think we would have wanted to create a single exchange that would service multiple jurisdictions out of one legal base. That’s the most efficient way to do it, but I’m a bit of a realist. Once you try to do cross-border mergers and acquisitions, you run into much more trenchant issues of a regulatory nature, all of which stem from ‘how do we protect the local investor?’, ‘how do we make sure the local market grows?”
Newton-King identified liquidity as a key challenge to attract foreign investors: “Really big trades are not going to go to illiquid markets. The average day’s trade on the JSE is more than the average annual trade on Kenya and Mauritius put together. There are amazing companies in both of those countries.”
She said that allowing Kenyans to invest in joint-listed South African stock in KES shillings, or by allowing South Africans to more easily place orders into Nigerian stock markets would attract more foreign investors. She adds that there are benefits from cross-listing (securities being traded on more than one exchange), as the JSE learned when its leading shares moved to London: “When Anglo-American cross-listed in London, the amount of trades in Anglo-American increased. South Africa’s percentage of trade in Anglo-American decreased, but the decreased percentage was worth more. In those cases you have to think quite bravely.”
She was echoing a theme about Africa’s securities exchanges needing to become more liquid to serve the growing needs both of investors and of enterprises seeking capital.This theme has been strongly stressed by Sunil Benimadhu, CEO of the Stock Exchange of Mauritius, since he took over as Presdient of the African Securities Exchanges Association in October 2010, as reported on this blog.
The JSE has consistently offered to work closely to help other exchanges to develop and the author of this blog was GM of NSX when it linked its trading and broker systems in 1998-9. Exchanges in Southern Africa and in East Africa are stepping up the pace of collaboration. The Committee of SADC Stock Exchanges (COSSE) is working to forge more links,improve technology and other connections and take other steps to improve markets and boost liquidity, as reported here.
“Nigeria the new gateway to African capital markets”
The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE – www.nse.com.ng) aims to transform Nigeria into the gateway of African capital markets. Oscar Onyema, CEO of the NSE, on 12 Dec said this at a national competition for secondary and tertiary schools and colleges in Lagos. Priorities for the NSE management in 2013 will continue to be innovations in technology and new product development. Onyema promised more technology-based solutions and data services and said the NSE would advocate changes in policy and would also continue cleaning and restructuring, and making the market accessible.