Africa’s jumbo stock exchanges to link in 2019?

An ambitious project to link Africa’s 7 biggest securities exchanges is moving to implementation with a call this month for a project manager for the coming year. The African Exchanges Linkage Project (AELP) aims to transform the number of trades on exchanges and investment flows across Africa by creating a platform so an investor in once country can buy or sell shares listed on an exchange in another country.

It’s a leading initiative of the African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA) and the African Development Bank, and will feature a central linked trading platform linked to the different exchange trading systems. The roll-out was boosted last November 2018 by a grant of $980,000 through the African Development Bank Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation Trust Fund (KOAFEC).

At November 2018, the participating exchanges were listed as Johannesburg, Nigeria, Nairobi, Casablanca, Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières SA (BRVM) and the Stock Exchange of Mauritius, this year the Egyptian Exchange has been added. The initial 7 exchanges represent at least 85% of the market value of listed securities (market capitalization) across Africa. More exchanges are to join after the pilot phase.

The central platform will enable free flow of trading information between the linked exchanges, and stockbrokers will be able to access the trading platform and place orders on the member exchanges through “sponsored access”, working through a locally registered stockbroker. It will use order-routing technology to channel orders through brokers into exchange trading systems.

Oscar Onyema and Karim Hajji, previous and present Presidents of African Securities Exchanges Association

Karim Hajji, CEO of the Casablanca Stock Exchange and President of ASEA, says: “We look forward to working with AfDB more closely and fostering a more connected African capital market,” according to a Nigerian online report.

Oscar Onyema, CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and former president of ASEA, told stockbrokers at a workshop last November: “The AELP will start off with the 6 markets participating in the pilot with the goal of onboarding other markets in Africa who meet the minimum requirements. The countries participating in the AELP pilot phase are strategically spread across the continent as this will become instrumental in the scaling up of the project.

“The model for the linkage will be ‘sponsored access’, meaning that the cross-border trades will be required to pass through the risk-management system of the sponsoring broker before flowing to the exchange. We believe that this model will minimize the disruption to the local market and provide confidence for all stakeholders.

“Thus we anticipate that the initiative will be welcome by all stakeholders and will support ASEA’s goal of boosting intra-Africa capital-market trading activity. ”

According to a document from ASEA: “The AELP is aimed at addressing the lack of liquidity and promoting information-sharing in the African capital markets. It is envisaged that the linkage project would allow cross-border visibility and open up markets for investors to trade in any of the linked markets.”

Anticipated benefits include: more liquidity, measured by the number of deals and the value traded; better market openness; increased participation by foreign investors; more participation by African investment institutions such as the fast-growing pension funds across the continent; African businesses and other issuers being able to raise capital and floating shares across the continent; creating a bigger financial market; convergence towards international standards; and building capacity and sharing information.

In preparation for the project stockbrokers were asked to talk to clients to gauge potential interest in buying and selling securities on different exchanges, and to give their inputs into the design and rollout.

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