Giant growth foreseen for African stock exchanges over 10 years

LIVE FROM SECURITIES AFRICA CONFERENCE (BNY Mellon, London)
African exchanges could grow dramatically in both market capitalization and turnover, following the explosive trends already charted by the Indian and Chinese markets. This was the view of Sunil Benimadhu, President of the African Stock Exchanges Association (ASEA – www.africansea.org), speaking at an African investment conference organized by stockbroker Securities Africa (www.securitiesafrica.com) in London today (14 March).
According to his projections, by 2020 leading African exchanges including Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Botswana and Mauritius could see giant growth. He says that based on an assumption of economic growth (GDP) of 5% a year and if African markets continue to follow trends seen elsewhere in terms of their share their economies (GDP) then both turnover (the value of shares traded) and market capitalization (the value of the shares listed on the exchange for trading) could increase many times during the coming decade. Already in the last 10 years Kenya has seen its market capitalization grow 12x, while the market capitalization of the Mauritian market has risen from 30% to 80% of GDP even as the economy has also grown by 5% a year. This has also been seen in other markets, for instance in China where turnover has risen 5x to $2.7 trillion and India where turnover is up from $148 bn to $1.6 trn. African markets could achieve similar growth in the coming years.
Sunil dubs his continent “the final growth frontier of the world” and says it is attracting a lot of interest, despite a slowdown this year due to political upheaval in Tunisia, Egypt and Cote d’Ivoire. As global economic power shifts to China and India, demand for commodities will continue to soar in order to support their growth, and this will continue to boost African economies. In addition, many countries have successfully introduced structural adjustment programmes. There has been huge growth in many African countries and a new and numerous middle class is emerging, likely to push consumption at 10% a year for coming years.
Investors deterred by “anaemic” growth in developed markets are turning to Africa. Despite the prospects, African markets are currently trading at less than 11x trailing Price-Earnings ratio (a measure of valuing a share price compared to last year’s net profits), compared to a trailing PE ratio of 16x in developed markets. This is despite developed markets only growing by 0%-0.5% a year, compared with African growth forecast at least at 5% in most major markets, and more in many countries. Despite delivering double-digit returns and providing some of the world’s top performing markets, even after factoring in risk perceptions “African markets are much cheaper”, says Sunil.
Challenges for macro-economic policy-makers include more improvements in the business climate including further opening of markets, inclusive growth that spreads the benefits to a middle class who will in turn spur consumption and bring large numbers of the population into the forefront of the growth story. He also said the continent needs good, democratic governance, as indicated in North African countries which had been deemed to be success stories until governance problems came to the fore. There also needs to be substantial investment in infrastructure, including roads, railways and airports to link African markets. However, Afridan capital markets could supply the investment funds for this, provided policy-makers understand and actively support the development of security exchanges.
Exchanges also have to play their part. He says they should focus on “the 4Ps: products, players, participants and partnerships”. The markets need new products, they need new players including dramatic increases in the proportion of the local population who trade on capital markets and activity levels by international investors. Top companies – for instance oil companies in Nigeria – may not even be listed and there is plenty of potential to put leading companies onto the radar screen of the international investors. African stock exchanges also need to seek new partnerships with each other. Links between markets in East and Southern Africa are advancing.

How the African Stock Exchanges Association (ASEA) aims to shape the future of African capital markets:
1. Emerge as the organization of reference and choice for investors to obtain first-hand information on African stock markets, increase the visibility of the African markets
2. Revamp the website to give up-to-date information to investors who want to understand the performance of African markets and to become a major source of real-time information, including the changes exchanges are going through.
3. ASEA will work a major index provider to come up with an investigate African index that will be jointly owned and should serve 2 key functions: as a benchmark for investors and to be used as reference for the creation of an African Exchange-Traded Fund. It will track ASEA’s 22 member exchanges, although have not yet decided the weighting of the JSE.
4. ASEA should become mouthpiece of African exchanges with African governments and regional organizations as well as the African Union, the African Development Bank and the World Bank.

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