Archive for the 'Agriculture' Category

New bourse for African beef commodities

THIS STORY WAS PUBLISHED ON 1 APRIL MORNING FOLLOWING THE JOURNALIST TRADITION FOR THAT MORNING. IT SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

As securities exchanges seek new products to boost liquidity and trading, a team of market experts announced backing for an exchange to trade southern and eastern Africa’s agricultural commodities. African Beef Exchange, headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana, launches today and brings together trading of a wide range of cattle and cattle products.
“We address the full range of this commodity – from savannah to sirloin” said CEO Bea Feater. “We offer cash trading and speedy T+2 international standard clearing and settlement and we will move towards futures trading along a 6 month exchange rollout roadmap.”
The ABE offers southern and eastern African countries the chance to quash arguments about which country produces the best beef. “We all know Botswana’s beef is the best in the world, except for the colleagues in Namibia, Zimbabwe and a few others. Now traders can put their money where their mouths are”, said Feater.
Key innovation is the settlement and clearing of physical commodity, enabled by a high-speed Chinese rail network currently under construction across the region. This will enable herders to “demat” the herds into specially padded train wagons for speedy T+2 settlement at kraals across the region.
The ABE is aiming to create a first in terms of sustainable energy usage and health, reversing the trend in which stockbrokers worry about their growing waistlines as they gaze at slow-moving trading screens: “We are creating a virtual trading room using advanced movement sensors and interactive technology. Traders will once again be able to trade better by rushing about, waving their arms and shouting, which will be better for their physical movement during trading hours. Our advanced system will capture the energy generated in order to provide energy for the order routing system. If you don’t move, the screen will gradually go to sleep.”
The full range of beef commodities will be traded, including futures (semen samples and calves) to post-trade in the form of ready-to-cook steaks. Interest is soaring as Africa’s top beef solutions continue to lead the cattle-loving world.

Trade confirmation will be exciting on African Beef Exchange

Trade confirmation will be exciting on African Beef Exchange

Cattle rushing to meet T+2 settlement deadlines

Cattle rushing to meet T+2 settlement deadlines

World-beating trade confirmation systems

World-beating trade confirmation systems

Ethiopian Commodity Exchange gets online trading platform

ECX buyers and sellers make deals. (Photo credit - John Humphrey. From www.globalisationanddevelopment.com)

ECX buyers and sellers make deals. (Photo credit – John Humphrey. From www.globalisationanddevelopment.com)


The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) has unveiled an online trading platform that has capacity for nearly 5,000 times more transactions than its current “open outcry”. Since the ECX was started in 2008 trading has been done on a trading floor in its Addis Ababa headquarters by dealers trading directly with each other, and about 200 transactions a day could be done.
Initially, dealers using the eTRADE Platform would be based at the ECX HQ’s trading centre. However, eventually market players will be able to trade electronically from anywhere. The platform will be gradually rolled out to newly built ECX trading centres in regional cities Hawassa, Humera, Nekemte and, in the near future, an additional 4 centres. The ECX has trained and certified more than 445 ECX trading members and representatives who are qualified to trade on the platform.
The trading platform has been under construction for the past 2 years and was developed in-house at the ECX. It was unveiled on 8 October and, on launch day, a record $400,000 of coffee was traded according to this news release.
A test run was done on 20 July with trading in local washed and unwashed byproduct coffee. ECX says 2,390 metric tonnes of farm produce has been traded on the platform so far with a trade value of ETB 120 million (about $5.7m).
ECX chief executive officer Ermias Eshetu said: “The inauguration of this eTRADE platform sets a new course for Ethiopia and brings with it unparalleled economic and social benefits. The platform inevitably breaks the physical and time barrier of the current open-outcry trading platform and provides the ECX with vital economies-of-scale to trade a number of additional new commodities.”

Transforming life for small farmers
The Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) and other partners have been supporting the programme, according to this news release. William Asiko, CEO of ICF, said the platform would bring a revolution to Ethiopia’s agriculture sector: “The modernization of ECX will help to improve the business environment for stakeholders involved in the commodities sector and give Ethiopian agricultural products a competitive advantage.
“But for farmers, this modernization will be life-changing. It will enable farmers to get better pricing for their produce, thereby creating a more equitable distribution of wealth that has far-reaching social implications.”
The ECX was founded with the aim of improving agricultural marketing – a large part of its success is due to the large network of warehouses, quality controls and logistics up and down the country, and its main aim is to empower smallholder farmers, including through better information about prices. The current Government 5-year Growth and Transformation Plan II, launched from July 2015, sees state-run ECX serving 24 “agro-centres” with increased storage and warehousing facilities and better transport links.
Ermias, who became CEO in January after coming from Zemen Bank, said in April that the Government is establishing an enterprise to oversee the upgrading of warehousing, which will rely on a mixture of public and private capital. Donors including the World Bank and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are considering supporting what will require “huge investment,” he said.
One key tool for ECX has been its short message service (SMS) and interactive voice response (IVR) notifications of market data to farmers and others. This was introduced in 2011 in Amharic and English and gives real-time access to commodity prices. The SMS service processes 800,000 transactions a month and the IVR handles 1m calls a month, according to the news release. An upgrade was unveiled on 8 October which expands to Oromiffa and Tigrinya languages and introduces menu-based services (USSD) and new interfaces.

ECX mulls trading securities
Earlier this year it was also considering whether it could trade securities, including stocks and bonds, as part of its 5-year expansion plan. Ermias told Bloomberg in April: “We want to be a marketplace for any kind of stock, be it derivatives, agricultural commodities, financial instruments. That’s the ultimate vision.” He added that formal discussions have not yet begun on trading securities.
“With the two components, logistics and scalability, we will be able to introduce multiple commodities to the market,” he said. “ECX must offer the truly transparent marketplace for anything that’s going on in the Ethiopian economy.”
He said the market could move from coffee and sesame seeds, which account for more than 90% of volumes and are the two biggest generators of foreign exchange in Ethiopia, to sugar and grains such as corn and then add equities, government debt, power and metals.
Bloomberg cites Yohannes Assefa, the director of Stalwart Management Consultancy, a Dubai-based group working on Kenyan and Tanzanian exchanges, saying that ECX has capacity to expand beyond agricultural commodities within 12 months: “The existing platform is robust and the regulatory system is mature and well managed.”
The main problem would be changing government regulations, and Yohannes warned this “may require serious internal consultation before a change of policy.”

Exporters want futures
Bloomberg adds that coffee exporters such as Fekade Mamo, general manager of Addis Ababa-based Mochaland Import and Export, criticize the ECX for not allowing futures trading to hedge positions in a volatile global market. Ermias said it would take more than a year to build necessary steps for this, including insurance options for farmers in case they can’t deliver, better access to credit and the strengthening of the legal system.
Donors including USAID and the United Nations have supported the ECX when it was launched in order to boost efficiency of food markets in a nation where millions regularly went hungry. It had strong support from the Government, which decreed that exporters of coffee – Ethiopia is Africa’s biggest producer – must buy from traders on the bourse before they can export and within a year the ECX was the main route for coffee exports.
In 2014 it traded ETB 26.2 billion birr ($1.3bn) worth of goods.

ETB 1.6m for trading seat
In May the 17th trading seat was auctioned and won by an individual, Abayneh Zerfu, who bid ETB 1.6m ($76,000), according to this story in Addis Fortune newspaper, which said there were 4 bids. The ECX manages the bid if a member sells his or her seat and they are only allowed to do this after trading for 3 years and meeting requirements. Yohannes Hamereselassie, member development specialist at the ECX, said the original price for a seat was ETB301,000.

The new e-trade facility (credit ICF Africa)

The new e-TRADE facility (credit ICF Africa)


The ECX developers of the eTRADE platform (credit ICF Africa)

The ECX developers of the eTRADE platform (credit ICF Africa)

Africa Progress Panel urges triple energy win – for people, power and planet

APP_KA_quote

Africa is a potential low-carbon superpower and can show the world how to fight poverty, grow economies and fight climate change at the same time. It is a crucial message for 2015, when critical climate talks will set the future direction of the world’s weather and world leaders commit to achieving sustainable development goals.

Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel today (5 Jun) issues its report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities. It calls on governments, private investors, and international financial institutions to unlock the Africa’s vast potential for renewable and a low-carbon energy and fight poverty by delivering universal access to electricity by 2030. The report is available for download here.

Source: Africa Progress Panel

Source: Africa Progress Panel

The report says Africa does not have to choose between economic growth and low-carbon energy development. Just as the continent leapfrogged decades of telecoms development with cheap rollout of mobile telephony, Africa has the sun, wind, water and geothermal resources to fire up energy without damaging the world climate.

Power against poverty
Many Africans cannot escape poverty because 621 million of them do not have access to electricity and they pay a heavy price in resources, time and environmental decline for energy such as firewood, which they use for lighting and cooking. A rural woman in northern Nigeria spends around 60 to 80 times more per unit of energy consumed than a resident of New York or London.

“Our report calls for a 10-fold increase in power generation by 2030,” said Mr Annan, adding: “Africa needs to utilize all of its energy assets in the short-term while seizing the opportunity to put in place the foundations for a competitive, low-carbon energy infrastructure.”

The Africa Progress Panel report highlights the scale of Africa’s energy deficits. Power shortages cut the region’s growth by 2-4 per cent a year, holding back job creation.

Electricity consumption in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) is less than that of Spain. On current trends it will take until 2080 for every African to have access to electricity. The APP report identifies Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa as emerging front-runner countries in the global transition to low-carbon energy.

There is a $10 billion-a-year opportunity in tackling deficits and the report authors estimate that households living on less than US$2.50 a day collectively spend this amount on energy-related products, such as charcoal, candles and torches.

Source: Africa Progress Panel

Source: Africa Progress Panel

“This is market failure on an epic scale. Low-cost renewable technologies could slash the cost of energy, benefiting millions of poor households, creating investment opportunities, and cutting carbon emissions,” said Mr Annan. “African governments should take responsibility for tackling corruption in energy utilities, strengthening energy governance to facilitate private investments, and increasing investment in energy infrastructure.”

The report urges African governments to redirect the US$21 billion spent on subsidies for loss-making utilities and electricity consumption for the rich, towards connection subsidies and renewable energy investments geared towards the poor.

It estimates the energy-sector financing gap will be US$55 billion each year until 2030. The panel members call for strengthened international cooperation and a global connectivity fund to reach an additional 600 million Africans by unlocking private investment and expanding public investment in on-grid and off-grid energy provision. Aid donors and financial institutions can do more to unlock private investment through risk guarantees and mitigation finance.

Time to end “climate negotiations poker”
Africa brings a message of hope for December’s climate talks, set for Paris. The world’s leaders must commit and act to implement agreements to cut emissions and limit global average temperature increase to 2OC above pre-industrial levels. Africa contributes the least to man-made climate change and already endures the worst effects such as droughts, floods, falling crop yields and rising temperatures. A bigger increase would mean these changes could spiral out of control within a few years.

The African Progress Panel report challenges African governments and the international community to scale-up the level of ambition ahead of the summit. It recognizes that the EU, the US and China have raised their levels of ambition but says current proposals fall far short of a credible deal for keeping global warming within the 2ºC limit. It condemns Canada, Australia, Russia and Japan for effectively withdrawing from constructive engagement of climate.

APP member Bob Geldof contrasted the “comfort blanket mood music” surrounding the Paris climate summit with current policies: “G7 and G20 governments tell us they want a climate deal. Yet the same governments – the UK, the United States, Germany, China, Brazil and India – are spending billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money subsidizing the discovery of new coal, oil and gas reserves. They should be pricing carbon out of the market through taxation, not subsiding a climate catastrophe that threatens the lives of millions of Africans and jeopardizes our children’s future.”

“This is a moment for bold global leadership and decisive action by governments around the world,” said Mr Annan. “Playing poker with our planetary and the lives of future generations is not a smart move.”

Why do Africa’s commodity exchanges fail and why do donors love them?

Commodity exchange trading floors have failed in in Zambia, Uganda, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. However, this has not deterred donors, according to a recent article on Bloomberg, and at least 8 commodity exchanges started in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years with the aim of improving food security for local populations.
Exchanges are a distraction from other initiatives that would better serve poor farmers, Nicholas Sitko, a Michigan State University agricultural economist who’s based in Zambia, where a commodity exchange closed in 2012, is reported as saying: “We’ve learned that no amount of money pumped into them and no amount of government effort to get them off the ground can force them to work,” he says.

Attracting donors
Why were donors attracted to commodity exchanges, which analysts said suffered from the same flaw: a top-down approach that’s better at attracting foreign aid than at improving farming practices and developing transportation and communications networks. Donors like exchanges because they look like institutions in their own countries, says Peter Robbins, a former commodities trader in London who’s studied African exchanges. And “African leaders like to show off trading floors to show how modern their countries have become,” he says.
Even the famous Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, started in 2008 with the help of foreign donors including US and United Nations to improve food distribution in a country where millions often went hungry, has not proved as effective as desired. This is despite strong Government backing, including decrees that almost all buying and selling of coffee, sesame seeds, and navy beans for export must take place on the exchange.
According to Bloomberg: “With its buyers and sellers in coloured jackets and open-outcry trading floor displaying real-time market data from around the world, the ECX has been a prime example of what an exchange can and can’t do. The government ordered export coffee trading onto the exchange shortly after it opened, hoping it would jump-start activity and help attract other business. That didn’t work: Small amounts of corn and wheat are traded, but coffee and sesame seeds account for about 90% of exchange volume.

Enough warehouses
“Eleni Gabre-Madhin, who founded the ECX and served as its first director, says one obstacle for the exchange was that the state didn’t build enough warehouses to store bulky items such as cereals.” ECX Chief Executive Officer Ermias Eshetu said ECX will re-strategize from the bottom up in the Government’s next 5-year Growth and Transformation Plan II starting in July so that it can handle staple foods and is now allowed to license private warehouse operators to expand storage capacity.
Fekade Mamo, general manager of Mochaland Import and Export and a former ECX board member, was reported saying that Ethiopia’s fragmented, barter-based agricultural economy would have to modernize before it can benefit from a Western-style commodity exchange, according to: “The objective was to bring about an equitable food supply system.. That has completely failed.”
On the positive side, founder Eleni says farmers who use the exchange have seen benefits: Posting prices publicly has boosted their income, and centralized trading means buyers don’t default on contracts. Gary Robbins (no relation to Peter), chief of the economic growth and transformation office at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Addis Ababa, says commodity exchanges can encourage a consistently higher crop quality, a key condition for global trade, says. ECX
Eleni left the ECX in 2012 and has been working with investors, including International Finance Corp.—an arm of the World Bank—and Bob Geldof’s 8 Miles private equity fund, to establish an exchange in Ghana. Next she hopes to help set up one in Cameroon.
Shahidur Rashid, a food-security analyst with the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, says the problem is that conditions for success, such as large trading volumes, a strong financial sector, and a commitment to transparency, don’t yet exist in most countries: “A new institution should add value, and I struggle to find that value,” Rashid says. “Every country does not need an exchange. Nor is it any good to establish them in places where they will fail.” But he also says that under the right circumstances, exchanges can make sense.

Private Equity Africa ranks top 10 deals in 2014

Leading website and magazine Private Equity Africa lists the top 10 Africa private equity deals from 2014. They use data from Preqin.

1. Helios Investment Partners – Helios Towers Africa – $630m
This is the second year that Helios Investment Partners took the top slot when it led a consortium to inject $630m of growth capital into telecommunications service provider Helios Towers Africa (HTA) in July. It was US-based private equity investor Providence Equity Partners’ first deal in Africa. The IFC’s African, Latin American and Caribbean Fund also invested for the first time in HTA. Existing investors Quantum Strategic Partners, Albright Capital Management and RIT Capital Partners also backed the tranche. (Helios’ big deal in 2013 was to partner with BTG Pactual and Indorama to bring $1.5bn investment into Nigeria-based oil and gas exploration company, Petrobras Africa.)

2. Emerging Capital Partners leads consortium – IHS – $490m
Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) led the consortium that invested $490m in Nigeria-based telecommunications towers company IHS. The latest 2014 funding round brought in Goldman Sachs was a new investor and the IFC Global Infrastructure Fund and African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) were also in. IHS is part-owned by Investec Asset Management, the first private equity investor to fund its expansion. Other existing investors are ECP, Wendel, sovereign wealth fund Korea Investment Corporation (KIC) and the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO). KIC first backed IHS when it joined Investec and ECP in a $1bn financing round in 2013. Standard Chartered Bank contributed $70m in senior debt specifically set apart to finance expansion into Zambia as part of the capital package

3. Abraaj – Liberty Star – confidential
South Africa’s Liberty Star Consumer Holdings (Libstar) manufacture and distributes food. It sells private-label products to retailers, own-brand products and third-party packaging and ingredients to the food industry. Abraaj acquired a majority stake in the company through a secondary buyout from Metier, Old Mutual Private Equity, Development Partners International and Lereko – which have all exited the company. Libstar management took a minority stake in the buyout. The deal value is confidential.

4. Atlas Merchant Capital – Union Bank of Nigeria – $270m
The investment was channelled through Atlas Mara Co-Nvest, its $325m investment vehicle listed on the London Stock Exchange. Atlas Merchant previously held 9.05% in Union Bank, inherited when it took over ADC African Development Corporation in early 2014. It committed the capital by exercising an option to acquire 20.89% of the financial services company.

5. IFC-Asset Management Compan & Temasek – Seven Energy – $255m
More sovereign wealth fund action in April, when Singapore’s Temasek partners with IFC Asset Management Company (IFC-AMC) to invest $255m in Nigeria’s Seven Energy, an oil and gas exploration and production company. Temasek contributed $150m for a 25% stake. Previous investors in Seven Energy include Actis, Investec Asset Management, Africa Finance Corporation, Capital International Private Equity and Standard Chartered Private Equity. Seven Energy’s $600m capital-raising round included $335m in debt of which the IFC African, Latin American, and Caribbean Fund contributed $30m.

6. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts – Afriflora – $200m
KKR’s first deal for Africa, in July, was approximately $200m in Afriflora, an Ethiopia-focused agriculture production company that cultivates, produces and sells roses based on Fairtrade standards. The company operates as Sher Ethiopia. The investment is part of KKR’s $6.2bn European Fund III.

7. Carlyle – Tiger Automotive – confidential
It was fast-moving Carlyle’s third deal of the year from its maiden $698m Africa-focused fund, closed earlier in 2014. It bought South Africa’s vehicle accessories distributor Tiger Automotive (TiAuto) in November. It partnered with Old Mutual Private Equity (OMPE) to buy the company from Ethos Private Equity. TiAuto operates through 7 divisions, including Tiger Wheel & Tyre, Tyres & More, YSA and Treads Unlimited and primarily distributes branded tyres such as Continental, Yokohama, Michelin, Pirelli, Goodyear, Achilles, GT Radial and Hankook.

8. Stanchart – Sphinx Glass – $180m
Standard Chartered Private Equity backed a deal and partnered with Saudi Arabia’s Construction Products Holding to buy Egypt-based industrial production company Sphinx Glass from Qalaa Holdings (formerly Citadel Capital) in May for $180m. Sphinx Glass operates under license from US-based PPG Industries, a specialist float glass technology provider. Qalaa sold it as part of a strategy to shed non-core assets.

9. Rocket & Kinnevik – Jumia – $148m
Hotshot tech investors Rocket Internet and Kinnevik put another $148m into their consumer shopping platform Jumia in December. US-based private equity investor Summit Partners owns part of Jumia and JP Morgan Asset Management has also previously invested. Jumia owns consumer shopping websites offering branded consumer products as Internet shopping starts to take Africa by storm. Rocket Internet has previously backed Groupon, eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn and Zynga. Watch this space.

10. Carlyle Diamond Bank – $147m
Carlyle’s fourth deal was into Nigeria-based financial services company Diamond Bank, which is a Tier II bank, covering corporate, retail and public sector banking with subsidiaries offering custodian, mortgage, securities and insurance products and services. Kunoch Holdings, the Africa-focused investment platform of entrepreneur and investor Pascal Dozie, raised its holding in the bank from 5.86% to 20.65% in August, buying the additional stake from Actis and CDC Group.

*Rankings based on Preqin data and Private Equity Africa research.

“Africa’s largest” Helios III private equity fund to close at $1.1bn

Leading African private investment firm Helios Investment Partners says it is about to close its 3rd Africa-focused private equity fund at the $1.1 billion limit. The firm said yesterday (12 Jan) it had already passed its $1bn target. Helios Investors III L.P. fund will “acquire and build market-leading, diversified platform companies, operating in the core economic sectors of the key African countries, with an emphasis on portfolio operations as a creator of value”, according to a press release.

The company says Africa’s attraction to investors stems from growth driven by factors specific to the continent, including economic liberalization, technology driving increasing productivity, demographic dynamics and urbanization. The Financial Times describes it as “the first $1bn-plus Africa-focused private equity fund.”

Tope Lawani, co-founder and Managing Partner of Helios Investment Partners, commented in the press release: “Much has been made of the rise of the African consumer, and that does, from time to time, give rise to potential investment opportunities. However, as discretionary incomes remain low and the cost of basic goods and services is high, Helios believes that addressing the supply side of the economy is generally more attractive.

“Helios’ strategy focuses on investing in businesses that lead the provision of core economic infrastructure: de-bottlenecking the economy; increasing efficiencies; and reducing living costs for households and operating costs for businesses.”

Economic woes bring buying opportunities
According to the Financial Times, many countries’ economic prospects are troubled by falling commodity prices. Increased interest rates in US cause capital flows out of developing markets. In an interview Mr Lawani told the paper that in the near term many African countries were going to suffer an “adverse impact” on their currencies as capital flew back to the US: “We are witnessing sharply lower commodities prices and it is reasonable to expect African currencies to lose value against the dollar,” he said.

He claimed that the downturn would turn into an opportunity for investors holding large amounts of US dollars, such as Helios. “It is an excellent time to invest: asset values are going to come down.”

From Helios Investment Partners website

From Helios Investment Partners website

Investor appetite matures
The company says that over 60% of the new capital committed comes from their existing investors, and other leading global institutional investors have joined them. The investor base for Helios III includes sovereign wealth funds (SWF), corporate and public pension funds, endowments and foundations, funds of funds, family offices and development finance institutions across the US, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Helios investment team is supported by Helios’ dedicated Portfolio Operations Group, based in Lagos and Nairobi, who work in active partnership with portfolio company management to create value within the firm’s portfolio by driving operational improvements. Helios has already made one investment through Helios III, acquiring an interest in ARM Pensions, Nigeria’s largest independent pension fund manager with over $2.2bn of pension assets under management. It has built a robust pipeline of proprietary opportunities.

Dabney Tonelli, Investor Relations Partner of Helios Investment Partners, commented: “Achieving, and exceeding, our fundraising target for Helios III underscores the global demand for experienced, institutional, Africa-focused private equity specialists and the strength of the relationships we have built with the world’s leading private equity investors.”

Helios was established in 2004 by Nigerian-born Tope Lawani and Babatunde Soyoye. It raised the previous record for Africa’s biggest private equity fund at $908m in 2011. Through various investment types, such as business formations, business formations, growth equity investments, structured investments in listed entities and large scale leveraged acquisitions across Africa, it has aggregated more than $2.7bn in cpapital commitments, according to its website.

The Financial Times adds: “Africa still attracts a tiny proportion of the world’s private equity money, even compared with other emerging regions, notably Asia and Latin America. But interest has increased recently, buoyed by strong economic growth. After stagnating for two decades, African gross domestic product per capita has surged almost 40% since 2002, fuelled by high commodity prices, the rise of a small consumer class, and cheap Chinese loans.”

Africa deals
It says that buyout groups raised $3.3bn for Africa funds in 2013, down from a peak of $4.7bn in 2007.

The FT points to US buyout private equity firms Carlyle’s $698m fund and regional deals by KKR (which invested $200m in a Afriflora, an Ethiopian exporter of roses, in June 2014 from its $6bn European fund according to this Wall Street Journal story and a KKR press release) and Blackstone. In June 2014 Edmond de Rothschild amassed $530m for its first private equity fund focusing on deals in Africa, managed by Amethis, majority-owned by the Swiss private banking group and founded by Luc Rigouzzo and Laurent Demey, two former top executives at French development financial institution Proparco. There has also been increased multinational deal-making, including French insurer Axa entering Nigeria, an alliance between SAB Miller and Coca Cola, and a merger in South Africa’s retail sector.

Rwanda Stock Exchange closer to Nasdaq X-stream automated trading

Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE) says it is getting closer to introducing an Automated Trading System using trading technology from Nasdaq OMX. It will also link its trading infrastructure to the Central Securities Depository (CSD) and Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS) at the National Bank of Rwanda.

In March 2014, there was a report in The East African that the RSE was aiming to use the Nasdaq X-stream system installed at the East African Exchange (EAX) regional commodity market. The latest news from the East African Securities Exchanges Association EASEA press communiqué (available here) from the 24th meeting in Rwanda on 26-27 November was: “The RSE is in the final stages of automation of its trading system”.

Nasdaq describes X-stream as “a flexible, out-of-the-box solution trading multiple asset classes simultaneously on a single platform” on its website. It says X-stream is “the world’s most widely deployed matching technology” among market operators and is deployed in over 30 exchanges globally.

According to the March story in The East African: “John Rwangombwa, the governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, told Rwanda Today that though electronic trading had been delayed due to the heavy financial outlay required, RSE and EAX are now in advanced stages of sharing the NASDAQ system. .. We have been working on our side as a central bank to link the central securities depository. In the course of this year —in three or four months — automatic trading will be up and running.”

The report added: “While trade volumes on the RSE have been steadily increasing, its current manual trading platform makes it uncompetitive in particular among offshore investors.”

The RSE also reported that the bond market is becoming more “vibrant”, with quarterly issues by the Government of Rwanda. This was after work by a team made up of Capital Market Authority (CMA), Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE), Central Bank of Rwanda and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

East African Exchange
The EAX was launched on 3 July 2014 by His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. It had been established by Tony O. Elumelu, CON, of Heirs Holdings, Nicolas Berggruen of Berggruen Holdings, Dr. Jendayi Frazer of 50 Ventures and Rwandan investment company Ngali Holdings. Acccording to a press release: “the EAX is a commodity exchange that aims to increase regional market efficiency and give the growing population, particularly smallholder farmers, better access to commercial markets.

“EAX will use NASDAQ’s OMX X-Stream trading platform for electronic trading and warehouse receipts so farmers can deposit their produce into EAX certified warehouses and access its services.

“At the formal launch, Mr. Elumelu said: ‘The EAX showcases our desire to identify far reaching investment opportunities, while ensuring that most of the value-adding aspects of Africa’s resource wealth stay on our continent. Africa must move toward greater self-sufficiency with private investment and strategic partnerships, just as we have done at EAX through our partnership with NASDAQ.’

“Nicolas Berggruen said: ‘EAX is complementing the EAC’s goal of regional economic integration, and putting in place a world-class exchange to create a globally competitive market for Africa’s commodities.’ EAX’s goal is to facilitate trade across all five East African Community member states. EAX is wholly owned by Africa Exchange Holdings, Ltd. (AFEX). EAX in Rwanda is additionally owned by local investment company Ngali Holdings.”

According to an earlier story on AFEX and its plans in Nigeria, Jendayi Frazer was key in U.S.-Africa policy for nearly 10 years and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (2005-2009). Nicholas Berggruen has a charitable trust which funds the investment arm to take “a long-term, patient capital value-oriented approach”.

A story written in New York Times in March 2014 described “A commodity exchange, with its dozen terminals and state-of-the-art software provided by Nasdaq, held its first six auctions over the past year — a fledgling venture, but the kind that helps explain how a nation with no oil, natural gas or other major natural resources has managed to grow at such a rapid clip in recent years.

Rwanda Stock Exchange trading boards (2013 - credit The East African/umuseke.rw).

Rwanda Stock Exchange trading boards (2013 – credit The East African/umuseke.rw).

For 2104 photos of the Rwanda Stock Exchange and the East African Exchange see the New York Times website here.

Commodity exchange builder teams up with pan-African bank

Trading at ECX, (credit www.ecx.com.et)

Trading at ECX, (credit www.ecx.com.et)


A dynamic African builder of turnkey commodity exchanges, eleni LLC, has teamed up with pan-African Ecobank through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together to accelerate development of African agriculture. Ecobank was also recently announced as a keystone investor in the Ghana Commodity Exchange being set up by eleni, reported here.

Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), with 600,000 shareholders and listed on the Nigerian and Ghana Stock Exchanges and the Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobiliers (BRVM), is the parent company of the leading independent pan-African banking group, Ecobank. It is incorporated in Lomé, Togo and has presence in 35 African countries as well as France, Dubai, London and Beijing.

The co-founders of eleni LLC are Eleni Gabre-Madhin, Keith Thomas and Jawad Ali, who previously established and led the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. The ECX traded $1.4 billion in spot contracts during its 4th year of operations and can claim to have improved the lives of millions of smallholder farmers in Ethiopia.

Their new firm, eleni, was launched last year as a turnkey commodity exchange builder for frontier markets skilled exchange investors as announced in January 2013, including Morgan Stanley (www.morganstanley.com), with a string of profitable and successful exchange investments and market centre worldwide, and the International Finance Corporation (www.ifc.org) who had put up seed capital of $5 million. Its business model is to provide design, finance, build, technology and operations support services. It has projects in Ghana, Cameroon, Mozambique, and Nigeria and aims to transform African agriculture through creating functional commodity exchanges using its experience. In May 2013 Reuters reported that Bob Geldof’s 8 Miles private equity fund had made eleni its first investment, joining 8 Miles and the IFC were co-investors into the GCX alongside Ecobank.

Ecobank, represented by group chief executive Albert Essien, and Gabre-Madhin for eleni signed the MoU on 22 May during the African Development Bank meeting in Kigali.

According to the press release, Essien said: “As well as increasing market transparency and reducing transaction costs, commodity exchanges play a crucial role in the monitoring and assessment of risk. Instruments such as warehouse receipts reduce uncertainty and improve access to finance across the value chain. We look forward to collaborating further with eleni to enhance Africa’s agricultural financing capabilities.”

Gabre-Madhin added: “We are very excited to be working with one of Africa’s leading financial institutions, with a solid pan-African focus, as this opens up a tremendous opportunity to establish the leading platform for commodity-related payments and transactions across the continent.”

Ecobank signs for $1.8bn of trade finance

Also at the meeting, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Ecobank signed a $200m trade finance facility, which has 2 components and will support approximately $1.8bn of trade transactions in Africa over 3.5 years. It includes a $100m unfunded risk-sharing facility to bolster Ecobank’s capacity as an international confirming bank for trade transactions originated by issuing banks in Africa, and another $100m trade facilitation loan which will be used by Ecobank to provide trade finance support to local corporates and SMEs in Africa.

According to a release issued by Ecobank, Mr Essien said on 21 May: “This facility would greatly support international and intra-regional trade in Africa..We look forward to an ever-deepening collaboration with the AfDB to provide vital trade finance support to promote regional integration and the development of SMEs across Africa.”

New commodity exchange to transform Ghana’s agriculture

Photo credit: Government of Ghana

Photo credit: Government of Ghana

Investors aim to finalize fund-raising for a new Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX) during the coming month. A private-public consortium has been put together to create a regional hub for trading commodities, including Ghanaian institutions Data Bank Agrifund Manager Ltd, Ecobank Ghana Ltd, UT Bank Ghana Ltd and a minority shareholding by the Government of Ghana, and international investors such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC, part of the World Bank Group), the private-equity 8 Miles Fund, and eleni, a company which describes itself as Africa’s “premier commodity exchange promoter”.
According to an announcement by eleni, the consortium partners and the Government of Ghana have jointly signed a Letter of Intent with the aim of completing the investment process by April 2014 and launching the GCX over the coming 12 months.
Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, chief executive officer of eleni, is noted for the successful creation of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) as we saw in this story last year. Her model is different from many consultancy models as she is primarily an agricultural economist interested in helping farmers and production while making markets more efficient. She does not see the commodity exchange as only a trading screen, but as a key part of modernizing the whole agricultural marketing system. Successfully improving warehousing, storage, logistics, crop quality and farmer financing are all critical to the success of the venture, in her view.
According to yesterday’s announcement (13 Mar): “A second consortium is also in formation for a large-scale investment in warehouse and logistics infrastructure and equipment in 8 delivery sites around Ghana, as a strategic eco-system partner to the GCX.”
Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama had announced the GCX on 25 Feb in his second State of the Nation address: “As part of efforts to create an orderly, transparent and efficient marketing system for Ghana’s key agricultural commodities to promote agricultural investment and enhance productivity, the Government has committed itself to the establishment of a Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX) and associated Warehouse Receipt System (WRS).
“This move is to encourage market access and fair returns for smallholder farmers and to facilitate the formalization of informal agricultural trading activities. It is expected that the establishment of the Ghana Commodity Exchange will position it as a West Africa regional hub for commodity trading activities.”
Agriculture accounts for 22.7% of Ghana’s fast-growing $73 billion GDP and employs 41.5% of the 29m population, according to statistics website Quandl.
The GCX will start with spot and futures trading of agricultural commodities, including maize, soybeans, paddy rice, palm oil and groundnuts. Once these and the related deliveries of actual crops are settled, the GCX aims to introduce other key agricultural and
non-agricultural commodities and to position itself as a future regional trading platform.
According to Gabre-Madhin: “We can think of no better time and no better place than Ghana today to start a new thrust of developing an efficient and transparent price discovery platform. Ghana’s exchange has every potential to become a leading West African hub for globally traded commodities and we are excited to partner with the consortium to bring this idea to reality. The African commodity exchange momentum is real.”
Robert Dowuona Owoo, former head of policy, research and IT at Ghana’s Securities and Exchange Commission, is the GCX Project Coordinator. The SEC had commissioned a feasibility study on a commodity exchange in 2010 and set up a technical committee.
According to Samuel Ashitey Adjei, MD of Ecobank Ghana Ltd: “This exchange will undoubtedly have a transformative impact on our economy and we are very pleased to
be backing it.”

IFC and Soros invest in feeding data to farmers

IFC and the Soros Economic Development Fund have both invested $1.25 million of equity in Esoko, a Ghanaian technology firm, to help provide small holder African farmers and businesses with timely crop information that can be shared via text messaging. According to its website, Esoko can also transmit weather data and farmer helplines to agricultural experts.
Esoko CEO Mark Davies said: ““Our platform was developed by African software engineers here in Accra, Ghana, and has been a totally local, market-driven initiative” said. “IFC and SEDF have a strong track record of helping local companies get the funding and advice needed to expand into new regions and markets. With their support we hope to export this African technology all around the world.”
Current market information and efficient markets will help farmers to make educated, cost-effective decisions when buying and selling their crops, to farm more efficiently and to get better value for their crops. Transforming the warehousing and logistics across the economy, as was done in Ethiopia, transforms the economics of agriculture and is likely to result in increased food production and better livelihoods for farmers without increasing consumer prices.

Nigeria’s Abuja Commodity Exchange set for privatization

The Nigerian Government is planning to privatize the Abuja Securities and Commodities Exchange (www.abujacomex.com) by mid-2014, according to Arunma Oteh, Director General of Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to an interview on Bloomberg, the aim is to revive trading.
Oteh said: “The Government wants to privatize the only commodity exchange and it had committed to doing it by the end of last year. It didn’t meet that deadline, but it’s planning to do something by the middle of 2014.
“We have a number of both domestic players and international players who are very interested. They’d rather acquire the privatized exchange, so they’re trying to see how far the government is going with this initiative and if not they’re prepared to seek a registration for a new commodity exchange.”
One of the key investors interested is local firm Heirs Holdings Ltd, based in Lagos but with interests across Africa in banking, energy, real estate and agriculture. Chairman Tony Elumelu said in an interview in December the company wants to acquire the Abuja exchange when it is sold or else it will apply to the SEC to set one up.
Heirs Holdings is an investor with Berggruen Holdings and 50 Ventures in African Exchange Holdings Ltd (AFEX www.africaexchange.com). This facilitates an exchange using NASDAQ OMX technology which can be accessed anywhere in the world through the X-Stream electronic trading platform. Other key figures in AFEX include managing partner Jendayi Frazer, who was key in U.S.-Africa policy for nearly 10 years and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (2005-2009) and Nicholas Berggruen whose charitable trust funds the investment arm to take “a long-term, patient capital value-oriented approach”.
AFEX has set up the East African Exchange (EAX www.ea-africaexchange.com) in Kigali, with the first node launched in Jan 2013 and the first regional auction – 50 metric tons of maize at $398 per metric ton – between a Ugandan seller and Rwandan buyer in November 2013. Expansion is planned for Kenya and Uganda to build a regional exchange.
AFEX also set up an electronic warehouse receipt system in Nigeria last November, working with the Nigerian Grain Reserve Agency and the Agriculture Ministry. This links farmers and traders as part of the groundwork to set up a commodities exchange, according to Bloomberg.
According to AFEX website: “Warehouse storage is critical complementary infrastructure to any commodity exchange. Properly managed warehouse facilities allow farmers to safely store their harvest without worrying about loss of value until market prices are favorable. An electronic warehouse receipt (e-WR) is issued by the warehouse and represents the stored commodity and is the security instrument that is traded on the exchange. It is only transferable through the electronic system, avoiding issues such as side selling, theft, forgery, etc.
“Berggruen Holdings signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a strategic partnership with the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat to support the goals of regional economic and financial integration. With this strategic partnership, AFEX will seek to share its strengths, expertise, experience, technologies, methodologies, and resources in order to advance the goal of regional integration of capital markets.”
“Our vision is to create lasting institutions that will capitalize on Africa’s agricultural potential, support African farmers, achieve food security, provide energy security, and improve Africa’s overall global trade competitiveness.”
Nigeria has a fast-growing population which is already 170 million people. It produced Africa’s third-biggest cocoa harvest in 2013 and produces cotton, sugar and other crops.
The ASCE website says it was originally set up as a stock exchange in 1998 and started electronic trading in 2001 and was converted into a commodity exchange 3 months later and brought under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Commerce. The website does not appear to have been updated recently.