Archive for the 'Innovation' Category

Seychelles MERJ Exchange IPO closes 28 Feb

The MERJ Exchange, the national securities exchange of Seychelles, has extended its $4 million initial public offer (IPO) to 28 February in the form of tokenized shares. The exchange already listed the tokens on itself by introduction on 7 August 2019 and opened the IPO on 10 September.

The exchange, previously known as Trop-X, says it is the world’s first fully regulated exchange that can handle both securities and digital assets, has a fully regulated post-trade processing infrastructure and works with a central clearing model. It operates a stock exchange for equities, debt and derivatives and says it will be first global market to offer the full cycle in primary and secondary markets in digital assets.

At the time of issuing the prospectus (27 August 2019) the bourse had 31 listed equities and 2 debt issues with market capitalization of $382.7 million. There were 3 members and 5 listing sponsors.

The MERJ Exchange shares are tokenized into digital assets. The offer is for tokens representing 1,652,893 securities at $2.42 per share, to be traded in USD. This will be 16% of the total shares if issued in full giving a valuation of $25m for the exchange. The minimum raise for the IPO to go ahead will be $500,000, the minimum subscription per investor is $2,000 (826 shares) and $10,000 (4,132 shares) from within the USA.

MERJ Exchanges plans to spend the offer proceeds on IT advisors and consultants, increasing its staff and marketing.

The total share capital is 15 million ordinary shares with a par value of $0.03 each. This has been tokenized to 8,684,207 tokenized shares which are currently listed.

It is starting to attract international partners including Jumpstart Securities in the US and Globacap in UK for the offer. The sponsor advisor for the offer is PKF Capital Markets (Seychelles) Ltd.

According to the investment deck (available here), it has big plans to increase the number of issuers from the current 33 to 111 by the end of year 2, boost the total market capitalization (already $1 billion according to a January 2020 newsletter) and increase the number of sponsors and brokers, as well as liquidity. It will cut trading fees from current 0.5% to 0.15% and have a capital raise fee of 0.3%.

MERJ aims to position itself as a key regulated system as blockchain technology transforms the way the world delivers value, including tokenization of illiquid assets including real estate, shares in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), copyrights and collectables such as art. It hopes to take on global incumbent exchanges which have legacy structures and stakeholders that are not yet ready to tackle the change.

From MERJ Exchange investment deck

The exchange was incorporated in 2011 as Trop-X (Seychelles) Ltd, received its licence to operate the Seychelles Securities Exchange in June 2012 and went live in August 2013 with the first equity listing. It became the national numbering agency and launching debt and derivatives exchanges in 2014. It listed its first Eurobond in 2016 and started working on the digital asset project with the Ethereum Alliance. It changed name in December 2018 and did its first tokenized listing, of its own shares, on 7 August 2019. Operational partners include Euroclear and Strate in its partners.

Ed Tuohy, CEO of MERJ Exchange, says in the investment deck: “MERJ has spent years establishing the infrastructure, the regulatory licences and the technology. We can now move decisively.”

According to the deck: “MERJ enjoys a number of key structural and organisational advantages which put us firmly ahead of the competition. These are: vertical integration, regulatory approval, agile organization, respected jurisdiction, live and operational, direct access platform.” The structure is MERJ Exchange Ltd and 2 wholly owned subsidiaries, MERJ Clearing and Settlement Ltd and MERJ Depositary and Registry Ltd.

The regulator Financial Services Authority Seychelles is an associate member of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) and meets similar regulatory standards as all global regulators. MERJ is an affiliate member of the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE).

Seychelles is not listed on tax avoidance blacklists but is on the grey list of the European Union (with 31 countries including Namibia and Botswana) and Oxfam. By comparison Mauritius was removed from all EU lists in October 2019 but remains on the Oxfam grey list.

The Seychelles regulatory structure allows MERJ to integrate overseas organizations that are licensed and regulated in a recognized jurisdiction and there is no requirement that members have a presence in Seychelles.
It aims to provide seamless direct access for individual users using mobile and web apps.

For more information and to apply for the offer look at the MERJ Exchange website or the offer page on Globacap and US investors should speak to their broker.

NOTE: This article does not constitute investment advice, the purpose is news information. The writer is not affiliated to MERJ Exchange. Read the full prospectus, available here.

Naspers gives Europe its biggest consumer tech listing

Naspers has pulled off a dramatic restructuring of its holdings to unlock value after the successful listing of Prosus on Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange and simultaneously on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Prosus Group is valued at EUR120 billion ($134bn) and is Europe’s biggest consumer Internet firm and the third in value on the Amsterdam bourse after Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever.

South Africa’s Naspers is Africa’s most valuable company and still owns some 73% of Prosus. It has spun off its global Internet investments into Prosus including the largest stake (31%) of China’s Tencent and the largest stake (28%) stake in Mail.Ru, a giant Russian internet company, reported to be worth $1.4bn.

According to an announcement in Amsterdam: “The Prosus Group’s businesses and investments serve more than 1.5 billion people in 89 markets, and are the market leaders in 77 of those markets. The Prosus Group’s consumer internet services span the core focus segments of classifieds, payments and fintech as well as food delivery, plus other online businesses including e-tail and travel. The Prosus Group aims to build leading companies that create value by empowering people and enriching communities.”

Other investments include Russia’s Digital Sky Technologies (which invests in Facebook, Groupon and Zygna), Indian e-commerce start-up Swiggy, Takeaway.com, Germany’s Delivery Hero, investment in Brazil and e-commerce in the Middle East through Souq.com as well as financial services firms PayU and Wibmo.

In May 2018 Naspers sold its 11% shareholding in India’s Flipkart for $1.6 billion after buying it for $616m (Walmart bought 77% of Flipkart for $16bn in its biggest acquisition as it sought to square up to Amazon and local competitors for domination of the growing Indian market.

Although Euronext Amsterdam bourse set a guide price of €58.70 per share, investor enthusiasm was high as the shares opened trading at €76 and reached a high of €77.40, up 32%, on the first day before closing the week at €73.90. News reports say the market valuation of Prosus is based mostly on the Tencent holding and does not count many of the other investments.

Unlocking value in Naspers

Naspers had made what has been described as “the best venture capital investment ever” when in 2001 it bought 46.5% of Chinese Internet tech company Tencent with an initial investment of $32 million, which had grown to $175bn in value by March 2018, according to Bloomberg. It has also made huge profits by selling some of its Tencent holdings but remained with 31.1%.

Naspers has been listed on the JSE since 1994, and its investors are predominantly South Africans including the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), managed by the Public Investment Commissioners (PIC). Before the spinoff it made up 25% of the JSE’s total market capitalization, and investors had to scale back their holdings to avoid over-concentration, so that the total value of Naspers was less than that of its shares in Tencent, ignoring the other companies.

After the spinoff, Naspers share price fell nearly 30% and it became only 15% of the JSE market capitalization.

The Amsterdam listing opens the global holdings to a wider pool of investors and should permit reassessment of both the value of both Prosus shares- Naspers still owns some 73% of Prosus which has also – and allow for future capital raising. One of the biggest investors in Naspers is the South African Government Employees Pension Fund, managed by the Public Investment Commissioners.

$314m for African tech start-ups

Naspers is seeking to find similar media, e-commerce, consumer, fintech and other successes in Africa. It has appointed 48-year-old Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa as CEO, its first black and first woman chief executive, according to Quartz. She was previously chief executive of Shanduka Group, an investment company founded by South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa. In October 2018 Naspers announced a $314m fund to invest into promising African tech start-ups.

History of Naspers

Naspers was set up in 1915 as De Nasionale Pers Beperkt (National Press Ltd) to promote Afrikaner nationalism and it continued to support the National Party over the decades until 1989, throughout apartheid.

The first newspaper was Die Burger in 1915 and magazine Die Huisgenoot in 1916 (both originally name De.. ). Naspers started publishing books in 1918. In 1985 it set up M-Net, the first pay-TV in southern Africa.

(Disclosure: the writer owns Naspers and Prosus shares)

Nairobi opens second derivatives market in sub-Saharan Africa

Nairobi Securities Exchange stockbrokers (photo credit: Nation Media Group)

The Nairobi Securities Exchange says the first trades on its new derivatives market NEXT went smoothly on 4 July, according to media reports. The NEXT market is set up to trade equity index futures and single stock futures. Initially trading is offered in 5 single stock futures and futures on the NSE 25 Index.

The NSE is the second exchange in sub-Saharan Africa after Johannesburg to launch derivatives trading. According to a Business Daily news report, this week’s launch is a soft launch restricted to a few investors, and the market will open to all investors after a week of trials.

Xinhua news agency reports a statement from NSE: “The NSE NEXT derivatives market has successfully conducted its first futures trades. The initial trades were executed by Standard Investment Bank and Kingdom Securities who cleared through the Co-operative Bank of Kenya.”

The market is mostly for individual and institutional investors looking to better manage risks, hedge, arbitrage and speculate over the future value of the participating stocks and the index.

Regulator approves

The Capital Markets Authority (CMA) regulator gave approval to the NSE to launch and operate the “Derivatives Exchange Market” in an announcement on 29 May. This paved the way for Thursday’s launch.

Paul Muthaura, CMA Chief Executive, stated: “‘The approval granted to the NSE to operationalize a derivatives market marks the achievement of a flagship project under the economic pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030. The derivatives market will facilitate deeper and more liquid capital markets and position Kenya closer to becoming the heart of capital markets investment in Africa, as envisioned in the Capital Markets Master Plan”.

Other financial and commodity derivatives will be introduced later.

The launch follows a successful 6-month derivatives pilot test phase in July-Dec 2018, and resolution of key issues that arose. Stanbic Bank and the Co-operative Bank of Kenya have been approved by the banking regulator Central Bank of Kenya to provide clearing and settlement for the derivatives market.

NSE has been working with CMA and other stakeholders for years to prepare for the launch, as reported in this blog in December 2014.

What can you trade?

Investors are initially offered single stock futures targeting 5 liquid stocks: Safaricom, East African Breweries, Equity Holdings, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and BAT. They can also trade equity index futures based on the NSE 25 share index, that represents the performance of 25 blue-chip listed firms. The index was launched by the bourse in October 2015 as part of preparations for the NEXT derivatives market.

Initially 7 stocks were targeted but the NSE requires that they have a minimum KES 50 billion ($487 million) market capitalization and minimum average daily turnover of KES7m.

According to a report on 4 July in Business Daily, state-run Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) with a market cap on 3 July of KES 39bn and Bamburi Cement (KES 41bn on Wednesday) have been excluded from futures trading after failing the minimum capitalization test.

The newspaper reports NSE chief executive Geoffrey Odundo’s statement: “All futures contracts listed on NEXT will have quarterly expiry dates; this will be the third Thursday of March, June, September and December of every year. All NEXT futures contracts will initially be cash settled.”

Trading fees have been pegged at 0.17% of the total value for single stock futures and 0.14% for index derivatives, compared to trading fees on equities ranging from 1% to 2%. According to an earlier Xinhua report, Rufus Kariuki, manager of derivatives at NSE, said that the derivatives will be settled at the end of each trading day to reduce risk of default by investors.

One contract will be equivalent to 1,000 underlying shares for stocks trading below KES 100 (Safaricom, KCB, Equity and KenGen), while for those trading above KES 100 (BAT, EABL and Bamburi), a contract will equal 100 underlying shares. One index point will equal KES 100 under NSE trading rules for derivatives.

The NSE has set aside KES 130m ($1.27m) for the settlement guarantee fund that will insure investors against counterparty default risk as part of preparations to operationalize the derivatives market.

The NSE expects derivatives trading will boost liquidity. There are 65 listed firms. Telecoms companies and banks are among the most heavily traded.

Work starts on African exchanges linkage project

Africa’s stock exchanges, regulators, central banks, stockbrokers and clearing systems are working together on the African Exchanges Linkage Project (AELP), set to create trading and information links between the 7 leading securities exchanges.

Participating exchanges at the first capital markets stakeholders’ roundtable were the West African regional exchange Bourse Regionale Valeures Mobilieres (BRVM), Casablanca Stock Exchange, The Egyptian Exchange, Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Nairobi Securities Exchange, The Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Stock Exchange of Mauritius.

The linkage project is a joint initiative by African Development Bank and African Securities Exchanges Association. It aims to facilitate cross-border trading and settlement of securities, unlock pan-African investment flows, promote innovations and diverse investments, and address lack of depth and liquidity in Africa’s financial markets. For more background, see our recent article.

The project is backed by $980,000 grant through the African Development Bank Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation Trust Fund (KOAFEC).

Karim Hajji, ASEA President and chief executive of the Casablanca Stock Exchange, said according to the press release: “Regional integration is a high-priority continental agenda. By organically linking 7 exchanges in Africa which collectively have a market capitalization of over US$1.4 trillion, the AELP will stimulate intra-African flows and provide opportunities for investors and trading participants in over fourteen African countries.

“With the expected outcome of boosting liquidity in African capital markets, the AELP will unlock the powerful potential of African markets to access and redistribute domestic capital for economic development.”

Pierre Guislain, African Development Bank’s Vice-President, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, said: “The partnership between us and ASEA complements the Bank’s interventions towards deep and resilient capital markets in Africa. The African Exchanges Linkage Project will contribute to a wider financing pool for African corporates and SMEs and help close Africa’s infrastructure deficit, estimated at US$67–107 billion annually. Indeed, the continent needs deep, liquid and linked capital markets that will enable accelerated mobilization of domestic resources and incentivize private financing of infrastructure”.

Participating partners at the workshop on 24 April at African Development Bank’s headquarters included:
• Regulators Le Conseil Régional de l’Epargne Publique et des Marchés Financiers, Autorité Marocaine du Marché des Capitaux, Securities and Exchanges Commission of Nigeria, and the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya.
• Central bank – Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest,
• Stockbrokers and exchanges associations – Association Professionnelle des Sociétés de Bourse, Association of Stockbroking Houses of Nigeria, Kenya Association of Stockbrokers and Investment Bankers
• Clearing systems – Association Professionnelle des Banques Teneurs de Compte Conservateurs, Maroclear, Central Securities Clearing System – Nigeria, Central Depository and Settlement Corporation Ltd. – Kenya
• Investment banking – Afrinvest West Africa.

Pierre Guislain of African Development Bank and Karim Hajji of African Securities Exchanges Association and Casablanca Stock Exchange

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.

Regulated blockchain and commodity exchanges coming to Mauritius

GMEX Group is leading in plans to launch a revolutionary blockchain exchange platform in Mauritius with MINDEX Holdings Limited (MINDEX) linked to Mauritius International Derivatives and Commodities Exchange and Hybrid Stock Exchange Corporation Limited (HYBSE).

The new bourse will be called HYBSE International Marketplace. The partners are:
• MINDEX: a complete exchange, post trade and physical infrastructure, facilitating a variety of asset classes to be traded in Mauritius, supported by GMEX
• GMEX: a world leader in digital business and technology solutions for exchange and post-trade operators. GMEX serves as core of a network of stock exchanges and other trading and post-trade centres around the world.
• HYBSE: a global online marketplace based on blockchain technology that is part of the DIM-Ecosystem.

Daniel Liu of HYBSE and Hirander Misra of GMEX Group

According to the press release:
“The HYBSE International Marketplace will integrate blockchain solutions and technology with traditional financial industries providing a complete and governed ecosystem that digitalizes assets onto the Blockchain. This partnership will for the first time, enable institutional investors access to cryptocurrency ETF’s and other crypto-instruments.
“The following asset classes will be facilitated for trade in a digital tokenized format:
• Cryptonized shares
• Cryptonized currencies
• Commodities
• Indices
• Forex
• ETCs (Exchange-traded commodities)
• ETFs (Exchange-traded funds)
• CETFs (Crypto exchange-traded funds)

“SMEs (small and medium enterprises) will be able to use the HYBSE International Marketplace to seek capital by launching an Initial Blockshare Offering (IBO); a time-limited offer to purchase cryptonized-equities and other cryptonized-instruments, such as blockshares, from businesses registered on the HYBSE International Marketplace at special discounted rates.”

The decision to set up in Mauritius follows news that the regulator FSC will create new licensable activities for the Custodian of Digital Assets and Digital Asset Marketplace – see consultation paper issued in November 2018 – and provide a regulated environment for the exchange and safe custody of digital assets. The regulator in Mauritius has also issued guidelines on investment in cryptocurrency as a digital asset.

Hirander Misra, CEO of GMEX Group, commented: “He added, “We welcome the new regulatory framework for digital assets in Mauritius and we are thrilled to be at the forefront of market development as one of the first ventures to set up under the new regime. We are firmly convinced that there is a massive opportunity for Mauritius to position itself as a major global hub in this dynamic space underpinned by strong governance and regulation to ensure trust”.

In a blog post he noted that Mauritius has also set up a National Regulatory Sandbox Licence Committee to consider sandbox licensing of fintech activities. “Sham ICOs have to be stopped and robust KYC / AML processes and rules must be put in place. In addition technology if developed and deployed well can ensure that some of the crypto exchange hacks we have heard of in other parts of the world can be avoided. Ultimately the current regulatory confusion will correct itself as there will be a flight to quality to those jurisdictions with robust laws and regulations in place. The unregulated bucket shop exchanges with poor controls will cease to exist, as properly run and secure technology enabled digital exchanges and digital asset custodians come into the market to facilitate increased institutional business and wholesale retail business.”

Commodity platform – gold from mine to vault
In June, GMEX had announced it was part of the initial consortium to launch Mauritius International Derivatives and Commodities Exchange (MINDEX), which will become a multi-commodity and derivatives exchange platform. The Mauritius Financial Services Commission will exercise full regulatory oversight.
GMEX has been working closely with the British High Commission Mauritius and Department for International Trade (DIT) Mauritius since it opened a regional headquarters in Mauritius International Financial Centre (IFC) during 2017.

MINDEX Clearing will act as central counterparty clearing house (CCP) to clear all trades.

The GMEX consortium led investment in the MINDEX project amounts to $35 million to build a gold refinery, a secure vault, launch of an advanced technologically enabled spot exchange, derivatives exchange and clearing house. This is expected to create 104 direct jobs over 2 years and an additional 408 new secondary jobs over the next 2 years in Mauritius.

The Department for International Trade’s Minister for Investment Graham Stuart MP said: “As an international economic department, we are pleased to be working with GMEX in Mauritius on an investment which will sustain and create jobs in Mauritius and the UK. The MINDEX project will support an ecosystem which creates opportunities in gold mining, refining, storage, recycling, and in commodities trading and financial technology.

“We will continue support companies’ overseas investments where there is benefit to the UK by offering practical support to investors, facilitating introductions to ease market entry and using our expertise to explain political sensitivities and cultural differences to British businesses.”

Blockchain, crypto and the changes to stock exchanges in coming 2 years

Hirander Misra of GMEX, speaking at panel organized by lawyers Mackrell Turner Garrett on cryptocurrencies in London on 14 Nov, says: “We get 10 inquiries a week to set up a platform. The bar for setting up a blockchain or crypto exchange is moving much higher. In Mauritius and Abu Dhabi the bar is almost as high as for setting up a normal exchange.

“Digital currency is here to stay, in time some sovereign states will adopt it. In Venezuela, where currency collapsed, people have used bitcoin to get currency out, in Harare people have adopted it. Fidelity and others have started to dip their toes in the water.

“Independent crypto exchanges are opaque, it can be very expensive to get assets in and out. In the last 6-12 months, some of the big custodians have been getting involved, the large banks are going into custody, adopting own products, vaults, etc.

“We talk about ‘decentralized’ but everyone is protecting their own turf, we will end up in worse mess. It can be spaghetti.

“Securities exchanges are very much like they were 25 years ago, standalone, at the time when electronic trading came in. Unless you change you won’t be relevant. There will be change in the next 2 years.

“We still need for regulation and intermediaries, people still want institutions to be accountable. A lot of what we have done in last 30 years is still relevant, our challenge is to make it more efficient.”

GMEX
GMEX Group (GMEX) comprises a set of companies that offer leading-edge innovative solutions for a new era of global financial markets, providing business expertise, the latest technology, connectivity, and operational excellence delivered through an aligned partnership driven approach. GMEX uses extensive market infrastructure experience and expertise to create an appropriate strategic master plan with exchanges, clearing houses, depositories, registries, and warehouse receipt platforms. GMEX also offers the added benefit of interconnection to multiple partner exchanges, to create global networks of liquidity. GMEX Technologies is a wholly owned subsidiary of GMEX Group.

12 questions Silicon Valley investors ask – focus for African policymakers

African #tech superstar Alysia Silberg General Partner, Street Global Venture Capital, says she replies when asked what African policymakers can do to encourage investment into the tech sector in Africa, one focus is to look at the 12 investment questions of Silicon Valley:

1. Whether the government is stable?
2. Company incorporation structures and the limitation of liability?
3. The availability of reputable experts able to advise companies on their IP Protection and other assets?
4. Availability of legal recourse and the cost?
5. Whether or not there is a risk of asset seizure by government or any other organization?
6. The prevalence of fraud and corruption and whether it is a material risk?

L-R: Dawit Hailu (Wudassie Daignostic), Alysia Silberg (Street Global VC), Agnes Gitau (GBS Africa). Photo: AfricanCapitalMarketsNews

7. Reliability of infrastructure including financial and banking payments platforms and ease of international funds transfer?
8. Availability and productivity of a highly skilled workforce able to meet the needs of scaling business with a strong focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths?
9. Whether or not “hotbed” exist for different niches and industries?
10. A progressive environment for diversity and women’s empowerment?
11. Whether any startups have succeeded at scale and its resultant effect on the surrounding ecosystem?
12. Availability of and ease of access to local capital for entrepreneurs, Not just for the first rounds of investment, but through a startup’s growth from startup to scaleup?

She was speaking at the UK-Ethiopia Trade & Investment Forum 2018 in London on 16 October 2018.

First African fixed income ETF listed in Mauritius, tracking bond index

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and Mauritius Commercial Bank Group (MCB) have launched the African Domestic Bond Fund (ADBF). The pioneer exchange-traded fund (ETF) is accessible to investors through its listing on 18 September on the Stock Exchange of Mauritius.

Sunil Benhimadhu, Chief Executive of the Stock Exchange of Mauritius submitted the Certificate of Listing of the African Domestic Bond Fund to Mr Stefan Nalletamby, Director AfDB FInancial Sector Development Department and Mr Rony Lam, CEO of MCB Capital Markets.


The ADBF fund will track the performance of the AfDB/AFMI Bloomberg African Bond Index 25%Capped, an index that comprises African local currency sovereign bonds of 8 African markets: Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Zambia. It is intended that sovereign bonds of other countries will be included in the index in future.

It is the first multi-jurisdictional fixed income exchange-traded fund (ETF) in Africa. The Bank has committed $25 million and is acting as an anchor investor of ADBF. It was listed on Stock Exchange of Mauritius came on 18 September 2018.

Fund Manager is MCB Investment Management (MCBIM), a subsidiary of MCB Capital Markets. MCBIM is a pioneer of the pan-African fixed-income asset class, it launched the MCB Africa Bond Fund, an actively managed mutual fund focused on African fixed income, in 2014. The African Development Bank says the fund has consistently outperformed its benchmark.

The AfDB’s African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI) aims to strengthen African economies by reducing their dependency on debt denominated in foreign currency (FX), increasing the range of available financing options, and acting as a catalyst for regional market integration.

According to the press release: Pierre-Guy Noel, chief executive officer of MCB Group, said: “We are delighted to partner with the African Development Bank in launching this pioneering fund. This attests to the Bank and MCB’s commitment to help develop the local currency fixed income markets on the continent and to the quality of our investment management capabilities. The fund listing on the Stock Exchange of Mauritius brings to investors the opportunity to access African government bonds conveniently.”

Cédric Achille Mbeng Mezui, Chief African Bond Markets & Coordinator of African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI), said: “A key milestone has been achieved today with the listing of the first multijurisdictional Sovereign Bond ETF, namely the African Domestic Bond Fund (ADBF) on the Stock Exchange of Mauritius. Next steps: The dual listing on the Nigeria Stock Exchange and increased investment in this Fund.”

Consensys ramps up blockchain rollout in African financial markets with new appointment

Leading #Blockchain innovator #Consensys continues to ramp up its role in shaping the future of financial services and capital markets in Africa with the recruitment of #fintech veteran Ian Bessarabia. He joins the team as Head of South African Operations to support the implementation of enterprise Blockchain solution.
Bessarabia has been working in fintech for 20 years, and has managed operations teams, project implementations and market-driven initiatives in an array of countries and across industry. He is best known in African and global capital markets for his work as Market Development Lead – Fixed Income, Foreign Exchange and Blockchain – Africa at Thomson Reuters and previously as Business Development Manager at SWIFT.

Ian Bessarabia


ConsenSys is a worldwide venture production studio that specialises in building decentralised applications (DApps), enterprise solutions and various developer tools for Blockchain ecosystems, focused primarily on Ethereum. Powered by smart contracts, and secured through encryption, the applications provide the benefits of transparency, auditability, and immutability that are unique to solutions based on blockchain.
In a recent post on LinkedIn Bessarabia wrote: “Blockchain has the power to transform the way businesses share information and deliver services. However, this relatively new technology needs to demonstrate clear value to businesses before it builds enough trust to go mainstream.
In a recent press release Bessarabia adds: “Much time has been spent analysing and challenging the underlying technology, and there is a pressing need to shift the thinking into a tangible business narrative, and pragmatic adoption. Expansion within the local financial sector will see our marketplace becoming Blockchain enabled. The idea is that every asset bought or sold would be on the ledger”.

Monica Singer

Monica Singer, South Africa Lead at ConsenSys, recruited him: “It provides me tremendous pleasure to take someone with the abilities and experience as Ian on board. We are on such an incredibly exciting journey and having Ian provide his input is a real boon for us.”
According to the press release: “(Ian) thrives on mentoring start-ups and early-stage initiatives looking at deploying technology for social good. As an ethical protagonist, he is also a participant of the Ethics and Governance Think Tank, run by The University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science” He is on the South African Financial Blockchain Consortium (SAFBC), a group aimed at educating and bringing the benefits of Blockchain to the industry for the benefit of the entire country.

What is Ethereum?
According to the Ethereum website it’s a way to build “unstoppable applications”:
“Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third-party interference.
“These apps run on a custom built blockchain, an enormously powerful shared global infrastructure that can move value around and represent the ownership of property.
“This enables developers to create markets, store registries of debts or promises, move funds in accordance with instructions given long in the past (like a will or a futures contract) and many other things that have not been invented yet, all without a middleman or counterparty risk.”