Tag Archives: Africa Rising

African Investor? Think Global

Huge potential financial returns from global markets:

The financial markets have started like a rocket this year. The main global indices have incredible resilience through the current pandemic and political turmoil. The German Stock index (DAX30) started this year up 80% from its March 2020 low. The US NASDAQ closed off last year with a gain of 43.64% and since the opening of 2021 all the main US indices (Dow Jones, S&P500, NASDAQ) keep relentlessly printing new all-time highs.

Some of the strongest performing global stocks continue to be those that are servicing the needs of a planet in lockdown. For example, ZOOM (ZM), a video communications company that has kept the world connected and has benefitted from a 2020 share price increase of 396%. Peloton (PTON) brought health and fitness into the planet’s living rooms and was rewarded with a 434% increase.

While these stocks are striving to improve lives during the pandemic and beyond, Tesla (TSLA) continues to fight against the global climate crisis. Traders from across the world have bought into the Tesla story, and those that have held the stock since 2019 are smiling with a return of well over 1,000% (none more so than the newly crowned richest man on Earth – Tesla CEO, Elon Musk). On Friday 8th January an incredible $62 billion of Tesla shares were traded, one of the largest daily stock trading volumes in history.

These volumes and returns are not just concentrated on equities. Bitcoin, considered by some as ‘digital gold’, has had an incredible run over the past few months, recently smashing through $40,000. The ‘digital gold’ has returned over 40% to investors in the first trading week of this year alone. Actual gold also performed well, giving a 19% return over the past year. So, equities, indices, commodities, cryptocurrencies- most global asset classes can reward those with access.

Don’t miss out on the global bull-run:

African investors are wise to compare these potential returns to local markets. Many of the African stock exchanges were negative over the past 12 months, with some of the larger ones finishing 2020 down 7 – 15%. The issue here is that most investors in these regions are still predominantly trading local shares/ equities and bonds. Fixed income products are showing extremely poor returns across the world, so the net result for these people is that they are missing the huge global bull-run and it just isn’t fair. It is the mission of my company EGM Securities/ fxPesa to help resolve this issue. The era of holding solely long positions in local stocks and bonds has gone. Africans need and want so much more- and we are determined to give global access and education to anyone that seeks it. We see it as our responsibility to help improve financial literacy across the continent by relentlessly educating the population.

Expect more volatility this year:

On the topic of financial literacy, it is important that we note that we are certainly in a bubble fed by several factors, not least the incredible amount of stimulus from global central banks – more than $9 trillion has been pumped into various markets. There is certainly a disconnect between the global economy symbolised as ‘Main Street’ and the Stock Markets, or ‘Wall Street’. Last week there was a poor jobless claim print (Non-Farm Payroll or NFP) showing unemployment increasing, but in parallel main indices were at record highs. Commentators are calling this a ‘Rational Bubble’, as prices are inflated but with there not being an expected end to the money printing, the bubble looks set to continue.

However, a correction (10% stock market drop) or bear market (over 20% drop) is inevitable. A correction occurs, on average, yearly. A bear market occurs every 3-5 years. We must remember Warren Buffett’s most well-known advice- “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”, and for sure the world is being incredibly greedy with the returns they are getting. This is the reason why Tesla and Bitcoin volumes are through the roof. So, if a downturn is inevitable, Africans need the ability to trade and profit from falling markets (going short) – something unknown to many traders in the region.

If you’re an African investor you must think global:

Taking this all in, my point is this – if you are an African investor you must think global. By doing this, the investor can tap into heavily traded markets moving with potentially larger returns. You should find a brokerage that you trust and that, like mine, allows access to global indices, foreign exchange (fx), commodities and shares, so that you can diversify your portfolio away from just local equities and bonds. It’s important that you educate yourself in financial products that will allow you to benefit from falling markets. By doing this and constantly learning, you will be on a great path towards financial freedom.

Follow me @bjmyersUK

A guest post by Brian Myers, the CEO at Equiti Capital UK.

AFMI 2020 shows African financial markets resilience

The findings of the 2020 African Financial Markets Index (AFMI) report were highlighted in Nairobi today for a year in which countries face economic and medical challenges from COVID-19.

The fourth edition of the AFMI report by the Absa Group and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) now measures 23 countries that encompass two-thirds of the continent’s population and 80% of its GDP. The countries are ranked by six assessments of investment attractiveness and this year, Eswatini, Lesotho and Malawi were added to the Index. 

South Africa remained on top, followed by Mauritius, and surprisingly Nigeria, which, along with Morocco, Ghana and Seychelles, made great strides to improve. Kenya, which was number three in 2019, dropped to number seven this year. Overall, 14 of the 23 countries scored above the median mark, a great improvement from the first index when only 6 of the 17 countries achieved this.

COVID-19 has had different impacts on African countries, but as Jeremy Awori Absa Kenya CEO said, even with the slowed-growth in the first half of the year, much was still expected from the continent that has a rising middle-class, and rising urban population. He added that growth would come from developing open, transparent and well-regulated financial markets.

Absa Economist, Jeff Gable said Africa cited some developments on the continent towards financial inclusion and making exchanges accessible to retail investors. These included Eswaitni’s automated trading platform and the Nairobi Securities Exchange’s revamped mobile app for retail investors with Dar es Salaam also working on a similar one. He spoke of moves to encouraging more funds to invest within the continent that saw Lesotho require its pension fund managers to invest locally (currently just 3% of assets are in the country), the launch of a derivatives market in Nigeria, and Ethiopia drafting legislation for a stock exchange.

In terms of sustainable finance, Kenya had its first green bond, Egypt had the first one in the MENA region, and Nigeria is working on its third green bond. Also, the African Development Bank was one of the first institutions to issue a financial instrument to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as it issued a $3 billion social-bond tranche. 

Danae Kyriakopoulou of OMFIF spoke of Kenya’s drop which was mainly in the “access to foreign exchange” measure where which it was ranked tenth after having topped the pillar just two years ago. This was partly due to the perception of the currency exchange rate. And on market transparency, she said that Kenya has few firms that have global credit ratings, compared to Nigeria, South Africa, and Mauritius.

She added that a strong local investor base was a source of long-term capital and a financial markets shock absorber of volatility, and that Namibia has the highest pension assets under management per capita on the index.  In terms of protection of minority shareholders, Kenya does well on that but it also needs to adopt enforcement of international financial master agreements (ISDA) as a key area of improvement. Kenya is also part of a pilot Africa Exchange Linkages Project to promote intra-African investment flows between the stock exchanges of Nairobi, Johannesburg, Casablanca, Egypt, Nigeria, Mauritius and the BRVM in West Africa.

George Asante, Head of Global Markets at Absa, said that the impact of COVID-19 was not as drastic on African financial markets as they had developed more resilience through having regulators work in uniform. This was in comparison to the 2008 global financial crisis which had a big disruption on African markets resulting in bond yields shooting up 30%. But he cautioned that African governments should work hard to remove the uncertainties that are still in the prices of their bonds, to attain lower borrowing costs in future.

The 2020 AFMI report by Absa Group and OMFIF can be downloaded here.

Mauritius and the EU Blacklist

This week, the East Africa Venture Capital Association (EAVCA) organized a talk about Mauritius that’s facing a European Union financial transactions blacklist.  

Some excerpts:

  • Mauritius has set itself up as a financial hub that attracts and deploys investments across Africa. It has become the place of choice to operate through and 90% of investments into East Africa are done through Mauritius (60% are from the EU). The significance of this is that one panelist said that the Mauritius ban was worse than COVID.
  • Mauritius has complied with 35 of the 40 clauses (including the big 6 important ones), and 53 of the 58 recommended actions on Anti-Money Laundering (AML). There’s high-level commitment to correct the remaining ones, led by the Prime Minister, and the nation has a timetable to address the outstanding issues in 2021. 
  • The blacklist prohibits European investments in new funds in Mauritius, with the ban also affecting all European Investment Bank (EIB), funding, investments, lending and operations. The ban is not retroactive, so they have agreed on a grandfather period, till 31 December 2021, during which funds can continue to operate and by which time they hope the country will be removed from the list. But from October 1 2020, European funds can’t make new invests in funds structured in Mauritius. They have two options – focus on funds not established in Mauritius or invest through parallel structures (institutions that are set-up to co-invest along with funds in Mauritius) 
  •  No African country will benefit from Mauritius troubles as there are few alternatives to that country. Malta and Ghana have also been listed – so likely bases are now Dubai, or within the EU (Netherlands, Ireland, Luxembourg, France) itself.  
  • Kenya and Mauritius have been working on a taxation treaty for 8 years. Kenya has signed 14 tax treaties (including with Canada, France, Germany, India, Norway, UK, Zambia and South Africa), most before 1987, but none had raised as much attention as the proposed Mauritius DTA, as it is which is a low-tax country. Uganda and Rwanda already have Mauritius DTA’s. Kenya’s Parliament opened public participation on a new Kenya-Mauritius treaty for the avoidance of double-taxation in terms of cross-border transactions (property, profits, royalties, dividends, technical fees etc.) and the deadline for comments is October 5 202. But the treaty does not apply to most Kenyan investment firms as a 2014 KRA law change requires 50% of ownership to be in another state to qualify.  

AfDB plan virtual annual meetings for 2020

In just over a week, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) will stage its 2020 annual meetings from Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire which is the headquarters city of the bank.

The 55th annual meeting of the Group will run from August 25 to August 27. They had initially been planned to happen in May 2020. But because of the surge of coronavirus infections and travel bans across the continent, they were postponed.

The 2019 annual meetings were held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and saw thousands of guests, including Presidents, bank governors, finance ministers, and representatives of civil society, media, policy, and the private sector descend on the island of Bioko for a week of engagements.

But this year, as with all major global events, delegates will instead meet virtually and online. The 2020 meetings will feature a reduced schedule that will focus on closed statutory meetings of the Governors of the Bank who represent 54 African countries and 27-non-regional members of the Group.

A key agenda item will be the election of the President of the AfDB. Nigeria’s Akinwumi Adesina has served one term as President and is up for re-election. He is the only candidate, so far, and has the support of many countries including host Cote d’Ivoire and his native country. Last month he was vindicated by the findings of both a board investigation and an independent panel of international experts that investigated allegations in a whistleblower complaint. 

There will also be the annual meeting of the African Development Fund,  and some familiar sideline events, such as the African Banker awards.

Some notable nominees include the Access acquisition of Diamond Bank, the Airtel Dual Listing and the  MTN Nigeria IPO for deal of the year (Equity) and the Access Bank green bond for deal of the year (Debt). Also the Acorn Green Bond, Nouakchott port financing, Port of Maputo, and the Tanzania standard gauge railway are all in contention for infrastructure deal of the year.

Helios & Fairfax to partner on Africa investments

July 2020 saw the announcement of a proposed strategic transaction between Helios Holdings and Fairfax Africa Holdings to create a new entity known as the Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation that aims to become the leading pan-Africa focused listed alternative asset manager with unique capabilities to invest across the continent.

Helios will contribute some management and performance fees it currently earns in exchange for 46% of the venture while Fairfax will retain control of the combined entity.

Helios, founded in 20004, manages $3.6 billion of assets, as Africa’s largest private equity fund with stakes in Nigerian oil (49% of Oando), e-commerce (Mall for Africa), payments (Interswitch) and South African telecom tower firms.

Helios will be the sole investment advisor to the partnership on all deals including Fairfax’s purchase of a stake in Atlas Mara for $40 million. The Co-Founders and Managing Partners of Helios, Tope Lawani and Babatunde Soyoye, will be Joint CEO’s while the current CEO of Fairfax, Michael Wilkerson, will become the Executive Chairman of the new entity.  

In Kenya, Helios first made a splash in 2007 buying 25% of Equity Bank and then going on to sell its stake in 2015 netting $500 million. They have since been involved in deals such as the Acorn green bond, Telkom Kenya, Wananchi Group and Vivo Energy.

Current investors in Helios include CDC which has invested over $100 million, and the IFC. Fairfax Africa shareholders will be asked to approve the deal that has been unanimously approved by a special board committee, that was advised by Alvarium, and have it completed in the third quarter of 2020. The partnership will be listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, where Fairfax shares currently trade.