African securities exchanges celebrate – and get challenged

ABIDJAN, COTE D’IVOIRE – The atmosphere was festive as Africa’s securities exchanges got together for the annual “must go” conference. Some 350 delegates from all over the world gathered at the atmospheric Hotel Sofitel Ivoire for 2 days of debate including 8 panels.

Prime Minister pledges support says exchanges should be innovative
Cote d’Ivoire Prime Minister Duncan Kablan Duncan came to open and close the panel, and he challenged the exchanges to come up with innovative solutions that would help finance Africa’s growth. He made clear that the conference theme “from progress to achievements” meant that Africa’s leaders expect a lot from the securities exchanges.
He pointed to the strong economic growth in Africa and its world beating economies, and said that this still hid a lot of challenges. Building the electricity and other infrastructure are among the challenges and African states do not have the right instruments yet to finance these through the capital markets.
He said governments and markets had to seek to remove constraints to growth, such as the overwhelmingly short-term nature of funding available and lack of finance for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), compounded by drastic reductions in development aid since the crisis. He pointed to giant achievements too, such as the creation of a common market in ECOWAS with 300 million people.
He told of Cote d’Ivoire’s own efforts to recover fast from a decade of destruction. He said growth was 9.8% in 2012, and is targeted for 8.7% in 2013 and 10% in 2014. He added that peace, security, reconciliation and cohesion were essential and hailed the success of the Committee of Dialogue and Reconstruction which “has contributed to the normalization of peace and the return of stability”.
The Prime Minister pledged a new emphasis on privatization after the previous round in the 1990s and progress on many regional projects including highways to Lagos, Ndjamena and Ouagadougou as well a railway to link six countries, airport and seaport expansion, the gas interconnect line and the West African Power Pool investments.
“We appeal to all parties, please increase your support and look for new initiatives that bring synergies. We need to improve the number of companies that are listed and the market capitalization many times by 2020. The market deserves to be supported at the regional level.”
He cited as good initiatives the fibre network and popularizing stock exchange activities.
He said that at the heart of the challenges for stock exchanges is the transformation of Africa, “our stock exchanges should be ambitious to bring the innovative solutions”

Other opening speakers included Sunil Benimadhu, President of the African Securities Exchanges Association, and Thierry Tanoh, CEO of Ecobank Transnational International.

Your editor had the honour of moderating 2 panel discussions
* Panel 1: “Why now and why African frontier markets?”, the panellists were Colin Bell (Head of Global Emerging Markets at leading stockbroker Auerbach Grayson), David Finch (Head of Portfolio Mangement at BNP Paribas) and Hubert Danso (CEO, Africa investor).
* Panel 7: “Innovation in capital markets infrastructure: relevance to African securities exchanges”, with banter between leading African IT vendors Sandy Frucher (vice-chairman of Nasdaq OMX Group) and Tony Weeresinghe (CEO of Millennium IT and Director of Global Development at the London Stock Exchange Group), and other contributions from Naseer Akhtar (President and CEO Infotech Group) and Hannes Takacs (managing partner of CAPMEX, the capital markets advisors).


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