This week we feature our interview with ABCO Bourse‘s Directeur Generale, Clement Ndiaye. ABCO is a brokerage that is headquartered in Dakar, Senegal catering to the BRVM (Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres). The BRVM if you are not familiar with it, is the regional stock exchange that covers Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
There has been a heightened interest in West Africa and the market specifically ever since MSCI included BRVM within the Frontier Markets Index in November 2016. We thought this would be a great opportunity to connect with a market expert in BRVM to provide you with insight on some of the major factors to consider as well as what you would need to do if you wanted to invest in this exciting market.
Clement was born and raised in Senegal, he has an MBA from Universite d’Evry in France and experience working with banks and mutual fund companies in both France and Canada, where he later immigrated. Clement began working on ABCO with two of his close friends, Ousseynou Ndiaye and Badara Diouf Niasse who were also bankers in Canada at the time. Being Canadian, we love hearing about businesses around the world that were shaped or formed in some way by the Canadian experience.
BRVM is down -15.5% in the past year and we think it actually a very interesting time to spend some time to understand the market. We will follow this post in a couple of weeks with a detailed market overview. In the meantime, please enjoy our conversation with Clement Ndiaye.
- Why was ABCO started? What is your vision/goal for the firm?
Before 2012, all three of us were working on personal projects in Senegal in the finance field. Interest rates in Canada were really low back then (and still are) compared to Senegal. As individual investors, we wanted to benefit from the high-interest rate products issued in Senegal by the banks. We started an in-depth examination into the WAEMU financial market’s potential. We did a lot of market study research involving back and forth traveling. After a few month of research, it was clear that there was a big need in Senegal for the creation of financial services. In 2014, we made the decision to open an investment and brokerage firm to start with. ABCO BOURSE was officially incorporated in 2015 in Dakar (Senegal) and we received our trading license from the regulator (CREPMF) in 2016.
Our vision: Rank among the leading financial institutions in Africa.
Our goal: Help our customers build, manage and secure their financial future. To maintain their trust, we promise to offer innovative financial products and services that meet their needs.
- What is the dollar traded value on BRVM on average? (Dollar value of all stocks tracked in one day on average). Have you seen this tick up as a result of inclusion within MSCI Frontier Markets?
In 2016, 195 million shares were traded on the BRVM for a total market value of 409 billion FCFA (USD 703 million). I think it will take a bit of time before we can see a direct effect of the inclusion of the BRVM within the MSCI Frontier Markets. Seasoned Investors and foreign institutional may now know the BRVM because of it. However, they need data to analyze the market before making an investment. The BRVM and it actors (Issuing companies, States, Brokers, Custodian, Mutual fund companies) need to do a better job communicating standard information on the market in English.
- What are the restrictions on foreign ownership?
There are none. “Réglement n°09/2010/CM/UEMOA” allows and protect foreign investments.
- How would a foreign investor open an account and trade? What is the range of transactions costs to buy/sell equity?
Open an account with ABCO is simple. It’s essentially done electronically. A questionnaire is sent by email to the customer. Once completed and the required documents received, we proceed with the account opening. Customer will be provided with an account number and also with the name and contact information of his/her designated investment advisor.
Online trading is yet to be approved by the Regulator and the BRVM. For now, all trades will require the involvement of an investment advisor at ABCO BOURSE.
Fees at ABCO BOURSE
|Brokerage fees||1.47% *|
|Custody fees||0.25%** per annum|
*Includes the commissions paid to ABCO BOURSE, to the Settlement Bank, the Regulator, and taxes. International transfer fees are not included.
- What services does ABCO provide to a foreign investor? Do you provide discretionary portfolio management?
We offer advice and trading services. Our investors have access to all the securities traded on the BRVM and through the BCEAO (WAEMU Central Bank): stocks, bonds, Sukkuks, T-Bills.
For customers who do not have much time and/or would like to entrust their investment to a qualified investment team who knows the WAEMU market, we also offer discretionary portfolio management for $150 000 USD size portfolio and up. Once the account is open and the investor profile determined, we set along with the customer, the limits within which we buy/sell securities in order to achieve his/her investment objectives.
- With the exit of Pakistan from the Frontier Markets index and the introduction of BRVM, it brings a lot of opportunities to bring in investment capital. Do you expect an increase in the number of listed companies within WAEMU?
We sure hope it will attract more foreign investments within the WAEMU. However, the BRVM and companies like ABCO have a lot to do in terms of educating, raising awareness as to how private companies could benefit from the stock market. The Regulator (CREPMF) has recently approved the launch of a 3rd compartment which will allow small businesses to be listed on the BRVM (fewer and less restrictive conditions compared the 1st and 2nd compartment). So I believe there will be more listings starting September 2017.
- The West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) is seemingly a rival, but with the eventual goal of merging with WAEMU. Do you see this as foreseeable within the next 10 or 20 years? How do you view the cooperation between WAEMU countries compared to those within WAMZ?
That’s the plan. Now how long is it going to take? That’s a billion dollar question. The intentions are here. The West African Capital Markets Integration Council (WACMIC) has been created almost 5 years ago with the primary objective to create a harmonized regulatory environment for the issuance and trading of securities in the region. 3 phases were identified to achieve the goal:
Phase 1 (completed):
From the agreements concluded, brokers in ECOWAS member countries can negotiate securities in markets other than their own, through local brokers in other jurisdictions.
Brokers who receive an ECOWAS trading license will be mutually recognized by stock exchanges, Securities Commissions, and Settlement banks.
Phase 3: All WACMIC member exchanges will be connected to a West African Single Market (WASM), and License Brokers will have access to listed securities and market information to enable them to execute transactions in the region. Issuers will also be able to raise capital throughout the region.
In regards to the cooperation between WAEMU Countries, the BCEAO (WAEMU central bank) and BRVM are the living proof that it exists and its working. There will always be room for improvement but the foundations are here and they are solid.
- A key piece of the success of XOF has been that the French treasury guarantees convertibility, which provides a degree of stability to XOF. Are there any contingency or long-term plans in place to make XOF independent, particularly with persistent concerns over the Euro?
In regards to currency and the monetary policy in the region, the plan is to have an ECOWAS single currency in 2020. State leaders and central banks of the region are currently working to build a common monetary and exchange policy framework. It is obvious that the XOF fix parity with the euro will be one of, if not the main dilemma that West African Leaders and Central Banks will have during this monetary union journey. But I firmly believe that through diplomacy and business negotiations, fair solutions will be found for the 15 West African States and the rest of the world, particularly France.
- Together these countries represent over 100mm people and 100bn in nominal GDP, but even combined represent about half of Nigeria’s population and an economy that is less than a quarter of Nigeria’s. What are the positive factors you see today that makes you optimistic about the future of WAEMU?
GDP growth in the WAEMU zone will remain above 6% at least until 2020. The zone has the advantage of having diversified sources of revenue and does not depend exclusively on resources derived from the exploitation of raw materials. Several WAEMU member states have also embarked on a major economic shift focusing on agriculture. Senegal, for example, aims to achieve self-sufficiency in rice by 2018. It is important to note that for this country, annual rice imports accounted for 62% of cereal imports and 16% of the trade deficit in 2014.
Moreover, all member states of WAEMU are also members of ECOWAS. Another positive factor that I see for the future of the WAEMU is the willingness of its leaders to converge towards a single market of 300 million inhabitants, ECOWAS, with a common currency for the 15 member countries and with no doubt, Nigeria as a natural economic leader. And like I’ve mentioned it earlier, the fact that WAEMU countries have in common one central bank the BCEAO, one stock-exchange the BRVM, one currency the XOF, is extremely positive for them at the present moment. It will also be their best asset when it will be time to start an integration in a common ECOWAS market.
- What are some of the factors that investors need to watch, that concern you about WAEMU?
First: The bank fees for international wires in foreign currency which plunge the yield on investments (approx 1%), especially for short term placements.
Second: How will the banks in the WAEMU zone behave when the implementation of the Bale 2 and 3 principles in January 2018 will be mandatory. They are the main players in fixed income market. With more stringent prudential ratios, the WAEMU’s financial market may see some of its players lose their ability to invest.
- Is there anything you would like our readers to know?
The UEMOA sovereign debt market offers attractive returns for foreign investors. In addition, the fixed parity between the CFA franc (XOF) and the Euro facilitates investments in local currencies while allowing, if necessary, hedging against fluctuations in the exchange rate with a major currency, the Euro. A country like Senegal has world-class political stability and democracy. Moody’s recently upgraded its rating to Ba3. The country has never failed to pay its debts in the past. The recent discovery of offshore oil and gas reserves will definitely attract a lot of investors from all around the world.
On the fixed income market, for 2017, the WAEMU States will raise 3413 billion FCFA (USD 5.8 billion).
It would also be interesting to monitor future IPOs of financial institutions. The values of all securities of this sector generally experienced a tremendous growth during the first years following the initial listing.
Finally, ABCO BOURSE will soon launch monthly and quarterly country report in English. These reports will cover economic, monetary and political facts. We will start with Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, the first two economies in the WAEMU.
We hope you enjoyed our conversation with Clement. If you would like to know more about BRVM or ABCO Bourse, check out their website here, alternatively they are on LinkedIn.
If you have any questions or feedback, please let us know.