Africa Finance Forum Blog

Financial Education: The Key to the Development of African Stock Markets

15.05.2018Emmanuel Zamblé, Expert-Consultant in Capital Markets

In recent decades, there has been a rapid increase in the number of stock exchanges on the African continent. In 1990, there were only eight stock exchanges (three in North Africa, and an additional five in the sub-Saharan region). That number grew to 18 by 2000, and finally to 29 today—including two regional stock exchanges in Abidjan and Libreville. Following these consistent developments, each region of the continent now has at least one stock market, and should expect a corresponding boost to their respective economies. Unfortunately, the growing number of stock exchanges in the African region has not yielded the expected results.

Indeed, with the exception of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Namibian Stock Exchange, Malawi Stock Exchange and Casablanca Stock Exchange—which, with a total market capitalization of USD 1,302 billion, 119.655 billion, 14.620 billion and 68.398 billion respectively individually represent more 50% of the GDP of their countries. The 25 other stock exchanges of the continent still continue to play a modest role in their economies.

Moreover, when analyzing the number of companies listed on the stock market, we realize that there is little enthusiasm on the part of African securities issuers. Of the 29 stock exchanges, only 3 are currently home to more than 100 companies. These include Johannesburg Stock Exchange Limited (377 listed companies), Egypt Stock Exchange (222 listed companies) and Nigerian Stock Exchange (172 listed companies).

At the regional level, the development of stock exchanges has yielded different results.

The Southern African region currently boasts nine stock exchanges: The Malawi Stock Exchange, Johannesburg Stock Exchange Limited, Dar es Salam Stock Exchange, Lusaka Stock Exchange, Namibian Stock Exchange, Stock Exchange of Mauritius, Botswana Stock Exchange, Swaziland Stock Exchange and Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. With a total market capitalization of USD 1,460.524 billion as of December 31, 2017, Southern Africa which accounts 86% of the continent’s market capitalization, leads the continent in terms of capital market development. Excluding South Africa, the region's market capitalization, while remaining the largest, would be reduced to only USD 158.52 billion.

Four stock exchanges currently operate in North Africa. These include the Casablanca Stock Exchange, Egypt Stock Exchange, Tunis Stock Exchange, Algiers Stock Exchange, and Libyan Stock Market. This region of Africa has a total market capitalization of USD 124.431 billion, which represents 7.35% of that of the continent.

West Africa has five stock exchanges: The Nigerian Stock Exchange, Ghana Stock Exchange, Regional Stock Exchange, Bolsa de Valores de Cabo Verde, and the Sierra Leone Stock Exchange. Its market capitalization is USD 69.90 billion (4.13%).

East Africa has the largest number of stock exchanges after Southern Africa. Its eight markets include the Nairobi Securities Exchange, Uganda Securities Exchange, Rwanda Stock Exchange, Bolsa de Valores of Mozambique, Seychelles Securities Exchange, Somalia Stock Exchange, Khartoum Stock Exchange, and the ALTX East Africa Exchange. It has a market capitalization of USD 37.745 billion (2.23%).

Central Africa has two stock exchanges; however, recent developments indicate that they will soon merge into a single market. These are the Securities Exchange of Central Africa and the Douala Stock Exchange. The stock market capitalization of this region amounts to USD 0.414 billion (0.02%).

Total market capitalization of African stock exchanges by Region

Sources: Stock Exchanges Websites; African Securities Exchange Association

Regarding the listed companies of the aforementioned stock exchanges, their number also varies from one sub-region to another.

Southern Africa possesses the largest number of listed companies, with 669 companies appearing across its nine stock exchanges—however, when we remove South Africa from our calculus, the number of listed companies in the sub-region drops to 292 and ranks second after North Africa, which has 392 listed companies. The West African sub-region has 265 listed companies, while East Africa and Central Africa have 190 and 4 listed companies, respectively.

Number of listed companies by region

Sources: Stock Exchanges Websites; African Securities Exchange Association

An analysis of this situation reveals that the majority of African stock exchanges are small, and therefore their contribution to the development of the state economy remains marginal; despite numerous legal, regulatory, and operational reforms made to revitalize and develop financial markets throughout Africa. In view of these circumstances, it should not be surprising to note that transaction volumes in these markets are also low.

One of the main causes of this sluggishness in the African financial sector is the inadequacy of stock culture in the region. This is reflected by, among other things, the reluctance of companies to use the stock market as a preferred route for financing their investments, the non-spontaneity of the dissemination of financial information, and the scarcity of growth capital transactions to be carried out through the stock market. The lack of a stock market culture is also expressed by the mistrust of many economic operators who still consider that the stock market is the ‘territory of specialists and especially rich.’ These actors therefore prefer to use their savings for other purposes, such as real estate and trade, rather than in stocks and bonds, which they are less familiar with.

The stock market problem can also sometimes arise in the form of an open competition between the banking sector and the financial market: Some banks consider long-term finance to be their sole purview, and perceive the stock market as a permanent competitor, despite having complementary roles in reality.

The remedy to these challenges is financial education.

There is a mounting, urgent need for regular educational campaigns with savers and company executives to help them deepen their understanding of how the stock market, financial products, and investment risks all interact. Similarly, money managers, advisers and, financial intermediaries should be included in any proposed financial market training programs. This would avoid any confusion with regards to the respective roles of commercial banks and the stock market in financial transactions such as public offerings. The training received by market players could spur adoption of good practices, build self-confidence in the investment decision process, and reinforce trust in their work, reassuring both domestic and foreign investors.

Our main objective is to make every African an informed speaker for the development of his country or even the continent. To do this, African stock market authorities should focus primarily on local investors. This has the advantage of protecting domestic markets against speculation from foreign capital flows. Of course, if investors are active enough in those stock markets, trading volumes and liquidity ratios will improve. In turn, this would attract foreign investors and encourage other companies to get listed on the stock exchange.

It should also be noted that no reform will lead to concrete, permanent developments of African stock markets without involving the majority of Africans. We can only achieve that by voluntarily accepting the daunting task of educating the public about money and financial market. Education must therefore be a cornerstone in any financial development strategies if African stock market leaders are to succeed in their goals.

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About the Author

Emmanuel Zamblé has been a consultant in the capital markets industry for more than fifteen years. He has conducted studies on initiatives for bond markets development in ECOWAS, CEMAC and AMU (Arab Maghreb Union) regions, on behalf of international financial institutions. He began his career in 1992 at the Abidjan Stock Exchange (BVA) as a Senior Account Manager, Head of Public Offering and Quotation; in 1998, after having contributed to setting up the WAEMU Regional Stock Exchange (BRVM), he held the position of Director of Operations and Financial Information until 2011. Additionally, to presenting and delivering a number of international seminars and conferences, Mr. Zamblé also contributes to the training of African financial executives.

Three Fintech Trends for Financial Inclusion in Sub Saharan Africa

30.04.2018Geraldine O'Keeffe, Chief Innovations Officer, Software Group

This blog was originally published on the CFI website.

Key fintech trends include publishing open APIs, which helps to expand customer bases and improve services offerings

The following post is part of a blog series spotlighting perspectives and experiences from the Africa Board Fellowship.

Access to financial services in Africa is on the increase, up 19.4 percent from 2011 to 2017, according to the 2017 Global Findex report*. This change can largely be credited to digital financial services. New entrants to the financial sector such as telcos, fintechs, and in the near future bigtechs like Facebook and Google are all offering technology-centered financial services that are changing the landscape and posing a competitive threat to traditional financial services providers (FSPs). At the same time, new technologies can allow traditional FSPs to expand their outreach and radically improve operational efficiency.

Considering both challenges and opportunities, now, more than ever, financial institutions of all stripes have to accept that technology and innovation are integral to their business strategy. These changes require a shift in culture throughout the institution and among the leadership. Board members, for example, have to embrace this change, understanding the current industry trends, experiencing these financial innovations firsthand, and taking concrete actions.

Through our work with board members of financial service providers in the Africa Board Fellowship program, we have identified three key fintech trends especially relevant for institutions in Africa focused on financial inclusion.

Data, Data and More Data.  In this digital age, we generate and consume more data than ever before, and for many successful fintechs, such as Tala, Branch, and Jumo, data is key to their success. Alternative data, such as how a person uses social media, including their social network, how they use their mobile, and, in some cases, psychometric data are used for loan underwriting and targeting potential customers for instant digital loans. For more traditional financial institutions, business intelligence and data mining is critical to understanding customer behavior and coming up with the right product and services. Those players that collect and use data wisely are setting the new standard for financial services.

Digitization of Workflows and Systems. With the recent increases in affordability and capabilities of mobile devices, financial service providers are looking to automate and digitize with the use of digital field applications (DFAs) and digital workflow systems. Such technologies can eliminate time consuming manual processes while they help improve customer service. Examples include customer onboarding and loan origination via DFA solutions that eliminate paper forms and shift to digital data encoding. VisionFund, for instance, equips its agricultural loan officers with a tablet application that has an integrated credit-decision algorithm specific for agricultural loans. Such solutions offer the ability to easily capture GPS, documents, photos, and signatures. These can be instrumental as part of a branchless banking or branch-light strategy and have been proven to radically increase efficiencies of key processes.

Open Systems, Integrations and Interoperability. The era of going it alone with monolithic systems is gone. Today we need systems that can be seamlessly integrated with other systems to build flexible and scalable financial ecosystems. Evidence of this shift is seen with the trend of publishing open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) such as those of Mastercard, Visa, M-Pesa, and Android Pay. These open APIs allow institutions such as financial providers, e-commerce platforms, and remittance companies to integrate into these systems, often in real time. By allowing more integrations into their systems, they increase their customer base and, at the same time, provide better services to their existing customers.

Another component of open systems is interoperability. Some countries such as Tanzania and Nigeria have enforced interoperability amongst mobile wallets which allows customers to exchange mobile money from different providers. For example, a person should be able to send Tigo Money to a person with an Airtel Money wallet. Partnerships and openness are key drivers of change.

Taken together, these three fintech trends provide core elements needed for financial providers to reach more customers, with better products, while strengthening the broader financial ecosystem.

These are just a few of the trends in financial technology that are revolutionizing the inclusive finance landscape in Africa.

For more on this topic, check out insights shared during discussions of the Africa Board Fellowship.

* Data has been updated with the latest Global Findex Report (2017)

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About the Author

Geraldine O'Keeffe is currently Co-Founder and Chief Innovations Officer at Software Group, a global technology company that is specialized in delivery channels and integration solutions for institutions that provide financial services. Geraldine is passionate about financial inclusion and is inspired to help institutions leverage technology to achieve efficiency, scale and increase outreach. In the last 14 years, Geraldine has completed over 50 consultancy assignments and 40 successful software implementation projects for a range of different financial institutions and players within the financial inclusion space. She has a proven ability to discover customer needs and design sustainable, holistic solutions that carefully consider the interactions between people, process and technology. 

Better Regulations Can Spur Agent Banking in WAEMU

11.04.2018Corinne Riquet, Financial Sector Specialist, CGAP

This blog was originally published on the CGAP website.

The West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) has taken significant steps toward financial inclusion in recent years. Mobile money has driven much of this progress under the aegis of regulations that make it possible for mobile network operators to offer e-money services and expand their agent networks and the reach of their services. However, WAEMU’s regulations make it difficult for banks and microfinance institutions to expand their own agent networks and contribute fully to financial inclusion. While the number of mobile money accounts and agents in the region roughly doubled between 2014 and 2017 (to 36.4 million and 183,000, respectively), banks and microfinance institutions have lagged behind.

Even in the age of mobile money, these traditional financial institutions have an important role to play in expanding low-income customers’ access to financial services. For example, as Will Cook points out in his recent CGAP blog post, bank accounts in Kenya once again outnumber mobile money accounts – by 30 percent. Alongside partnerships with mobile money providers, a rise in agent banking has contributed to this increase. In 2016, 17 commercial banks developed agent banking and contracted over 40,000 agents. The Central Bank reported that agent banking saw 55.8 million transactions in the first quarter of that year, compared to 10.3 million in the same period the year before. Kenya’s regulators enabled this kind of growth by adopting a risk-based approach when defining the country’s agency banking regulatory framework in 2010 and integrating provisions for consumer protection.

What will it take for WAEMU regulators to similarly unlock the potential of banks and microfinance institutions to drive financial inclusion for the region’s 50 million people living in poverty?

[In November 2017] CGAP published a regulatory diagnostic of digital financial services in Côte d’Ivoire, which has the same agent regulations as the other WAEMU member countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo). We found that WAEMU recognizes three types of agents and that the regulations surrounding them contribute to disparities among different types of institutions (banks, nonbank e-money issuers, microfinance institutions, etc.):

  • E-money agents. E-money agents may conduct marketing activities and supply services related to e-money, including account enrollment, cash-in and cash-out and payments. Current regulations provide for a two-tier system of primary agents and subagents (or “distributors” and “subdistributors,” as they are called in the regulation), who act under the responsibility of the e-money issuer. Retailers and other registered businesses, microfinance institutions, the post office and other nonbank financial institutions are permitted to serve as primary agents. These agents may outsource to other registered businesses who act as subagents. These rules have allowed mobile network operators to deploy large agent networks in the eight WAEMU countries.

  • Rapid money transfer agents. Another regulation enables banks, nonbank financial institutions and microfinance institutions to provide over-the-counter transactions, or “rapid fund transfers,” through retail agents called “subagents.” Permitted transactions are limited to real-time transfers that are performed over the counter at an authorized provider or agent and do not involve any bank or e-money account of either the sender or recipient. These providers act under the responsibility of a financial institution and are not allowed to collect funds for deposits for any purpose other than over-the-counter transfers (unless they are microfinance institutions). The best-known of these over-the-counter providers is WARI, which has large networks of subagents in most of the WAEMU countries.

  • Banking agents. Beyond e-money and over-the-counter transfers, the scope for using agents is unclear. The rules that do exist are highly restrictive for banks, and there is no explicit framework for microfinance institutions. Banks are authorized by the banking law and a 2010 instruction from BCEAO (the common central bank for the WAEMU region) to use agents called Intermédiaires en Opérations de Banque (IOBs). An IOB acts under a mandate assigned by a bank, which may include opening accounts and taking deposits. Each IOB is required to obtain approval from the Ministry of Finance, on the advice of BCEAO. It is also subject to fit-and-proper standards – a financial guarantee whose level depends on the nature of the mandate and regular reporting requirements. The IOB model did not arise for the sake of financial inclusion but rather, as a business niche for intermediaries operating within the traditional banking sector comparable to an insurance agency. As a result, since the introduction of these rules in 2010, BCEAO has approved and registered only six IOBs, and two are authorized to just collect deposits.

While regulations on e-money agents have greatly expanded the reach of mobile money, those surrounding agent banking appear too restrictive for the banks and are nonexistent for the microfinance sector. This creates a competitive disadvantage for traditional financial services providers to make use of digital channels in expanding their reach and relevance. Uniform, or at least harmonized, rules across the board for e-money, over-the-counter transactions and banking agents would be a big step in the right direction. Any new framework should provide a comprehensive and proportionate set of risk-based rules on due diligence, supervision, internal control and subagents. And special consideration should be given to replacing or revising IOB rules to support a more flexible agent banking approach.

More harmonized rules around agent networks would ensure a level playing field for all financial services providers to seize the opportunities presented by digitization to reduce cost, increase scale and expand financial inclusion.

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About the Author

Corinne Riquet is an independent microfinance consultant and has worked in several African countries since 2001. She has advised a range of clients, especially MFIs and funders on organizational audit practices, business plan development, appraisals, designing financial service projects in rural areas, and evaluating and defining national microfinance strategies. Since 2002, she has been a resource person for CGAP's MFI Capacity Building Program in Francophone Africa (CAPAF). At CGAP, she has participated in several train-the-trainer seminars in the capacity of Supervisor. Corinne, a French national,  has been living in Côte d'Ivoire for the past 24 years. She is bilingual (French and English) and holds a Master's degree in Developmental Economics from CERDI, University of Clermont Ferrand, France.

Are Banks Necessary? And other Questions

03.04.2018Tokunboh Ishmael, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Alitheia Identity

This blog was originally published on the Medium Website.

Asking this question will no doubt raise eyebrows and much consternation, especially in Nigeria where Alitheia Identity invests in financial services and financial technology aka Fintech. The question is meant to shock banks to get off the fence and into action.

Bill Gates is famously reported by the Economist to have said ‘Banking is necessary, banks are not.’ This quote resonates with my vision of retail banking in a ‘future’ that seems to have already arrived. The retail bank of the future will be ubiquitous, contextual, social and invisible. It will provide personalised services seamlessly/invisibly, much in the same seamless way that Uber receives payments from customers today. Invisible payments will become the norm where customers will walk into certain locations (off and on-line) select or be prompted to enjoy offers on products and services, and have payments automatically deducted. In this regard, the retail banks will be entities that provide non-banking services with embedded banking services. It will be wherever and whenever. Providing payment, savings and credit services in context with the customers’ needs, wants, behaviour and footprint in the driving seat. Amazon has led the foray into this ‘future’ by opening its first checkout-free store.

Currently, entities that are at the vanguard of developing these invisible payments are not traditional banks. They are technology companies such as Amazon and Google. It is widely believed that banks have not been quick to push these technologies for fear of cannibalising their credit and debit card products. Although, this may seem to spell doom for incumbent banks as these seamless technologies enjoy wide adoption, in my view it is unlikely that entities like Google and Amazon will want to completely take over the business of banking, and its attendant regulatory and compliance headaches. Instead they may wish to partner and offer their technologies within a financial services ecosystem. Such an ecosystem would have the retail bank of the future as a platform with incumbent banks at the core providing banking ‘plumbing’ as a service and partnering with Fintech or technology challengers to provide the personalised and contextual experience that customers have come to expect.

Question: Are Nigerian banks ready or preparing for this new reality — a shift from the traditional integrated end-to-end model to a modular plug-and-play model?

It is no surprise that technology shifts will be at the heart of retail banking’s transformation over the next ten years just as it has been over the past ten when the word and concept of digital banking began to gain prominence. However, to date, the use of digital technologies has been majorly focused on automating mundane tasks, and providing shiny new interfaces on old dated banking legacy systems. The retail bank of the future will not merely layer digital interfaces on to existing systems, it will have a digital core upon which it will provide a rich customer experience. To achieve this, software developers, data scientists and design professionals will play a larger role in the management teams and boards of the banks of the future. Their skills will be essential to shift from the emphasis on automating processes to outcomes that delight with a greater focus on customer needs based on insights from treasure troves of customer data.

Question: Have banks started broadening their employee engagement strategies to attract/keep the purveyors of these new skills?

Banks that are still focused on shiny new interfaces and lacking the requisite design/data skills are not at the start line let alone in the race for retail customer growth and stickiness.

The main technologies that will play a key role in the development of the retail bank of the future are Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence, which will enable the mining of customer data (from both non-financial and financial entities) to set rules based on insights from customer preferences and behaviours. This in turn will enable providers to make informed recommendations for products and services and take pre-determined actions with customer permissions. The winning ‘banks’ in this new world will intelligently use all the information that they have about customers to ‘make life possible and easier’…possible to employ financial services to live life to its full potential, in whatever way the customer chooses to define ‘full’. Smart banks will leverage this data and a customer’s social capital to determine its risk appetite for that customer and how best to use the customer’s social network to market its services. In other words, demand and supply for financial services will emanate from and be fuelled by a customer’s relationship with a non-financial entity and the customer’s social interactions.

On the customer side, the pervasive use of ‘wearable technologies’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ will literally turn the customer and his environment into the ‘branch’ for a personalised and contextual service. The implication of this will be a re-imagining of bank branches and their function. This is already playing out with the reduction of bank branches globally. That said, bank branches will not be completely eliminated but redesigned as places that attract customers to experience their ‘bank’ in a new and modern way.

Question: Are Banks Fintech ready? Are we all ready for this new reality?

The move is inevitable, standing still is actually walking backwards and no one can afford to do that.

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About the Author

Tokunboh Ishmael is an accomplished and experienced private equity investor with a proven track record. She is Managing Director and co-founder of Alitheia Capital (www.thealitheia.com) In 2015, she co-founded Alitheia Identity (www.alitheiaidentity.com) a fund manager that invests in high growth small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with significant opportunity to grow profitably and deliver above-market returns. The firm does this through a proactive approach to funding businesses led by female founders and co-founders towards ensuring greater participation of women at at all levels from boardroom to factory floor. Tokunboh is a CFA Charterholder, corporate financier and M&A banker historically having worked on over $5.6 billion M&A deals across the US, UK and Africa.

Solving the Puzzle of Responsible Exists in Impact Investing

26.03.2018Hannah Dithrich, Research Associate, The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)

This blog was originally published on the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) website.

A responsible exit lays the foundation for long-term impact, and requires considerations as early as due diligence

Impact investors are motivated by two primary objectives: to generate a financial return and to create positive social or environmental impact. But how do they balance these dual goals throughout the investment process, and specifically at exit? It’s no easy feat.

Investors must consider what happens to impact when they exit an investment. For example, if a company received critical capital and resources from an investor, will it still be equipped to succeed and continue its mission when that investor exits? What if an investor sells her shares to a more commercially-minded buyer who deprioritizes the company’s impactful or sustainable practices?

In financial inclusion investments, the possibility of mission drift after exit can have real implications for impact. For example, if a microfinance institution is acquired by a firm with little experience with underbanked customers, it could increase loan sizes beyond what clients are able to pay back, ultimately leading them into cycles of debt. Impact investors seek to mitigate such risks by exiting their investments responsibly.

A 2014 paper called The Art of the Responsible Exit in Microfinance Equity Sales, by CFI and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), explored the topic, outlining four decisions that microfinance equity investors can consider: i) the timing of their equity sale; (ii) buyer selection; (iii) governance and the use of shareholder agreements; and (iv) how to balance social and financial factors across multiple bids for their equity. Later this spring, the authors will publish a follow-on paper with guidance for all financial inclusion investors, beyond just those of microfinance institutions.

This year, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) published Lasting Impact: The Need for Responsible Exits, a study that draws insights across sectors and asset classes that can be applied to financial inclusion investments. To produce this report, my colleagues and I interviewed over 30 leading practitioners, and found that investors plan for a responsible exit even before the investment is made. They lay the foundations for long-term impact throughout all stages of the investment process, from due diligence and capital structuring to exit.

During pre-investment due diligence, investors seek out companies or projects that present few risks to mission drift down the line – such as those with inherently impactful business models and those whose founders have a strong commitment to impact. They note that companies with impact ‘baked in’ to their business models face few tradeoffs between financial and impact objectives, so are unlikely to deviate from their mission. The question of ‘whom to exit to’ is key – echoed in CGAP and CFI’s paper – and investors note that they consider this during due-diligence, looking at likely exit options, which often depend on companies’ plans for growth. Annie Roberts of Open Capital Advisors noted that “if the planned exit for a given business is to a large strategic [buyer] that might not share the same impact motives, the investor takes this into account when deciding whether to make the investment in the first place.” CGAP and CFI’s paper also notes that investors typically “plan their exits before they enter”.

Once ready to deploy capital, investors can structure investments to help the company grow sustainably, without jeopardizing impact. Return expectations and structuring aspects like repayment timelines or holding periods and ownership stake in the company can all form part of a responsible exit strategy. For example, while equity investments can allow for more active involvement, they also tend to have relatively short time horizons (a 3-4 year holding period for a typical 10-year fund, for example) and growth expectations that could lead companies to prioritize expansion over sustainable practices. Debt investments, on the other hand, can be structured with flexible repayment schedules that avoid the pressure for rapid growth. Tying some portion of payments to revenue can free up needed cash for companies with variable cashflows, while also enabling investors to participate in a company’s success.

Investors can also use shareholder agreements and other structuring documents to solidify the company’s mission. Grassroots Capital’s concept note on “’Hardwiring’ Social Mission in MFIs” shows how anti-dilution clauses, dual share structures, and golden shares can help preserve a company’s integrity or keep key decisions in the hands of mission-aligned founders. CGAP and CFI’s paper echoes this, with the example of Aavishkaar-Goodwell’s exit from Equitas. Equitas had a majority independent board (which could reject share sales resulting in over 24 percent ownership), shareholder agreements that set a cap on ROE, and commitments to donate 5 percent of its profits to charity. These governance clauses helped create a “self-selecting pool of potential investors”.

During investment, investors can instill positive practices and corporate governance policies that will last through changes in ownership. For example, investors can work with company management to improve governance policies like adhering to SPI4 standards, which assess an institution’s social performance, in the hopes that sound practices will continue through changes in ownership.

The exit itself, of course, is also key. Whether exiting through a strategic sale, to a financial buyer, or through an IPO, investors can seek to exit at a time when the company is at a stable stage in its growth, and can benefit from another investor’s capital or resources. For example, the GIIN’s paper profiles LeapFrog Investments, which felt it was time to exit its investment in a Ghanaian life insurance company called Express Life once it saw the company growing steadily and in need of growth capital beyond what LeapFrog could provide.

When it comes time to exit, though, how do investors know if they’re selling to a follow-on investor that might later take the company in a different direction? CFI and CGAP’s paper highlights the importance of buyer selection, and the GIIN report shows how investors identify buyers that are aligned with the company’s business model or mission. For example, LeapFrog seeks buyers that recognize the commercial value in serving low-income consumers, as well as the impact inherent in these business models. It sold its stake in Express Life to Prudential Plc, which sought to establish a presence in Africa and understood both the value proposition and the impact created by providing critical financial services to low-income consumers.

This research can guide investors – those focused on financial inclusion and those targeting other themes – in sourcing, structuring, managing, and exiting investments to optimize for long-term positive outcomes. As the industry continues to mature, investors will further develop strategies for responsible investments and responsible exits that result in lasting impact.

To read more on the GIIN studies about Africa, you can download the landscape of impact investing in Southern Africa, East Africa and West Africa.

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About the Author

Hannah Dithrich conducts research at the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) to fill critical knowledge gaps in the industry and improve practitioners’ approaches. Hannah is a former Fulbright Scholar to Malta where she worked with the United Nations Refugee Agency, and has extensive background in microfinance at Grameen America and in research at a boutique fund of funds focused on emerging markets. She holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in International Relations from Pitzer College.

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What do renowned economists, financial sector practitioners, academics, and activists think about current issues of financial sector development in Africa? Find out on the blog - and share your point of view with us!

LATEST POSTS

Financial Education: The Key to the Development of African...Emmanuel Zamblé, Expert-Consultant in Capital Markets
Three Fintech Trends for Financial Inclusion in Sub Saharan...Geraldine O'Keeffe, Chief Innovations Officer, Software Group
Better Regulations Can Spur Agent Banking in WAEMUCorinne Riquet, Financial Sector Specialist, CGAP

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