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Africa’s Growing Number of Stock Exchanges Face Challenges

  • Nico Colombant

Even as African economies post strong growth figures, outpacing most developed nations, the continent's stock exchanges face many challenges, from national politics to weak currencies.

A protest in South Africa targeted the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Youth leader Julius Malema wants more key industries nationalized. And he wants government and business to create jobs. More than 50 percent of South African youth between 18 and 25 are jobless - as in most of Africa.

When he has made such demands before, stock prices here have dropped.

Noah Greenhill, the exchange’s head of marketing, says such political debate doesn't make markets unsound.

“The United States have people saying stuff that is vehemently against what the president of the party of the day says and nobody goes, 'Well, we cannot invest in America because so and so is vehemently opposed to what is being said by the ruling party and our president'.” Greenhill said.

African exchanges do struggle because of weak currencies and slow foreign investment in a tough world economic climate.

There are other problems: some economists say there may be too many exchanges in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 20, and many have limited hours.

Still, Greenhill says it is a mistake to ignore Africa, with its growing middle class and rich resources.

“It is the land of opportunity. Look at the telecommunication companies. Look at the banking services, retail, those kinds of businesses with these huge opportunities. Make no mistake, there are risks, but there are risks in doing business in Greece, in Portugal, in Italy, in Ireland, in Spain,” Greenhill said.

The world's fastest growing economy this year is Ghana - topping 13 percent. Growth like that, Greenhill and other market experts say, can outweigh the problems Africa's stock markets face.

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