Ghana is Yet to Have a US Dollar Stock Trading App, Here’s why

As of today, no stock trading app is yet to go live in Ghana. Perhaps this is proof that the country’s tech ecosystem has visibly fallen behind that of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. Of the top 10 African countries listed in StartupBlink’s global Ecosystem Report 2020, Ghana ranks a lowly 8th.

According to the report, Ghana trails South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. Again this shows that Ghana isn’t significantly progressing in terms of the advancement and adoption of tech solutions.

Source: StartupBlink

The stock trading space is witnessing steady growth in African countries such as Nigeria, where the likes of Bamboo, Risevest, Trove and Chaka are the leading figures. Many Nigerians are now trading in US dollar-based stocks via these platforms to hedge against naira devaluation and inflation.

So what’s happening in Ghana? Why have investment market innovators been unable to break into the stock trading market?

Regulatory Constraints

Can we ever stop talking about regulation? Probably not, as innovation and invention can better thrive within an enabling regulatory environment.

Screenshot of some of Ghana’s SEC regulations under the Securities Act, 2016

However, Ghana’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) policies seem to constitute a roadblock to many startups that may want to offer US dollar stock trading platforms to users.

CEO of Ghana’s API fintech Appruve, Paul Damalie recently remarked, “By the time you get a bank of Ghana license, you would have interacted with all the security agencies in Ghana.” This underlines the country’s stringent regulatory landscape in the finance sector.

Thought leaders in the space including Chipper Cash‘s Wiza Jalakasi maintain that regulations are rigid.

Owing to their dealings in securities, stock trading startups have to pass through a string of long arduous procedures before licensing, which may not even be granted after a three-month review period from the date of application.

Ghanaian Cedi’s (GH₵) Stable FOREX Rate

Unlike Nigeria’s fluctuating currency exchange rate, the dollar to cedis’ exchange rate has remained stable at $1 to ₵5.7 for almost two years. Owing to this, there isn’t as much pressure on individuals and businesses to invest in US dollar stocks.

Ghana cedis arranged on a table in a market stall in Accra ,Ghana on Thursday, 15th March 2018

In Nigeria for instance, investments in US dollar-based assets are largely driven by the need for traders to avoid the pitfalls of the Naira’s weakening exchange rate. This makes dollar-denominated assets more attractive to investors as a better alternative for storing wealth.

Ghana’s Cedis is way less volatile compared to the Naira, hence, foreign equity markets are likely perceived as a potential bonus for investors rather than a necessity to guard against economic woes brought about by currency devaluation.

The result is that a tiny number of people are trading US dollar stocks, so there is almost zero incentive for startups to combat regulatory barriers just to launch stock trading apps that would only be used by an insignificant group of people in the end.

Stock Trading in Ghana Yet to Gain Much Traction

A ResearchGate study posited that the participation levels in trading stocks in Ghana are extremely low. Going by the research data, only 1% of Ghana’s households hold shares of stock.

Apart from financial reasons, the majority of Ghanaians are not educated about the stock market’s offerings and guiding terms. This means it is generally viewed only as a high-risk investment option.

Meanwhile..

There are prospective new entrants seeking to break the jinx and go live with their US dollar stock trading apps in Ghana. Notable among them is Investsika, which says its app will allow users to invest in over 2,000 publicly listed US companies using mobile money.

The startup already brands itself as “Ghana’s first foreign investment platform” and has called for people to join the waiting list for its imminent app launch. Pine is another startup working to launch its US stock trading app in Ghana.

Going Forward

While apparent challenges exist for these startups, it remains to be seen whether their apps will go live sooner rather than later, thus kickstarting mobile-based trading in US stock markets for Ghanaians.

Featured Image Credit: Bloomberg

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