“Equities for everybody” – Joseph Kitamirike
On a bright morning in the Kololo area of Kampala, three workers punch away on keyboards in an office barely seven square meters in size. When the telephone on a visibly deserted front desk occasionally rings, one of the workers springs up, picks up the receiver and places it back without answering. It is perhaps an inadvertent signal of how ALTX wants to be viewed – as a fully automated securities exchange offering easy remote access that one needn’t place a call to transact. There are no trading floors, let alone brokers hovering around.
“We wanted to provide reach beyond traditional established securities markets. Reach that is international, because today sitting in Egypt you can actually place an order on ALTX,” Joseph Kitamirike, chief executive officer tells The Africa Report. “As long as you see your account, you can log in and place an order,” he says.
On a continent where capital markets remain largely a domain of institutional investors, and typically only elites can afford the services of savvy financial advisers, Kitamirike is looking to change all that. He witnessed the same challenges over three years running the main bourse, the Uganda Securities Exchange.
“We want to introduce many more people to the securities markets. So the most important steps we have taken are steps that permit people to start their account registration process remotely,” Kitamirike says. “And then to give people remote access to the exchange so if you are knowledgeable, you can actually do your order placement yourself. And then to give investors an ability to pay from their mobile phone,” he adds.
Now in its third year, ALTX East Africa has the capacity to handle 300,000 transactions per second, and the smallest investor on the market manages $3 per week. The bourse expects to attract 10 million such investors by its eighth anniversary. While turnover is not very high, it is growing within targets, according to Kitamirike: “We do USh30m-USh50m ($8,000-$13,000) a week.”
Uganda is just one of the many markets that the ALTX Africa Group has its sights on. “We are looking at two for commodities exchanges, and one for a securities exchange. We may do those markets over the next 20 months,” says Kitamirike. “That will put us to a footprint of six countries, which is a good start.”
As the company’s ambition grows, Kitamirike, who is also a senior adviser at US-based consultancy Albright Stonebridge, is well aware of two attributes that have helped in business: “There is no substitute for integrity in any business. I mean, you cannot run a business successfully without integrity. There’s just no chance, it’s not possible. You may do it for a short time but you cannot sustain it,” he says. “And there is no substitute for hard work; zero. You can’t cut corners. If you have got to build an exchange, you know you can’t build it on a Uganda standard, it has got to be an exchange where everybody recognises it as an exchange.”
From the November 2017 print edition
Top photo:Joseph Kitamirike
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