Africa’s foreign exchange (FX) landscape is a complex yet evolving domain, marked by significant challenges and notable progress. While the continent lags behind other developing regions in financial development indicators, it has made strides in integrating with the global economy and enhancing the resilience of its domestic capital markets. However, issues such as hyperinflation, currency volatility, and foreign exchange scarcity continue to pose substantial hurdles, necessitating innovative solutions and collaborative efforts to navigate these persistent financial challenges.

19 June 24

Invest Africa, in partnership with Crown Agents Bank, hosted a private roundtable to explore Africa’s foreign exchange landscape. Chaired by Karim Anjarwalla, ALN Director and Senior Partner at ALN Kenya, the event assembled senior representatives from international financial institutions, commercial banks, and key players in the FX and payments sectors. The roundtable featured a dynamic and interactive discussion, focusing on both the challenges and opportunities within Africa’s intricate FX environment.

Leveraging Technology to Unblock FX Flows
The transformative potential of technology in improving FX liquidity and efficiency, while also fostering a more competitive and stable currency market, emerged as a central theme. Participants highlighted various technology platforms that provide access to a wide range of currency pairs, along with real-time market data, which help to mitigate the liquidity challenges posed by Africa’s 41 distinct and often illiquid currencies.

Navigating Regulatory Challenges
Participants also emphasised the need for harmonised regulatory frameworks across the continent to support FX market development. Regulatory inconsistency and changing policies of course create uncertainties for investors and financial institutions, and attendees stressed the need to streamline regulations and adopt best practices to create a more predictable and secure environment for FX transactions.

Enhancing Currency Hedging Solutions
The importance of developing local capital markets and increasing the availability of FX hedging solutions was also highlighted. These tools are essential for mitigating currency risks and providing investors with more options to manage their exposure to volatility.

Pan-African Initiatives: AfCFTA and PAPSS
The discussion underscored the importance of pan-African initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS). These initiatives are crucial in facilitating smoother and more efficient cross-border trade. PAPSS, in particular, ensures instant or near-instant transfers of funds between African countries, significantly reducing the friction and cost associated with currency exchanges.

Raising Awareness Among Local Banks
A critical challenge identified was the need to raise awareness among small-scale local banks about the broader FX landscape and the tools available to them. Many local banks lack the knowledge and resources to effectively navigate the complexities of foreign exchange markets. Strengthening collaboration between international banks and local financial institutions can enhance compliance procedures, improve risk management, and provide centralised treasury solutions. This, in turn, can simplify and reduce the cost of FX sourcing, especially for NGOs operating in crises, and foster a more resilient banking sector across the continent.

Should you have any questions about Africa’s foreign exchange landscape, do not hesitate to contact Karim Anjarwalla