Financial commentators frequently describe investing on frontier stock markets as “adventure capitalism.”
This is a particularly fitting characterization of the Ivory Coast-based Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières (BRVM). Few stock exchanges, after all, need to pack up and temporarily relocate to a neighboring country to avoid running street battles like the BRVM did last year.
But if “Danger” is your middle name this market may prove worth the risk. The market’s composite index lost 42% of its value in dollar terms over the past four years, and a sort of peace has returned to resource-rich Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). That sounds like ideal conditions for bargain-hunting to me.
Note, too, that the BRVM is not the exclusive domain of Ivorian stocks. It is very much a regional stock exchange. Companies from eight Francophone West African countries call the market home. So, if you’re looking for exposure to Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, or Togo, the BRVM is the place to be.
I found two brokers to be particularly helpful and responsive when I asked them if they catered to foreign investors and, if so, how much they required in order to open an account. Both also maintain informative, English-language websites.
- SGI Hudson & Cie – Hudson is a favorite of many western institutional investors. They produce excellent research, which you can sign up to receive on their website. They do, however, require a rather steep $10,000 to fund a new account and a trade will cost 2.76% of the total trade value in commissions, fees, and taxes. Perhaps worth noting is the fact that they are based in Abidjan, the Ivorian capital. This is a real advantage when it comes to researching Ivorian stocks, which comprise the majority of the exchange. Their location could prove to be a liability, however, if violence should again bring Abidjan to a standstill.
- Impaxis Securities – Senegal-based Impaxis may not offer as complete research coverage, but their staff is customer service-oriented (they commit to answer all queries within 24 hours), and their commission structure is considerably more affordable than Hudson’s. A trade through Impaxis will cost 1.34% of the total trade value. They do not require a minimum balance to open an account.
Note that both Hudson and Impaxis will collect all your dividends and deposit them directly into your trading account. That’s pretty nice, because cashing a dividend check denominated in CFA Francs at your local bank branch is well-nigh impossible.
Both Hudson and Impaxis charge a quarterly custody fee in exchange for keeping their clients’ shares all safe and sound. Hudson’s quarterly rate is 0.000825% of total portfolio value, while Impaxis’ is 0.0005%.
Opening a BRVM Brokerage Account
Now let’s walk through the process of opening an account and buying your first shares.
Step 1: Complete the Customer Information Sheet
This account opening form typically requires disclosure of your passport number or other ID number, your address, and banking details. Here’s a sample from Impaxis.
Step 2: Complete the Custody Agreement
Completion of a form like this one will allow your broker to hold your shares in safekeeping for you.
Step 3: Provide a photocopy of the front and back of your driver’s license or passport.
Step 4. Mail original signed documentation to broker with photocopy of driver’s license or passport.
You may email photocopies of all documents to your broker to get a headstart on the account opening process, but they must eventually receive the original information sheet, custody agreement, and photocopy of the front and back of your identity document.
Step 5. Wire Funds to Your Brokerage Account
After opening your trading account, your broker will provide you with its bank details so that you can fund your account. The most efficient way to do this is via wire transfer. If you haven’t sent an international wire before, I suggest that you take your broker’s bank details to your local bank branch and ask them to walk you through the process. They’ll make sure that your funds arrive securely. Note that most US banks charge about $25 for outgoing international wires.
Step 6. Submit a Trade Order
You’ve done your research and found a stock that you’d like to buy. What now?
While some brokers will request a signed trade mandate form, for most brokers, all you need to do is send an email to your broker with your trade instructions. Keep in mind that some shares on the BRVM are rather illiquid, so I advise specifying a limit price for all of your orders. This will help you avoid paying significantly more for your shares than you had intended to pay.
Your broker will then execute your trade and send you a contract note that specifies the buy or sell price, commissions, and fees. Settlement of share trades takes three days on the BRVM, so if you’ve sold shares, don’t expect to receive the proceeds of a sale before then unless you’re willing to incur a penalty to settle the trade more quickly.
That’s it! Follow these steps and you’re a BRVM investor.
The process of opening a foreign brokerage account can be confusing. If you found this walk-thru to be clear as mud, please don’t be shy. Post your questions in the comments, and I’ll do my best to get answers for them.
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11 thoughts on “How to Invest on the Ivory Coast’s Regional Stock Exchange”
I live in Ivory Coast and started a small investment in the BRVM last May with a local bank’s investment arm, Ecobank Investment Corporation. My porfolio increased 18% in value May-Dec and is already up 12% in 2012, and that’s before the dividends are announced, which are often in the order of 10%. With the CFA link to the Euro you’re more sheltered from currency instability (unless of course the euro goes under or the euro peg changes, which it hasn’t since 1994). Agriculture has been a good bet these last few years.
I found your article very interesting and useful and I would like to ask you some questions that I’m having trouble to find some answers.
Is it possible to transfer your capital back to a european bank account after you liquidate your positions in BRVM?
Do you have to incur in any taxes since you are transferring capital from Senegal to other country? Or if you have even to pay a tax on the profits you may make in the stock exchange?
If you don’t have an answer to these where do I find these kind of informations and answers.
Thank you in advance.
Yes, it is possible to transfer your capital back to your European bank account after selling your shares on the BRVM. Just provide your broker with your bank details and they will wire the money to you.
If you are not a resident of Francophone West Africa, you will be subject to a 10% withholding tax on dividends. (Depending on the tax laws in your native country, you may be able to apply for a tax credit or deduction on this withheld tax.)
Cote d’Ivoire does not have capital gains tax, but your home country may still consider capital gains on foreign shares to be taxable income. This is the case in the USA, and US investors must report capital gains from investment in African securities on their tax return.
Hope this helps and happy investing!
This is the first time I am actually reading a practical article on investing in foreign equity.
I hope to take position soon. But for now building my home based portfolio in Nigeria is paramount. Investing possibilities is more incentive for me to at least master the francophone language and make the francophone trips.
Kudos to Ryan for doing a great job!
So happy you found this useful, Emmanuel. Let us know when you make your first investment venture onto the BRVM!
Let me ask you these questions:
1– Does Africa’s BRVM have a mutual fund? If so, can you provide me some of them?
2–Can you give me an example of some stocks in Africa to invest in?
Thank you, may God bless you.
There are a few mutual funds based in Cote d’Ivoire. Here’s a list of them.
Bear in mind that these companies may not invest exclusively in the BRVM. Their mutual funds may invest in other markets, too. So, make sure to clarify this with them before investing.
I will be sharing some of my best African stock ideas in a newsletter to be launched in coming months. Stay tuned!
Mr Ryan, my question isn’t related to the BRVM . But to other foreign exchange options from which I receive day by day many proposals. My concern is credible and legal they are. So inform me about some of them such as FIP COMMISSIONS TEAM, 7 DAY MILLIONAIRE, NEWS CHANNEL 365, TRADING SPY TEAM, PROFIT PROPHECY, FAST INCOME PRO, FREE MONEY SYSTEM, ….
2- Ho to invest in wall street from Africa? Thank you sir.
I’m not familiar with any of the programs in that list, but I would be skeptical of their claims. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
In answer to your second question, I have heard that Saxo Bank (http://www.saxobank.com/) may allow citizens of some African countries to open trading accounts with access to US stock markets.
I hope this helps and happy investing!
Hi Ryan, nice piece! I will like to visit Cote d’voire soon to invest in the BRVM, Kindly provide other stockbroking firms and their contacts if possible. I could not open the websites of the stockbroking firms in your write up. Secondly, do stock broking firms in the BRVM allow investors to trade online?
Thanks for your comment and for bringing my attention to the broken links. The links for Hudson and Impaxis should now work. You can find contact details for all BRVM brokers here:
Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any BRVM brokers that offer an online trading platform. Hopefully, this will be available soon!