Kigali 12 February 2015
Allow me to warmly welcome each one of you to Rwanda for this important event. Please feel at home, and get to know our country and our people. And if you are so inclined, you are most welcome to stay.
Rwanda is pleased to co-host this conference together with the International Finance Corporation, a valued partner in our region and beyond. I thank the Milken Institute and other sponsors and supporters as well.
Last year the IFC became the first foreign entity to issue a local currency bond on the Rwanda Stock Exchange, demonstrating again that the best thought-leaders, in many cases, are also action-leaders.
The business case for the development of capital markets is self-evident. They mobilise savings for productive investment, while the price discovery mechanism makes the economy more efficient, dynamic, and transparent. It is no accident that robust capital markets are a defining feature of every advanced economy.
No one knows that better than those of you assembled here today. I would like therefore to focus my remarks on the wider context in which these efforts unfold.
First, even though capital markets seem to be about money, ultimately they are about people.
Commodities and futures markets stabilise the price of essential food products, and even help prevent famine. Debt markets enable banks to expand access to small-business loans and mortgage finance.
Retail investment products, like bonds and mutual funds, allow families to diversify and protect their assets, in order to plan for important life goals, such as education and retirement.
Private gain and public good need not be in conflict. The policies and regulations which we adopt should reinforce this principle. Africa’s capital markets should be as resilient and inclusive as Africa itself.
Second, the inadequacy of our capital markets, where they exist at all, should be understood historically.
By their very nature, capital markets require a certain scale and depth in order to function. But Africa’s legacy of political and geographic fragmentation prevented their formation.
As a result, we are much poorer than we have any reason to be, because we have lacked the ability to accumulate our own wealth.
No country on our continent, on its own, is big enough or rich enough to build and sustain the markets that Africa needs. Regional, continental, and even global integration is more essential than ever before.
In working to prioritise capital market development, we are opening a new chapter in our story of liberation, by addressing the deeper structural deficiencies that have kept Africa at the margins of the world economy.
Third, modern capital markets are not physical places, they are complex pieces of technology.
The days of rushing around a trading pit, shouting orders to buy and sell, are long over. We see again that ICT infrastructure and technology education are absolutely central to our future.
New innovations make it possible to join our fractured markets together into a common pool of information and capital in ways that were unimaginable only a few years ago.
Finally, however, no amount of technology can ever substitute for trust. Markets only work when participants believe they are fair and transparent.
In this regard, the quality of corporate governance in our region must be raised, so that East African companies are able to grow into corporations with continental and global reach.
Capital markets depend on integration, technology, and trust. They are part of the infrastructure of optimism, upon which Africa’s prosperity rests.