The Regulation Of Financial Markets In The Southern African Region – Current Status And Developments

The success of the financial sector is a key component for economic development

The financial markets sector is one important area of public concern in Africa. The need for adequate regulation and supervision of Financial Markets as an important mechanism for the promotion of economic development in African countries cannot be overemphasized. Financial markets regulation remains a very sensitive and complex activity when it comes to governmental policy development, with relation to defining strategic options pertaining to financial regulation. This article reviews the current status of financial farkets, the legal and regulatory frameworks in the Southern African region, with a special focus on selected countries.

The topic under investigation relates to the regulation of financial markets by governments within the Southern African countries both at national and international levels. It attempts to grasp its rationale, objectives, approaches and the practical ways of defining a regulatory framework for a modern African financial market and system. At a time many experts are calling for liberalization of financial services in Africa, it is important to analyze what are the rationale, advantages and implications of financial markets regulation for Southern African countries under the light of new international instruments and standards, such as the Basle II Framework and the WTO Agreement on Financial Services of 1994, whose operational modalities are is still under negotiations on various key aspects.

This paper attempts to examine the institutional and regulatory framework for the financial markets operations in order to understand the underlying principles of financial markets regulation development; to develop a concise outline of financial markets regulation framework within the South African countries; and provide as much as possible a clear understanding of policy development, key issues and challenges relating to the regulation of financial markets in the Southern African region.
The terminology used in the financial markets jargon is considered to be highly technical and can some times be confusing. While we attempt to keep a non technical language through out this paper, it is quite impossible to avoid the specific concepts used in the financial profession. For some key concepts, a concise glossary of most of the technical words is provided at request by the author.

The Southern African region: geographic coverage and scope

The broad Southern African Region considered under the present study is defined with reference to the SADC membership, currently comprising 14 countries, i.e. Angola, Botswana, Congo (the Democratic Republic of), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. However, our scope is limited by the criteria of readily available data, and the level of financial markets development in the countries under investigation. Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo are emerging from long wars and are still rebuilding their economies and financial systems. Both have no formal financial market. Accurate and reliable data is very limited on their systems. The study covers a period of 10 years (1994-2004).

Background overview on Financial Markets

The regulation of Financial Markets, taken as a broad concept, is the process that encompasses regulation, (i.e. the establishment of specific rules of behaviour), the monitoring (i.e. observing whether the rules are respected) , the supervision (a more general observation of the behaviour of financial institutions and operators), and the enforcement (ensuring that the rules are complied with) of the established laws.

The ultimate economic function of financial markets is to mobilize and allocate resources through financial intermediation in order to accelerate the process of economic growth. This function is performed through two distinct but interrelated components of the financial markets, i.e. the money market and the capital market. It provides channels for transferring the excess funds of surplus units to deficits ones. They constitute the mechanism that link surplus and deficit units, attracting funds from savers in the surplus sector and channeling these to borrowers for the purposes of profitable investment.

For the purpose of providing a clear understanding of this topic, it is profitable to present a wide overview of a typical financial system and the place of the financial markets holds within this framework. As a practical illustration, we provide in a table of Annex I, the Conceptual Framework of a typical financial market system (the Case of South Africa).

Financial Systems and Financial Markets development

The financial system in the Southern African region consists of providers and users of financial services. The typical financial system consists of a variety of institutions, instruments and markets that facilitate the flow of financial resources between borrowers and lenders. The financial institutions include moneylenders, banks, insurance companies, leasing companies, venture capital funds, mutual funds and pension funds, brokerage houses, investment trusts and stock exchanges.

Financial instruments involved range from currency notes and coins, cheques, mortgages, corporate bills, bonds and stocks to futures, swaps and other complex derivatives. The markets for these instruments may be organized or may be informal. The users of the markets may be households, businesses and the government. Compared to those of developed countries (Europe, Asia and America), the typical financial markets in the Southern African region are characterized by the absence or a limited number and quality of the financial services providers, the absence of many of the instruments and the lack of depth in the markets.

Financial Markets typology and structure

The financial markets play a very important part in the economy of a country and the well-being of every person. They interact with other markets and have an influence on issues such as wealth, inflation and economic stability in a country. The financial markets have their own characteristics and to be able to regulate them or operate in them, it is important to comprehend these characteristics.

Classification of Financial Markets

Financial Markets can be classified into different categories depending on the characteristic of the market or instrument used to create categories. There exist two ultimate distinctions of financial markets. The primary market, i.e. for the sale of new markets, and the secondary market for already existing securities. The capital market, which is the market for the issue and trade of long-term securities, on one hand and the money market, i.e. the one of short-term securities, on the other hand,
In general terms, the money market is the market where liquid and short-term borrowing and lending take place. The lending of funds in this market constitutes short-term investments. In a certain sense all bank notes, current accounts, cheque accounts, etc. belong to the money market.
In financial market terms, the money market exists for the purpose of issuing and trading of short-term instruments, that is, instruments where the term remaining from the date when trading takes place to the date of redemption of the loan represented by die instrument (commonly referred to as the “term to maturity”), is of a short-term nature. In theory, this term for classification as a money market instrument is given as one year. In practice, however (especially in South Africa), instruments with a term to maturity of three years or less are normally classified as money market instruments although this is not a hard and fast rule.
For the purpose of regulation, the classical typology of Financial Markets recognizes the following major distinctions :

  • the inter-bank and credit markets
  • the Money Market ;
  • the Equity Market ;
  • the Foreign Exchange Market ;
  • the Bond Market (for Government bonds, Corporate bonds, Eurobond market, structured bonds, etc.) ;
  • the Derivatives Market: ( for Futures, Swaps and Options)

Apart from the above mentioned categories, an other important distinction is established between the domestic financial markets and the international financial markets.

The institutional framework for the regulation of Financial Markets.

A financial system cannot be effective without an adequate regulatory framework. For a financial system to be effective and promote healthy economic development, it is important to put in place a sound legal and institutional framework. Various strategies and approaches are generally considered by experts for the development of financial systems. Two major strategies commonly considered are the “evolutionary” and the “proactive” approaches. Other experts have made a distinction between the “go slow” versus the “big bang” approach.
The pro-active strategy provides legal, regulatory and prudential framework which accelerates financial market development through mechanisms, institutions and financial instruments set up for this purpose. This strategy is considered as the appropriate approach for African and other developing countries for three main reasons:

  • Inadequate neutral incentive environment and market forces that are insufficiently strong for financial markets to develop by themselves.
  • Lack of institution-building capacity to determine the pace and strength of financial markets development.
  • Need for flexibility to allow for the use of the most efficient institutional set-up, required training infrastructure and choice of technology that is most suited to the local conditions and level of development.

The Rationale, Principles and Objectives of Financial Markets Regulation1. The necessity for a Financial Market Regulation

      Why regulate Financial markets? This question is central to the subject under investigation in this paper and before we attempt to grasp the rationale and objectives of financial markets regulation, it is important to understand why such regulation should exist in the first place. The necessity for a financial market regulation finds its basis in the same principles applied to the financial sector in general. Borrowing and lending of money create certain risks, namely :

      • That the borrower will not be able to repay the money ;
      • That the lender is receiving a fixed rate on his investment while market rates fluctuate in such a way that the yield on his initial investment is now below current market related rates ;
      • That the value of the capital invested could decrease due to movements in the market. In order to clearly define the rights and obligations of investors, borrowers, operators and intermediaries involved in a financial system and who operate under contractual relationship, it is of the highest importance to develop a cohesive and comprehensive legal and regulatory framework.

The stakes involved in the running of a country’s financial markets are very high and it would be deeply irresponsible to apply the rule of “laisser-faire” in this very sensitive sector. In case some thing would go wrong or the financial system could undergo a serious crisis, it would result into a total collapse of the entire economy.

Such a framework should encourage discipline and timely enforcement of contracts, fostering responsibilities and prudent behaviour on both sides of the financial transaction. For a country’s market to develop and operate efficiently, the legislative and regulatory framework should incorporate rules on trading, intermediation, information disclosure as well as strict sanctions against defaulters and cheaters.

2. The Rationale of Financial Markets Regulation

    The rationale underlying the financial market regulation is the general philosophy and ideological background pertaining to a specific country’s economic orientation, and the type of economic system adopted by the country’s leadership. At present, most of the countries covered by the study are characterized by a “market oriented ” economy. However, some of these countries have been under a centrally planned economy until the 1990s when they dramatically changed their economic orientation. It is the case of Tanzania, Mozambique and Angola. The changes were particularly due to persistent deficits in public budget and their inability to support the considerable burden of state owned companies unable to achieve the target economic performance. This new orientation facilitated the development of more diversified and active financial systems, leading to the creation of Financial markets in Tanzania and Mozambique. Financial Markets have their own unique characteristics and financial operators differ from one country to an other. The financial market framework should facilitate rather than impede the efficient operation of the financial system.

The Principles of RegulationIn theory, there is a distinction between general and specific principles. The following general principles are widely recognized for the formulation of an effective regulatory process:

  • Every regulatory arrangement should be related explicitly to one or more objectives identified;
  • All regulatory arrangements should be justified with respect to their cost-efficiency;
  • The cost of regulatory arrangements should be distributed equitably ;
  • All regulatory arrangements should be sufficiently flexible, in the sense of being amenable to changes in markets, competition and the evolution of the financial system ;
  • Regulatory arrangements should be practitioners- based.

Specific principles are identified as follows:

      a. Principles related to the regulatory structure:

        What is the adequate structure for financial markets regulation. One major issue in Financial markets regulation relates to the number of regulatory and supervisory agencies involved. The issue of the choice between a single regulatory authority or multiple specialized agencies is generally resolved according to the following principles:

        • there is a need to adopt a “functional” as well as an “institutional” approach ;
        • the coordination of regulation by different authorities and agencies will help to achieve consistency ;
        • there should be a presumption in favour of a limited number of regulatory agencies /authorities.

In practice, the institutional and functional approaches need to be employed in parallel because regulatory authorities are concerned with the soundness of institutions, as well as the way in which services are provided.

b. Principles related to the market efficiency :

        These are principles designed to contribute to the promotion of a high level of efficiency in the provision of financial services. They are :

          (a) the promotion of a maximum level of competition among market participants in the financial system, and (b) the securing of competitive neutrality between actual or potential suppliers of financial services. Competitiveness is likely to enhance market efficiency, which in turn causes the removal of restrictive practices that could impair trading in financial assets and the rationalization of market activity.

c. Principles related to market stability :

        These principles are expected to contribute to the promotion of a high measure of stability in the financial system and an appropriate degree of safety and soundness in the financial institutions. There should be incentives for proper assessment and management of risk. It is necessary to impose acceptable minimum prudential standards to be observed in respect of risk management by all financial market participants.

d. Principles related to conflict conciliation :

      Conflict conciliatory principles are designed to resolve potential conflicts arising between regulatory principles themselves. They would involve an integrated approach, aiming at the simultaneous achievement of regulatory objectives, and a target-instrument procedure for the selection of key regulatory instruments in order to facilitate the implementation of an integrated approach.

The Objectives of Financial Markets RegulationFor a Financial Markets system to perform to its highest capacity and level, regulation need to be both effective (i.e. to achieve its objectives) and efficient (i.e. to be cost effective in the use of its resources).

The economic dimension of a financial markets system requires that regulation should not impose unwarranted costs on the economy and consumers, nor impair the efficiency of financial markets. It is therefore necessary to consider a cost-benefits analysis exercise to assess the regulatory requirements.

The more complex a financial market is and more business operators increase, the regulatory process becomes more demanding and requires more specific objectives. Efficient financial regulation requires a multi-dimensional approach and a more optimizing process.

1. The overall objective of financial markets regulation:

    The ultimate objective of financial markets regulation is to achieve the highest degree of economic efficiency and the best consumer protection in the economy.

2. Specific objectives:

      The following Specific objectives can also be highlighted:

      • to secure the stability of the financial system.
          It is important for a country’s economy to run smoothly and the financial sector must be protected against internal or external shocks which might be caused for instance by ineffective or inefficient trading clearing and settlement systems or a major lack of market liquidity ;
      • to ensure institutional safety and soundness.
          The regulatory framework should be extremely cautious and avoid to impose obstacles or barriers that would impair the safety and soundness of financial institutions, which need to be profitable and have sufficient capital to cover their risk exposure and face global competition ;
      • to promote consumers’ protection:
          It is crucial for a financial market to impose integrity, transparency and disclosure practices in the supply of financial services.

Concluding RemarksIn all Southern African countries, as it is in all countries of the world, the financial system is more regulated than any other industry. On the consumer protection grounds and others highlighted in this study, it is universally accepted that this should be so. Existing empirical evidence suggests that regulatory arrangements have a powerful impact on the size, structure and efficiency of financial systems, the business operations of financial institutions and markets, and on competitive conditions in the systems.

The success of a financial markets regulation depends basically on the capacity of the regulators to define the objectives of the regulation and also on the way the regulatory arrangements are related to their objectives.

Some of the countries in the Southern African Region which were able to promote a dynamic and effective regulatory framework, such as Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius, Zambia, Zimbabwe and in particular South Africa, are benefiting from the positive development of financial markets, with an unprecedented flow of capital from foreign investors.

However the financial systems in the region are still limited, in terms of the number of operators, quantity and quality of instruments and the depth of the systems. And there is still need to develop regulatory institutions, structures and mechanisms that can maximize the explicit objectives of regulation while minimizing the costs of services.

The author, is an International Consultant on Trade and Investment, Director of InterConsult Mozambique and is the Representative of Emerging Market Focus (Pty) in Mozambique. This insight paper is aimed at advising investors and business people involved in international trade by providing them with accurate legal data on the institutional and legal framework of Mozambique and the Southern African region.

While we take the utmost care to verify the information we provide, we do not endorse any responsibility for undesired or unpredictable consequences arising from decisions made on the basis of this article. The ideas and opinions expressed herein do not represent the position of Interconsult or of EMF. Commentaries are encouraged, by contacting the author at For professional legal assistance on specific issues, please visit EMF website at []

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