The initiative attracted all sort of companies, those from the financial industry and government enterprises (Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) was one) and each company made a contribution of 50,000 birr to get us started. “We took an office in the chamber and went through the paperwork to get the project off the ground,” Ermias remembers. Luckily, the paperwork was completed and the International Finance Corporation IFC(), the private sector investment arm of World Bank Group, channeled USD 200,000 in support to finance a reputable consulting firm which is hired to check if all the prerequisite paperwork was there for an establishment of an organize exchange.
That was where the consortium decided to invite a government official and launch the project formally and publicly. “In hindsight, that was a fatal mistake in our part,” Ermias remembers. The guest of honor, the then minister of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED), Sufian Ahmed, was quick to write back to the consortium informing them that what they are planning to do is illegal, a sentiment rejected by Ermias completely.
“You see, the the 1960 Commercial Code of Ethiopia was far more progressive in providing for the establishment of an organized stock exchange by a private initiative,” Ermias argues, hence the consortium responded to the minister incorporating legal opinion on the matter. According to Ermias, eventually, the overall tone of the discussion has calmed down and “we were asked to wait for the government while it sets up its regulatory institution”.
Unfortunately, two decades later, Ermias’s and other initiatives have all been shelved; while there is no regulatory institution in sight except a thriving Commodity Exchange, far more complicated and difficult to operate compared to a stock exchange.
However, the capital market saga in Ethiopia is far more complicated than what meets the eye. For one, the overall claim that there is no thriving capital market in the country is not agreeable to experts. For starters, the 16 private banks in Ethiopia are all shareholding companies with diversified ownership base; the same goes for the insurance companies. In the non-banking, shareholding companies’ category as well the country has seen a boom in the past two decades.