On Tuesday, 6 October 2022, the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) announced the appointment of Alhaji (Dr) Umaru Kwairanga as its new Chairman. This followed the Group’s first AGM as a for-profit organisation held on September 30th where a number of other significant decisions were reached toward repositioning the company for a brighter future.
The new Chairman, Alhaji Kwairanga is particularly suited for the role and for the job at hand. His depth of Capital Market experience and involvement on the Boards of multiple blue-chip companies provides the requisite skill set to lead NGX. Most strategic to this task is the ability to make the capital market attractive to the younger generation. Research indicates that most Nigerians, gender and occupation regardless, between the ages of 22 and 39 have a great deal of apathy towards the capital market. Their attention appear to have been captured by more contemporary and innovative alternatives like cryptocurrencies and other digital assets thus the Exchange needs to find new ways to attract them without compromising its core tenets. He has to lead the charge to ensure that the Exchange moves its Market Capitalization as a percentage of GDP from its current 12.6% back to the 29.7% levels last seen in December 2007 or better still, compete with our African peers like Morocco (53.8%) and South Africa (331.0%).
It is apt to state that the core objective of the Exchange is more patriotic than commercial. Its single purpose is the formation of long-term capital to fuel the entrepreneurial and commercial spirit of the nation. The assumption is that the wealth of a nation is indexed to its performance and there cannot be economic growth and long-term development without a vibrant, effective and highly innovative Exchange.
The Current Group Managing Director of NGX, Oscar N. Onyema (OON) ushered in the most strategic era of the Exchange with the successful negotiation and resultant demutualization of the Exchange. That singular achievement distinguished his administration relative to his predecessors. However, in the three weeks prior to the last AGM, most market watchers and stakeholders expressed displeasure at the delayed pace of the transition of the Exchange, rightly so, but this delay must be viewed in light of the complex interest and multiple stakeholders of the Exchange in addition to legacy considerations.
It will be inconsiderate to craft the future of the NGX without a retrospective view on how we got here and the sacrifices that were made. Such a review avails us the opportunity to learn and avoid a repeat of past mistakes and a greater sense of appreciation of those that made it possible. The Nigerian Stock Exchange (“NSE”) was established in 1960 and is currently one of the largest exchanges in Africa. The likes of Alhaji Aliko Dangote (GCON), Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede (CON), Oba Otudeko (CFR), who, in recent times, served as Presidents of the Exchange enormously contributed to its success. I have always regarded the President of the Stock Exchange as the prime capitalist honor in the country with a roll call of economic heavyweights that dates back to Sir Louise OdumegwuOjukwu who was its first and founding president. It is thus a bitter-sweet feeling that the office, in its original form, no longer exists.
As a shareholder in the NGX Group, we, at VFD Group, are committed to the dreams of the forefathers of this Great Exchange; to be the primary platform for the mobilization of capital that would act as the major catalyst to awaken the African giant “Nigeria” through Entrepreneurial capitalism, long term finance, transparent price discovery and wealth creation culminating in significant economic development and wealth re-distribution.
When I spoke with the new Chairman last week, I said and I quote, “Sir, you are one of the very few men that have the experience, skill set and span of contacts and relationships to repurpose the Exchange for its continued relevance”. The die is cast, and the clock is ticking. It is time for us to go to work with the objective of building Africa’s Largest market infrastructure holding company.
VFD Group as a prominent investment company in Nigeria views the NGX Exchange as our strategic partner and the mirror through which we measure our performance. We currently have investments in over forty (40) companies that are destined to be listed on the capital market. It is therefore in our interest for the leadership of the Exchange, led by Alhaji Kwairanga, to do well. As a significant shareholder in the NGX, we stand ready to support Alhaji Kwairanga and the Board in the tough and exciting days ahead.
Written by Nonso M. Okpala, GMD of VFD Group Plc which owns 5% equity stake in NGX Group Plc.