- An OTC market facilitates direct trader interactions without the need for a formal securities exchange.
- Bond dealers in brokerage entities stand to be affected should the OTC market gain traction and foster direct engagement between traders.
Kenya approved the commencement of secondary bond trading outside the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) in a bid to enhance competitiveness in the country's capital markets.
The over-the-counter trading will be facilitated by the East Africa Bond Exchange, a public firm supported by the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), a lobby for the banking industry.
An OTC market facilitates direct trader interactions without the need for a formal securities exchange.
All transactions are electronically captured and conducted bilaterally between engaged parties, without intervention from established securities exchanges.
This move follows closely on the heels of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Staff Report, which, after the sixth review of Kenya’s $4.43 billion (Sh717.3 billion) programme, revealed the government’s commitment to establishing an OTC automated exchange to complement NSE operations.
The initiation of this trading sets the stage for competition with the Nairobi Securities Exchange for the approximately Sh734 billion annual bond turnover.
KBA CEO Habil Olaka said that the exchange would facilitate the trading of fixed-income assets such as repurchase agreements and treasury securities, fostering East Africa's financial integration.
"This is the most significant capital markets infrastructure in Kenya and the wider East region in decades. It promises to uplift the regional fixed income markets to world-class status,'' Evans Osano, director of capital markets at FSD Africa said.
He added that the initiative will be instrumental in mobilising long-term currency financing for East African economies.
EABX’s OTC market marks its third milestone, following a no-objection approval for set up in 2020 and capital-raising approval in 2023.
The introduction of an OTC market for bond trading aligns Kenya’s fixed-income activity with Nigeria, where the Nigeria Stock Exchange and FMDQ Group have operated side by side, the latter focusing on OT bond trading since 2012.
Despite Kenya’s initial lead in bond market reforms a decade ago, the CMA has acknowledged Nigeria’s leapfrogging success due to its well-established OTC bond trading market.
Luke Ombara, CMA’s director for Policy and Market Development, highlighted the potential of OTC trading, emphasizing its less onerous requirements compared to centralised exchanges.
The NSE, which garnered an average of Sh73.2 million per annum in bond levies over the last two years, may face revenue loss if bond market activity shifts toward EABX.
Bond dealers in brokerage entities also stand to be affected should the OTC market gain traction and foster direct engagement between traders.
This is happening at the time NSE is grappling with subdued activity in the equities market and represents the second major change in Kenya’s bond market in under six months, following the launch of the online bond trading platform, DhowCSD, last year.