Uganda’s financial markets index declines - report

Guests including NSSF boss Patrick Ayota (2nd R) and Bank of Uganda deputy governor Dr Michael Atingi-Ego (C) attend the Absa Africa Financial Markets Index Report launch in Kampala on February 6, 2024. PHOTO/HANDOUT 

What you need to know:

  • The Absa Africa Financial Markets Index is measured by six pillars. 

Uganda’s Absa Africa Financial Markets Index (AFMI) score declined to 62.8 in 2023, from 64.4 in 2022, but the country maintained its 4th position in the index on the continental bloc.

AFMI, now in its seventh year running, evaluates countries' financial development based on measures of market accessibility, openness and transparency. It aims to show how economies can reduce barriers to investment and boost sustainable growth.

AFMI is measured based on 6 pillars; market depth, access to foreign exchange, market transparency, tax and regulatory environment, capacity of local investors, macroeconomic environment and transparency plus legal standards and enforceability.

Presenting the AFMI and economic outlook for 2024 on Tuesday, Absa Bank Uganda executive director David Wandera said Uganda’s score in access to foreign exchange fell by 10 points to 67 due to relatively lower scores for interbank foreign exchange turnover and international reserves adequacy.

“Reserves declined by almost 18% to $3.6 billion in 2022, equivalent to 3.4 months of imports, from 4.6 months a year prior,” he said.

But Wandera noted that Uganda fared better in the pillar of macroeconomic environment and transparency.

“Its score rose by 1 point to 86 and the country retained its second position,” he added.

According to him, the improvement was driven by a small fall in external debt to 26.8% of gross domestic product in 2022, from 27.7% in 2021.

Experts say the country continues to score highly for its policy transparency, macroeconomic data standards and relatively low inflation rate.

“Uganda also performed well in Pillar 6. The score was unchanged at 85% although there are signs of progress as it became the seventh AFMI country to have adopted netting legislation according to the International Securities and Derivatives Association,” he said.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s score in Pillar 3 was also unchanged at 79 with Wandera stressing that progress has been driven by the development of environmental, social and governance standards.

He added that Uganda’s finance ministry last year expressed intent to develop a framework for green bond issuance.

Areas for improvement

Uganda’s lowest score was in Pillar 4 which tackles capacity of local investors. It fell by 1 point to 14, as pension fund assets per capita slipped to $119 in 2022, from $125 in 2021. They remain small compared to the index average of $847.

“Building liquidity in domestic markets is another key area for improvement. Turnover across listed equities was just 0.3% of market capitalisation in the year to June 2023. Limited liquidity in domestic bond markets also restrains Uganda’s score in Pillar 1 (Market depth) where it ranks eighth,” he said.