How to Invest on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange

Last week, we took a look at sub-Saharan Africa’s top-performing stocks of 2011. Zimbabwean firms dominated the list. In light of this, I thought it might be helpful to run through the details of actually buying and selling stock on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

Before I begin, however, let me state clearly that investing in Zimbabwe, in my view, entails a significantly higher degree of political risk than does investing in most other sub-Saharan markets. The government of national unity between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC is fragile at best, so don’t invest any money that you can’t afford to lose.

That said, if you’re comfortable with the risks, you’ll find a lot of interesting companies among the exchange’s 78 listed stocks. Moreover, because the Zimbabwean economy has been dollarized, currency risk is not an issue for U.S. investors.

Zimbabwean Stockbrokers

My previous experience investing in Zimbabwe was as an institutional investor. This is a rather different process than investing on your own as an individual. An introducing broker and custodian shepherded us through our transactions. We didn’t have to deal with the nitty-gritty of establishing a working relationship with a local Zimbabwean stockbroker.

So I compiled a list of stockbrokers who trade on the market. (This took a bit of digging because the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange’s website has been down for maintenance for weeks.)

Photo by Kevinzim

I then emailed each broker. I asked them if they catered to foreign investors and, if so, how much they required in order to open an account. Of the dozen or so brokers that I contacted, I found the following four brokers to be especially helpful and responsive.

  • EFE Securities – ($1,000 minimum to open account) Founded in 2003, EFE Securities publishes daily market commentary and occasional company research reports on its website, both of which are available to registered users. Registration is free.
  • Lynton-Edwards Stockbrokers – ($1,000 minimum to open account) One of Zimbabwe’s larger stockbrokers, Lynton-Edwards’ slick website provides stock charts and company results for a selection of firms.
  • MMC Capital – ($10,000 minimum to open account) A relative newcomer, MMC Capital was founded in 2008. Executive Director Itai Chirume is a Chartered Financial Analyst. You can join MMC’s research mailing list via their website.

The process of opening an individual trading account and buying and selling shares is essentially the same for all Zimbabwean brokers. In fact, they even charge the same commissions and fees. They differ only in their minimum funding requirements and the quality of customer service and research they provide.

Trading Costs

Here’s how much it will cost you to buy and sell stock on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange:

Buying Selling
Total Commission and Fees as % of Total Transaction Value 1.73% + US$2.00 2.41% + US$2.00

Note that Zimbabwe levies a 15% withholding tax on dividends. This is deducted by the issuing company before the dividend payment is made.

Opening a Zimbabwean Brokerage Account

Now let’s walk through the process of opening an account and buying your first shares.

Step 1: Complete and Return the Account Opening Form

The account opening form (aka the “Know Your Client” or KYC Form) typically requires disclosure of your passport number or other ID number, your address, and banking details.

Take note here that the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange still issues actual paper certificates as proof of share ownership. So, they will be mailed to you unless you specify that you would like your broker to hold them on your behalf. If you prefer not to hold these certificates in your filing cabinet or safe deposit box, I suggest you ask your broker to set up a Nominee account. This will allow your broker to hold share certificates on your behalf as well as to directly deposit any dividends directly into your trading account.

Step 2: Review, Sign, and Return the Broker Agreement

Most Zimbabwean brokers require a signed broker agreement or mandate form before they will open an individual account. The document outlines the terms of service to be provided.

Step 3: Provide a Certified Copy of Your Passport

If you don’t have a valid passport, a certified copy of your driver’s license may suffice.

Step 4. Provide a Copy of a Recent Utility Bill or Other Proof of Residence

A scanned copy of your electric bill should work just fine.

Step 5. Wire Funds to Your Brokerage Account

After opening your trading account, your broker will provide you with its bank details so that you can fund your account. The most efficient way to do this is via wire transfer. If you haven’t sent an international wire before, I suggest that you take your broker’s bank details to your local bank branch and ask them to walk you through the process. They’ll make sure that your funds arrive securely. Note that most US banks charge about $25 for outgoing international wires.

Step 6. Submit a Trade Order

You’ve done your research and found a stock that you’d like to buy. What now?

While some brokers will request a signed trade mandate form, for most brokers, all you need to do is send an email to your broker with your trade instructions. Keep in mind that some Zimbabwean shares are rather illiquid, so I advise specifying a limit price for all of your orders. This will help you avoid paying significantly more for your shares than you had intended to pay.

Your broker will then execute your trade and send you a contract note that specifies the buy or sell price, commissions, and fees.  Settlement of share trades takes seven days in Zimbabwe, so if you’ve sold shares, don’t expect to receive the proceeds of a sale for an entire week unless you’re willing to incur a penalty to settle the trade more quickly.

Mission Accomplished

That’s it! Follow these steps and you’re a Zimbabwe investor.

The process of opening a foreign brokerage account can be confusing. If you found this walk-thru to be clear as mud, please don’t be shy. Post your questions in the comments, and I’ll do my best to get answers for them.

[If you'd like tips on opening a Kenyan brokerage account, check out this interview on how to invest on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.]

Related Reading

The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange’s New Website is Fantastic

Comments

  1. so this is how the stock exchange functions in zim are there any other things i also need to know

  2. Joseph n njoroge says:

    Are the minimum values indicated above for opening trading account in US dollars, coz if they are, they are locking out many potential individual investors.

  3. How long does it take to receive your proceeds after a sale in Kenya?

    • Kenyan trades settle three business days after the execution date. So, for example, if you executed a trade on the Nairobi Securities Exchange on a Monday, the earliest you could expect to receive the proceeds is on Friday.

  4. Hi Ryan, If you could help me. I plan to begin investing in the stock market here in Zimbabwe. For a first time investor which books/literature do you recommend i read to enhance my knowledge about the stock market? Your help will be greatly appreciated.

  5. Kingdom Stockbrokers is cheap. The minimum amount is USD500.

  6. Hi. I am a very small time investor on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. I traded a bit during the Zim dollar era. My portfolio is managed by FBC Securities. I find them to be very good and responsive. Can you shed some light on Unit Trusts? I want to understand how they work. Are they a worthwhile investment option for a small player?

    • Hi Hazvi,

      Unit trusts (which are similar to our open-ended mutual funds here in the USA) can certainly be worthwhile investments for small individual investors. A unit trust is essentially a managed portfolio of investments (typically stocks and/or bonds). If you invest in a unit trust you are effectively buying representative portions of each stock included in the portfolio. This makes it easy for a small investor to diversify into a large basket of stocks via a relatively small investment.

      The price of a unit trust fluctuates depending on the value of its underlying portfolio. Thus, the manager of the unit trust is an important consideration. Do you trust the manager to make good investment decisions? What is the manager’s strategy for delivering a good return?

      The other factor to consider before investing in a unit trust is its expense ratio. A unit trust manager is paid a percentage of assets invested (typically between 2-5%) to manage the portfolio. The higher this percentage is, the more it will effect your potential return.

      So, consider the unit trust’s strategy, its long-term track record, and its expenses before purchasing.

      Happy Investing!
      Ryan

  7. Hi,

    Great stuff. Once you’ve sold your shares, how much do these Zim investment firms charge you to send your money back to the US?

    Thanks

    • Thanks, L. Apart from the commission and taxes, the only charge incurred should be a wire transfer fee. This typically costs about $15-30.00 for an international wire.

  8. Hey Ryan, your articles are very educational and exciting. I am a student at a local university in Zimbabwe. I have realized that most of my peers lack in-depth knowledge on investing in the stock markets. To this end, together with a group of friends, we have decided to set up an investment club to gain actual investing experience and more knowledge. For university students, how would you advise us to go about the investment process, and where to start? Unit trusts? Stocks?
    Many thanks

    • Thanks, Perry. Investment clubs can be very educational. The Motley Fool has a great guide to starting an investment club.

      The decision to go with a unit trust or with individual stocks depends a lot on how actively club members would like to research their investments. Assuming that you are only contributing money that you don’t need in the near term to pay down debt or for living expenses, I would suggest the club consider investing in individual stocks. You will learn more that way. Researching a company carefully and getting a sense of how it operates.

      Keep us posted on how the club develops! Also, are there many Zimbabwean unit trusts available? I’d love to hear more about them, if you can point me in the right direction.

      Happy investing!

  9. Hi there,

    Would you tell me if there is any dividend tax or capital gain tax on sales of shares in Zimbabwe? What is the average breakage costs or annual fees?

    Since it is a paper share certificate, how do we check for authencity? Do we email the company of the shares we bought to check? Or you just ensure the broker are ethical and reputable? I’m just concerned about fraud.

    Thank you for the great article.

    • There is no Capital Gain Tax on the sale of securities listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange at present.

    • Hi Wendy,

      Great questions!

      As Perry noted, there is no capital gain tax on stock sales in Zimbabwe. There is, however, a 15% withholding tax on dividends. I am not aware of any broker charging an account maintenance fee.

      With the paper share certificate, you will have to trust in the integrity of your broker. I’ve found the ones above to be quite professional, and I have not yet encountered any complaints of fraudulent share certificates.

      If you should run into problems, you can lodge a complaint with the Securities Commission of Zimbabwe.

      Happy Investing!

  10. What is the minimum number of shares you can buy from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange?

  11. The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange now has an up and running interactive and updated website after 2 years without a running website
    http://www.zimbabwe-stock-exchange.com/

  12. Fionah Ncube says:

    i want to buy shares in the Zim stock exchange bt i dont understand the procedure would you please send me something and how it works please

  13. In addition to the 6 steps described above, investors are required to open an account with a custodian to hold their shares. The added costs involved may be significant for retail investors.

  14. Kennedy says:

    Hi Ryan

    When you mentioned about Lynton- Edwards Stockbrokers you said they need a minimum investment of $1000 to open an account but as I went through their website I discovered it is $5000 minimum investment and thereafter $1000 per counter. Now my question concerns the latter part. I understand everytime I want to purchase shares it is going to be $1000 but does the same also apply when am selling?

  15. Hi Ryan,

    Thank you so much for a comprehensive and well presented overview. Valuations Ryan. Most investors are getting into the large caps which have grown tremendously and paid some dividends. Which stock are good buys? In the small cap space, aren’t there good buys too? How does one price the looming election?

    Regards

  16. marshall tariro says:

    I love this stuff. Am still at university, am enjoying this.

  17. I’m a student at a local college, and I have recently purchased stocks on two counters. I’m learning a lot. Besides knowledge, I think experience can help one to become a good investor. Thanks to you, Ryan.

  18. I just need to know a little bit about how the profiting system works. It seems lucrative. Can I have a rough profiting scale for someone starting with US1000 in any better company in Zimbabwe? Please, I need to know.

    • Hi El Taqu,

      I wish I could give you a scale of potential profits, but it’s not possible to do so with any honesty. The truth is that, in theory, you could potentially lose every cent of your investment if the company you invest in goes out of business. And, on the other end of the spectrum, you could theoretically sell your investment for many times more than you originally bought it.

      It all comes down to how the company’s fortunes change over time. If the company does well, and you’ve bought its shares at a good price, the value of your investment should increase over time. If the company performs poorly or you bought shares at an overvalued price, the value of your shares may decline.

      So, what should you do? Buy shares of companies that you know and understand. And buy them at reasonable prices. This will lessen the risk of losing money over the long-term.

  19. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for this incredible article. I was really looking for the one statement that would ease that ‘hard to ease unease’ a lay man always has and you said it in your very last reply:

    “So, what should you do? Buy shares of companies that you know and understand”.

    That’s all i needed to hear at the end of this. Thanks mate.

  20. Hi Ryan,

    I am currently living in Zimbabwe and would like to buy stock outside of the country.
    Is it possible to do that on an individual basis?
    If not do you know which brokers in Zimbabwe buy and sell stock outside of Zimbabwe?

    • Hi Yanna,

      I don’t believe any Zimbabwean brokers trade foreign stocks, but you shouldn’t have a problem opening a foreign brokerage account. Just email a broker from the country where you’d like to invest and ask them to walk you through the steps of opening an account.

      Happy investing!
      Ryan

  21. Munashe Ndoro says:

    Thanks. You have enlightened me a lot. I didn”t have a clue. I have a few questions, though, which are [1] are you the one that chooses shares to buy or the broker? [2] how do you make a profit? Let’s say I invest 1000usd on the ZSE. How much can I get in return and after how long?

    • Thanks, Munashe.

      1) Typically, you are the one that chooses which shares to buy. However, some brokers offer discretionary accounts which will allow them to make trading decisions on your behalf.

      2) You make a profit on a stock in two ways.

      The first way is by collecting dividends. Most Zimbabwean stocks pay a small dividend to their shareholders every year as a way of returning excess profits. This dividend typically ranges between 1-5% of the current share price, but frequently increases over time as the company grows.

      The other way to make money in stocks is by selling shares for a higher price than you bought them for. Share prices can rise over time as the company grows or if investors believe growth is just over the horizon. But please note! There is no guarantee that a stock will gain in value. In fact, they often decrease in value. So, it’s quite possible to lose money trading stocks.

      Because of the risk of losing money, never invest money that you can’t afford to lose, and invest only in stocks that you know and understand.

      Hope this helps!

      All the best,
      Ryan

  22. Hi Ryan,

    What are the basic risks associated with investing on the stock exchange?

    • Hi P,

      There are two ways to lose money on the stock exchange. The first is when the company that you own shares in disappoints investors in some way. This could be if they fail to grow earnings as quickly as expected, or they suffer some misfortune, or if their is a scandal within management. When some negative event like this occurs and surprises the market, the value of your shares will likely decrease. If the company goes bankrupt, you can even lose the entire amount of your investment. Conversely, if the company announces a pleasant surprise (accelerated growth, new opportunities, etc) the share price will typically rise.

      The other risk pertains to the market itself. Sometimes certain stock markets fall out of favor and the share prices of all listed companies decrease. This occurs when investors become gloomy about the economy at large. This happened recently in Zimbabwe upon the announcement of the results of the presidential election. Investors were overwhelmingly unhappy with the outcome, so they sold lots of shares, driving the market lower.

      Another risk to be aware of when investing in small markets like Zimbabwe is liquidity risk. Because relatively few shares trade on the exchange, there is a possibility that there will not be a willing buyer of your shares when you want to sell them. Then you will be forced to wait until a willing buyer emerges, or reduce your sale price low enough to entice a bargain-hunter. This is something to be aware of if you intend to invest in very small companies.

      It is for all three of these reasons that you should never invest money in the stock market that you will need within the next five years. There is no guarantee that any given share will increase in value. Stocks should be seen as long-term investments of money that you can afford to lose.

      Hope this helps and best wishes!
      Ryan

  23. Hi Ryan

    Can you please assist me with model buy and sell instructions to a broker as I am about to join the ZSE in a few days time. I have opened an ordinary savings with FBC Bank and will now have to open for shares with FBC Securities as they provide safe custody.

  24. Thanks, Ryan, for such enlightening posts. I’m a marketer by profession so I’m really learning.

    My question is, “which company outside Zimbabwe can I buy shares in on an individual basis, with US$1000 to start with?”

  25. financial engineer says:

    i would like to know the overall layout of processes used by zimbabwen stock brokers to process their customers’ transactions,what are the stages if any and which stages are manual or automated.thank you

  26. Hi there, writing from South Africa on behalf of a client who purchased shares many years ago in Barclays Zimbabwe, when she lived there, she subsequently moved to South Africa. Still has the share certificate but has no idea how to sell these shares. Any suggestions and a starting point?
    Regards

    • Barclays is still listed on the ZSE. You need to get in touch with their transfer secretaries (Barclays Zimbabwe Nominees (Private) Limited) and follow up on dividends, you may have had some reward given the time you are talking about. Its share price has sort of been trapped in a narrow range on account of indeginization issues.

      • Many thanks for this, Herb, and sorry for my delayed response, Bernard. Opening a brokerage account with one of the above firms may help facilitate the process and allow her to sell the shares if she wishes to.

  27. do we still have companies dealing in unit trusts in zimbabwe , if any , i would like to invest . please advise me

    • Hi Cleo,

      There are still quite several companies offering the product. Old Mutual, Kingdom Asset Management, CBZ`s Datvest Asset Management, BancABC`s ABC Asset Management are some of the companies offering a range of Unit Trusts. They range from Equity Unit Trusts, Money Market Unit Trusts and Property Unit Trusts. The choice between which one to go for depends on your investment objective, size of funds at your disposal as well as risk among several other variables.

      Hope the information helps.

  28. Martha Perez says:

    Hi Ryan, I have been hearing a lot about the 100 trillion Zimbabwe note; what is it, and is it some sort of scam? Thanks and look forward to hearing from you, take care!

    • Hi Martha!

      The 100 trillion Zimbabwe note was printed in the last throes of Zimbabwe’s hyperinflationary period. The Zimbabwe dollar was scrapped back in January 2009 and the country began using the US dollar instead. This brought inflation to a halt. The old Zimbabwe notes have no real value anymore apart from novelty appeal. So, please don’t purchase any for investment purposes!

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