By John Ikani
Despite years of stability of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, many Nigerian youths are diversifying and hedging their investment portfolios from the country’s high inflation and devaluation, through virtual currencies, online bets and international stocks, The Guardian reports.
Already, yields from many invested entities in the last 10 years are of little value to many holders of such stocks today, especially if the dividends of below N1 per share are anything to go by.
The present inflationary trend and currency devaluation compound the woes of many investors in traded equities on the Nigerian stock market, as many shares are currently selling at the lowest possible value.
With the gradual shift from the financial markets, stakeholders express worry about the future of the N20 trillion stock market and its fund-raising capacity if youths maintain the current pattern and interest in short-term investments. Operators have expressed fear of likely losing the participation of this group in stock market activities by the time the older generation leaves the stage.
According to them, the Nigerian stock market will continue to lose relevance and, in a decade, might just become extinct going by this dangerous trend.
Indeed, the number of young people who buy stocks has plummeted in the last decade. Figures have shown that only a significant percentage of this group participates in stock market activities.
The exact definition of a millennial does not exist but vaguely, it refers to a person born between 1980 and 1990s. Yet, regardless of the precise definition, these are people who are now in their mid-lives.
Based on the foregoing, Vice President of Highcap Securities, Imafidon Adonri, said it has become imperative for traditional investment opportunities to be made more attractive for young investors. He pointed out that if the interests accruable to investments were increased, it would definitely encourage millennials to consider buying shares, treasury bills and other investment instruments in the nation’s capital market.
He, therefore, urged the authorities to work towards ensuring that investor confidence is guaranteed by addressing current macroeconomic concerns, promoting issues of national development, tackling prevailing stock market volatility and restoring the market to sustainable rebound.
According to him, young investors who have once seen their parents incur losses in the market may never invest their money in the same loss-making venture.
During the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, millennials were young but mature enough to experience what the stock market crash could mean for their future. Just over a decade ago, countless people lost their jobs, houses, savings and were left homeless.
Millennials remember the entire crisis, as well as its aftermath and the blame that stocks had in it. Erasing these from memory is not easy and millennials who are already struggling to find decent employment and competitive salaries cannot be asked to risk their savings. After the crash, millennials have become focused on their immediate needs.
Adonri said due to the high level of financial illiteracy in Nigeria and the penchant of youths for internet addiction, it was not difficult for cryptocurrency ventures to penetrate in Nigeria. He pointed out that Nigerians also have an unusually high appetite for taking risks with their ‘get rich quick attitude.’
He said Nigerians have repeatedly fallen victim to several fraudulent and pyramidal schemes in the past 30 years, including Forum, Umana Umana, Planwell Watershed, Nospecto and MMM with cryptocurrency as the reigning defrauding scheme.
He called for a conscious effort to attract the ‘displaced millennials’ to the capital market where their fortunes are better assured, secured and preserved, adding that strong and decisive regulatory actions from the government are necessary to prevent the exposure of youths to harmful financial schemes.
In the area of awareness, Adonri urged the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS) to visit schools to ‘catch’ young investors. He said CIS should also engage the Federal Ministry of Education for the inclusion of capital market studies in school curricula.
Adonri noted that the exchange has a yearly essay programme, which is designed to stimulate students’ interest in capital market investment. “The stock exchange has many outreach programs to enlighten the public on investments. With the migration of capital market transactions to the internet, young people who are addicted to the Internet can easily switch to the capital market.”
However, he argued that these laudable efforts would be meaningless if fraudulent schemes are allowed to proliferate. He also expressed optimism that the youths will be attracted naturally to the capital market if their investment will be profitable, liquid and safe.
An independent investor, Amaechi Egbo, maintained that the market might fall out of relevance and become extinct if urgent steps are not taken to reverse the trend. He blamed youth apathy in stock market activities to various crisis bedeviling the nation’s capital market, ranging from the 2007/2008 global financial crisis, the over N700 billion trapped in private placement scams during the era of stock market boom and the sale of the three nationalised banks as some of the factors that have eroded investors’ confidence in the market.
Available figures showed that millennials prefer other assets such as microfinance banks, FinTech products, Ponzi schemes and cryptocurrencies to stocks. This is in spite of warnings by regulatory authorities that some of these assets do not meet minimum regulatory requirements to qualify as tradable financial assets.
For microfinance banks, they claim interest from this segment is as high as 18 per cent yearly if the deposits are significantly higher and have a long retention rate. The allure for FinTech is also of financial interest to young Nigerians.
In Nigeria, most FinTech-related products are sold to millennials as AgriTech funds or pure peer-to-peer lending. The more esoteric AgriTech funds involve playing in a market that allows one to lend money to farmers in parts of the country one may never visit. They promise significantly higher returns than traditional investment and offer low rates of investment loss.
For risk-loving millennials, ponzi schemes are the preferred form of investing. Ponzi scheme is an investment that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. The organisers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk.
According to the yearly report of the Nigeria Electronic Fraud Forum, which was unveiled in 2017, the Nigerian investing public lost N11.9 billion to the Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox (MMM) ponzi.
The apex stock market regulator, in collaboration with officials the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had visited major newspapers and radio stations, warning innocent Nigerians of the dangers of investing in Ponzi schemes.
Former Ag Director-General of SEC, Ms Mary Uduk, said the commission was committed to sensitising investors and protecting them from the antics of fraudsters, especially promoters of Ponzi schemes.
On cryptocurrency, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had also warned that transactions in these digital assets are largely speculative, volatile and should be discouraged, thus prohibiting cryptocurrencies transactions by Deposit Money Banks (DMBs).
Acting Director of Communications of the CBN, Osita Nwanisobi, said: “Evidence now suggests that some cryptocurrencies have become more widely used as speculative assets rather than as means of payment, thus, explaining the significant volatility and variability in their prices.
“Because the total number of Bitcoins that would ever be issued is fixed (only 21 million will ever be created), new issuances are predetermined at a gradually decelerating pace. This limited supply has created a perverse incentive that encourages users to stockpile them in the hope that their prices rise.
“Unfortunately, with a conglomeration of desperate, disparate, and unregulated actors comes unprecedented price volatility that has threatened many sophisticated financial systems.”
A professor in the Department of Business Law, College of Law, Igbinedion University, Okada, Nat Ofo, said the focus should be on how to adapt to emerging technology to make systems and practices in Nigeria 21st century compatible. He pointed out that investment in digital assets offers convenience and opportunities to disillusioned youths who seem uncared for by the authorities.
“Cryptocurrency presents a golden opportunity, which decision-makers in both the private and public sectors must embrace and begin to explore to add real value to their operations. Indisputably, it is the future, but that future is before us. It is here. We are in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). It is an age that is technology-driven. Little wonder, therefore, that youths are naturally being attracted to it, since they are more tech-savvy.”
He argued that it is a misconception to conclude that contemporary Nigerian youths are attracted to cryptocurrency because of their desire to get rich quickly.
Stockbroker and Chief Executive Officer of Sofunix Investment Limited, Sola Oni, said the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) Investor Education Policy (IEP) captured the need to bring millennials to the capital market ecosystem, as the future class of savvy investors.
He said the exchange is aware that any business that fails to factor millennials into its target customers is on a gradual slope to extinction.
“Capital market appreciates the fact that the future of the market belongs to the youths, especially millennials and generation Y. A lot of programmes have been designed to attract these groups of future investors. They are called digital natives and all they need is for the market to be accessible digitally,” he said.
With decentralised digital currencies like bitcoin becoming increasingly popular, already, plans are afloat for the CBN to launch its digital currency before 2022. Rakiyat Mohammed, a Central Bank Director in charge of the Information Technology Department, revealed this last Thursday.
A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) represents a country’s official currency in digital form. As against printing money, the apex bank issues electronic coins and notes that are backed by the government, unlike existing cryptocurrencies. The CBN has made “tremendous progress” exploring the technology for a digital currency for over two years now, Mohammed revealed at a press briefing after a meeting of the Bankers’ Committee.
The announcement comes on the back of efforts by Nigerian authorities to regulate the use of decentralised cryptocurrencies in the country. The apex bank in February directed all local banks to close accounts linked to crypto platforms.
Despite the clampdown, Nigerians continue to use digital currencies as a store of value and remittance tool.