So You Think You Can Get Into Forex Trading in Uganda?

If you are a Ugandan, you have probably heard all about the Forex trading and how it looks to be the hottest "new" business in Uganda.

I wanted to invest $ 10,000 together with a cousin in a company that I understand is one of the leaders of Forex trading. While recently in Uganda (May) I even visited their offices and saw a vast array of computers with lots of graphs and a TV turned to Bloomberg TV or other business channel. (The analysts did not however appear busy as I would have expected from watching a lot of "Wall street" movies).

Any I returned to the UK and started saving so as to invest the required minimum. I recently (November) called a good friend in Uganda and often mentioned the idea to him. He casually replied: "I just invested $ 2,500 which the Mrs warned me not to put into that company. They have for the second time missed my monthly payments, which are supposed to be 20.4% interest and principle per month !." He indicated that this company is a ponzi scheme, commonly called a "pyramid" in Uganda.

So is Forex trading the real deal? I set out my observations.

The cons (first of course).

1. Sector unregulated in Uganda

As per an article appearing in the New Vision newspaper:

"… Mr Stephen Kaboyo, the director of financial markets at Bank of Uganda equally disregarded the business despite being in charge of currency markets in the country.

"It is not regulated business. It's really outside our regulatory provision as far as the Forex market is concerned," he said in an interview on Friday. "It's just like any other business. If you are interested, you go in. If you go there and lose your money, you do not complain." Source: All Africa.com

As an unregulated sector, this creates a risk especially for the cautious investor (as anyone should be!) Especially when for example compared to Switzerland, which seems to be the hub of online trading and has a well regulated sector.

This of course may not be a major issue for a typical Ugandan as hardly anything seems to be effectively regulated anyway! In Uganda, it would appear many regulations remain on paper and the Bank of Uganda (BOU) director was somehow just being realistic because in Uganda, its a "dog eat dog" world.

2. Experience / reputation of traders

The sector has only been recently taken off in Uganda and with a myriad of "traders" how does one verify who is "legit" and who is quack? How do you know who is well experienced and who is not? This is compared to the established players like say HSBC who will clearly tell you how the sector is performing. In HSBC if you for example wanted to invest in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) which are a financial investment products not too dissimilar to Forex trading, you would get an investment profile, a comparison with similar other funds as well as the history of that particular investment by that particular fund manager.

3. High Starting capital. A good Forex trader or investment broker will typically ask you to have starting capital of $ 10,000. This is because Forex trading relies on tight margins (called "pips") such that to make you a decent return that they need to invest a fair amount of money. At today's (November 2011) exchange rate, $ 10,000 is about Shs 28m!

And now the Pros

1. Liquidity. The market is huge. Forex trading is the largest type of market in the world and if you open yourself an account say an FX pro account with oanda.com or similar other self traded or managed broker accounts, you will find you can easily buy and sell.

2.Good returns In the Investment and securities market. I am not sure if there is any other business model giving better liquid returns especially at the moment with challenging global markets. Of the various websites of investment managers I have searched, it is not uncommon to find those that give returns typically of 6%. Compare this say to a high saving interest account with Barclays Uganda or Crane Bank which give returns of at most 5%.

You should of course know that like any trade in securities, returns are not usually guaranteed and many a trader post losses particularly those who trade for themselves on trading platforms being promoted by so many online Forex trading companies.

3. It can be an easy sector to deal with Like many investment products such as stocks and other securities, if you have a managed account, then you have a broker handling the business for you. Yes they charge fees (check out their fees and compare with others) but this means you do not have to regularly monitor the position as the brokers do this and will usually send you portfolio statements or even you can view these online and as such can choose to liquid should you wish.

SUMMARY AND THE FINAL WORD

First the numbers

On the basis of my analysis:

* Capital investment (A): Shs 28,000,000

* Revenue per year: (assuming 3.44% interest per month): Shs 11,558,400

* Profit per year (Assuming investment manager fees of 1% of initial capital) (B) is Shs 11,278,400

* Return on capital (years to get capital back or A / B) is 2.48 years

Now the basics you must get right before investing.

* A regulated investment manager / broker is a must.

* A foreign currency account to shield yourself from Forex fluctuations.

* Returns on investment can not be guaranteed especially with the current economic climate. Prepare yourself for either profit or loss.

FINAL WORD, YES OR NO?

In today's world of unpredictability in the securities markets, this appears to be one doing okay irregardless of how the market performances but do your research well and unless you are willing to teach yourself how to be a forex trader (for example at this site) you should seriously consider putting your investment in Forex trading through a reputable investment broker / bank who will manage the account for you.

If necessary, open a foreign currency account in one of the Ugandan banks to handle this aspect and deal with a foreign player who is regulated. For example choose companies that are regulated in the UK by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). There are several scams out there and I do not think its worth investing a significant amount of money in someone who is not tested and tried and does not have quality control mechanisms to protect your money from for example rogue traders or simply inexperienced people.

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