South Africa has been reported to have a low savings and investment culture. Compared to its peers in BRICS, South Africa has had the lowest savings as percentage of GDP since 2003. Analysts and economists have argued that this is as a result of the country being a predominantly consumption-led economy, rather than investment led.
This is the problem that a South African startup, EasyEquities, is trying to solve by making investing easy, fun and affordable.
"We believe that this investment revival should be led by investments in securities on the JSE." said Almero Oosthuizen, VP of Business Development at EasyEquities, eloborating on what led to the founding of the FinTech startup.
![Purple Group EasyEquities team](/content/images/2017/05/people-img2.jpg)
Purple Group team (Company that owns EasyEquities).
It is not that South Africans don't want to make money through investing, apart from the country's high unemployment rate and high debt levels, there's also certain perceptions around investing in listed shares.
As Oosthuizen explains, one of the primary reasons that most South Africans don't is that it is viewed as expensive given the brokerage fees and monthly account costs. The other reason, and equally as important a barrier to share investing as the first, is that it is complex and intimidating for the average South African consumer.
South Africa's share investments by number of trading accounts has been so poor that the number of 280,000 trading accounts open has remained stagnant for a period of approximately 10 years.
EasyEquities is looking at changing that with their innovative digital trading platform.
Founded by Charles Savage, who is also the CEO, EasyEquities say their aim is to "democratize the stock exchange". One of the ways they do this is by reducing the fees associated with share trading to enable people with as little as less than a $1 (R10) to invest in the stock market.
Normally in South Africa, brokers charge a fee when executing a trade for a client on the Johannes urg Stock Exchange (JSE). This fee is a fixed amount (regardless of the value of a trade) of around $9 (R120) and it is paid to various parties, including the JSE, Strate (clearing and settlement) and Central Securities Depository Participants (licensed under Strate to provide custodial services of electronic securities). To overcome this EasyEquities has setup a "Nominee" structure. This allows them, in simple terms, to group all share investments in the same stock together and only pay one fee for the share purchases and passing on the cost savings to their customers.
Furthermore, as part of enabling people to invest with whatever little money they have, EasyEquities also allows its customers to purchase a fraction of a share if they can't afford the full share price. This is one of EasyEquities most notable differentiators and it is possible because of a patented solution called Fractional Share Rights (FSRs).
Being able to invest in listed shares for as low an amount as the price of a loaf of bread has the potential of alleviating South Africa's poor savings and investment culture. Also, it means more people stand a chance to benefit financially when some of the country's top companies perform well on the JSE.