The first text that creates a community anchor for the criminal repression of market abuse since the establishment of the financial market in 1996, the uniform law introduces new crimes and considerably broadens the arsenal available to the authorities. On the firing line, in particular, the irregular solicitations for investments by the general public accompanied by misleading promises, with respect to which the authorities could have appeared quite powerless in the absence of criminal repression of the behaviors in question.
However, the range of measures is wider and mainly concerns the actors of the regional financial markets: more rigorous supervision of financial information disseminated by issuers, repression of illicit behavior (insider trading, price manipulation, etc.), it is therefore a matter of actual update of the WAMU regional stock market law which operates, with the aim of strengthening confidence and ultimately increasing the number of companies listed on the BRVM and the capital raised therein.
This movement of stock exchange adaptation is also global and initiatives are multiplying to strengthen both their competitiveness and their integration and thus exploit the potential of African markets, at the center of the African Securities Exchanges Association conference hosted this year by the Casablanca Stock Exchange. values.
Still battered by the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the continent’s economies naturally have every interest in accelerating the development of capital markets and thus increasing the diversification and long-term investment opportunities of local players, including SMEs.
The stakes are high both for the public sphere (given the fertile ground constituted by public companies and which could see in the path of the stock market an adequate structure for total or partial privatization), the actors of the private equity (the IPO route still represents only a minimal share – 2% in 2019 according to the AVCA professional order – of the exits made by investment funds), only for investors, in particular the general public, the investment on the stock exchange that can be an alternative sight or term savings deposits with credit institutions.
At the forefront of digital developments, African economies have significant assets in this sense, with additional skills to mobilize savings and integrate – also at the infrastructural level – the latest financial transformations (blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, etc.).
However, these assets are not decisive; as part of the efforts needed to revitalize financial markets, the ability of the right to generate and maintain trust is a key element.
From this point of view, the aforementioned uniform law constitutes a decisive step forward, even if the criminalization of illicit behavior must be a tool of last resort, confined to the most serious acts, and which must not harm the essential role of regulators and their ability to listen and collaborate with market players, in particular broadcasters and managers. The involvement of these actors alongside public authorities is also often essential, both in promoting the financial and stock exchange culture of the general public and in the initiatives undertaken to improve corporate governance practices.
As a determining factor, market integrity must therefore undoubtedly be understood in an innovative and holistic way, in connection with the growing expectations of a different type of growth and insisting on a better understanding of the challenges our societies face, related to in particular to the reduction of inequalities and sustainable development.
In this new paradigm that is emerging before our eyes, the capital markets are destined to play an important role; by encouraging transparency and inclusion, they are in fact an essential link in contributing to this more sustainable growth.
(*) Lawyer with the Paris staff
(**) Lawyer with the Bar Associations of Paris and Burkina Faso