Keeping an eye on the continent

Maryanne Maina

Maryanne Maina

Economic research in Africa plays a major role in the development of polices for the continent.

Firms such as African Alliance also use economists such as Maciek Szymanski to advise investors on the hot investment spots on the continent.

"I am responsible for group economic research in Africa, including macroeconomic trends, policy evaluation, fixed income analysis and currency forecasts," said Szymanski, an economist at African Alliance.

"Economics is very appealing to the human mind. It is the psychology of business, studying the choices people make in business," he said.

African Alliance trades in 20 countries across the continent and has eight stock broker firms in these countries.

Szymanski is tasked with the role of working with the stockbrokers, collating research information on these countries for various projects.

"Our business model is to open Africa to the rest of the world for investment purposes by giving the prospective and current investors detailed information," he said.

"It's important to understand risks and perceptions of a market, as well the foreign polices of different countries which is crucial for investment decisions."

Szymanski obtained a bachelor of commerce degree in economics at Wits University.

Prior to his current job, he worked at Rand Mutual Assurance as an actuarial consultant after his studies. He then joined KPMG Risk Financial Management as a senior economist.

Szymanski says working as an economist requires intuition, quantitative skills, general reasoning, decision making skills, research ability, absorbing data and interpreting it.

His day starts with a team meeting to discuss market related issues affecting clients. This is followed by client meetings in various countries. Research material is sourced from news publications, news agencies and companies that provide country specific information.

"Knowing the political situations in different countries is essential," he said. "You also need to engage various stakeholders such as policy makers and investors."

But, lack of adequate information does provide hindrances in the business. "The challenge we face is that some countries lack statistics that we need to make certain investor decisions, so we find alternate ways to manage this issue."

Joining a body such as the Investment Analyst Society of South Africa is beneficial to anyone in this profession.