New investment platform for those seeking to trade African stock markets

Wala co-founders Robel Yemane (left) and Leo Hermoso

Wala co-founders Robel Yemane (left) and Leo Hermoso

Wala, launched in October 2020, is an investment platform to analyse equities, ETFs and other asset classes trading on African stock exchanges. Co-founders Robel Yemane and Leo Hermoso answer our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Wala is a financial data and analytics platform to research African stocks and understand market trends. In addition to company data and news, the platform offers features such as an AI-based company sentiment tracker and a backtester for fundamental and technical indicators, a useful tool to identify trading opportunities. Our charts and dashboards allow users to interpret data and turn it into information.

The name Wala refers to the watchtowers built by farmers in Eritrea to guard and watch over their crop fields. By climbing the Wala, the farmers can see their fields and the horizon clearly.

2. How does your offering differ from products such as Bloomberg and Refinitiv Eikon?

Advanced research tools cost up to $25,000 per year, rendering them out of reach for most market participants. Consequently, many investors make investment decisions with the rudimentary financial data and functionality offered by mass market financial websites and online brokers.

Wala is built with the trader in mind and features the functionality that matters to them. We believe we are on a path to disrupt the industry by simply being better and cheaper than other professional tools in the market. The Wala web app is currently free with a premium tier release planned for 2022.

A screenshot of the Wala platform.

A screenshot of the Wala platform.

3. Give us an overview of your background and why you started Wala.

Robel: My experience with financial markets started back in 2010 – mostly trading options and forex. The lack of a central data platform for African equity markets was a problem I came across while I was doing research on African listed companies back in 2019. I had to look for data in different places. While several companies claimed to offer modern and accessible African investment research platforms, I found their products lacking.

Initially we put the idea on the back burner as my co-founder Leo was occupied with developing a quantitative trading platform. We started working on Wala around October of last year and I’m really happy that the two of us managed to deliver the platform within a very short time.

Leo: I have been in the financial market since 2007. I traded and coded for big institutions in Brazil. Decentralisation is the new democracy; being able to deliver the right information and tools not only levels the game but decentralises power, thereby creating an environment of fairness in investments.

4. Who is your target market?

Our main target customers are domestic retail investors and institutional traders. Trading activity on African stock exchanges – including South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco and West Africa’s BRVM – are dominated by domestic players. Wala’s data-based analytics tools help these traders to make informed decisions about the market. We are also working on building out a knowledge zone where local financial experts will provide educational content on fundamental stock analysis.

5. What are the biggest challenges of growing the platform?

We’re dealing with a lot of different data providers. Gathering data is our biggest challenge at the moment. But with enough capital and human resources we believe we will build the best data pipeline and unleash the true potential of our platform.

The lack of cross-border African securities trading is also a huge challenge. We hope to see the successful launch of the African Exchanges Linkage Project (AELP) as it will benefit our platform.