Forex bureau business is lucrative in Ghana and other West African countries. It is a vibrant business in Nigeria and Ghana, as well as neighbouring countries like Togo and Benin. Bureau de Change as referred to in most of these countries also carries very high risk. But if well managed, the business is one of the most profitable in the region.
Forex market in the region
The forex market in the region is not as big and deep, nor as active and regulated as those found in Europe and America, but the system is functional and demand for the service is high. West Africa doesn’t use a single currency like Euro for some European countries. The fragmented monetary units and the vibrant regional trade makes forex trade an active one especially around the borders and within the major trading hubs. From Cote d’ivoire to Ghana to Togo to Nigeria, one country’s currency is exchanged for another, to enable commercial trades. The region is heavily cash-based and this is where forex bureaus come in handy.
How to start
In Ghana, forex bureaus are licensed before they begin active operations. Prior to that, a provisional license could be issued, pending your meeting certain requirements. The first step you take is to incorporate a business. Then you apply to the central bank (Bank of Ghana) for an operating license.
In Ghana, no person shall carry on any forex bureau business unless is in possession of a forex bureau license. It is an offense to operate this business in Ghana without a license. A forex bureau may be established by any eligible corporate body or institution duly licensed by the Bank of Ghana to buy foreign currency and draft and sell foreign currency. A forex bureau applicant however must be of a Ghanaian nationality.
An applicant shall first register with the Registrar of Companies, a company with the sole object of carrying on the business of a forex bureau. The registered name of the company must include “Forex Bureau” or “Bureau de Chanage”. An application for a forex bureau license must be made on the prescribed application form obtained at a fee from Banking Department, after clearance from Banking Supervision Department of the Bank of Ghana. In considering any application, the following must be satisfactory
- The good character of the promoters/directors and management of the company
- Satisfactory information on capital and sources of funds
- Whether the public interest will be served by granting of a license
An approval in principle may be granted subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions or without conditions, or even refuse to grant a license without assigning any reason.
Running the business
The market may not be big but can be very volatile. West African currencies have not been particularly stable in the past, especially the Ghana cedi. Such volatilities may be good or bad for the business depending on your expertise. If you are good, you can ride the tide and make lots of money in this volatility. There is no magic formula or strategy to succeed in the business. However, these tips may be helpful
- Buy from banks and sell to other forex bureaux
- Slim margins drive volumes and make more money
- Corporate clients move volumes, though margins may be thin
- Don’t neglect retail customers. Margins are high
- Don’t keep stock (cash) beyond 48hours
- Location is important. Network is key
- Do not panic when market is moving and don’t be greedy
The industry is regulated and there’s no need cutting corners. It’s not worth your license. The Foreign Exchange Act and other regulations and guidelines are there to constantly improve the industry. Renew your license when it’s due. Application for renewal of license must be supported with evidence of tax payments and a copy of the audited accounts of the previous year’s operation and submitted to the Bank of Ghana two months before the expiry date of the forex bureau license. Renewal of license is mostly subject to satisfactory conducts such as keeping proper registers and books of accounts required, attainment of satisfactory turnover and net worth as may be prescribed by the bank of Ghana, compliance with timely submission and accuracy of regulatory returns to the Banking Supervision Department of Bank of Ghana.
Failure to meet renewal requirements may lead to withdrawal of license and the closure of the forex bureau. Licenses could also be suspended when the regulations are not followed. A forex bureau can also voluntarily request for the suspension or closing of business if it is facing some difficulties. Also, remember that a forex bureau license is neither transferable nor assignable.