The chief executive of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Russell Loubser, has praised Switzerland for helping South Africa to modernise its financial structures.
Speaking at the Swiss Stock Exchange in Zurich he told business leaders that South Africa could now offer some of the best trading services in the world.
"We can learn a lot from the Swiss. The whole clearing and settlement and depository system that we have just put into place was acquired from the Swiss and it is world class," he told swissinfo.
He added that despite having a trading system that is connected to the London Stock Exchange, the JSE was looking to do a deal with another but said that nothing was "on the table".
"We did a deal with the London stock exchange in May. That's a non-exclusive deal from both sides. We are currently looking for another addition to our financial markets and we are at liberty to do that deal with anybody in the world... possibly the Swiss," he commented.
Loubser said that an "exceptional amount" of work in South African financial markets had been done over the past years.
"We've modernised them to the extent where we can genuinely compete with the rest of the world in the area of financial services," he said.
"That's the message I think anyone would like to hear... if you're intending to invest in South Africa via the financial markets," he added.
Loubser explained that over the past five years, the JSE had ensured that from a purely operational point of view, it could be compared to the best stock exchanges in the world.
"Users of the financial markets nowadays demand that," he said.
JSE - vital role
He added that the JSE also had a vital role to play for the rest of the African continent.
"We want to make our technological infrastructure available to our African stock exchange neighbours so that Africa as a continent can be made stronger from the point of view of the financial markets," he said.
Loubser is well aware that one of the challenges facing the JSE is investors' perception that the continent is a "high risk" region, particularly with regard to property rights, regulatory frameworks and markets.
However, he has said that under the New Partnership for Africa's Development, initiatives to address the issue included peace and security, political and economic governance, as well as infrastructure and poverty reduction.
In Zurich, Loubser did not shy from the problems that South Africa is still facing.
"Crime is still a problem, corruption, employment, HIV/Aids... and the list goes on but we have an amazing story to tell," he argued.
"In South Africa, we have an incredible story to tell. Very few gave our country a chance eight years ago. We have confounded everybody and continue to do so," he added.
by Robert Brookes
South Africa brief
With direct investment of SFr1.322 billion in 2000, Switzerland ranks as the fifth largest foreign director investor in South Africa.
Through subsidiaries and local branches, Swiss companies have helped to create more than 20,000 jobs in South Africa.
South Africa is also a major investor in Switzerland. With some SFr1 billion in 1999, it is the largest non-European investor after the United States and Japan.
More than 300 Swiss companies are active in South Africa, mainly in the financial, engineering, pharmaceutical and service sectors.
Swiss exports to South Africa in 2001 totalled SFr512 million, with imports amounting to SFr637 million.
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