As our population of annual reports on africanfinancials.com grows (2,268 at the last count), so does the opportunity to carry out research on a broad array of African companies. Long-term research. The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham and updated commentary by Jason Zweig should be a bible for anyone interested in investing in Africa. One of Benjamin Graham’s insights is

“the investor who permits himself to be stampeded or duly worried by unjustified market declines in his holdings is perversely transforming his basic advantage into a basic disadvantage”.

Zweig points out the Graham’s basic advantage is the full freedom to think for your self in whether to follow the market or not. To have this independence though you need information.

There are 1,500 listed companies in Africa and Africanfinancials.com seeks to put the last 10 years annual reports of each of these online. Call it 15,000 in total.  We have just over 2,200 annual reports online. We have made reasonable efforts to do this, with some success, but it’s clear that the information is just not there. Using the annual report as an investment bible proxy less than 15% of the information that should be available online is online.

Is there a single organisation that has correlated the long term earnings of listed companies in Africa? Not sure. Perhaps the likes of Thompson Reuters and Bloombergs have and to be sure this information is not readily available in market at low cost. Hard to find information is valuable because you can charge for it. Stock exchanges are natural repositories for this sort of data and making this available to the market is, in my mind, one their basic obligations. But alas this is not to be.

When asked what keeps most individual investors from succeeding, Graham had a concise answer:

“The primary cause of failure is that they pay too much attention to what the stock market is doing currently”.

This is all very well, but when finding out what they (African companies) did in the past 3 – 5 let alone the last 10 years is not possible investors are left to concentrate on market sentiment and what the stock market is doing currently. Africanfinancials.com is slowly addressing this enabling investors to access information that they can digest themselves with or without the influence of others.

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