Introduction To Online Forex Trading In South Africa
Retail forex & binary options trading in South Africa has massively grown in popularity over the last couple of years. This interest has significantly spiked since the first CoVid-19 induced lockdown was announced.
South Africans found their livelihoods negatively impacted as their traditional income-generating methods were crippled or came to an outright standstill. Some used that time to learn more about how they can generate income online and buffer themselves from the harsh economic effects of the pandemic.
Forex & synthetic indices trading came up as one such viable option but there is a lot of misinformation around the topic. Added to this, there are also a lot of scams online involving forex, bitcoin and binary trading.
But how many forex traders are there in South Africa?
According to some estimates, there are around 200 000 forex traders in South Africa (out of an estimated 1,3 million traders in Africa). The South African Rand is also the most traded currency in Africa and the 18th most traded in the world.
The Bank of International Settlements estimates the daily trading volume of retail forex trading in South Africa stood at $20.37 bn in 2019, making it the highest volume in Africa.
Nigeria, the second-largest forex market on the continent, had an estimated daily retail forex volume of $192.66 million per day.
However, despite all this popularity, forex trading in South Africa is not clearly understood by many. Added to this, there are a lot of scams surrounding forex trading leave a lot of people skeptical.
This guide will help you get an idea of online forex trading in South Africa so that you can decide if you want to try this trade or not. You will get an appreciation of what forex trading is and how you can get started & practice without risking your money.
In this guide, we will give you all the information that you need to get started with forex trading in South Africa so that you can start on the right foot. To make it easy for you to digest, we have broken down this guide into chapters.
FOReign EXchange market (forex or FX for short) is a global marketplace for exchanging national currencies.
The FX market is decentralized. In other words, there is no physical location where investors go to trade currencies as they do for stocks on Wall Street or on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
FX traders use the internet to check the quotes of various currency pairs from different brokers and place their trades online from anywhere in the world.
The forex market operates every day except the weekends and its volume reached up to US$6.6 Trillion per day in 2020.
The forex market is very liquid, one can buy and sell currencies instantly i.e. there are always buyers and sellers at any given time when the markets are open.
You may have seen ticker symbols of currencies like USD/ZAR, EUR/ZAR etc. while visiting your bank. These are the rates of the currencies from the live Forex market.
What Is Forex Trading?
Forex trading is the buying & selling of global currencies in the forex market with the objective of making a profit on the fluctuations in the exchange rate.
Simply put, you buy a currency when you believe its value is going to appreciate (go up) against the other currency or you sell a currency when you believe its value is going to decrease (go down) against the other currency.
When you exit the trade, the difference between the trade's entry & exit price determines your profit or loss.
Forex trading is one type of Contract for Difference (CFD) trading. This is a contract between you and your broker to pay any difference in the price of the currency pair between opening and closing your trade.
This means that neither you nor your broker need to hold any currency. All that is needed is a live quote of the forex pair's price. This quote will be used to calculate your profit or loss.
Forex trading real-life example in South Africa
Let’s suppose you are a South African and you visit USA and you have some Rands in your pocket. The first thing to do is to exchange your Rands for US$ and you can do this in a bank or bureau de change. This process is itself participation in the Forex market by exchanging one currency for another.
However, the online forex trading in South Africa we are discussing here is not done physically, rather it is done online.
In forex trading, traders hope to generate a profit by speculating on the value of one currency compared to another. This is why currencies are always traded in pairs—the value of one unit of currency doesn’t change unless it’s compared to another currency.
Exchange rates are always changing & fluctuating. Due to these fluctuations, it becomes possible to make a profit from speculative trades.
Until recently, forex trading in the currency market had been the domain of large financial institutions, corporations, central banks, hedge funds and extremely wealthy individuals.
The emergence of the internet has changed all of this, and now it is possible for average investors to buy and sell currencies easily with the click of a mouse through online brokerage accounts.
Chapter Two: Advantages Of Online Forex Trading In South Africa
Reasons why forex trading is getting more and more popular amongst South Africans
1.) The forex market is open 24hrs/day, five days a week. From the Monday morning opening in Australia (11 pm Sunday South African time) to the afternoon close in New York (11 pm Friday South African time), the forex market is always active. This presents a lot of flexibility in the times you can choose to trade.
2.) Leverage can increase your gains in forex trading. Leverage gives the trader the potential to make nice profits, and at the same time keep risk capital to a minimum. A small deposit can control a much larger total contract value.
For example, a forex broker may offer 200-to-1 leverage, which means that a $50 dollar margin deposit would enable a trader to buy or sell $10 000 worth of currencies. Similarly, with $500 dollars, one could trade with $100 000 dollars and so on.
While this is all presents a chance for increasing profit, you should be warned that leverage is a double-edged sword. Without proper risk management, this high degree of leverage can lead to large losses.
We will discuss this later.
3.) The forex market is very liquid. The market is so big and this means that it is also extremely liquid. Under normal market conditions, with a click of a mouse, you can instantaneously buy and sell at will as there will usually be someone in the market willing to take the other side of your trade.
You are never “stuck” in a trade. You can even set your online trading platform to automatically close your position once your desired profit level (take profit order) has been reached, and/or close a trade if a trade is going against you (a stop-loss order).
4.) There are low barriers to entry in forex trading. You need a small deposit to get started as a forex trader. Online forex brokers accepting traders from South Africa offer “mini” and “micro” trading accounts, some with a minimum account deposit just of $5 or less (We will look at different brokers in later sections).
This makes forex trading much more accessible to the average individual who doesn’t have a lot of start-up trading capital. It also means you can start without risking significant amounts of capital and you can scale up as needed.
6.) You can practice online forex trading in South Africa using virtual money. The forex brokers that accept South Africans offer “demo” accounts that allow you to practice your trading and build your skills, along with real-time forex news and charting services.
The demo accounts are free and you can open one at any time without any obligation.
Demo accounts are very valuable resources for those who are “financially hampered” and would like to hone their trading skills with “play money” before opening a live trading account and risking real money.
Demo accounts allow you to get a feel of the trading process without using your real money. Every trader should start trading with a demo account before risking real money. We will show you how to easily open a demo account in the following sections.
You can even enter demo contests and stand a chance of winning real money! Learn more about that here.
7.) You can trade forex from anywhere in the world. With forex trading, you can trade from anywhere in the world as long as you have a device with an internet connection! This means that with forex trading you choose to settle in any part of the world and still continue your trades.
You can still trade even when there is a level 5 lockdown in South Africa.
You can trade at home in your pyjamas, report to no boss and not have to keep up with those nosy and irritating co-workers. Forex trading can offer one a possibility of being their own boss and if done well it can pay handsomely.
8.) Some brokers give bonuses that can be traded on your live account. A bonus can amplify your deposit thereby increasing your equity. However, these should be used with caution.
9.) You can make money by copying the trades of more experienced traders via copy and social trading. This removes the burden of learning on your own. You simply ride on the experience of other traders and share profits. This can be a good way of generating profits from the markets while you learn for yourself.
10.) You can easily fund your account using local deposit methods like Zingpay and MasterCard. Deposits can also be made using local banks like Absa, African Bank, Capitec, FNB, NedBank, Old Mutual & Tyme Bank.
You can also withdraw your profits from your trading account using the convenient methods above. You can even withdraw and deposit for cash or e-wallet using payment agents or the Dp2p platform.
11.) You can trade without verifying your account. This is especially useful for South Africans because getting the required verification documents like proof of residence can be a challenge.
Chapter Three: Understanding Currency Pairs
Currencies are always traded in pairs—the value of one unit of currency doesn’t change unless it’s compared to another currency. Forex transactions involve two currencies, which form a currency pair. One currency is bought, while the other is sold.
Consider the USD/ZAR currency pair. If you buy this pair, you will be buying dollars and selling rands. If you sell this pair, you will be selling dollars and buying rands (ZAR is the international currency symbol of the South African Rand).
Which are the most traded currency pairs?
Most currency traders stick to these pairs because they generally have high volatility.
The higher the volatility, the higher the chances of finding profitable trade setups.
We would suggest that you start out with these pairs too and expanding as you gain more knowledge.
Reading a Forex Quote
One of the biggest sources of confusion for those new to the currency market is the standard for quoting currencies. In this section, we'll go over currency quotations and how they work in currency pair trades.
Let’s simplify it:
Do you remember when US$1 was equal to R10? The quote would look like this:
The currency to the left of the slash is the base currency, while the currency on the right is called the quote or counter currency. The base currency (in this case, the U.S. dollar) is always equal to one unit (in this case, US$1), and the quoted currency (in this case, the South African Rand) is what that one base unit is equivalent to in the other currency. The quote means that US$1 could buy 10 South African Rand.
Since the base currency (USD) is always equal to $1 in the quote, if the rand gets stronger the quote would look like this: USD/ZAR=8. This means that you now need fewer Rands to buy one dollar.
If the Rand becomes weaker against the USD, the quote would read something like this: USD/ZAR=15.
Meaning you now need more Rands to buy one dollar.
The forex quote includes the currency abbreviations for the currencies in question. Most currency exchange rates are quoted out to four digits after the decimal place, with the exception of the Japanese yen (JPY), which is quoted out to two decimal places.
This may seem confusing now but you will understand as you practice more.
Why do exchange rates fluctuate?
Exchange rates float freely against one another, which means they are in constant fluctuation. Currency valuations are determined by the flows of currency in and out of a country. High demand for a particular currency usually means that the value of that currency will increase.
Demand for a currency is created by tourism, international trade, mergers and acquisitions, speculation, and the perception of safety in terms of geopolitical risk.
If, for example, a company in South Africa sells products to a company in the United States and the U.S.-based company would have to convert dollars into Rands to pay for the goods, the flow of dollars into Rands would indicate a demand for the South African Rand. If the total currency flow led to net demand for the rand, then the rand would increase in value.
Currencies are traded around the clock – 24 hours per day. Even though morning in Tokyo occurs during U.S. night-time, trade and banking continue around the world.
Therefore, as banks around the world buy and sell currencies, the value of currencies remains in fluctuation. Interest rate adjustments in different countries have the biggest effect on the value of currencies because investors typically look for safe investments with the highest yields.
Chapter Four: How Do You Make Money From Online Forex Trading In South Africa?
So now you have an idea of what forex trading is, let’s get to understand how the money is made in forex.
Trading currency in the Forex market centres around the basic concepts of buying and selling.
How Do You Profit In A Buy Trade In Forex Trading?
Let's take the idea of buying first. Let’s suppose you bought something (a house, jewellery, stock etc) and it went up in value. If you sold it at that point, you would have made a profit. Your profit would be the difference between what you paid originally and the greater value that the item is worth now.
Currency trading is the same way.
Let's say you want to buy the AUDUSD currency pair. If the AUD goes up in value relative to the USD and then you sell it, you will have made a profit. A trader in this example would be buying the AUD and selling the USD at the same time.
For example, if the AUDUSD pair was bought at 0.74975 and the pair moved up to 0.76466 at the time that the trade was closed/exited, the profit on the trade would have been 149 pips*. (See the chart below…) 0.76466-0.74975=149 (disregard the fifth digit).
* A pip is a number value.
In the Forex market, the value of a currency is given in pips. One pip equals 0.001, two pips equals 0.002, three pips equals 0.0003 and so on.
One pip is the smallest price change that an exchange rate can make. Most currencies are priced to four numbers after the point.
So what is the value of the 149 pips in money terms?
Well, this depends on the lot size.
What is a Lot in Forex?
In the past, spot forex was only traded in specific amounts called lots. The standard size for a lot is 100,000 units. There are also mini, & micro lot sizes that are 10,000 & 1,000 units respectively.
If one micro lot of the AUD/USD is being traded, each pip would be worth $0.1, as opposed to $10 for a standard lot. We have calculated the profit in the table below using the 149 pips from our example above.
Such a movement (of 149 pips) can take place within minutes during very volatile periods! So, depending on your lot size, you could have made a profit of $14,90 to $1490 in an hour or so!
Quite exciting stuff, right?
Number Of Units
Profit Per Pip
Ten Dollars ($1490)
One Dollar ($149)
Ten Cents ($14,90)
However, this is not always the case, sometimes such movement can take hours or days to get or the currency pair can start falling before it reaches that amount of pips.
What is Leverage in Forex?
You are probably wondering how a small investor can trade such large amounts of money. Think of your broker as a bank who basically fronts you $100,000 to buy currencies.
All the bank asks from you is that you give it $1,000 as a good faith deposit, which he will hold for you but not necessarily keep. This is how forex trading using leverage works.
The amount of leverage you use will depend on your broker and what you feel comfortable with.
Typically, the broker will require a trade deposit, also known as “account margin” or “initial margin.” Once you have deposited your money you will then be able to trade. The broker will also specify how much they require per position (lot) traded.
For example, if the allowed leverage is 100:1 (or 1% of position required), and you wanted to trade a position worth $100,000, but you only have $5,000 in your account, your broker would set aside $1,000 as down payment, or the “margin,” and let you “borrow” the rest.
Of course, any losses or gains will be deducted or added to the remaining cash balance in your account.
The minimum security (margin) for each lot will vary from broker to broker. In the example above, the broker required a one per cent margin. This means that for every $100,000 traded, the broker wants $1,000 as a deposit on the position.
Leverage is a double-edged sword, it can help you get higher profits but if your forecast is wrong, you will incur heavier losses. Most brokers will give you the option to choose your leverage when you sign up for a demo or real account. Generally, the lesser the leverage ratio the safer it is and the smaller the position you can trade.
Let’s go back to our illustration.
Had the pair moved down to 0.74805 before the trade was closed, the loss on the trade would have been 17 pips. The monetary value of this loss would have been determined by the lot size as well.
This is how you profit from opening a buy position. It makes no difference which currency pair you are trading. If the price of the currency you are buying goes up from the time you bought it, you will have made a profit.
Here is another example using the AUD; In this case, we still want to buy the AUD but let’s do this with the EURAUD currency pair. In this instance, we would sell the pair. We would be selling the EUR and buying the AUD simultaneously.
Should the AUD go up relative to the EUR we would profit as we bought the AUD. (Remember you always buy or sell the base currency. If you buy the base, you are selling the quote currency simultaneously and vice versa)
In this example, if we sold the EURAUD pair at 1.2320 and the price moved down to 1.2250 when we closed the position, we would have made a profit of 70 pips. Had the pair moved up instead and we closed out the position at 1.2360 we would have had a loss of 40 pips on the trade.
How Do You Profit In A Sell Trade in Forex Trading?
Now let's take a look at how a trader can make a profit by selling a currency pair. This concept is a little trickier to understand than buying. It is based on the idea of selling something that you borrowed as opposed to selling something that you own.
In the case of currency trading, when taking a sell position, you would borrow the currency in the pair that you were selling from your broker (this all takes place seamlessly within the trading station when the trade is executed) and if the price went down, you would then sell it back to the broker at the lower price.
The difference between the price at which you borrowed it (the higher price) and the price at which you sold it back to them (the lower price) would be your profit.
For example, let’s say a trader believes that the USD will go down relative to the JPY. In this case, the trader would want to sell the USDJPY pair.
They would be selling the USD and buying the JPY at the same time.
The trader would be borrowing the USD from their broker when they execute the trade.
If the trade moved in their favour, the JPY would increase in value and the USD would decrease. At the point where they closed out the trade, their profits from the JPY increasing in value would be used to pay back the broker for the borrowed USD at the now lower price. After paying back the broker, the remainder would be their profit on the trade.
For example, let’s say the trader sold the USDJPY pair at 122.761. If the pair did in fact move down and the trader closed/exited the position at 122.401, the profit on the trade would be 136 pips.
In a nutshell, this how you can make a profit from selling something that you do not own.
When you buy a pair, like in the first illustration, you would have gone ‘long’ on that pair. When you sell a pair, you open a short position.
So, remember this, buying a pair=going long: selling a pair=going short. This is the technical jargon of the trade (pun intended).
In wrapping up, ifyou go long on a currency pair and it moves up, that trade would show a profit.
If you open a short position on a currency pair and it moves down, that trade would show a profit.
Making accurate forecasts of the currency movements is where the profit lies, doing wrong forecasts leads to losses.
So how do traders make these forecasts?
There are two broad ways of analysing exchange rate movements 1. Fundamental analysis and 2. Technical analysis.
1.) Fundamental analysis
Fundamental analysis is the interpretation of statistical reports and economic indicators. Things like changes in interest rates, employment reports, and the latest inflation indicators all fall into the realm of fundamental analysis.
Forex traders must pay close attention to economic indicators which can have a direct – and to some degree, predictable – effect on the value of a nation's currency in the forex market.
Given the impact these indicators can have on exchange rates, it is important to know beforehand when they are due for release. It is also likely that exchange rate spreads (we will look at spreads later) will widen during the time leading up to the release of an important indicator and this could add considerably to the cost of your trade.
2.) Technical analysis
In finance, technical analysis is a security analysis methodology for forecasting the direction of prices through the study of past market data, primarily price and volume.
Like weather forecasting, technical analysis does not result in absolute predictions about the future. Instead, technical analysis can help investors anticipate what is “likely” to happen to prices over time. Technical analysis uses a wide variety of charts that show price over time.
Technical analysis other tools like candle charts and technical indicators like MACD, oscillators etc.
Chapter Five: How Do You Get Started With Online Forex Trading In South Africa?
You need the following to trade forex in South Africa:
A device with a stable internet connection
A Forex Broker that gives you access to the markets
A demo account for practicing
A way of depositing & withdrawing real funds to and from your trading account
A trading strategy that you will use to forecast price movements
Forex trading is accessible to everyone in South Africa with an internet connection. But just because everyone can do it, does not mean that everyone should do it.
You should amass a lot of education & discipline. You should also develop a strategy suited to you. All these are critical elements of a profitable trading career. If you start trading forex without these skills, you may profit from a few trades, but you will eventually lose.
If you prepare properly and you are ready to learn, forex trading can be a great way to create a steady income.
How Do You Choose A Forex Broker In South Africa?
To do online forex trading in South Africa you will first need to find a broker. There are a lot of brokers out there but not all of them are good or suited for South Africans.
Some brokers may not be legit and may end up scamming you in various ways. You will need to work with regulated brokers since they are safer and much more trustworthy.
We recommend regulated brokers below to make the task easy for you as a beginner.
The trick is to find a broker that accepts South African traders, has funding & deposit methods that are easily accessible for the local traders and is regulated.
Below we present the best broker that satisfies these requirements and you can go ahead and open your free demo account with the broker. You can also read on what makes the broker the best for South Africans here.
A Forex Trading Strategy is a set of analyses that a forex trader uses to determine whether to buy or sell a currency pair at any given time. Forex trading strategies can be based on technical analysis, chart analysis, or fundamental, news-based events.
There are a lot of forex trading strategies out there. They include:
This is the study of historical changes in currency prices to predict which way the price is going to move next. If you love studying charts and looking for patterns, then price action trading is for you. It relies almost entirely on technical analysis. You can learn about Price Action trading here.
Swing trading is a longer-term trading style that requires patience to hold your trades for several days at a time.
In contrast to swing traders, day traders usually are in and out of the market in one day and trend traders often hold positions for several months. You can learn more about swing trading here.
Scalping is when a trader opens and closes many trades over the course of a day. The goal is to make lots of small profits. Technical analysis is an important factor with scalping, but the main problem is the time investment required. Scalpers can spend the whole day glued to their trading monitor.
Chapter 6: Risks Of Online Forex Trading In South Africa
Trading Forex and CFDs carry a significant risk that includes losing all the money in your trading account over a short period. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford the high risk of losing your money. The principal risks of trading are:
Risk 1 – Volatility: The Forex market is extremely volatile at times. While this volatility presents opportunities for making a profit, it also can mean that the market can go against you in a very short space of time and you can make a significant loss
Risk 2 – Unpredictability: The Forex market is not something you can predict with 100% accuracy. There are just too many factors and actors on the market for it to be fully predictable. Even the most profitable traders have losing trades time and again.
Traders need to set a win-loss target ratio where you account for some losses and use a strategy to minimise them and be profitable in the long run
Risk 3 – Leverage: CFD trading requires using leverage. Leverage is a tool used in trading to amplify your profits, but it also amplifies your losses which are automatically deducted from your trading account. Your account balance can be wiped out with a single bad trade.
Risk 4 – Interest: In some cases, interest will be charged on your trades. For example, interest can be charged when you carry trades overnight and your broker will take funds from your account to pay this fee.
Risk 5- Emotions & Psychology: Trading with real money comes with a whole range of emotions that can mess up your thinking and lead you to bad decisions which cost you.
Risk 6- Rushing to trade live funds: Most beginner traders think that it is easy to make money in the forex markets and they rush to trade real funds before understanding how the markets work. This leads them to losses that could have been avoided if they had taken the time needed to learn
You first need to choose a broker that accepts South African traders like Deriv. You then open a demo account. Afterwards, you can open a real account and start trading real money. You can get step-by-step account opening instructions here.
You can open your forex trading account in South Africa with as little as US$5/ R70 depending on your broker. So, in essence, choosing the amount you want to start trading with depends on what you can afford and the risk you are willing to take.
As a beginner, you will probably not afford to start with a significant amount and that is ok. However, you should know that the smaller your account is, the smaller your potential profits and the longer you need to trade to get meaningful profits.
Risk management is a very important part of Forex trading and most serious traders agree that you should never risk more than 3% of your balance on a trade. If you have a starting balance of 100 USD/ R1000, this means that you should never risk more than 3 USD/ R30 on a trade.
With an account balance of 1000 USD/ R10 000 you must not risk more than US$30/ R300 per trade.
We recommend that beginner traders start with a minimum account balance between 200 – 500 USD/ R2000 – R5000. This will allow you to make small profits, while still maintaining a sensible approach to risk and growing your knowledge of forex trading.
Yes, online forex trading in South Africa is legal. However, it needs to be done through a reputable, well-regulated broker and traders should not contravene money laundering laws. Traders must also declare any profits to SARS (South African Revenue Service) and pay tax on the profits to make it legal.
No, forex trading is not a scam. The Forex market is a legitimate trading market where the world’s currencies are traded. It is not a scam in itself. However, there are scams surrounding forex that sometimes lead people into thinking that forex trading is a scam.
The Forex market is open 24 hours a day, Monday-Friday, but the best time to trade Forex is when the world’s major stock markets are most active. The time when all the major financial centres of the world are open is from about 10 am to 3 pm South African time. You can, however, still trade outside of these times but the volatility is usually lower.
Deriv is the most popular broker in South Africa. This is largely due to the broker’s exclusive synthetic indices which are a favourite trading asset of South African traders. Other popular brokers in Zimbabwe include Ava Trade, XM, JustForex,FXTM and Superforex.
It is possible to get rich by online forex trading in South Africa. However, this is not easy and there are a lot of factors that come into play. For example, you need to have a firm grasp of the market and have a substantial deposit e.g of US$100 000 to be able to get significant returns from the forex market.
You also need to be a disciplined trader who practices money management and has mastered solid trading psychology. All this is not easy and it takes a very long time to master