Kenya Direct Flights to USA? KQ Outlook

On Thursday, Kenya government officials, led by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport announced that Kenya has been granted Category 1 Status by Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) of the USA. This followed extensive renovation work at the JKIA airport in Nairobi and other aviation improvements. The elevation by one US aviation authority is a welcome step, but it is part of a process towards getting to direct flights, and there will still be more security checks, permissions, and deals to be done with airlines and airports before this comes to fruition.

The last direct flight attempt in June 2009 was halted by the US Department of Homeland Security. The Kenyan Transport minister had even traveled to the US to be on an inaugural flight only for it to be canceled at the last-minute. Delta had planned four flights a week to Nairobi, with a stop in Dakar, Senegal.

The announcement could be a boost for Kenya Airways (KQ), but the initial focus which they have maintained over the years when asked about the US,  is to pursue a code-share partnership, perhaps with Delta Airlines. Under the ongoing KQ restructuring project Operation Pride at the airline, code-shares which involve selling their tickets on partner airlines gets them revenue without having to deploy aircraft.

But once partner flights start, national prestige will force KQ to step in and do the flights themselves. They have the equipment, Boeing 787’s ‘Dreamliners’ that are perfect for direct US flights. The first Dreamliner for Kenya Airways, April 2014, flew from the Boeing factory on the West coast of the US on a non-stop a 16-hour flight to Nairobi, and expectations are to have much shorter flights from the eastern coast of the US, likely to  be Washington DC or New York. After all, rival Ethiopian Airlines  flies to five North American destinations, and there are ample numbers of Kenyans and US tourists and cargo in both directions to justify KQ flights. Perhaps once KQ gets back the Boeing 777-300’s leased out to Turkish Air.

The last direct flights to the US were on defunct Pan Am, which TV anchor Jeff Koinange who  briefly worked as a flight steward on Pan Am and he describes the flights in his autobiography “Through My African Eyes”. That flight appears to have been New York-Dakar-Monrovia-Lagos-Nairobi with a Boeing 747.

Pan Am flights to Africa were rather interesting, as this excerpt from “Life Is an Excellent Adventure: An Irreverent Personal Odyssey”, by  Jerry Funk, shows.

Barclays Exiting Africa: Part II

Almost a year after Barclays Africa announced a decision by (parent) Barclays PLC to exit Africa, they released their Barclays 2016 results (PDF). While the world is now a different one after BREXIT and President Donald Trump, the exit plans are still on course.

Excerpts of the some statements released on Thursday 

  • Revenue from (the rest of) Africa) has been growing at about 16% a year, compared to 5% in South Africa, but, the rest of Africa (excluding SA) is still just 23% of revenue for Barclays Africa. They expect that rest of Africa growth should exceed South Africa’s
  • They have agreed with Barclays PLC on terms of the “separation payments and transitional services  – Barclays PLC will contribute £765m, comprising of £515m in recognition of the investment required in technology, rebranding and other separation projects, £55 million to cover separation related expenses, £195 million to terminate the existing service level agreement relating to the rest of Africa operations”.
  • Barclays PLC will contribute an amount equivalent to 1.5% of Barclays Africa market capitalization towards a black economic empowerment (BEEP) scheme and Barclays plans to create an equity plan for employees in the next 12 to 18 months.
  • They will continue to use the ‘Barclays’ brand in the rest of Africa for three years from the date on which Barclays PLC reduces its shareholding in BAGL to below 50%.
  • During 2016, Barclays PLC reduced its shareholding from 62.3% to 50.1%. Other shareholders include Public Investment Corporation (SA) 6.86%, Old Mutual Asset Managers 3.31%, Allan Gray Investment Council 2.16%, Prudential Portfolio Managers 2.01%, Schroders Plc 1.93%, BlackRock 1.69%, Vanguard Group 1.66%,  Dimensional Fund Advisors 1.65%, and Sanlam Investment Management (SA) 1.62%.

£1 is $1.25, £1 = KES 128.5, and  £1 = 16.1 ZAR.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Indians in East Africa

Indian Africa, minorities of Indian-Pakistani origin in Eastern Africa, is a 484-page book with lots of information, charts, statistics and stories of the arrival and enduring impact of Indians in East Africa:

Some excerpts: 

  • Almost all Indian traders to East Africa were from the northwest (Sindh) now Pakistan, Gujarat, Punjab, and Maharashtra in India.
  • The Indian population in Kenya which fell to 78,000 in 1979 rose once again to stabilize at 100,000, half of whom acquired Kenyan nationality. The demographic resurgence was probably due to donor pressure but also favorable treatment under President Moi who got into a tactical alliance with high society to check the influence of the emerging Kikuyu middle class. Thus in 1986, Indians who had been dispossessed in 1967 returned to manufacturing, by buying out subsidiaries of multinationals.
  • Indians are in 80% of industrial sectors and control 90% of business activity in the textile industry through 50 mills and 350 other companies. In the pharmaceutical sector, they control 60%, 80% of the chemical/plastics, 80% of iron business, and 90% of electrical installation ones (French Embassy statistics).
  • 25 of the 44 banks are controlled by Kenyan Indians.
  • Family business structure: Capital raised stays with the founder (first generation) while the second generation (sons) assume managerial and administrative positions and prepare the business for expansion.
  • Business Capital: Most Kenyan Indians businesses are totally dependent on local resources unlike the perception that they get foreign capital – only 5% of 210 entrepreneurs surveyed said they had received such – and this was from expatriate parents in Britain, India, Dubai.
  • Business Finance: Bank loans are secondary sources of funding – only 33% had received them, while 67% never had. They have other informal sources of credit such as employer associations to which some Europeans and Africans all benefit – and 32% of interviewees were members of groups like the United Business Association. Suppliers are frequent credit sources for small merchants. To obtain credit, one must demonstrate honesty, good management and present minimum guarantees such as from family members, real estate collateral, and repayment schedule. There is also mutual help within communities on matters of illness, death, or when a business is failing.
  • The book has profiles of different types of duka wallahs (traditional shopkeepers) as well as chapters on the settlement and emergence of business communities in Kampala, Nakuru, and Dar es Salaam.
  • For Ismailis, health and education are their priority political commitments.

The book, edited by Michel Adam is published by Mkuki na Nyota publishers of Dar es Salaam and the French Institute for Research in Africa and distributed outside Africa by the African Books collective.

Barclays Kenya 2016 Financial Results

Today, Barclays became the first Kenyan bank to release its financial results for the year 2016, which was a tumultuous year for the Kenya banking sector.

New bank chairman Charles Muchene said the year saw challenges with new business models, interest rate caps and the announcement of the parent sale. He also praised his predecessor, F. Okello.

Thereafter CEO Jeremy Awori said that while Kenya’s economy looked stable with an enviable economic growth rate, a stable currency and moderate inflation, the dip in shares at the Nairobi Securities Exchange and profit warnings issued by various companies showed some the struggles that companies, including their customers, were going through. He added that challenges at some banks had resulted in increased regulatory scrutiny and audits on systems, anti-money-laundering, and insider lending all other banks, and Barclays had passed. Also, that  2018 will bring new rules on impairment (bad loans) and capital requirements.

They had the investment in technology by going paperless and customer focused channels including intelligent ATM’s that allow 24-hour cash deposits, as well as enhancing internet and mobile banking. They have also invested in alternative channels and were the first international bank to embrace agent banking in a deal they signed with Posta Kenya under which they would have post offices in far-off places (like Wajir) act as customer interaction points for the bank.

Bank branches handled 43% of transactions in 2016, which was down from 59% as other channels recorded increases with ATM;’s handling 34%, digital 14%, and POS 9%

Summing up the financial results for the year, Barclays assets grew by 8% to Kshs 260 billion, deposits went up 8% to Kshs 178 billion while loans went up 16% to Kshs 169 billion. Interestingly 68% of bank deposits don’t earn interest (they are in transactional accounts). Also, the loans increases were mostly in the first half of the year while those after the interest rate cap law (passed in September 2016)  were mostly existing customers topping up their loans.

Income went up 8% to Kshs 31.7 billion as expenses also went up 8% to Kshs 16.9 billion. But there was a huge jump in provision got bad loans, which more than doubled, to Kshs 3.9 billion and this resulted in pre-tax profit dipping from Kshs 12 billion to Kshs 10.8 billion. 90% of the impairments were from retail/ personal lending.

The dividend for the year will be Kshs 1 per share – comprising an interim dividend of 0.2 per share and a final dividend od 0.8 per share – unchanged from 2015. The payout will be a total of Kshs 5.43 billion (~$54 million)

Going forward, digital and automation will be key drivers to give customers better and efficient experiences. Barclays also plans launch new mobile banking products soon, and to become a financial technology partner to their customers, not just a bank.

Kenyan Remittance from Europe .. as Facebook launches Money Transfers

TransferWise had just launched international money transfers via Facebook messenger chat.

Methods Kenyans use to remit money from Europe

  • TransferWise’s chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger.
  • Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger. 
  • One of Europe’s most well-known fintech companies, TransferWise was launched in 2011 by Estonian friends Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann out of frustration with the high fees they were being charged by banks for international money transfers.

We did a survey a few weeks ago to see how a handful of Kenyans in Europe send money to Kenya, and asked them to give reasons why they use a particular method.  W hat’s interesting is how rare banks are in the person to person transfer space. We want to expand this further and see how Kenyans in other (European and non-European) countries remit funds.  This was almost Kshs 368 billion (~$3.7 billion of receivables from the rest of the world) in 2015 according  to the Kenya Economic Survey 2016.