The EastAfrican is the last Newspaper You’ll Wrap Meat In

President Uhuru Kenyatta sometimes jokes about newspapers and the media, and says that newspapers are only good for  wrapping meat in.  This is usually after they publish a story that he disagrees with and which he feels the writes have got all wrong. But the EastAfrican is the last newspapers he, you, or any serious butcher will want to wrap meat in.

The East African is unique and consistently reach in quality content, week after week.  They break many stories, and often run fresh stories that don’t fit in the bigger picture till later. In essence, it’s sometimes like an enhanced blog or tweet, and they park the story there for other media and readers to take on the discussion later.

The newspaper is great for trends because they routinely write on familiar subjects or topics that matter, and that are of interest in all countries. These include mobile money, taxation, customs & trade, agribusiness, food science, immigration and sometime politics in anthem sense that it impacts the economies and business prospects of the countries.  In the current issue you can read about vastly different pre-election situations in Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. Probably  few people outside Uganda are aware that the country is going to have election for special interest groups in which citizens will vote for their youth and older person representative in August.

They cover more than East Africa, and if a story from further in Africa has local interest angle, such as mining in Zambia, or the impact of oil prices on Angola then this its fit to run.

The EastAfrican has great in-depth pieces from well-known columnists, and from other people who are not household names but still produce great analytic pieces on budgets, politics, and economic trends.  See why Yoweri Museveni, is going to give me a new iPhone.

They are maybe the only newspaper that can tackle in-depth reports. While a daily newspaper will mention highlights of a report that was published, the EastAfrican can delve deeper into it with several pieces, interviews with the authors, researchers and decision-makers involved. You see over many leaders, like the leadership index that compares the performances of African presidents and the African Development Band report on the level of female director representation  at  corporate boards across Africa.

They also pull in a section of special interest stories from other publication like the New York Times. They are self for manager and consultants and you get nice summary s

 They translate their stories into common currencies as the writers recognize that readers may not know what a Rwanda Franc is  versus a Tanzania shilling – so they provide helpful conversions to dollars to help better faster understand the impact. From a dollar base, any reader is mentally able to translate a story into their own familiar currency. They also have the regional indices so you can in an instantly see which are the best, or worst, performing stocks across East Africa over the last week, month,  or year.

Lastly, they have unique advertisements as it’s now clear that if you’re looking for an opportunity, job, contract or specialist that cuts across borders, then The EastAfrican is the place to find it.

IBM Research targets Nairobi Drivers and Telephone Farmers

At the IBM Research Africa Lab in Nairobi today, there was a briefing before a US Trade delegation on the upcoming visit by US President Obama.

Kamal Bhattacharya, the Vice president – IBM research Africa, said the Lab is IBM’s only commercial research lab on the African continent (opened in 2013), and only the 12th research lab (in 70 years). Research has been a part of almost every technology leap and they have 50 researchers in Nairobi (half of who are women), some from diaspora, and some from local top schools, who now make Kenya their home. In two years between 100 and 150 students have passed through the Lab and they plan to create a leadership academy that will have a masters online course in partnership with  Georgia Tech for the top students.

The Lab currently focuses on financial inclusion, energy, water & agriculture, healthcare, and education. Kamal said the biggest opportunity in Africa is around data, and there’s little insight into how things work (or don’t!) because not enough data is collected. There are 15 million farmers in Kenya and still not much is known about their daily work and the challenges they face, so IBM is building tech that can measure these things and engage them with urban entrepreneurs and connect them to market opportunities.

IBMResearchAf Aisha

Nairobi traffic congestion visualization

There were some side demonstrations of some projects that IBM Research teams are working on.

The first was on traffic mobility.  Nairobi loses a colossal amount in traffic per day and an IBM study found it the 4th most-stressful city for drivers (after Mexico City, Shenzhen and Beijing). The team is doing research to sense how drivers react and vehicles behave as they negotiate typical obstacles on a Nairobi street such as potholes, and bumps of varying sizes.

Also, the Nairobi City County Government is working with IBM Research Africa to improve the efficiency of their solid waste collection fleet. Some trucks were fitted with smart devices and officials are able to monitor, in real-time, speed, location, fuel consumption etc. Since the partnership started, the government has gone from collecting 800 tons to 1,400 tons of solid waste a day and they have learn a lot more about their vehicle operation, traffic patterns, and the state of the roads.

IBMResearchAf Kala

EZ-farm demo

Another research project was on Ez-Farm water management for agriculture. Many of today’s farmers are people, called telephone farmerswho are motivated, moneyed, and keen people (like bank managers or teachers) who want to invest and succeed in agriculture, but who reside in cities (not on their farms) and need better reports on inputs & operations – and water usage is one of the most important elements in a farms’ success.

The Lab is running a pilot program with several farmers (there’s a long list of people want to sign up with IBM). Ultimately, when there’s a poor harvest or crops failure at a farm, or other challenges (brown stains on tomato which indicate stress during production), many farmers are not sure if it is due to water, soil, fertilizer, disease or other cause. Some of the sensors they are using on the test farms  are water tank sensors and soil moisture sensors. Later on, they plan to link with Kenya’s Meteorological Service to build in rainfall patterns and predictions into an eventual app.

Asst Sec Kumar at IBMResearchAf

Asst Sec Kumar

The IBM Research demos were done for the delegation led by Assistant Secretary Arun Kumar, that has been to Mozambique, South Africa, and now Kenya. On the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), they couldn’t give much detail, but that it’s going to be big. The genesis of having the GES in Africa actually comes from President Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo (which may have also triggered other events).

That led to a shifting in the aid to trade paradigm and a push for more regional trade/intra-Africa, and Kenya is leader in the East African Community. The US President will lead a 1,200 strong delegation with the Secretary of Commerce and entrepreneurs, and business leaders in education, government etc.

Kumar said that systems and analytics being developed at IBM Research to drive around potholes will also have uses in many other cities, beyond Nairobi.

East Africa M&A Moment: June 2015

Recent stuff in the newspapers (mainly the Business Daily), Kenya Gazette  (some of the just-approved deals were first announced two years ago) and press releases. $1 is about 95 Kenya shillings (and about 90 when deals were formulated)


Earlier this month, the Financial Times (FT) reported that mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity in Africa has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, as a result of collapsing commodity prices, political volatility and an anticipated rise in US interest rates. The value of African deals so far this year stands at $9.2 billionn — 23% lower than the same period 12 months ago and the lowest level recorded since 2004, according to data from Dealogic.

- Burbidge Capital also found that Kenya’s merger & acquisition deals slowed down in 2015 – with 11 M&A deals so far compared to 17 in the first four months of 2014. This year, the largest concluded deals have seen Helios sell a stake in Equity Bank to Norwegian funds and and Old Mutual’s purchase of a 60.7% in UAP Holdings.


More mergers are expected in the Kenyan banking sector as the Treasury Secretary announced that an increase in the minimum capital to strengthen banks’ capital base and increase competition…progressively from the current Kshs 1 billion to Kshs 5 billion (~52 million) by 2018. 20 banks are below the Kshs 2 billion mark.

-  Helios cashing out;  Norfund & Norwegian private investors are acquiring 50% of Helios partners investment in Kenya’ Equity Bank Group and will now own 12%. And today, Uganda’s National Social Security Fund has bought a 2.44% stake in Equity Bank Group from Helios Investors at Kshs 50 per share – and the new deal is worth ~$50 million.

National Bank management said it has not been briefed on any merger plans with its State-owned rival Consolidated Bank. Treasury secretary Henry Rotich said National Bank would be merged with another bank before it’s planned rights issue. The government is the biggest shareholder of National Bank controlling about 79% shares consisting of Treasury and NSSF stakes. As part of a rights issue it is expected that NBK will retire its preference shares (held by the Treasury and NSSF) by converting them into ordinary shares.

- High-level talks regarding a merger between NIC Bank and Commercial Bank of Africa are  reportedly taking place but Mshwari may be spun out of any resulting entity. Both are mid-tier banks with quite a focus on corporate and high-end clients.

- While Mwalimu SACCO is acquiring 51% of Equatorial Commercial Bank (ECB), the Society is not converting into a bank nor merging with ECB.

- Kenya’s Nairobi Securities Exchange is acquiring the 77% of their associate company CDSC, which they own with stockbrokers, in a deal worth~Kshs 260 million.

Barclays Africa advised on the largest sale of an African Bank in 2014 – a deal, in which Nigeria state-owned Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) sold Mainstreet Bank to Skye Bank.

- Equity Group Holdings agreed to acquire 79% of ProCredit Bank Congo, the 7th largest bank (by assets) in DRC. ProCredit has total assets of $200 million, a customer base of over 170,000, and has KfW (12%) and IFC (9%) amongst its shareholders.

- Liaison Financial Services who have just been approved as an investment advisor in Kenya recently acquired the African business of Knutson Global who were involved in asset-backed securities, municipal development bonds and consumer lending.


Oxford Business Group expects strong Kenya insurance M&A as companies merge to increase market share & meet higher capital requirements.

- The Mauritian Minister for Financial Services, Roshi Bhadain, said the State Insurance Company of Mauritius (SICOM), would take over the 23.9% stake (valued at more than Kshs 13 billion) held by Businessman, Mr. Dawood Rawat, in financial services firm British-American Investments Company (Kenya)  - a.k.a. Britam. This comes after the government of Mauritius placed Rawat’s firms in receivership over alleged financial impropriety charges.

- UAP and Old Mutual agreed on a merger ahead of listing. This comes after Old Mutual raised its shareholding to 60% from 23% after buying 37% from private equity (PE) firms Aureos, Africinvest and Swedfund for around Kshs 14 billion. Old Mutual will not buy out the other 1,000 minority shareholders (who are staff & agents).

Old Mutual first bought into UAP in January by acquiring a 23.3% stake from Centum Investments and businessman. Centum sold its stake to get funding needed for its massive real estate, financial services and power projects.

- Barclays Africa will acquire 63% of First Assurance, Kenya’s No. 10 insurer, for Kshs 2.8 billion (~$30 million).

- KCB Group is said to be considering a takeover of Madison Insurance.

Pan Africa Insurance shareholders approved the acquisition of at least 51% percent of Gateway insurance. Through this acquisition, the company will enter into the general insurance business.

- Kenya’s competition authority approved the acquisition of 61.2% of Resolution Health East Africa by Leapfrog II Holdings.


- The Heron Portico, which is managed by Indian hospitality group Sarovar Hotels & Resorts, says the acquisition of rival Zehneria Hotel in Nairobi’s Westlands in a Kshs 1 billion buyout to expand its market share in conference tourism and hospitality industry in Kenya. The Heron Portico financed 80% of the purchase price using debt while the rest is self-financed.

- Minor Hotel Group of Thailand, and Elewana Afrika, are acquiring 6 camps spread across national parks in Meru, Samburu and Narok counties. Stefano and Liz Cheli (Cheli and Peacock Group), the founders of the camps, will continue to run the resorts and focus on business development.

- Kenya’s Competition Authority approved the acquisition by Fortune Hotels of Paradise Safari Park and 85% of Paradise Investments and Development Kenya held by Paradise Company.

- TPSEA (Serena) acquires 25.1% of TPS (D) that was set up to run the Movenpick Hotel in Dar, now known as the Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel in Tanzania.


- Frontier Services Group (FSG), a Nairobi-based logistics firm, has completed its purchase of Cheetah Logistics SARL – Congolese transport company as part of central and western Africa expansion plan. Kenya’s competition authority also approved the acquisition of Phoenix Aviation by Frontier Services Group as well as the acquisition of 55% of Tradewinds Aviation Services by NAS Africa Aviation.

- UK logistics and engineering firm Atlas Development says it is in advanced stages of discussions with potential takeover targets in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.


Norfund to acquire a stake in Globeleq Africa from Actis for $225M and partner with CDC to pursue power generation opportunities.

UAE’s Gulf Petrochem Group acquires Essar Petroleum East Africa and renames it as Aspam Energy (Kenya) in a deal to enhance the group’s integrated services and products for the downstream supply chain in the oil and gas sector in East Africa.


- Scangroup dropped a bid to acquire 80% of Experiential Marketing, as approvals were not granted in time. Scangroup shareholders later renamed the company WPP Scangroup signifying that WPP Scangroup and WPP plc. are now fully together, with a shared vision for developing marketing communications across Sub Saharan Africa.

- Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K), and Buchanan, one of the world’s leading financial communications consultancies, joined forces to launch H+K Financial, a specialist financial communications division dedicated to the Middle East and Africa.


- Millicom is to acquire 85% of Zanzibar’s Zantel for $1 and take over $74 million of its debts. Zantel is the leading Telco in Zanzibar (but just 5% to Tanzania’s total) with $82m in revenue and 1.7m customers.

- Kenyan innovation, Wezatele, was acquired for $1.7 million by AFB Kenya.

- Techno Brain acquired the trips™ suite of integrated customs &revenue software from Crown Agents to provide tax and customs solutions that target the broader financial management needs of government.

Akvo Kenya transfers the business of building open source intemet and mobile software to support international development partnerships to Akvo Kenya Foundation.


- A Paris-based PE fund bought 30% of Ramco Plexus, a subsidiary of Ramco Group that has an annual turnover of Kshs 5.5 billion. The Ramco Group was started in 1948 as a hardware store, and has grown into a 34-subsidiary strong business, which employs 3,000 people.


- Business transfer:  Antipest Kenya Limited, has transferred to Modern Ways.

- Business transfer: Unicorn Pharma Kenya has been sold and transferred to Medisel (Kenya)

 Agri Business/Food Business

-  Syngenta rejected Monsanto’s $45 billion merger offer. An eventual agreement will have an impact on Kenya’s agricultural sector.

- Shareholders of REA Vipingo Plantations approved sale of the firm’s land at Vipingo to Centum Investments as agreed upon in a settlement with R.E.A Trading.

- Giant milk processor Brookside Dairy has bought out Sameer Agriculture & Livestock business in Uganda for Sh3.5 billion (~$38 million). The government of Uganda, which owns 49% (of Sameer) confirmed this on March 25.

- Business transfer: Pure Imported (formerly European Foods E.A. Limited) (which was in the business of importing & selling deep frozen foods and supplying fresh juices) to European Foods Africa

- The Competition Authority exempted the production, bottling supply and distribution business between Distell and Kenya Wine Agencies Business transfer: for 5 years.

- Business transfer: The ice cream production & trading business of Alpha Dairy Products is being transferred to Razco.

The Tanzania’s competition commission may reverse it’s decision approving for EABL to merge with Serengeti Breweries, as Serengeti’s performance failed to meet expectations


- Kenya’s competition Authority has approved (i) The acquisition of 50% of Equatorial Commercial Bank Centre by Fidelity Shield Insurance  (ii)  The acquisition of Parkway Investments by Mt. Kenya University Trustees (iii) The acquisition of Endebees Estate (Kilifi Holdings) by Balloobhoni Chhotabhai Patel.

Nairobi Serena is the Leading Hotel in Kenya

Nairobi Serena Hotel has just been named the Leading Hotel in Kenya at the 2015  World Travel Awards.

Established in 1976; the hotel has been modernized over the years with timely, yet discrete, renovations and now has 183 modern rooms with all the modern necessities. In many Kenyan’s minds Serena, is a concept not a place; this comes from the 2008 post-election mediation talks that were held at the hotel, and for a few weeks, Kenyans got daily updates from the hotel which was the effective centre of efforts to stabilize the country as mediators led by Kofi Annan tried to get the two (then) warring sides of politicians to come to an agreement.

As a business traveler, it’s easy to see why the hotel gets so many visitors and hosts so many corporate events. The hotel is located about 200 meters from the edge of the centre of town, and borders Central Park, and easy walking distance past the park which many Nairobian’s wrongly refer to as Uhuru Park. From the outside, it’s clear that greenery and landscaping is part of the hotels’ brand as it blends well with the surrounding park.

Once inside, after a brisk but efficient security is a brown lobby that sets out and African theme that  extends throughout the hotel; from the staff uniforms to wall murals, carvings, to duvet covers, and the corridors on every floors, – you are constantly reminded that this is an African set in a green park. The art pieces which originate from different African countries are properly identified.

There are several event rooms of varying sizes, that are used for various corporate events. Whether it’s an early morning breakfast for a company to announce financial results to investors before the stock exchange opens, or a cocktail to launch a mobile phone in the evening, the hotel staff and service seems to always be fresh and impeccable. The hotel is unique among the top Nairobi hotels in that it has ample and secure parking for its guests and visitors.

Whether you arrive late at night from Europe or Asia, or have an early morning flight to another African capital, guests are sure to get the service they need. Room service is 24 hour, and one can arrange for early morning breakfast before an airport dash or a fast period.

Serena standard deluxe double room

If a guest arrives late, and has to work overnight, the hotel has a fully equipped 24-hour business center where they can print, bind, and scan documents ahead of a busy day.

The hotel has two full-time restaurant open form about 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. but one is closed on Sundays.

The standard rooms have the double beds or twin single beds depending on the guest request. The bathroom is simple to operate with at standard bathtub/shower plumbing layout and there is a fresh dressing gown and slippers for each room guest. There are also several levels of suites for guests who require the such facilities and spacing.

There is an interactive TV that welcome the guest to the room, that’s activated from the reception and this also helps orient the guest with the hotel facilities and layout.  There is complimentary Wi-Fi for guests in the rooms and throughout the hotel. The rooms also have mini-bar (that guests will incur charges for using) and a complimentary in-room self-service beverage layout that’s refilled very day.

There are extension cables to enable guest to charge various electronic devices (phone/tablet) simultaneously if one has forgotten a cable or not got the right plug for this country. The in-room safes are extremely large and one can safely put in several files of confidential documents in additional to a few laptops, phones, cash, passports etc.

Some business friendly features include, same day laundry and even faster ‘express service’ from their in-house Laundromat, and there is also a unisex beauty salon.

The outdoor heated pool is somewhat secluded from the dining and guest area. This is good as no one wants to swim while day visitors attending a workshop or eating lunch at a workshop gawks at them, Some shrubs and artifacts provide discrete partitions.

The second floor is designated as a smoking floor for guests who prefer that. Unlike other hotels, the evening entertainment is light music at a piano bar, not too loud and there is no casino at the hotel.

The guest relations can arrange for limousines and taxis,  mobile phone rentals, golf outings, visits the Nairobi National Park or other activities further. They also offer baby-sitting, family rooms, children’s dining/menus and there is a house doctor on call.

The hospitality offered by the well-trained hotel staff keeps bringing guests back, enabling them to have a relaxed work or family setting  hidden behind the shrubs and trees that also filter out the noise of Nairobi’s (now notorious) traffic.

While the local hotel industry still fails to rank and rate Kenyan hotels. Serena Nairobi is clearly five-star and is a member of the ‘Leading Hotels of the World’ group.

From October 2015, Nairobi Serena will undergo another phased refurbishment and extension. Additions over the next two years will include a new ballroom, new upper car park, new restaurant, shop, salon, new executive lounge,  and rooms on the 7th floor will see their number increase from 183-199. The directors of Serena plan that these improvements will ensure that Nairobi Serena remains the preferred and leading hotel for visitors to the city for the next 30 years.


Delve into The EastAfrican 

#TEAat20 #TEA@20

The EastAfrican has several sections, as outlined in the app, and that is what makes reading it so interesting to read every week.

EastAfrican cover

The first is the news section. It’s a newspaper after all, but one with a difference. While Kenyan newspapers have screaming headlines about the opposing political factions or a shocking crimes, the East African is analytic from the headline onwards. The good stuff is inside, and their readers knows this, so they don’t have to tease away on the cover.

It is also sold in many markets it covers and you will easily find alternating headlines about  Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, DRC, Sudan, beyond the traditional East Africa.  This week’s headline is on the just-released country budget statements, and I’m sure most Kenyans, were probably surprised to see that the Finance Minister from Tanzania is a lady!

The opinion section is top-notch. While they are usually on politics, theirs are analytic and look at the past to explain the current and predict future events. Favorite writers include Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3), Elsie Eyakuze (@MikocheniReport), and Muthoni Wanyeki. They will also feature special guest pieces like Salim Ahmed Salim writing on the ongoing electoral crisis in Burundi, or business leaders writing on implications of new tax laws.

One of the strongest content features is the range of advertisements that appear in the EastAfrican. You get to read about Somalia government reconstruction tenders, school teaching positions in Uganda, mining machinery for sale in Tanzania, regional consultant and research vacancies around Eastern Africa, higher education positions in Rwanda to name a few. It seems that if you’re looking for the best talent or partners in East africa, this is the place to advertise.

EastAfrican chartFrom the front page, to the back page, business news is a prevalent topic throughout the newspaper. And  while most business news comes out on Tuesday, a lot of it is not a surprise as it first appears in The Eastafrican whose new issues are published and distributed on Saturday. So if you’re a savvy investor, by Monday morning you’ll know a lot more than people who wait for the Tuesday papers. Along with the news are nice charts and graphs giving powerful snapshots from across East Africa of investor markets, trends, and deals.

There are also supplements  and features of events that the newspaper is participating in such as the East African business summit, Pan-African Media conference and other regional, high-profile events. A recent issue had in-depth profiles of the candidates to replace Donald Kaberuka as  the head of the African Development Bank.

The Outlook and Magazine sections have lots of interesting features. These range from travel guides around East Africa, city guides, the history of interesting sites and places,  and features on science, sports, music, and film. I was once inspired to write a piece from the Magazine, and pestered the editors to accept my contributions. Sadly, only one piece, on shirt shopping in London, ran on the website of the EastAfrican but was not deemed to be of enough quality  for the actual newspaper.

It also has very good short stories, Kwani piece, award-winning pieces and new discoveries from anon writers – like this  thriller on expatriates, multinationals, strategy, corporate in-fighting, and marriage – all in two pages.

Capital Gains Tax Redone

A few months after the re-introduction of the capital gains tax in Kenya, that is now headed for some tweaking.

Even as they have tried to do their part, stockbrokers have challenged their role in the assessment and collection of the tax that was vaguely defined. E.g. some investors have had shares for years before they were immobilized (automated) and the tax was introduced, while others have bought shares at many different prices through the years.

A stockbroker tries to estimate a Kenyan investors capital gains

A stockbroker tries to estimate a Kenyan investors capital gains

In his statement (PDF) on the 2015/16 Kenya budget last week, the Cabinet Secretary for The National Treasury noted that ..the implementation of the law has faced some challenges in some sectors of the economy. In order to address these challenges and ensure enforceability and compliance, I propose to remove the 5% on capital gains arising from sale of shares and introduce a 0.3% withholding tax on the transaction value of the shares..”



East African App

#TEAat20  #TEA@20

The EastAfrican newspaper has a nice website that has most of the stories in the newspaper. But for some people, they still need and want to read the actual paper. This is because a great deal of value from reading a newspaper can be derived from items that are usually not posted online such as paid notices and advertisements.

Or sometimes, as a fan of the The EastAfrican you’re not able to get a physical copy – you may have traveled somewhere that’s far from a  supermarket or distributor of the newspaper. It may also be unavailable for some other reason e.g. there’s a temporary ban on the sale of the The EastAfrican now in Tanzania as the newspaper is perceived to have offended either the president or the government.

EastAfrican page

In such circumstances, you can still get the full experience of the EastAfrican as it’s available for users on Android and IOS platforms as an e-paper app  to download but not yet on Windows. New issues of the weekly newspapers are made available to download on Monday morning, and takes about 2- 10 minutes to download on a WiFi (it took 2 minutes to download via a Safaricom 3G today), and get to read it offline.

After download, you get a full color layout of all the pages as they appear in the actual EastAfrican newspaper. Like with Zinio and NewsStand, it has all pages in full sequence, page by page, with the layouts, advertisements, supplements, and stories exactly as they appear in the actual newspaper.

You can also search though stories for keywords, even words that appear in advertisements but that does not get a 100% hit rate. Still, it’s better to search than flipping through all 60 pages ofatypical paper, and you can also zoom in for stories, or jump through the different parts of theEastAfrican like the, magazines, markets, business, outlook opinion, and news sections.

There is also a saving for using the app. While a newspaper is about Kshs 100 per week in Kenya  (so 400 – 500 ($5.5) per month depending on the number of issues), the online one costs $4 per month or $50 per year. This is after a two-week free trial period for people who download the app. Subsequent payments can be made by credit card, debit card, M-pesa or cash.  Subscribers get notified of new issues of the EastAfrican every Monday morning when the new EastAfrican newspaper is uploaded. The newspaper is sold at different prices in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, but the app price is the same.

EastAfrican download


Shares Portfolio May 2015

Comparing performance to last quarter and a year ago.


Compared to last quarter, the portfolio is down 3% while the NSE 20 share index is down 10% since February 2015.


The Stable
Bralirwa (Rwanda)  ↓
Centum (ICDCI)  ↓
Diamond Trust  ↓
Equity -
KCB  ↓
Kenya Airways  ↓
Kenya Oil  ↓
Mumias  ↓
Safaricom ↑
Scangroup ↓
Stanbic (Uganda) ↓
Unga ↑

In: Equity Bank
Out: None
Increase: Kenya Airways, Kenol, Mumias
Decrease: None
Best performer: Safaricom (up 11% this quarter)
Worst performer: Kenya Airways (down 34%) , Mumias  (down -33%)

Looking Forward To:
- Bank profits & dividends from banks (KCB) and Safaricom.
- More M&A deals from Centum after their bond

Other Events:

- Safaricom’s super profits continued, and defied expectations of many, with profits going up 38% to $336 million. The company is crucial to the Kenya government in that will pay almost $600 million in taxes & licences fees this year, plus a Kshs 9 billion ($100 million) dividend that works about to about 10% of the country’s tax revenue!

-  A Kenya Airways full year loss expected to be announced this month amid other restructuring, debt, bailout, partnership (is the KLM shareholding good or bad?) discussions. There was a comment from a KQ executive who said that “our profit on each passenger can’t buy a good cup of coffee”.

- Just across the border, in Rwanda, was the IPO of  Crystal Telecom, in which 20% of MTN Rwanda was sold to the public and will be listed on the Rwanda stock exchange. The IPO which closed last week, cost a minimum investment of $150, and was open to all East African citizens.

The East African at 20

#TEAt20 #TEA@20

The EastAfrican newspaper is celebrating 20 years of circulation and publication around East Africa. The weekly from the Nation Media Group (NMG), is a favorite read, either online when stories go up over the weekend or on Monday in the office. On the occasion, we’ve learnt a bit about the newspaper which is distributed in all the East African countries. While, today, it may seem right in step for the times when regional economic integration in Eastern Africa is the central focus of many government, trade, and political efforts, the newspaper was conceived at a time when Africa was still considered the dark continent.

We’ve learnt that it was the brain child of the Nation Media Group’s principal shareholder, The Aga Khan who conceived of a newspaper that would promote regional integration. Writer Gerry Loughran recalls that as far back as 1970, the Aga Khan, had expressed the wish for “at least one prestige publication of high quality circulating throughout East Africa”.

The choice of the title, omitting the “Nation’ was to de-emphasise the Kenyan-ness of the newspaper and the layout broke away from the successful look of other NMG papers and omitted a valuable front page advertisement space. Others were the decision to make it a stand alone weekly, and not a daily paper as that would require a great deal of resources.

Among it’s first hires were two people who later became legends in their fields; the prolific Charles Onyango-Obbo who’s now the M&G Africa editor, and who still writes for the EastAfrican and the Nation and John Githongo who went on to lead Kenya’s anti-corruption efforts to their highest position before that all fell apart. The EastAfrican has had 7 managing editors including a lady, Pamela Sittoni.

It’s launch was planned to coincide with the revival of the East African community and promote regional integration efforts. Indeed it told many positive stories of Rwanda post 1994.

That it has done and continues to this day. It’s the place you go to read long form stories on different aspects of East African life. While most newspapers will still have Africa news buried within the single page devoted to world news, the EastAfrican leads and is full of stories that originate in any of the East African countries – whether its presidential term limits in Burundi, the Kwibuka20 events in Rwanda, the morphing of sea piracy into bush terror in Somalia, oil prospects in Uganda, a new brewery or railway in Ethiopia, the recycling peace talks of South Sudan, etc.

Amid all this is its coverage of business events. It’s probably the only newspaper that has had analysis of the Crystal Telecom IPO in Rwanda in which all East African nationals will be able to buy 20% of MTN Rwanda. Oops that closes today (when this post is published). They also have a healthy coverage of arts, travel diaries, literature, featuring pieces from Kwani and award-winning young African writeEast Africanrs.

The Nation Media Group AGM takes places today and the shareholders report notes that The EastAfrican newspaper had profit growth of 7% in 2014. Salute, to twenty more years.

Guide to Freetown, Sierra Leone

A guest post

Getting There:  Lufthansa and Brussels will get you as far as Abidjan and local carrier operating under them will get you into the country. There’s also Kenya Airways and Air France. Flights are still very limited and very expensive due to the Ebola outbreak; it’s not hard to get in or out with the right planning but don’t expect a couple flights to choose from every day, more like one to choose from every couple days.

On Arrival: Lungi International Airport isn’t so bad.  Quick walk to the terminal and the bags arrived fairly quickly.  But getting into downtown Freetown is another matter.  I don’t want to wager how long a taxi ride would take as it’s a US$40 shuttle and boat ride into town after your plane lands.  Also, there’s only one company – Sea Coast Express – running boats at the moment, so not a lot of options.  When we landed it was about a 20 minute ride to the boat, 30 minutes to board, and 30 minutes across the water.  And that’s on a good day.  For other colleagues it’s been a 3-4 hour process; one mentioned she got the last boat leaving that day and that was at 17:00 (though we landed at 5pm and were fine).  The boats operate on the flight schedule and less flights equals less boats.  Bottom line is that it’s safe to assume there will be a boat for your flight but have a backup plan to spend a night in Lungi if you’ve missed the last boat out – much safer and simpler than trying to spend five hours drive there in the dark.

Getting Around: We hired a driver for the week, which is recommended.  Taxis are common but so is picking up as many fares as once throughout the ride to maximize profits.  Boda bodas are everywhere and fastest from their numbers and weaving through traffic.  Buses are another option but unsure of the routes and the morning commute had queues about 75 meters long by 09:00.

It’s very secure, for walking around, even toward the evening.  Just keep in mind that it’s a city and like any city in the world just don’t be stupid and you’ll be fine.  Don’t flash money around, keep your valuables out of sight, and take taxis everywhere after dark, etc.

Staying In Touch:  I was not able to use my personal cell line, which is a first as it promotes international access, including data.  While I could have enabled some service, data and calls were prohibitively expensive.  It was off to Airtel for local SIM cards, which did not take long to open a new account (about 30 minutes).  Charging and top up stations are all over the city, so never far from finding someone who could provide more airtime at about 500MB for 50,000 Leone.  An SMS is about 500 Leone and the average call around 2,000 Leone.

Where to Stay: There were lots of hotels offering a good range of amenities.  Colleagues who had been here before, opted for the Country Lodge, which was sufficient and offered excellent views of the city.  This time we stayed at The Hub Hotel, one of the newer facilities, which was excellent with a bar, restaurant, pool, good view, comfortable rooms, and is only going to get better  as their gym is nearly done.  It fills up quick though; and we had to make the booking a couple of months in advance.

Electricity is very reliable. The most we noticed at larger facilities were the generators flipping over in the evening, even at the start of the rainy season.  Outages happened, of course, but the longest I think we waited was just a few minutes.

Eating Out: Star beer everything but a good selection just about everywhere we went.  Food is very broad in the selection as well; chicken and rice is the most common.  Discussion was local politics (the Vice President was recently ousted), and the Ebola response.  As a Liverpool fan, all I could find were Man U. fans, so there was talk of sports but unfortunately no one understood basic good versus evil on that front.

English is the official language, to the point where I only even heard some other local dialects from other chiefdoms a couple times and briefly throughout my week there.  Several local English papers and radio stations.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing:  Probably missed it but didn’t come across a main shopping area.  But stalls are everyone; some streets have them the entire length with everything from shoes to books to computer parts.

While I didn’t get a chance to go – ah, the tease of business travel – everyone who talked about sightseeing started and ended with the beaches.  River Beach No.2 seemed to get the most mentions between its amenities but mostly the seclusion it offers for those willing to drive a little further to get there.  Don’t think you can go wrong at any beach there.

Hotels average about US$130 with breakfast included; dinner would be about another US$25.  Dollars are acceptable but Leones are preferred.  Much more importantly, however, is Sierra Leone basically doesn’t use credit cards.  The bank system is improving but it’s a ways away from making ATM’s a common sight.  Our hotel accepted cards but somewhat reluctantly and with an additional 4% service charge.  So bring cash and lots of it.

Odd Points: Get used to not shaking many hands due to Ebola, even for those you’ve just met – wasn’t odd but sensible given the situation, just off putting at first.  We did dome fist bumps or bumped elbows; most just get right to the conversation.  It’s best to not even try and deal with the awkwardness of not shaking hands versus trying to shake the hand of someone who is clearly uncomfortable but still trying to be polite.

Biggest surprise: Not a real surprise was how common health safety about Ebola was but I was surprised at just how much safety-related propaganda was all around.  It’s everywhere, which course is a good thing and speaks to why (Ebola) is in decline now.