KQ & DRC

This was a significant week for Kenya Airways and its regional flight partnerships. Their JamboJet subsidiary started flights to Goma, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). JamboJet also resumed flights to Lamu on Kenya’s coast after four years.

Then Kenya Airways handed over two Embraer 190’s in a wet-lease to state-owned Congo Airways. This means it will be operated by Kenya Airways staff. The airline also launched a direct cargo flight between Lubumbashi and Johannesburg South Africa

In November 2020, KQ launched a Southern Africa cargo service, operating freighter flights from Johannesburg to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Harare (Zimbabwe) Lilongwe (Malawi) Lusaka (Zambia) and Maputo (Mozambique) Previously all freighter flights would have to operate through Nairobi.

The cargo business is still low but its significance will grow as passengers traffic is not expected to pick up for at least another year. Now Lubumbashi has been added to the KQ Southern Africa cargo network.

Land Rover Defender 90 launch in Nairobi

Inchcape Kenya, the official distributor of Land Rover, Jaguar and BMW has launched the Land Rover Defender 90 to the Kenyan market. The Land Rover brand is synonymous with Africa and safaris and has found a variety of uses in homes, companies and governments where it is known for handling rough terrain, offering comfort, and being a long-lasting vehicle.

The new Defender 90 is a capable, short wheelbase, all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle, capable of seating 6, and is the first Defender model to receive over-the-air software updates. It is available in four models; the Defender S (standard), X-Dynamic, First Edition and its top range Defender X. Some features on the vehicles include a 10” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, local navigation, 3D surround cameras, air suspension, and a folding fabric sunroof.

Buyers can pick their Defender from four accessory pack options. They can set up the vehicle further to handle off-road driving even better with options like a raised air intake, a lightweight roof rack, an air compressor for inflating tyres/ mattresses and side-mounted gear carriers.

The Defender 90 is available in four engine options– two diesel and two petrol. Also, the Jaguar Land Rover group has also committed to go fully electric in the year 2025.

Inchcape is a London-listed group that retails vehicles in 34 markets. They launched in Kenya in 2018 and this is now their second-largest market in Africa, after Ethiopia where they also sell Toyota models. 

The Chief Guest at the launch was the UK High Commissioner to Kenya, Jane Marriot who said that vehicles were among her country’s top 5 exports to Kenya, amounting to £31.5 million last year.

The Defender 90 launch comes after Inchcape introduced the Defender 110 in Kenya in August 2020. It sold well after Kenyans got a chance to test drive the models and attracted a young buyer segment. Pricing for the Defender 90 starts at Kshs 17 million. Motorists are invited to Inchcape to make enquiries on servicing, training on vehicle features and a chance to test-drive the different Defender models.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Kenneth Matiba

“Aiming High” is an autobiography of Kenneth Matiba that covers his life as a civil servant, businessman, farmer, corporate leader, member of parliament, cabinet minister, and presidential candidate.

It’s also a good business book that’s well written and detailed.

Excerpts:

Scaling Farming Ventures

  • While exporting beans to Europe, he faced freight challenges. East African Airways (EAA) had no cargo and when BOAC planes landed in Nairobi from South Africa, they were always full. Cargo was doubled booked and often not loaded at Embakasi airport and later thrown away. He decided to start a cargo airline in 1967 and registered African international airways and invited John Michuki and Charles Njonjo to join. At the time EAA’s problem was that Uganda was not remitting revenue and it was serving uneconomic routes in Tanzania. He got the authority to operate a cargo charter flew an old Britannia plane that was on sale for £65,000 to Nairobi to inspect with Michuki and Njonjo. But unhappy EAA staff reported back and the Tanzania Standard had a headline about how Kenya was helping three capitalists to destroy EAA. Michuki and Matiba were PS’s and Njonjo was AG and they decided not to sign the purchase agreement and the plane was flown back to England.
  • Craziest venture: In 1975 during a potato shortage in England, tried to export 6,000 tons. Rounded up all potatoes in Meru and with 290 trucks got them to Mombasa. Managed to load one ship with 1,600 and later another with 1,700. The second broke down, and by the time it reached potato was rotten and the ship was diverted for special cleaning.

Making Transitions

  • Only after he resigned from the government was he able to safeguard his independence through personal business dealings.
  • Radio announcements about cabinet reshuffles were a feature as far back as 1965. He heard he had been transferred from the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives. There was no proper handover and he felt it was wrong to shuffle civil servants (PS) like happened with ministers.

Corporate Life

  • In 1968 he planned to retire as PS and gave a one-year notice. He asked Geoffrey Kariithi to wait till President Kenyatta was in a good mood before telling him. When Kenyatta realized this he asked who authorized Matiba to leave the government and Kariithi reminded him it was he. Matiba later made up – he was arranging for his son Raymond and John Michuki’s two sons to be circumcised and Kenyatta asked that he also rope in his two sons, Uhuru and Muhoho.
  • After he left the government, he had five job offers and chose Kenya Breweries.
  • He refused to become the Chairman of Anglo Kenya investments without equity, so he was offered 26% and he paid for that.

Hoteling & Real Estate

  • Acquired Brunners hotel in 1974, a hotel in the middle of town, that was listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. The Brunner family had 65% and Marcel Brunner and his son Derek continued to run it and helped Matiba with Jadini later on. But they closed it in 1978. It had an old interior and its 120 beds could not support the needed renovations. They sold the building in June 1982 and Fedha Towers was later built on the site.
  • George Robinson bought 10 acres in Karen, improved and sold it to buy the Mackinnon Building opposite New Stanley for £50,000.
  • Matiba scouted Jadini Hotel in 1967 which was on sale in £54,000 and recommended Robinson buy it. They sold MacKinnon at a profit and bought Jadini and another 10 acres in Karen.
  • Bought Dacca Road houses in Nairobi West in 1969 and sold them in 1971.
  • They developed Golf Course housing estate but later gave up housing to concentrate on hotels and schools.
  • When Robinson died, Matiba negotiated to purchase his stake and took over Jadini. He had to rush to complete construction and open for tourists while facing down hostile old staff and management.
  • Michael Betrano, a new manager, rescued Jadini when it had 7.5% occupancy in March 1973 and put it on the world map. He later hired Christopher Mogidell who took it further.
  • In 1978, built Africana Sea Lodge in six months and in 1984 built, the 400-bed Safari Beach in 10 months that was opened in 1986.

Tourism Sector

  • Seasonal airlines: For KTDC, Matiba chaired the struggling Air Kenya which only did business from December to March and July to September when tourists visited. It was idle rest of the year and utilization was never above 50%.
  • Difficult Ministers: Tourism Minister Elijah Mwangale saw hotels as swindlers who did nothing but cheat Kenyans out of the foreign exchange. Matiba also held his tongue when Maina Wanjigi set a target of a million hotel beds which he correctly saw as unrealistic as the industry could not build 100,000 beds a year.
  • Matiba argued that tourism was the cheapest for Kenya to earn foreign exchange. To earn $100, you need to invest $40, and gets a net of $60 while to earn $100 from coffee, it costs $68.

Sports involvement

  • Matiba decided to form Kenya Breweries Football Club in 1970 and have all staff stop playing for other teams. They entered the poorly-run Kenya Football Association league that had a lot of frustration. Matiba later formed the Kenya Football Federation to run a 12-team Kenya Football League exclusively as a company that the Sports Minister could not interfere with and invited other clubs to join and though KFA refused to recognize them. But after Gor Mahia agreed to join, other teams followed. All they wanted was to play soccer and entertain fans, not represent Kenya. They were not deterred by a suspension by the KFA and went ahead to draw a league for Nairobi Mombasa Nakuru Kisumu, book and pay for the stadiums on Saturday and Sunday for a year.
  • Clubs got more from gate takings, tickets were printed by security firms which club representatives checked at gates, and complimentary tickets were abolished. While prices went up, they got more fans to come after they eliminated stone-throwing. They ensured clubs showed up ahead of time for matches for inspection and eliminated match delays sometimes caused by witchdoctors and superstitions.
  • In his first year chairing KFF and KFL, Kenya won three East African cups.
  • Matiba was an avid sportsman who climbed Mount Everest when he was a Cabinet Minister.

Giving Back.

  • Matiba worked with Bishop Sospeter Magua who wanted to make the church self-sustaining with permanent income through investments, and not be weak financially by staying dependent on unpredictable charity donations. They organized for three districts – Muranga, Kiambu and Nyeri – to contribute. President Moi chaired the first harambee in Muranga where Kshs 1 million was raised, Mwai Kibaki chaired the next one in Kiambu and Njonjo was invited for the third in Nyeri. They bought a 7-acre plot in Loresho and one acre on Kayahwe Road to build maisonettes. But Bishop Magua died in a road accident in 1982. Is Bishop Magua Centre, home of the first iHub, named after him?
  • Embori farm in Timau was put up for sale in 1977 for Kshs 34 million and Robert Wilson, the European farmer selling it, did not want it to go to a cooperative or large group, preferring it should go to individuals or a public company. Matiba persuaded him that it could remain intact and not be subdivided. The seller also wanted Kshs 20 million of the amount in foreign exchange and Matiba asked Kenyatta who authorized the Central Bank to release this sum which was, the largest amount of forex ever given to purchase a farm. Meanwhile. a cabinet minister who wanted the farm tried to scuttle the deal. Matiba did a prospectus for Kiharu residents that yielded Kshs 6 million from 10,000 shareholders. After taking over, they sold wheat to KFA and barley to Kenya Breweries to meet the interest on overdraft for seven years but the farm did not generate enough to pay back the bank loan and shareholders are not willing to pay more. So Matiba next pushed them to sell some land to local residents, with a bank offering 50% finance and keep the balance for the farm, but after a year, only a handful took the offer. The farm still runs well today.

Business and politics

  • After 3.5 years as MP, he was appointed a Minister of Culture and Social Services in September 1983. He was the Chairman of Kenya Breweries and he made a personal decision to resign and was succeeded by Bryan Hobson. At the time, Alliance had seven hotels and four schools.
  • Matiba resigned from the cabinet in December 1988. After he quit he has no passport and went about his businesses quietly, but Moi never forgot. When he got his passport back in 1989, he made a trip to Rwanda for the wedding of the daughter of President Habyarimana in July 1989. Then in February 1990, he was invited back to Rwanda to explain how that country could expand its tourism and he took five experts from the Alliance group with him. But as soon as he came back, special branch officers started looking for him for interrogation after the death of Minister Robert Ouko.
  • Concern about leadership. The Kenya majority has lost the concept of servanthood. Leaders aspire not to serve citizens but themselves. Many spend only two hours in their offices making personal telephone calls and the rest of their time on their business.

Business Advice

  • The biggest problem African businesses face is a lack of accounting.
  • Africans also treated businesses as hobbies and entrust them to ignorant family members.
  • Business people try to do too much – being butchers, curio sellers and textile dealers all at the same time instead of concentrating on one line.


Matiba was detained in July 1990. The book dwells on his medical treatment after he was poisoned in detention and his preparation to run for the Presidency in 1992 where he came second. It does not go into his later tribulations with banks and businesses that halted the corporate empire he had built. Kenneth Matiba died in April 2018.

Absa Kenya rebounds from Covid hit

As the wave of quarterly financial results by Kenyan banks stream in this month, the banking industry appears to have recovered from the early effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Absa Bank, Kenya’s fifth-largest bank with assets of Kshs 398 billion ($3.6 billion), released its results, showing a 5x growth in pre-tax profits in the half-year, from 1.6 billion last June to 8.0 billion in June 2021. In the half-year period,  it made provisions of Kshs 1.9 billion compared to Kshs 5.3 billion last June. Overall, loans have grown from Kshs 202 to 219 billion (8%) while deposits have grown from Kshs 249 to 264 billion, representing a loan-to-deposit ratio of 83%. 

The banking industry made many responses to Covid-19, including reducing digital bank charges and restructuring customer loans. Absa restructured 59,000 loans worth Kshs 62 billion, representing 30% of its balance sheet. Absa Kenya’s Managing Director, Jeremy Awori, said it had been a good initiative to work with customers as, by June 2021, 94% of the loans have resumed repayments and the bank’s non-performing asset levels were down to below the industry average of 14%. 

In the last seven years, the bank had doubled the size of its balance sheet, navigated the re-branding from Barclays to Absa, and brought down its cost to income ratio from 53% to 45%.

Absa will optimize costs through technology to improve banking services. In 2021, it will invest Kshs 1.6 billion in technology initiatives; they have already launched WhatsApp banking and will upgrade the Timiza digital banking platform, expand agency banking, automate securities trading and increase cash deposit ATMs and rollout of contactless cards. 

Going forward, Absa Kenya management expects that, with the built-up strong capital and liquidity, the bank will be in a good position to pay a dividend to the shareholders at the end of the year which they missed last year.

Afghanistan Bank Governor on Economic Prospects

Ajmal Ahmady, the acting Governor of the Central Bank of Afghanistan, Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) in the ousted government has continued to post a series of tweets about events in the country. He answered questions about the country’s reserves, future relations with the IMF, relations with the US, management of the budget and deficit and the local banking sector.

1. Ajmal Ahmady @aahmady This thread is to clarify the location of DAB (Central Bank of Afghanistan) international reserves.

I am writing this because I have been told Taliban are asking DAB staff about location of assets. If this is true – it is clear they urgently need to add an economist on their team.

2. First, total DAB reserves were approximately $9.0 billion as of last week.

But this does not mean that DAB held $9.0 billion physically in our vault. As per international standards, most assets are held in safe, liquid assets such as Treasuries and gold.

3. The major investment categories include the following assets (all figures in billions):

(1) Federal Reserve = $7.0

  • U.S. bills/bonds: $3.1
  • WB RAMP assets: $2.4
  • Gold: $1.2
  • Cash accounts: $0.3

(2) International accounts = 1.3

(3) BIS = $0.7

4. Interesting note was that the IMF had approved a SDR650 billion allocation recently.

DAB was set to receive approximately $340 million on August 23rd. Not sure if that allocation will now proceed with respect to Afghanistan.

5. Given Afghanistan’s large current account deficit, DAB was reliant on obtaining physical shipments of cash every few weeks.

The amount of such cash remaining is close to zero due a stoppage of shipments as the security situation deteriorated, especially during the last few days.

6. On Friday morning, I received a call notifying me that there would be no further USD shipments (we were expecting one on Sunday, the day Kabul fell).

On Saturday, banks placed very large USD bids as customer withdrawals accelerated.

7. For the first time, I therefore had to limit USD access to both banks and dollar auctions to conserve remaining DAB dollars.

We also put out a circular placing maximum withdrawal limits per customer. During the day, afghani depreciated from 81 to almost 100 and then back to 86.

8. On Saturday at noon, I met with President Ghani to explain that the expected Sunday dollar shipment would not arrive.

On Saturday evening, President Ghani spoke with Secretary Blinken to request dollar shipments to resume. In principle it was approved.

9. Again, seems ridiculous in retrospect, but did not expect Kabul to fall by Sunday evening.

In any case, the next shipment never arrived. Seems like our partners had good intelligence as to what was going to happen.

10. Please note that in no way were Afghanistan’s international reserves ever compromised.

Assets are all held at Fed, BIS, RAMP, or other bank accounts. Easily audited. We had a program with both IMF and Treasury that monitored assets. No money was stolen from any reserve account.

11. Given that the Taliban are still on international sanction lists, it is expected (confirmed?) that such assets will be frozen and not accessible to Taliban.

I can’t imagine a scenario where Treasury/OFAC would given Taliban access to such funds.

12. Therefore, we can say the accessible funds to the Taliban are perhaps 0.1-0.2% of Afghanistan’s total international reserves. Not much.

Without Treasury approval, it is also unlikely that any donors would support the Taliban Government.

13. I believe local banks have told customers that they cannot return their dollars – because DAB has not supplied banks with dollars.

This is true. Not because funds have been stolen or being held in vault, but because all dollars are in international accounts that have been frozen.

14. Taliban should note this was in no way the decision of DAB or its professional staff.

It is a direct result of US sanctions policy implemented by OFAC. Taliban and their backers should have foreseen this result. Taliban won militarily – but now have to govern. It is not easy.

15. Therefore, my base case would be the following:

  • Treasury freezes assets
  • Taliban have to implement capital controls and limit dollar access
  • Currency will depreciate
  • Inflation will rise as currency pass through is very high
  • This will hurt the poor as food prices increase.