Caritas MFI Bank Launched

Thursday saw the official launch of the Caritas Microfinance (MFI) Bank in Nairobi. Caritas MFB,  which is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi, was licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya in June 2015. It has since mobilized almost Kshs 400 million in deposits and advanced Kshs 250 million of loans.

Caritas plans to go from having two branches, now serving 10,000 customers, to five by year-end and increase its authorized agent network from 16 to 50. Already 70% transactions are done using mobile banking and through a partnership with Cooperative Bank, Caritas customers can use Coop Bank ATM’s and visa cards for purchases and this will enable another potential 100,000 “unbanked and under-banked” members of 200 self-help groups in Nairobi and Kiambu counties to access formal banking services.

MFI’s were excluded from the interest cap law of 2016. Other deposit-taking microfinance bank institutions include Choice, Daraja, Ideal (formerly REMU), Maisha, SMEP, Sumac, U&I, and Uwezo. Larger ones include KWFT and Faulu  as well as the Chase Bank-owned Rafiki MFI that was quite large and growing fast. It is independent of Chase Bank but a lot of its future growth is dependent on the outcome of the Chase receivership.

Kenya Green Bonds Launched

A few days ago saw the launch of green bonds in Kenya with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Kenya Bankers Association, Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) and Financial Sector Deepening Africa (not FSD Kenya). Through this, they hope to deliver lower cost funds through capital markets to finance green projects. China is actually the leader in this along with India, but Kenya, as part of a climate bonds initiative, will be the flagship for green bonds in Africa.

NSE CEO Geoffery Odundo NSE Odundo said green bond listings at the NSE would attract impact investors while Kenya Bankers Chairman, Lamin Manjang said they hoped the first green bond would list at the NSE this year. FSD Africa has committed $600,000 to this and the IFC will partner with KBA to determine green portfolio i.e. projects that quality for such finance, from sectors such as energy, agriculture, infrastructure, transport, manufacturing. Other actives to be undertaken include and enabling small banks to take part in financing the pipeline, extending green bonds across East Africa, creating a pool of Kenya green finance experts, and promoting green Islamic finance.

More on renewable energy project finance in Kenya.

World Bank Reduces Kenya Economic Forecast

A new report from the  World Bank slightly revised down the forecast for Kenya economic growth from the 5.9% achieved last year to 5.5% in 2017. This is attributed to ongoing drought, depressed private sector growth, and rising oil prices while 2016 had low oil prices, tourism recovery, and favourable weather conditions.

At the launch, Central Bank Governor, Patrick Njoroge said the focus should not be on the rate change, but on the medium term in which Kenya’s economy had distinguished itself by its resilience. This comes from Kenya having a highly diversified economy  – a mix of largest export is tea but his tea, and that goes to Egypt (not the UK), the economy has a strong regional focus (25% of exports are to EAC, and 40% to sub-Saharan Africa), a dynamic private sector (that’s becoming more transparency, with good governance & better business models), a well-educated labour force and investments in infrastructure (he said more should be written about the SGR vs. the old lunatic express railway) which will improve the country’s competitiveness. He said that foreign exchange reserves were at an all-time high (5.3 months) and while rains had failed in 2017 and there was a slowdown in bank lending, the risk of Brexit to Kenya was more on foreign direct investment (FDI) side and less on exports.

At the launch, the World Bank also did a report on housing in Kenya titled unavailable and unaffordable that highlighted that there were fewer than 50,000 new houses being built each year compared to an annual demand for 200,000 homes. Also, there’s low financial participation with fewer than 25,000 mortgages in the country, yet mortgages are one of the most secure loans, as people do not default on their homes easily.

The World Bank proposes having a Kenya mortgage refinance company (KMRC) that adapts from other successful models in Malaysia, Morocco (guarantees for 70% of loans) and Nigeria (fully subscribed bond scheme) to see if the number of mortgages in Kenya can go up to 60,000. They also have private-public partnership at Naivasha in Nakuru County to build 1,000 low-cost homes, most of which will be below Kshs 2 million (~$20,000)

Also see a report of an IMF staff visit to Kenya.

Kenya Fintech Tools for Youth

A rundown of local fintech tools for phones available in Kenya, both from banks and non-banks. Most don’t give you much access to all their features till you register and It’s not clear where the user data for some of them ends up. They are mostly there for android phones, less so for iPhones. Take a spin, and share feedback if you have used them.

Non Bank One’s

Abacus helps novice or pro traders, understand and trade at the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

From CIC Group comes Bima Credo with which people can get life insurance by buying and using airtime credit. This enables consumers to pay for their life insurance premiums in affordable amounts and as part of their daily mobile airtime usage.

Mula: (Android only) is a bill payment service from Cellulant. One can pay all bills in one place, and track past payments, pay for Nairobi City parking and buy items for friends on any network. You will never forget a (recurring) bill, as Mula is fully integrated with Safaricom’s M-Pesa API so this means no copying and pasting transaction details. All you have to do is accept or decline the transaction. Another review by Moses.

M-Shwari Take part in the #52WeekChallenge With M-Shwari that locks savings and one will be able to save Kshs 68,500 ($685) a year, a handy sum, just by small periodic installments.

Open World has Open Business, a point of sale app for small businesses. They can use it to track sales and inventory in real-time. No long-term contract is required, just Kshs 500 (~$5). The app is a bottom-up fintech tool for SMEs that will enable data based lending from banks and alternative lenders.

The Safaricom App now comes with M-PESA functions and can be downloaded to Android and iOS smartphones.  The app enables customers to select contacts from their phone when sending money and customers. Aside from that, merchants will also enjoy faster payments through Lipa Na M-PESA to their accounts at 23 banks ..this will cut down the time that it takes to move money from a Lipa Na M-PESA till to a bank account from as much as 28 hours down to seconds.

Uhasibu has payroll which simplifies payroll management, including statutory payments to a half-dozen government agencies that businesses have to make every month, and these include different taxes. Another review by  Moses.

Zeep (Android): Enables teens to learn finance in a secure environment. Their parent/guardians register (*823#) then also link and register to their children/ beneficiaries/ dependents numbers. They can use the app to make payments for NHIF, land rates and business permits. They can also allocate weekly amounts to teens and watch as they pay for utilities and other bills.

Bank One’s

CBA has Loop which is geared toward the young hustler or someone who needs banking for a side gig. Tagged as unbank yourself, users, once they register and get a debit card, can pay bills and categorize items to spend on and track these against set budgets e.g. see how much they spend on food & dining., transport ( Uber) , or rent. The can also check balances, and see a financial snapshot at any time. Another review by Macharia.

Equity has Eazzy banking platform from Finserve. One can store billing details to pay after and also send money securely to another phone or bank account, pay for goods and services, buy airtime for EquiTel and other networks. One can also set and save for a goal, send money to favorite people (contacts on whatsapp, twitter, facebook) and apply for loans instantly of up to Kshs 3 Million (~or $30,000)  and track NSE shares.

Stanbic has a Kidz banking app (available in South Africa) – an educational and fun app that teaches children how to save and manage their pocket money. Kids earn money when they complete their chores and can save towards goals while parents get to approve payments, set and monitor tasks, etc.

Other banks like Coop and KCB have accounts tailored for children and young adults with extras such as book & uniform discounts and education & insurance policies, but it would be nice if they added financial education tools and apps dedicated to those bank accounts.

Two Rivers Development Bond

Peek at the Two Rivers bond prospectus

This week Centum investments announced a Kshs 2 billion one year 14.5% note for the Two Rivers Development Limited – which is 58% owned by Centum, 39% by Avic, and 3% by ICDC.

Two Rivers had a facility of Chase Bank to finance infrastructure developments, which they had drawn on partially when the bank closed. They also had Kshs 650 million of deposits at Chase.

Two Rivers owns 50% of Two Rivers Lifestyle Centre and 100% of phase two of Two Rivers, apartments, and offices. 50% of the mall, the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa (i.e. outside South Africa) which opened on Valentines’ Day was sold to Old Mutual in 2015 for Kshs 6.4 billion. Two Rivers Development was valued at Kshs 41 billion in March 2016.

To pay for the retirement of the bond, they are selling 11 plots of land (some residential, some mixed use, one for a hotel) which have a combines market value Kshs 6.6 billion, and a mortgage value of Kshs 5.6 billion. Interest will be paid at maturity, and the note is guaranteed by Centum Investments.

The Centum investor briefing (PDF) for 1Q2107 identifies education, leasing, and agribusiness as key areas of growth at Centum in the future.

$1 = Kshs 103