Category Archives: bank service

Financial Sanctions for South Sudan? Part II – The Profiteers

The Profiteers is a documentary by Africa Uncensored that was unveiled in Kenya this week. It was to air on television but was cancelled a few hours before airing on Kenya Television Network (KTN) a local TV channel. The producers confirmed the network’s abrupt decision to pull the broadcast, and then went ahead to release the feature on their own, on Youtube in three parts, and with links and commentary on Twitter.

The Profiteers production by Africa Uncensored follows other work by The Sentry Group and are featured in the latest Sentry report on the situation in South Sudan. Sentry continues to run a watch on events in South Sudan, corruption, the growing refugee population, and complicity of foreign organizations such as banks in Kenya and security forces in Uganda.

The Profiteers investigative team led by John-Allan Namu extensively document, both with straight and under-cover reporting, stories of South Sudan leaders luxuriating in other countries and cutting deals for weapons, logistics, security and valuable wood as they purchase luxury houses and real estate properties in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Australia, flashy cars and are flush with cash which is the basis of their profligate lives and which does not match their official modest salaries. They are able to freely travel and operate bank accounts and transact vast sums through them, even though some of them face international sanctions.

The Profiteers and The Sentry mention several institutions including banks like KCB, Stanbic and Equity bank, and money transfer services such as Dahabshil, and Amal. Some activities look questionable but are understandable such as the decision by the Bank of South Sudan to hold the bulk of its reserves outside the unstable country while soldier battle.

Sentry Recommendations
  • Kenya and Uganda should strengthen regulatory bodies to track money and enforce sanctions.. compliance departments in Kenyan and Ugandan banks should not wait for financial regulators to request information and should immediately find and flag high-value transactions, all real estate transactions, and the accounts of South Sudanese politically-exposed persons (PEPs)
  • Law Enforcement Should Investigate South Sudanese property without political interference
  • Trade Associations should improve standards for investments
  • Businesspeople should share investment information.
Also mentioned in the Sentry report is a wave of posts by Kenyan bloggers: In mid-2018, a group of Kenyan bloggers garnered significant attention when posting photos on Twitter of luxurious homes owned by South Sudanese elites or images of top officials’ family members living extravagant lifestyles in Kenya and Uganda. Referencing the impunity apparently enjoyed by these well-connected South Sudanese, the bloggers labelled their tweets with the hashtag #SouthSudanUntouchables. The same day that hashtag went viral, a high-level U.S. government official spent the day in Kenya, addressing government agencies, financial institutions, and civil society to deliver a related message: that South Sudanese officials should no longer enjoy impunity and that their ill-gotten gains should not be welcome in Kenya and Uganda.

Chase Bank Reopens as SBM Kenya

Monday saw the conclusion of the receivership of Chase Bank as SBM Kenya, part of a Mauritius financial group, completed a carve out of assets, staff and branches of Chase Bank that was overseen by the Central Bank of Kenya and the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation.

CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge said this was a historic event in Africa, not just in Kenya, as previously when banks were shut down, they stayed closed – but that since Chase closed and was reopened in April 2016, 97% of its depositors had been paid in full, and the remaining (large) depositors could now get structured access to 75% of their deposits through SBM (including 50% of their deposits immediately) over a three-year period during which they will earn interest.

He said this had been accomplished as a private sector-led initiative, supported by KCB, and that the process had been transparent throughout, with a unique EOI (expression of interest), done to maximise value for depositors and stakeholders. He added the remaining 25% of the assets would remain with Chase Bank (in receivership) and that CBK and KDIC would continue working to pursue the full recovery of the assets that were illegally taken from Chase Bank.

Kee Chong Li Kwong Wing, Chairman of SBM Holdings, said that they would work with local staff and management of the bank, first to get it back to $1.5 billion assets it was before the closure and then to double in size in 3 to 5 years. He said the vision was for SBM Bank Kenya to have its own local investors, board and management and eventually be listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange. He added that the model of managing overseas subsidiaries by remote control had not worked in Mozambique and Zimbabwe and that they would not repeat that in Kenya which had potential to be a key partner with Mauritius.

SBM Kenya now moves from being a Tier III to Tier II bank as SBM will also invest an additional $60 million (Ksh 6 billion) for the bank’s growth, taking its investments in Kenya to $86 million. The bank has taken on and rebranded 50 of 62 previous Chase branches and absorbed 825 staff into SBM Kenya.

Credit Cards Moment: AmEx and MasterCard take on Visa in Kenya

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) statistics from the first quarter of 2018 show that there are 120,000 locally issued credit cards and 18 million debit cards/ ATM cards. With interesting patterns of credit cards usage over the last few years, for various reasons, there are some new entrants out to take on ubiquitous Visa-branded cards in Kenya.

MasterCard: GT Bank Kenya is rolling out a series of World MasterCard credit cards. The Gold and Platinum cards come with perks of travel and rewards including international airport lounge access, complimentary nights at 175 Starwood Hotels, luxury apartment discounts and Hertz Gold Plus car rentals along with enhanced insurance benefits that are easy to claim and a 24/7 concierge who offers personalized travel services. There are also tailored dining offers for Diani, Kisumu, Malindi, Mombasa, Nairobi. Ukunda and Watamu as well as towns in Nigeria.

Previously, one of the most-popular MasterCards on the market was the prepaid global card by Nakumatt that was supplied by KCB and Diamond Trust banks. They have been inactive since early this year following Nakumatt’s difficulties that started before the supermarket chain went under voluntary administration.

American Express: Also, Equity Bank and American Express have just extended their 2013 partnership. The bank which issues the American Express Green Card and Gold Card is the sole issuers of the globally accepted American Express cards in East Africa. With the signing of a now exclusive merchant acquisition agreement, Equity will be the sole merchant acquirer of American Express card transactions and will manage all aspects of merchant relationships including acquisition, statements, and marketing. Equity Bank earned Kshs 278 million in AmEx commissions last year, a 54% increase from 2016. The Bank also issues Union Pay, Diners, and JCB cards in addition to Visa and MasterCard.

Interest rates debate as caps repeal is proposed

Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has signaled an end to interest rates capping, saying the interest rate controls have contributed to a slowdown in credit growth to the private sector and denied small businesses’ access to credit.

In his FY 2018/2019 $30.4 billion budget speech to the National Assembly on June 14, Rotich said the interest capping law had not had the intended effect but instead resulted in banks shying away from lending to riskier borrowers such as ordinary businesses and individuals who used to borrow at rates above the 14% that was set through an amendment of the banking law that was passed a year and a half ago.

Rotich observed that he would ask parliament to repeal section 33 (b) of the Act to enable banks to provide more credit to riskier borrowers. He added that the government was also proposing a credit guarantee scheme for micro, small, and medium enterprises, and new credit institutions through the creation of the Kenya Development Bank and Biashara Kenya Fund and other new laws to help protect consumers of financial products.

The interest rates debate continues next week with a session on Monday, June 18 at the Strathmore Business School that will facilitate debate on the impact of the interest rates ceiling and floor.

Organized by the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and Fanaka Digital, among other partners, the televised session will feature perspectives from the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, MP’s Jude Njomo – who sponsored the 2016 banking amendment that capped interest rates, and Moses Kuria, who is a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Naming banks is a sideshow to NYS

This week saw the naming of Kenyan banks alleged to have received funds from the National Youth Service in an unfortunate sleigh of hand as suspects were also charged in courts over fraud and abuse of office at the NYS.

The list of banks includes virtually all the top banks in Kenya – KCB, Equity, Cooperative, Barclays, CFC-Stanbic, Diamond Trust, National and smaller ones such as Consolidated and SACCO’s such as Unaitas. These are all institutions that offer supplier financing/ LPO financing – a popular product sought by young entrepreneurs and companies that allows them to obtain financing to procure and supply goods, under contract, that are then paid for by reputable companies and government agencies, such as the NYS, directly to the banks to recover the amounts advanced.

At this stage it is not clear the depth of the suppliers’ relationship with the institutions, as the banks have all cited customer confidentiality and compliance with the law, but it is doubtful if any will have the peculiar banking arrangements seem in the earlier NYS scandal which resulted in fines and sanctions by the Central Bank and charges filed against senior staff of Family Bank.

The article states that banks had filed statutory reports with the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) a government institution created with the principal objective being to assist in the identification of the proceeds of crime and the combating of money laundering. The problems are clearly NYS ones, not ones and if any contracts were fraudulent, the fraud is with NYS, not the banks.