A well-meaning Kenyan has taken a petition to parliament, asking it to disband credit reference bureaus. He complains that they have listed more than 700,000 individuals in their database as defaulters..causing a lot of anguish to the listed individuals as they are unable to access financial facilities from local banks
Credit reference petition to parliament
Credit reference bureaus have been operating in Kenya for about five now, and this petition comes at a time when many banks have heavily increased their provisions for bad debts in the year 2015.
The Central Bank of Kenya, Financial Sector Deepening Trust Kenya and the World Bank, have published a study on bank financing of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Kenya ($1=Kshs 100). Excerpts
- The total SME lending portfolio in December 2013 was estimated at Kshs. 332 billion, representing 23.4% of all banks’ total loan portfolio
- Donor Support: Nearly all of the banks interviewed received some form of donor support or were in discussions with donors for support directly related to financing of SMEs. In several cases there were banks with support from as many as four donors at a time.
- Limited Government Intervention: In 2010 The Government (though the Treasury) established a special SME scheme, called the MSE Fund, but since 2012 no new loans have been approved by the fund. According to Treasury, the scheme was discontinued because “the intention was not for the Government to lend, but to create an incentive for banks to engage with SMEs”. After only a year of the fund’s operation, banks started to lend more to SMEs from their own books, especially Equity Bank, and therefore Treasury did not see any reason for the continued operation of the fund. In addition to the MSE fund, the Government set up a Youth Fund and a Women Entrepreneur Fund, in which a number of banks are participating. The Government is also contemplating a partial credit guarantee for agricultural loans.
- Courts Not Good at Dispute Resolution: Enforcement of secured claims appears to be slow and costly, affecting the cost of credit. It takes 4.5 years, costs 22% of the value of the debtor’s estate, and only yields 30% of what is owed
- PE & VC’s: The majority of around 15–20 active private equity funds focused primarily on SMEs with a perceived financing gap of typically between US$50,000 and $5 million. The funds target deal sizes of around $1–3 million, which is still at the high-end of the SME segment and is therefore out of reach for most SMEs in Kenya. The venture capital industry is still nascent with about 10 venture capital type funds, but interest from international firms, as well as local ones, especially in the emerging ICT industry, has recently been on the increase. There are several incubators which have been set up to help build the pipeline for such deals, but the sector is still at an early stage of development
- 3 Kinds of Banks: Banks target the market segments they are most effectively able to service. There are 1. Corporate oriented (Barclays, CfC Stanbic, Standard Chartered) 2. Supply-chain oriented (BoA, Chase, DTB, Ecobank, FINA, I&M, NIC) 3. Micro-oriented (Co-op, Equity, Family, KCB, KREP, Jamii Bora)
- Overdrafts are Bad: The most interesting finding from this analysis is arguably the central role played by overdrafts in SME lending in Kenya. While overdrafts can be useful to meet immediate liquidity needs and to avoid firms having to turn to informal lenders or shadow banking, a problem arises when firms use overdrafts to fund specific working capital or investment financing needs. Overdrafts tend to be very expensive and inefficient in addressing specific business funding needs. Banks, on the other hand, may have limited incentives to reduce firms’ reliance on overdrafts, as the overdrafts usually provide high profit margins. Nonetheless, during the interviews some bank managers confirmed that over-reliance on overdrafts can be a major hindrance to the development of SME finance in Kenya: overdrafts are a financial ‘black box’ because they do not reveal why firms are borrowing nor how the loans are used.
- Interest Rates: The average annual interest rate is 20.6% for microenterprises, 18.5% for small enterprises, 17.4% for medium enterprises and 15.3% for large enterprises.
- Potential 20 Million Credit Reports: As of 31 December 2014, a total of 5.2 million credit reports were requested by banks, compared with 2.3 million as of December 2012. Adding the information from the over 20 million registered mobile money/mobile financial services users would lead to a significant expansion of the underlying information base.