Category Archives: Ethiopia

Coronavirus in Kenya: Week One

The Outbreak

  • March 13: The Ministry of Health confirms the first case of coronavirus in Kenya on March 12 from a Kenyan citizen who returned to the country from the USA via London 
  • March 22: Kenya confirms 8 new cases, bringing the total number to 15. It is tracing 363 other people and institutes a mandatory shutdown of major social activities in the country. 

Banking Industry:

  • March 15: President Uhuru Kenyatta appealed to banks and mobile operators to reduce the costs of mobile transactions and calls on Kenyans to use credit cards, mobile money and other forms of cashless payments. 
  • March 16: Safaricom waived fees for M-Pesa payments below Kshs 1,000 (~$10) for 90 days and raises M-Pesa transactions limits to Kshs 150,000 and also increases daily transaction caps and maximum mobile money wallet sizes up to Kshs 300,000 ($3,000). Airtel and Telkom Kenya follow suit a day later. 
  • March 18: Bankers meet the President at State House where the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor announces that all commercial bank personal loans that were there in good standing on March 2, are eligible for extensions for up to one year while SME and corporate borrowers can approach their banks to be assessed for loan restructuring, with the cost borne by banks. Also, that banks would no longer charge fees for customers to check their bank balances.
  • Different banks announced their compliance with the new rules.   
  • March 19: The Kenya Bankers Association confirms that all banks will assist clients who come in to speak about how COVID-19 has affected their employment or business operations, and whose loan repayments were up to date as at 2 March 2020. They also ask all customers to observe 1-metre (or 3 feet) social distancing at branches
  • March 20: The CBK announces presents Kshs 7.4 billion ($74 million) to the Government to support the coronavirus fight efforts. This it says are the proceeds from the demonetization exercise that concluded in September 2019 and is the sum of (old) Kshs 1,000 notes that were not turned in and which the CBK had classified as being miscellaneous receipts. 

Famous People in Quarantine

  • March 18: Senator for Kericho County Aaron Cheruiyot announces on twitter that he is in self-quarantine. 
  • March 19: Members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff who arrived from London on March 9 are reported to be in self-quarantine. 
  • March 19: Ambassador Macharia Kamau Kenya’s Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces on twitter that he is in self-quarantine after returning from New York. 
  • March 20: Jane Marriott, the British High Commissioner to Kenya announces on twitter that she is in self-quarantine, following her trip to the UK. 
  • March 22: Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health announces that Gideon Saburi, the Deputy Governor of Kilifi County, has been apprehended and put in a mandatory 14-day quarantine after he failed to isolate himself after returning from a trip to Germany. Also that he will be charged in Court after his isolation period. 

Mandatory Quarantine in the Eastern Africa region 

  • March 18: Uganda announces immediate mandatory quarantine for arriving visitors, at their cost.  
  • March 21: Ethiopia announces mandatory for passengers arriving from March 23, at their cost. However, diplomats will be quarantined for 14 days at their embassies, while transiting passengers will be placed in isolation at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel until they resume their connecting flights.
  •  March 22: Kenya has suspended all international flights other than cargo from March 25. Also, all arriving passengers will undergo mandatory quarantine at a government institution at their own cost. 

Internal country shutdowns

  • March 14: Rwanda closes schools, places of worship, large gatherings, and asks people to work from home. 
  • March 15: Kenya’s President announced the Government has closed all schools, suspended official foreign travel, and will encourage all employees to work from home. 
  • March 18: Uganda closes schools, universities and bars, and bans weddings and religious services for a month. 
  • March 21: Rwanda closes its borders to movement of people and cancels international flights, other than cargo ones. It also suspended tourism and research in 3 national parks where gorillas are found.
  • March 21: Nigeria shuts its airports to international flights as coronavirus cases reach 22.  
  • March 21: South Africa closes its airspace to foreign travelers.
  • March 22: Kenya orders a suspension of religious services at all places of worship, closure of bars and bans gatherings including weddings, and birthday parties. Restaurants are to remain open for delivery services and funeral events are restricted to a maximum of 15 mourners.

Flight cancellations/ Airlines reschedulings:

  • March 17: Kenya Airways updates its schedule, reducing London flights to five times a week, Dubai & Johannesburg to once daily, and Johannesburg to two daily. It also suspends flights to Bangkok, Khartoum, Djibouti & Mogadishu. 
  • March 18: Rwanda announces a halt to all commercial passenger flights into/out of the country on March 20 including operations of Rwanda Air for 30 days. 
  • March 19: Kenya Airways suspends flights to Antananarivo, Bamako, Bangui, Blantyre, Brazzaville, Kigali, Kilimanjaro, Luanda, Yaounde/Douala, and Zanzibar. 
  • March 20: Ethiopian Airlines announces 30 routes closures. The list is not revealed till the next day – and the listed countries include Egypt, Lebanon, Somalia, Djibouti, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Chad, Madagascar, Angola, Congo, Mali, Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Indonesia, Israel and all US ones. 
  • March 20: South African Airways immediately suspends all operations until the end of May following a government notice prohibiting the embarkation/disembarkation of non-SA crew and passengers. The only flights that will remain will be domestic service between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
  • March 22: Emirates announces cancellation of all passenger flights from March 25 .. but .. 
  • March 22: Turkish Airlines to suspend most of its flights – leaving just a handful of flights to New York, Washington, Addis Ababa, Moscow & Hong Kong (via AlexinAir).
  • March 22: Kenya Airways suspends all international flights. Cargo flights remain, as will passenger services to Mombasa and Kisumu. 

Corporate Restructuring’s: 

  • March 13: Trading was suspended at the Nairobi Securities Exchange. This came following news of the discovery of the first coronavirus case in Kenya and the main share index dropped by over 5%. Past instances when circuit-et breakers have been tripped include in the period of post-election violence in 2008, and in September 2017, on the day that Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the results of the August 8 presidential election. 
  • March 13: Kenya’s insurance regulator, IRA, communicates that insurance companies will continue to provide their services to policy holders affected or infected with the virus .. but insurance companies say their re-insurers do not cover pandemics such as Coronavirus. 
  • March 16: Ethiopian Airlines restructuring plans include scaling up cost-saving programmes and asking service providers for temporary relief, discounts and waivers. They have also started to renegotiate all contracts, including aircraft leases as well as scaling down offices and reducing staff.
  • March 16: Java adjusts seating and promotes delivery as do other restaurants. But many other restaurants closed. 
  • March 18: It was revealed that The Standard Group plans to lay off 170 workers. 
  • March 18: Churches to restrict attendance numbers.
  • March 18: The African Development Bank cancels all travels and requires staff to work from home. The Bank’s Board of Directors is reviewing the configuration and design of the Bank’s statutory Annual Meetings originally scheduled for May 26-29, 2020 in Abidjan
  • March 18: Kenyan listed companies and licensed investment schemes that were to host annual general meetings (AGM’s) in March, April and May 2020 have been asked to defer them to later dates.
  • March 20: Kenya Airways CEO sends a memo to staff following COVID-19 and writes that in the last 24 hours, nine countries in our Africa network, the UAE and India have announced travel restrictions. So far, we have reduced approximately 65% of our flights, and this is changing by the hour. He announces that instead of layoffs they will ask staff to take salary reduction and paid & unpaid leave. The leadership team and he will take 75% and 80% respectively, while that for other staff will be 25% or 50% depending on the pay grade.
  • To facilitate supermarket shopping home deliveries, Tuskys has partnered with Sendy and Naivas has partnered with Glovo.

Government Adjustments 

  • March 16: The Ministry of Lands closes all land registries for 28 days from March 17. 
  • March 16: Kenya’s Sports & Culture Ministry closes all museums, archives, stadiums, public libraries, and cinemas for 30 days.
  • March 18: Kenya’s National Assembly and Senate both go on a month-long recess. 
  • March 18: Kenyan courts embraced digital filings and rulings of cases. 
  • March 19: Public health campaign to stop the spread is launched. 

Uplifting News

  • March 21: A thread to help those losing jobs their jobs this week and to help match their skills with part-time or remote-work opportunities. 
  • March 22: The first shipment of medical relief equipment offered by the Jack Ma Foundation arrives in Africa for distribution to different countries. The total will be 500,000 test kits and one million masks had been pledged on March 13.

Absa AFM Index shows African countries improve in investor readiness

The 2019 Africa Financial Markets Index report that was released in October, found that several countries had closed gaps to perennial leader South Africa, improving on several measures such as financial transparency, local investor capacity, legal protection and macroeconomic opportunity.

Showing just how much African countries have made progress, while only six had scored better than 50 (out of the maximum 100) in the first index in 2017, last year ten countries did that, and in 2019, thirteen countries scored better than 50 points.

The ranking of countries in the Absa 2019 Africa Financial Markets Index and some of the market/investor activities highlighted in the report include:

South Africa (and also number 1 in the last index): Is the top country in 5 pillars after it regained the lead from Kenya on the foreign exchange one. The JSE also launched a Nasdaq clearing platform.

2 (4) Mauritius: Has diversified its economy from sugar and textiles to tourism and financial services. It leads the continent in pension assets under management of $4,331 per capita. It has also established a derivatives trading platform.

3 (3)Kenya: More detail on Kenya’s ranking and investor initiatives here.

4 (6) Namibia: Bank Windhoek issued a green bond in the year. One concern is that the country lacks sufficient financial markets experts.

5 (2) Botswana: The country’s exchange has large market capitalization, but this is mostly due to dual-listed mining companies that have low trading volumes. They also formed a financial stability council to coordinate different regulators and plan to launch a mobile phone bond product like Kenya’s M-Akiba.

6 (5) Nigeria: Showed big improvement as they have liberalized their exchange rate and built up reserves. Pension funds were freed up to invest in infrastructure, bond, and Sukuk funds.

7 (15) Tanzania: Created a tax ombudsman and also repealed an amendment that had made it illegal to publish statistics that were not approved by the Government.

8 (8) Zambia: Improved budget reporting. But reserves dropped due to high interest payments on external debt as mining production has declined.

9 (11) Rwanda: Share of exports grew, and an agreement was reached with the IMF to accelerate urbanization and financial markets.

10 (10) Uganda: Market trading activity dropped from $25 million to  $11 million and one of the largest stockbrokers opted not to renew their operating license.

Others were:

11 (16) Egypt: Topped the pillar of macro-economic opportunity due to export gains and declines in non-performing loans. Moody’s also upgraded their banking system ratings.

12 (9) Morocco: Now publishes monetary policy announcements and data releases. Has an active financial market but limited availability of financial products. It plans to launch an agricultural commodities exchange.

13 (7) Ghana: Is seeking to cap foreign holdings of government debt. The Bank of Ghana merged small banks and revoked licenses of others that did not meet minimum capital requirements.

16 (13) Ivory Coast: Enabled more-accessible budget reporting and plans to launch an agricultural commodities exchange for 2020.

20 (20) Ethiopia: Announced plans to launch a stock exchange for 2020, with aims to have significant privatization events including the listing of telecommunication companies. Local banks are also adopting international financial reporting standards. But the requirement that their pension funds can only invest in government securities is considered an impediment.

Also on the index are Seychelles (ranked 14), Mozambique (15), Angola (17), Senegal (18) and Cameroon (19). The 2019 AFM Index report was produced by the Absa Bank Group and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) and it can be downloaded here.

Kenya remains the third most attractive financial market in Africa

The third edition of the Africa Financial Markets Index report that was released in October 2019, found that Kenya had retained its third position thanks to industry efforts to improve opportunities for investors.

The AFM index by the Absa Bank Group and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) is a useful tool designed to gauge Africa’s readiness to fund itself and its growth plans. It reviews 20 African countries across six pillars of market depth, access to foreign exchange, market transparency, tax & regulatory environment, the capacity of local investors and macroeconomic opportunity and the legality & enforceability financial agreements.

Overall, South Africa remained in first place, topping four of the six pillars, while Mauritius topped the legal agreements measure and Egypt topped the macro-economic opportunity one.

Speaking on trends across Africa observed in the 2019 AFM Index, Jeff Gable, the Head Of Research at the Absa Group, said there were several exciting financial markets events across the continent this year. These included the first-ever sovereign blue bond by Seychelles to support marine projects, Nigeria selling a 30-year government bond that was four times over-subscribed, Uganda halving the withholding tax on government bonds from 20% to 10%, Zambia launching a primary dealer system and Ethiopia announcing plans to launch a stock exchange in 2020.

On the AFM Index 2019, Kenya, along with Botswana and Namibia, increased to above 50 in the first pillar of market depth. The value of bonds listed in Nairobi doubled from $8.8 billion to $17.5 billion, mostly due to sovereign issues. However there remained a need to have more active trading of bonds and equities, and Kenya has rolled out an M-Akiba infrastructure bond targeted at retail investors that they can access for just over $30.

Kenya came second behind Mauritius on the pillar of enforceability of market agreements. It also scored well for its new insolvency law which encourages rehabilitation of distressed firms, and its endorsement of standard financial master agreements (ISDA GMRA, GMSLA).

However, it lost the lead on the foreign exchange pillar to South Africa. While the country has built up high foreign exchange reserves, up from 4 months to 5.8 months of import cover, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had reclassified Kenya’s exchange rate regime from ‘floating’ to ‘other managed arrangement.’  The AFM Index has continued to highlight the risk of rigid management of foreign exchange by some African countries and pushed for more flexible regimes.

On the third pillar of market transparency, Kenya’s tax code was found to be supportive, but the country had raised taxation on mobile cash transactions creating some uncertainty. There has also been some recent progress as, in the last few weeks, capital markets stakeholders have convinced the Government to retain the country’s capital gains tax at 5%, and set aside an amendment in the 2019 Finance Bill that had proposed to change it to 12.5%.

The country was also flagged for its capping of interest rates which had shrunk credit availability and weakened companies profitability.

Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Ukur Yatani, in a speech read on his behalf at a Nairobi launch of the report, spoke of the need for Kenyans to save and invest to fund economic growth. Even with the country attaining formal financial inclusion of 82%, up from 26% in 2006, more could be achieved through financial markets.

He said that the country had established a Nairobi International Financial Centre authority to attract capital to Kenya and with the movable property security rights in place, the government was now supporting the setup a Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company that would make it easier for banks to advance funding towards affordable home ownership.

He noted that President Kenyatta had declined to assent to the Finance Bill until Parliament reviewed the cap on interest rates which, evidence showed, had resulted in a negative impact on the economy. Kenya was one of the few countries on the index which saw bank non-performing loans go up, from 10 to 11.7%, last year. He hoped that Members of Parliament would now view the President’s determination as an opportunity to give a stimulus to the economy.

Jeremy Awori, CEO of Barclays Bank of Kenya said that the country had ranked favourably, rising from 5th, when the first AFM Index report was published in 2017, to 3rd in 2018, a position it retained this year. This was due to efforts by industry stakeholders and regulators who had also worked with the Capital Markets Authority to launch a 10-year master plan for the industry. He added that, after Kenya had come up with new regulations for exchange-traded funds, Barclays Kenya had launched the first ETF in the region – New Gold which had performed well since its introduction.

He said that, as Barclays transitions into the Absa brand in Kenya and across Africa, customers will not feel any change in products or services and that they were working to upgrade systems to ensure they remain accessible from anywhere in the world. He added that strong domestic financial markets were a cushion to economic headwinds and that Barclays would soon launch a new wealth and asset offering in Kenya.

Charles Muchene, Chairman of Barclays Bank of Kenya, saluted Paul Muthaura, the outgoing CEO of the Capital Markets Authority, who has led the organization to be recognized as the most innovative capital markets regulator in Africa for four years in a row.  He said that a new ATS platform,  introduced at the Nairobi Securities Exchanges, had broadened the capacity of traders, enabling them to do multiple transactions on the same day, while also supporting securities lending and derivatives trading.

Later, in speaking about the capacity of local investors, the CMA CEO spoke of the need to educate, and shift, more retail investors towards long-term gains from managed funds. This would cushion them from the tendency to speculate on quick returns from land, gambling, and pyramid schemes.

Geoffrey Odundo, CEO of Nairobi Securities Exchange, said they had held some positive engagements with the National Treasury to get more big government listings to the NSE. He also said that they now have an Ibuka program to nurture small companies to be more attractive for investments, adding that this was part of a plan to increase its equities turnover from 6% of the total market to 15% in a few years. The NSE now had 12 asset classes including equity and index futures launched earlier this year and had been voted the second most innovative exchange in Africa.

The 2019 AFM Index report can be downloaded here along with a databank summary of the different country rankings under each of the six pillars.

Plane Perspectives: Ethiopian Flight ET302 and the Boeing 737 MAX

Air crashes are always surprises, but the news, from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia’s twitter account, that Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on the morning of  Sunday, March 10 had gone down, was particularly shocking.

The 157 victims of the crash who held nationalities of 30 countries comprised 149 passengers and 8 crew members. Aside from Ethiopia, Kenya was the most affected nation with 32 of the deceased, while eighteen were from Canada, nine from Ethiopia, eight each from China, US and Italy, and seven each from France and the UK. Some of the victims had dual nationalities and that particular early morning flight was popular with diplomats and delegates who shuttled between meetings in the capitals of Ethiopia and Kenya.

Ethiopian Airlines ET 302 became the second fatal crash of a new Boeing 737 Max in the space of a few months, following that of Lion Air Flight 610 which crashed in Indonesia in October 2018.

Investigations have started into the cause of the crash is  with representatives from Boeing, and US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and General Electric (the engine manufacturer who also lost two employees in the crash who worked in their healthcare division) joining up to assist Ethiopian investigators.

In both crash cases, the planes were new, just a few months old, and took off for relatively short flights during which the pilots lost control of the aircraft.

The Boeing 737 is the most successful commercial aircraft in history with over 10,000 built and over 1,000 are in the air at any given minute. But the new MAX series introduced was different in terms of its design, large engines and navigation systems.  At the time of the accident, the 737 MAX-series has 74 aircraft operating in the USA and 389 worldwide, with the largest fleet users being Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

Boeing had committed to implement a software upgrade in the coming weeks to the MAX that was directed by the US FAA, but after the crash, Ethiopian Airlines announced the grounding of the rest of their 737 MAX fleet. Other airlines and aviation agencies in China, Indonesia and Cayman Airways, Comair (South Africa), GOL (Indonesia), Mongolia, Royal Air Maroc (Morocco) Singapore and Australia also announced the grounding or banning the use of the aircraft temporarily. The latest has been the United Kingdom.

Boeing’s shares dipped when the shares opened on Monday after the crash.

See also:

  • Here’s a rare picture of the ill-fated plane at Boeing Field, USA, prior to delivery to Ethiopian – via Airliner’s Net.
  • Airlines around the world have grounded 40% of the 737 MAX fleet but not US airlines
  • Long before the crash, some frequent flyer avoided flying on the profit-maximizing MAX aircraft over its squeezed cabins, tiny bathrooms and thin seats e.g. American Airlines has 172 seats in the cabin, including 16 first class seats and 30 extra-legroom seats — compared to the 160 seats that it has on 737-800s with the same cabin size.
  • Perspectives from another impactful plane crash a decade ago – that of KQ 507.

EDIT On Wednesday, March 13, President Donald Trump announced the grounding of all 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 models. He had informed aviation authorities and Boeing that this was in the best interests of the safety of all passengers as Boeing works on a solution.

He also extended condolences to the friends and families of victims of the Ethiopia and Indonesia crashes.

Investigations into the crash are ongoing.

April 4 Ethiopian Airlines statement

April 4 Boeing Statement

FAA disown Ethiopian

Lawyers sniff out victims’ families

Disagreements about possible compensation

And overall liability for the crash.

Hero pilot says the 737 MAX was flawed: As one of the few pilots who have lived to tell about being in the left seat of an airliner when things went horribly wrong, with seconds to react, I know a thing or two about overcoming an unimagined crisis. I am also one of the few who have flown a Boeing 737 MAX Level D full motion simulator, replicating both accident flights multiple times. I know firsthand the challenges the pilots on the doomed accident flights faced, and how wrong it is to blame them for not being able to compensate for such a pernicious and deadly design

Lawyers chase families of victims.

Boeing CEO resigns.

The Ethiopian crew disengaged MCAS but left the plane at full takeoff power which magnified challenges recovering control of the aircraft.

New Boeing CEO’s views on the crash.

One year on.

November 18 2020 – the MAX is set to resume flight.

Continues

Bank Roundup: January 2019

The boards of NIC and CBA banks confirmed their plans to go ahead with a merger to create the largest bank in Africa by customer numbers. Serving over 40 million customers in 5 countries, the combined entity will have Kshs 444 billion in assets (~ $4.4 billion).

Currently, they are both at 115 billion of loans and have differences in deposits with 145 billion at NIC to 191 billion at CBA and customer numbers of 142,000 at NIC to 41 million at CBA. They had relatively similar customer numbers prior to CBA’s launch of M-Shwari in partnership with Safaricom. 

Going forward they aim to obtain shareholder approval in Q1, obtain regulatory approval in Q2 and have the new entity commence operations in Q3 of 2019. Currently, NIC has 26,000 shareholders and is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) while CBA has 34 shareholders (20 individual, 14 corporations) including Enke Investments (24.91%), Ropat Nominees (22.50%), Livingstone Registrars (19.90%) and  Yana Investments (11.14%). The merger will be effected through share swaps that will result in NIC shareholders owning 47% and CBA shareholders 53% of the new entity whose shares will remain listed on the NSE.

MCB in Kenya:  Leading Mauritius Lender MCB Group has officially opened its representative office in Nairobi. The largest and oldest bank in Mauritius, with $12 billion in assets and a presence in nine countries, it had been licensed in Kenya back in 2015 and it will bank on its new office to gauge opportunities in the Kenyan market and build strategic relationships.

The 19th largest bank in Africa by assets, it is listed in Mauritius and has 19,000 shareholders. It has a strategic objective of growing its international footprint and expanding non-bank activities. It has 1 million customers, 3,500 employees and 55 branches but, as it was communicated at the launch, they have no intention of opening branches in Kenya or East Africa.

Ethiopia Bank summary: Asoko Insight gave a summary report of the Ethiopian banking sector, parts of which are only available to subscribers. While some foreign investment is expected in Ethiopia, the banking sector is already privatized with fifteen of the country’s eighteen banks all having private local owners. The state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia is the largest bank in the East Africa region with 1,280 branches and earns 67% of the sector profits in the country.  It has revenue of $1.3 billion, while 11 (other) banks, have revenues of between $50 million and $500 million, suggesting a more concentrated market in terms of size.

Tanzania:  NMB bank has waived several bank charges for their customers from February 1 including account opening, monthly maintenance, transaction fees, dormant account reactivation, and internal transfers – all in a bid to promote financial inclusion in the country.

Meanwhile, several Tanzania banks have a series of new managing directors including NIC Bank, Akiba Commercial Bank and Bank of Africa Tanzania

Family Bank pled guilty in the NYS case:

Diamond Trust CEO questioned.