Category Archives: Ethiopia

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Diplomatic Engagement

This week saw the publication of “Kenya’s 50 years of Diplomatic Engagement, from Kenyatta to Kenyatta,” a book on the history of the diplomatic services and foreign policy in Kenya.

Edited by Dr. Kipyego Cheluget, Kenya’s Assistant Secretary General at COMESA, it is a collection of writings by different authors including foreign ambassadors. It is the result of a nine-year journey that came from an idea that came when he was Director of the Foreign Service Institute – to document the history of the diplomacy in Kenya. And he then set out to travel around the county, interviewing and recording former ambassadors and diplomats such Munyua Waiyaki, Njoroge Mungai and even unofficial ones like politician Mark Too. Some of them have since passed away like Bethuel Kiplagat and Phillip Mwanzia, and whose widows were present at the book launch.

The Chief Guest was Former Vice President, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka who has also served as a Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Education and he said that to upgrade Kenya’s  diplomatic performance, the country should reward career diplomats and have them, not election losers, as Ambassadors, and legislate a 70:30 ratio of professionals over politicians in such posts, a reverse of the current imbalance. The event had panel talks with former ambassadors on topics like peace-building in Ethiopia, Somalia and the East African region, using sports as a tool of diplomacy, combating apartheid, the lost years of engagement with Russia shaped by the Cold War and how the pioneering diplomats worked through trial and error for decades without an official foreign policy.

The MC for the event at Taifa Hall of the University of Nairobi, Nancy Abisai said the only good books is a finished book, and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Education Dr. Amina Mohamed, added that, following a challenge by President Kenyatta, her Ministry was in the process of setting up a unit for the publication of Kenyan memoirs and which would be operational by January 2019. Former Vice President Moody Awori, who at 91 is still an active Chairman of Moran, the publishers of the book, said they were looking for more scripts to turn our more such books.

Excerpts from early sections of the book and launch

  • It has never been right to say that Kenya’s foreign policy is a “wait and see” one. Diplomats were able to negotiate to host a combined World Bank/IMF meeting in 1973 and for UNEP to have its headquarters in a newly independent African country – Ambassador Francis. Muthaura.
  • Njoroge Mungai initiated steps for President (Mzee) Kenyatta to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1972 and Singh Bhoi drafted the dossier.
  • Dennis Afande opened the Kenya Embassy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in February 1977. He was the only employee there for four months and the only signatory to the Embassy bank account for the period.
  • When Paul Kurgat went to apply for his scholarship visa at the Nairobi Russian embassy, in 1984. he was arrested and questioned about links to Oginga Odinga. He was later to return to Russia as Kenya’s Ambassador in 2010.

The book is available in local bookshops, such as the University of Nairobi one, at a cost of Kshs 1,395 (1,200 + VAT) and a digital version is also available on Amazon for $8 (~Kshs 800).

Barclays Kenya unveils AFMI 2018 – the Absa Africa Financial Markets Index

Barclays Kenya launched the second edition of AFMI 2018 – the Absa Africa Financial Markets Index, revealing performance improvements at a time of economic turmoil on the continent and also the addition of new countries to the index that now tracks twenty African economies.

In the time since Barclays launched the initial Africa Financial Markets Index in 2017, they have seen good engagement from policymakers striving to improve their appeal to investors through the AFMI 2018 index which measures countries across six pillars of market depth, access to foreign exchange, market transparency/regulations, capacity of local investors, macroeconomic opportunity, and enforceability of legal agreements. This year, three new countries – Angola, Cameroon and Senegal joined the index bringing the countries tracked to 20 and the country measures were also tweaked to include elements of financial inclusions and levels of investor education

The AFMI 2018 was again topped by South Africa, the most advanced financial market in Africa, followed by Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius and Nigeria. Kenya, Morocco and Seychelles all improved in the rankings while Mauritius and Namibia slipped slightly. Nigeria was credited for improving in its administrative efficiency and tax reforms. 

Jeremy Awori, Managing Director of Barclays Kenya said that emerging markets were under great pressure with currencies dropping, interest rates rising, political instability, falling commodities etc. and these highlighted how strong domestic financial markets could be used to cushion African economies from headwinds. He said that while  Kenya topped the access to foreign exchange pillar of the index, and had improved in the enforcement of  legal agreements, showing it was on a path to be a regional financial hub, there was still need to need to improve capacity of local investors, and grow the diversity of investor products. He added that Barclays Kenya was the first institution to list an ETF – an exchange-traded fund at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) and was also providing thought leadership on international swops and global master repurchase agreements.

Guests at the launch included Geoffrey Odundo, CEO of the NSE, and Paul Muthaura, CEO of Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority (CMA). Odundo said that while the 2006-08 IPO era unlocked retail investor capital, there was much more opportunity for investors to get good returns in the secondary markets including through REIT’s and that the NSE was currently piloting on offering derivatives. Muthaura spoke of initiatives to connect investors across African investors including a pilot exchange partnership between Kenya and Nigeria, and the African Securities Exchanges Association which was looking to enable trading links between the six largest exchanges on the continent.

Anthony Kirui, Head of Markets at Barclays Kenya said the country had an array of fixed income securities, but attention needed to shift to re-opening bonds as opposed to issuing new paper. He added that there was a need to create a primary dealership and a true OTC market and to also address the reluctance from local owners to list on stock markets. Muthaura said that one factor in the lack of new listings at the NSE was due to companies, who may have been candidates for listing to get new capital, now opting for the abundant and cheap funding from banks that were flush with cash in the era of interest rate caps

In East Africa, Uganda was stable (at No. 10) on the index while Rwanda and Tanzania dropped slightly, the former due to discrepancies in the implementation of rules and the latter due to lack of capacity of local investors. Ethiopia was at the tail end of the Index due to not having a security exchange and corporate bond markets, but that is likely to change as the country pursues reforms such as freeing the foreign currency exchange rate and planning for privatization of Ethiopian enterprises.

The AFMI 2018 report was done with the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) and can be downloaded from the Absa site.

Karuturi AGM 2018

As workers of the former Karuturi flower farm in Naivasha, Kenya, await the outcome of a new appeal of the long-running court case and receivership, the Karuturi Group held an AGM in India and passed new resolutions to turn round the company.

The Bombay Stock Exchange-listed Karuturi, the world’s largest producer of cut roses, had published an annual report ahead of the AGM. According to the notice and results of the AGM, the Group proposed to increase the authorized share capital of the company to meet their long-term capital requirements.

Karuturi also plans to allocate convertible warrants to new shareholders who are; IBelive Fitness Solutions who may end with 10% if they exercise all options, Eye-3 Info Media who may end with 8% and Srinivasa Retail who will end with 14.3%. Prior to the AGM, the three had no shares in the company while the promoters of Karuturi had 25% and other public shareholders had 75%, including Deutsche Bank with 5%.

Shareholders also voted to appoint Messrs K G Rao and Co as auditors of the company and the notes showed that the previous year’s figures had not been audited by the current year auditors who had then provided a qualified opinion due to non-filing of some tax returns by the holding company. Another resolution was to ratify the appointment of the daughter of the Chairman and MD Sai Rama Karuturi, who had joined the board in September 2017. The resolutions were all passed.

The company has primary borrowings with Axis Bank in India (third largest private bank in the country), ICICI Bank of India, Axis Dubai, and smaller borrowings at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Zemen Bank and Lion Bank in Ethiopia.

The accounts provided an (incorrect) link to the long-running Kenya bank case and receivership in Kenya. There are mentions in the notes that Karuturi Kenya was wound up by a court order of March 2016 and the company did not have any outstanding tax demands in Kenya or Ethiopia 

In a statement, the Board Chairman wrote that the Kenya farm should soon be back in the company’s possession following workers’ protests to various government authorities and media attention fueled by Kenyans on Twitter. On Ethiopia, he welcomed the new leadership of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and mentioned that the company had withdrawn all cases against the government of Ethiopia, paid compensation to the workers, and entered new lease agreements with a view to resuming operations in mid-2019.

Paper Planes: Big Day for African Airlines on Paper

July 18 was a big day for various African airlines with news affecting travel in different parts of the continent, ahead of the Farnborough Airshow in the UK.

Nigeria announced plans to revive a national airline – Nigeria Air, a new private sector led-airline in which the government would own no more than 5% and would not manage. It is planned to start flights in December with a target of serving 81 destinations. The launch was officiated by the Nigerian Minister of State for Aviation at Farnborough and he said that they were in talks with Boeing and Airbus and also financiers such as Standard Chartered Bank. The new airline was shown in the livery of new Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A330 models. 

Just a few days after leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea announced a cease-fire and made historic visits to each other’s countries, Ethiopian Airlines made it’s first flight since 1998  to Eritrea. On the flight were many families reuniting, and former Prime Minister former Hailemariam Desalegn. The flights will be seven days a week, between Addis and Asmara and Ethiopian,  which is expected to be part of some privatization program, was also reported to be planning to invest in a 20% stake in Eritrean Airlines.

Also there are reports that Ethiopian Cargo, Africa’s largest cargo operator, is to sign a joint venture with parcels and logistics giant DHL that would see DHL take up a 49% stake in the company.

A few days ago, Air Tanzania received its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is expected to carve some routes in East Africa that are controlled by Kenya Airways and Rwanda Airlines.

Also at Farnborough, Uganda Airlines signed an MOU for two A330-800 Neo planes which they would fit in a three class-layout.

Earlier the same day, Uganda (National) Airlines announced an order with another manufacturer Bombardier for four CRJ900 planes.

Kenya Airways continues to market new routes Mauritius, Cape Town and the new direct non-stop flights to New York that will start in October 2018.

At Farnborough, Embraer and Kenya Airways announced a spare parts deal.

South Africa Airways celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday with some new livery on some planes.

The revival comes all comes at a time when African Airlines now account for just 20% of the air traffic from the continent, down from 60% in a decade as Gulf carriers have made great strides in the continent. African airlines have also struggled with financial performance and management, with only Ethiopian posting consistent profits in the last decade. And, notably,  the deals announced at Farnborough lack detail on the financing aircraft, with Boeing 787’s and Airbus A330’s each having official prices of over $200 million.

Earlier, Skytrax published its list of the top 100 airlines in the world and it featured some African airlines including Ethiopian Airlines (at number 40), South African Airways (45), Air Mauritius (69), Air Seychelles (82), Kenya Airways (85) and was topped by Singapore, Qatar, All Nippon, Emirates and Eva Air. Other awards for African airlines were in categories of best airline staff service (South African Airways), best regional airline (Royal Air Maroc), best low-cost airline ( Mango) and best African airline (Ethiopian).

EDIT: More from Farnborough – via Leeham News & Comment.

  • Air Botswana signed a firm order for two ATR72-600s.
  • Mauritania Airlines placed a firm order for two E175s that will deliver next year.

Asoko reviews Flower Farms (Floriculture) in Kenya

Asoko Insight has published an interesting review of flower farms and the floriculture industry in Kenya showing trends for the region and new markets for what has been a steady export for the country. It is Interesting that the Netherlands is considered the world’s largest producer of flowers with a 45% of the export value, followed by Colombia 17% and Ecuador 10%. Kenya has 9% of the global flower market, far ahead of Uganda and South Africa in Africa.

  • Export-oriented: Kenya flower exports earned $813 million (Kshs 81 billion) in 2017 according to Kenya’s Horticultural Crops Directorate and these are growing at 11% per year. Kenya’s 2018 economic survey has these cut flowers, 160,000 tones of them representing 71% of horticultural earnings; much larger than vegetables and fruits at Kshs 24 and 9 billion, respectively. Most flowers are grown for export, while domestic demand is but a small fraction that comprises purchase of low grade products. 
  • Producers: There are 236 companies actively growing flowers, 24 are large, and these include Oserian Development, James Finlay, Carzan, Primarosa, Vegpro Group, AAA Growers, Mount Elgon Orchards, Flamingo, PJ Dave, Kariki, and Timaflor. Producers need certification to break into export markets and sell at premiums. Large farms market their flowers to sister companies and contract smaller farms who also have the option of using international wholesalers.
  • Netherlands: FloraHolland is the largest flower auction in the world and has historically Europe has been the main destination of Kenya’s horticultural trading, but the report  mentions that some large Kenyan producers are bypassing the Dutch auction system, directly supplying bouquets and loose flowers to large Western retailers such as Walmart and Tesco who focus on delivery, reliability, and traceability, not just price. Primarosa was recently in the news pushing for the Kenya floriculture industry to set up its own flower auction.
  • Ethiopia: The report also compares the floriculture industry of Kenya and Ethiopia which has been in the news due to the long-running Karuturi versus Stanbic bank case which has highlighted that some flower farms are shifting their floriculture interests and investments to Ethiopia where there are less labour (union) and tax issues in production. Kenya’s flower exports in 2016 were $690 million compared to $190 million for Ethiopia. That said, it has not been smooth sailing for Karuturi in Ethiopia so far.  

Read more in the Asoko report (PDF) on Kenya’s floriculture industry.