Category Archives: Investing in Kenya

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.

Private Equity investment guide for East Africa

This week in Nairobi saw the launch by  EAVCA, FSD Africa and IFC Africa of a new private equity (PE) investment guide for East Africa.

The PE investing guide is a tool to enable pension funds across East Africa to assess and invest in private equity assets by raising knowledge among pension fund managers who are primarily invested in stocks and bonds.

It is a simple guide that can be read in just thirty minutes to gain an understanding of private equity assets. It has a checklist of useful information to look for before investing in PE, and after to manage portfolios, and roles for general and limited partners.

Also, EAVCA released a market report on n the current status of private equity investments in the region following a survey of pension schemes and PE general partners. It found that, while five Eastern African countries have generous provisions for pension funds to invest in private equity, led by Rwanda at 20%, Uganda at 15% and Kenya at 10%, the uptake has been low with Uganda attaining 2.2% investments in PE funds followed by Kenya at 0.08%.

Nzomo Mutuku of Kenya’s Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA), who officiated the launch,  said that while pushed for pension schemes to diversify and explore alternative investments to grow returns for members, many still had huge investments in one company (i.e Safaricom) and stocks and bonds of banks in which they held their deposit funds. (Later it came up the concentration in a few NSE stocks is not unusual among sub-Saharan markets- Nigeria’s largest firm commands 35% of the market while in Ghana, the top three firms have an 80% share).

Other Insights from the Q & A after the launch:

• Excluding South Africa, there is about $100 billion of funds held by pension and insurance funds and collective investment schemes (CIS). Of that East Africa, has about $30 billion with  Kenya at $20 billion.

• The IFC has been in private equity for over 20 years and is invested in 300 funds globally, with 50 of them active in this region.

• One pension manager cited their investments in I&M bank before it listed at the NSE, UAP, and invested in an energy IPP that gave attractive returns of 13% on a Euro investment.

• Another mentioned that they had participated in 40 bonds offers in 17 African countries with decent returns and no defaults.

• Speakers cautioned about Kenya’s move to raise the capital gains tax on private equity from 5% to 12%, a move that the country’s parliament has since set aside thanks to concerted lobbying.

The teams will next move to market the assets class to trustees in Botswana and Nigeria.

Sports betting on ice as Sportpesa and Betin shut down in Kenya

On the last Saturday of September 2019, top sports betting companies, Sportpesa and Betin, separately announced an effective end of their operations in Kenya.

Sportpesa posted a statement on their site saying that Kenyan tax administrators had misunderstood revenue generation in the betting industry  – and that the company would halt all brand operations in Kenya as a result. Earlier, Sportpesa management, without citing  numbers, had said that they had settled all matters with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), but have still been unable to obtain renewal of their license from the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB)

Then last week on Wednesday, Sportpesa moved to lay off about 400 employees.

Meanwhile, Gamcode (trading as Betin Kenya) also issued a memo to all employees terminating their jobs as the company had not been operating since July 2019. They said they had been trying to resolve for three month’s as such all jobs would end on October 31.

Betin had several big media campaigns with Kenyan soccer star McDonald Mariga, who has unexpectedly stepped into politics and is now in the middle of campaigns to take up the vacant Parliamentary seat for Kibra constituency, following the death of popular MP, Ken Okoth.

By now, with the English Premier League on, local sports pages would have full-page colour advertisements of weekend and mid-week match betting odds and jackpot opportunities. Sportpesa also had significant spending in Europe sponsoring the Racing Point Formula One  team and Everton in the UK premier league and those teams still adorn  Sportpesa brands.

The claims of banning sports betting have been varied, with their destructive influence on young Kenyans, tax evasion and money laundering at different forums. Even a former Chairman of the Betting Control and Licensing Board, Kimani Kung’u, questioned whether non-payment and non-compliance with taxes was behind the freeze on the top betting companies.

In an interview with Radio Jambo in July, Kung’u said that the revenue of betting companies at the end of 2018 was between Sh20 billion and Sh25 billion and that there is no way that could have risen to Sh200 billion by mid-2019.


There have been three groups of companies: The group of 26 companies that were banned in July 2019 included: Mozzartbet, Sportybet SportPesa (Pevans E A Ltd), Betyetu (Oxygen & Gaming EA Ltd), Betin (Gamcode Ltd), Betway (Blue Jay Ltd), Easibet (Dreamcall Ltd), Betpawa (Gaming International Ltd), Betboss (White Rhino Ventures Ltd), Elitebet (Seal Capital Ltd), Dafa bet (Asian Betting & Gaming Ltd), Lucky 2 U, Cheza Cash (Sekunde Technologies), Palmsbet (Advanced Innovation Ltd), 1X Bet (Advanced Gaming Ltd), Saharabet (Sahara Game Technology Ltd), Bungabet (Galaxy Betting Ltd), Kick Off (Kick Off Sports Bar Ltd), Kenya Sports Bet, Eastleighbet (G&P Trading), and Premier Bet Ltd.

Those reportedly cleared later by KRA in July 2019 include Mozoltbet, East bet,  Lucky 2u, Eazi Bet, Kick off, Eastleighbet, Palms Bet, Bet boss, Betway, OdiBets, Mozzartbet and Ken Bookmakers.

Those xleared in August 2019 include Oyster, CityBet/EAF Galaxy, Shop & Deliver, Kareco, Playco, GrayHoldings/GameCo/Shabiki, NZ Mobile, Cheza Gaming, Hanstaunton Technologies/LottoCoLLP, and Zumabdu/Betlion.

None of the relicensed firms appears, so far, to have the impact and reach of Betin and Sportpesa.

Winners from the shutdown:

  • Moses Kemibaro has done a nice piece about the impact that the ban on Sportpesa and Betin has had on their web traffic and that of the other companies that have come to benefit from new betting activities, including Betika. He writes that “The biggest winners from Kenya’s sports betting armageddon are undoubtedly Betika, Odibets, MozzartBet Kenya and Kwikbet Kenya who have grown massively in terms of audiences and traffic during the last couple of months.”
  • The Internal Security Minister has said that Kshs 200 billion that was previously leaving the country through sports betting firms, is now being spent locally, boosting the local economy.

Losers from the shutdown include:

  • Media companies and newspapers: Gambling companies were among the top advertising spenders in the country up till this year. They would have about two color pages in all the newspapers, radio & TV ads, and several billboards across town. But as of this weekend, the newspapers are devoid of the advertisements except for small ones by Mozzartbet (for a 10 million jackpot for 50 shillings) and Betika (register and bet via USSD, with no data bundle required for a 100 million jackpot for 49 shillings)
  • The Kenya Premier League, which is limping since it lacks a top sponsor. Sportpesa had stepped in after Supersport had pulled out in protest at an ill-advised decision by the league to increase the number of participating teams from 16 to 18.
  • Telcos: Bettors and betting companies generated messages with every bet that incurred fees and bets were settled by mobile money payments. While companies are considering cards as a payment option, that is a minority that lags compared to mobile money usage.

EDIT Oct 11: 

Betin Kenya released a statement, saying that they, as a company, were fully tax-compliant, and that the betting industry had collectively paid Kshs 10 billon ($100 million) in taxes in 2018, but that the government had refused to renew its license, causing it to lay off its staff and shut down its retail outlets.

Coca-Cola Innovation Push

Coca-Cola today launched “Coke plus Coffee”, a coffee-flavoured beverage that is one of five new products that the company is introducing in Kenya to match new and changing consumer tastes and spending habits. 

Also unveiled was “Minute Maid Nutridefenses” in five different fruit flavours, “Sprite” and “Fanta” without sugar, “Fuze” tea bags, and “Powerade”, a rehydration drink for sports users that will feature at the Olympic Games.

At the launch, Company representatives said that the developments were guided by their research to come up with new products and to deliver choice and convenience to customers by providing quality products – dubbed  “the right refreshment, in the right package, at the right price.”

Aside from the new beverages for coffee lovers, juice lovers and sports people, Coca-Cola is also moving to reduce its plastic footprint by shifting the distribution of Dasani water to glass, returnable bottles that are sold at more affordable prices. This is alongside a wider push to accelerate the collection and recycling of plastic bottles and reduce waste pollution in East and Southern Africa.

Aside from this Coca-Cola is in the process of completing a deal with Centum Investments to take control of beverage bottling companies in Eldoret and Nyeri (through Almasi) as well as Nairobi Bottlers.

Spanish delivery company Glovo enters the Kenyan market.

Glovo is a four years old Spanish delivery company started by Oscar Pierre and Sacha Michaud. Its headquarters are in Barcelona, Spain and Glovo has been expanding globally, and just recently begun operations in Kenya five months ago, with Morocco and Nigeria being the other two African countries using the Glovo app services.

Glovo actually means balloon in Spanish to signify the way a balloon moves easily from one place to another. Kenya has seen some new delivery companies but is yet to experience one which can deliver even a personal item that you forgot at home. We are used to the traditional delivery of items by people we know but now this app will very well facilitate an easier way. The one challenge being how safe or how trustworthy Glovo delivery people are which, and the company has placed safeguards for this.

The Glovo app is found on Google play store for Android and App Store for IoS and it doesn’t take more than five minutes to start using the app. What makes them even more competitive is their pricing which is quite the saver.

Glovo performance is improving by the day. William Benthall, the General Manager for Kenya stated that the number of Glovo bikes he’s seen around town keeps increasing with time. Just like other delivery services, with Glovo, interested partners sign up their machines, for instance, bikes, to the app and can from there, connect with clients who need items delivered.

A guest post by @themkare