Category Archives: Kenya economic growth

AVCA 2019 private equity and venture capital conference in Nairobi

The 16th annual conference of African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA) was held from 1st -3rd April 2019 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi. A guest post by Marcela Sinda.

This flagship conference event for the African continent had a fantastic kick-off and turnout, bringing together private equity and venture capital investors who handle a portfolio of over $1.5 trillion in assets. This was according to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade, Peter Munya who officially opened the conference on behalf of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The goal of this kind of conference, he said, is to expose investors to the diverse prospective investment markets across the Africa as the continent was now being looked at as any other region, with the focus being around checking due diligence, ethics, looking at best practices and asking the same questions around deal sourcing.

 

DFI’s Role: Kenya is an increasingly attractive investment destination and according to AVCA data, it is the 2nd most attractive country for private equity investments in Africa over the next three years and hence an obvious choice to gather the industry players for this conference. The African PE sector has been shaped for decades by DFIs, and at AVCA 2019, there was some discussion about new DFI strategies for investment across Africa. Maria Hakansson, the CEO of Swedfund, noted that, as a community, DFIs could do so much more when it comes to anti-corruption, e-waste management, customer protection principles etc. and that Africa’s portfolio is constantly outperforming in terms of impact compared to other regions portfolio.

Djalal Khimdjee, Deputy CEO of Proparco said SMEs in Africa are essential towards job creation and achieving the sustainable development goals (SDG’s) and that 60% of the 1.5 million jobs that have been created in Africa every month come from SMEs and venture capital firms. He said that PROPARCO and French development agencies had committed £2.5 billion by 2022 to support African MSMEs, including £1 billion through private equity investments. 

Mathew Hunt, Principal at South Suez Capital shared that one of the reasons why investors are in Africa and especially now is because of the tech-driven growth that’s been on the rise in recent years. Venture capital investments are new in Africa and only a handful of funds have grown successfully.  The role of African Development Bank, said Robert Zegers, their Chief Investment Officer, was to now help support the industry and act as anchor investors in these funds as a lot of development agendas can be achieved by generating value through VC’s and great businesses.

The narrative throughout the discussion panels was around the real opportunities Africa presents for investment with building blocks in place such as improved policies, the rise in middle-income earners, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, and enablers such energy, improved infrastructure and technology as pathways that cater for development needs. The most attractive areas for P/E investment were perceived to be consumer-driven sectors (financials, FMCG, agribusiness, healthcare and technology).

Deals Galore: VCs are willing and able to take risks and are looking to invest much more than they did previously. According to the  AVCA report 2018, VCs invested $725.6 Million in 458 deals a 300% leap in the total funding amount and over 127% increase in the number of deals as compared to 2017.  VC fund managers, therefore, need to have great entrepreneurial skills to identify numerous opportunities and create great pipelines for growth and expansion. This is the first generation of PE owners and from the lessons learnt, a good company always attracts a buyer and a great way for VCs to approach funding private companies is to ask; ‘if everything works out, how big can this be?’. But investors ought to be cautious not to misconstrue Africa as a single country with regard to investments, rather, and instead start by breaking down the micro trends in each jurisdiction and analyse the different risks.

Investments, not Aid: Charles Mwebeiha of Sango Capital urged investors to look at Africa while investing, like any other region in the world noting that many times, investing in Africa is made to sound like some sort of assistance. He offered that the issue should be whether returns can be made and reiterated that with good strategies, there is money to be made in Africa.

Women: It was also highlighted that having a gender-sensitive lens when investing is an imperative for an inclusive and fair investment strategy and that, especially in Africa, the number of female entrepreneurs supported is a key metric. There is an even split between male and female entrepreneurs on the continent but less than 2% of those women are getting formal funding as they are often working in hidden, informal sectors.

Exits: A major area of discussion was around exits. Carlos Reyes of the IFC,  pointed out that; “to prepare companies for exits, we try to improve reporting standards, corporate governance and we look at the bench – so if the entrepreneur leaves, who can come in? The succession process is quite important.” Exits are not the easiest but they are not deal-breakers and good exits can be achieved. At Leapfrog Investments, they evaluate exits right at the beginning, by sitting down with the owners to try to understand their dreams for the future so as to align funding with their plans for exiting.

Predictions: And finally, taking a forward look at the sector five years into the future, George Odo, Managing Director of AfricInvest Capital Partners observed that there would be more capital raised from African economies, more policy changes required to mobilise pension funds, much more experienced fund managers, and also more EA players paying attention to Ethiopia.

Glossary
AVCA – Africa Venture Capital Association
EA – East Africa
PE – Private Equity
LP – Limited Partners
DFI – Development Finance Institution
IFC – International Finance Corporation
PROPARCO – A Development Financial Institution partly owned by the French Development Agency
SME – Small Medium Enterprise
MSME – Micro Small & Medium Enterprises
VC – Venture Capital

CIA Economic Data on Kenya and its President in 1978

Excerpts from a declassified CIA document from August 1978. 

The Economic Intelligence Weekly Review issue, dated 24 August 1978, was published two days after Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta, who had led the country since independence in December 1963, passed away.

The document is meant for US government officials and was done in a format that is useful to them. It has economic indicators, industrial material prices, and contains data from sources like the IMF, and the Economist (their index of 16 food prices). There are also charts on Inflation, unemployment, trade patterns (imports and exports), unemployment rates, interest rates etc. in different countries that are classified by segments such as the Big Seven (US, Japan, West Germany, France, UK, Italy and Canada), other OECD, OPEC (oil-producing nations) and also Communist countries, and other ‘World’ countries.

There are detailed write-ups in the CIA weekly review on:

  • The black market in Cuba: Hustling of consumer goods is vibrant, reflecting shortages of consumer goods. Most consumer goods are rationed except a few luxury items like rum and cigarettes. It also notes that aggregate personal incomes in Cuba are up 38% since 1973 and have reached the rank and file of Cuba, with no evidence of appreciable corruption among top-level officials.
  • The USSR has borrowed more than it needs to build a pipeline. It obtained $2.5 billion, which was $1 billion more than required, from the CEMA International Investment Bank (IIB). Five Eastern European countries helped build it, and in exchange, they will receive gas annually, while sales of natural gas to Western Europe are expected to yield $750 million to $1 billion. The IIB borrow funds in European markets and on-lends them to Eastern European countries at rates better than the countries could obtain on their own. Items paid for with the loan funds included equipment bought from West Germany, Italy and France.
  • Concern about Poland debt payment problems despite a shrinking deficit: For a third year, Poland had to borrow $4 billion and could face a financial crunch or debt rescheduling. Cutbacks of available industrial materials have been severe, affecting production, while debt service payments are now double what they were in 1976 – amounting to 60% of Poland’s exports to the West, compared to 37% in 1976. 
  • The USSR is engaging with Iraq and India.
  • On Kenya, it looked at the transition era and economic stakes of the Kenyatta family, whose inner circle controlled key economic posts and had extensive commercial and agricultural investments, and land tracts around the country. 

The CIA found that the substantial economic investments built over 15 years would deter them from unconstitutionally challenging Acting President Daniel arap Moi, even as they predicted that the Moi-Njonjo group’s (Njonjo was Kenya’s Attorney General and a key ally of Moi in the transition phase) efforts to increase the economic pie could cause disenchantment with the Kenyatta clan.

It was expected that economic pressures would cause the government to push for redistribution of the country’s wealth as it also noted that the family is big in two activities – charcoal and ivory whose exports were banned. At the time, Kenya was considering applying to the IMF for assistance with its balance of payments in the coming years as oil prices had risen, key foreign exchange earners like coffee and tea were slumping, and there was a need to modernize the military while Kenya had also lost its top destination market – Tanzania with the collapse of the East African Community.

It is an astonishing amount of economic data, from fourty years ago – so what does the CIA collect today on different countries and economies?

See also this story from the Standard newspaper. 

M&A Moment: January 2019

The Competition Authority of Kenya recently approved the completion of several corporate merger and acquisition (M&A) deals. They are interesting in that they reveal some revenue and deal value numbers that private companies, acquirers, and equity funds usually don’t make public.  The deals were all approved with exclusions as the transactions between the affected companies  will not affect competition negatively and they met the threshold for exclusion under the “merger threshold guidelines.”

The deals and exclusions include:

Airline/ Oil/Energy/Mining M&A

  • (The Competition Authority of Kenya [CA-K]) .. Excludes the proposed acquisition of 51% of Selenkei Ltd by Frontier Energy as the acquirer assets for the preceding year (2017) was KShs. 225 million while the target’s assets was KShs. 4 million and the combined assets valued at KShs. 222 million meet the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of control of Paygo Energy by Novastar Ventures East Africa Fund 1 LP and FPCI Energy Access Venture Fund as the acquirers had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs 2 million
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 51% of Cedate by Frontier Energy as the acquirer assets for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 225 million while the target’s assets was KShs. 355 million and the combined assets valued at KShs. 580 million meet the threshold for exclusion.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the entire issued share capital in Iberafrica Power (E. A) by AEP Energy Africa
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of control of Consolidated Infrastructure Group by Fairfax Africa Holdings.
  • edit The CA-K has approved the acquisition of Cemtech Ltd by Simba Cement, which is owned by the Devki Group. Cemtech has limestone and clay deposits and licenses for extraction in West Pokot but has been dormant for a decade. Its shareholders have been looking for a partner (another deal had been mooted in 2013 ) to finance a cement plant, and Simba plan to resuscitate it by acquiring its land, business, intellectual property, records, equipment, goodwill, licenses, stock and third party rights. Simba has an 8% share of the cement market behind Bamburi (33%), Mombasa Cement (16%), East African Portland (15%), Savannah (15%), National (8)and Athi River Mining (13%) (March 2019).

Banking and Finance: Finance, Law, & Insurance M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 44% of Cellulant Corporation by The Rise Fund Certify, L.P. as the acquirer had a turnover of KShs. 93 million for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 752 million and therefore, the combined turnover of KShs. 844 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 12% of Pezesha Africa with certain controlling rights by Consonance Kuramo Special Opportunities Fund 1 as the acquirer’s turnover for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 6.2 million while the target’s turnover was KShs. 3.1 million
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 100% of Serian Asset Managers by Cytonn Asset Managers as the acquirer had a turnover of KShs. 0.9 million for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 1.1 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the combined turnover of KShs. 1.9 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • The Competition Authority approved the acquisition of indirect control of Abraaj Investment Management by Actis International. Abraaj controls Star Foods Holdings, which ultimately controls Java House Ltd in Kenya.
  • CA-K approved the proposed purchase and subscription of up to 25% shareholding in Prime Bank by Africinvest Azure SPV

Agri-Business, Food & Beverage M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 99.9% of  Twiga Foods Limited by Twiga Holdings as the acquirer has no operations in Kenya and therefore had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 140 million and the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the business and assets of Anchor Flour Millers Company by Archaic Industries Kenya as the acquirer is a natural person with no business activities and had no turnover or assets for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 97.3 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of class B ordinary shares in Fertiplant East Africa by Oikocredit, Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society U.A as the acquirer is a natural person and had no turnover or assets for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s assets were valued at KShs. 47.5 million.
  • The Competition Authority approved the proposed acquisition of 100% of Art-Caffe Coffee and Bakery Ltd by Artcaffe Group
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of certain assets and part of the business of Kreative Roses limited by Kongoni River Farm on condition that the target retains 43 of its employees while the acquirer employs the remaining 362 employees for at least one year after the completion of the proposed transaction.
  • edit The biscuit manufacturing and selling business carried on by Golden Biscuits (1985) at L.R. No. 209/4260, Kampala Road, Industrial Area, Nairobi, will be transferred to Trufoods Limited pursuant to the terms of a business and asset transfer agreement entered into between the Transferor and Transferee on 7th February, 2019.

Health and Medical, Pharmaceutical M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 32.5% of the shares with certain veto rights in King Medical Supplies by LGT Capital Invest Mauritius PCC Cell E/VP as the acquirer is a newly incorporated company and had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 20.9 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 32.5% of the shares with certain Veto Rights in City Eye Hospital by LGT Capital Invest Mauritius PCC Cell E/VP as the acquirer is a newly incorporated company and had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 62.1 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of sole control of Hain Lifescience East Africa Kenya by Bruker Daltonik GMBH as the acquirer’s turnover for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 102 million while the target’s turnover was KShs. 106 million and the combined turnover of KShs. 208 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the manufacturing and distribution business of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company (Kenya) by Shalina Healthcare Kenya as the acquirer’s assets for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 0.4 million while the target’s value of asset was KShs. 43 million and the combined value of asset of KShs. 44 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of certain assets of Maghreb Pharmacy by Goodlife Pharmacy as the target had a turnover of KShs. 15 million for the preceding year 2016 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 60% shareholding in AK Life Sciences by CSSAF Lifeco Holdings as the acquirer had a turnover of KShs. 377 million for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 125 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the combined turnover of KShs. 503 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • The competition authority approved the proposed acquisition of the entire share capital in Arysta Lifescience Inc by UPL Corporation.
  • The Competition Authority authorized the proposed investment by Tunza Health Investments in Pyramid Healthcare Ltd.
  • The Competition Authority approved, the acquisition of 100% of the business and assets of Desbro (Kenya) by Brenntang (Holding) B.V. on condition that Brenntang retains the 80 employees of Desbro for a period of one year. Desbro distributes over 600 industrial chemicals to various industries in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.

Logistics, Engineering, & Manufacturing M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 100% of the shares in JGH Marine A/S and JOHS. Gram-Hanssen A/S by Pitzner Gruppen Holding A/S  as the acquirer has no presence in Kenya and, therefore, had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 392 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the assets and business of Socabelec East Africa by Cockerill East Africa as the acquirer had a turnover of KShs. 193, million for the preceding year 2016 while target had a turnover of KShs. 226 million the preceding year 2016 and therefore, the combined turnover of KShs. 419 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 55% of  Air Sea Logistics (ASL) by Expolanka Freight PZCO as the acquirer had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 8 million and therefore meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the assets of Rich Logistics (K) by Bigcold Kenya as the acquirer is newly incorporated and hence, had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target had a turnover of KShs. 48 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the stationery and shavers manufacturing, sales and distribution of stationery, lighters and shavers business of Haco Industries Kenya  by BIC East Africa.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the Kenyan freight forwarding business and assets of Dodwell & Co (East Africa) and those of Inchcape Shipping Services Kenya by ISS Global Forwarding (Kenya) – which is owned by Investment Corporate of Dubai (ICD). 
  • The Competition Authority approved the proposed acquisition of the assets and business of Blue Nile Wire Products by Blue Nile Rolling Mills.
  • The Competition Authority approved the acquisition of the assets and business of Wild Elegance Fashions by Wild Elegance Africa.
  • The Competition Authority approved the proposed acquisition of 73.6% of Sintel Security Print Solutions by Ramco Plexus. Sintel is involved in the printing and supply of scratch cards, highly secured cheques and custom labels.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the business and assets of Office Mart by Sai Office Supplies
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the business and assets of Lino Stationers by Sai Office Supplies on condition that the acquirer employs not less than 57 out of the 74 employees after the completion of the proposed transaction.

Real Estate, Tourism, & Supermarkets M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 40% of Dufry Kenya by Ananta as the acquirer had no turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target had a turnover of KShs. 269 million for the preceding year 2016 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed joint venture between Scan-Thor Group and Otto International GmbH as the acquirer has no market presence in Kenya and, therefore, had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 11 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed transfer of 100% of Norbu Manda Pwani Ltd to Margot Kiser from the provisions of Part IV of the as the acquirer is a natural person and had no turnover or assets for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s assets were valued at KShs. 47.5 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the business and assets of Giraffe Ark Game Lodge by Archaic Industries Kenya as the acquirer is a newly incorporated company and had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 51.5 million
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the business of Ocean Sports (2006) by Ocean Sports Hotel as the acquirer had no turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target’s turnover was KSh. 44.6 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 34.48% of African Forest Lodges by Earth Friends LLP as the acquirer is a newly incorporated company and has no assets or turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target’s assets was KShs. 197 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the (Furniture, fittings, equipment and Prefabricated building) assets of Me To We Ltd by Bogani Training, excludes the proposed acquisition of the (motor vehicle) assets of Me To We Ltd by Minga Ltd and excludes the proposed acquisition of the assets  (vehicles, beads, stocks) of Me To We Ltd by Araveli For Mamas as the acquirers had no turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target’s turnover for the preceding year 2016 was KShs. 68 million and therefore, meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of control of Tumaini Self Service by Sokoni Retail Kenya. Tumani operates retail stores in Nairobi, Kisumu and Kajiado.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of Nova Academics Tatu City Property Ltd by Summit Real Estate Pty
  • The Competition Authority of Kenya approved the proposed acquisition of 100% of Hillcrest Investment Holdings by Education Asia Holdings – which is an investment holding company owned by GEMS Global Schools. Hillcrest operates three learning institutions in Nairobi – Hillcrest Early Years, Hillcrest Preparatory School and Hillcrest Secondary School.

Telecommunications, Media & Publishing M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 39% of the shareholding in the Star Publication by Avandale Investments and 10% of the shareholding by Adil Arshed Khawaja as the acquirer had no turnover for the financial year ending 30th June 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 679 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of Mobile Web (trading as Hivisasa) by Novastar Ventures Easy Africa Fund 1 L.P.  as the acquirer had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 14 million or the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.

Other M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of Dc Xiang Kenya Company by Lin Bingwei from the provisions of Part IV of the Act as the acquirer is a natural person with no business activities and had no turnover or assets for the preceding year 2017 while the target is a newly incorporated company and had no turnover or assets;
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 100% of the shares in Kesar Investments by Dipak Lakshman Halai and Ramesh Kurji Visram as the acquirer are individuals and had no turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target’s assets was KES 0.07 million
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of Zelepak Africa by PPG  Holdings

CA-K, as a regulator, has not yet reported on two mega deals; the proposed bank merger between CBA and NIC and the buyout of Kenol by Rubis that will lead to a delisting of the company. edit: Later in January 2019, the Competition Authority approved the Rubis-Kenol deal along with a few other deals. 

Also, see some other deals approved six years ago.

$1 = Kshs 101

Rail Check: SGR First Class

A review of the Madaraka Express SGR service between Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya using the Business Traveller format of train reviews.

Background: Kenya launched the Madaraka Express, a new passenger service train service when the Standard Gauge Railways in May 2017 that replaced the ‘old’ Kenya Railways train service between Nairobi and Mombasa and which was discontinued just a few weeks before the launch. China Road and Bridge Corporation built the new standard gauge railways (SGR) and Africa Star Railway Operation runs the train service for Kenya Railways.

Booking: You buy all tickets online, and you have to choose – first (costs Kshs 3,000) or economy (Kshs 1,000). There is no seat selection or seat map. You then pay via M-Pesa and get an SMS with the seat selection and ticket number. The ticket price is a flat rate, with no difference in prices for weekends, or midweek. The booking site also shows the number of available seats and you can book for several people, but there are some rules about large group bookings. 

Getting There: Nairobi’s SGR station is located about 8 kilometres from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and 15 kilometres from downtown Nairobi while the one at Miritini station that serves Mombasa is a corresponding distance from the airport there and centre of the island. You can get to either station by using a taxi service like Uber or Little Cabs.

Even though you are going to hot Mombasa, dress warmly for the SGR ride. Don’t get on board in T-shirt and beach shorts as the train is kept at a cool air-conditioned temperature for the duration of the ride and the windows don’t open.

At the SGR station, you go through a few security checks – sniffer dog, bag x-ray etc. There are different rules that are not clear and some people are allowed to bring food onboard, but other items like visible alcohol bottles and cigarette lighters are confiscated from passengers.

You then go and print your ticket stub from a vending machine, which you have to show to enter the station. You enter the number that was sent to your phone via SMS and you can, for good measure, also print one for the return leg.

Boarding: At Nairobi, there is a lounge for first-class passengers that is separated by a screen from the economy ones. First class passengers board first from their lounge, and parents with children are given boarding priority. You walk across a bridge from the lounge and down to the train.  There are escalators at both Nairobi and Mombasa stations and some lifts, but they can get crowded.

You find, your coach and there’s another ticket check at door. The train has about eleven economy coaches, and two first-class ones, according to the announcer, with numbers one and two at the back, next to the dining car.

Seat: Once on board, you have to sometime be firm on the seat you paid for as some people arrive and want to sit on a different seat in the first-class cabin that is in a 2-2 layout. Window seats have a socket and you want to sit next one where you can plug your gadgets in to charge. I got the impression some people buy two seats so they can stretch out in the extra space and nap without being bothered by a seat companion who may be a noisy, messy eater.

There is enough space in the overhead bins, and large suitcases are placed at the end of the carriage near, or under, the sink. It would be nice if there were some proper luggage racks, but there is ample space.

The tray table, which pulls out from the seat in front, is wide enough to rest a laptop computer on. But it has no slots for cups, so if you are reading or working on a laptop, it is available to hold your cup. The train sways gently, but it is more likely you will knock over the cup or someone passing may bump it by accident.

Journey: The train pulls out of the station on time at 2:35 P.M. It accelerates slowly on through past the many cement factories in Athi River town, the African Heritage House, and other familiar sights. It doesn’t really pick up speed, in this area with slight curves, until it starts descends the plains, and the rail straightens. Most of the journey is done at speeds of about 110 Km/h (70 mph) and the train is very deceptive in its speed, which is displayed on a small screen in the coaches. You never get a sense of the speed until you pass a car on the highway or see a helicopter slowly pass overhead and you realize just how fast the train really is compared to these other vehicles.

The entire railway is double fenced, zoning off the SGR from the communities that it passes through on the 400-kilometre journey. The afternoon train is a non-stop one. Unlike the old train which would slow to stop in small towns and in which passengers tourists would stick their heads out of windows, watching the passing countryside or to count the number of coaches of the train as it turned, this new rail has few curves and the train hardly bends. There are no roads to cross, and instead, the train is elevated far above the ground as cars pass underneath. School kids, who used to stop and wave at travellers on the old train, do not bother to stop playing football to even glance at this fast-moving one.

Looking outside from your seat, you might spot some elephants, giraffes, buffalo, monkeys and other wildlife in the open plain, and later when an announcement is made about the train passing through Tsavo National Park. Occasionally pass another train, but mostly you pass old abandoned stations that used to be landmark stops on the old train,

Service:  In first-class, a drink cart was rolled down the aisle with a snack, and free serving of coffee or tea is served, but the service is rather slow and clumsy. Later they served drinks, for sale, which were rolled down on an old airline-style cart, with a selection of beers, wine, soft drinks and snacks, but the cold drinks are not really cold. Even warm ones can run out and you may have to switch what you are drinking.

It is better to go straight to the dining car where you can have more cold drinks and snacks. The train ride is not too long, so you won’t be eating large meals like the elaborate full dinner and breakfast meals that the old train used to serve in first-class. The same beer that was Kshs 250 in the VIP at the station is now 350 here. Also, the Mombasa station also has a first-class lounge upstairs but there is no restaurant there, yet.

There is no Wi-Fi or screens, but you get good service on Safaricom internet service for most of the way. Some passengers had iPads which they used to entertain children they were travelling with.

Arrival: Accessing the station at both ends can be stressful At Mombasa having arrived at about 7:15 P.M. it took about two hours to get to our destination by historic Fort Jesus. The new highway, that is still under construction, takes about fifteen minutes to reach the junction to Mombasa airport. Then it took us one and a half hours to negotiate the traffic that had overlapped and got stuck on the dusty Makupa Causeway, with matatus, tuk-tuk’s and other vehicles going off-road and meandering between long-distance trucks. Some vehicles had they engines off and truck brakes had a burning smell. The cause of the jam was a lorry that had gone off the road just as the causeway enters the island. The return a few days later took about a half-hour from town. Regardless of if you take the SGR, or fly into Mombasa’s main airport, you are stuck on the same highway that is under repair for the next few weeks.

Verdict: The 66 people in the first class train cabin are equal to the number on a typical bus on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, while each economy coach (there were eleven) has almost double that number of passengers. Also, the 50 wagons on an SGR goods train of which you pass one or two during the journey are equal to 50 fewer trucks off the Nairobi-Mombasa. See also Owaahh’s “The Man Who Sold A Country” for more on the impact of this new railway.

Good points: The time-keeping, the on-time departures and arrivals. Also, the new SGR service crew make many announcements, about making good use of a shared public facility. When KFC came to Kenya and later Subway and other fast food-joints followed, they introduced the idea that patrons should clean up after themselves and dispose of their assorted papers, cups and leftover food in large bins provided. On the SGR they keep broadcasting announcements throughout the trip reminding passengers about cleaning up their space, not littering, not sticking gum under the tables, etc. They also ask people travelling in groups to be considerate of others in terms of their conversations and music. But other passengers played music on their phones, without using headphone, and there was a cacophony that competed with music blaring from the train’s overhead speakers.

Some groups ignored this and a few people don’t use headphones and you often have competing sounds in the cabin, including songs on the train PA in-between announcements. While others heeded the advice and took their loud conversations to the dining car where they could sit facing each other and discuss their trips and business plans over plenty of alcohol. There is also some camaraderie in first class, and people share tables as they enjoy drinks and watch the rapidly passing scenery.

In Nairobi, Kenya Railways also runs a commuter service from the old railway station in downtown Nairobi to the SGR station. They time it to shuttle passengers who are connecting on the SGR Nairobi. This costs Kshs 50, a fair deal, compared to the cost of using a taxi which is at least ten times more. The commuter trains makes two stops at Imara Daima and Makadara.

Bad points: The odd toilet rule about not throwing anything, even tissue, down the toilet does not make sense. Their instructions are to dispose of toilet paper in a bin on the floor?? Yet the toilet seems like the same standard vacuum flush that planes have. BTW, the old train used to flush straight down and fertilise the side of the tracks.

FACT FILE:

  • JOURNEY TIME 4 hours, 35 minutes (Nairobi to Mombasa).
  • SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-2. Seats can rotate backwards but no one tried to turn them around. People went to the dining car for face to face meetings.
  • PRICE:  Advance first class fares from Nairobi to Mombasa are Kshs 3,000 (about £23 / $30) for a one-way booking, which you make online and pay for via mobile money (M-Pesa). You must enter the name and ID/passport number of each traveller. 
  • CONTACT info@krc.co.ke

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.