Category Archives: Kenya economic growth

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Indians in East Africa

Indian Africa, minorities of Indian-Pakistani origin in Eastern Africa, is a 484-page book with lots of information, charts, statistics and stories of the arrival and enduring impact of Indians in East Africa:

Some excerpts: 

  • Almost all Indian traders to East Africa were from the northwest (Sindh) now Pakistan, Gujarat, Punjab, and Maharashtra in India.
  • The Indian population in Kenya which fell to 78,000 in 1979 rose once again to stabilize at 100,000, half of whom acquired Kenyan nationality. The demographic resurgence was probably due to donor pressure but also favorable treatment under President Moi who got into a tactical alliance with high society to check the influence of the emerging Kikuyu middle class. Thus in 1986, Indians who had been dispossessed in 1967 returned to manufacturing, by buying out subsidiaries of multinationals.
  • Indians are in 80% of industrial sectors and control 90% of business activity in the textile industry through 50 mills and 350 other companies. In the pharmaceutical sector, they control 60%, 80% of the chemical/plastics, 80% of iron business, and 90% of electrical installation ones (French Embassy statistics).
  • 25 of the 44 banks are controlled by Kenyan Indians.
  • Family business structure: Capital raised stays with the founder (first generation) while the second generation (sons) assume managerial and administrative positions and prepare the business for expansion.
  • Business Capital: Most Kenyan Indians businesses are totally dependent on local resources unlike the perception that they get foreign capital – only 5% of 210 entrepreneurs surveyed said they had received such – and this was from expatriate parents in Britain, India, Dubai.
  • Business Finance: Bank loans are secondary sources of funding – only 33% had received them, while 67% never had. They have other informal sources of credit such as employer associations to which some Europeans and Africans all benefit – and 32% of interviewees were members of groups like the United Business Association. Suppliers are frequent credit sources for small merchants. To obtain credit, one must demonstrate honesty, good management and present minimum guarantees such as from family members, real estate collateral, and repayment schedule. There is also mutual help within communities on matters of illness, death, or when a business is failing.
  • The book has profiles of different types of duka wallahs (traditional shopkeepers) as well as chapters on the settlement and emergence of business communities in Kampala, Nakuru, and Dar es Salaam.
  • For Ismailis, health and education are their priority political commitments.

The book, edited by Michel Adam is published by Mkuki na Nyota publishers of Dar es Salaam and the French Institute for Research in Africa and distributed outside Africa by the African Books collective.

Mombasa and Tax Collection

There was an interesting screen shot of the amount of customs tax collected by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) on 16 December 2016.

It showed a total of Kshs 1.57 billion collected that day. Of that, Kshs 1.24 billion (79%) was recorded at Mombasa, and Kshs 139 million (9%) at Nairobi. Other top collection points were 6% at Nairobi’s  JKIA airport, 2% at Mombasa Airport and at Pepe Containers each, and 1% (Kshs 15 million) at Busia town.

Other centers listed include Eldoret and Wilson airports, and border towns of Moyale (Kshs 640,000), Isabanya, Namanga and Malaba which all recorded small collections. Other centres were Lamu with Kshs 21,000 and Kshs Kisumu 10,000. Mombasa had 1,887 transactions, JKIA had 1,205 transactions, Busia had 141, as Lamu had just 3 on that day.

In 2016, KRA collected Kshs 1.2 trillion of revenue for the government, which included Kshs 386 billion of customs tax – which works out to almost Kshs 1 billion per day. So Friday, December 16, was an exceptional collection day that came just before the Christmas break.

It’s worth noting that landlocked countries in East Africa are also able to pay tax and clear goods at Mombasa before transportation to the countries. This is done to prevent dumping of untaxed cargo during transit through Kenya.

KRA’s strategic corporate plan calls for clearing more cargo at Internal Container Depots (ICD’s) and this may have implications for Customs’ deployment of staff in the coast region. KRA’s 6th corporate plan also noted that the perception of corruption is highest at Customs service area at 66%.

First Class: Kenya Railways vs SGR

This is the first class cabin of the lunatic express, the 120-year-old Kenya Railways line (operated by Rift Valley Railways – RVR), that the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is meant to improve on. The cabins are about 40 years old; they are mostly used by tourists or adventurous travelers and families taking scenic journeys to and from the Coast or Rift Valley.
It was disappointing to see pictures from Kenya Railways of what #SGR “first class” will be – it looks like a third class with swivels seats – this after a $3.2 billion mega-project?. Yes, the trains will move faster, but apparently, they won’t go too fast because this is Kenya where they may encounter people or wildlife on the tracks. 

By looking at this chart of train cabin seats in China, KR is a correct, but the first class of China and the new SGR is not the same as the first class on the old (RVR)/Kenya Railways. China has first, second, and business class (which has lie flat seats) like an aircraft – but no economy class.

What we know as the first class of the old Kenya railways, qualifies as a luxurious “sleeper coach” in China which offers privacy and comfort. SGR Journeys will be faster, perhaps 5 hours from Nairobi to Mombasa compared to the current train service by RVR which takes 15-20 hours. The  train is also used by hundreds of residents who live in small towns along the railway and who will appreciate the improved new cabins.

But will Kenya Railways offer some new sleeper cabins to improve on the old railway service? The Kenya Economic Survey 2016 shows there has been a continuous decline in rail passenger indicators of journey, passenger-km and revenue. The major reason is prioritizing on the freight, which is more profitable than passengers’ services hence the available locomotives are prioritized to freight.

Kenya Airways marks 40 years with 40% fare sale

Kenya Airways (KQ) turns 40 today. It was incorporated on January 22, 1977, after the disbandment of East African Airways as a consequence of the collapse of the East African Community, and with some assets and staff of East African Airways was to be the national flag carrier of Kenya

The airline’s story can summed up in three phases: First, was a typical African state airline flying unprofitable routes to far-flung destinations, and with operational and management issues.

Then the early 1990’s saw a move to address the decline and a new board was formed, that was chaired by former Central Bank Governor Philip Ndegwa. It had a mandate to commercialize and privatize the airline. They hired Speedwing Consulting in February 1992 who appointed a new executive team that implemented an extensive restructuring involving fleet reduction, fare and route reviews, staff training and voluntary staff reduction.

This was followed in January 1996 by the sale of 26% to KLM  which was to see KQ grow as part of a global airline partnership. Kenya Airways was converted to a public company in March 1996 and its shares were listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange in June 1996 in an over-subscribed IPO in which thousands of Kenyans bought shares. This reduced the government shareholding to 23%, and shares were later cross-listed in Uganda and Tanzania.

The third phase was the 2000’s decade when Kenya Airways embarked on a long expansion period under CEO Titus Naikuni, and there was a period where they greatly increased and modernized the fleet, and added almost a route every month, mainly to African capital cities. The expansion, however, came a time that the global and African airline space was becoming quite competitive at a time that KQ also faced new internal challenges. This was manifested in two years of successive record losses, strained network operations, and passenger relationships.
They airline turns 40 at a time when it has embarked on an extensive restructuring program called Operation Pride. KQ’s new chairman is celebrated former Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph who joined the board in September 2016, and who is leading the search for a new CEO. KQ has a leaner fleet of mainly new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Embraer 190’s, staff and operations with a focus on partnerships and regaining profitability with the support of the Kenya Government.

For any airline, 40 years is a major milestone to reach, and even with the ongoing austerity moves, KQ is still celebrating the occasion with special fares for its passengers including:

  • 40% discount across its network for flights booked from January 22 to February 5, (the 1977 date after it commenced flights) for flights taken between January 22 to December 31, 2017.
  • $1,977 business class fares to Hong Kong, Paris, London, and Amsterdam.
  • Up to 50% off companion fares when one buys a business class ticket

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Digital Kenya

Digital Kenya, by Bitange Ndemo and Tim Weiss, charts the rapid emergence of Kenya in the world of technology. Through stories and interviews with people in the sector, you learn about risk-taking and making policy from humble beginnings back in the mid-1990’s when the whole country shared 32 kbps, and the then telecom Kenya Posts & Telecommunications (KPTC) monopoly declared internet services as being illegal. At the time, KPTC was connecting about 10,000 users to the phone network, and with 77,000 potential customers waiting, they envisioned a 5% tele-density in Kenya by the year 2015. The tele-density in 2015 turned out to be 88% thanks to rapid changes that came after fibre cables and the cheaper mobile phones emerged.

One story is a narration of how, as a peace agreement was being signed in February 2008 to end the post-election violence in Kenya, the ICT Ministry managed to secure a guarantee to enable the laying of the TEAMS fibre cable that ultimately changed the face of ICT in Kenya. This came after the ministry had stepped back from another long-discussed  bureaucratic cable project – one called EASSY. This was one of the examples of government officials circumventing red tape for a good outcome. Another was the roll out of M-Pesa which is also cited here, ahead of regulations and thanks to some  individuals in government giving it their cautious blessing. Not all of them turned out well, and one case cited is of officials at the Postal Corporation sabotaging a land deal that would have led to the establishment in Nairobi of the headquarters of a multinational telecommunications organization.

There are many other stories that show issues of privatization, race, the lack of vision & finance, tech startups, the need for skills to scale, and the disconnect between local capital & the tech sector. It also shows the disconnect of ICT with both formal banking and also with the agricultural sector, two crucial links yet to be adequately bridged in Kenya.

Thanks to the Ford Foundation, the books is available free of charge and a free book download can be obtained.