Category Archives: Kenya ICT

UNCTAD report shows an unequal digital global economy

The increased use of digital platforms in everyday lives across the world is leading to a divide between under-connected nations from hyper-digitalized societies

The Digital Economy Report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shows that China and the USA have done the most to harvest the digital economy and now dominate the rest of the world and leading to an unequal state of e-commerce. The two countries host seven global “super-platform” companies – Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tencent and Alibaba that account for two-thirds of the total market value of the seventy largest digital platforms with Naspers as the only African company in the group.

Google and Facebook collected 65% of the $135 billion spent on internet advertising in 2017, while, in Australia, Google took 95% of the “search advertising” revenue while Facebook took 46% of the “display advertising” revenue.

Europe’s share of the digital economy is only 4% while Africa and Latin America combine for 1%.  In Africa, progress has also been uneven with four countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa accounting for 60% of digital entrepreneurship activity. They are followed by a second tier of Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda (with a combined 20%)

The Report showed that the evolving digital economy has a major impact on achieving sustainable development goals (SDG’s) and calls for governments in developing nations to focus efforts on things like:

  • Skills development & re-education e.g. consider that in the Western world, you can do a whole university degree online.
  • Revising policies on data privacy & sharing e.g. have restricted local data sharing pools and have tariffs on cross-border data.
  • Revising competition regulations e.g. curb the tendency where platform companies tend to capture/acquire young promising companies in the developing world.
  • Taxation e.g. developing country governments should seek to tax digital platform companies.
  • Employment e.g. by setting minimum wages & work conditions for gig-economy workers.
  • Break down silos: no longer think of government as being separate from academia, private sector, civil society and tech communities.
  • Also, while the US and Europe have divergent views on data protection, it cites a survey which found that Kenyans had the least concerns about data privacy (at 44%).

Speaking at an unveiling of the Report in Nairobi, Dr. Monica Kerretts-Makau said that the world is trending towards a captive society where you have to be on a platform to transact in an economy and that presents problems and opportunities in the African context.

The 2019 issue of the Report, that was previously focused on the “information economy”, can be downloaded here.

Airtel Africa – London prospectus peek

By the end of the week Airtel Africa will have a dual listing at the London Stock Exchange with a secondary one in Lagos after raising $750 million, by offering new shares to investors at 80 pence per share in June 2019, and valuing the company at £3.1 billion (~$3.9 billion).

The goal of the listing was to reduce the debt of the company further after it had earlier raised $1.25 billion from six global investors including Softbank, Warburg Pincus and Temasek in October 2018.

A peek at the 380-page prospectus and other listing documents:

About Airtel Africa: As at 31 December 2018, the Group was the second largest mobile operator in Africa, by the number of active subscribers(according to Ovum); they had 99 million mobile voice customer and 30 million mobile data one and 14.2 million mobile money customers.

Performance: For the financial year 2019 they had $3.01 billion revenue with 1.1 billion from Eastern Africa, $1.1 billion from Nigeria and $900 million from the rest of Africa. Of the total revenue, $2.9 billion was from mobile services with $167m from mobile money. Eastern Africa is Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, and the rest of Africa comprises operations in Niger, Gabon, Chad, Congo, DRC, Madagascar and Seychelles. The company had a pre-tax profit of $272 million compared to a loss before tax of $9 million in 2018.

Managers & Employees: The Company has ten non-executive directors (including the Chairman). Also, Raghunath Mandava and Jaideep Paul will serve as chief executive officer and chief financial officer of the Group from their operational head office for Africa based in Nairobi. They will be enrolled in a company long-term incentive (share option) plan along with other executives of the Group.

Shareholders: Prior to the listing, top shareholders were AAML – a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel (68.31%), Warburg Pincus (7.65%) Singapore Telecom (Singtel 5.46%), ICIL – a Bharti Mittal family group (5.46%),  Hero (owned by Sunil Kant Munjal – 4.37%) and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) with 4.37%.

After the listing, in which the company will have sold between 14% and 18.9%%, the top shareholders will be AAML (56.12%), Warburg Pincus (6.28%) Singtel (4.49%), ICIL (4.49%),  Hero (3.59%) and QIA with 3.59%).  Also, subject to completion of a merger deal in Kenya, Telkom Kenya may acquire up to 4.99% if they exercise a flip-up right.

Other: 

  • Results for the (London) global and Nigeria uptake were announced on 28 June, and share accounts of new investors will be credited from July 3 and listed in London that day, and in Nigeria on July 4. 
  • Like other telco’s in Africa, 96% of their customers are prepaid. ARPU was $2.72 per user in 2019, down from $3 in 2018 and $3.24 in 2017.
  • Airtel has two distinct strategies; where they are market leaders (e.g in Chad), they price closely to market rates and where they are seeking market leadership (e.g in Kenya), they prioritize affordability.
  • Other Financing: In May 2019, the Company arranged for a “New Airtel Africa Facility” bank facility with Standard Chartered.
  • Other Deals: Ongoing settlement discussions in Tanzania, one over a tax claim, will see all cases withdrawn and boost the Government’s shareholding to 49% at no cost. In Kenya, they are merging with Telkom Kenya and in Rwanda, they are acquiring Tigo.
  • Listing Fees: The company will pay the fees and expenses for the listing totalling $35 million for the UK admission – and these include FCA fees, bank’ commissions, professional fees, costs of printing and distribution of documents.  The joint global co-ordinators and joint bookrunners were  J.P. Morgan Cazenove and Citigroup, joint bookrunners were Absa, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Standard Bank, the Nigerian joint issuing houses were Barclays Securities Nigeria and  Quantum Zenith Capital, while the public relations advisor was Kekst CNC.

About Airtel in Kenya:

  • Airtel is the second-largest telco in Kenya with 13.1 million subscribers and market share of 28%.
  • Telkom Kenya is expected to acquire a shareholding of 32% in Airtel Kenya in an ongoing business transfer deal. 
  • The company is working with Kenya’s Central Bank to reverse a negative (Kshs -2.7 billion) capital position as a requirement to be part of the national payment system. They expected to lose another Kshs 1.2 billion this year.
  • Airtel has proposed to separate the mobile money business from the telecommunication one and fund the new one with shareholder loans. They had committed to recapitalize the company by Kshs 3.85 billion ($38 million) by August 2019.

Stanchart opens eXellerator Lab in Nairobi

Standard Chartered Bank today announced the opening of an innovation lab in Nairobi, its first in Africa.  Run by Standard Chartered Ventures (SC ventures), the eXellerator lab will work with clients, staff, and local fintech companies on banking solutions for the future. This will be the fifth such lab after the first in Singapore, then Hong Kong, San Francisco, Bangalore, London and now Nairobi.

Stanchart Kenya CEO Ngari Kariuki CEO said that SC ventures, launched in March 2018, had a mission to invest in disruption and come up with new business models by partnering with fintechs in Asia, Middle East And Africa, scaling little ideas, giving them a global platform and investing in the companies. Kennedy Mubita the Africa Regional Head for SC Ventures said that the eXellerator was based on principles of human-centred, design, having a lean startup mentality, embracing an entrepreneurial spirit  (enabling staff of the bank to suggest ideas and develop them into products with rewards) and that the bank would also invest in local companies through a $100 million innovation fund. So far they are developing ten ventures drawn from 1,500 ideas submitted globally, with a notable one being Credit Card Buddy from Indonesia.

At a Q&A after the launch, It was queried what pipeline of projects Stanchart would target given that there were very few companies able to absorb series B funding here. The bank will have a country venture challenge, one of three in Africa, and will seek to work with companies to address payment gaps and trust gaps in value chains across all sectors.

Like with the video banking launch, tried and tested in Asia, Nairobi is the launchpad for the eXellerator lab program in Africa. Other banks with innovation labs in Nairobi include KCB with its Vooma Lab and I&M bank, which has a digital factory, called iCube.

Rewiring Education

This week, the M-Pesa Foundation Academy and Nairobi International School hosted author John Couch, who was first Vice President of Apple Inc., for a talk session on “rewiring education.” The chief guest was Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Joe Mucheru. 

Rewiring Education speakers.

Excerpts from the rewiring education Q&A: 

  • Kids come into employment fully trained in things that are no longer relevant. They then have to unlearn that, and we are working with universities to modernize the curriculum.
  • Schools have to hire teachers who are registered with the Teachers Service Commission. But those who are there only have B.Ed (Bachelor of Education degrees), and lack skills to stand in front of students who are far ahead of them in technical knowledge.
  • The Kenya government has developed a brilliant curriculum, that will start next year, but teachers have not been trained to deliver this. International schools take three years to retrain a teacher.
  • The median age in Kenya is 19 years, and half the civil service is made up of teachers.
  • The most important skill to have in life is (to embrace) continuous learning.
  • Schools can currently evaluate student memorization, but not their creativity and innovation abilities.
  • “When I was studying at Berkeley, California in the 1970’s, people thought the social revolution was taking place in the streets, but I knew it was taking place inside computers.”
  • Safaricom set out to provide connectivity to all schools in Kenya and the government was to provide the devices.
  • “The way we are teaching kids is a disservice and I am in the process of suing the UK government for wasting thirteen years of my life!”
  • The US also treats teachers as a union problem, not a professional occupation. Teachers are underpaid and under-trained.

KPMG on the 2018 Finance Bill Amendments

The President of Kenya signed the Finance Bill 2018 after a stormy debate in Parliament last week that saw chaotic arguments about vote procedure methods used and actual vote counting mainly with regards to VAT on petrol products.

Some of the earlier clauses in the Finance Bill had been highlighted and KPMG, which has done a series of articles,  has provided a further update on aspects of the laws in Kenya and which they termed “..the changes present an unprecedented disruption of the tax regime that will impact the economy and citizenry for years to come.

Their perspective on the signed Finance Bill implications:

  • Excise duty on services: The President accepted Parliament’s decision to drop a Robin Hood tax of 0.05% on money transfers above Kshs 500,000 (~$5,000). But the shortfall was replaced by an increase in taxes on all telephone and internet data services, fees on mobile money transfers, and all other fees charged by financial institutions which all now go up by 50% – and which KPMG writes may have a negative impact on financial inclusion.
  • A national housing development levy was approved. With the country’s wage bill of Kshs 1.6 trillion, KPMG estimates that government can potentially collect Kshs 48 billion a year (~$480 million) from the levy, (Kshs 24 billion of which will be from employers) – a massive amount when compared to the Kshs 12.8 billion that NSSF – the National Social Security Fund collects in a year. Regulations for the National Housing Development Levy Fund (NHDF) have not been set, other than that the payments are due by the 9th of the following month. For employees who qualify for affordable housing, they can use that to offset housing costs but for those who don’t qualify, they will get a portion of their contributions back after 15 years.
  • Petroleum VAT: KPMG says that a significant portion of the government’s tax targets for 2018/19 was dependent on value-added tax (VAT) on petroleum products and that is why they have been insistent on having this implemented. Sectors that supply exempt services such as passenger transport (PSV’) and agriculture producers are expected to raise their charges to customers as they are unable to claim back the 8% VAT tax.
  • Kerosene, which is used by low-cost households, takes a double hit with the introduction of VAT as well as an anti-adulteration tax of Kshs 18 per litre. Already kerosene now costs more than diesel in some towns around the country.

  • Excise duty on sugar confectionery, while opposed by sugar industry groups, was reinstated in a move similar to other countries that are trying to address lifestyle diseases by introducing taxes on sugar products.
  • The betting industry, whose survival which was at stake, gets a reprieve as the gaming and lotteries taxes, introduced on January 1, were reduced from 35% to 15%. Many of the prominent betting companies had scaled back their advertising and sponsorship and had turned to engage in serious lobbying efforts ever since. Also, an effective 20% tax on winnings has now been introduced. The earlier tax law allowed bettors to claim some deductions if they kept records, but that has been removed altogether.