Category Archives: Nairobi cost of living

Carrefour in Kenya

Majid Al Futtaim had grand plans for the Carrefour franchise in Kenya which they have since accelerated as other supermarket chains have encountered financial difficulties. This was revealed at a media session by Majid Al Futtaim managers at their Two Rivers Mall office,  located at their second hypermarket in Nairobi. The company which is the leading operator of malls in the Middle East and North Africa holds franchises for Carrefour stores in 38 countries, including 14 in Africa.

Their Country Manager for Kenya, Franck Moreau said they had an initial target to open 5 hypermarkets and 10 supermarkets within 5 years but that has all changed now. When Majid Al Futtaim decided to invest in East Africa, back in 2012, local retailers like Nakumatt and Uchumi were doing quite well. The took up a 20-year lease at Two Rivers, opened their first Kenya store at the Hub in May 2016, and in the last two months, they have signed on to replace Nakumatt as the anchor tenant at two large malls in Nairobi – at TRM on Thika Highway and the Junction Mall on Ngong Road. 

They operate decentralized hypermarkets with each store doing its own ordering, deliveries, storage, handling, marketing, maintenance, payments, and human resources all at the store sites. The financial aim is to create value and market share while meeting or exceeding budgets, and going by current trends in e-commerce, they target to have 15% of online sales in the next two years.

Majid Al Futtaim operates 220 stores in 15 countries, serving 200,000 customers a day. They plan to reach at 500 stores in 5 years with the “great moments, every day, for everyone” theme through innovation in customer service, being a great employer, and working with local suppliers as they take the hypermarket store and adapt it for different countries, customers and cultures.

For Kenya, 1,000 unique products items are imported by Carrefour to differentiate the stores from other supermarkets, and 29,000 other items are sourced from 650 Kenyan suppliers that they work with. Moreau said 50% of their customers at Two Rivers are from the neighbouring Ruaka area who come to shop at Carrefour for the quality, fresh, and available range of products for different classes. But he added that one unique Kenyan thing was a distrust of ‘promotions’ (buyers think there is something wrong with the products on sale) and they are the only supermarket chain asking suppliers for to give continuous and permanent promotions.

The conversion of malls stores to fit the Carrefour model takes time and large investments which Moreau  estimated was five times more than what other local retailers spent on their stores and that it will take about nine months to convert the spaces they are taking over at the Junction and TRM  to full completion, by which time they will have over 1,100 employees in Kenya.

EDIT Feb 27, 2018:  Majid Al Futtaim announced plans to open its fifth Carrefour hypermarket in Kenya at Sarit Centre, in Westlands Nairobi, just a few days after Uchumi ended their 30 year lease at Kenya’s iconic mall. The new Carrefour  will be opened in April 2018, initially on the ground floor and will later relocate into a new wing of Sarit Centre that will be completed before the end of the year.

Nairobi Supermarket Shoppers and Economics Trends

Chris (@blackorwa) has a blog on Kenya supermarket buyers, deciphering consumer patterns and habits of Nairobi shoppers by analyzing and decoding their discarded supermarket receipts.  This is an interesting experiment, in which they actually paid street kids to dig and dive for recipes in the garbage. They based their search for trends on a previous study at Walmart to draw out patterns of shoppers.

some interesting findings

  • Supermarkets not within malls have 61%  of their customers buying less than 3 items and spending Kshs 200 (~$2) on average.
  • M-PESA is yet to dominate retail – it was used for just  3.6% of supermarket transactions, with cards (credit/debit) used for 1.8% of transactions 0  as cash is still king at supermarkets. Safari com hopes to change that with 1tap which makes it faster to make purchases.
  • On a typical weekday, a small well-positioned supermarket does 2,350 transactions with a value of about Kshs 360,000. This translates to about Kshs 10.8 million in revenue a month.
  • Margins are thin, and supermarket profit are determined by controlling labour expenses.
  • Cooked food, mineral water, and bakery drive a lot of sales – they have the highest sales volume and greatest profit margins.

Take  a look at it the study

Urban Inflation Index: July 2017

Comparing prices and inflation in Nairobi to four and five years ago. 

Price and inflation comparisons are made a bit difficult by the unprecedented (in recent years) shortage of certain food commodities. Back in 2008 as post-election violence rocked the country, supermarkets opening shop, receiving supplies, stocking shelves and selling fresh foodstuffs and household items were seen as one of the barometers that life was getting back to normal. But going into the August 8 elections, several supermarkets have had empty shelves, notably at Kenya’s largest chain, Nakumatt that is limping under debt, and empty shelves, with lawsuits from landlords and key suppliers and a delayed shareholder deal. Unlike Uchumi who faced a similar situation just over a year ago, Nakumatt has not shown humility in asking for a bailout from the government or relief from suppliers and partners.

On to the index

Gotten Cheaper (in four years)

Finance: Bank loans are 14.0% due to the interest capping law of 2016. Average bank rates were 17% in July 2013

Fuel: A litre of petrol is Kshs 97.1 (~$4.25/gallon) today in Nairobi. It was 109.52 per litre in July 2013 (and 117.6 five years ago).

About the Same

Staple Food: With just under two weeks to the elections, maize has been hard to find, even at the government subsidized prices of Kshs 90 per pack. In July 2013 the pack cost Kshs 104 (and it was 118 five years ago) But just how long it will stay at 90 is not clear as the 2017/18 budget drafted at a time of high maize prices and low supplies, zero-rated the importation of white maize for a period of four months. Will it go back up after this window closes?

Communications: Phone call rates flattened in 2013 even though at the time Airtel and Yu were bringing the prices down, while now Safaricom battles distant Telkom Kenya (rebranded from Orange) and Airtel, as well as Equitel from Equity Bank, with competition more on data pricing, and mobile money transfers – where M-Pesa still dominates.

Beer/Entertainment: A 200 bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 200 at the local pub. This is the same price it was in July 2013. (And it was 180 five years ago)

Utilities: Pre-paid electricity is about Kshs 2,500 per month, which is unchanged from the last review. The calculation of pre-paid tokens remains a complicated exercise.

More Expensive

Other food item: Sugar is hard to find, more so for traditional brands like Mumias. A 2kg bag of Chemelil sugar is Kshs 290  compared to 250 in July 2013 and five years ago it was 237. Prices of other food commodities like milk and butter have also gone up.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. 103.9 compared to 87.15 in July 2013 and 84.25 five years ago.

There has been quite some outward flow of currency ahead of the election.

Milk Pricing in Kenya

Most supermarkets in Nairobi now have ATM’s/’bars’ which are machines where customers can bring their own containers and buy their own quantities of unbranded milk. Today at one ATM, milk was Kshs 80 compared to about Kshs 110-120 per litre (sold in half litre packs for 55/= or 60/=) for branded milk packs.

Branded milk sachets

But how does milk pricing work? M-Farm tracked a milk trader called Wangondu,  who sells 1 litre of milk at 70/- at his milk bar.

  • Farmers usually use donkeys to transport milk. The wholesaler is introduced into the supply chain at the point which motorbikes transport milk to a center. When there was Mid March scarcity – majority of the milk was sourced from Kinangop at 35 to 37/= per litre.
  • Boda boda people who bring 100 litres to the main road are paid 250/- meaning, the milk bar trader has to add 2.50 per litre bringing the total cost to 40/- per litre. The road is bad; lot’s of push and pull which adds another cost to the milk.
  • Milk is very sensitive and has to be moved quickly. If one is collecting 1,000 litres, it means there will be 20 motorbikes from different sourcing points and have a vehicle using a particular route to collect aggregated milk. At end of day of the day, milk per litre costs a trader about 40/- to 50/- given the circumstances.
  • Pasteurization costs 6/- per litre bringing the total cost thus far to 56/- per litre.
  • Each vehicle collecting aggregated milk has to have 3 people; a driver and 2 loaders. At this point, transport cost of the milk is charged at 6/- per litre. A wholesaler trader calculates his/her profit margin at 3/-.
  • If milk is being sold to a retailer at 65/- they add 5/- margin to retail the milk to 70/- litre. When there’s surplus milk, a trader reduces 5/- per litre by demanding that the farmer delivers the milk to the aggregation center and bears the cost.   Were it not for the rains, the wholesalers had an agreement that on the Saturday before the start of April rains, milk pricing would have retailed from 80/- per litre.
  • When the rains come, they hire an escort to help with the pushing of vehicles who are paid 2/-. “We as traders, take advantage, don’t see the reason why we should sell the milk at 80/- and we see the way farmer and consumers suffer and we have to be neutral. When we have mercy on both the farmer and consumer, the consumer ends up claiming that my milk is cheap because it has been tampered with and therefore, of poor quality.”
  • Bars have lower milk pricing at some supermarkets

    But all the same, the little margins I make are able to pay licenses and pay my handymen in my milk bars. Even after all deductions, I am able to make 1/- or 2/- per litre as profit.

  • When there’s scarcity of milk, we source from Kikuyu and Limuru dairies. Harvesting, transportation to the milk buyer in town, management of milk at the milk bar – this is my business solely. I have to buy from the joint business source,  make sure there are no additives, and we have to be there to make sure the quality you get from the shamba is what we give the customer.

Milk is also being sourced from other countries in East Africa as and there is a butter shortage (affecting bakers like Sugarpie). 500 grams of butter is retailing at Kshs 1,000/- and this is just ridiculous.

$1 = Kshs 103.

Urban Inflation Index: March 2017

Comparing prices and inflation in Nairobi to four and five years ago.

It’s exactly four years since the last election and we are back into campaign mode for an election on August 8. How has life changed since the Jubilee government came to power? There are many reports about economic growth and food inflation, and the budget speech that was read last week had a planned expenditure of Kshs 2.6 trillion (~$25.2 billion) compared to the government’s first budget  that was Kshs 1.6 trillion for 2013/14.

On to the index comparing prices of basic urban commodities.

Gotten Cheaper

Finance: Bank loans are 14.0% due to the interest capping law of 2016. The Central Bank of Kenya’s bank supervision annual report for 2014 notes that the average lending rate was  16.99%  in December 2013 and 15.98% in December 2014.

Fuel: A liter of petrol is Kshs 101 (~$4.41/gallon) today in Nairobi. It was  Kshs. 111.6 per litre in March 2012 and Kshs 117.6 in March 2013.

Cooking Gas: A cylinder of LPG (cooking gas) is Kshs  2,030 today. It was about Kshs. 3,000 ($37) in 2012 for the 13kg cylinder.

Communications: Safaricom dominates. Prices are coming down and both Safaricom and Airtel have combined packages called Flex and Unliminet respectively . With Unliminet, Airtel customers get free WhatsApp, Facebook & Twitter of up to 100MB per day and at Safaricom, every reload of M-PESA  gets someone 3 free FLEX units. On the money transfer side,  Equitel and Pesalink are driving down the cost of mobile money usage.

About the Same

Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 200 at the local pub. This is the same price it was in March 2013.

Utilities: Pre-paid electricity is about Kshs 2,500 per month which is unchanged from the last review. The calculation of pre-paid tokens remains a complicated exercise.

More Expensive

Staple Food: A 2kg pack of (Unga) Maize flour which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily, costs Kshs. 147 up from Kshs 97 in March 2012 and Kshs 105 in March 2013. But in his budget speech last week, the Minister proposed to zero-rate bread and maize flour to remove VAT. “ Manufacturers, Wholesalers, and Retailers who sell such goods will be expected to reduce the prices of these basic commodities, failure to which, I will reverse the policy. In addition to further lower the cost to Wananchi, the importation of maize during the next four months will be duty free. I expect, therefore to see a reduction of prices for these basic commodities which enjoyed by majority of our people.”

Other food item: Sugar: A 2 kg. Mumias Sugar pack is now Kshs 292; it was Kshs 245 in March 2012 and Kshs 250 in March 2013. It has hard to find Mumias sugar which is going through some issues, so this is the price of Chemelil sugar at the supermarket.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. about Ksh 103 today compared to Kshs 83 in March 2012 and Kshs 85 in March 2013.

Utility: Water in Nairobi is more expensive.