Category Archives: SACCO

23 Things about the 23rd Home Expo (A Review)

For the second time in my life, I got time to go to the 23rd Home expo. I didn’t think it would be much fun being alone but the 4 hours I spent there definitely says a lot.

  1. Entry to the Expo: There were 2 options – to buy a ticket (200/-) or buy a ‘Homes Kenya’ magazine that came with a free copy and bag (350/-) I chose the latter. My mentor says that magazine has everything!
  2. Condos or Condominium if you prefer: I only used to hear about Condos in movies. They are now available in present day Kenya and this particular one cost a whooping 80M. Before going to a home expo, have a budget in mind. It will help you narrow down to what you are looking for.
  3. SACCOs: There was this lady who tried to convince me that there’s wasn’t a cooperative society but told her that is what exactly SACCO stands for. The investment information she shared, though, was good for making future comparisons
  4. Goals: You may have noticed this as a repeated comment on social media. Basically it says I aspire to what you are doing. My goal for going to the expo was to identify a dream house and thereafter pray towards it. Whilst there I got another reason to go for expos, business ideas!
  5. Friends: But the principal reason that saw me get into a matatu and head for KICC was because one of my besties has been looking for a house and keeps dragging me along for her trips. I wasn’t excited about the whole affair but the student has now overtaken the teacher
  6. Technology: And when I thought a presentation via an iPad was ‘it’, I walked into a hall where a number of exhibitors had ultra-high definition displays (UHDTVs) and you can be sure it helped move a dream into actual reality
  7. Everything: and I mean everything to establish a thriving real estate business was here. Generators, solar panels, roofing material, steel beams, sliding doors, kitchen tiles and even simiti was available
  8. Furniture: There was a stand with the most beautiful of mahogany pieces and it felt good to sit on them
  9. Kenya Yetu: Exhibitors came from all over the country were here. Western Kenya, Central Kenya and those from the Coast were well represented. What blew my mind though was this gated community in Red Hill accessed by a road 35 feet above it. The thinking to its designing was absolutely breathtaking!
  10. Dubai: Kenya is a very rich country one of the foreign exhibitors explained and therefore no surprise was it to see Emirati investors scouting for fellow investors
  11. Sales people: Extroverted ones, genius ones, clueless ones and those who knew you didn’t have a cent in your pocket but still went all out to make the pitch. One day I will make one of them commission happy. One day…
  12. Architects: Exhibitors who did not have the advantage of high-definition technology, used architectural models to convince their prospective clients. A closer look betrayed those whose final workmanship would be cheap. These things are (very) important
  13. Off Plan: The expo was not just about selling property but ideas and with ideas, one cannot just jump on board, without seeing the property’s location, knowing who the developers are, and investigating their previous portfolio(s). And what exactly does 58 square metres in comparison to 125 square metres mean? A lawyer? Does one have to have a lawyer?
  14. Chamas or Investment Groups if you like:were here and doing big, hairy, audacious stuff. I can tell you for a fact that those chamas have toiled to reach this live. I salute them!
  15. 2.5 bedrooms: Have you heard of this before? Me neither. But basically what it means that the apartment comes with 2 bedrooms and a miniature room that can either be used as a study area or extra bedroom.
  16. Serviced apartments: Still reeling on this concept because mine is to move from my rented flat to an apartment but when you hear the probable rents, it begins to make investment sense. At this point I pause to clarify that flat is what the Americans refer to as apartments and a condominium is a block of apartments or flats. Ça va?
  17. Marketing: In the entire tour, I only found one stand that didn’t have brochures. Those in the print business definitely made a kill but there was this one brochure where I overtly told the dealer that a “serviced plot behind Kitengela prison” caption scared the potential investment out of me
  18. Carpets: Carpets confuse me especially when there is so much variety of colour and texture to look at. The guy manning the stand generously explained to me the types best for different areas of flooring and I will definitely be looking for him should the opportunity present itself in future
  19. Sadolin: These guys saved me from my desperate such for a colour chart and offered theirs for free. They also gave me the exact type of paint that should be used on a bath tub. Such enthusiastic employees!
  20. Eisenkraft: This is a German company that exclusively sells tools for bending wrought iron at exhibitions. It looked easy and doesn’t every business idea look until you start consider the real resources needed
  21. KRA: The government was here not to collect taxes but to offer amnesty to homeowners. In short, no taxes accrue for the years between 1974 and 2013. For 2014 and 2015, taxpayers will be allowed to claim 40% in expenses and only pay 10% in taxes of the remaining 60% of rental income. For 2016, the 10% of the gross income when received must be paid to KRA. Returns (including nil returns) must be filed monthly i.e. by the 20th day of the consecutive month
  22. St. John’s Ambulance: The emergency services people were present but this time selling their very affordable courses for the individual, the babysitter, and the company.
  23. To do list: It would be a shame to go for such an exciting experience to go to waste and I have promised self to visit some upcoming properties.

 Make sure you visit the next expo!

Review by Tesha Mongi (Visit her blog

Coop Bank launches Diaspora Banking Centre

Coop Bank has opened to serve diaspora customers, 24-hours a day, 7-days, a week. It’s oddly located at the bank’s Co-op House headquarters, in downtown Nairobi, but its actually a centre meant to manage diaspora customers in faraway countries, using dedicated relationship managers.

They will serve people with queries on real estate, account opening and wealth management. They will also offer Coop Bank services to diaspora SACCO’s, which Kenyans abroad used to jointly save and manage challenges. And while in Nairobi, diaspora customers also get to use executive suites at Coop branches.

Since Coop launched diaspora banking in 2010, they have become one of the significant banks in remittances, handling, they estimate $45 million a month, or about 30% of the inflows. At the launch one customer,  who lived in Washington DC for many years, asked them to open a banking centre in the US capitol. While she praised Coop for their good staff  responsiveness and service to her as a customer, she also lamented the generally low-level of services that Kenyan institutions offer to diasporans who live in countries where they are used to efficient processes, and relationship people who actually return calls to customers. Many just want to open accounts in Kenyans banks to save, and all they want is to get prompt and good service.

Coop Bank Diaspora cakeCoop has partners and agents in places like UAE, Qatar, the UK, and the USA (Dallas).  One of the partners is UAE Exchange, and their manager in charge of Africa operations spoke of the changing trend of Africans sending & spending money to one of Africans sending & saving, and also sending & investing. This is the way to emulate Asian counties whose fast growth was aided by remittances by their nationals.

Coop also partners with SACCO’s (savings & credit societies) in North America and Europe such as the Kenya USA Diaspora SACCO, Kenya UK SACCO, and the Kenya Ireland SACCO.

#WhatsNextAgTech

Nest Nairobi held its monthly entrepreneurship speaker series in partnership with the  Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) on January 27, at the Strathmore Business School.

#WhatsNextAgTech panel

#WhatsNextAgTech panel

Hosted by Zeynab Wandati (business reporter at NTV Kenya), the panel featured Stefano Carcoforo (CEO/Co-Founder of iProcure Africa), Grant Brooke (CEO at Twiga Foods), Marion Moon (Managing Director Wanda Organic), Charles Odida (a farmer), Linda Kwamboka (Co-Founder at MFarm Ltd), Chris Kolenberg (Director Marketing & Sales at Kenya Biologics), and Munyutu Waigi (Co-Founder of Umati Capital)

Excerpts from the event sorted by subject 

Agri-Economy  Agriculture is 26% of Kenya’s GDP and employs 80% of the rural population. It comprises 40% of exports and 45% of govt. revenue and 7% of industrial raw materials – KCIC rep

Government

  • A law is coming in farming which will require all farmers to be members of an organization ,  and through that, they will be taxed  – Marion
  • I’ve no faith in the government to solve small farmer problems e.g. they allow contaminated maize imports, our borders are porous  and farmers get zero protection, just exploitation from the government – Munyutu
  • The support that governments give to farmer has very little to do with farmers interest e.g. in the choice of fertilizers sold – Charles
  • Ultimately you have to work with government. It’s not as bad as it was in the 90’s – Stefano

Cooperatives

  • We work with cooperatives, providing tech to them; while others devalue them by saying they want a cut, and there are many shady ones, cooperatives aggregate demand on behalf of farmers and play an integral role in rural societies – Stefano
  • We don’t work with cooperative, as we want to pay farmers directly. I’ve never seen a successful corporative, they are more like pyramid schemes. They may work when they are 10-15 people, but go bad when they are 200-300 members and become unions  – Grant
  • Cooperatives are very critical but don’t have farmers’ interest at heart. There is an Eldoret dairy cooperative with $10 million revenue, but it’s farmer members remain poor – Munyutu

Maize

  • Maize is a terrible crop – when you have a bumper season, the price goes down. When you have a bad year, the government imports a lot of maize – Stefano
  • Maize is a good crop. Farmers with good storage, and good planning don’t have to sell maize at throwaway prices. Ugali (made from maize meal) is one of the top foods bought in every household. Also there are institutions that buy hundreds of bags of maize every year e.g. schools to fees students – they need quality and villages don’t trust imported maize – talk to them, negotiate sales in advance and they come to check out the farmers fields, and pay more than the government – Charles

Farmers

  • The average of age of a Kenyan farmer is 62 years; they are used to a certain way of doing things right, and it is hard for them to change – Charles
  • Growing a crop does not happen overnight like the Eurobond;  Farming does not produce quick money, and farmers, by nature, are patient – Charles
  • Farmers trust each other, they trust farmers who have tried things e.g. they will try a pest control fertilizer that they are referred to by others – Linda
  • Farmers will adapt when they see something work. So you often have to give them free samples  – Chris

Finance 

  • 98% of produce is sold to the informal markets and there is little formal financing for that. Debt is about 20-30% of the market cost of foods sold as middle men and mama mboga pass on the cost of default risk – Grant
  • Cash flow in key in agriculture. When a crop needs weeding, you have no choice, you have to do it, or you’ll have no harvest. You have to schedule money for from activities. – Charles
  • SACCO’s are good for farmers, but there are also many Kenyans in the US and Dubai (where investments only earn 1-2%), and who are willing, and do lend their idle cash, to farmers they trust to earn much more (some of them are even on @twitter) – Charles
  • The government has many avenues of financing farmers e.g. AFC lends to sugar farmers at 5% – Charles
  • Bank ads for farmer loans look sexy in TV but in reality, they are too slow  for farmers – they don’t disburse money quickly enough – Munyutu

 Local Markets

  • Food is 51% of household spending – Grant
  • Food safety is the driving concern for a mama mboga as she will want to know and tell her customers which farm her produce comes from –Grant
  • Urban young farmers who want to get rich doing passion fruit and strawberry should instead grow things that you can see a market for everyday – Grant
  • It’s crazy that 100% of our local produce would be rejected at the EU – Chris
  • Processors are getting tired of dealing with brokers and aggregators and want to go deal with the farmers directly – e.g. for dairy, fruits (A company called Fresh & Juicy is working with farmer to supply Nakumatt) – Munyutu

 Inputs

  • It took 2 years to get bio-organic fertilizer approved in Kenya – Marion
  • Ultimately, what farmer can produce is declining, and those who are increasing productivity are doing so using chemicals, but that is only a short-term (5 years) measure  – Marion

Export Markets

  • Italian companies that produce canned beans and used to source them from South America,  are now looking to get them in Kenya, but are struggling to find enough farmers – Marion
  • Kenya can compete with Brazil in passion fruit; that market is big – Marion.
  • Kakuzi has 300 small-scale farmers that they used to grow their produce. They know what they spray on their own 6,000 acres, and work with 300 other farmers who they advise, but ultimately, they can’t establish exactly what inputs these farmers are adding to fruits – Chris
  • Small scale farmers wont be able to compete in future – 1st world farmers are 40X more efficient – Chris

 Logistics / Middle Men

  • Kenya is not food insecure,it is logistics insecure. A banana is Kshs 10 (sometimes  20), which is the same price as a banana in London;  that’s because we stopped investing in markets, and there are many bottlenecks, broken links and 5-7 people between the farm and the market  – Grant
  • Supply chains are longer in Kenya that they need to be – there are too many brokers, and the farmer is not visible in the farm to fork story – Charles
  • Middlemen exist because farmers don’t understand what the markets want – Linda
  • Middlemen add zero value, and that’s why the price of food is high – as they hedge against their defaults – Munyutu.

Tech

  • Farming is putting a seed in the soil, nurturing it and harvesting – it’s not phone or apps or tabs – (which only bring in efficiency) – Marion
  • Kenya has been slow to get/adopt farm smart phone apps & software compared to Brazil and South Africa – Charles
  • Kenyans don’t use Kenyan products, but use our apps so we can make them better  – Linda

 Whats the Next Big Thing in AgTech?  

  • Traceability fake products look more real than the original product – so the next big thing in agri-tech will be clever apps to provide assurance through traceability of inputs. There’s now a lack of traceability, farmers will tell you what you want to hear, and counterfeit products are prevalent – Stefano
  • Distributed Commodity Exchanges, which used to be in Chicago and Ethiopia (ECX) are now in the cloud with firms like Twiga that act as warehouses – Grant
  • Mid-size farm management as a career. There are people in this room who inherit 30-40 acres in rural areas, but want other people to profitably manage farms for them – Grant
  • Partnerships – Marion
  • Farmers specializing in certain crops and increasing their yields drastically – Chris
  • Financial capacity building – financial products in simple math, loan calculations in easy language – Munyutu

The outreach manager of KCIC said they provide entrepreneurs with an enabling environment (policy) for innovation, business advisory services and financing opportunities [for (1) proof of concept financing  and (2) a seed facility of climate change venture funding of $100,000-500,000 of  growth capital for entrepreneurs from June 2016]

Mwalimu SACCO acquires 51% of Equatorial Bank

EDIT: Jan 27:  The Government has ordered an inquiry into Mwalimu National Sacco’s bid to acquire Equatorial Commercial Bank. The Commissioner of Co-operatives has appointed an inquiry team report to him following a protest by the Co-operative Alliance of Kenya (CAK) 

Last week, Mwalimu SACCO became  the majority shareholder of Equatorial Commercial Bank (ECB), acquiring  51% of the bank for Kshs 1.6 billion (~$18 million). The acquisition was cleared after no objections were received from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) and Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (SASRA). There was another objection, but not from any of the regulators, who were aware of the issues raised.

Mwalimu with Kshs 24.5 billion of assets (2013), acquired the stake in ECB,  the country’s 27th  largest bank (Kshs 15 billion) which has been boosted by an earlier merger with Southern Credit Bank.Mwalimu will have three (3) seats on the board of ECB, but the Society is not converting into a bank nor merging with ECB. Due diligence of the financial and legal processes was done by Ernst and Young and Mose & Mose Advocates.

This comes two years after the LAPTrust, a pension scheme and the Kenya Tea Development Agency acquired a combined 22% stake in Family Bank – and LAPTrust estimated their stake was worth 1.6 billion in 2013, just two years after paying a 1/4 of that amount.

Fin4Ag14

All this week, Nairobi plays host to a conference called Fin4Aag14 which has the theme of Revolutionising Finance for Agri-Value Chains.

It started with plug & play session in which 18 companies got to introduce their platforms linking agriculture to finance across Africa. This is the second edition of the session that was introduced at the conference in Kigali last year and proved to be quite popular.

The 18 companies were: 

 

  • Tangaza Pesa: automates the value chain by doing KYC on farmers with bio data, crops produced,  and GPS  to build credit records
  • Ensibuuko (Uganda) helps (via web & mobile) to manage rural SACCO’s that can reach many of the rural unbanked farmers 
  • FarmDrive (University of Nairobi) enables small farmers to keep basic record by mobile phone and build a credit score 
  • Farmers Record Management System (FARMIS) aggregates farmers with financial institutions  to access finance and ensure loans are properly utilized 
  • Zoona’s eVoucher platform: enables agri-business supply chain payments and insurance 
  • Credit Information Sharing: enables information sharing by credit bureaus for lenders to make decisions
  • Umati Capital: paperless solution that aims to shorten dairy farmer  payment periods from 6 weeks to 24 hours
  • Agrilife – enables farmers to access markets inputs, savings, and asset finance 
  • Musoni System: a core banking for SACCO’s and micro-banks, loans, and savings that can also integrate with m-pesa and tablet apps 
  • Farmforce (Sygenta) enables traceability of farm produce for quality and for farmers to access small loans 
  • e-Krishok: Online & mobile infer for Bangladesh farmers to access information, traders and finance 
  • Creditinfo’s Credit Bureau Solution – enables credit bureaus can collect info on farmers so they can access loans without the need for collateral 
  • Craft Silicon have a platform that can link to MFI’s, bank, SACCO’s (Elma?)
  • aWhere Platform: with over 1 billion data points collected, enable farmers to be aware of field risks to make smarter decisions. this includes weather data for all of Africa since 1999 and others they pull from mobile services
  • AgroCentral – uses ICT to buy produce from farmers
  • RiMFin (Ghana): enables rural farmers to receive mobile payments and save them in their phones 
  • finFinancials (Fintech) core banking platform that can integrate with others for digital or mobile payments

They will be there all week presenting their platforms and engaging the attendees who are from across Africa, Caribbean and Asia and who include development specialists, financiers, policymakers and top bankers who hope to get youth interested in agriculture.

There was a brief session on warehousing that detailed both the challenges and the opportunities for warehousing. Commodity warehousing types include private, public and community. Examples were cited from Tanzania (community food stored in individual houses but linked to MFI’s ), Ivory Coast (large presence in Cocoa Rubber Cashew sectors), Madagascar (communities totaling 80,000 rice farmers in villages part guaranteed by DFI’s cover 2% of the national production but provide price stability), and Nigeria (massive 1.3 million ton silo capacity against  large formal sector demand of 1.9M tons), Burkina Faso and Uganda (2 successful warehouse companies). 

Challenges facing warehousing include high costs (leaving some empty of commodities) fraud, long value chains, and contract defaults (by both small farmers and larger organizations like WFP).

Fin4Ag14 is organized by the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA),  Central Bank of Kenya and African Rural and the Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA), and is supported by the FAO, the Rockefeller Foundation and Afreximbank.