Category Archives: SME solutions

Nairobi Hub Spaces in 2022

Interesting times in Nairobi the last few weeks as Microsoft launched its Africa Development Centre (ADC) office. The Kenya ADC, was launched three days after another one in Lagos, Nigeria that will serve the West Africa region. Across Africa, the company now has 450 staff and engineers working at ADC’s in the two capitals.

The new office also houses the Microsoft Africa Research Institute, its first on the continent as all as a Microsoft Garage, an incubation hub, joining others located in the USA, Canada, Israel, India, and China.

Visa launched an innovation studio in Nairobi, its first in Sub-Saharan Africa to showcase payment solutions and innovations. Visa will co-create e-commerce solutions for the future with partners in the new space that was launched by Patrick Njoroge, the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya. Visa has other innovations centres in Dubai, Singapore and USA (San Francisco) – which is its flagship “One Market”. There are already partnerships in Africa with Paga and Safaricom.

Who’s next?

It’s not just about technology; NSE-listed agricultural firm Kakuzi has launched an online “Avocademy” hub for farmers to learn about the processes of growing and managing avocado – the current “green gold” crop.

Other Hubs and co-working spaces:

Amazon announced that a new AWS Local Zone would be available in Kenya providing cloud infrastructure. Companies can use it to host their applications by connecting through Amazon local partners including Safaricom.

Google has announced that they will be opening a product development centre in Nairobi and is now hiring engineers, product managers, software engineers, user experience (UX) designers and researchers. Perfect timing as their pioneer Country Manager, Joe Mucheru will continue to serve as Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs for the next few months.

Dominoes.

E-commerce insights from Jumia and Chap Chap Go

Yesterday Jumia released their Africa e-commerce index 2021 with some interesting trends, a  year after Covid-19 impacted lives across the continent.

Sam Chappate CEO Jumia Kenya said that in Africa, e-commerce still has room for growth as currently, it still accounts for just 1% of  transactions, and another 300 million people will be accessing the internet in two years. 75% of traffic to Jumia is on mobile, while it is 85% for Kenya.

  • Gross merchandise value has shifted – from 40% of pre-pandemic sales coming from everyday stuff (FMCG, beauty products) to now 60%. Now, a 2kg sugar bag is the top-selling product on Jumia in Kenya. 
  • NYSE-listed Jumia is in ten countries and Kenya number 2 in searches, behind Nigeria. Top cities in Africa are Lagos, Cairo, Nairobi, Casablanca, Abidjan, Gaza, Abuja and Accra.
  •  With 11,000 sellers and 1,600 pickup stations, Jumia has the biggest logistics infrastructure in Kenya. Coca-Cola is probably bigger but it’s a closed system whereas Jumia has opened their system and logistics infrastructure to third parties/partners (e.g. Premier Foods and Unilever). Small companies can use pickup stations for   FMCG.
  • Sales of Jumia are 51% primary cities, 27% secondary cities, and 22% rural – so 50% outside Tier-I cities. Most deliveries in Kenya are to Nairobi Mombasa and Kiambu.
  • Now big in fintech .. 35% of Jumia orders are paid through Jumia pay which has 4 million downloads – they have now opened Jumia pay to third-party partners, starting in Egypt.

Also, Chap Chap GO, an -e-commerce startup that’s winding down, uncovered some gems from its year of operations in Mukuru and Langata areas trading a limited basket of products. Its founder Soud Hyder, a digital commerce specialist, shared some urban e-commerce insights on Twitter.

  • Fastest moving items were wheat flour (Ajab), cooking oil (Salit), cooking fat (Samli), and then sugar – all needed on a daily basis by Mama Chapos (informal roadside cafes).
  • Ajab Flour was super interesting; it’s very popular with Mama Chapos despite being a relatively newer brand, they cited quality and texture for it being the preferred choice, something to do with the elasticity of the chapos and preferred kneading consistency by the cooks.
  • Samli was a product requested by customers, trialled with a small cohort in Jul-Aug 2020, mostly “Mama Chapo” type of customers.
  • GIL (manufacturer of AjabFlour) has a lower quality fighter brand called Umi, intent was to help them garner market share but turns out the premium brand is more popular even in the lower tier of the market, customers are willing to pay a bit more for quality.
  • The market has already validated the “measure and pour model” (weka ya kupima), unhygienic & inconvenient but the market has found equilibrium, works for both retailers and customers, an additional 3% margin is not bad at all for folks in informal retail
  • .. Mama Chapos ended up becoming our core customers because of on-demand service, fair pricing and convenience. We were not always the cheapest but the convenience aspect really helped them focus on their business.
  • We used a hub and spoke model, had small depots in the neighbourhoods we operated in .. the eventual goal was to partner with existing businesses/retailers that had storage space to spare and delivery capacity.
  • We mostly did two, Fresh Fri (B2C – middle class) and Salit (informal retail/kibandas), our B2C footprint was relatively small, so ended up doing quite a bit on Salit including repacking it in 1L reusable jars, see the cost of packaging easily adds 3-5% to the price.
  • Differences in margin is all about supply and buy planning (basis of commodity trading) and following market prices being set by the bigger suppliers/manufacturers, if they drop you have to drop otherwise you won’t move stock.
  • Flour and oil move every day so it’s a volume game and moving bulky items from depot to customer/market in the most efficient way possible, for those who are able to do it really well e.g. the Eastleigh wholesalers and some of the bigger distributors.
  • So FMCG margins are razor-thin in sub-Saharan Africa, pricing makes or kills a business, so wholesalers and bigger retailers make money from rebates in subsequent months, invest capital to build seed customers and retention, build volume for rebates, qualify for credit .. and build credit lines with manufacturers, that net 15 or 30 or 45-day credit line could easily get sub 10% margin, so not a bad hustle if one has all their ducks lined up, but it’s hard, not the easiest of businesses to run, so many things could go wrong
  • .. which is why you are seeing an influx of new oil and fats brands, if you crack distribution, you can carve out a niche. They call vegetable oil these days “Salad* after the brand Salit.
  • Primarily it’s a quality, price point and availability problem. So more on the distribution side, like milk ATMs, if you can plug a brand on top that and execute, even better
  • Unfortunately, we shut down our FMCG business in Q4-2021 and are formally shutting down @ChapChapGO .. we’ve become another statistic of a fledgling startup but hope the insights and lessons learnt will benefit and inspire others.

Dalberg on Kenya’s Digital Economy

Dalberg has released a report titled Kenya’s Digital Economy: A People’s perspective. It finds that, in terms of digital transformation, Kenya is a lower-middle/income country that shows some characteristics of a higher middle-income economy.

The survey is based on in-depth responses from 2,456 people in Kenya’s 47 counties. It was done in 2020 to assess their perceptions on the state of the supporting ecosystems, digital infrastructure, enabling resources, applications and services.

The report differentiates between the uptake of “basic” digital services (sending money, buying airtime/data) and “advanced” digital services (e-commerce, paying for goods and services – health, education, agriculture, supporting livelihoods). It notes that some challenges to the next step of Kenya digital economy including exclusion and digital safety (fraud/harassment, cybercrime when using devices).

A stunning finding is that there is a low demand for advanced digital services, beyond mobile money, digital communication and social media. This is because non-users and 30% of current basic digital users do not find digital products or applications that are relevant.

Some of the sectors it touches on:

  • Agriculture: Kenya is one of the most advanced agri-tech markets with approximately 30% of agri-tech startups in Sub-Saharan Africa operating here and with 18% having their headquarters in the country But the awareness of landowners of digital services is low. 45% of those surveyed are not aware, while just 13% use digital services for their livelihoods – mainly to communicate with customers, suppliers and vendors while 10% use it for inputs and 15% for knowledge sharing. Half of those who do, use it as a result of assistance from field agents who are strong support factors for rural digital economies. Also half of adult female farmers face challenges in affording devices and accessing the internet which makes them hard to reach with interventions.
  • Health: There is low use of digital health services with only 15% of respondents aware, and of those, 35% use it mainly to consult health workers and pay for medicine with mobile money. The challenges cited are high costs and mistrust of doctors they can’t see while a quarter are concerned about sharing health information online.
  • Ecommerce is urban: 23% use e-commerce in urban areas compared to 9% in rural ones, and in Nairobi and the central region, uptake (24%) is twice as popular as in other counties in the rest of the country where it ranges between 1-12%.

On Financial Access:

  • Mobile Money has (+) and (-) aspects. The usage of mobile money is near-universal with 95% of lower-income and 93% of rural people using it as Kenyans have good user experiences with it, unlike some other countries. And while there have been concerns about fraud, 80% have trust in mobile money, but also 53% cite high costs as a reason not to use mobile money, more so with lower-income Kenyans.
  • Easy Credit: The report cautions that government should watch for debt traps from increase ease of digital credit in the country. Half of the respondents have had to sell assets, borrow more or reduce food & education expenditure to repay a loan – and this increases the chance of financial exclusion. Also, basic digital users lost an average of Kshs 1,470 to fraud while advanced users lost twice as much (Kshs 2,996) over the past three years. This is a risk that can grow as more unexposed people turn to advanced services and may face devastating losses that they cannot absorb.
  • Social safety nets: People with government stipends or pensions are more likely to use e-government services (such as eCitizen, iTax NHIF) than other Kenyans in general.
  • Entrepreneurs use it little: Among self-employed and business owners half use digital services and mainly for basic reasons like communicating with customers and vendors. Only 15-18% use it for advanced reasons like keeping business records, tracking stock, paying taxes, selling services and buying supplies through e-commerce platforms.

The report by Dalberg, done with support from the Omidyar Network, along with its data sets, can be downloaded here.

Simple Nairobi stock trades with EFG Hermes One

Background: Kenya’s top stockbroker, EFG Hermes has set out to expand from its institutional investors and also target retail customers. They launched their EFG Hermes One app in July 2021 allowing Kenyan investors to purchase shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) anytime on their mobile phones.

First Impressions: To get started, one had to go through the Kenyan regulatory requirements of KYC (know your customer). While the process is extensive for investors, with a lot of forms, ID, address and other details, new clients can scan and email documents, including photos to EFG Hermes.

Once you’re done, download the app and log-in with the credential to start trading. One fund an investor using mobile money (M-Pesa pay bill) and selects their share account (CDS) to get credited.  

For any issues, there are quick responses via email from EFG Hermes Kenya client services on issues like registration and trades. 

How It Works: Investors can view equities, and their portfolios with up-to-date prices, and also see their cash balances. They can place trades, set the prices and the expiry dates and see the commission/fee calculation before executing any buy or sell trades.

One useful feature of the app is that it allows trading of “odd lots”. This is something not available at many brokers who still only allow  investors to buy or sell shares in multiples of a hundred (100) shares – yet many investors end up with odd lots as a result of selling other shares in ’00s or getting bonus issues.

another odd feature from the stockbroking industry is T+3 days/ again this is somewhat standard and after you sell shares, it will take about two days for funds to reach your account after that one indicated at the account opening where the funds will be sent. 

For now, the Kenya app only allows trades of equities on the NSE, but in future may have more issues – bonds, derivatives, REIT’s, ETF’s regional and international products from EFG Hermes in different markets and assets classes and also as the NSE comes up with more products for retail investors such as day-trading and short-selling.

Verdict: It enables investors to trade from anywhere securely and tracks their trades and portfolios with up to date prices. The app is really small, just 10 MB, and does not use a lot of data to run. Many retail investors have other apps, laptops and sources to analyze what trades to make, and they can turn to the One app which can also be used to place trades after hours to execute when the NSE opens.

At the end of the month, investors get emailed a statement by EFG Hermes of trades during the month. This is a useful record to keep and they should cross-check with the one that comes from the CDSC.  

The EFG Hermes One app is available in the Google Android and Apple App stores.

Safaricom launches M-Pesa super-App

Safaricom has formally re-launched the next phase of the M-Pesa app as a rich financial management tool that does not depend on a single network or data to operate.

The M-Pesa service, which now has 30 million users, has been redesigned to allow biometric (face/fingerprint) authorization of transactions as an option to entering a PIN. Users can also load up different transactions, amounts and recipients and approve them all as a single bulk payment. It also allows emojis and images of counter-parties and there is also a “request money” feature.

During Covid-19, Safaricom saw an initial dip in the numbers of business using M-pesa, formally and informally, but a new business app, coupled with online applications for the business till numbers, saw them double the number of business customers from the beginning of the pandemic. Some key new features are that users will be able to add “reasons/notes” to payments, generate visualizations of transactions with individuals and download statements, which are all important to cash flow and fund management.

The app can work in offline mode, does not use data, Also M-Pesa has taken the WeChat route with mini-apps as Safaricom seeks to establish a play store for Kenya. It has fourty mini-apps are in development and seven are now live. One is the Kenya Railways Madaraka Express train service between Nairobi and Mombasa, and booking a ticket on the app gives back 10% to the buyer’s wallet. New users also get 500 MB for each download from the Android or Apple stores.

In the future, there are plans to have the M-Pesa app be accessible for lifestyle and business purposes in any African country. Users will also be able to store their credit card details to fund their wallet, enabling remittance and payment transactions.