Category Archives: SME solutions

Kenya Markets & Agriculture Pricing of Maize, Potatoes, and Milk

What drives the agriculture pricing of maize, potatoes, and milk in Kenya? Part I of a post by  @kwambokalinda of M-Farm

In commercial agriculture, as in any business venture, the aim is to make a profit on an investment, within the environmental and policy framework available for the sector. It is, however, not in question that there exist unsavoury practices practically the world over. Recent potato, maize and milk shortages in the weeks between March 2017 and the present day illustrate as much.

That said, it is pertinent that fault is placed where it lies, and speaking to traders in the Kenyan potato, milk and maize value chains, it was gathered that low rainfall in November 2016, as well as with the rains in April, led to price fluctuations in the weeks after February 2017. Mitigating circumstances lowered prices during the same period, when traders sourced their produce in areas that had rainfall in November 2016, such as;

  • In the case of potatoes, this included Narok and Mau Narok, which are blessed with forest rains and fertile lands in Tanzania.
  • With milk, rains in April meant that costs to access to main roads went up – and with farmers unable or unwilling to ease traders’ burden, the costs are being transferred on to consumers.
  • As for maize, a 90-kilo bag which a farmer sold at Kshs 2,200 in December, had doubled by March 2017: Meanwhile, millers have been consistently buying the maize at Kshs 4,700 per bag

We have to remember to factor such matters into our plans and budgets as Kenyans. Also, we have learned that it takes the government a lengthy period to act or even plan for such occurrences. It would help to have neutral sources of data alongside that of the government to help shape the response to food security challenges in Kenya.

See also, Secrets of a Farm Middle Man 

$1 = Khs 103

Standard Chartered Kenya launches Video Banking

Standard Chartered launched video banking in Nairobi today. Already used in Asia, Kenya will become the first of their banks in Africa to roll out the service to its customers.

Standard Charted is currently Kenya’s 5th largest bank by assets, and has been in the country since 1911 and serves retail, corporate and institutional clients. CEO Lamin Manjang spoke of their “digital by design” investments, in which they use technology to enhance customer experiences while improving on the banks’ cost efficiency. He said “ Almost all transaction done at the branches are available through other means” and listed recent innovations they have done including – upgraded their platform, a new mobile banking app, fingerprint login, ATM’s that accept cash deposit ATM, and now video banking.

Whether in Singapore or Malindi, customers will be able to have secure video chats with agents located at the banks’ headquarters in Chiromo, Nairobi, share screens, exchange documents, do their banking and get advice, especially on investment and wealth management products and services. It is available to all customers, Monday to Friday from 9 a. to 6 p.m. Video banking is currently only on desktop computers, but they plan to extend it to mobile devices in the future.

The chief guest was the country’s  Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications and Technology , Joe Mucheru, who spoke on the government’s new cyber security bill as he urged banks and companies to invest in backups of critical data, upgrade their operating systems and anti-virus software and use of cloud services. “If you’ve gone through the agony of ransomware, investing in backups is not a big issue.”

Simplifying M-Pesa Payments with 1Tap

As they announced their 2017 financial results today, Safaricom also unveiled 1Tap – the next step of innovation to drive increased financial inclusion in Keyna.

M-Pesa is ten years old and CEO Bob Collymore said that Safaricom was launching “Mpesa 1 tap”  which would reduce the number of steps to complete an M-Pesa transaction, currently about 8 steps on SMS and USSD, to just 1 step.

At the result announcement, the Safaricom CFO Sateesh Kamath said that while 75% of M-Pesa revenue was from traditional person to person transfers, 25% was new from new business like “Lipa na Mpesa” (pay with M-pesa) payments.

Buy Goods is free for customers, except at petrol stations which levy an additional charge, and just over a month ago, Safaricom announced a 50% tariff reduction for all Lipa Na M-PESA Buy Goods merchant fees – to 0.5% of the transaction amount. These were also was capped to Kshs 200 for any payments over Kshs 40,000 (~$400) while payments to merchants below Kshs 200 were made free. Lipa Na M-pesa is used by over 50,000 merchants and Safaricom plans to enable more kiosks, boda-bodas, newspaper vendors and other merchants who are in the informal sector where 80% of Kenyan work to receive such vital business payments at no cost.

Merchants can also get instant payments into their bank accounts at any of 23 partner banks (of the 40 banks in Kenya) from a Lipa Na M-pesa menu in their phones in just a few seconds – and this is useful as many of the merchants don’t have time to go to the bank to deposit cash.

With 1 Tap, all a customer needs to do is tap their cards on the mobile POS machines and then enter their secret M-Pesa PIN to confirm the transaction. Pilot testing for Mpesa 1 Tap has been ongoing in Nakuru where the service now has 13,000 customers and 900 merchants. Kenyans briefly got to see what NFC could work with the Beba Pay service a few years ago, with payments in public service vehicles.

Caritas MFI Bank Launched

Thursday saw the official launch of the Caritas Microfinance (MFI) Bank in Nairobi. Caritas MFB,  which is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi, was licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya in June 2015. It has since mobilized almost Kshs 400 million in deposits and advanced Kshs 250 million of loans.

Caritas plans to go from having two branches, now serving 10,000 customers, to five by year-end and increase its authorized agent network from 16 to 50. Already 70% transactions are done using mobile banking and through a partnership with Cooperative Bank, Caritas customers can use Coop Bank ATM’s and visa cards for purchases and this will enable another potential 100,000 “unbanked and under-banked” members of 200 self-help groups in Nairobi and Kiambu counties to access formal banking services.

MFI’s were excluded from the interest cap law of 2016. Other deposit-taking microfinance bank institutions include Choice, Daraja, Ideal (formerly REMU), Maisha, SMEP, Sumac, U&I, and Uwezo. Larger ones include KWFT and Faulu  as well as the Chase Bank-owned Rafiki MFI that was quite large and growing fast. It is independent of Chase Bank but a lot of its future growth is dependent on the outcome of the Chase receivership.

World Bank Reduces Kenya Economic Forecast

A new report from the  World Bank slightly revised down the forecast for Kenya economic growth from the 5.9% achieved last year to 5.5% in 2017. This is attributed to ongoing drought, depressed private sector growth, and rising oil prices while 2016 had low oil prices, tourism recovery, and favourable weather conditions.

At the launch, Central Bank Governor, Patrick Njoroge said the focus should not be on the rate change, but on the medium term in which Kenya’s economy had distinguished itself by its resilience. This comes from Kenya having a highly diversified economy  – a mix of largest export is tea but his tea, and that goes to Egypt (not the UK), the economy has a strong regional focus (25% of exports are to EAC, and 40% to sub-Saharan Africa), a dynamic private sector (that’s becoming more transparency, with good governance & better business models), a well-educated labour force and investments in infrastructure (he said more should be written about the SGR vs. the old lunatic express railway) which will improve the country’s competitiveness. He said that foreign exchange reserves were at an all-time high (5.3 months) and while rains had failed in 2017 and there was a slowdown in bank lending, the risk of Brexit to Kenya was more on foreign direct investment (FDI) side and less on exports.

At the launch, the World Bank also did a report on housing in Kenya titled unavailable and unaffordable that highlighted that there were fewer than 50,000 new houses being built each year compared to an annual demand for 200,000 homes. Also, there’s low financial participation with fewer than 25,000 mortgages in the country, yet mortgages are one of the most secure loans, as people do not default on their homes easily.

The World Bank proposes having a Kenya mortgage refinance company (KMRC) that adapts from other successful models in Malaysia, Morocco (guarantees for 70% of loans) and Nigeria (fully subscribed bond scheme) to see if the number of mortgages in Kenya can go up to 60,000. They also have private-public partnership at Naivasha in Nakuru County to build 1,000 low-cost homes, most of which will be below Kshs 2 million (~$20,000)

Also see a report of an IMF staff visit to Kenya.