Category Archives: Wananchi online

Urban Inflation Index – June 2009

Tracking changes in the three months since the March 09 index and to approximately a year ago with the July 08 index

It’s going to be a tough year given the financial results that we have seen so far. Safaricom had reduced profits, while Zain and surprisingly Kenya Airways also recorded losses for the financial year. And while most banks have growth of 30 – 40%, GTV went bust.

The arrival of the submarines/fibre cable are expected to bring down the cost of communications sometime in the future, but at the same time it is expected that the Kshs. 109 billion ($1.4 billion) to be raised from local financial markets in the next few months to finance the services, programs, and deficit of the Government of Kenya will in the process also push up interest and borrowing costs for individual and businesses.

Gotten cheaper

Fuel: A Litre of Petrol fuel (at local petrol station) is now Kshs 72.5 (~$4.18 gallon) down 3% from 75 in March 2009. A year ago, petrol was retailing at over 100 shillings per litre.

Staple Food: Maize flour which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily. A 2 kg. Unga pack at Uchumi today costs Kshs. 92, down from 96 in March. However this is still much higher than the Kshs. 73 a year ago and a high food prices remain a sore point for many consumers – both urban and rural.

Communications: While phone calls through leading mobile company Safaricom are largely unchanged at about 8 shillings per minute (~$0.10), calls are cheaper at Orange and Zain, but probably from subsidizing consumers to lure them away from Safaricom. What has gotten cheaper is the cost of data. A Safaricom modem now costs Kshs. 4,000 ($51) and has been dropping periodically since it was introduced in 2007. Safaricom has also several ongoing promotions for laptops, blackberry’s and data-enabled phones as it competes with the likes of Access Kenya, Orange who sell the I-Phone, and Zuku from Wananchi who last month slashed in ½ the price of unlimited broadband.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. 77.94 having appreciated from 80.07 three months ago. It was 67.4 a year ago, but few expect it to edge downwards for the next few months.


Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer (at local pub) is Kshs. 130 ($1.60) unchanged from three months ago, and also priced the same as last July. While prices have not changed, beer sales may on shifting sands. Former Trade Minister and member of parliament Mukhisa Kituyi was interviewed a few weeks ago on TV and he made some remarks on how the economy is impacting the mwananchi (ordinary man) – he said before someone would go and watch a soccer match on TV in a sports pub and have 4 beers, today that same person will nurse a single beer for the duration of the match (was he talking about himself?)

More Expensive

Electricity: my bill last month is Kshs. 2,100 ($27) up from 1,800 three months ago (comprising fuel cost of 436c/kwh, and forex adjustment of 63c/kwh – it was lower 649c/kwh last July). The expectation is that with drying rivers and water dams, electricity generation and consumptions costs (Kenya is still hydro or diesel fuel dependent) will become more expensive. In his Budget Speech last week, Kenya’s Finance minister proposed to remove taxes on generators and other power production equipment, perhaps in anticipation that more companies may be buying these soon. Already, blackouts (announced and unannounced) are becoming more common either from transmission failure or vandalism (some brave people steal wires or fuel from transformers!)

Of concern also is the quality of electricity supplied. In the last week, my microwave and kettle have been knocked out, while a neighbour lost both water heating boilers in her house. The inconsistent electricity supply also knocked out my TV a few months ago and I’m scared of charging my laptop except late at night when i expect supply to be stable!

Other food item: Sugar (2 kg. Mumias pack) is Kshs. 175, up from 165 three months ago, and a year ago it was 145 (now costs 21% more than a year ago).

Sporting Moment: GTV Out

GTV folds
It has been a bleak weekend for Kenyan sports – Gor Mahia lost 0 – 5 to a visiting team from Rwanda, Zimbabwe has now defeated Kenya four matches in a row in Cricket at Mombasa & Nairobi, but most shocking was the sudden shutdown/collapse of GTV – who for the last two years were the main broadcasters of the English soccer premier league in several African countries.

Their statement attributes the collapse to the ongoing global credit crunch, but their demise seems similar to that of Kirch Media who spent big in the late 90’s to acquire the rights to broadcast two World Cup events and also 100 years of formula one races among other media properties – but who folded shop a few years later in one of Germany’s biggest corporate collapses.

What next? I expect Multi-choice DSTV to step in and pay the liquidators of GTV about 30% and take over their broadcast rights in Africa (and perhaps hike their prices too), while in Kenya, a successful bid for GTV’s soccer rights could also be an opportunity for Wananchi’s Zuku to make a nationwide impact.

Business impact in sports
The local impact of the economic crisis is likely to be replicated in sports.

– The local soccer league did well last year (2008) with private interests participating and sponsoring the teams & competitions – there was huge fan interest, media interest (for once local radio stations actively previewed, reviewed and encouraged attendance of local soccer matches) and a private security firm (G4S) was in charge of the ticketing and match revenue collection.

But will the economic crisis affect things? Will sugar teams like Sony and Chemelil continue to support sports when even the only profitable company in the sector (Mumias) has profits down 80% this year? And what about Sher (Flower) and other small company-sponsored teams?

– The local motoring scene was mainly supported by KCB last year and fortunately, despite the bank’s ongoing problems – particularly with a fellow sponsor (Triton), they have agreed to also sponsor the 2009 rally season. However, the loss of Paris Dakar to South America shows the global nature of sports and that events (like the Safari Rally) can be translocated elsewhere if countries don’t pay attention to details of sports management. in 2009, pressure shifts to South Africa to progressively move nearer the completion of stadiums for the 2010 world cup.

– Rugby continues to be well-organized, attract top-notch sponsors, and the annual Safari Sevens is the premier sports event(party) – with Kenya’s Sevens Team off to participate in the IRB Sevens World Series next weekend.

Bad management
Another problem in Kenya is bad management – and while every sport has behind the scenes ramblings and wrangles, Kenya is no exception with motor sports, cricket and soccer feuds that have long been a distraction for the sports.

Also, all sports go through generational changes – and in the off-season, Athletics Kenya management went through elections that were well contested. However, in Kenya we need to have longevity of athletes, not management officials; it is rare to have someone (except for Catherine Ndereba) participate successfully at more than one Olympic event. Other countries stars like Haile Gebreselassie, Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele have successfully represented their countries at consecutive Olympics – while in Kenya it is sad that it is mainly the officials who show such endurance – and that people who were ‘in charge’ of sports like soccer in the 1980’s and 90’s are still in charge today (Sammy Obingo, Sam Nyamweya) – and continue to bicker and blame each other for the problems in the sport.

Having recently read Foul, FIFA comes across as a corrupt institution that does not care about individual countries attempts to improve management of their sports affairs – FIFA wants to dictate who will be the local managers of soccer, and no matter how bad or corrupt they are, they are FIFA’s people who should not be interfered with unless a country wants to be suspended from regional or international soccer competitions.

EDIT: Feb 4 2009 – South Africa based DSTV SuperSport channel reclaimed the rights to broadcast live all English premier league matches, including those from collapsed GTV in 22 African countries over the next two seasons

Pepsi to Kenya?

. Nairumour that after an absence of many years, Pepsi will re-enter the Kenyan market in the near future to resume battle with Coca Cola, possibly through their South African partners. If so, it will cap a great year for investment to the country, and that despite 2008 being a relatively tough year for investors and companies, with the post-election violence, business disruption, high fuel and energy prices, depressed consumer spending, P & P madness (pirates and politicians) collapsing stockbrokers, there was a steady flow of new investments and new products that happened this year.

Re-cap of some notable ones

– Takeovers concluded – Ecobank take over of EABS, and Stanbic merger with CFC (now CFCStanbic)
– UBA licensed (2009)
– Gulf African and First Community (Shariah banking kicks off)

– Summit Lager a new beer from Keroche Industries
– East African Breweries launched Alvaro (malted soft drink)
Coca Cola launched Novidia (another malted soft drink) and also started selling Minute maid
– KETEPA launched Safari Iced Tea

– WPP buys into Scangroup
– 2008 saw the launch of two new mobile operators – Orange (France Telkom) and Yu (Essar/Econet) to battle Safaricom and a re-energized Zain
– Altech buys into KDN
– A long-running fight over one(EASSY)submarine cable, gave birth to three different ones being laid to Mombasa
– Wananchi launched Zuku (TV, Broadband, Phone)

Transport, Energy & Manufacturing
– Tiger brands buying into Haco
– An investment in the Kenya Oil Refinery at Mombasa was still under battle between Libyan and Indian Investors
– Jinchuan (China) to bail out Tiomin?
– Mirambo and PD Toll to salvage the Rift Valley Railways
– Delta Airlines (USA – but postponed to 2009)
– Air Arabia started flights to Kenya

– Libyans took over the Grand (Laico) Regency
The Tribe opens.

– Chevron (Caltex) sold out – bought by Total
– Unilever (de-listing from the NSE)
– Roy Puffet from rift Valley Railways

Bank Wars

Equity vs. Barclays
Equity Bank is often cited as being what caused banks, especially Barclays Bank to change their focus. But is it true, or is Barclays expanding all over Africa not just Kenya, in terms of opening new branches and expanding into the retail sector.

political muscle: A recent editorial strongly defended Equity and it has also received strong defense from Government ministers whenever allegations have been thrown against the bank.

Equity has also not been shy in employing political muscle themselves. The delayed conversion of rival building society into Family Bank has been linked to Equity’s influence and the bank was also instrumental suffocating pyramid schemes who grew to rival banks for deposits while ironically relying on banks for their massive fund transfers to/from investors.

Equity in 2008: Even if 2008 brings in a new government, Equity Bank should be ok. While the current government has been kind to Equity, giving it the space and access to market, environment to expand, Equity has been smart to use their access to Government to grow, without necessarily going to bed with the government. I.e. targeting government and parastatal deposits and banking business. Equity has expanded nationwide and has customers throughout the country and a positive image as a mwananchi bank. Think Kenol, not Mugoya for Equity next year, if the election follows the current polls

other banking briefs

Barclays bond: Barclays Kenya will issue a $75 million bond over 7 years.
Seem receptive, though their last bond to finance a mortgage business was scuttled by former finance minister who asked that the bank invest new money into Kenya, not borrow from the local market. That should whet the appetite for corporate investors who may be put off by the anticipated over-subscription (wasted funds, lost opportunity, delayed refunds) of a Safaricom IPO

But is Barclays parent in trouble? The global financial crisis has also taken done in the Citi (bank) CEO

Merger slows It’s a shame that the CFC-Stanbic merger can be jeopardized by a frivolous lawsuit frivolous lawsuit. How does a 50 million shilling dispute balloon into a 25 billion shilling lawsuit for damages?

City Finance is expected to be taken over by new owners. Kenya’s smallest bank should get a boost from new owners – as it is the only loss making bank so far this year. As at June this year, it had assets of just 510 million shillings ($7.7 million) in assets, deposits of of 131m, and loans 218m.

Collapsed banks update: Capital Finance and Pioneer Building Society are to be wound up while customers of Daima Bank will be paid another dividend

Bad loan relief?: The interest rates advisory centre offers loan and mortgage interest recalculation, financial cost assurance (overdraft, loan interest), in-duplum interest recalculation for the period (1/1/2001 to 31/7/2005) and informs its clients that that all bank charges from 1/11/89 may be illegal!

Though IRAC won against Housing Finance, bad debt relief may be a pipe dream for most, except for a few instances

Other corporate news

Keroche going into beer production after huge bill handed to them of unpaid taxes. This is the last thing that Kenya Breweries wanted to hear

The Minister for Finance has approve the takeover of Kobil Petroleum by sister company Kenya Oil Company Limited (Kenol). But Kobil is/was a Delaware corporation?

Fake sugar: Strange saga of a ship which arrived at Mombasa with contraband sugar already packaged in Mumias sugar bags – ready to go to store shelves. Packing sugar in their ‘produced in Kenya’ branded bags has been a key branding initiative by Mumias to differentiate it from imported sugar and seems to have worked, but counterfeiters can only be kept at bay for so long

Wananchi TV: convergence as Kenya’s largest ISP wananchi is going into partnership with GTV to begin high speed cable and satellite TV all in one package.

Also mobile TV on phones : a few months ago, the bosses of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation were on TV from a golf tournaments talking about their plans for the rest of the year which included launching a new radio station and also coming up with the first news broadcast via mobile phones by September. (Read on – KBC is a shareholder in the local multichoice Kenya)


– A new Equity Fund in Kenya urgently looking for a financial systems engineer with banking experience. Apply to

Apprentice to Africa. The Apprentice Challenge comes to Africa – with $200,000 in prize money

Kutwa Tuesday

These are stories I have found (kutwad) and want to share this Tuesday

Getting a story straight: One way of getting your story out through the media is to buy space and have your statement run exactly as you mean it and straight to the public – and there are two recent instances of that.

Street Lights: First is by the CEO of Adopt-A-Light Esther Passaris who launched her transformed street lighting crusade into an anti-poverty and anti-corruption vehicle that may lead her to being the next mayor of Nairobi.

This comes after the City council of Nairobi disowned the contract they had with her company and advertised for other companies to fulfill outdoor lighting & advertising functions which were had been exclusively done by Adopt a light.

What’s in your water bottle?: The second statement is a concerned water expert who is worried that Kenyans may not understand the different types of bottled water being sold – drinking water, natural mineral water, mineral water, carbonated water etc. – and that water bottling companies are being liberal with the advertising truth. He writes that natural mineral water is bottled at source, and with no chemical treatment, which is an expensive process – and he doubts that it is possible for a company actually producing such water, can sell it at the same price as drinking water. I.e. some of the companies are making false claims on their water bottles. He also cautions users to check the amount of fluorine in bottled water as it can lead to bad teeth and bone disease (Should not be more than 1.5mg per litre)

Do they work?: Of course the media love a story waged on their papers and companies such as Kakuzi, Portland cement, Kenya pipeline, Nzoia Sugar and other companies have all bought space (in more than one newspaper) to run statements, usually denying allegations of financial impropriety. There was even an infamous statement defending Anglo Leasing a few years ago.

Esther Passaris took out 2 page advertisements in both the Sunday Nation and Sunday Standard – probably at a total cost of Kshs 1.5 million (840,000 for the Nation, and over 600,000 for the standard)

The media is happy because these statements add to advertising revenue and often lead to other statements and form a base for them to tackle stories that they may have been hesitant to delve into. IMHO, it is unwise for corporations to place such self-serving advertisements especially to deny allegations – the better thing is to lie low and let the bad press (negative stories) pass, plant a few trees & build schools (CSR is good first aid for a scandal wound), answer questions from regulators or authorities – but don’t splash your story in the media!

(See past PR statements by De La Rue and Italians in Malindi.

Communications Wananchi has applied for a data carrier network operator – DCNO license – joining other firms such as KDN, Simbanet, Telkom, UUNET and Access Kenya.

Bounty Hunter: In a Ugandan newspaper, I came across an article (copy here) about the search for Felicien Kabuga who is wanted for his role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The article had more depth than any story I have read in any Kenyan paper (fear of libel laws perhaps), but what continues to amaze me is that despite almost every literate urban Kenyan knowing about the search, a reward on offer of $5m (down to Kshs 335 million at current exchange rate), recent photos of Kabuga that the Nation published a few months ago, and significant evidence that he spends a great deal of time in Kenya – no one (his friends & associates) cares enough, for posterity, or for the reward, to turn this guy in. And now there’s a deadline – as the mandate for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and presumably the reward will expire at the end of 2008.

Brother please! Just came across this story – which at first I thought was from the the Onion or some satire website. But it appears to be a true story – that the wreckage of a six-seater aircraft has been found in Cameroon three months after it crashed. So should we be greatful that the KQ crash site was found within 48 hours?

Money go round: Even as some of the larger pyramid schemes are experiencing cash flow problems, smaller ones are still attracting new investors. In the newspapers every day there are more schemes in the works listed in the classified sections under business opportunity – all offering 16 – 20% returns per month, just for investing a small amount for a weeks.

Real estate The Kenya anti corruption authority (KACA) is seeking land in milimani, upper hill, kilimani or wastelands, presumably to set up a new office building. Lots sought should be 2 to 5 acres in size, close to major road and details should be sent to the Director by June 14.

– On J7 July at the Msambweni divisional office, a case will be heard between Simon Ndungu Karanja vs. Tiomin over his 1.9 ha piece of land
– Gippsland offshore petroleum of Australia is doing an geophysical survey of the Kenya coast (kipini area, ungama bay)
– Tile & carpet center are prospecting for carbon dioxide in (Kereita forest) of Kiambu district
– Oil giant Halliburton is moving is headquarters from Houston to Dubai!