Author Archives: bankelele

About bankelele

Writing on banking, finance and investments in East Africa. Email bankelele_at_hotmail.com, Instagram: Bankelele, Twitter: @Bankelele.

Chase Bank’s Long Tails

Nearly six years after the collapse of Chase Bank, the Capital Markets Authority has come down with harsh penalties on some of its former senior managers, directors and auditors. This is not over the collapse of the bank, but over misleading statements, failure to disclose material information or conflict of interest in the issue of a bond that the bank  floated in May 2015. Its first tranche raised Kshs 4.8 billion, 10 months before ether bank close. The bond’s Information Memorandum (IM) indicated that the funds raised would be used for branch expansion, IT investments, and new products. 

Penalties Levied:

  • Kshs 10 million against Deloitte, the reporting accountant for the bond note program and its partners will be reported to ICPAK.
  • Kshs 5 million fines each against Duncan Kabui, the former Group Managing Director,  Paul Njaga the former CEO and Ken Obimbo the former Group Finance Director. In addition, Kabui is debarred from being a director or partner in an issuer on the Kenyan capital markets for 10 years, while Obimbo is debarred similarly for 5 years.  
  • Kshs 2.5 million each against the former members of the Audit & Risk Committee – Laurent Demey, Muthoni Kuria and Rafiq Sharrif. The fine also was levied against Anthony Gross, who was Chairman of the Committee and who was ordered to attend corporate governance training.
  • Kshs 1 million, a smaller fine, against Richard Carter, a former director of Chase.  

 The Business Daily (BD) had reported on some findings that the CMA had made unearthed at Chase when it went reviewed its IT systems and which the CMA felt that Deloitte should have flagged such as a Kshs 14 billion hole at Chase, an IT override switch, and a Kshs 1 billion bonus paid to Chase’s former Chairman Zafrullah Khan that was later shared with other directors and executives.  The fines are against 9 of 12 people targeted, and who appeared before an ad hoc committee put together by the CMA but 3 others went to court and halted the CMA probe proceedings against them – and the BD has identified them as Khan, former Finance GM Makarios Agumbi and former Corporate Assets Manager James Mwaura.

In another matter, a judge has ordered SBM Bank which took over the assets of Chase Bank to compensate AfrAsia Bank of Mauritius for a $7.5 million deposit that they had placed at Chase just before the bank was closed in April 2015. The judge said that due process was not followed in notifying depositors about the transfer of the bank assets from Chase to SBM and found that SBM, not the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation, is where AfrAsia should have pursued their claims. Will this open the door to other aggrieved depositors in collapsed banks like Chase, Dubai, and Imperial? – Read more in the Business Daily.  

Related:

  • Earlier updates in the Chase and Imperial bank cases 
  • Past CMA actions on company directors on governance matters. 

Guide to Moroni

A guest post about a visit to the capital of Comoros 

Getting there: Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines have regular flights to Moroni. It’s two and a half hours direct from Nairobi and flights cost about $1,000. On arrival, at the Prince Said Ibrahim International Airport, the only queue is immigration. For Kenyans, it is easier because they don’t need visas. However, you may need to carry along proof of your purpose of visiting. You also need a valid PCR certificate and certificates of vaccination for covid-19 and yellow fever.

Getting around: There are public transport vehicles where you pay in local francs. But airport taxis can take you directly from the airport at an average cost of $30. As this is an island nation, movement from island to island means you have to take boat rides. It takes about two hours from one island to another by boat. There are small aircraft flying scheduled flights between islands, but they are expensive and uncomfortably bumpy. (I didn’t see ride-hailing apps.)

Staying in touch: Communications is damn expensive. You can’t even roam with Safaricom as they have not inked a deal with any local carriers. Airtel roams but the bill is crazy, about $5 per minute on average. The only saving grace is hotel Wi-Fi which is not as fast but at least connects you back to the world. The explanation you get is that the market for carriers is small, meaning the few have to pay for the overlay costs for the firms to be profitable. 

I didn’t see a newspaper vendor but there is a local online newspaper called La Gazette des Comores. Locals here watch local state TV or CNN, BBC and sports channels via French satellite pay tv called Canal+ which also shows channels from other francophone countries.

Where to stay:  You can pay anything between $80 and $200 per night for a good hotel. You can book your hotel via Booking.com. Electricity is reliable at hotels where they have a back-up. Not so reliable if staying in a rented apartment because the supply is erratic.

Eating out: Comoros has had great influence from Arab, Swahili and French culture. Local delicacies include pilau (pilao) and biryani chicken (sometimes known as poulet de riz). They do lots of fishing and so sea fish is also a common delicacy, besides of course French fries. Ironically, there are just as many drunks on the streets even though Comoros is generally a Muslim country. It has something to do with the French mannerism of separating religion from the state. 

Business & Infrastructure: The country is recovering from a civil war which only ended in the early 2000s after rebels signed a peace deal – and no wonder most of the recent presidents are former military men or former rebels. The country though has kept a stable polity and its National Assembly, which sits in Moroni to deliberate on issues, includes elected representatives from its three islands. Each of the islands has its local administration.

Cards can be used at hotels or for withdrawing local currency from local ATMs, which by the way are not as many. To get around, carry Euros, at least 50 a day. Folks here like the Euro more than the US Dollar. If you run out of local currency, you can pay with Euros just as well. It may have something to do with close ties with the French who colonised the island and have remained prominent even in its independence. 

Language: French, and Shikomori are the most common languages. Most educated people can also speak English and some people can also speak Swahili.

Shopping & sightseeing: It is one of the safest African countries and beaches are the main attractions. There aren’t malls but you can buy souvenirs from vendors including at hotel shops. 

Unusual Observations: In some government offices, you may meet a French guy working as a receptionist. Another odd thing is that even senior military officers here are still ranked at Colonel. Some officials told me it isn’t a big issue because the island has a small population and it can be difficult to have folks rising through all those routine ranks before leading the military.

Future of Tech summit.

The Rest of World publication celebrated its second anniversary with an event in Nairobi featuring techies, writers and other guests and with panel talks on issues around technology in Africa.

Excerpts from the event.

  • Valuations: Panelist Ali Hussein Kassim wondered about the venture capital due diligence that placed the valuation of Flutterwave at $3 billion exceeding Nigeria’s largest bank, Zenith which has a stock market listed valuation of $2 billion.
  • Compliance: Kassim also lamented that fintech companies were doing business without engaging with regulators or undergoing KYC (know your customer), AML (anti-money laundering) and CFT (combating the financing of terrorism) steps that would keep them out of trouble. The result of this was cases like Flutterwave in Kenya, while in Ghana, Dash, a remittance firm had one of the largest pre-seed funding rounds in Africa, raising $32 million, only to be shut down a month later by the Bank of Ghana for not having a license. – “you can’t build a payment service for Africa when you don’t have a license to operate in your own country.”
  • Salaries: Whether the global tech giants that have recently set up in Nairobi are distorting employee pay scales and leading a talent war that smaller firms are losing out.
  • Appropriate Policies: Another panelist Nanjira Sambuli said techies must engage with governments about what is going on in their industry, or they would wake up and find unfavourable attempts to regulate them. She warned of the danger of the government’s copy-pasting regulations from other markets such that “that we must now opt-out of marketing messages that we never signed up for” and the excessive obsession with certifications that the government now wants to extend to informal workers. Also, in Kenya, after an umpteenth attempt, an “ICT Practitioner bill” was passed by Parliament in June 2022, only for the country’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, to refuse to assent to it.
  • Knowing what problem you’re solving: About the spectacular year of Kune Foods from its million-dollar VC funding to its (not unexpected) demise.

One of Rest of World’s first stories was on the lending app Okash and its unorthodox collection methods. In two years, it has since published over 8,000 stories from 80 countries around e-commerce, labour, culture and social media.

More tech events are planned for Mexico City, Jakarta, and Delhi.

10 Points from AfDB 2022 in Accra

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group held its 2022 series of annual meetings in May in Accra, Ghana with the theme of achieving climate resilience and a just energy transition for Africa.

Highlights of the meetings:

  1. Food Security: Most countries in Africa are Agri-based. But going forward, they should engage in modern agriculture with technology, fertilizer & seed improvements, and not just produce, but also process and package high-value foods to quality standards that they can export. Agriculture can then bring transformation and jobs to rural areas.

Africa has 400 million hectares of savannah which, the President of the African Development Bank Group Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said, is better than Brazil’s (which is a net exporter of maize, beef, and soya) – and that for Africa to be a major player of global food, must transform its Savannah.

In six years, the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program has provided 76 million farmers with improved agricultural technologies. In Sudan, the AfDB provided certified heat-tolerant wheat seeds that, when cultivated over 65,000 hectares, made the country self-sufficient. In Ethiopia, the country progressively increased its acreage cultivated with certified heat-tolerant seeds from 5,000 to 167,000 hectares in 2021. With the increased harvest, they expert to export 1.5 – 2 million tons to Kenya and Djibouti.

  1. Energy Transformation: Currently 85% of the bank’s energy investment are in renewable energy with plans to double funding to $25 billion by 2025. While the bank has a policy not to support any coal, as part of its climate change, they acknowledge that intermittent renewable energy sources cannot power Africa alone, and that Power must also be accessible, secure and affordable.
    • One solution for Africa is gas. Nigeria has $200 trillion worth to exploit, according to President Adesina who said that Europe, which gets 45% of its gas from Russia, should look to Africa. Other countries with gas potential are Ghana, Cote de Ivoire, Angola, and Morocco. The AfDB is assisting Mozambique with a $24 billion LNP project that may make the country the 3rd largest producer in the world.
    • Some of the renewable energy investments the bank has undertaken are the Quarzazate Solar in Morocco – the world’s largest concentrated solar farm, the 3,000 MW Benban energy in Egypt, the $20 billion Sahel 10,000MW, and the largest wind project in Africa at Lake Turkana in Kenya.
    • The bank is mobilizing $40 billion for South Africa to ease its transition from a reliance on 44,000 MW of coal toward renewable energy sources. Donors have committed $17 billion of grant financing, and concessions, that the bank will leverage to meet this gap without South Africa getting into debt. As the government plans to move to net-zero emissions, the AfDB has invested in solar (Xina and Redstone projects) and wind (Sere) and is also supporting a feed-in tariff for renewable energy.
  2. The ADF: The Bank’s African Development Fund (ADF) receives donations from regional members and has provided $45 billion to low-income countries. Nine of the ten countries that are most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa and 100% are ADF countries. As the ADF needs more resources, the Bank plans to tap the ADF’s accumulated equity of $25 billion to raise $33 billion from capital markets. This will make the future of the ADF more sustainable and member countries will enjoy lower borrowing costs.
  1. The Infrastructure Gap: Infrastructure’s share of the bank’s funding portfolio is high because infrastructure projects are capital intensive. One project showcased was the Pokuase road interchange that is part of the Accra Urban Transport Project and which now disperses traffic on four levels to help reduce transport congestion in Accra. It was funded with $84 million from the Bank and the Government of Ghana.

Also at the summit, Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan received the Africa Road Builders–Babacar Ndiaye prize for 2022. In her speech, she credited her predecessors, especially President John Pombe Magufuli who was a Roads and Public Works Minister in two governments before leading the country. The AfDB in 15 years had advanced $2.1 billion for 2,315 kilometres of road on the Tanzania mainland while Zanzibar has received $113 million for 139 kilometres of roads.

  1. Climate Change: One of the themes of the 2022 meetings was “achieving climate resilience”. Climate change is an existential threat with droughts, floods, and cyclones devastating Africa and causing losses of $7-15 billion a year. Even though the continent contributes just 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, it just gets 3% of climate-related financing. Developed nations had promised to fund Africa with $100 billion to adapt to climate change but this has not materialized and the Bank now plans to mobilize $25 billion for climate adaptation through a new fund.
  1. Creative Financing: During Covid, the bank launched a $3 billion social impact bond on global capital markets and the funds went to train 130,000 health workers, provide social protection for 30 million households, and business advisory for 300,000 SMEs. The Bank now plans to use its AAA-rated balance sheet to leverage $100 billion of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) from International Monetary Fund and grow that four times.
  1. Development Financing by the AfDB can be targeted at specific areas:

• Towards Food Security: In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, food prices have gone up 30-40%, oil is 60%, and fertilizer prices tripled. So the AfDB launched a $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility to enable countries to intensify agricultural productivity and ward off the looming hunger crisis.
• For agriculture, President Adesina said the bank will allocate $1 billion to fund special agri-processing zone in rural areas of Zambia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, CIV and Senegal.
• Towards transformational infrastructure projects; the bank continues to fund ports, highways, bridges and border-crossing stations.
• Towards Youth Funding: one mechanism to help youth stop fleeing Africa will be through a youth entrepreneurship investment bank that will invest in youth business in 13 countries. The Bank is working on a mechanism to be ready after June 2022.

  1. Looming Debt: Even as African countries recovered in 2021 from Covid shocks, they face elevated debt levels and limited financial capacity that constrained further growth.

The bank has a focus on debt management of countries to improve the quality, sustainability and transparency of the debt. They will work with the World Bank, IMF and G20 nations to deal with private debt and commercial debt that now account for 44% of Africa’s debt. The Bank helped Somalia build back its debt management capacity after decades of war and negotiate debt relief with an arrears clearance plan and it now plans to l work with partners to do the same for Zimbabwe and build it back to an economic breadbasket.

  1. Rain parade: The Economist magazine dive-bombed the meetings with an article about a missing evaluator at the Bank. Later in his speech at the end of the summit, President Adesina said that a two-year external review of the Bank showed that its governance was world-class where areas of improvement were pointed out, these will be done. The joint communique at the end of the meetings mentioned the AfDB would implement the recommendations of a governance committee.
  2. Accra Image: The host nation of Ghana, celebrated 50 years since the passing of Kwame Nkrumah its founding President. It is seen as the birthplace of Africa as, in 1957 Ghana was considered the first Sub-Saharan country to achieve independence and is now a showcase for AfDB -financed projects including roads, farms and airports.

See more about the last in-person annual meetings – the 2019 AM in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Picture of President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania, speaking after receiving the Babacar Ndiaye prize for 2022. Courtesy of Edgar Batte

Next meetings: Following these first meetings since Covid, the next annual meeting will be at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt from May 23-26, 2023. The new Chairman of the Board of Governors is Tarek Amer, the Governor of the Bank of Egypt. The First Vice-Chairperson will be a representative of Brazil and the second one will be from Uganda.

Investing to make Africa self-sufficient in food

The ongoing war in Russia and Ukraine shows the need for countries to have excellent food security. Currently, several African countries are expected to face increasing food inflation from shortages of fertilizer and grain that are produced in the war regions, combined with rising oil prices as well as global shipment chain disruptions. Wheat prices are up 45% while fertilizer prices have also risen 300% since the conflict began.

One of the most interesting programs from the African Development Bank Group that is being showcased at the 2022 annual meetings in Accra, Ghana is an ongoing farm improvement project that links to food security and climate resilience in the production of vital cereals such as maize and soya bean and also of poultry.

The AfDB Group’s African Development Fund, which this week celebrates 50 years since its establishment, approved funding of $34.75 million towards the implementation of Ghana’s Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP), one of whose pillars aims to provide access to agricultural finance in two ways: extending “missing middle” loans to commercial farmers, and food processors including makers of animal feed and a poultry revolving fund that finance imports to small poultry farmers. These have competitive interest rates and flexible repayments that are matched to production periods.

It includes a symbiotic relationship between larger nucleus farms and smaller out-grower farmers who previously had challenges accessing resources and inputs for intense cultivation. But now they get these from this to nucleus farms who have been supported by the AfDB to source modern farm equipment and certified seed. They then hire them out to smaller farmers and provide inputs to the out-growers and provide a ready market by buying produce from the out-growers.

in the harsh Northern regions of the country where farming capacity is underutilized and other land is degraded, conservation farming is encouraged by minimum-till cultivation and reforestation that set trees planted on boundaries and degraded farm areas to restore water and carbon levels and rebalance the environment.

Employing lessons from the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), including improved certified seed, blended fertilizer adapted to suit local farm needs, subsidized inputs and mechanization, the TAAT program was rolled out as (TAAT-S) in the savannas regions. It started in 2018 with four commercial farmers on 87 hectares and received more funding under the Savannah Investment Program to support land development, high-quality inputs, and minimum-till cultivation of maize, soya bean, rice and other staple crops. By 2021 it had 118 farmers cultivating 13,000 hectares with further support from 30,000 smallholder out-growers who cultivate an average of 2 hectares. They now benefit from technology transfer, access to markets financial and mechanization services provided through commercial farmers in the out-grower arrangement.

Four mechanization service centres have been established in the country with a full complement of equipment for land preparation, from planting up to harvests for operations on both large and small farms. Small farmers who do well can graduate to larger farms while other specific programs target to make women and the youth become better entrepreneurs. Large farmers who participate in the scheme can, as a result of their increased acreage and yield, be able to approach financial institutions and access larger facilities such as asset finance of $200,000 – 300,000.

There’s is also the Savannah Investment Program (SIP) being implemented in nine districts of northern Ghana in which the Agriculture Ministry works with farmers to help the surrounding communities improve staple crops and animal yields to reduce grain and poultry imports. The country imports $400 million worth of poultry products a year, but the Ministry is certain the demand can be met locally if farmers’ capacity was enhanced. It has developed value chains finding buyers for the farm outputs with governments, schools, hotels and other institutional and retail buyers.

To enhance local value chains, poultry breeds are improved with exotic breeding while goats and sheep were introduced to the pastoralist communities. To improve sustainability, poultry farmers are assisted to venture into feed production, to reduce the substantial cost of animal feed.

The improvements have been achieved with a subsidy cost of about $100 million a year. But subsidies are the norm in food-producing countries in Europe and the Americas that then get to export their surplus to other nations.

The Ghana program is now a flagship of the Bank’s “Feed Africa” portfolio and a template for other African countries. The program will be rolled out to other countries including Tanzania, Uganda, Mauritania and Egypt.

Speaking ahead of the annual meetings in Accra, African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said that TAAT has delivered improved agricultural technology to 76 million farmers. The interventions have led to enhanced harvests and crop self-sufficiency in countries like Sudan and Ethiopia that received and cultivated new heat-tolerant wheat varieties.

The Bank has just announced a $1.5 billion emergency food production facility to help African countries enhance food production and mitigate disruptions from the Russian war in Ukraine. Taking on lessons from TAAT, instead of relief food distribution, which is a short-term measure, the AfDB is signaling that the continent has the resources, technology and a plan to boost production and ensure food security. It will target to deliver subsidized certified seed, technical support and extension services to over 20 million farmers.