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About bankelele

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

Private Equity investment guide for East Africa

This week in Nairobi saw the launch by  EAVCA, FSD Africa and IFC Africa of a new private equity (PE) investment guide for East Africa.

The PE investing guide is a tool to enable pension funds across East Africa to assess and invest in private equity assets by raising knowledge among pension fund managers who are primarily invested in stocks and bonds.

It is a simple guide that can be read in just thirty minutes to gain an understanding of private equity assets. It has a checklist of useful information to look for before investing in PE, and after to manage portfolios, and roles for general and limited partners.

Also, EAVCA released a market report on n the current status of private equity investments in the region following a survey of pension schemes and PE general partners. It found that, while five Eastern African countries have generous provisions for pension funds to invest in private equity, led by Rwanda at 20%, Uganda at 15% and Kenya at 10%, the uptake has been low with Uganda attaining 2.2% investments in PE funds followed by Kenya at 0.08%.

Nzomo Mutuku of Kenya’s Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA), who officiated the launch,  said that while pushed for pension schemes to diversify and explore alternative investments to grow returns for members, many still had huge investments in one company (i.e Safaricom) and stocks and bonds of banks in which they held their deposit funds. (Later it came up the concentration in a few NSE stocks is not unusual among sub-Saharan markets- Nigeria’s largest firm commands 35% of the market while in Ghana, the top three firms have an 80% share).

Other Insights from the Q & A after the launch:

• Excluding South Africa, there is about $100 billion of funds held by pension and insurance funds and collective investment schemes (CIS). Of that East Africa, has about $30 billion with  Kenya at $20 billion.

• The IFC has been in private equity for over 20 years and is invested in 300 funds globally, with 50 of them active in this region.

• One pension manager cited their investments in I&M bank before it listed at the NSE, UAP, and invested in an energy IPP that gave attractive returns of 13% on a Euro investment.

• Another mentioned that they had participated in 40 bonds offers in 17 African countries with decent returns and no defaults.

• Speakers cautioned about Kenya’s move to raise the capital gains tax on private equity from 5% to 12%, a move that the country’s parliament has since set aside thanks to concerted lobbying.

The teams will next move to market the assets class to trustees in Botswana and Nigeria.

Online currency trading with FXPesa in Kenya

With the recent attention on exchange rates and online forex (foreign exchange) trading in Kenya, this month we got to engage with one of the pioneers in the space – EGM Securities.

Their parent company is Equity Global Markets Capital, with seven locations across the world, They launched in Kenya in 2017 after they got a non-dealing online foreign exchange broker license from the Capital Markets Authority (CMA). This means that they don’t set the prices locally, they just enable the trades and make money from the spreads.

They then spent their first few months tweaking and develop their offering in Kenya where the mobile phone is prevalent for payment transactions. They then came up with FXPesa, a simple tool for retail traders to use.

FXPesa was launched in May 2019 and also has a web version. Within six months, FXPesa had registered over 25,000 users. They have integrated with local payment methods such as M-pesa, Equitel, cards, and bank transfers for traders to get money out and in easily. People can trade as little as $100, right from an uber or matatu. Prices change in nano-seconds, but traders on FXPesa can set “stop-loss” and “take profit” triggers and also earn trading bonuses.

After downloading the FXPesa from an app store, users can register and get on to a demonstration portal. The demo account comes with some virtual money, and prices the same as real the trading side, for new potential investors to get started. 

Meanwhile, EGM does some vetting and extensive know-your-customer (KYC) checks to ensure the accounts are legitimate and not being used for money laundering. They also offer beginner, intermediate, or advanced training classes. They also aim not to be used for dangerous speculation and cap trading amounts based on people’s income.

FXPesa offers clients over 100 instruments such as currency pairs, commodities, indices and shares. Some of the most popular ones are currency pairs like Euro/US dollar, US dollar/ Japanese Yen and Great Britain pound/US dollar as well as commodities like gold and crude oil, and Apple and Google shares. The South African Rand is the third most traded currency.

Ineos 1:59

Today Kenya stood still, and the world watched as Eliud Kipchoge ran a specially staged marathon in Vienna Austria completing it in under two hours. The event dubbed “Ineos 1:59” was an unprecedented partnership event, backed by British chemical company Ineos and its billionaire Chairman,  Jim Ratcliffe.

Kipchoge ran the 42 kilometre-length course on a time of 1 hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds, dipping under the two-hour mark for the first time in marathon history. This was his second attempt at breaking the milestone mark. He had tried this in May 2017 and come 25 seconds short in another special run at the historic Monza Formula One track in Italy. That was in a project supported by Nike, dubbed “Breaking2.”

Eliud Kipchoge is currently the world record holder for the marathon with a time of 2:01:39 that he set at the 2018 Berlin marathon. He is also the reigning Olympic champion (2016 Rio games), and at 34 years old, has won 12 of 13 competitive marathons he has entered since 2013 including the London marathon four times, and the Berlin marathon three times.

Also used in support of the Ineos 1:59 challenge was an electric-powered Audi SUV, driven at a constant pace throughout the race, that projected laser beams to guide Kipchoge and his rotating team of forty-one elite pacesetters from across the world – Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Turkey, USA, Uganda, Ethiopia, and several of his Kenyan compatriots

Local brands that have supported Kipchoge include Safaricom and Isuzu East Africa who signed him up as a brand ambassador in September 2017.  And last week, Safaricom changed its M-Pesa brand to read “Eliud 1:59” for seven days and rolled out a free 1.59 gigabyte data bundle to enable Kenyans to watch Kipchoge’s run on their phones or their home devices via YouTube.  It is reported that over 3 million subscribers signed up for the special data bundle. 

NewGold ETF top performer at the NSE in 2019

The Barclays New Gold Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) is the top performing investment at the Nairobi Securities Exchange this year.

While the NSE has introduced several new products like REIT’s, index futures, equity futures, and the M-Akiba bond, it is the ETF that is shining this year.

The Barclays New Gold ETF was launched at the NSE in March 2017 of 400,000 shares was listed at the NSE in March  2017 at a price of Kshs 1,205 per share. This was a relatively small number of shares for the new investment class. But their liquidity is assured as Barclays buys all the shares that are sold, paying investors two or three days later. 

The ETF is ideal for pension and insurance funds and other institutional investors, as well as for individuals and retail buyers, and gold does feature in the portfolios of a small number of high net worth individuals in Kenya. The ETF attracts no capital gains tax and is shariah-compliant.

Gold has traditionally been a hedge for times of turmoil, and with ongoing trade disputes between the US and China, UK’s Brexit, slowing growth in Asia and Europe, and uncertainties of debt levels and weaker currencies in Africa, gold represents a hedge, or point of safety that people turn to as a store of value.  Africa’s largest economy, South Africa is also facing its own capital flight and repatriation issues.

Gold has risen on the back of global demand for safety as the ETF represents the fractional equivalent of the price of real gold bullion. Gold is now ~$1,500 per ounce, up from $1,280 at the beginning of the year. The price has moved between $1,000 and $1,300 over the last five years.

As Nairobi investors have suffered paper losses with NSE share index prices dropping to ten-year lows, levels last seen in March 2009, the NewGold ETF has ascended this year by 21% and is up 25% since its introduction. That’s largely due to it being determined the global price of gold, not by local demand.

NewGold, which is the largest ETF on the Johannesburg exchange, is also listed and trades on share exchanges in Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana and Mauritius.

Sports betting on ice as Sportpesa and Betin shut down in Kenya

On the last Saturday of September 2019, top sports betting companies, Sportpesa and Betin, separately announced an effective end of their operations in Kenya.

Sportpesa posted a statement on their site saying that Kenyan tax administrators had misunderstood revenue generation in the betting industry  – and that the company would halt all brand operations in Kenya as a result. Earlier, Sportpesa management, without citing  numbers, had said that they had settled all matters with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), but have still been unable to obtain renewal of their license from the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB)

Then last week on Wednesday, Sportpesa moved to lay off about 400 employees.

Meanwhile, Gamcode (trading as Betin Kenya) also issued a memo to all employees terminating their jobs as the company had not been operating since July 2019. They said they had been trying to resolve for three month’s as such all jobs would end on October 31.

Betin had several big media campaigns with Kenyan soccer star McDonald Mariga, who has unexpectedly stepped into politics and is now in the middle of campaigns to take up the vacant Parliamentary seat for Kibra constituency, following the death of popular MP, Ken Okoth.

By now, with the English Premier League on, local sports pages would have full-page colour advertisements of weekend and mid-week match betting odds and jackpot opportunities. Sportpesa also had significant spending in Europe sponsoring the Racing Point Formula One  team and Everton in the UK premier league and those teams still adorn  Sportpesa brands.

The claims of banning sports betting have been varied, with their destructive influence on young Kenyans, tax evasion and money laundering at different forums. Even a former Chairman of the Betting Control and Licensing Board, Kimani Kung’u, questioned whether non-payment and non-compliance with taxes was behind the freeze on the top betting companies.

In an interview with Radio Jambo in July, Kung’u said that the revenue of betting companies at the end of 2018 was between Sh20 billion and Sh25 billion and that there is no way that could have risen to Sh200 billion by mid-2019.


There have been three groups of companies: The group of 26 companies that were banned in July 2019 included: Mozzartbet, Sportybet SportPesa (Pevans E A Ltd), Betyetu (Oxygen & Gaming EA Ltd), Betin (Gamcode Ltd), Betway (Blue Jay Ltd), Easibet (Dreamcall Ltd), Betpawa (Gaming International Ltd), Betboss (White Rhino Ventures Ltd), Elitebet (Seal Capital Ltd), Dafa bet (Asian Betting & Gaming Ltd), Lucky 2 U, Cheza Cash (Sekunde Technologies), Palmsbet (Advanced Innovation Ltd), 1X Bet (Advanced Gaming Ltd), Saharabet (Sahara Game Technology Ltd), Bungabet (Galaxy Betting Ltd), Kick Off (Kick Off Sports Bar Ltd), Kenya Sports Bet, Eastleighbet (G&P Trading), and Premier Bet Ltd.

Those reportedly cleared later by KRA in July 2019 include Mozoltbet, East bet,  Lucky 2u, Eazi Bet, Kick off, Eastleighbet, Palms Bet, Bet boss, Betway, OdiBets, Mozzartbet and Ken Bookmakers.

Those xleared in August 2019 include Oyster, CityBet/EAF Galaxy, Shop & Deliver, Kareco, Playco, GrayHoldings/GameCo/Shabiki, NZ Mobile, Cheza Gaming, Hanstaunton Technologies/LottoCoLLP, and Zumabdu/Betlion.

None of the relicensed firms appears, so far, to have the impact and reach of Betin and Sportpesa.

Winners from the shutdown:

  • Moses Kemibaro has done a nice piece about the impact that the ban on Sportpesa and Betin has had on their web traffic and that of the other companies that have come to benefit from new betting activities, including Betika. He writes that “The biggest winners from Kenya’s sports betting armageddon are undoubtedly Betika, Odibets, MozzartBet Kenya and Kwikbet Kenya who have grown massively in terms of audiences and traffic during the last couple of months.”
  • The Internal Security Minister has said that Kshs 200 billion that was previously leaving the country through sports betting firms, is now being spent locally, boosting the local economy.

Losers from the shutdown include:

  • Media companies and newspapers: Gambling companies were among the top advertising spenders in the country up till this year. They would have about two color pages in all the newspapers, radio & TV ads, and several billboards across town. But as of this weekend, the newspapers are devoid of the advertisements except for small ones by Mozzartbet (for a 10 million jackpot for 50 shillings) and Betika (register and bet via USSD, with no data bundle required for a 100 million jackpot for 49 shillings)
  • The Kenya Premier League, which is limping since it lacks a top sponsor. Sportpesa had stepped in after Supersport had pulled out in protest at an ill-advised decision by the league to increase the number of participating teams from 16 to 18.
  • Telcos: Bettors and betting companies generated messages with every bet that incurred fees and bets were settled by mobile money payments. While companies are considering cards as a payment option, that is a minority that lags compared to mobile money usage.

EDIT Oct 11: 

Betin Kenya released a statement, saying that they, as a company, were fully tax-compliant, and that the betting industry had collectively paid Kshs 10 billon ($100 million) in taxes in 2018, but that the government had refused to renew its license, causing it to lay off its staff and shut down its retail outlets.