Category Archives: Ecobank

Banks Close Branches as they go Digital

Branches are the customer face of most commercial banks, But yesterday Bank of Africa Kenya announced the closure of its 12 branches. This is almost 1/3 of its total branches in Kenya, with those targeted located in Nairobi (Githurai, Gikomba, Monrovia, Gateway, South B, Outer Ring Road, Likoni Road, Thika Road), Nanyuki, Embu, Kitale and (Mombasa (Digo Road branch)

This comes after Ecobank Kenya also announced earlier the closure on nine branches in Nairobi (Chambers, Ongata Rongai, Gikomba, Embakasi, Thika Road), Meru, Kitale, Busia, and Malindi.

Both banks attributed the closing of branches moves to reducing costs as they invest and offer more digital services to customers.  This may bring back bad memories of the 1990’s and early 2000 when large banks closed small or unprofitable branches, many of which were in rural Kenya. But unlike that time, banks are not completely abandoning their customers but leaving customers with a taste of their services through digital platforms, mainly by mobile phones as well as electronic and agency ones.

This comes at a time when banks like Equity have frozen new branches and other like Coop Bank celebrate that only 25% transactions are done at branches, as customers have the choice to use other channels like mobile phones. 

Still, it leaves many traditional customers wondering how they can connect with their bank without nearby branches. Many banks also have agents in rural and densely populated urban areas to handle cash deposits and withdrawals, but will their customers lose touch without physical branches that they can visit?

QNB in Kenya

The local newspapers have an ad by QNB Group (QNB – Qatar National Bank ). QNB is not in Kenya officially, but they are the largest investor at Ecobank (with 23.5%) who have a mid-size presence in Kenya (about No 20) – one of the 36 countries across the continent that Ecobank is present in. QNB

A newspaper opinion piece last year linked QNB with a bid to buy government shares in one of Kenya’s state-owned local banks – one with a regional presence in East Africa. QNB Capital was also the joint lead manager for Kenya’s 2013 Eurobond with plans to arrange a Sukuk (sovereign bond) for Kenya after the Eurobond.  

A Bloomberg piece notes that the Qatar bank is pushing into Africa as competition in its home market of 2 million people curbs profitability..with the possibility that QNB will go for the entire (Ecobank).

Private Equity Moment

Access Kenya directors have approved the sale of the company to Dimension Data and will now recommend that all other shareholders vote in favour of the deal at a shareholders EGM on August 20, 2013. The company will forward this circular to all the company’s 28,000 shareholders and need to get a 75% vote approving the deal which will pay Kshs. 14 (~$0.16) per share and also de-list the company from the Nairobi Securities Exchange just six years after an IPO and listing.

Elsewhere, the government has agreed to waive the requirement that local Kenyans have to own 20% of the company after the Dimension Data takeover.
Other Deals

Big Milk: According to the Standard, dairy giant Brookside has acquired a majority stake in rival Molo Milk – continuing a pattern of the company buying out its rival’s and consolidation in the milk processing sector.
Unfriendly Oil: Kenol Kobil is fighting off the takeover of a prime petrol station at Yaya area, Nairobi by a rival company – Hashi Energy. KenolKobil (management) claim an armed gang of 20 people raided the petrol station, kicked out its staff, and rebranded the outlet with the Hashi Energy logo.
Recent M&A deals approved by the Kenya Competition Authority include:
– The acquisition of DT Dobie Kenya (distributors of Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Renault, Chrysler) by Toyota Tsusho Corporation – with a provision that implies that there will be some separation of brands above and below 1,800 cc.
– The acquisition of Cica Motors Kenya (distributors  of Hyundai Trucks and Greatwall brands) by Toyota Tsusho Corporation
Banking, Insurance & Finance
The acquisition of Iroko Securities by Ecobank Development Corporation.
Health & Beauty
The acquisition of Laborex Kenya and Epdis Kenya by Toyota Tsusho Corporation.
– The acquisition of Comztek Holdings by Datatec in a South African deal valued at 88 million rand (Kshs 767 million)
– The purchase of all assets of Interest Africa by BSS Africa (Belgium Satellite Services)

KQ-KLM: The Competition Authority also exempted the joint venture agreement between Kenya Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airline from the provisions of section 21 of the Competition Act which prohibits the abuse of a dominant position in the Kenyan market.

Local Content, Conversation & Branding in Africa

Late in 2010, TNS released a Kenya digital study as part of a three month study of the habits of online Africans; In Kenya it involved 800 interviews – 400 online, 400 face-to-face and tried to answer various questions like – Who is online? What are people doing online? How can brands connect? What messaging/digital communication channels are best?

Some findings included:
– Internet penetration: Kenya & Uganda is 10%, Tanzania is 1.6%, Nigeria is 29%, Egypt 22%, South Africa 11%. In local capitals – 49% of Nairobi residents have tried the internet, 53% in Kampala, 31% in Dar es Salaam (and 42% & 49% in Mombasa & Arusha respectively) for an average of 45% of EA urban nationals
– Cyber café are the primary mode (67%) of access Internet in Sub-Saharan Africa, but in Kenya its the mobile phone (60%)
– Many people started using Internet in last two years and are on a learning curve; Companies need to make sure they educate the users on how to use their sites more effectively. This is compared to countries like Japan which has high internet penetration but low interest (its a part of life, no longer exciting)
– In terms of daily media access, digital is still lower than conventional media – so companies/brands have to continue with old media; Also radio is very important, compared to global where radio trails TV
– Top e-mail sites: Gmail Yahoo, Facebook, MSN
– Top social networks: Facebook Google Yahoo Youtube
– Top knowledge sites: Google Wikipedia Yahoo DailyNation
– Top news sites: Google BBC Standard DailyNation
– Top multimedia sites: Youtube Google CapitalFM Facebook
– Very few people (7%) say they are shopping online
– Kenyans (and Africans) want to do more activities online – like internet banking, pay utility bills, watch TV, make travel bookings, submit taxes, advertise online. This will become an annual study by TNS to monitor trends in the online space.

One of their partners, VML (Kansas, US) also did a complementary study on digital monitoring of some Kenyan and African brands over several months this year using SEER ecosystem to find a link between bloggers and brands. They looked at mobile companies (Orange,Safaricom,Yu), countries as brands (Kenya,Nigeria,South Africa) and banks (Stanbic,Ecobank)

Some findings:

Mobile: Orange is way ahead of everybody else (846,000 mentions with 92% positive) but may have little to do with Kenya (more the international Orange brand)
– Safaricom had 11,000 conversations online, with people talking about the business, Michael Joseph (outgoing CEO), but not about products & prices. 66% was positive, and this varied from month to month, with some negative on their customer service and competition/regulation.
– Most intriguing – the bulk of conversation abut Safaricom does not happen in Africa – it’s highest in US, UK, Germany. In Africa, there is some conversation in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa – and in Kenya its associated with 4 blogs (Kenyanjobs, siku-moja, bankelele, kenyaprincessproject)

Banking: Ecobank has 5000 mentions, and Stanbic 900 mentions – but Ecobank spiked as a result of an unrelated Ecobank twitter account in Japan (not Africa) while for Stanbic it was due to coverage of a cricket tournament in Zimbabwe
– The highest conversation about Stanbic is in UK, while for Ecobank its in the US,
– These are very few conversations about banks or their business, and these are happening mainly outside Kenya and Africa (Ecobank is associated with this blog on the strength of a couple of blog posts about the bank’s 2010 AGM in Nairobi)
– There is an opportunity for banks, to engage, and not just about Internet banking products.

Tourism: Kenya tourism conversation is 81% positive, 16% negative – (jambo ad annoyed people on the net) – and again a lot of conversation in UK and US.
– While Kenya gets good conversation given the budget they spend, Kenyan tourism only get as much positive conversation as Nigeria – showing a need for more positive content creation and engagement online.
– Concern that despite the natural beauty of Kenya (wildlife, beaches, scenery), 0% is taking place on photo or image sites – a missed opportunity to create visual content.

– Very little conversation about African brands is originating in Africa, and there are opportunities for links to be created either with influential blogs, or social media etc.
– Complaints cause large spikes in conversation
– Companies need to monitor online conversation, beyond press clippings
– Companies need to incorporate digital plans in their branding exercise

Money Transfer across Africa

From focusing on money transfer in Kenya, where there has been a lot of development and competition especialy in the area of mobile money transfers, it now moves on to what about across Africa? From country to country?

Today in Nairobi Ecobank formally launched their Rapidtransfer which was rolled out in October 2009 is now available in Kenya. With Rapidtransfer one can send money to families members e.g. school fees, pay for goods, send cash to another account in another country, and have the funds available instantly in local currency

An illustration used was for how one can now transfer money from Mombasa Kenya to Dakar Senegal – and with Rapidtransfer, an individual can send a maximum of $10,000 per day (~Kshs 800,000)between the two points on opposite sides of the continent instantly! It is also open to non-account holders and can be used for intra-country transfers as well. The product works only within the Ecobank network, which now covers about 30 countries. They get around the foreign currency restrictions in some countries by making and receiving payments in local currency (no forex exposure to customer) and all at a competitive rate compared to Western Union or Moneygram.

Rapidtransfer was was launched by Kenya’s Central Bank Governor who chided the media for wanting too much from the product already. On whether Rapidtransfer will be on mobile phone, he gave tales about trying to buy a car in 1992 when money would take a week to be transferred from a Nairobi account to a Mombasa account (it was then faster to send money hidden in an Akamba Bus package) and this was also at a time when branches were not linked and one could only transact at a particular branch.

Rapidtransfer is unique in that many because banks don’t talk to each other across border e.g. a bank in Kenya and a bank in Uganda may share the same parent or name but customers who cross borders are not able to transact (except using visa). However, Ecobank customers are also able to use their ATM bank card in all the 30 countries they are present to fully transact across borders.