Category Archives: Ethiopia

Kenya 2022 Investment Outlook from EFG Hermes

Managers at Kenya’s largest stockbroker, EFG Hermes, held a media briefing on the state of investing in Kenya in 2022. This is at a time that the Democratic Republic of Congo is about to join the East African Community, potentially doubling its market size from over 100 million to 200 million and making the region more attractive to investors due to the regional transports links.

EFG Hermes Head of Frontier Market Research, Kato Mukuru said Nairobi is now the capital of East Africa and that local banks have become regional champions such as Equity which is now the largest bank in the DRC. The next step should be a common currency in East Africa but he lamented that different African governments were unnecessarily chasing digital currency (CBDC) projects. 

EFG Hermes Kenya which has a 30% share of Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) trading activity, largely from institutional investors has now invested in wooing retail investors through an app they launched last August. The NSE has had shrinking liquidity, and the value of stock trades that used to be $8-10 million per day, is now at $2-3 million per day – and if liquidity can be pushed back up, other new products on NSE such as derivatives and day-trading will become more viable.

Excerpts

  • Overall EFG researchers think Kenya is on right track despite concerns about its debt, inflation and currency, the agriculture sector should keep the Kenyan shilling stable and compensate for increased energy prices – and they don’t expect currency depreciations movements like seen in Egypt and Pakistan.  
  • The government needs to have a privatization agenda to boost the NSE. Safaricom was listed at the end of post-election violence in 2008 when Kenya was at its lowest and that produced one of the most valuable companies in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • East Africa needs to create more formal jobs. Kenya has 5M formal jobs for a population of 50M while Vietnam has almost 50% formal employment. It may take the government to initiate a more planned economy system that targets creating real formal employment that goes beyond agriculture as it can’t rely on informal jobs forever.
  • Tanzania’s late President Magufuli has shown that a country can transform within one administration. 
  • The way out of food inflation caused by the Russian war in Ukraine is by sourcing foods from other parts of East Africa e.g. start to eat matoke. The region is very resilient and will not be shocked as much as Egypt which is dependent on wheat imports from those states. The East African region is largely self-sufficient in food supply and Kenya, which may have droughts, could import other foods from Tanzania, Uganda or Rwanda. 
  • DRC is very attractive in terms of its resources and the EAC would be further boosted if Ethiopia also joined. Kenya has strong links through the Nairobi-Addis highway and LAPSSET projects in which Ethiopia has been invited to participate.
  • With its balance sheet, Safaricom has the capacity to take on debt for their Ethiopia venture. They borrowed $400 million locally for the license and they can syndicate that, or draw on vendors or DFI’s, to fund more while continuing to pay dividends to shareholders.

Safaricom’s Ethiopia License

This week marked the deadline for bids for two new Ethiopia telecommunication licenses on April 26. Two offers were received in Addis Ababa; one by MTN (Mauritius) and the other for a “Global Partnership for Ethiopia”, a consortium by Vodafone, Vodacom, Sumitomo and Safaricom.

This is part of an overdue privatization push by Ethiopia that has continued even as political tensions have flared up in different parts of the country. The licenses do not include mobile money, but that is something that currently monopoly, Ethio Telecom has been granted and hopes to launch soon. It is expected that others who did not bid for mobile licenses such as Orange may bid for the partial privatization of Ethio Telecom which has 50 million subscribers.

Can Safaricom grow in this market 110 million population strong-market? That has been a goal of Safaricom’s management for the last few years. But a January 2021 report by Citi Bank was negative on the “high risk, high return” venture which will impact Safaricom’s earnings in the short to medium term. This was due to the impact of Covid-19 on the risk profile of all potential investors in Ethiopia, but also as, by taking a controlling stake in the consortium, the Ethiopia operations will be consolidated in Safaricom’s financials. Citi expects that Safaricom would raise half a billion dollars of debt to contribute to the consortium which would put an end to special dividends paid by the firm.

After technical and financial evaluations of the two qualified bids, a decision is expected by mid-May 2021.

Also, see more about MTN, from their Nigeria listing.

EDIT May 24, 2021:

  • The Global Partnership for Ethiopia welcomed the award of a license to operate telecom services in Ethiopia. Safaricom is the lead partner in the consortium which will establish a new company in Ethiopia that aims to start providing telecommunications services from 2022. The country has 112 million people and is introducing competition as part of economic reforms supported by the International Finance Corporation.

EDIT May 25, 2021:

  • The consortium bid $850 million and will get a 15-year license, with the possibility of one extension of the same duration. Safaricom has incorporated an SPV, the Vodafone Ethiopia Holding Company in the UK, in which it owns 90% and Vodacom 10% – which will own a company in the Netherlands, that it intends to move to Kenya, and get shareholder approval at their upcoming AGM, to operate it as a subsidiary. The SPV will own 61.9% (Safaricom 55.7%, Vodacom 6.2%), and other shareholders will be Sumitomo (27.2%) and CDC (10.9%).

EDIT June 8, 2021:

  • Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub said their group serves 180 million in Africa with 58 million accessing financial services on M-Pesa, Africa’s largest mobile money platform that processes $24.5 billion a month. It has now expanded to international money transfers, loans, savings and lifestyles ad lifestyle and could be used to enable small Ethiopian businesses to access e-commerce. Also, the launch of mobile money services in 2022 will ensure financial inclusion and close the gender gap.
  • Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali said Ethiopia will next offer 40% of Ethio Telecom to a foreign investor with another 5% to the Ethiopian public. Also, they will adjust policy (mobile money) and re-tender the second national telco license as he called on all the telco players to coordinate to connect everyone.

EDIT July 5, 2021

  • Safaricom appointed a new Managing Director for Ethiopia, Anwar Soussa.
  • Safaricom released the notice for the AGM on July 30 where shareholders will be asked ratify the Ethiopia deals.

EDIT July 15: The Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) issued a fifteen-year telecommunications operator license to “Safaricom Ethiopia PLC,” a newly incorporated local company.

EDIT: October 6 2022: Safaricom Ethiopia launched its mobile telecommunications network and services in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services in 11 towns. While it builds a network to span 25 towns by April 2023, it also has infrastructure sharing and interconnection agreements with Ethio Telecom.

Also comes with a mobile money license for M-Pesa:

Continues

Coronavirus in Kenya: Week One

The Outbreak

  • March 13: The Ministry of Health confirms the first case of coronavirus in Kenya on March 12 from a Kenyan citizen who returned to the country from the USA via London 
  • March 22: Kenya confirms 8 new cases, bringing the total number to 15. It is tracing 363 other people and institutes a mandatory shutdown of major social activities in the country. 

Banking Industry:

  • March 15: President Uhuru Kenyatta appealed to banks and mobile operators to reduce the costs of mobile transactions and calls on Kenyans to use credit cards, mobile money and other forms of cashless payments. 
  • March 16: Safaricom waived fees for M-Pesa payments below Kshs 1,000 (~$10) for 90 days and raises M-Pesa transactions limits to Kshs 150,000 and also increases daily transaction caps and maximum mobile money wallet sizes up to Kshs 300,000 ($3,000). Airtel and Telkom Kenya follow suit a day later. 
  • March 18: Bankers meet the President at State House where the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor announces that all commercial bank personal loans that were there in good standing on March 2, are eligible for extensions for up to one year while SME and corporate borrowers can approach their banks to be assessed for loan restructuring, with the cost borne by banks. Also, that banks would no longer charge fees for customers to check their bank balances.
  • Different banks announced their compliance with the new rules.   
  • March 19: The Kenya Bankers Association confirms that all banks will assist clients who come in to speak about how COVID-19 has affected their employment or business operations, and whose loan repayments were up to date as at 2 March 2020. They also ask all customers to observe 1-metre (or 3 feet) social distancing at branches
  • March 20: The CBK announces presents Kshs 7.4 billion ($74 million) to the Government to support the coronavirus fight efforts. This it says are the proceeds from the demonetization exercise that concluded in September 2019 and is the sum of (old) Kshs 1,000 notes that were not turned in and which the CBK had classified as being miscellaneous receipts. 

Famous People in Quarantine

  • March 18: Senator for Kericho County Aaron Cheruiyot announces on twitter that he is in self-quarantine. 
  • March 19: Members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff who arrived from London on March 9 are reported to be in self-quarantine. 
  • March 19: Ambassador Macharia Kamau Kenya’s Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces on twitter that he is in self-quarantine after returning from New York. 
  • March 20: Jane Marriott, the British High Commissioner to Kenya announces on twitter that she is in self-quarantine, following her trip to the UK. 
  • March 22: Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health announces that Gideon Saburi, the Deputy Governor of Kilifi County, has been apprehended and put in a mandatory 14-day quarantine after he failed to isolate himself after returning from a trip to Germany. Also that he will be charged in Court after his isolation period. 

Mandatory Quarantine in the Eastern Africa region 

  • March 18: Uganda announces immediate mandatory quarantine for arriving visitors, at their cost.  
  • March 21: Ethiopia announces mandatory for passengers arriving from March 23, at their cost. However, diplomats will be quarantined for 14 days at their embassies, while transiting passengers will be placed in isolation at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel until they resume their connecting flights.
  •  March 22: Kenya has suspended all international flights other than cargo from March 25. Also, all arriving passengers will undergo mandatory quarantine at a government institution at their own cost. 

Internal country shutdowns

  • March 14: Rwanda closes schools, places of worship, large gatherings, and asks people to work from home. 
  • March 15: Kenya’s President announced the Government has closed all schools, suspended official foreign travel, and will encourage all employees to work from home. 
  • March 18: Uganda closes schools, universities and bars, and bans weddings and religious services for a month. 
  • March 21: Rwanda closes its borders to movement of people and cancels international flights, other than cargo ones. It also suspended tourism and research in 3 national parks where gorillas are found.
  • March 21: Nigeria shuts its airports to international flights as coronavirus cases reach 22.  
  • March 21: South Africa closes its airspace to foreign travelers.
  • March 22: Kenya orders a suspension of religious services at all places of worship, closure of bars and bans gatherings including weddings, and birthday parties. Restaurants are to remain open for delivery services and funeral events are restricted to a maximum of 15 mourners.

Flight cancellations/ Airlines reschedulings:

  • March 17: Kenya Airways updates its schedule, reducing London flights to five times a week, Dubai & Johannesburg to once daily, and Johannesburg to two daily. It also suspends flights to Bangkok, Khartoum, Djibouti & Mogadishu. 
  • March 18: Rwanda announces a halt to all commercial passenger flights into/out of the country on March 20 including operations of Rwanda Air for 30 days. 
  • March 19: Kenya Airways suspends flights to Antananarivo, Bamako, Bangui, Blantyre, Brazzaville, Kigali, Kilimanjaro, Luanda, Yaounde/Douala, and Zanzibar. 
  • March 20: Ethiopian Airlines announces 30 routes closures. The list is not revealed till the next day – and the listed countries include Egypt, Lebanon, Somalia, Djibouti, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Chad, Madagascar, Angola, Congo, Mali, Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Indonesia, Israel and all US ones. 
  • March 20: South African Airways immediately suspends all operations until the end of May following a government notice prohibiting the embarkation/disembarkation of non-SA crew and passengers. The only flights that will remain will be domestic service between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
  • March 22: Emirates announces cancellation of all passenger flights from March 25 .. but .. 
https://twitter.com/AlexInAir/status/1241759364068904961
  • March 22: Turkish Airlines to suspend most of its flights – leaving just a handful of flights to New York, Washington, Addis Ababa, Moscow & Hong Kong (via AlexinAir).
  • March 22: Kenya Airways suspends all international flights. Cargo flights remain, as will passenger services to Mombasa and Kisumu. 

Corporate Restructuring’s: 

  • March 13: Trading was suspended at the Nairobi Securities Exchange. This came following news of the discovery of the first coronavirus case in Kenya and the main share index dropped by over 5%. Past instances when circuit-et breakers have been tripped include in the period of post-election violence in 2008, and in September 2017, on the day that Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the results of the August 8 presidential election. 
  • March 13: Kenya’s insurance regulator, IRA, communicates that insurance companies will continue to provide their services to policy holders affected or infected with the virus .. but insurance companies say their re-insurers do not cover pandemics such as Coronavirus. 
  • March 16: Ethiopian Airlines restructuring plans include scaling up cost-saving programmes and asking service providers for temporary relief, discounts and waivers. They have also started to renegotiate all contracts, including aircraft leases as well as scaling down offices and reducing staff.
  • March 16: Java adjusts seating and promotes delivery as do other restaurants. But many other restaurants closed. 
  • March 18: It was revealed that The Standard Group plans to lay off 170 workers. 
  • March 18: Churches to restrict attendance numbers.
  • March 18: The African Development Bank cancels all travels and requires staff to work from home. The Bank’s Board of Directors is reviewing the configuration and design of the Bank’s statutory Annual Meetings originally scheduled for May 26-29, 2020 in Abidjan
  • March 18: Kenyan listed companies and licensed investment schemes that were to host annual general meetings (AGM’s) in March, April and May 2020 have been asked to defer them to later dates.
  • March 20: Kenya Airways CEO sends a memo to staff following COVID-19 and writes that in the last 24 hours, nine countries in our Africa network, the UAE and India have announced travel restrictions. So far, we have reduced approximately 65% of our flights, and this is changing by the hour. He announces that instead of layoffs they will ask staff to take salary reduction and paid & unpaid leave. The leadership team and he will take 75% and 80% respectively, while that for other staff will be 25% or 50% depending on the pay grade.
  • To facilitate supermarket shopping home deliveries, Tuskys has partnered with Sendy and Naivas has partnered with Glovo.

Government Adjustments 

  • March 16: The Ministry of Lands closes all land registries for 28 days from March 17. 
  • March 16: Kenya’s Sports & Culture Ministry closes all museums, archives, stadiums, public libraries, and cinemas for 30 days.
  • March 18: Kenya’s National Assembly and Senate both go on a month-long recess. 
  • March 18: Kenyan courts embraced digital filings and rulings of cases. 
  • March 19: Public health campaign to stop the spread is launched. 

Uplifting News

  • March 21: A thread to help those losing jobs their jobs this week and to help match their skills with part-time or remote-work opportunities. 
  • March 22: The first shipment of medical relief equipment offered by the Jack Ma Foundation arrives in Africa for distribution to different countries. The total will be 500,000 test kits and one million masks had been pledged on March 13.
  • EDIT: March 2 2022: Two years after Corona’s outbreak, the Kenya Government has almost completely rolled back its restrictions and health measures – and tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers (but may be set by airlines and destination countries), masks are no longer mandatory in open spaces (but at crowded meetings & in palens), contact tracing has been stopped, and people can return to office work, while churches, public transportation and sports can resume at full capacity. THIS WAS FAKE NEWS

EDIT COVID RESTRICTIONS LIFTED

  • March 11 2022: With 17.8 million vaccines having been administered in Kenya, and a positivity rate of 1%, the Government announced a rollback of measures including facemasks will no longer be mandatory in open spaces, but people are encouraged to wear them at indoor venues, passenger transport can resume at full capacity, all quarantine is halted, sports spectators can resume attendance, churches and meeting can resume as long as people are vaccinated and the practice of taking temperatures at public entrances is halted. Also, all international travellers into the country will load data onto a Ministry of Health app, all unvaccinated travellers into the country must have a recent covid test result and will be tested at their own cost, while vaccinated truck drivers from East Africa will not require Covid tests. The measures were announced exactly two years since the onset of Covid in Kenya.
  • Absa AFM Index shows African countries improve in investor readiness

    The 2019 Africa Financial Markets Index report that was released in October, found that several countries had closed gaps to perennial leader South Africa, improving on several measures such as financial transparency, local investor capacity, legal protection and macroeconomic opportunity.

    Showing just how much African countries have made progress, while only six had scored better than 50 (out of the maximum 100) in the first index in 2017, last year ten countries did that, and in 2019, thirteen countries scored better than 50 points.

    The ranking of countries in the Absa 2019 Africa Financial Markets Index and some of the market/investor activities highlighted in the report include:

    South Africa (and also number 1 in the last index): Is the top country in 5 pillars after it regained the lead from Kenya on the foreign exchange one. The JSE also launched a Nasdaq clearing platform.

    2 (4) Mauritius: Has diversified its economy from sugar and textiles to tourism and financial services. It leads the continent in pension assets under management of $4,331 per capita. It has also established a derivatives trading platform.

    3 (3)Kenya: More detail on Kenya’s ranking and investor initiatives here.

    4 (6) Namibia: Bank Windhoek issued a green bond in the year. One concern is that the country lacks sufficient financial markets experts.

    5 (2) Botswana: The country’s exchange has large market capitalization, but this is mostly due to dual-listed mining companies that have low trading volumes. They also formed a financial stability council to coordinate different regulators and plan to launch a mobile phone bond product like Kenya’s M-Akiba.

    6 (5) Nigeria: Showed big improvement as they have liberalized their exchange rate and built up reserves. Pension funds were freed up to invest in infrastructure, bond, and Sukuk funds.

    7 (15) Tanzania: Created a tax ombudsman and also repealed an amendment that had made it illegal to publish statistics that were not approved by the Government.

    8 (8) Zambia: Improved budget reporting. But reserves dropped due to high interest payments on external debt as mining production has declined.

    9 (11) Rwanda: Share of exports grew, and an agreement was reached with the IMF to accelerate urbanization and financial markets.

    10 (10) Uganda: Market trading activity dropped from $25 million to  $11 million and one of the largest stockbrokers opted not to renew their operating license.

    Others were:

    11 (16) Egypt: Topped the pillar of macro-economic opportunity due to export gains and declines in non-performing loans. Moody’s also upgraded their banking system ratings.

    12 (9) Morocco: Now publishes monetary policy announcements and data releases. Has an active financial market but limited availability of financial products. It plans to launch an agricultural commodities exchange.

    13 (7) Ghana: Is seeking to cap foreign holdings of government debt. The Bank of Ghana merged small banks and revoked licenses of others that did not meet minimum capital requirements.

    16 (13) Ivory Coast: Enabled more-accessible budget reporting and plans to launch an agricultural commodities exchange for 2020.

    20 (20) Ethiopia: Announced plans to launch a stock exchange for 2020, with aims to have significant privatization events including the listing of telecommunication companies. Local banks are also adopting international financial reporting standards. But the requirement that their pension funds can only invest in government securities is considered an impediment.

    Also on the index are Seychelles (ranked 14), Mozambique (15), Angola (17), Senegal (18) and Cameroon (19). The 2019 AFM Index report was produced by the Absa Bank Group and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) and it can be downloaded here.

    Kenya remains the third most attractive financial market in Africa

    The third edition of the Africa Financial Markets Index report that was released in October 2019, found that Kenya had retained its third position thanks to industry efforts to improve opportunities for investors.

    The AFM index by the Absa Bank Group and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) is a useful tool designed to gauge Africa’s readiness to fund itself and its growth plans. It reviews 20 African countries across six pillars of market depth, access to foreign exchange, market transparency, tax & regulatory environment, the capacity of local investors and macroeconomic opportunity and the legality & enforceability financial agreements.

    Overall, South Africa remained in first place, topping four of the six pillars, while Mauritius topped the legal agreements measure and Egypt topped the macro-economic opportunity one.

    Speaking on trends across Africa observed in the 2019 AFM Index, Jeff Gable, the Head Of Research at the Absa Group, said there were several exciting financial markets events across the continent this year. These included the first-ever sovereign blue bond by Seychelles to support marine projects, Nigeria selling a 30-year government bond that was four times over-subscribed, Uganda halving the withholding tax on government bonds from 20% to 10%, Zambia launching a primary dealer system and Ethiopia announcing plans to launch a stock exchange in 2020.

    On the AFM Index 2019, Kenya, along with Botswana and Namibia, increased to above 50 in the first pillar of market depth. The value of bonds listed in Nairobi doubled from $8.8 billion to $17.5 billion, mostly due to sovereign issues. However there remained a need to have more active trading of bonds and equities, and Kenya has rolled out an M-Akiba infrastructure bond targeted at retail investors that they can access for just over $30.

    Kenya came second behind Mauritius on the pillar of enforceability of market agreements. It also scored well for its new insolvency law which encourages rehabilitation of distressed firms, and its endorsement of standard financial master agreements (ISDA GMRA, GMSLA).

    However, it lost the lead on the foreign exchange pillar to South Africa. While the country has built up high foreign exchange reserves, up from 4 months to 5.8 months of import cover, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had reclassified Kenya’s exchange rate regime from ‘floating’ to ‘other managed arrangement.’  The AFM Index has continued to highlight the risk of rigid management of foreign exchange by some African countries and pushed for more flexible regimes.

    On the third pillar of market transparency, Kenya’s tax code was found to be supportive, but the country had raised taxation on mobile cash transactions creating some uncertainty. There has also been some recent progress as, in the last few weeks, capital markets stakeholders have convinced the Government to retain the country’s capital gains tax at 5%, and set aside an amendment in the 2019 Finance Bill that had proposed to change it to 12.5%.

    The country was also flagged for its capping of interest rates which had shrunk credit availability and weakened companies profitability.

    Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Ukur Yatani, in a speech read on his behalf at a Nairobi launch of the report, spoke of the need for Kenyans to save and invest to fund economic growth. Even with the country attaining formal financial inclusion of 82%, up from 26% in 2006, more could be achieved through financial markets.

    He said that the country had established a Nairobi International Financial Centre authority to attract capital to Kenya and with the movable property security rights in place, the government was now supporting the setup a Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company that would make it easier for banks to advance funding towards affordable home ownership.

    He noted that President Kenyatta had declined to assent to the Finance Bill until Parliament reviewed the cap on interest rates which, evidence showed, had resulted in a negative impact on the economy. Kenya was one of the few countries on the index which saw bank non-performing loans go up, from 10 to 11.7%, last year. He hoped that Members of Parliament would now view the President’s determination as an opportunity to give a stimulus to the economy.

    Jeremy Awori, CEO of Barclays Bank of Kenya said that the country had ranked favourably, rising from 5th, when the first AFM Index report was published in 2017, to 3rd in 2018, a position it retained this year. This was due to efforts by industry stakeholders and regulators who had also worked with the Capital Markets Authority to launch a 10-year master plan for the industry. He added that, after Kenya had come up with new regulations for exchange-traded funds, Barclays Kenya had launched the first ETF in the region – New Gold which had performed well since its introduction.

    He said that, as Barclays transitions into the Absa brand in Kenya and across Africa, customers will not feel any change in products or services and that they were working to upgrade systems to ensure they remain accessible from anywhere in the world. He added that strong domestic financial markets were a cushion to economic headwinds and that Barclays would soon launch a new wealth and asset offering in Kenya.

    Charles Muchene, Chairman of Barclays Bank of Kenya, saluted Paul Muthaura, the outgoing CEO of the Capital Markets Authority, who has led the organization to be recognized as the most innovative capital markets regulator in Africa for four years in a row.  He said that a new ATS platform,  introduced at the Nairobi Securities Exchanges, had broadened the capacity of traders, enabling them to do multiple transactions on the same day, while also supporting securities lending and derivatives trading.

    Later, in speaking about the capacity of local investors, the CMA CEO spoke of the need to educate, and shift, more retail investors towards long-term gains from managed funds. This would cushion them from the tendency to speculate on quick returns from land, gambling, and pyramid schemes.

    Geoffrey Odundo, CEO of Nairobi Securities Exchange, said they had held some positive engagements with the National Treasury to get more big government listings to the NSE. He also said that they now have an Ibuka program to nurture small companies to be more attractive for investments, adding that this was part of a plan to increase its equities turnover from 6% of the total market to 15% in a few years. The NSE now had 12 asset classes including equity and index futures launched earlier this year and had been voted the second most innovative exchange in Africa.

    The 2019 AFM Index report can be downloaded here along with a databank summary of the different country rankings under each of the six pillars.