Category Archives: KPLC

Mobile & Card Payments across East Africa

A new unsecured card solution was launched by afb last week that will allow customers to instantly spread the cost of their purchase at participating shops into affordable 6-month repayments. afb have signed up 52 merchants like Baus Optical, Cambridge Opticians, Fabguru Shoes, Kitengela Glass, and local supermarkets (Tumaini, Home Depot, Homemade) and are also signing up other merchant shops where consumers will be able to apply for cards and get them approved & issued in the stores ahead of making a purchase.  afb settles the transaction amounts directly into the retailer’s bank account, and the customer makes repayments via M-Pesa. afb next hope to venture into loans and insurance in Kenya.

How large is the card market? A Central Bank of Kenya reports showed that there were 9 million debit cards and 140, 000 credit cards in use in Kenya in 2012.

In terms of mobile money, CBK data showed that 21 million Kenyans moved Kshs. 141 billion ($1.65 billion) via 53 million mobile money transactions during February 2013.

CBK has also come up with new mobile money rules that target money laundering. They require that operators link different accounts opened by a user with a single ID card, flag accounts that move more than Kshs. 100,000 (~$1,175) per day or 300,000 (~$3,530) per week, have audit trails, institute systems to handle customer complaints and retain transaction data for 7 years. 

KCB and Western Union who have an account-based money transfer service (ABMT) in Kenya will extend it across East Africa this week, enabling KCB customers to receive money from Western Union directly into their accounts.

Kenya Airways has a 1.5% fee on all credit card transactions (owing to high processing bank charges).

Following a spate of fraud incidents last December, the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) has launched an ATM safety campaign dubbed “Be Alert” or “Kaa Chonjo” which include tips such as cover the PIN’s with their hands (at ATM’s), and not sharing PIN numbers with anyone (including spouses). 

KBA also announced the shift by Kenyan banks to the new Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) technology to ensure better security of cards.

90% of KenyaPower pre-paid electricity tokens are now purchased using #Mpesa – according to a Safaricom Business ad.

Diners can now pay restaurant bills via M-Pesa under a new partnership between Kopo Kopo, Eat Out and Safaricom. Restaurants accept payments at 1.5% per transaction.

MasterCard and Equity Bank introduced PayPass enabled debit cards in 5 African markets which will enable merchants to receive payments via low-cost add-ons linked to applications on their mobile devices (such as a smartphone or tablet) 

Mastercard and I&M Bank launched a multicurrency (Dollars, Pounds, Euros) prepaid card which enables users to load up to $10,000 and make foreign currency purchases without incurring exchange rate or other charges.

MasterCard also released a study called the MasterCard African Cities Growth Index that showed that Accra, Lusaka and Luanda offer the highest growth potential in Sub-Saharan Africa. Other ranked cities included Dar es Salaam (4), Addis Ababa (5), Nairobi (6), Kampala (7), Johannesburg  (8), Cape Town (11), Mombasa (12), Lagos (13),  and Khartoum (19).

Credit reference bureaus like CRB Africa and Metropol are expanding across East Africa.

The inaugural Mobile Money Africa Awards will be held in Johannesburg next month, to award the best mobile money app, mobile banking service, and mobile money platform for Africa, among others.  

Nation Hela launched last year has 8,000 active cards in use.

With PesaPal, Kenyans in the Diaspora can send school fees payments directly to 12,000 schools in Kenya using their credit cards (no need for money transfer service). 

Shell Kenya have a visa card promotion to encourage motorists to swipe their cards and pay for fuel The platform is powered by Equity Bank POS at all Shell stations, and station owners are not charged commissions for card sales (Shell pays all commissions).

Tangaza321 is said to be the second largest mover of mobile money behind M-Pesa. The Tangaza system uses biometric data (fingerprints) as many customers don’t possess national ID cards and allows them to send money across all networks, even to people who don’t have mobile phones.
A team with the University of Nairobi’s University Students Community Organization (Uniscoo)  has developed a prepaid card for university students. Uniscoo which has 25,000 students seeks to encourage good money management among students through the use of the prepaid card powered by MasterCard.

Urban Inflation Index: March 2013

Gift from Uganda during the Kenya Supreme Court hearings
March 2013 saw the highly anticipated Kenya general election. There was a lot of uncertainty in the country, and beyond on what  impact it would have on the regional economies.

There were some familiar and ominous signs. The heavy investment the government had made in electronic vote systems failed, and it was a close race with a disputed result. However, unlike in 2008, the dispute was settled in the Kenya Supreme Court, and not in the streets. 

Ahead of all this, some Nairobians engaged in some extra shopping or stocking up which some called it panic shopping – but this was actually as prudent as shopping ahead of an approaching hurricane or storm, which may veer off at the last minute.
On to the index that compares prices to 3 months ago and a year ago.

Gotten Cheaper

N/A

About the Same


Staple Food: A 2kg pack of (Unga) Maize flour, which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily, costs Kshs. 105, which is down from 107 in December, but up from 97 a year ago

Other food item: A 2 kg. pack of Mumias sugar pack is Kshs 250, same as three months ago. It was 245 a year ago.

Communications: Telephone call and data rates are largely unchanged, and there have been few new mobile promotions,  with some items offered free like access to Facebook (Yu), Wikipedia (Orange), money transfer (airtel).

Fuel: Petrol prices in March were Kshs 117.6 per litre (~$6.12 per gallon) slightly higher compared to Kshs. 111.6 per litre a year ago and 112.6  last December.

Utilities/Electricity:  A pre-paid token purchase of Kshs. 500 purchase from the Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) gets about  33 units, compared to 31 a year ago. However the units are only a fraction of the bill with 4/5 of that Kshs. 500 payment going to pay for power generation debts, forex & fuel charges and even inflation. It’s odd that even as heavy rains cause floods around the country, and presumably fill hydro dams,  KPLC still procures private thermal power and bills consumers for the costs.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. 85.63 compared to Kshs. 86 three months ago and Kshs. 83 a year ago. The shilling did not dip much ahead of the election as many had expected.

More Expensive

 
Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 200 ($2.35) (at a local pub) up  from Kshs 180 where it has been for quite a while. The price increase was driven by local brew giant  East African Breweries that’s got some debt issues.

Kenyan Consumer Guide on Solar for Homes

Kenya is currently the largest market for solar home systems on the African continent and second largest in the world, after China, by both annual sales as well as total installed base. The Kenyan solar home system (SHS) category is considered the most competitive by far, and due to its history and heritage, one of the most developed, albeit primarily in the informal sector.  Today, there are over 350,000 solar home systems across Kenya and the market is still growing at more than 15% a year.
What does this mean for you, the consumer?
 Variety of solar options for rural households
Choice:  With so much to choose from and new products, services, and business models being launched, how can you evaluate what kind of solution would work best for your household needs?
Not only is there something for every budget but big names such as Safaricom, Total, Dayliff (Davis & Shirtliff), Sollatek and the IFC with its “Lighting Africa” initiative, all have something to offer.  Do you go with the brand that is backing the product or do you evaluate the category of product and its suitability for your home?
Let’s start with what are the categories of  “solar products” and then take a closer look at each brand’s offerings.  The products available in the market can be clustered broadly into the following:
1. “SHS in a box” or “Lighting kit in box”
2. Stand alone solar lanterns
3. Emerging “pay as you use” business models
4. Solar home systems (SHS)
1. “SHS in a box” or “Lighting kit in box”:  Today, complete kits like the one shown below are available in certain electrical shops around the country. This particular one, sells for somewhere around Kshs 15,000 (~$175)  and includes a motion sensor security light as well all the components required for installation.
They are available in three main sizes – small, medium and large – but keep in mind that since brands like these are social enterprises, they are aimed at the lower income demographic – and the 15W kit shown above is the ‘Large’ size but is limited to providing only lights, and will not be able to power a television set or a stereo system. Note also that the battery is not included. Depending on the brand, expect to pay around Kshs 4000 to 6000 extra.
An alternate type of kit is the Phillips one shown below, meant for middle-class urban homes as a backup for electricity power cuts.  Available at selected Nakumatt supermarkets for Kshs 6,000 ($70), this is one of the most expensive backup solar light kits in the market,  however, the elegant design and details such as a wall mounted light switch make it an attractive option for the upwardly mobile home.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Philips kit
The advantage of this type of complete kit is that all the components are ostensibly designed to work seamlessly together and everything necessary to the system up and running is available in one box.  This approach addresses one of the biggest challenges with SHS in Kenya which is the dearth of well-trained fundis (technicians/installers/repairmen) with the experience and knowledge of designing a solar home system.
The disadvantage of such a system, however, is that it is limited to the components provided, in that one cannot simply add on and build a larger system. Some of the best-provided homes in off-grid rural locales have extensive installations built up over time to power their entire homestead and numerous electrical appliances – so when choosing what kind of system to purchase, keep your future needs in mind.
2.  Solar Lanterns:
Total sign

Due to donor-funded support from institutions such as the IFC, whose Lighting Africa initiative offers market research information as well as quality audits on products, the Kenyan market is flooded with a large variety of solar lanterns, both with the ability to charge your mobile phone and without.

Total, for example, distributes d.Light’s solar lanterns at its retail petrol stations, while Nakumatt picks and chooses which products it will carry according to the needs of the location their outlets serve.   The basic light sold at Total costs Kshs. 999 ($12)  while the larger model which allows you to charge your mobile phone as well can go for upwards of Kshs. 3,000.
Powerpoint at Twiga

Given the wide variety and choice available in the Nairobi market, one can choose according to design and price as per one’s preference.  However, these solar solutions are limited to a single light and the vast majority of products tend to have the panel either embedded in the light source or attached to it permanently, limiting their flexibility.

Powerpoint’s outlet in Twiga Towers is one of the few reputable solar specialists specializing in serving the needs of urban Nairobi’s market.  As you can see, the range of solar lighting and solar lanterns offers something for everyone.  If you’re thinking of something solar for your household, that’s a great place to start your fact finding trip.
ToughStuff
 Here, ToughStuff’s ecosystem of products built to work independently around a durable solar panel – available at Nakumatt – offers you flexibility in terms of whether you want only a lightweight portable mobile phone charging solution or if you’d prefer a light or both.
3. (Pay as you go) Mobile Business Models for Solar products: With Safaricom’s launch of the M-Kopa business model, customers now have the choice of paying for a solar product using M-Pesa over an extended period of time. The solar light is from d.light such as that available via Total.  Their kit contains 3 bright lights and a mobile charging system, similar to the “Kit in a box” described above.  The business model is designed to automatically deduct Kshs 40/= ($0.47)  from your account in order to use the lights until the point where you own the system. Alternatively, the complete kit can be obtained for Kshs. 15,000 ($175) upfront.
Another is Eight19’s Indigo pay as you go solar that seems to be piloting in Kenya. Here they use vouchers or scratch cards to top up your charge rather than directly via the SIM card. This is however still in the pilot stage as the company websites do not yet show a Kenyan outlet.

4. Solar home systems (SHS): Known colloquially in upcountry locations as “sola”, the basic SHS consists of a solar panel, a battery for holding the charge,  between 2 to 4 fixtures for holding energy saver bulbs (known informally as “solar lights”) and the requisite wiring.  These kits can cost as little as Kshs 10,000 ($118)  including installation and tend to be the starting point for many homes seeking modern energy systems.

From here, one can build up to including inverters and larger panels such as the 100W-120W kits popular in Maasailand, that are able to power flat screen Sony Bravia televisions, kitchen appliances and the latest stereo systems in addition to lighting the home inside and out.  Colour television and new digital systems require 60W at a minimum in order to work. Such panels alone cost around $200 upwards but prices are very rarely displayed and often negotiable.
For a household in Nairobi,  an SHS  would be the first recommendation. Dayliff is probably one of the most credible brand names, as long as the technology is German. (Be sure to the check the back of the panel to ensure this).  Ubbink is a newly launched brand that fundi’s consider to be efficient and high quality. It is manufactured by a Dutch company establishing Kenya’s first solar panel factory in Naivasha and their panels are smaller than average offering higher wattage and more affordable cost due to lack of import duties and transportation. Check them out. Its a commonly held fallacy that physical size of the panel is important.
Do’s & Don’ts on How to buy an SHS:   (also applicable to the other options above)
 
* Do find a reputable fundi with references and experience in calculating your power requirements and designing the requisite home system. This is the biggest reason for customer unhappiness with the performance of solar energy.
* Don’t try to talk to all and sundry and make up a list of components yourself. This is another major reason for inadequate systems that fail to meet customer needs.
* Do your homework, however.  Nairobi’s CBD is the heart of the solar power industry for the entire country and the latest products are seen here first.
 * Don’t go window shopping without a list of minimum requirements on what you wish your SHS to be able to power and for how long.
* Do have an idea of your estimated budget. For a 3-bedroom house in  Nairobi, it’s possible to start as low as $500.
* Don’t let the salesman confuse you until you simply give up and plunk down the money for the nearest panel.  Take the time to think over what you really need to purchase.
* Do keep in mind that SHS are modular and an experienced fundi can help you figure out your starter kit on which you can keep adding over time as budget permits.
Photo and market research courtesy of @nitibhan

Urban Inflation Index March 2012

2012 was expected to be an election year, which for Kenya are unfortunately marked by low economic growth, but this weekend, the electoral authority made an announcement that the next general elections would be held in March 2013.

A quotes from the above referenced post by Wolfgang Fengler, the World Bank’s Lead Economist for the region reads;

Since 1980, Kenya’s economy grew by an average of 3.4 percent. However, in election years, the average growth rate was only 2.4 percent, and growth was even below 2 percent in four of the election years. Equally challenging has been the management of post-election dynamics. Kenya achieved a modest 2.7 percent in post-election years, and three of the last six elections were followed by low-growth, especially in 2008, when post-election violence disrupted the country’s achievements of previous years.

It’s also been incredibly hot & dry in Nairobi and we all hope that the upcoming March/April rains will restore some supply balance for agriculture (food prices) and energy (hydro electricity costs)

On to the index comparing prices of basic urban commodities to three months ago, a year ago and even four years ago when the country was still dealing with the disruptive after-effects of the controversial December 2007 election.

Gotten Cheaper

Fuel: Petrol prices were reduced again last week to Kshs. 111.6 per litre (~$6.12/gallon) for Nairobi, down from Kshs 124 in December 2011. However a year ago the price was 98.8 (when the price control regime had just been introduced) and four years ago, after the election, a litre of petrol cost Kshs 87.9.

Staple Food: A 2kg pack of (Unga) Maize flour, which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily, costs Kshs. 97 down from Kshs 113 in December 2011. However last March it was Kshs. 80 and four years ago (Feb. 2008) it cost Kshs 52.

Other food item: Sugar: A 2 kg. Mumias Sugar pack which was Kshs. 375 in December is now Kshs 245. However a year ago it was Kshs 195, and other commodities normally bought alongside it (bread & milk) have had steady price rises this year.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. 83 compared to 84 in December 2011. This is exactly where it was last March 2011 before the Kenya shillings began a (now controversial) slide to Kshs 107 against the dollar. In February 2008, the dollar was exchanged at Kshs 70.7.
About the Same

Communications: Telephone call and data rates are largely unchanged, but Safaricom announced new rates for m-pesa including a slight increase for some transfers, but they also reduced the minimum amount that can be sent, opening the way to micro-payments. Meanwhile Airtel, who have set the low call regime over the last two years, appear to have reached an about-turn moment with their Chairman calling review of that strategy.

Utilities: Pre-paid electricity is about Kshs 2,500 per month which is unchanged from the last review. I finally got a coherent explanation from a @KenyaPower employee on how you get hit with extra taxes if you buy more than a certain amount of Kwh units.

LPG: Cooking gas supplies seem to have resumed stability for now, but at a price of about Kshs. 3,000 ($37) for a 13kg cylinder, up from less than Kshs. 2,500 before. Personally, I ditched my total LPG cylinder for a Kenol one as Total petrol stations never seem to stock enough for customers.

Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 180 ($2.2) (at a local pub), unchanged from three months ago..but it was Kshs 120 in 2008.

More Expensive
N/A

Generally prices have come down, but life is more expensive than what it was four years ago when the last election was concluded. However there could be some slight relief in slight for urbanites as the Kenya Cabinet approved the VAT bill 2012 which removed VAT from maize, wheat flour, milk, bread and medical supplies.

Urban Inflation Index: December 2011

What a year it has been, mostly not for the better with petrol and dollar prices setting records, and accompanied by other shortages. The Kenya government started a military anti-terror expedition in Somalia, and as war expenses can drastically alter government spending budgets, it was recently decided to bring the mission to the United Nations and have them offset the war cost to some extent.

On to the index comparing prices to three three months ago and year ago!

Gotten Cheaper:
Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. 84 compared to Kshs 95.6 three months ago and 80.5 a year ago. That snapshot does not capture the roller coaster quarter the shillings has hard, dropping to an unprecedented level of Kshs. 107 to the dollar (and being ranked as one of the worst performing currencies in the world) before the Government instituted an interest rate hike and cut back liquidity to the banking sector. While the shilling was in free fall, and few could explain why, a World Bank blog post revealed that Kenya’s exports were (at the time) not enough to meet the country’s fuel bill, (Three years ago it cost Kshs 79 /$)

Staple Food: Maize flour, which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily. A 2kg pack costs Kshs. 113, down from a record high of 119 in September, but still almost double the Ksh.s 69 cost in December 2010 (Three years ago it cost Kshs 97)

Other food item: Sugar : A 2 kg. Mumias pack which was Kshs. 385 in September is now 375, but still almost double the Kshs 195 of last December. In other news Kenya seems to have applied for another extension of a COMESA import cap, denying consumers the option of cheaper sugar imports to protect the largely uncompetitive local producers who have trouble ensuring adequate supply of sugar into supermarkets.

About the same:
Communications: These are largely unchanged though Safaricom announced a modest price increase by of voice call tariffs (which Orange are itching to follow) and @Kahenya says that corporate m-pesa tariffs have also been increased.

Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 180 ($2) (at a local pub) , unchanged from three months ago. The alcohol sector has a lot of competition now with the new brands being launched (Miller Genuine Draft) and others revived/getting new marketing pushes (Redds, White Cap Light, Heineken, Windhoek, Sierra) in a realignment of brands and owners between East African Breweries (EABL) and SAB Miller.

More Expensive
Fuel: A litre of petrol was Kshs. 124 up from 117.7 in September and 94.3 last December. Two days ago, in reaction to threats of transport operators to go on strike during Christmas week, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) announced the first ever price reduction since the introduction of the price control regime – and for Nairobi the cost of petrol will be Kshs 119 (~$6.2 per gallon) till January 15 2012. (Three years ago it cost Kshs 92.7)

Utilities: Pre-paid electricity is about Kshs 2,500 per month (up from the regular purchases totaling 2,000). There are rolling blackouts as seen in the ads run by the Kenya Power company, spreading the shortfall across the country.

LPG – Cooking gas has been in short supply in different parts of the country, with many sellers in Nairobi not having any stock to sell for weeks. Those that do are selling them at increased prices – e.g. cylinders that used to costs Kshs 2,500 for 13KG, are selling at between Kshs 3,200 – 5,000 if you can find them.