Category Archives: MFI

5 Kenyan banking stories of 2022 and 2023

2022 in Review 

1. Credit reference shake-up: A failure of banks to carry out proper credit education and to convey the benefits of good repayment to customers, through lower interest rates, caught up with them. This was combined with a tendency to blacklist defaulters at the earliest instance to punish them – and became an issue at political campaigns ahead of the August 2022 election.

The new government set in motion a plan to clear over 4 million borrowers from credit reference bureau blacklists This was in part a 50% waiver on their debt and a window of six months for borrowers to pay the balance of the amount. At the Absa Q3 results briefing, management of the bank explained that there would be no immediate impact as these were loans of people who got stuck in 2020 (during the Covid-19 disruption) that had already been fully provided for

2. CEO suite changes: At Absa Bank Kenya, MD Jeremy Awori left after nine years. He later joined Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, the parent of the Ecobank Group, as the Group CEO replacing Ade Ayeyemi, who retired after attaining the age of 60. Absa Kenya then picked its Chief Financial Officer Yusuf Omari to take over as interim CEO  as  Moses Muthui was made the interim CFO. 

At KCB Joshua Oigara left after nine years and later in the year joined the Standard Bank group as the CEO of Stanbic Kenya and South Sudan, after Charles Mudiwa retired after two decades. KCB appointed Paul Russo, who was MD of their National Bank subsidiary as the new KCB Group Chief Executive Officer. Following that, KCB now has Anastacia Kimtai as the acting KCB Kenya MD and Peter Kioko as the acting MD of National Bank of Kenya

At the I&M Group, the CEO of I&M Bank Kenya Kihara Maina moved on to be the group’s regional CEO, taking over from Chris Low, and the new Kenya MD is Gul Khan who joined from Airtel Money Africa. 

Cooperative and Diamond Trust and Equity banks still retain their long-serving leadership though, at Equity, Polycarp Igathe stepped down as Chief Commercial Officer to contest for the Nairobi Governor seat in the August 2022 elections. edit And from Mwango Capital, we learn of more leadership changes at banks with Sam Muturi joining as Consolidated Bank’s new CEO and Anuj Mediratta as CEO of Gulf African Bank with Helen Chepkwony as the acting CEO of the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC). Also, Shelter Afrique had another executive change with Thierno-Habib Hann stepping in as the new MD/CEO, replacing Kingsley Muwowo, the CFO, who had been the interim boss. Another change saw Rose Kagucia become the Acting CEO/Managing Director at Dubai Islamic Bank, replacing Peter Makau.

3. Capital raising and arranged marriages: Banks set out to raise new capital in different ways. Larger banks with foreign links like Absa can attract Tier II funding at low rates (of about 3%) which is lower than the cost of deposits or the bond markets (about 9%). Smaller banks arranged sales like Spire to Equity and Sidian to Access while deposit-taking microfinance banks found fintech partners. Key Microfinance is now LOLC Kenya, UMBA, a Delaware fintech bought 66% of Daraja Microfinance Bank, Century Microfinance became Branch Microfinance Bank and Uwezo Microfinance is now Salaam Microfinance Bank. 

4. Green finance is in: Banks report on it and the Kenya Bankers Association published sustainable finance guidelines and principles for banks to align their processes and products (including loans) and the Central Bank has guidelines on climate risk management. Banks are now attracting “green finance” and touting their green credentials joining new green alliances and measuring their activities such as tree planting and reducing their carbon footprints. 

5. Resurgence of the bank branch” Co-Op, Diamond Trust, Family, and NCBA bucked the branch closure trend to show that digital growth needs a physical presence to support it. 

Outlook for 2023

1. Go Big in Ethiopia: Following Safaricom’s big entry into Ethiopia, will banks now follow into the next big African market African after DRC that has delivered big for Equity? Kenyan bank support new partners of the telco that can lead to other businesses in the country that need to unlock financing – and take on the local giant Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (27th largest in Africa), which is not growing its assets now with currency restrictions and a prolonged war. The entry path for foreign banks is now set and KCB, Equity and Stanbic are among the dozen foreign bank that have had representative offices in the country for a few years.

2. Will digital bank customers stick around? January 1 sees a return of several bank charges that were waived in March 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 wave to enable bank customers to make digital and contactless payments. Many tried out digital services offered by their banks for the first time as they were now free of charge. Non-funded income is key for bank profits, but it will be seen how the return of bank and mobile payments/transfer charges will be received by customers are different banks. In this economy, customers are more cost-conscious than ever, especially with the government tax on every bank transaction going up to 20% in 2023.  

3. New savings and investment products that target diaspora, retail and unbanked customers. While lending to the “hustler” economy is well-documented, digital wealth creation and preservation products are still lagging.

Ahead of the much-anticipated IPO’s to come to the Nairobi Securities Exchange, EFG Hermes has invested in a platform for retail investors and this week Acorn got approval for Vuka, a platform for retail investors to into REIT’s.

4. African banks get serious about Nairobi: Access (17th largest in Africa) Ecobank (18) and UBA (25) have all had relatively small footprints in Kenya but now have a chance to grow. Across Africa, there are changes in the banking hierarchy with the largest bank group by asset size for decades, Standard Bank of South Africa with a sluggish home economy about to be passed by the National Bank of Egypt 166 billion, as Egypt Bank Misr has also passed SA’s Absa group to be number six on the continent. You can also expect a resurgence in West Africa, into East, perhaps by buying more banks, as Access is with its second bank deal (for Sidian) to leap up the Kenya asset ranks which are led by Equity (37th in Africa) and KCB (40). edit. However, in January 2023, Centum Investments cancelled the agreement to sell its 83.4% stake in Sidian Bank to Access Bank.

edit Jan 27, 2023.

5. The year is expected to usher in a new regime at the Central Bank of Kenya with a new Governor, Deputy (2 positions) and Chairman by June 2023. The current cabinet Secretary of the National Treasury (i.e. the Finance Minister) is himself a former CBK governor. 

How to Get and Understand your Credit Score

Have you ever seen your credit report? It is often a requirement for job applicants in Kenya to obtain a “clearance certificate” from a credit reference bureau (CRB) as one of the half-dozen source documents to be considered in their vetting.

Kenya has three licensed credit reference bureaus; Credit Reference Bureau Africa (trading as TransUnion), Creditinfo CRB, and Metropol CRB. The initial law on credit reference means that every Kenyan is entitled to get a free credit score every year, but that is not quite the case.

I tried to obtain a report from all of them and here is a review of the three services, in order of ease of access.

3. Metropol Credit Reference Bureau says that you can get your first free credit report by dialing *433# and by paying Kshs 100 via M-Pesa. Prompts indicated that a payment was required and I entered and sent the amount via M-Pesa, but the payment transaction bounced back. Did this twice, and nothing ever came from Metropol and this needs a fix.

2. TransUnion: Credit Reference Bureau Africa was Kenya’s first credit reference bureau and now trades as TransUnion. Registration is Kshs 50/= for you to get your first free credit report. There are two ways of interacting with the service by SMS or by downloading an app.

The SMS route (number 21272) led to a prompt to pay Kshs 50 by M-Pesa. I did that and was led to a mini-menu to choose and receive more text messages. However, each SMS cost Kshs 15 – 19 each to proceed to the next screen and at some point, the TransUnion site advises that it is better to download the app and save on SMS transaction costs.

I did that for the TransUnion Niapshe app from the Google store through which one can request a credit report and a clearance certificate. After payment, it now says you will be getting the free report annually. Also that, as a subscriber, you will get FREE SMS alerts in case of a new enquiry by a lender, new loan information submitted, when a loan goes 60 days into arrears, as well as when a loan is fully repaid.

Since I had already paid the 50, I asked for the report to be emailed. It came behind a password-protected wall for me to enter my national ID (number) to unlock, but that did not work. I emailed a few times back to customer service and got an unlocked report in an email two days later.

TransUnion also sells “clearance certificates” at a cost of Kshs 2,200 (~$22)

1. Creditinfo CRB Kenya. On their site, you enter your name, ID, email, phone number and that leads to a sign-in prompt to pay Kshs 50. Did that, and within five minutes, got my credit report, a four-page PDF with a numeric score, risk classification and the number of credit queries in the past 12 months.

Findings from the Credit Reports

There are similarities in the two reports obtained from CreditInfo and TransUnion including:

  • They have some personal information, but the range and detail vary. TransUnion has more tries to add all your known locations and post office addresses. It reads information from your national ID including your home location.
  • They have bank borrowing – loans, credit cards, and bank loan apps (in my case Timiza from Barclays and M-Shwari from CBA/Safaricom).
  • Both collect information on borrowers such as loans that are performing and non-performing loans, fraud, bounced cheques, credit applications, length of credit history, number of disputed records, court disputes etc. 
  • While CreditInfo gives a score (presumably between 0-1000), TransUnion also does but also gives a band to show what its 0-1000 scores mean. The top band is AA being (700 to 1000), followed by BB (690-697), CC (675 – 689), and a few others up to the bottom (score of 1-489). There is also a star ranking of four kinds; with two dreaded categories of “***Adverse Action Reasons” and “**** Probability Of Default”.

Missing from the reports are:

  • Other loan apps – It appears that the many loan apps in Kenya are not subscribers, nor are they sharing their information with the CRB’s.
  • They do not appear to have savings and credit society (SACCO) loan data – despite the numerous ads that various SACCO’s have shared about posting loan defaulters to CRB’s.

Lessons for borrowers

  • Watch the use of your borrowing; while you won’t have a credit report unless you borrow, borrowing too many times, even if it’s small loans that you repay quickly, may be a red flag. Those emergency loans you take on an app stay on your report for five years after repayment.
  • The information posted on different dates can overlap and give conflicting data. But is it in your interest to update the database? E.g. it may have your old employment history or lack your latest address.
  • There is an attempt to collect all phone numbers and relations associated with your ID.
  • Microfinance institutions and SACCO’s are not benefitting from the credit reference data.
  • TransUnion sent an email with some explanations of transaction items – a key to explain e.g. Performing Account with a default historya loan that you defaulted and later repaid/ you are still paying. Although updated as cleared or closed, the default information will remain in the credit bureau for 5 years from the date of final settlement. Also Non-Performing Accounta loan that you have defaulted (90 days) and is still outstanding. It impacts negatively on your credit score.

Summary

In 2014. banks requested a total of 1.6 million credit reports and that jumped to 6 million in 2015 and then declined to 4.9 million and 4.3 million in subsequent years. Meanwhile, individuals requested 33,000 of their own reports in 2014, 75,000 in 2015, 84,000 in 2016 and 131,000 in 2017. The Central Bank of Kenya attributed this to people seeking credit bureau clearances to contest for Kenya elections in 2017, but it is worrying that banks are requesting fewer new reports as they work to build profiles of existing borrowers.

Accurate credit scoring remains a holy grail in this economy where so many transactions are in the informal sector, and in cash. Credit reference is here to stay, even though many Kenyans don’t understand it or the consequences of not having good credit. Banks have now always been honest brokers, and they have been accused of not sharing information and offering good rates to good borrowers, but only posting defaulters into the credit reference bureau pool. My search proves that this is not the case, but the perception has led to a petition to Parliament to end credit reference bureau practices in Kenya over listing people for owing frivolous balances.

Still, there is no harm in getting your report and knowing what is out there about you.

EDIT: What does your score mean?  This article from South Africa is applicable:  

The different credit bureaux in SA all have slightly different ways of calculating your credit score, but in general, scores range from around 350 to 999, and what you should be aiming for is a score of 600 or more…at this level, you should not have any problem getting a loan, provided it is within your means to pay the monthly instalments…and the higher your score is above 650, the more likely you are to be able to negotiate interest rate concessions…

Kenya Income Tax Cuts, Increases, and Other changes 2018

The Kenya government, through the National Treasury, is proposing some long overdue changes to the country’s income tax laws, which are contained in a draft bill that will be submitted to Parliament.

The bill has new clauses that affect transfer pricing, new extractive (oil & gas) industries, phase out of turnover tax, and an apparent tax cuts. It comes after other recent changes to the tax code. Kenya also has an ongoing waiver and amnesty program for income tax and assets held outside Kenya to be declared and repatriated to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA)  by June 30.

Leading accounting and audit firms such as KPMG, PWC, and Deloitte have looked deep into the clauses, and these are some of their findings: 

KPMG:

  • Companies are to produce and maintain transfer pricing documentation and policies in place for the year of income.
  • The withholding tax threshold of Kshs 24,000 had been deleted.
  • Payments to non-resident petroleum contractors will be 20% (up rom the current 12.5%)
  • Developers who build over 400 houses to pay taxes of 15% on gains.
  • Micro-finance institutions (MFI’s) interest will be exempt from withholding tax.
  • Sports clubs & associations will get taxed on entrance fees and subscriptions.
  • Farms, warehouses or doing consultancy work for more than 91 days in a year are now considered permanent establishments. KPMG comment – This will require non-resident persons doing business in Kenya to re-think their operational models.
  • A listed company will pay 25% taxes for five years if 40% of its shares are floated.  KPMG  comment – this will reduce the impact of taxation as an incentive to list.

Deloitte:

  • Income tax rate of 35% on more than Kshs 750,000 (~$7,500) per month
  • Non-residents’ who receive their pensions in Kenya will pay a tax of 10% on transfers (up from 5%) 
  • A higher corporate tax of 35% for large companies with taxable income over Kshs 500 million (~$5 million).
  • Real-estate capital gains tax of 20% (up from the current 5%). Deloitte comment – Though the increment is quite steep, it enhances equity considering that CGT is regarded as a tax on wealth.
  • Equality: Each person in a marriage is now required to file their own tax returns: no more cases of wives having their incomes filed under husband’s income tax returns.  
  • Mining & Oil: Losses can be carried forward for a maximum of 14 years (There is no current cap)
  • EPZ holiday removed: Now EPZ’s will pay 10% tax for the first 10 years, and 15% for the next ten years (other companies pay 30% corporate tax).
  • SACCO’s: Cooperative societies to pay a withholding tax on dividends and bonuses of 10% (up from the current 5%) 
  • Subsidiaries in Kenya to pay 10% tax on dividends remitted to the parent companies.
  • E-commerce: The Treasury Cabinet Secretary will be allowed to introduce taxes on digital platforms.
  • Capital allowances reduced: The 150% allowance for investments outside cities has been removed, those for filming equipment reduced from 100% to 50%, and educational institutions from 50% to 10%.
  • Small businesses, that are licensed by counties, will pay a presumptive tax of 15% of the business permit fee. Deloitte comment – (this) replace the turnover tax, currently at the rate of 3% of a person’s turnover (KRA has faced challenges collecting) ..  will require collaboration with the county governments. 

PWC

  • All medical insurance paid by employers for employees is now tax-exempt (even for expatriate staff) and age limits for children covered goes up from 21 to 24 years.
  • withholding tax of 5% will be levied on payments to foreign insurance companies. PWC comment – this is aimed at promoting local insurance companies.
  • Income tax exemptions that have been dropped include income of the Export-Import Bank of the USA (relates to Kenya Airways?). Also on the income of stockbrokers from trading in listed shares. PWC comment – this may have a negative impact on the growth of the capital markets in Kenya;
  • 20% withholding tax on payment to non-Kenyan companies for horticultural exports. 
  • 20% withholding tax on payment of air-tickets to non-resident agents. PWC comment – may lead to increase in airline ticket prices in Kenya which may affect competitiveness of local airlines.

They also looked at other recent tax adjustments which PWC notes will mainly alleviate the government from paying VAT refunds.

  • Milk, maize, bread, bottled water, will all cost more after moving from “0%” VAT to “exempt” VAT as importers will pass on non-recoverable VAT to consumers.
  • Same for LPG gas, some medicines and agricultural pest control inputs.
  • Making housing affordable. PWC comment – the Government is also proposing a stamp duty exemption for the purchase of a house by a first time home owner under an affordable housing scheme
  • Betting/Gambling: For winnings, a 20% tax will be deducted at source i.e the betting company) on any prizes (this is up from the current 5%)

Other Clauses in the Income Tax bill

  • Parent companies are to file country-by-country reports with KRA within 12 months of year-end.
  • No capital gains tax is due on land if it is compulsorily acquired by the government.
  • No capital gains on listed securities.  
  • While there is a new 35% tax for the rich, the income tax bill appears to lower taxes for the low-income.  e.g. someone earning Kshs 40,000 (~$400) per month, who pays 5,932 in tax per month now after personal relief, will have a lower tax burden.  Income tax bands are expanded in the 10% range (now up to 13,000 from the previous 10,000) and there is also a higher relief of Kshs 1,408 versus the current 1,162) and the resulting net tax for the person will now be Kshs 5,009 for the month – a 15% income tax cut?.  
  • Tax rate of 15% for five years for local vehicle assemblers. This can be extended by another 5 years if the company achieves 50% local content value in the vehicles.  
  • Taxes waived on the income of disabled persons, amateur sports associations, and NGO’s (relief, poverty, religion, distress) whose regional headquarters are located in Kenya.  

Finally, other stakeholders are invited to review the proposed changes to the 103-page income tax bill and submit comments via email to ITReview2017_at_treasury.go.ke by May 24.

Kenya law review to boost microfinance banks

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has published a consultative paper on a review of the country’s microfinance bank laws. It notes that since the first microfinance bank (MFB) was licensed in May 2009 (which was Faulu), the number of licensed MFB’s in the microfinance industry space has increased to thirteen – including Faulu Kenya MFB, Kenya Women MFB, SMEP MFB, REMU MFB, Rafiki MFB, Century MFB, SUMAC MFB, Caritas MFB, Maisha MFB, Uwezo MFB and U&I MFB, with two more – Daraja MFB and Choice MFB – being community-based MFBs.

The thirteen  MFB’s had a total of 114 branches as at December 2017 but there was a drop in performance as their assets declined by 4.6% to Kshs 69 billion at the end of 2017,  with their loans and deposits also taking a dip between 2016 and 2017. The last three years have also seen a decline in their profitability (overall profit of Kshs 549 million in 2015, followed by a loss of KShs 377 million in 2016 and a steeper one of Kshs 731 million in 2017) with the 2017 loss attributed to a reduction in financial income.

CBK found that microfinance banks face various challenges including; they need better governance & structures, have inadequate capital & liquidity, face increased credit risk & non-performing loans, are reliant on deposits & expensive borrowings, and face more impact  from fintech company innovations, and Kenya’s interest rate caps law (2016) as well as IFRS9.

CBK has made proposals for microfinance banks including improving their corporate governance (through vetting, setting duties & tenure of the board of directors and having more independent directors), having a single license for MFB’s (no more national or community distinctions), increasing the minimum capital for existing and new MFB’s, and vetting of MFB shareholders. Other proposals are around risk classification which will shift from the current assumption that loans are repaid weekly, to the reality that they are repaid monthly, and that microfinance loans now have a longer-term outlook

Members of the public are invited to give views by March 15 (email: fin@centralbank.go.ke) and these will be incorporated into a microfinance amendment bill (2018) that will later go to Kenya’s Parliament around June this year.

$1 = Kshs 101

Caritas MFI Bank Launched

Thursday saw the official launch of the Caritas Microfinance (MFI) Bank in Nairobi. Caritas MFB,  which is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi, was licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya in June 2015. It has since mobilized almost Kshs 400 million in deposits and advanced Kshs 250 million of loans.

Caritas plans to go from having two branches, now serving 10,000 customers, to five by year-end and increase its authorized agent network from 16 to 50. Already 70% transactions are done using mobile banking and through a partnership with Cooperative Bank, Caritas customers can use Coop Bank ATM’s and visa cards for purchases and this will enable another potential 100,000 “unbanked and under-banked” members of 200 self-help groups in Nairobi and Kiambu counties to access formal banking services.

MFI’s were excluded from the interest cap law of 2016. Other deposit-taking microfinance bank institutions include Choice, Daraja, Ideal (formerly REMU), Maisha, SMEP, Sumac, U&I, and Uwezo. Larger ones include KWFT and Faulu  as well as the Chase Bank-owned Rafiki MFI that was quite large and growing fast. It is independent of Chase Bank but a lot of its future growth is dependent on the outcome of the Chase receivership.