Category Archives: SME solutions

Dalberg on Kenya’s Digital Economy

Dalberg has released a report titled Kenya’s Digital Economy: A People’s perspective. It finds that, in terms of digital transformation, Kenya is a lower-middle/income country that shows some characteristics of a higher middle-income economy.

The survey is based on in-depth responses from 2,456 people in Kenya’s 47 counties. It was done in 2020 to assess their perceptions on the state of the supporting ecosystems, digital infrastructure, enabling resources, applications and services.

The report differentiates between the uptake of “basic” digital services (sending money, buying airtime/data) and “advanced” digital services (e-commerce, paying for goods and services – health, education, agriculture, supporting livelihoods). It notes that some challenges to the next step of Kenya digital economy including exclusion and digital safety (fraud/harassment, cybercrime when using devices).

A stunning finding is that there is a low demand for advanced digital services, beyond mobile money, digital communication and social media. This is because non-users and 30% of current basic digital users do not find digital products or applications that are relevant.

Some of the sectors it touches on:

  • Agriculture: Kenya is one of the most advanced agri-tech markets with approximately 30% of agri-tech startups in Sub-Saharan Africa operating here and with 18% having their headquarters in the country But the awareness of landowners of digital services is low. 45% of those surveyed are not aware, while just 13% use digital services for their livelihoods – mainly to communicate with customers, suppliers and vendors while 10% use it for inputs and 15% for knowledge sharing. Half of those who do, use it as a result of assistance from field agents who are strong support factors for rural digital economies. Also half of adult female farmers face challenges in affording devices and accessing the internet which makes them hard to reach with interventions.
  • Health: There is low use of digital health services with only 15% of respondents aware, and of those, 35% use it mainly to consult health workers and pay for medicine with mobile money. The challenges cited are high costs and mistrust of doctors they can’t see while a quarter are concerned about sharing health information online.
  • Ecommerce is urban: 23% use e-commerce in urban areas compared to 9% in rural ones, and in Nairobi and the central region, uptake (24%) is twice as popular as in other counties in the rest of the country where it ranges between 1-12%.

On Financial Access:

  • Mobile Money has (+) and (-) aspects. The usage of mobile money is near-universal with 95% of lower-income and 93% of rural people using it as Kenyans have good user experiences with it, unlike some other countries. And while there have been concerns about fraud, 80% have trust in mobile money, but also 53% cite high costs as a reason not to use mobile money, more so with lower-income Kenyans.
  • Easy Credit: The report cautions that government should watch for debt traps from increase ease of digital credit in the country. Half of the respondents have had to sell assets, borrow more or reduce food & education expenditure to repay a loan – and this increases the chance of financial exclusion. Also, basic digital users lost an average of Kshs 1,470 to fraud while advanced users lost twice as much (Kshs 2,996) over the past three years. This is a risk that can grow as more unexposed people turn to advanced services and may face devastating losses that they cannot absorb.
  • Social safety nets: People with government stipends or pensions are more likely to use e-government services (such as eCitizen, iTax NHIF) than other Kenyans in general.
  • Entrepreneurs use it little: Among self-employed and business owners half use digital services and mainly for basic reasons like communicating with customers and vendors. Only 15-18% use it for advanced reasons like keeping business records, tracking stock, paying taxes, selling services and buying supplies through e-commerce platforms.

The report by Dalberg, done with support from the Omidyar Network, along with its data sets, can be downloaded here.

Simple Nairobi stock trades with EFG Hermes One

Background: Kenya’s top stockbroker, EFG Hermes has set out to expand from its institutional investors and also target retail customers. They launched their EFG Hermes One app in July 2021 allowing Kenyan investors to purchase shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) anytime on their mobile phones.

First Impressions: To get started, one had to go through the Kenyan regulatory requirements of KYC (know your customer). While the process is extensive for investors, with a lot of forms, ID, address and other details, new clients can scan and email documents, including photos to EFG Hermes.

Once you’re done, download the app and log-in with the credential to start trading. One fund an investor using mobile money (M-Pesa pay bill) and selects their share account (CDS) to get credited.  

For any issues, there are quick responses via email from EFG Hermes Kenya client services on issues like registration and trades. 

How It Works: Investors can view equities, and their portfolios with up-to-date prices, and also see their cash balances. They can place trades, set the prices and the expiry dates and see the commission/fee calculation before executing any buy or sell trades.

One useful feature of the app is that it allows trading of “odd lots”. This is something not available at many brokers who still only allow  investors to buy or sell shares in multiples of a hundred (100) shares – yet many investors end up with odd lots as a result of selling other shares in ’00s or getting bonus issues.

another odd feature from the stockbroking industry is T+3 days/ again this is somewhat standard and after you sell shares, it will take about two days for funds to reach your account after that one indicated at the account opening where the funds will be sent. 

For now, the Kenya app only allows trades of equities on the NSE, but in future may have more issues – bonds, derivatives, REIT’s, ETF’s regional and international products from EFG Hermes in different markets and assets classes and also as the NSE comes up with more products for retail investors such as day-trading and short-selling.

Verdict: It enables investors to trade from anywhere securely and tracks their trades and portfolios with up to date prices. The app is really small, just 10 MB, and does not use a lot of data to run. Many retail investors have other apps, laptops and sources to analyze what trades to make, and they can turn to the One app which can also be used to place trades after hours to execute when the NSE opens.

At the end of the month, investors get emailed a statement by EFG Hermes of trades during the month. This is a useful record to keep and they should cross-check with the one that comes from the CDSC.  

The EFG Hermes One app is available in the Google Android and Apple App stores.

Safaricom launches M-Pesa super-App

Safaricom has formally re-launched the next phase of the M-Pesa app as a rich financial management tool that does not depend on a single network or data to operate.

The M-Pesa service, which now has 30 million users, has been redesigned to allow biometric (face/fingerprint) authorization of transactions as an option to entering a PIN. Users can also load up different transactions, amounts and recipients and approve them all as a single bulk payment. It also allows emojis and images of counter-parties and there is also a “request money” feature.

During Covid-19, Safaricom saw an initial dip in the numbers of business using M-pesa, formally and informally, but a new business app, coupled with online applications for the business till numbers, saw them double the number of business customers from the beginning of the pandemic. Some key new features are that users will be able to add “reasons/notes” to payments, generate visualizations of transactions with individuals and download statements, which are all important to cash flow and fund management.

The app can work in offline mode, does not use data, Also M-Pesa has taken the WeChat route with mini-apps as Safaricom seeks to establish a play store for Kenya. It has fourty mini-apps are in development and seven are now live. One is the Kenya Railways Madaraka Express train service between Nairobi and Mombasa, and booking a ticket on the app gives back 10% to the buyer’s wallet. New users also get 500 MB for each download from the Android or Apple stores.

In the future, there are plans to have the M-Pesa app be accessible for lifestyle and business purposes in any African country. Users will also be able to store their credit card details to fund their wallet, enabling remittance and payment transactions.

Absa Kenya launches Asset Management

Absa Bank Kenya has rolled out an asset management subsidiary following approval from Kenyan regulators to expand its century-old business of offering financial services in the country. 

Following approval by both the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) and the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA), Absa Asset Management will offer advice and products for customers to invest in listed shares, treasury bonds, corporate bonds, private equity, property, offshore and other investment classes.

Anthony Mwithiga, the CEO of the new Absa Asset Management unit, said they would offer fund and investment management for institutions, such as pension schemes, retail solutions for the mass market, and bespoke or personalized services for high-net-worth individuals.

The retail solution will offer investment opportunities through five different unit trusts being, a money market fund for Kenya shillings or US dollars, a bond one, a balanced fund, and an equities fund that people can subscribe to for as little as Kshs 1,000. All the classes will benefit from the data-driven insights, investment professional advice and risk management of Absa that is guided by three pillars of value growth, income generation and value preservation.

The CEO of the RBA Nzomo Mutuku said that that investment management, now with Kshs 1.4 trillion of assets under management, still has great potential to grow and that the performance of these investments is what drives pension benefits in Kenya, not pension contributions.

He said that being diverse had sustained growth even during Covid-19. While there has been a decline in interest for corporate bonds, private equity has gone up (from 0.07% to 0.12% as a share of portfolios) and good returns had also been got from ETF‘s that are about to get a boost from a new class for fixed income, and REIT‘s from new tax laws. He added that, when the shilling depreciates, offshore investments deliver good performance. Another new class is now infrastructure in which funds can invest 10% of assets and they are waiting to see which Public-private-partnership (PPP) projects come online.

Equity Bank’s War Chest

Equity Bank has been on a tear, signing deals with other banks for affordable lines of credit for on-lending. The latest ones are with the African Development Bank and FMO.

The recent financing agreements include:

In 2020:

  • September 2020: $50 million (Kshs 5.5 Billion) loan facility with the IFC.
  • October 2020: $100 Million from Proparco (Agence Française de Développement Group) to enable Kenya MSMEs, women entrepreneurs who had been particularly affected by the economic shock of the COVID-19 crisis to create jobs. It is expected to impact 240 MSMEs firms which will create over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.

In 2021:

  • March 4: EUR 125 million (Kshs 16.5 Billion) loan facility signed with the European Investment Bank. The long-term loan will support Equity customer to sustain and scale their operations, with Kshs 6.5 billion to agriculture and Kshs 10 billion to MSMEs.
  • March 10: $100 Million (Kshs 11 Billion) facility with DEG of Germany, CDC Group of the United Kingdom, and FMO of the Netherlands to support MSMEs cope with COVID-19 over three years.
  • March 15: USD 75 Million (Kshs 8.25 Billion) loan facility with the African Guaranty Fund to lend to women-owned and managed micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and DRC.
  • March 23: $10 billion (Kshs 11 billion) from the African Development Bank to support its expansion into Central Africa. The  tier-two facility with a 7-year maturity is also to support lending to women and youth entrepreneurs access capital to recover and thrive in a post-COVID environment.
  • March 25: $50 million (KShs 5.5 billion) NASIRA loan portfolio guarantee from Netherlands FMO, covering loans provided to MSMEs affected by the COVID-19 crisis, including women and young entrepreneurs and companies in the agri-value chain.