Category Archives: World Bank

Stanbic economic briefing for Kenya 2020

Standard Bank (Stanbic) Group Kenya released their Macroeconomic update in which they are cautiously optimistic about Kenya’s growth through the private sector. The presentation in Nairobi was done by Jibran Qureishi, the Regional Economist – Africa at Stanbic.

Highlights:

  • Stanbic economists believe that global growth will fall in 2020 and 2021 as central banks in advanced economies are tapped out and their ability to stimulate economies is limited. Chinese growth will slow to sub 6% in 2020 and be about 5.5% in 2021. Meanwhile, the US cut its rates three times last year but investments are still falling as the trade war with China has hurt growth.  
  • For Kenya, Stanbic expects 5.9% GDP growth in 2020, up from 5.6% in 2019. Three things that held back private sector over the last two years were interest rate caps, delayed payments by government and congestion at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) Nairobi.
  • Government policies should focus on private-sector driven economic growth.
    There is growth but where are jobs? Growth in the wrong place.  90% of new jobs are the informal sector and also in the service sector but these will not create a middle-income economy.
  • Tourism was resilient, earning $1.5 billion last year, but the potential is much larger and this depends on how much private investment the sector can attract. Kenya gets 2 million arrivals but Mauritius, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa get about 10 million in bad years.
  • Ambitious tax revenue targets embolden the government to spend more and tax revenue targets are still much larger than average collections.
  • If the government does not fix fiscal issues, this will lead to unpredictable tax rules which could hamper productive sectors
  • A move back to concessionary loans and away from commercial loans for the first time since the (President) Kibaki years is a welcome step.
  • The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) may still get extended to Uganda but the government will have to build new ICD. It is not that China does not have money, but they are asking questions they should have asked 7-8 years ago.
  • Kenya traditional manufacturing has been an import-substitution model which has not really worked around the world. Better to shift from being protectionist and instead work towards growing exports which (excluding tea and remittances) have been stagnant – at $6 billion a year
  • Don’t focus on manufacturing too much and neglect agriculture, as a big part of that will come from agro-processing and adding value to agricultural produce.

Charles Mudiwa the CEO of Stanbic Kenya spoke of how the bank has aligned to the government’s agenda. They are a shareholder in the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company, and 20% of their lending goes to manufacturing with another 9% going to agriculture & food security.

Stanbic was the lead arranger for the Acorn green bond that was listed on London’s LSE today. The bank also has a DADA program to promote women financially (with a goal to lend Kshs 20 billion) and is also supporting financial literacy training to musicians and Uber drivers.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: IMF Transparency Evaluation

Last week a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a Report known as the Fiscal Transparency Evaluation Update on Kenya. The country has had an on – and – off history with the IMF and World Bank and one of the key objectives of this report was to estimate Kenya’s balance sheet and take into account all the public sector entities which were believed to have grown significantly since 2014.

Size: The report found that there are 519 entities, including 213 extra-budgetary ones, 47 county governments, social security funds, the Central Bank and 14 financial intermediaries, and 136 public corporations. It estimates that assets are liabilities are 30% greater than in 2014.

The stock of Kenya’s public sector liabilities (mainly pensions) is high (at 30% of GDP) compared to other emerging markets and low-income developing economies and creates potential fiscal risks. Fortunately, it finds that Kenya’s public sector net worth, estimated to be -5% of GDP in 2017-18 is broadly comparable to other similar economies.

It cites some glaring issues. Nairobi County has the largest amount if negative net-assets followed by Mombasa and Isiolo, Garissa, then Murang’a. Nairobi inherited a loan it has been servicing but which still has a Kshs 3 billion balance. Also, Nairobi has guaranteed a Kshs 19.1 billion loan, which is in its books, but this relates to assets that were transferred to another entity – the Athi River Water Service Board.

PPP: Concern about public-private partnerships (PPP) projects: There are 78 PPP’s (67 by the national government and 11 by county governments) in the pipeline, worth $11.4 billion and it notes that no risk analysis is undertaken for pipeline projects, which are sizable and growing in number.

PPP projects are 13% of GDP and half of the amount relates to six projects that are at the procurement stage. These are the Nairobi Mombasa highway, Mombasa petroleum hub, Nairobi – Nakuru – Mau Summit highway, 140MW geothermal at Olkaria, road annuity programs, and a second Nyali bridge project

State Corporations: High-risk public corporations lost Kshs 23 billion in 2017–18. These were topped by Kenya Broadcasting Corporation which lost Kshs 9 billion. Its losses were equal to 436% of revenue and it has a net worth of Kshs -54 billion. Others were Kenya Railways Corporation (which lost 6 billion), Nzoia Sugar Company Limited -3 bn, and South Nyanza Sugar Company -2 bn. Also losing 1 billion each was the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (which was supposed to be an IPO candidate), Chemelil Sugar, Agro-Chemical and Food Co., Muhoroni Sugar, and the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Co. These ten account for 95% of the loss-making entities.

Oil & Mineral prospects: Kenya has small reserves of natural resources accounting for 3.2% of GDP but non-oil mining could be 10% of GDP by 2030 with oil boosting it by another 1.5%. Neighbour Uganda has better prospects with greater amounts of proven oil (1.7 billion barrels in Lake Albert) and gas reserves and has taken steps to ensure transparency, establishing a sovereign wealth fund and moving towards joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Uganda which has two major upstream projects – a domestic refinery and an export pipeline through Tanzania, is expected to start production after 2023 and reach a peak of 230,000 barrels per day.

Summary: The big headline so far is that approximately 500 projects are stalled with an estimated cost of Kshs 1 Trillion (12% of GDP).

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.

CIA Economic Data on Kenya and its President in 1978

Excerpts from a declassified CIA document from August 1978. 

The Economic Intelligence Weekly Review issue, dated 24 August 1978, was published two days after Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta, who had led the country since independence in December 1963, passed away.

The document is meant for US government officials and was done in a format that is useful to them. It has economic indicators, industrial material prices, and contains data from sources like the IMF, and the Economist (their index of 16 food prices). There are also charts on Inflation, unemployment, trade patterns (imports and exports), unemployment rates, interest rates etc. in different countries that are classified by segments such as the Big Seven (US, Japan, West Germany, France, UK, Italy and Canada), other OECD, OPEC (oil-producing nations) and also Communist countries, and other ‘World’ countries.

There are detailed write-ups in the CIA weekly review on:

  • The black market in Cuba: Hustling of consumer goods is vibrant, reflecting shortages of consumer goods. Most consumer goods are rationed except a few luxury items like rum and cigarettes. It also notes that aggregate personal incomes in Cuba are up 38% since 1973 and have reached the rank and file of Cuba, with no evidence of appreciable corruption among top-level officials.
  • The USSR has borrowed more than it needs to build a pipeline. It obtained $2.5 billion, which was $1 billion more than required, from the CEMA International Investment Bank (IIB). Five Eastern European countries helped build it, and in exchange, they will receive gas annually, while sales of natural gas to Western Europe are expected to yield $750 million to $1 billion. The IIB borrow funds in European markets and on-lends them to Eastern European countries at rates better than the countries could obtain on their own. Items paid for with the loan funds included equipment bought from West Germany, Italy and France.
  • Concern about Poland debt payment problems despite a shrinking deficit: For a third year, Poland had to borrow $4 billion and could face a financial crunch or debt rescheduling. Cutbacks of available industrial materials have been severe, affecting production, while debt service payments are now double what they were in 1976 – amounting to 60% of Poland’s exports to the West, compared to 37% in 1976. 
  • The USSR is engaging with Iraq and India.
  • On Kenya, it looked at the transition era and economic stakes of the Kenyatta family, whose inner circle controlled key economic posts and had extensive commercial and agricultural investments, and land tracts around the country. 

The CIA found that the substantial economic investments built over 15 years would deter them from unconstitutionally challenging Acting President Daniel arap Moi, even as they predicted that the Moi-Njonjo group’s (Njonjo was Kenya’s Attorney General and a key ally of Moi in the transition phase) efforts to increase the economic pie could cause disenchantment with the Kenyatta clan.

It was expected that economic pressures would cause the government to push for redistribution of the country’s wealth as it also noted that the family is big in two activities – charcoal and ivory whose exports were banned. At the time, Kenya was considering applying to the IMF for assistance with its balance of payments in the coming years as oil prices had risen, key foreign exchange earners like coffee and tea were slumping, and there was a need to modernize the military while Kenya had also lost its top destination market – Tanzania with the collapse of the East African Community.

It is an astonishing amount of economic data, from fourty years ago – so what does the CIA collect today on different countries and economies?

See also this story from the Standard newspaper. 

The reason for the collapse of the Zimbabwe Economy

Anonymous guest post. 

Land redistribution (or seizures) didn’t sink the Zimbabwe economy. In fact a 2011 independent study, quoted at the time in the New York Times (it’s unlikely to get more sceptical than that) declared that the redistribution programme had actually worked – that Zimbabwe was not just more productive; its food security had also rebounded to pre-redistribution levels.

But many (especially Western) analysts politicize the economic crisis without properly comprehending it. They link the collapse of the currency with the collapse of settler production, which in turn is caused by misrule. Misrule is then metaphorised as a trust problem, which is then looped back into the economic crisis, this time as its very basis.

The land redistribution-economic collapse analysis was deliberately trotted out in the early 2000’s by both the British and the white settlers. It’s a myth, as carefully and boldly planned and executed as anything Goebbels ever put out. It’s the Big Lie Theory stunningly executed. The Big Lie worked on a very plausible assumption: given that the white settler control of agro-industry was the heartbeat of the Zim economy, it followed that dismantling it would trigger the disintegration of the economy. This was only true to the extent that the land seizures disrupted productivity so severely as to halt it altogether.

Herein lies the Big Lie: it was easy to assume that a change in land ownership would mean a collapse in agricultural production. This evidently (as the statistics demonstrate) was a manifestly racist assumption. For one, it failed to account for ongoing smallholder production. More to the point, a decade after land redistribution, agricultural production was at the same levels, if not higher than what they were prior to redistribution.

So: what accounts for the collapse of the Zim dollar? The simple answer is sanctions. In 2002, and at the height of the land redistribution programme, (then President) Mugabe refused to sign onto the second phase of the IMF ESAF programme.

In response, Zimbabwe was suspended from the Fund. At the same time, and in solidarity with the white farmers, Bill Clinton (presidency ended in 2001) and the US Congress instituted sanctions against Zimbabwe. The result: Zimbabwe lost ALL its major export markets. And as a follow-on, its hard currency reserves began to tank.

Those sanctions have still not been lifted. This makes Zimbabwe, after perhaps Cuba, Iran and North Korea, the biggest pariah country on earth. Attempts to lift sanctions and the IMF suspension over the past two decades have all been unsuccessful.

One last thing, which I think is at the core of the sanctions question: why haven’t they been lifted? I was at a press briefing in 2010 or thereabouts with (then Prime Minister) Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy, Arthur Mutambara. These were clearly individuals who had been brought into Uncle Bob’s cabinet (at the instigation of Mbeki and the grand coalition peace deal) precisely on the calculation that they were acceptable faces to the West.

And the question they were asking was: why have the sanctions not been lifted now after the peace deal? Almost a decade later, the whole determination of the Emmerson Mnangagwa government to conduct a credible poll turned on the assumption that, following such a credible poll, sanctions would be lifted.

In fact one could argue that the current design of the post-election Commission of Inquiry is itself an attempt to convince Bretton Woods and Washington that Zimbabwe now has a ‘credible govt’. But still, there are no clear indications that even if the poll had been deemed credible, that sanctions would be lifted.

So one is now driven very close to the conclusion that Zimbabwe is being turned into the new Haiti i.e. that its punishment for daring to stand up to Western capital and threaten the very idea of white supremacy is going to be punished for generations to come.

Also, read the Guide to Harare, the work of the late Professor Sam Moyo.