Category Archives: IMF

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.

Kenya 2018 Budget Breakdown from Barclays

Barclays Bank has released a detailed budget breakdown of Kenya’s estimates for the year 2018/19. This was at an event for corporate investment banking clients of Barclays with a theme of “demystifying the national budget.” and which came a few days after Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Treasury, Henry Rotich had delivered his budget speech and estimates for the year to the country’s parliament.

The Barclays budget breakdown team featured Samantha Singh a Senior Analyst – Macro Research, Barclays Africa Group, Anthony Mulisa (Regional Treasurer East Africa), Peter Mungai (Head of Tax, Barclays Kenya) and James Agin, (Corporate Investment Banking Director). Anthony Kirui the Barclays Director of Markets said that while other accountants and audits had done budget analysis that mainly looked at the tax implications, the Barclays budget breakdown would focus on macroeconomic issues that affect their clients.

Some Highlights 

Revenue Targets:  The Kenya revenue estimates for 2018/19 are very bold, aiming for Kshs 1.9 trillion of domestic revenue, which is 40% more than last year. This is premised on a projected GDP growth for Kenya this year of 5,8%, but which Barclays expects will be at 5.5%

Tax Increases: Some new measure include import duties on iron, steel, oils, excise duties on money transfers sugar, private vehicles, and revised capital gains taxes, withholding taxes and business permit taxes. The Barclays team said that the income tax bill 2018 replaces some 1974 legislation that has not kept pace with time also changes the VAT act, and stamp duty acts.

The budget also moves several items from being zero-rated to be exempt, which means that suppliers are prohibited from claiming refunds and this will result in higher costs of products will be passed on to consumers. Also value added tax (VAT) on fuel products kick in from September 2018, while Kerosene taxes will also go up to match those of petrol.

While the CS mentioned reconsidering the 35% income tax on individuals, he was silent on that of corporations which are now likely to go to 35%, the highest in East Africa. The Barclays team said that Parliament needs to critically look at this, as the average corporate income tax rate across Africa is at 28%, while globally it is 25%. Also, the modalities of a new 0.05% excise duty on financial transfers of more than Kshs 500,000 ($5,000) need to be clarified.

Managing Deficits: Kenya’s deficits have been widening and this is due to lower revenues and higher expenditure, especially of recurrent items. Still, the government targets to reduce the fiscal deficit from 7.2% to 5.7% of GDP. The fiscal deficit is about Kshs 600 billion for 2018-19 is quite large; which the government plans to finance it with a mix of domestic and external finance, but Singh said it will be more difficult for Kenya and other African economies to get Euro Bonds as US interest rates are rising.

She said debt was not necessarily bad, but it was more about where the money went, which should be towards development, but not for recurrent expenditure or to defend currencies. The team was also concerned about recurrent expenditure which makes up 16% of GDP and 60% of the budget while development expenditure is 25% of the budget.

Barclays expect foreign exchange reserves to remain adequate but that with an IMF facility ending in September, Singh said that international investors would want to see Kenya affiliated with IMF and have some standby assistance (even though the IMF is not popular), or it will be hard for them to continue to finance the fiscal deficit.

Debt & Development: The Barclays team was concerned that 4 out of every 10 shillings raised this year will go to pay for debt, and they were also concerned about recurrent expenditure which makes up 16% of GDP and 60% of the budget. They noted that two years ago, 33% of the budget was going to development; now it is down to 25% and that is still going to come under more pressure as public salaries and recurrent expenditure goes up unless the government strengthens its public finance management, ensure efficiency in the collection of taxes, cut waste & corruption, and ropes in a large part of the population who are not making a fair contribution – and the team opined that if these three measures were achieved, the budget’s ambitious targets would be met and this could even enable future tax cuts.

Local Industry & Manufacturing Support: The Kenya government plans to grow manufacturing’s share of GDP from 9% to 15%. This will be enabled by raising customs taxes on iron, steel, textiles, footwear in order to promote local industries by protecting them from cheap imports. The government has also come up with offer off-peak electrical energy schemes at lower tariff’s to encourage businesses to manufacture over 24-hours.

Interest Rate Caps: In his budget speech last week, the CS Treasury requested a repeal of interest rate caps and the Barclays team was hopeful that would be approved by Parliament, saying that the cap had resulted in unintended consequences that were detrimental to the credit sector – with small businesses being unable to access bank credit and that t had also complicated monetary policy decision making.

Financial Behaviour: The team also discussed a draft financial markets conduct bill that was recently introduced as one of the alternative solutions to the interest caps and which is now going through public participation. They said that Barclays had given feedback on the bill which is likely to increase the cost of regulation through double licensing, and which is unclear on who it protects.  They said that the bill borrows from Western countries where there was aggressive credit expansion to people who should not have been borrowing, whereas here it is the opposite situation of there being too little credit.

Conclusion: The budget breakdown is a part of a series of sessions that Barclays will have on topical issues that impact their corporate clients, and another session will take place in Mombasa.

Kenya Eurobond 2018 A to Z (Part II)

Excerpts from reading the prospectus for Kenya’s 2018 Eurobond issues totaling $2 billion (~Kshs 202 billion). 

Advisors:  joint lead managers were Citigroup Global Markets, J.P. Morgan Securities, Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Chartered Bank. The fiscal/paying agent was Citibank (London), Registrar was Citigroup Global Markets (Deutschland), legal advisors were White & Case LLP and Allen & Overy LLP (English and US law), and Coulson Harney LLP and Kaplan & Stratton Advocates (Kenya Law) and the listing agent was Arthur Cox (Dublin).

Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Securities, Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Chartered Bank each committed to subscribe for $250 million of the 2028 and $250 million of the 2048 bond issues

Codes: for the 2028 Notes: 491798 AG9 / US491798AG90 / 178426192 XS1781710543 / 178171054 and for the 2048 Notes: 491798 AH7 / US491798AH73 / 178426478 XS1781710626 / 178171062

Debt Rescheduling: Kenya has approached the Paris Club three times to seek debt relief and rescheduling; in January 1994 for $535 million, in November 2000 over $301 million and in January 2004 over $353 million. Also to the London Club 1998 over $70 million and in 2003 over $23 million.

Default (defined as): Failure to pay 15 days after due date, or issuer (Kenya government) ceases to be a member of the IMF.

Denomination: The Notes are issued in registered form in denominations of US$200,000 and integral multiples of US$1,000.

Disclosure: The Issuer will publish all notices and other matters required to be published (regarding Condition 14, 10, 13: on the website of the National Treasury.

Finance Management: Kenya’s law provides that: over the medium term, a minimum of 30% of the national budget shall be allocated to development expenditure and the national government’s expenditure on wages and benefits for its public officers must not exceed 35%  per cent. of total national government revenue and over the medium term, the national government’s borrowings should be used only for the purpose of financing development expenditure and not for recurrent expenditure. .

IMF: The second and third reviews of the IMF programme due in June 2017 and December 2017 could not be completed on time due to the prolonged election period. Accordingly, no funds under the SBA-SCF 2 facility are available to Kenya until it has reached certain targets to the satisfaction of the IMF, which will be assessed at the next review. But, even if the IMF agrees to make this or another programme available upon conclusion of their review, the government intends to continue to treat the arrangements as precautionary and does not intend to draw on the facility unless exogenous shocks lead to an actual balance of payments need.

Income tax (enhancement of): A review of the Income Tax Act is ongoing and is targeted to be completed by mid-2018. In an effort to boost domestic revenue mobilisation, the government is undertaking reforms to bolster revenue yields  including roll out of the integrated customs management system, implementation of the regional electronic cargo tracking (RECTS) to tackle transit diversion; data matching and use of third-party data to enhance compliance, integration of iTax with IFMIS to ensure timely collection of withholding VAT and other withholding taxes; expansion of tax base by targeting the informal sector, betting, lotteries and gaming; pursuit non-filers and increased focus on taxation of international transactions and transfer pricing and enhance investigations and intelligence capacity to support revenue collection.

Informal economy: A significant portion of the Kenyan economy is not recorded and is only partially taxed, resulting in a lack of revenue for the government, ineffective regulation, unreliability of statistical information (including the understatement of GDP and the contribution to GDP of various sectors) and inability to monitor or otherwise regulate a large portion of the economy.

Interest Rates: The yield of the 2028 Notes is 7.25% and the yield of the 2048 Notes is 8.25% in each case on an annual basis. The yields were calculated at the issue date.

Listing: The Eurobond Notes will not be issued, offered or sold in Kenya, and the notes may not be offered or sold in the United States. Applications have been made to the Irish Stock Exchange at a cost of 5,500 euros and the London Stock Exchange for GBP 4,200.

Litigation:  The Issuer has appointed the High Commissioner of the Republic of Kenya in London, presently located at 45 Portland Place, London W1B 1AS as its agent for service of process in relation to any proceedings (“Proceedings”) before the English courts permitted by

Indebtedness:  Total national government debt stood at US$41.2 billion as at 30 June 2017, representing a 17% increase from June 2016. The government is permitted under the terms of the PFMA to incur debt within the limits set by Parliament, currently set at 50% of GDP in net present value terms. Following the issue of the (Eurobond) Notes, the total net present value of debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to nearly reach the 50% limit. Although the government may be restricted from incurring further public debt under such circumstances, the Government will be seeking to refinance or repay near-term maturities, and therefore expects to maintain the ratios within the set limits.

Total multilateral debt increased by 15.8% to stand at US $8.0 billion at 30 June 2016 while total bilateral debt increased to US $5.3 billion at 30 June 2016, mainly driven by a rise in stock of debt from the People’s Republic of China, which increased by 21.2%. Also, as at 30 June 2017, the national government guaranteed approximately KES135.1 billion of the indebtedness of the non-financial public sector include Kshs 77 billion to Kenya Airways last year.

Purpose Kenya expects the net proceeds of the issue of the Eurobond Notes, before expenses, to amount to approximately US$1,999,600,000 which it intends to use for financing development expenditures and to refinance part of its obligations outstanding under certain syndicated loan agreements. According to the “Plan of Distribution”, Kenya syndicated loans of from October 2015 (debt now $646 million) and March 2017 ($1 billion)  and proceed from the new February 2018 issue will be used to pay all of the 2015 loan and part of the 2017 loan and  to “manage the maturity profile of the government’s debt.”

Repayments: (for both issues) payable semi-annually in arrears on 28 February and 28 August in each year commencing on 28 August 2018. The Eurobond Notes are not redeemable prior to maturity.

Withholding Taxes: All payments in respect of the Eurobond Notes by or on behalf of the Issuer shall be made without withholding or deduction of any present or future taxes,

See Part I about the 2014 Eurobond issue. 

1USD  = Kshs 101, 1 GBP = Kshs  139, 1 Euro = Kshs 123