New rules for Kenya credit bureaus amid Covid-19

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has proposed radical new measures relating to credit reference bureaus operating in the country. It barred digital / mobile-based lenders from submitting information to credit reference bureaus, following public complaints.

It also proposed that people should be able to obtain their first clearance credit certificates at no charge, a move to benefit youth and graduates seeking employment. Other measures were that the minimum amount for which one can be reported is Kshs 1,000 (~$10) and savings & credit societies (SACCO’s) are now included as authorized subscribes of credit reference data.

As part of the Government’s response to Coronavirus, the CBK also suspended new listings to credit reference bureaus for loans that become delinquent between April 1 and September 30 to shield borrowers at a time when incomes and economies are disrupted.

In addition, Kenya’s Parliament will soon debate new clauses of credit reference regulations that include:

  • A credit information provider shall not provide information relating to a customer to any bureau if the customer notifies the provider, by writing or verbally, that the information is inaccurate.
  • A bureau shall carry out due diligence and suitability assessment of the third-party credit information provider – to learn about their ownership, management, legality status and accuracy of their records.
  • Bureaus are only to share with the customer, the Central Bank, a requesting subscriber and a third party authorized by the banking act, Microfinance Act or Sacco Societies Act.
  • Where a customer disagrees with the resolution of some disputed information, the customer may request the bureau to attach a statement of 100 words to the customer’s credit report, setting out the customer’s claim.
  • The Central Bank shall be the owner of all information and data held by bureaus and regardless of how the information or data is processed. CBK shall retain the right of access to data even after revocation or expiry of any license issued.
  • Every bureau shall prominently display on its premises and on its website, an up-to-date list of all third-party credit information providers that have been approved by the CBK to submit credit information it.
  • Credit reference bureaus shall now have to conduct public education programs on how credit information sharing works, and how the public can access services that they can benefit from.

Black Panther vs. Wolf Warrior

How do you write about a movie without giving away parts of it to anyone who has not seen it? I was spurred to see the movie “The Black Panther” after attending a networking dinner where half the guests had seen it and eagerly wanted to talk about it across the table while some of us pleaded that there not be any discussion until the rest of us had seen it.  

As I write this, the Black Panther has crossed the $1 billion revenue mark. When I saw a preview of the movie sometime in December it looked like another mindless action movie set in an American city. But the film with a predominantly black cast is set in Los Angeles, Seoul, and primarily in a fictional African country called Wakanda. 

The movie has been well received in many markets due to its positive portrayal of Wakanda which has massive mineral wealth reserves that the residents have harnessed to develop an advanced technological economy while remaining hidden and portraying themselves to the world, as another poor African country.

It has a mix of new and-well established stars, as familiar faces like award-winning Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Lupita Nyongo have meshed well with several upcoming stars who have worked hard in their careers to get to their big break in the Black Panther. Fred Swaniker, the co-founder of the Africa Leadership Academy, recently wrote about Danai Gurira, a Zimbabwean college-friend of his, who he advised not to study theatre, as it was a waste of time; but she ignored his advice and now portrayed the scene-stealing female general in the Black Panther. 

Black Panther is directed by young black director Ryan Coogler who has a knack for turning movie budgets into large paybacks. And Black Panther is now the 20th highest-grossing movie of all time on a list dominated by comic and children themed movies. Films get on this list when audiences enjoy, re-watch, and tell others to see them. And local entrepreneurs and celebrities have offered to pay for whole groups and classrooms in cities like Atlanta and Kisumu to watch the Black Panther. 

For Kenyans, the film has been well received, and one report that it is probably one of the largest-grossing local films due to Lupita’s appearance.  I got in touch with my friend Chris Foot, Chairman of the Kenya Film Commission to ask about if Black Panther could have been shot in Nairobi and he mentioned that Coogler had actually visited Kenya for research but ultimately the producers decided that the movie would be primarily filmed in the US. 

What’s remarkable about the Black Panthers’ billion-dollar haul is that it was achieved before the movie was shown in the large China movie market. In reading about expectations ahead of Black Panther’s opening in China I came across this article which looks at if the Black Panther movie would change the views of Chinese citizens about Africa.

The article mentions a movie, called the Wolf Warrior II, which was released in July 2017 and became best-selling Chinese movie in history, grossing $874 million. Wu Jing directed and stars in it as an indestructible Chinese soldier who foils rebels in a fictional African country where senseless wars break out that have soldiers shooting at each other and killing civilians even as an Ebola-like disease decimates communities. In it, Chinese are revered as do-gooders in medicine and industry who are not to be harmed in Africa, except by the white mercenaries who are orchestrating the wars. 

Finally, the imagery of Africa in Wolf Warrior II, which was filmed in present-day South Africa, is more realistic than Black Panther’s futuristic utopia of Wakanda. And the global success of the Black Panther movie will not change American or Chinese views about Africa but it may inspire more interest in African countries, stories, and projects.

This was written in March 2018 but not approved for publication as my regular column on financial issues.

Edit: Reading “The Ride of a Lifetime”, Robert Iger’s autobiography of his time as Disney CEO, in which he made three huge acquisition – of Pixar, the Star Wars franchise and Marvel comics into the Disney empire, he writes that one of the proudest creations of his tenure was the Black Panther movie. 

It defied the notion that a black-led superhero movie could perform at the box office, on top of challenging a prevailing view in Hollywood that movies with predominantly black casts and black leads struggled in international markets. This had resulted in fewer black-led films being produced, with fewer actors, and smaller budgets to mitigate box-office risks. 

KPMG on Kenya Taxes in 2020

Last month, Kenya’s President announced proposals to cushion residents from impacts of the Coronavirus that has affected many industries and companies by disrupting supply chains and reducing consumer spending. He cited measures such as reduction of income taxes, and Value-Added Tax (VAT goes down from 16% to 14%), that have now taken root in April 2020.

But the details of the proposal are now clear with the publication of the tax laws amendments. They are contained in a 97-page bill that is to be tabled at and debated at a special session of Kenya’s National Assembly (Parliament) on Wednesday, April 8, for their approval.

KPMG East Africa has nicely summarized some of the proposals in the bill, picking through the details. Some notable items are:

  • VAT: Items that were previously exempt including bread, milk cream, vaccines, and medicaments, move from the zero list to the VAT exempt list, and this may push up their costs.
  • Items that previously did not incur VAT but which will now be charged 14% include agricultural pest control products, tourism park fees, LPG, helicopters, mosquito nets, equipment for solar & wind energy, museum exhibits & specimens, tractors, clean cookstoves, insurance services, and helicopter leasing which previously did not attract VAT.
  • For investors: VAT is now charged on the transfer of a business as a going concern, as well as on assets transfers to real estate investment trusts (REIT’s) and asset-backed securities.
  • Income tax: Is reduced across different bands with those earning below Kshs 24,000 per month exempted from paying income tax, while the tax rate for top earners goes down from 30% to 25%.
  • Non-residents will pay 15% withholding tax on dividends they receive, an increase from the current 10%.
  • Corporate tax: This reduces from 30% to 25%.
  • Businesses earning between Kshs 500,000 to Kshs 50 million a year are to pay turnover tax, which will now be reduced from 3% to 1% of income, monthly. The previous upper limit was Kshs 5 million.
    It is now mandatory for businesses to keep records of all their transaction for 5 years
  • Anti-industry moves?: An electricity rebate for manufacturers has been ended, VAT has been introduced on goods used to build large industrial parks, and there will also be reductions of building investment allowances.
  • Kenya Revenue Authority: When KRA appoints banks as revenue collection agents, they are to remit collections to the Central Bank of Kenya within two days.
  • Removes a requirement that KRA publishes tax rulings in newspapers.
  • KRA may pay rewards of up to Kshs 500,000 for people who give information leading to tax law enforcement (i.e whistleblowers). 

The National Assembly will also consider regulations of a new Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund that the President announced on March 30. They will also dispense with appointments to the CDF board and the Teachers Service Commission, and consider any bills from the Senate.

So while Parliament debates this under the rush of emergency provisions, most of the clauses are financial items unrelated to Coronavirus.

Investment deal-making amid Corona

The East Africa Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (EAVCA) held a webinar today about the impact of Coronavirus, which appears to be a black swan event, on deal-making at private equity firms in the region.

It featured private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) industry experts, Charles Omanga (Horizon Africa), Nigel Smith (KPMG), Paras Shah (Bowman’s Law) and Ananya Sengupta (PWC), with Kanini Mutooni (Toniic Institute) as the session moderator.

Excerpts from the session:

Coronavirus Impact:

  • Valuations A new challenge is convincing entrepreneurs that this is the value of the business because of Corona and when you come out of the pandemic how soon will it normalize – CO
  • “EBITDAC” (not EBITDA) will be a new measure of company performance and there will be discussions about measuring business valuations “before” and “after” Corona – NS
  • Businesses have had continuity plans, but none had foreseen such scenarios – shutdowns, closures of school, travel restrictions for extended periods etc – AS

Deal Pipelines:

  • The biggest request so far from investors is to scenario plan immediately on how long will Corona will take and what impact it will have on the businesses? Some deals will fall away – CO 
  • European and American investors are still sending enquiries for long term investments here – PS
  • People have not walked away from deals but provided 12-18 month periods for certain ratios to be attained – NS 
  • Deal negotiations are still ongoing, with signing delayed. In other cases, parties have come to an agreement but agreed not to sign, and that if the Corona impact is bad, they will walk away – PS

Banking Challenges and Bailouts:

  • Don’t expect reputable DFI’s to default, but they will enhance due diligence before releasing funds and decisions will take longer – CO
  • While CBK has given guidelines for lenders, the banking system is not awash with liquidity – NS
  • The Government of Kenya has been fast in coming up with measures such as taxes reductions, but in terms of financial support of SME’s business and workforce, it is unable to provide support like in other countries, where some governments have stepped forward to pay private-sector salaries – NS
  • Government has not had any talks with landlords – PS 
  • Funds may need to extend the period of resounding to cash calls beyond the current 10-14 days – NS

Opportunities:

  • Some local audit/consulting firms have seen an increase in the volume of work as PE firms are not able to come in and do their due diligence here. They are now asking local firms that can mobilize teams to digitize and upload data needed for transaction decisions – NS
  • Local manufacturers in pharmaceuticals and health will do well; also online education online entertainment and medical insurance – CO
  • Regulators have adopted technology to allow online filings and government agencies have been impressive – PS 
  • A good thing about crisis makes people think differently – and the judiciary is semi-open, with judges delivering rulings are online, but registries remain closed. This is an opportunity for Kenya to shine with its use of technology – PS
  • Tax cuts were offered by the Government, and if they stay that way, that will be positive  – PS 
  • Clean Funding: After days of shutdown, the world has come to realize the impact of clean technology is and how important it will be to invest in areas that clean the environment – AS

Advice for Businesses:

  • In a black swan event, Nicholas Taleb advises firms to exploit positive consequences and minimize negative ones – KM 
  • Force majeure clauses in Kenyan contracts, such as leases. are not common or robust, but there will be more of them going forward – PS 
  • Firms should engage with their banks, supplier and landlords – and fund managers should assist in arranging such discussions – PS
  • If a fund is already fundraising, proceed until you are not able to do more – AS
  • Some deal partners are DFI’s (e.g. IFC, DFID) that have emergency funding available for investees to draw down as loans or working capital. That happened during Ebola and now for Corona – AS

You can watch the webinar on YouTube.

Kenya’s Top 10 Banks in 2020

Factoring in the absorption of their new NBK subsidiary, KCB’s numbers increased their lead at the top of Kenya’s bank table, with assets of Kshs 786 billion (~$7.86 billion). They are followed by Equity (Kshs 507 billion assets), which also increased its capital by almost Kshs 30 billion – probably muscle for its regional deals.

The only major change is with NCBA entering the top 3, after the assets and liabilities of NIC were transferred into CBA in October 2019. NCBA had bank assets of Kshs 465 billion and a pre-tax profit of Kshs 9.2 billion that was further reduced by exceptional merger costs of Kshs 1.1 billion.

The financial statements published today are a continuation of CBA’s and they show that timing of the transfer resulted in a “bargain purchase gain” of Kshs 4.1 billion.

Cooperative Bank is fourth (Kshs 449 billion assets), but may overhaul NCBA by the end the year, while fifth is Absa Kenya whose 2019 results were announced yesterday.

An interesting race mix is next with Standard Chartered, Stanbic Bank and Diamond Trust all closely bunched at about Kshs 300 billion of assets, and rounding out the top ten are I&M and Baroda Bank.

The year 2020 has started with a lot of economic uncertainty economic caused by the Corona virus pandemic with the possibility of strain at some banks. At their results briefing yesterday, Absa Kenya CEO Jeremy Awori said that such times also create opportunities for new partnerships as Absa’s growth plans include targeted acquisitions and disposals. Already Jamii Bora and Cooperative banks are in discussions about a buyout, while there are other small banks that were already in need of a boost.

Comparative Rankings (to last year):
1 (1 + 12) KCB. (+NBK)
2 (2) Equity.
3 (8 + 10) NCBA.
4 (3) Co-operative.
5 (4) Absa (Barclays) Kenya.
6 (5) Standard Chartered Kenya
7 (7) Stanbic Kenya.
8 (6) Diamond Trust.
9 (9) I & M.
10 (11) Baroda.