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Markets tense as Rotich drops IMF backup loan

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Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Financial markets were tense Thursday after it emerged that the National Treasury had failed to renew the Sh100 billion ($989.8 million) standby facility with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), injecting a huge measure of uncertainty in the economy.

The tension, which came one day ahead of today’s deadline, saw the shilling open the day weaker and the Nairobi Securities Exchange’s (NSE) #ticker:NSE main index lose 30 points.

Treasury secretary Henry Rotich said Kenya would not seek an extension of the precautionary loan from the Fund, arguing that the country had kept its macroeconomic fundamentals such as inflation and currency stable over the period without drawing down on the facility.

“IMF programmes, especially standby (facilities), are short-term, with a maximum of two years. After that you are supposed to graduate and get out of it. But we can still engage and get back to it if we feel it’s necessary,” Mr Rotich said.

Market analysts, however, argued that the worst-case scenario would be a recall of the sovereign bond issues that would mean a default on existing foreign credit facilities due to the uncertainty arising from the virtual loss of IMF support.

“Expiry of the Standby Arrangement facility would have an impact on the issued sovereign debt in international markets as investors view the precautionary facility as a safety net. In the event that Kenya is not eligible, this will be deemed as a default trigger on the Eurobond,” said investment bank Genghis Capital in its update on the fixed-income markets. The original standby facility was $1.5 billion, but $500 million expired in March.

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data Thursday showed that the shilling had lost 0.17 per cent against the dollar, 0.30 per cent against the sterling pound and 0.33 per cent versus the euro compared to the previous day. The NSE 20-share index closed the day 30 points lower, breaching the 3000 points psychological barrier to stand at 2990.02 points.

Early morning trading data from Reuters showed the shilling breached the 101 units to the dollar mark. But the CBK immediately intervened stopping the slide. It was not possible to find out the extent of the CBK’s intervention, but this is likely to be seen in the change of the weekly record of the official foreign exchange reserves.

“Kenya’s central bank pumped in dollars into the market late in Thursday’s trading session after the shilling weakened due to the expiry of a standby loan facility with the International Monetary Fund. The shilling rose to 100.85/101.05 per dollar after the intervention from 101.02/101.22 where it was trading before the intervention. It had closed Wednesday’s session at 100.75/95,” Reuters reported.

Raymond Kipchumba, a research analyst with ABC Capital, said Kenya’s failure to reach a deal with the IMF raised the prospect of foreign Eurobond lenders recalling their cash, a move that would severely strain state coffers.

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“The chance remains that with the expiry of the IMF precautionary facility without a new one being agreed on, the noteholders will recall the bonds, including the interest, which would only make things worse for the Treasury,” he said.

Mr Kipchumba referred to the IMF prospectus — for the 10- and 30-year Sh200 billion notes issued early this year — that provides that a severance of relations would be considered a default, triggering a recall of the credit if the noteholders hold at least 25 per cent of the value in total.

“Condition 10 (Events of Default) provides that holders of the 2028 Notes or the 2048 Notes, as the case may be, who hold at least 25 per cent in aggregate principal amount of the relevant Notes then outstanding may declare such Notes to be immediately due and payable at their principal amount together with accrued interest if, inter alia … the Issuer ceases to be a member of the IMF or ceases to be eligible to use the general resources of the IMF,” says the provision in the prospectus. But Mr Rotich appeared unfazed by the provisions insisting that Kenya has reached a point when it should be relying less on IMF support.


“Countries that have graduated and are beginning to strengthen their balance of payments enter into various types of arrangements (with the IMF) through article four of consultations only like in many medium and developed countries … So as a country that is entering into the medium and developed countries, we should be relying less and less on IMF facilities, especially if you have come of age in our macroeconomic management,” Mr Rotich said.

Genghis Capital also pointed out that there was a possibility of the expiry of the facility having no impact on markets on account of the existing huge foreign exchange reserves, but the intervention by the CBK showed that the initial fears were not baseless. Genghis Capital said that the Treasury could be forced to raise money at high rates in the event that it wanted to tap the international markets to meet the redemption needs of the five-year Eurobond issued in 2014 and expiring in June next year. “This would also dent Treasury’s prospect of tapping the international markets to refinance the Eurobond that is maturing at the tail end of the fiscal year,” said Genghis Capital.

The analysts noted that the yields have risen 105 basis points (bps) to-date on both the 10-year and 30-year Eurobonds issued in the year. “For Eurobond I, yields have risen 144 bps and 177 bps on a year-to-date basis on the five-year and 10-year tenors, respectively,” the analysts said.

Investment analyst Aly-Khan Satchu, who runs Rich Management, said the move was ill-advised, citing countries such as Turkey whose currency is on a free fall after enjoying a benign environment for years.

“I appreciate that we are sitting at a record high in regard to forex reserves. However, if you look around the world today, what was once a benign environment [for emerging and the frontier markets which were surfing a golden wave of practically free dollar liquidity] has become dark, turbulent and violent.

“You are throwing over an insurance policy just when you need it most. So I for one think that the macho talk is poorly advised. Therefore, we should be prudent and not cavalier at this juncture,” said Mr Satchu.



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BCCI: The bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.

BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.

It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.

BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.

The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.

He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.

In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  

BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.

The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.

The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.

It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.

The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.

It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”

This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.

The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.

And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.

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“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.

BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.

“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.

A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.

“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.

CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.

This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.

For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.

In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.

Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 

The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.

Criminal culture

In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).

The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.

This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.

Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.

“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.

These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.

“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.

BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).

Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).

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East Africa celebrates top women in banking and finance

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The Angaza Awards for Women to watch in Banking and Finance in East Africa took place Online via Zoom on 8th June 2021.

The event was set to celebrate the top 10 women shaping banking and finance across East Africa. The 2021 Angaza Awards, which will be a Pan-African Awards program, was also announced at the event.

Key speakers at this webinar were Dr Nancy Onyango, Director of Internal Audit and Inspection at the IMF; and Gail Evans, New York Times Best Selling Author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman and former White House Aide and CNN Executive Vice President.

Dr Nancy Onyango advised women to deep expertise in their fields, spend time in forums and link with key players in that sector.
“Gain exposure with other cultures by seeking for employment overseas and use customized CV for each job application,” said Dr Onyango.

According to Gail Evans, women should show up and be fully present in meetings and not be preoccupied with other issues.
“Be simple and avoid jargon. Multi-tasking only means that you are mediocre Smart people ask good questions in a business meeting. Most women face drawbacks due to perfectionism, procrastination and fear of failure, said Evans.

She advised women to play like a man and win like a woman, be strategic, and intentionally make their moves to get to the top.

“For us to pull up businesses that have been affected by effects of COVID-19 pandemic, we need to re-invent business models, change the product offering and make more use of digital platforms,” said Mary Wamae Equity Group Executive Director.

Mary Wamae emerged top at the inaugural Angaza awards( East Africa) ahead of other finalists.

While women continue to excel in banking and finance, the number of that occupies top executive positions is still less.

“There is a gap for women occupying C suite level and it continues to widen in the finance sector. At entry level, there is still an experience gap for women,” said Nkirote Mworia, Group Secretary for UAP-Old Mutual Group.

She said that at the Middle Management level, women do not express their ambition. For this reason, UAP-Old Mutual has developed an executive sponsorship program to help women get to the next level.

Mworia added that most women hold the notion that top positions in management have politics and pressure.
“One needs leadership skills and not technical expertise to get to the top,” said Mworia.

According to Catherine Karimi, Chief Executive Officer and Principal Officer of APA Life Assurance Company, women need to focus on the strengths and natural abilities that they already have.

“Take risks and raise your hand to get to the high table. Find mentors along the way and develop your own brand and not compare yourself with others Focus on your strengths because it will make you move faster in the career ladder,” said Karimi.

Lina Mukashyaka Higiro, a Rwandan businesswoman and chief executive officer of the NCBA Bank Rwanda since July 2018, has three lessons for women who want to excel in banking and finance.
“Always spend at least 20 minutes each day reading, seeking genuine feedback from other staff members and widen your network,” Higiro told the webinar.

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Women picked for Angaza awards

Mary Wamae, Executive Director, led this year’s Top 10 Women in Angaza Awards, Equity Group (Kenya)(2)Catherine Karimi, Chief Executive Officer, APA Life Insurance Company (Kenya)(3)Lina Higiro, Chief Executive Officer, NCBA Bank (Rwanda)(4)Elizabeth Wasunna Ochwa, Business Banking Director, Absa Bank (Kenya)(5)Joanita Jaggwe, Country Head of Risk and Compliance, KCB Group (South Sudan)(6) Millicent Omukaga, Technical Assistance Expert on Inclusive Finance, African Development Bank (Kenya)(7)Emmanuella Nzahabonimana, Head of Information Technology, KCB Group (Rwanda)(8)Judith Sidi Odhiambo, Group Head of Corporate Affairs, KCB Group (Kenya)(9)Rosemary Ngure, ESG & Impact Manager, Catalyst Principal Partners (Kenya) and(10)Pooja Bhatt, Co-Founder, QuantaRisk and QuantaInsure (Kenya).

The Kenyan Wallstreet, a financial media firm, partnered with Kaleidoscope Consultants to raise awareness of seasoned women shaping and influencing the sector through their organizations.

The Angaza Award criteria included assessing the applicants’ area of responsibility and contribution to firm performance. Professionals in Banking, Capital Markets, Insurance, Investment Banking, Fintech, Fund Management, Microfinance, and SACCOs were invited to submit their applications or nominations via the Kenyan Wallstreet Award Web page.

ALSO READ: Angaza Awards Top Finalist; Mary Wangari Wamae

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IFC in New Partnership to Develop Affordable Housing in Mombasa County

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 14 – International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, has signed a new deal in support of affordable housing in Kenya.

The corporation has partnered with Belco Realty LLP, to develop a mixed use affordable living complex that will consist of 1,379 residential units and over 4,500 square meters of retail and commercial spaces in Kongowea, Mombasa County.

Together with the Kenyan firm, IFC says the partnership will help meet surging demand for housing in Kenya.

Under the agreement, IFC will help identify suitable international strategic partners to invest equity of up to $12 million, or Sh1.3 billion in Belco and to provide the company with the necessary technical support to develop the project.

The development, known as Kongowea Village, will be developed to foster inclusive and affordable community living within the city.

Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa says the project, which will be located on eight acres within the heart of Mombasa city, will aim to be a catalyst for wider city regeneration.

The project will be developed to meet IFC EDGE certification requirements and will incorporate the latest technologies in passive cooling, energy efficiency and water conservation to support sustainable urbanization.

 Kongowea Village is expected to create 1,160 jobs and business opportunities during the three-year construction period and many more after completion of the project within the themed retail arcade.

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 “Access to quality housing is a growing problem in Kenya and across Africa,” said Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.

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“Developers often target the high end of the market, but this project is aimed squarely at the lower-income bracket. Helping Belco identify the right partners for this project is expected to attract more developers to Kenya and other parts of Africa to help meet rising demand for housing.”

 IFC‘s engagement with Belco will help Kenya support its rapidly growing and urbanizing population by increasing access to affordable housing. The problem is similar across most of Africa, where population growth and demand for quality housing are combining to outstrip supply.  We are pleased to partner with a company such as Belco that is committed to contributing to solving this challenge,” said Emmanuel Nyirinkindi, IFC‘s Director for Transaction Advisory Services.

 IFC’s partnership with Belco is part of its broader strategy to support better access to affordable housing in Kenya.

In 2020, IFC invested $2 million in equity in the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company (KMRC) to help increase access to affordable mortgages and support home ownership in the country.

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