Kenya-based software developers are recognised for their niche products in use not only in the region but across the globe by governments and private sector players.
Compulynx, Cellulant, KAPS,Techno Brain are among an array of local established IT companies that have made it big across borders offering solutions that spans financial, public and non-governmental sectors due to their cutting-edge tech solutions.
Although these local companies are as good as any in the global innovation stage, Kenya public sector entities and private sector players have yet to embrace them fully, and instead continue to import software for their various needs.
Compulynx founding chief executive Sailesh Savani says time has come for Kenyans to appreciate ‘Made in Kenya’ software, adding that homegrown solutions best suit Kenya’s needs.
“We understand Kenyan problems because we are part of the society. Kenya needs to reduce reliance on foreign software and open up software tenders for Kenyan companies,” he says.
Local techies aver that the government should trust them with big projects as they are capable of developing them given their experience and track record.
Mr Savani notes that the move to award Moi University and Jomo Kenyatta University for Agriculture and Technology a tender to assemble 160,000 tablets for the coming census is the way to go.
“It is right to buy hardware from foreign companies but we can assemble the same then adopt a Kenyan software,” he says.
Cellulant, founded by Kenyan Ken Njoroge and Nigerian Bolaji Akinboro, is now worth Sh10.8 billion with operations in 11 African countries — Kenya,Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Liberia, Malawi, Botswana, and Mozambique . The firm’s products are sold in 33 African countries.
The software firm brings together 94 banks and seven mobile money platforms with a combined potential customer base of 130 million.
Interestingly, while Kenya continues to grapple with subsidised fertiliser woes, the Nigerian government turned to Cellulant to build a fertiliser distribution system known as Agrikore, that has since been replicated in several other countries.
The same case applies to Compulynx. Shoppers in any Kenyan big supermarket must have received a printed receipt whose last item is ‘Software Designed and Developed by Compulynx Limited’.
The company has been serving private and public sector clients across Africa, UAE and the Middle East providing solutions such as retail technology, digital identity management, as well as fraud and loss prevention products raising its revenues to Sh800 million.
Compulynx’s Digital Identity unit, which mainly uses biometric technology, boasts a rich list of customers such as the World Food Programme (WFP), The Border Consortium (Thailand), University of Dar es Salaam, Kenya’s Equity, Family and StanChart banks, Orient Bank Uganda, and CRDB Bank Tanzania
While the Kenya government has priotised agriculture, tax collection, judiciary, land, transport and health sectors in digital transformation plan, local software companies say they have not been involved in such grand plans.
“We need to locally source for this software so as to develop capacity, generate more jobs as well as wealth. We have the best brains powering IT services in many African governments and it is time our own country appreciated what we do,” adds Mr Savani.
Technology firm, Meta Capital’s managing director Sila Obegi who mooted a real estate software now in use by home owners and real estate management firms, says a government job for software developers is a win-win bargain both at the national and county government level.
“Solutions abound, but no one from government is willing to engage local software developers who could be financially empowered to hire hundreds developers to man the platforms,” he says.
Techno Brain Limited was hired to launch and operate Malawi’s Digital Empowerment Scholarship Programme while its e-cargo tracking system is in use in Zimbabwe.
iHub which formulated Kenya’s Open Data Portal now in use at Huduma Centres and the e-Citizen platform where 600 different government datasets were uploaded continues to serve as an incubator for software products winning prizes across the globe.
Nailab, which secured a Sh160 million for its Tech Incubation project via the Kenya Transparency and Infrastructure Project, is behind a series of online portals, GoKibali (gokibali.com) for people seeking licences and permits for government services, (https://web.facebook.com/Utafiti.co.ke) and a web-based research aggregator that eases access of research content in different fields.
Kenya Airports Parking Services Limited (KAPS) founded by electronics engineer Eric Mwandia and his friend Galo Anzeze with operations across East Africa, manages ticketing at the world-famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve, the Jomo Kenyatta KIA, Uganda’s Makerere University and was recently awarded a contract by Uganda Police to supply Long Range Automated Number Plate Reading(ANPR) cameras.
The ANPR system will facilitate identification of errant motorists and assist in tracking down defaulters of traffic fines.
Among KAPS clients include Kenya Airports Authority, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, Municipal Council of Mombasa, Nairobi City Council, Kampala City Council, Tanzania Airports Authority and the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority among others.
Founded in 2009, Jambo Pay, a payments gateway, has operations across East Africa and in Senegal with plans afoot to expand across Africa.
It remains to be seen whether government entities will abide by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to locally source for ‘built in Kenya products including software solutions.
Kenya to import mitumba after coronavirus pandemic
Kenya is set to lift the ban on imports of second-hand clothes once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, the Industry, Trade and Co-operatives Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina has said.
The Cabinet Secretary last Wednesday announced an immediate temporary suspension of the importation of second-hand clothes as a measure to stop importing the SARs-Cov-2 virus that causes Covid-19 disease.
Ms Maina said the action taken is in line with the conditions as set out by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).
“The government has suspended importation of second-hand clothes with immediate effect to safeguard the health of Kenyans and promote local textiles in the wake of coronavirus,” said Ms Maina.
“Most of the Mitumba imports come from China and Pakistan, countries which are the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision is intended to safeguard Kenyans against the spreading of the coronavirus and is therefore a health issue,” she said.
In an interview with the The EastAfrican, Ms Maina said the Kebs will enforce the suspension as we wait for the situation to improve.
“It is a requirement by the Kebs to take such an action in times of an epidemic like the Covid-19,” she said.
A recent study by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the virus can stay longer on different surfaces, including clothes.
Ms Maina, however, said the temporary ban will not in any way affect the policy on Mitumba imports from the US.
Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, Kenya sold about Ksh40 billion ($400m) worth of textiles and clothing to the US.
“This does not in any way affect our policy on our imports from the US. The decision is strictly an urgent measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus,” added Ms Maina.
World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.
“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.
He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.
People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.
For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.
Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.
“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.
“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”
According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.
Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans
The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.
Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.
Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.