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Kenya seeks $1 billion World Bank loan2 minutes read

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In a bid to cut debt from overseas capital markets after a borrowing binge in recent years,Kenya is in advanced talks with the World Bank for “a fairly priced” loan of up to 100 billion shillings ($991.57 million), nearly half of its required external funding this fiscal year.

The World Bank, which has multiple development funding programmes with Kenya worth billions of dollars, is seen as one of the viable alternatives to commercial debt.

The Washington D.C.-based financier lent money to the Kenyan ministry of finance for the first time last year, changing past practice where it channelled cash straight to the projects, bypassing the Treasury.

The loan size will be determined by how much its funders can put together, says Julius Muia, principal secretary in the Kenyan Finance ministry.

“We are thinking something between 50-100 billion (shillings) depending on what kind of interest there will be”. The loan will be cheaper than commercial debt, in line with the government’s policy of cutting its funding costs, Muia adds.

Kenya became a middle-income country in 2014 after it rebased the economy, meaning it cannot secure funds from the World Bank at the concessional rates offered to low-income states.

The finance ministry has set a budget deficit of 6.3% of GDP for this financial year to the end of June with about 213 billion shillings expected from external sources.

The balance will be raised through Kenya’s first sovereign green bond, with the country taking advantage of next week’s UK-Africa investment summit in London to gauge investor demand for the potential issue.

“It is taking shape as we go,” Muia says.

The Treasury projects that the budget deficit will shrink to 5.7% of GDP in 2020/21. The gap, which peaked at 9.1% of GDP in 2016/17 financial year, is expected to narrow further to the desired level of 3.3% in 2023/24

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Masiyiwa to Bid for Ethiopian Telecoms License

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Zimbabwean Billionaire and founder of Econet Global Ltd, Strive Masiyiwa has disclosed his position on acquiring a telecommunications license in Ethiopia, which is opening up the industry to foreign investment for the first time.

The Horn of African country has announced plans to sell as much as 49% of the state-owned monopoly, Ethiopian Telecommunications Corp and to issue two new spectrum licenses.

Carriers including Orange SA, MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd. have already shown interest in the country of more than 100 million people, which has a relatively low level of data penetration and internet access.

Econet, through a number of its subsidiaries, is actively developing interests in Ethiopia.

Econet has operations in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Burundi, with investments in Europe and South America.

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had scheduled the liberalization of the industry for early this year.

However, it is yet to provide guidance on the exercise, including any limits on foreign ownership.

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Nigeria posts highest quarterly GDP growth since recession

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Nigeria’s economic growth rose to an annual rate of 2.55% in the three months to the end of December, its highest quarterly growth since a 2016 recession.

Africa’s largest economy grew 2.27% in 2019 from 1.91% the previous year. The country has struggled to shake off the effects of a 2016 recession that ended the following year and has been grappling with low growth since.

Crude production hovered at around 2 million barrels per day throughout the year.

The non-oil sector, which the government aims to make the main growth sector, rose 2.26% in Q4.

President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to revive the economy and diversify it away from oil over-dependence but investors have been waiting for policy signals that could lift growth.

Recently, the IMF cut its 2020 growth forecast for the country to 2% from 2.5%, citing lower demand for oil due to fears that the coronavirus outbreak in China will cause a slowdown.

Annual inflation in Nigeria rose for the fifth straight month to 12.13% in January, its highest in nearly two years.

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Absa Kenya signs almost 5 million customers on virtual platform

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Kenya’s Absa Bank , a part of South Africa’s Absa Group, has signed almost 5 million customers on its virtual banking platform, which it sees as a major driver for future growth, chief executive, Jeremy Awori announced yesterday.

When the bank first launched its virtual savings and loan app known as “Timiza” — Kiswahili for “Achieve” — in March 2018, it attracted 300,000 customers. By the end of the year it had 3 million users, with lending standing at 10 billion Kenyan shillings ($98.91 million).

The bank, formerly known as Barclays Kenya, also has a separate mobile-based banking service to process normal customer transactions such as deposits and withdrawals.

Absa Kenya, posted a pretax profit of 8.18 billion shillings in the first nine months of 2019, compared with 7.72 billion shillings in year-earlier period.

Kenyan lenders have in recent years , turned to technology as they try to counter competition from mobile phone-based financial services such as from telecoms operator Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform, which had 23.6 million users as of last September.

Absa’s virtual banking app’s competitors include those run by KCB Group’s, NCBA Group and Equity Group.

Pressure to use mobile banking services increased further when the government imposed a cap on commercial lending rates in 2016 that ate into bank profit margins forcing banks to search for new ways to grow their businesses. The cap was scrapped at the end of last year.

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