6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
Though relatively small by Western standards, Kenya’s capital markets are the deepest and most sophisticated in East Africa. The Kenyan capital market has grown rapidly in recent years and has also exhibited strong capital raising capacity. The bond market is underdeveloped and dominated by trading in government debt securities. The government domestic debt market, however, is deep and liquid. Long-term corporate bond issuances are uncommon, leading to a lack of long-term investment capital.
Foreign investors can obtain credit on the local market; however, the number of available credit instruments is relatively small and the government’s interest rate cap since 2016 continues to constrain the availability of credit. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally aligned with international norms. The Kenyan National Treasury has launched its mobile money platform government bond to retail investors locally. The name of the product is M-Akiba, through which local Kenyans are able to purchase bonds as small as USD 30 on their mobile phones. The product was enthusiastically received and generated 400,000 new accounts in the first two weeks of its issuance. The GOK expects to issue USD 10 million over this platform in 2019 in an effort to deepen financial inclusion and financial literacy.
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) is working with regulators in EAC member states through the Capital Market Development Committee (CMDC) and East African Securities Regulatory Authorities (EASRA) on a regional integration initiative and has successfully introduced cross-listing of equity shares. The combined use of both the Central Depository System (CDS) and an automated trading system has moved the Kenyan securities market to globally accepted standards. Kenya is a full (ordinary) member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions Money and Banking System.
Money and Banking System
The Kenyan banking sector in 2018 included 47 commercial banks, one mortgage finance company, 14 microfinance banks, eight representative offices of foreign banks, 74 foreign exchange bureaus, 18 money remittance providers, and three credit reference bureaus. Kenya also has 12 deposit-taking microfinance institutions. Of Kenya’s 47 banking institutions, 28 are locally owned and 13 are foreign owned. Major international banks operating in Kenya include Citibank, Barclays, Bank of India, Standard Bank (South Africa), and Standard Chartered.
In March, 2017, CBK lifted its moratorium on licensing new banks, issued in November 2015 following the collapse of Imperial Bank and Dubai Bank. The CBK’s decision to restart licensing signaled a return of stability in the Kenyan banking sector. JPMorgan Chase has expressed interest in setting up a representative office in Nairobi and Qatari National Bank (QNB) is interested in arranging a Sukuk (sovereign bond) for Kenya. In 2018, Societé Generale (France) also set up a representative office in Nairobi.
In August 2016, President Kenyatta signed into law the Banking Act (2016), which caps the maximum interest rate banks can charge on loans at four percent above the CBK’s benchmark lending rate. It further provides a floor for the deposit rate held in interest earning accounts to at least 70 percent of the CBK benchmark rate. The cap has hurt the GOK’s ability to raise funds in the local debt market. The cap also has slowed the consumer and small and medium business credit market. The International Monetary Fund and other observers have warned that the restrictions will result in a continuing contraction in the availability of credit. In March 2019, the Supreme Court found the interest rate cap to be unconstitutional, but suspended its ruling for 12 months to provide Parliament an opportunity to review the cap.
In the ongoing land registry digitization process, the Kenyan Government is working on a database, known as the single source of truth (SSOT), to eliminate fake title deeds in the Ministry of Lands. The SSOT database development plan is premised on blockchain technology – distributed ledger technology – as the primary reference for all land transactions. The SSOT database would help the land transaction process to be efficient, open, and transparent.
The percentage of Kenya’s total population with access to financial services through conventional or mobile banking platforms is approximately 80 percent. According to the World Bank, M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile banking platform, processes more transactions within Kenya each year than Western Union does globally. In September 2018, 30 million Kenyans were using mobile phone platforms to transfer money, according to the Communication Authority of Kenya. The 2017 National ICT Masterplan envisages the sector contributing at least 10 percent of GDP, up from 4.7 percent in 2015. Several mobile money platform have achieved international interoperability, allowing the Kenyan diaspora to conduct financial transactions in Kenya from abroad.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Foreign Exchange Policies
Kenya has no restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with investment. Kenyan law requires the declaration to customs of amounts greater than KSH 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000) or the equivalent in foreign currencies for non-residents as a formal check against money laundering. Kenya is an open economy with a liberalized capital account and a floating exchange rate. The CBK engages in volatility controls aimed exclusively at smoothing temporary market fluctuations. Between June 2015 and June 2016, the Kenyan shilling declined 3.5 percent after a sharp decline of 15 percent during the same period in 2014/2015. In 2018, foreign exchange reserves remained relatively steady. The average inflation rate was between 3.7-5.7 percent in 2018 and the average rate on 91-day treasury bills had fallen to 7.75 percent in 2018. According to CBK figures, the average exchange rate was KSH 101.3to USD 1.00 in 2018.
Kenya’s Foreign Investment Protection Act (FIPA) guarantees capital repatriation and remittance of dividends and interest to foreign investors, who are free to convert and repatriate profits including un-capitalized retained profits (proceeds of an investment after payment of the relevant taxes and the principal and interest associated with any loan).
Foreign currency is readily available from commercial banks and foreign exchange bureaus and can be freely bought and sold by local and foreign investors. The Central Bank of Kenya Act (2014), however, states that all foreign exchange dealers are required to obtain and retain appropriate documents for all transactions above the equivalent of KSH 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000). As of March 2018, the CBK has licensed 18 money remittance providers following the operationalization of the Money Remittance Regulations in April 2013.
Kenya is listed as a country of primary concern for money laundering and financial crime by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. Kenya was removed from the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Watchlist in 2014 following progress in creating the legal and institutional framework to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Kenya is in the process of establishing a sovereign wealth fund under the Kenya National Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill (2014). The fund would receive income from any future privatization proceeds, dividends from state corporations, oil and gas, and minerals revenues due to the national government, revenue from other natural resources, and funds from any other source. The bill remains under internal review and stakeholder consultations.
The Kenya Information and Communications Act (2009) provides for the establishment of a Universal Service Fund (USF). The purpose of the USF is to fund national projects that have significant impact on the availability and accessibility of ICT services in rural, remote, and poor urban areas. The USF has amassed sizeable assets, but to date, the fund and its managing committee have not been able to mobilize it for use on any project.