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Archive for January, 2015

M-Pesa International Money Transfer

30 Jan

M-PESA International Money Transfer (IMT) is an innovative way to send from abroad to someone in Kenya. The money is sent directly in to the Receiver’s Mobile phone, to the M-PESA Account, and can then be used in various ways. The money transfer is received close to instantly (time of an SMS text message). Both the Sender & Receiver are sent a confirmation SMS text message from M-PESA.

The scheme is live between the UK and Kenya, and the system is such that additional corridors can easily be added, subject to local regulations. The recipient must be a Safaricom customer to receive IMT. This is because to be registered you need to be on Safaricom. People not registered for M-PESA, on any network, can receive money via M-PESA. You must be registered for M-PESA to send money.

If the recipient is not registered on M-PESA, he gets an SMS confirming that he has received funds from the UK & WU and he needs to register within 21 days to access the funds. (Depending on the Agent from which your friend in UK is sending money, you may receive an SMS advising you to register)

Charges for sending money from UK via M-PESA vary depending on the amount sent and the agent at which the money is being sent from.

Charges vary between ₤4.00 and ₤6.90, for sending up to ₤250. Participating Agents publish their transaction charges; which are currently:

Fee, up to ₤100 Fee, ₤101 to ₤200
Western Union ₤4.90 ₤6.90
Fee, ₤10 to ₤150 Fee, ₤151 to ₤250
Provident Capital ₤4.00 ₤6.00
Mukuru.com ₤3.00 ₤5.00

Obama come home!

26 Jan

There has been a lot of publicity regarding US president Barrack Obama and his Kenyan roots. Kenya is the land of his father and expectantly people were keen on how this irrefutable bond will influence the relationship between the two countries. The most optimistic of us predicted a surge in US – Kenya relations transcending to a mutual benefit especially on the economic front.Kenya’s former president Mwai Kibaki specifically hailed Obama’s victory as significant not only in the history of the United States, but also for Kenya, his ancestral homeland. He added that the victory of Obama was their own victory because of his roots in Kenya. This turned out not to be the case, as Obama had other plans. Ever since his first inauguration on January 20, 2009, Obama has travelled to 46 different states internationally. In Africa, he has ironically only visited four including Ghana in 2009, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania in 2013. He has visited Indonesia the land of the his step father twice during his presidency and analysts have attributed part his demise in approval ratings to his failure to ignite his home spirits, his home connections, his roots.

In 2013, Obama embarked on his second official African trip and he snubbed Kenya in favour of South Africa, Senegal, and Tanzania, Kenya’s next-door neighbor and perennial rival. International relations experts have observed that historically, Kenya has been a strong U.S. ally. According to a 2012 BBC global opinion poll, 79% of Kenyans view the U.S. positively, making citizens of the nation some of the most pro-American in Africa. The deterioration of relations between the governments of the U.S. and Kenya is unfortunate, but it is not an isolated example in Africa and epitomizes the failure of American’s engagement strategy throughout the continent. The lack of restraint in scolding African governments on how they govern is directly opposite to the quite diplomacy practised by China which partly the reason why China has emerged as the top Global powerhouse. Lucrative commercial opportunities aside, the U.S. will rightfully strive to be an inspiration to African governments by encouraging them to embrace more robust democratic ideals, aggressively fight corruption, and invest more in social development. But this goal can be accomplished without the U.S.’ usual “name-and-shame” approach to diplomacy that African leaders have become accustomed to, and have increasingly ignored now that a partnership with non-judgmental China presents a viable alternative.

In more positive recent news President Obama met with President Uhuru and the US leader has finally declared he will visit Kenya in the near future. He however has not given a date, but Washington and Nairobi are working on the finer details of the proposed visit.



Remittances and the Kenyan Economy 2

23 Jan

A remittance is money sent by a person in a foreign land to his or her home country. Due to the huge sums involved, remittances are now being recognized as an important contributor to the country’s growth and development. Remittances are one Kenya’s largest source of foreign exchange and  they have played a vital role in alleviating the liquidity constraints that would otherwise prevent the state (or households) from investing in important areas like children’s education and housing construction. The Central Bank of Kenya conducts a survey on remittance inflows every month through the formal channels that include commercial banks and other authorized international remittance service providers in Kenya like mukuru.com. Remittance inflows to Kenya increased by 18.6 per cent, from USD 107.5 million in September 2013 to USD 127.4 million in September 2014, and were slightly lower than USD 128.8 million recorded in August 2014.

While the main sources of diaspora remittances to Kenya are from Europe and the United States, Kenyan’s living in other African countries are also attracting interest from Pan African Banks such as West African-based Ecobank Group. The bulk of the money sent goes into household expenditure and supporting investments such as shares and real estate.Currency dealers reckon that the increased flow will help support the shilling.World Bank estimates put total remittances that come through the banking system and unofficial channels such as personal deliveries at over one billion dollars per annum. An increase in the volume of cash remitted by Kenyans working or living abroad has attracted the attention of local and international banks, telecommunication and money transfer firms; all keen to cash-in on this growing segment of the market. This evidences the positive impact on the local economy these remittances have on the local economy. Many have found ways to add on services and and several downstream services have sprung up to allow citizens to get a piece of the proverbial pie.

Security of transfer is a big concern and efforts have more than tripled in a bid to make the transactions safe from various forms of crime. The diaspora remittances business has attracted the attention of Kenya’s monetary authority – Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) – which has already put in place the regulatory framework to monitor cross boarder money transfer activity. Money Remittance Regulations have already been formulated, creating the necessary legal framework for licensing of stand-alone money remittances providers. Companies like mukuru.com have invested heavily in beefing up security to protect all interested parties.

The importance of remittances in the Kenyan economy cannot be underestimated. Kenya’s Vision 2030, the government’s national policy blue print, recognizes the role played by diaspora remittances in national development and therefore highlights diaspora remittances as one of the flagship projects under the financial sector.



Kenyan Motorists Celebrate

20 Jan

There is relief for Kenyan motorists as the country’s Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has lowered oil prices. The fuel price drop is the highest since the ERC was set up four years ago. Super petrol is down to 92 Kenyan shillings per litre, Diesel is at 83 Kenyan shillings per litre, while Kerosene is down to 65 Kenyan shillings in Nairobi. The significant drop since last June has been driven by the instability in two chief oil-producing countries, Libya and Iraq. Crude oil prices have plunged in recent times by about 55 per cent on the back of low demand due to weak economic activity and a growing shift from oil to other efficient energy sources. The cost of crude oil now hovers around $45 a barrel so the winners in this epic encounter are importers of crude oil who spend less to buy and stock oil.

Certainly, households, particularly the rural poor, would see more money in their pockets after filling up at the pumps while businesses will benefit from lower input costs. The ERC promised a further drop over at least the next three months, since Kenya imports refined products with a lag time of two months, compared to global crude oil prices. This means the current prices reflect what happened in the world market two months ago.

It is not just motorists who are heaving a sigh of relief following the reduced prices. Kenya’s manufacturing sector stands to register millions in savings on energy prices. The average price of imported diesel, a large component in manufacturing, dropped from $748.73 (Sh68,000) per tonne in November to $641.17 (Sh58,331) per ton in December 2014.

This 14.37 per cent drop is expected to reduce the cost of doing business for manufacturing companies as far as energy costs are concerned with the savings passed on to consumers in terms of reduced shelf prices of goods and services. According to Johnstone Nderi, an advisory manager at ABC Capital, the downward trend in fuel prices should have a net positive effect for investors. As a result of high savings, you are likely to see more resources available for investment which will lead to more productivity and generally a higher standard of living. The downside expected is an increase on the number of vehicles on the roads which can lead to traffic jams and increased emissions into the atmosphere.






Kenya breaks Chinese Cyber Crime Syndicate

16 Jan

A fire broke out in the upmarket neighbourhood in Nairobi of Rhunda Estate in which one person died, preliminary investigations show that the fire was triggered by a faulty server which was part of a complex network of high end communication equipment that looks to having being used for various forms of cyber crimes. Further raids on these premises revealed equipment being operated that are capable of infiltrating bank accounts, Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile banking systems and cash machines. Numerous telephone headsets, computers linked to high-speed internet and monitors were found. So far, police have arrested and charged 77 Chinese nationals in connection with these illegal activities. During the raids, police found soundproof rooms fashioned like military dorms that were full of computer equipment and outfitted with high-speed Internet connections, which is uncommon in Kenya. In Kenya, the perpetrators of computer fraud and criminal hacks are rarely found or arrested, say experts. In this recent case, fire blamed on a malfunctioning computer server revealed the suspects. With the fire spreading quickly, killing one person, the Chinese nationals refused help from their Kenyan neighbours, creating suspicion that prompted them to call the police

The discovery of what police call a cybercrime command centre comes as Kenya is experiencing a wave of computer crime, with criminal hackers carrying out phishing campaigns to extort money from citizens and launching attacks on banks. The arrests are a fortunate break for a police force struggling to contain the problem. Kenya loses close to 22.8 million US dollars annually to cyber crime which is a huge problem that often goes unnoticed.

However suspicions are rife that the group are actually on a espionage mission which could dent diplomatic relations between Kenya and China. The suspects are also facing charges of being in the country illegally as some do not have passports or any sort of identification. Kenya’s foreign ministry also summoned China’s top diplomat in Nairobi as it sought to establish if Beijing was in anyway linked to the affair. Equally hair raising is the quick response from China in pin pointing the groups activities to criminal activities targeting Chinese institutions and an immediate request for extradition. Suspicion is that the gang was on an espionage mission on behalf of the Chinese government as their equipment is capable of infiltrating Kenyan communications systems and this would be a breach of national security. The Kenyan government is looking into this matter and roped in experts to investigate further into the matter.