Unraveling the CBK’s Interest Rate Hike and Its Impact on Kenyans

In a surprising move, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) recently raised the Central Bank Rate (CBR) from 10.50 percent to 12.50 percent, marking a 200 percent increase in base points unseen since September 2012. This sent ripples across the economic landscape. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), citing sustained inflationary pressures, elevated global risks, and the necessity to mitigate potential impacts on the domestic economy, justified their decision for such an aggressive rate hike.

The decision is pivotal with compelling ramifications for the Kenyan economy, banks, and their customers—particularly in this time of grappling. Not only does it carry substantial weight at a period when many are wrestling with high living costs, but it also associates with burdensome implications. The surge in taxes, combined specifically with unprecedented fuel prices, portrays an unsettling image for both Kenyans and businesses.

The CBK wields the CBR as a pivotal tool to influence economic activity through borrowing cost adjustments. It now stands as a formidable force, impacting millions of Kenyans and businesses that rely on loans. When the CBR surges, it signals increased borrowing costs for commercial banks from the Central Bank; this inevitably results in elevated interest rates for consumers and businesses alike.

This rate hike immediately results in elevated borrowing costs across the spectrum: mortgages, personal loans, and business financing. The escalation of interest rates inflates monthly repayments; this could potentially trigger a deceleration in both borrowing and investment activities. Faced with uncertainty—a characteristic of businesses—some might choose to be cautious by postponing new projects, subsequently impacting existing ones.

As borrowers grapple with elevated repayment demands, the ripple effect potentially extends to a surge in non-performing loans. Financial institutions, in their quest to recuperate outstanding debts, might intensify auctioneering activities.

The CBK perceives the rate hike as an effort to tame inflation, which stood at 6.8 percent in November 2023—marginally surpassing the government’s target of 5 percent. Here, several factors are pivotal: firstly and notably is depreciation of the Kenyan shilling—a force that significantly pressured domestic prices and secondly reduced purchasing power.

All is not lost; the Kenyan banking sector can pivotally mitigate the impact on consumers. Primarily, enhancing financial literacy among Kenyans remains a pressing need. Knowledge empowerment regarding the implications of CBR on loans proves critical: we must actively empower individuals with this understanding.

Another avenue opens for the banking sector when it implements risk-based lending practices: this method ensures that loans disburse according to an individual’s ability—a key factor in reducing non-performing loan risks—by focusing on repayability within stipulated timelines.

Moreover, we must prioritize responsible lending practices over mere expansion of the loan portfolio. We should base our lending decisions on meticulous analyses of borrowers and their ability to repay. This is an opportune moment for collaborative action between banks and consumers—a scenario reminiscent of discussions around flexible repayment models during COVID-19 measures.

BasiGo Takes Strides Towards Greening Kenya’s Public Transport with $5 Million Funding

BasiGo Ltd., Africa’s leading Electric Bus solution provider, has embarked on a groundbreaking initiative to revolutionize transportation in Kenya. Successfully securing a substantial debt funding of $5 million from British International Investment (BII), the United Kingdom’s development finance institution, BasiGo aims to expedite local assembly operations for electric buses, addressing the rising demand from Kenyan bus operators.

The Catalyst of Financing

BasiGo’s ambitious plans to scale operations and transition Kenya’s public transport from traditional diesel-powered vehicles to state-of-the-art electric buses receive a significant boost with a $5 million investment. This funding, in harmony with the vision of the Africa Green Industrialisation Initiative (AGII), launched at COP28, underscores the importance of sustainable, resilient industries that create jobs, reduce emissions, and enhance biodiversity.

Model of Innovative Financing

Utilizing its groundbreaking Pay-As-You-Drive financing model, BasiGo intends to deploy funds to enable bus operators, facing challenges with high upfront costs, to acquire electric buses. This model represents a crucial step in promoting the widespread adoption of electric buses, ushering in a new era for Kenya’s public transport characterized by sustainability and advanced technology.

BasiGo’s Impactful Electric Buses

BasiGo’s electric buses are not merely modes of transportation; they are sustainable solutions combatting climate change. Each bus mitigates over 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, a significant improvement compared to their diesel counterparts. Supported by BII’s financial backing, BasiGo aims to mitigate an impressive 5 million tonnes of CO2 in Nairobi alone.

The Local Assembly and Green Manufacturing

BII’s debt facility marks a historic achievement, providing pioneering support for electrifying Sub-Saharan Africa’s informal public transport sector. In response to growing demand, locally assembled electric buses will not only meet requirements but also establish an innovative green manufacturing hub dedicated to modern Kenyan-made electric vehicles.

BasiGo’s Achievements and Future Goals

Established in 2021, BasiGo has spearheaded the integration of electric buses into Nairobi’s public transport fleet, boasting 19 operational units—the largest sub-Saharan African assembly. The company has covered over 1 million kilometers, transporting more than 1.2 million passengers and offsetting approximately 500 tonnes of CO2 emissions through its green initiative.

BasiGo extends its commitment to sustainability beyond current achievements. With BII’s support, the company aspires to deploy 1,000 locally assembled electric buses in East Africa within the next three years. Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers, the country’s prominent automotive assembly plant, is already producing the first batch of these buses, marking a significant step towards a greener future for Kenyan public transport.

ARSO and EABC Join Forces to Overcome Trade Standards Challenges

The dynamic East African trade landscape poses a significant challenge to the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), primarily due to their struggle to meet international and regional standards. Despite earnest efforts by entities such as the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) and the East African Business Council (EABC), SMEs continue to grapple with exclusion from lucrative opportunities, both within the region and in the expansive African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

SMEs Encounter Diverse Challenges:

The primary obstacle faced by SMEs revolves around their difficulty in comprehending and precisely adhering to established product and service standards. This challenge intensifies amidst tariff and non-tariff barriers, coupled with a pronounced lack of easily accessible information on trade regulations. Consequently, SMEs confront a formidable challenge when venturing into cross-border engagements.

Identification of Gaps by ARSO:

ARSO, as the African Union standards body, has identified critical gaps across various sectors, including basic and general standards, agriculture, food products, building and civil engineering, textile, leather, and the automobile industry. SMEs encounter challenges in meeting stringent measures such as sanitary standards, health protection regulations, environmental guidelines, and technical specifications. This not only limits their access to regional markets but also hampers their entry into lucrative international arenas, notably the European Union.

Regional Economy: Focusing on Impact, Analyzing Trends, and Projecting the Future:

In the East African region, SMEs constitute a substantial portion of businesses, shaping up to 80% of the business landscape, generating an impressive 60% of jobs, and contributing approximately half to the region’s GDP. However, the failure to address their challenges in meeting standards, a prevalent issue, jeopardizes not only their individual growth but also poses a threat to the overall economic development of our beloved regions.

Standards in International Trade: Understanding the Role and Impact:

Hermogene Nsengimana, the Secretary General of ARSO, emphasizes the critical role that standards play in international trade, underscoring the importance of adopting good agricultural and manufacturing practices before entering the market. These standards ensure quality, safety, and compliance with regulations.

The Perspective of EABC:

John-Bosco Kalisa, CEO of EABC, acknowledges and supports the necessity for SMEs to adhere to standards. However, he expresses concern about the potential misuse of regulations as a mechanism of exclusion—a shield safeguarding individual markets. Historical examples, such as tit-for-tat trade blockades between countries like Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, highlight the urgent need to eliminate barriers. This action would not only streamline customs processes but also align rules of origin, facilitating seamless trade within both the East African Community (EAC) region and the AfCFTA territory.

A Collaborative Endeavor:

In a proactive move, ARSO and EABC have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collectively address these challenges. Their collaboration aims to identify and mobilize SMEs, with a particular emphasis on those led by youth or women, primarily within the agri-business sector. They also target other priority areas under the AfCFTA. The overarching objective is to enhance SME capacity over three years for adopting and implementing international and regional standards.

SMEs to Get $50 million Grant From World Bank funding

The Kenya Industry and Entrepreneurship Project (KIEP), an initiative under the Ministry of Investments and Trade’s State Department for Industry, is implementing a $50 million (Sh7.7 billion) grant program to propel high-growth potential businesses in Kenya. This significant boost will enhance the operations of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Specifically, it has already identified 23 successful SMEs to whom it plans to provide performance-based grant funding, each averaging at $50,000.

KIEP 250+, a crucial player in fostering SME growth in Kenya since its November 2020 launch, comprehensively diagnosed the first cohort of SMEs to identify gaps and improvement areas. The designed grants mark a strategic shift towards reinforcing innovation, adopting technology, enhancing productivity, and international competitiveness, aiming to improve the overall landscape for SMEs.

At the grant contract signing ceremony, Secretary Juma Mukhwana, the Industry Principal, voiced an unwavering commitment from the government to bolster SME growth. This initiative aligns directly with their Vision 2030 and Medium-Term plans. He underscored a crucial point: emphasizing prioritization of SMEs in key sectors is paramount. These vital areas include manufacturing, agriculture, housing & settlement development projects; healthcare services are not forgotten—neither is the construction of the digital superhighway or fostering growth within our creative economy sector.

KIEP 250+ distinctly emphasizes gender inclusivity, mandated to support a minimum of 24% women-led enterprises. This focus on empowering women entrepreneurs manifests itself in the composition of Cohort 1 recipients—a reflection of their commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.

The project, with its focus set on supporting over 250 SMEs across the nation, surpasses simple financial aid; it offers crucial technical support. This assistance not only catalyzes business enhancement and expansion but also fuels private sector growth, generates employment opportunities, promotes export amplification, and augments competitiveness as well as productivity.

KIEP 250+ progresses its initiative and, in line with this forward momentum, initiates a new call for applications; eligible businesses are encouraged to apply—to seize the transformative opportunities it presents. This ongoing commitment from KIEP serves as an emphatic reaffirmation of the government’s dedication; indeed, it underscores their unwavering support towards propelling companies on their journey towards growth, innovation, and heightened competitiveness.

Transforming Healthcare in Kenya: Insights from the Futurize HealthTech Summit

The recent Futurize HealthTech Summit in Nairobi, led by Futurize and AstraZeneca under the A.Catalyst Network, emerged as a pivotal platform, championing collaborative efforts among more than 120 stakeholders from Kenya’s education, health, and technology sectors. This initiative reflects a bold bid to revolutionize healthcare in Kenya—an overarching goal that requires not only public-private partnerships but also the active involvement of academic institutions, all geared towards propelling technological advancements within our country’s health sector.

Vectorgram’s cutting-edge AI tools designed for early breast cancer diagnosis and Tawi Health’s digital solutions aimed at improving healthcare accessibility stood out among a multitude of innovations showcased at the Futurize HealthTech Summit. This emphasized the vital synergy between academia and industry.

Experts at the Nairobi Stakeholder’s Summit emphasized that academic institutions must actively drive innovation within the healthcare sector—a paramount role. These discussions explored two key areas: first, fostering healthtech ecosystems through collaboration was delved into deeply, and secondly, the significant contribution of academic entities to the innovation landscape received comprehensive exploration.

“AstraZeneca’s Head of Digital & IT for the African Cluster, Jonathan Calder, underscores: Collective efforts are crucial to cultivating a vibrant healthtech ecosystem; it is not merely about individual contributions. The key lies in our capacity—not just ours as an organization but also extending outward into broader networks—to connect, exchange insights, and leverage one another’s strengths.” Jonathan Calder, the Head of Digital & IT for AstraZeneca’s African cluster, emphasizes this criticality in collective effort: “We must actively nurture.”

Illustrating the potent combination of academic excellence and business acumen through the Fuel Africa Program, ten startups from the FuturizeU incubator made their debut at the summit. The innovations that garnered attention included Vectorgram’s advanced AI tools for early breast cancer diagnosis, along with Tawi Health’s digital solutions.

Presenting MariTest, a groundbreaking, bloodless diagnostic device harnessing AI and advanced sensor technology; this graduate-level application enables non-invasive, automated malaria detection. The innovation involved in disease detection displays, through its transformative potential, the confluence of technology with healthcare solutions.

Not just a one-time event, the Futurize HealthTech Summit actively established the groundwork for continuous collaboration. It extended invitations to policymakers, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs for engaging in persistent dialogues and actions, aiming towards crafting a unified healthtech ecosystem in Kenya.

Caroline Mbindyo, Head of Hiventy Kenya & Nigeria, exudes optimism regarding Africa’s influence on future developments. “The continent,” she emphasizes, “is where the future resides.” The trajectory of our shared destiny does not hinge upon a single narrative; instead, it evolves through each deliberate action we take, thus shaping and defining what lies ahead—this is how we truly create tomorrow. Technology doesn’t define the future; rather, we—the builders, users, and deployers of technology—shape its appearance. Indeed, our hands cradle tomorrow’s potentials.

Kenya, positioning itself as a hub for healthtech innovation, cultivates the collaborative spirit at the Futurize HealthTech Summit; this sets an optimistic stage—a promising and transformative future in its healthcare landscape.