This is East Africa’s Wall Street
| KCB Group Towers on|
|Equity Centre on Hospital Road|
As one turns into Hospital road, there is NCBA Annex, which stands like a teammate ready rush forward and strike the ball into the goal should the goalkeeper’s save bounce back.
We are not talking about Soccer here.
We are talking about the Most Powerful financial district in East and Central Africa and, perhaps beyond. This stretch, hardly a Kilometre long, hosts East and Central Africa’s financial giants.
Kenya’s top three banks, with a combined capitalization of roughly US$20 billion live on this prestigious address in the region’s financial market. These are Kenya Commercial Bank Group, KCB; Equity Group Holdings EGHL; and NCBA Group. KCB Group is capitalized at US$8.4 billion; EGHL at $6.8 billion and NCBA group at $4.4 billion.
They are not the only behemoths in the financial world living in this hardly a kilometer square area. There are also such giants in the insurance industry as CIC, and Britam Kenya, Kenya Re, ZEP Re, and Africa Eagle Insurance Brokers and UAP- Old Mutual.
To complete the picture, the World Bank Group, Shelter Afrique, and Africa Development Bank, AfDB, also live here.
There are also smaller players as Dubai Islamic Bank Kenya, Bank of Rwanda, Spire Bank, KWFT Bank, and Geminia Insurance in the neighborhood.
The top three banks have a combined 740 branches in East and Central Africa. While the insurances companies have in the upwards of 100 branches in the region. Therefore, if Nairobi’s Upper Hill area sneezes, the entire region catches a financial cold.
Apart from their large Branch network, the top three banks have contributed in a large way to the expansion of financial inclusion in the region. Except in DR Congo, where financial inclusion is still in teen twenties, financial inclusion rates range between teen sixties and Nineties in East Africa.
They achieved this feat largely due to the adoption of Financial Technology apps such as M-PESA, the mobile banking app developed by Safaricom, East Africa’s cell phone giant. This is how, NCBA group, for instance, is the third-largest bank in the region capitalized at US$4.44 billion boasts of 41 million accounts, 39 million of which are Mobile money accounts. This is the largest account base in Africa.
The top two banks, KCB and EGHL, and particularly Equity, cut their eyes by targeting the low-income groups which were considered “unbankable” by the then “Mainstream banks”-a euphemism for MNC banks, Stanchart and Barclays, which then dominated the market.
Equity- once described as a “River Road Bank led by a genius” is the real “back- street rat.” It was the first bank to “hawk Accounts”- just setting up a table on the street and inviting customers to open accounts without any deposit. It also opened branches in Nairobi’s back streets leaving the high street to the “mainstreamers.” The gamble paid off for soon, other banks – including the” mainstreamers” followed suit.
Equity then moved to agency banking, where other businesses such as Pharmacies, Hardware stores, and M-Pesa Kiosks, were trained in banking operations and earned commissions for taking deposits and paying withdrawals. Others also followed suit. The result: Banking services were getting closer to the people cheaply. Today, nearly 90 percent of adult Kenyans have access to banking services, close by, in some instances, in their pockets!
So the first benefit of this dominance will be Improvement in financial inclusion and the spread of alternative revenue streams for any enterprising business or woman in the region. KCB Group and Equity are experts in this line. In fact, they grew to the top perch by banking the “unbankable”- the street vendors, hawkers, and lowly paid workers!
It is this lot that dominates the economy of East and Central Africa. So for them, the unbankable is a hanging fruit, especially in D R Congo where Equity will have a dominant presence. Another mouthwatering market in Ethiopia, which is slowly opening up to the World. The “unbankable” dominate here and could do with the services of “back street rats” such as Equity Bank.
Financial inclusion in D R Congo, stands at 26 percent according to The Banker magazine and in Ethiopia, it stood at 33 percent in 2016, according to Research Gate. This is why they are hanging fruits for ” back street banks” such as Equity which has an avowed goal of being a Pan-African Multinational bank- and is pursuing it with a gusto!
In D.R. Congo Equity, has already established 2100 banking agents, despite being the seventh-largest bank in that country. It has been contracted by FSD to train another 4000 over the next three years in a $2.8 million deal. But Equity
does not need any prodding to go down that street. That is its specialty. Coupled with the spread of mobile telephony, Equity will hit D R Congo and other new markets in Africa running.
Here, James Mwangi, the CEO of Equity Bank, is likely to face-off with his apprentice, the KCB Group CEO, Joshua Oigara, who cut his eyes at Equity. KCB has ambitions of spreading its wings further in Africa although it has yet to make its intentions public.