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Kenya is the place to invest, KCB chief talks of improved environment

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Sophia Wanuna | July 14th 2015

Kenya’s business environment has improved significantly with reforms still ongoing. KCB Chief Executive Joshua Oigara speaks to KTN’s Sophia Wanuna about the industry, competition, the region, and growing entrepreneurship.

What is your contribution towards supporting entrepreneurs?

As a bank, working with the youth and women has been our priority. We have provided financing and have helped more than 20,000 entrepreneurs to date, a number we hope to raise to a million in the next two years. We need to start benchmarking excellence and start focusing on being as global centric as we possibly can be. Agribusiness is also a strong option. Partnering with the US Agency for International Development and the World Bank is also in the books.

How would you describe or package Kenya as an attractive hub for investors?

Kenya is the best in Africa, in terms of ease of doing business. In terms of what the business requires, Kenya is second to none. We need to invest in creating endorsements for our preparedness. The Global Entrepreneurship Summit is about young people creating an opportunity to excel.

The younger generations are unbound. They have no limits. What I love to see most is small businesses growing. A business that started with Sh1,000 growing to Sh1,000,000. The market is ready for us. Kenya can be a catalyst to Africa’s development. We are now witnessing history in the making and I’m excited. In the last many years, the conference hasn’t come to Nairobi.

What would you tell investors?

The time is now.

Many people think banking is a lucrative business. What is your take on that?

I would say banking is fairly misunderstood. We deliver some of the lowest return of assets in the industry. We only get 20 per cent to 30 per cent, while other industries get up to 50 per cent. Banks make the headlines because the numbers look big. We sometimes handle three to four times the national GDP. The difference with banks is that we publish our numbers. Banks are the nexus of development.

Doesn’t the growth of mobile banking threaten you?

Big is relative and big is not the problem. We must shift our mind-set. In the global spectrum, we are still  small, insignificant. The biggest tragedy in Africa today, is having small ambitions and celebrating small achievements. You cannot be threatened by something that is still growing if you want to become great. Is that what is influencing your collaboration with Safaricom?

Yes, we need to find partners. The role of business today, is not just to make profit. It is to build strong economies, investing in solutions and making money while doing it. Our focus is in improving the state of the society and not so much about competition. For instance we have lent out about Sh3 billion and we have gotten back Sh1 billion so far. It is important to win awards, they give you the confirmation that you are on the right path, but we need a mind-set shift to not just becoming the best, but the best in and from Africa.

Equity has just launched in DRC, are you also looking to open other branches elsewhere?

They say if you want to look at someone’s strength, look at his past. 18 years ago, we entered Tanzania. Progressively, we’ve covered Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and the entire East Africa. In DRC, we have collaborated with the largest and most innovative bank. So, our expansion, naturally, will come. How we deliver, though, is what drives our success. But we have also considered Zambia, in our expansion. 10 countries is the plan and we have already covered six.

Are banks frustrating home owners with higher rates?

Kenyans build home in two ways; mortgage or a basic loan, ‘Mwaga Mawe’. We provide both these facilities. A survey has shown that 80 per cent of Kenyans have a form of a home. We need to rethink affordable housing. The conversation now should be what we can do, to build a consortium, to bring in affordable building materials and facilitate cheaper housing on the range of Sh1 million to Sh3 million.  5,000 units will have been completed in our partnership with parties from Brazil and Mexico.

Due to changing the fortunes in financing, what will you be focusing on?

Number one is the youth. We are creating their opportunities in the job market and capital creation. Then we have technology and mobile banking is the way to go.

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