Monday, February 19, 2018

Profile of the telecommunications market in Kenya

Preamble: On January 30, 2018, Kenyan authorities ordered the nation’s three leading television stations off the air for their attempts to cover the alternate and unsanctioned "inauguration" of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who claims to have prevailed in last year’s disputed election against President Uhuru Kenyatta.  The High Court of Kenya has ordered the government to allow the stations to resume operations but as of February 03, 2018 the mass communications market remains disrupted. As of Sunday evening, the censorship remains in place and tensions are high, however, telecom and Internet services appear to be operating normally.  In this series of articles, we profile the vibrant telecommunications market in Kenya.

See part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6\

SECTION 1. General political, social, physical and economic overview of Kenya

The total population of Africa according to the U.N. Worldometer as of Friday, January 31st, 2018, was circa 1,274,779,000 and the annual growth rate of this population over the last five years has been about 2.56% per annum. Population density for the country is 42 persons per sq km and the median age of the population is 19.4 years. The level of urbanisation is 42%. According to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook estimates of October 2017, the nominal GDP of the 54 countries sovereign nations in Africa in 2016 was $2140.621 billion.

Kenya’s population is almost exactly 4% and its nominal GDP 3.2% of the respective African totals.

Social, economic and political overview

Kenya, located in East Africa with an over 500 km long coast on the Indian Ocean is the world’s 28th largest country in terms of people with an UN-computed population as of the end of January 30th 2018 of 50,420,895. The country’s official languages are Swahili and English but it is extremely diverse ethnically, hosting around 42 different communities including (according to the CIA Factbook) Kikuyu 17% Luhya 14% Luo 11% Kalenjin 13% Kamba 10% Kisii 6% Meru 4% Other African 13% Non-African (Asian European, and Arab) 1%. (NB There are many different versions of this analysis with some claiming Kikuyu represent up to 22% of the population— but this does not change the general ethnographic picture).

The country is of average size for the region, ranking 20th in Africa and 48th in the world. It is not very densely populated (apart from the capital Nairobi and its huge slum of Kibera, located 4 miles from the city centre and described by Wikipedia as “ the largest urban slum in Africa”though estimates of its actual size seem to vary ludicrously from as low as 170,000 to as high as two million people ).

Kenya  is roughly bisected by the Equator, and is geographically very diverse with features that include Mt Kilimanjaro in the extreme south, (the highest mountain in Africa, about 4,900 metres from its base to 5,895 metres above sea level), Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater lake in the far east, Mt Kenya, (only 12% lower than Kilimanjaro) on the Equator and Lake Turkana in the northwest. Due to its position, the majority of Kenya consists of arid or semi-arid plains and hills including a major desert in the north of the country. These areas offer sparse grazing and habitats for a variety of wildlife as well as tough local breeds of domesticated animals.  6% of the country is forested and about 15-20% is said to be suitable for agriculture.

According to the IMF, Kenya in 2016 with a GDP of $68.919 billion and a nominal GDP per capita of only $1,370 was the world’s 71st richest country. In October 2017 in its World Economic Outlook,  the IMF said it expected the Kenyan economy to grow by 5% in 2017, slightly lower than their projected growth of 5.3% in April and well below a 6% forecast in January 2017.

Political mess in Kenya after two disputed elections

Kenya is a federal democracy with separation of powers of the judiciary, the parliament and the executive run by the president and a degree of autonomy for its 47 counties each of which has its own governor.

However this theoretically democratic political system remains in a difficult state following a disputed August 2017 election nominally won by the Jubilee Alliance under incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu, followed by an October 26th 2017 unopposed election rerun (in which Kenyatta received 96% of the vote) which was boycotted by the National Super Alliance( NASA) opposition under ethnic Luo Raila Odinga, (previously PM of Kenya from 2008 to 2013) and over five months of electoral chaos and bad-tempered arguments between the two factions.

On November 29th, 2017, Uhuru Kenyatta was officially sworn in for another term. However, the NASA opposition has consistently refused to recognise the results of either election and in a dramatic show of defiance, Raila Odinga announced that he would carry out a separate duplicate ceremony on January 30th, 2018 in which he would be sworn-in as president. To support that action NASA have fabricated a case that had the election been fair Raila Odinga would have actually beaten President Uhuru Kenyatta in the August 8 election after garnering 8,104,744 (50.54%) votes to Uhuru's 7,908,215 (48%) votes. On January 30th Odinga did, in fact, carry out this ceremony but it seems it was not very well attended and even Odinga himself was muted in his behaviour and altogether the event was something of an anticlimax. At the same time, the government switched off five TV stations and several radio stations to avoid giving Odinga free publicity.

Relative to its rather limited resources and wealth Kenya has quite a sophisticated social environment not least due to probably one of the most competitive and innovative telecommunications markets in Africa

Telecommunications market overview

Kenya has a strong mobile communications market with around 40 million subscriptions but only a tiny fixed-line market of around 70,000 lines. Traditional copper line subscriptions continue to decline steadily but there has been rapid growth from a low base in demand for optical fibre connections.

Based on the fact that the main operator Safaricom has around a 70% share of most markets and the fact that its annual sales are around $2 billion the total Kenyan services market would appear to be worth around $3 billion or almost exactly 4% of the country’s projected 2017 GDP. This is a little on the high side compared to global norms but can be partially explained by the unusual extent to which Kenyan citizens have taken up mobile banking, mobile payment and e-commerce, with Safaricom being a particularly strong supplier of the first two services.

to be continued