News / Africa

Kenya Election Cheers Investors, But Worries Remain

Investors walk out of the Nairobi Stock Exchange in Kenya's capital Nairobi, Mar. 4, 2010.
Investors walk out of the Nairobi Stock Exchange in Kenya's capital Nairobi, Mar. 4, 2010.
Reuters
Kenya's peaceful election has given investors an added impetus to buy assets in East Africa's biggest economy, but a legal challenge to the result and the possible international trial of the winner could dampen enthusiasm.

Kenya, like many other frontier markets, is enjoying strong growth, with its rising consumer class and high bond yields attracting international investors.

Kenya's stock market hit four-and-a-half year highs and the shilling surged to four-month highs after the declaration last weekend of Uhuru Kenyatta as president, without the 2008 post-election violence which left 1,200 dead.

The election has given many the confidence that recent gains can be sustained.

"There is a sigh of relief, it's not the nightmare that everyone feared," said Daniel Broby, chief investment officer of frontier fund manager Silk Invest, who holds Kenyan assets.

Kenyatta won slightly over 50% of the more than 12.3 million votes cast, so avoiding the need for a second round.

"It was a pretty close shave, but at the end of the day, it's nothing to get too worked up about - the fear was that there would not be a majority," Broby added.

Kenya is one of only two African countries - along with Nigeria - in the benchmark MSCI frontier stock market index. Kenya is the second-best performer in the index this year, outpacing most other markets and lagging only the United Arab Emirates.

The stock market is the largest in East Africa and is seen as an investment hub for the region. Foreign participation has been increasing and is now more than 50%.
        
Stocks rally

Kenyan stocks rallied 13% this year even before Kenyatta's victory, and have added another 3% this week.

Popular stocks include East African Breweries, up 23% this year, telecom group Safaricom, also up 23%, and Kenya Commercial Bank, up 40%, all of which offer exposure to the country's booming consumer demand.

Kenya also has a relatively well-developed local bond market and experts say a planned Eurobond is likely to be popular with investors who have snapped up bonds from other African countries such as Zambia and Nigeria.

In terms of policy direction, investors say little differentiates Kenyatta from his defeated rival Raila Odinga. They have been further encouraged by the central bank's success in keeping the currency steady.

"The election result is not likely to lead to a major shift of economic policy," said Graham Stock, strategist at frontier fund manager Insparo. "The currency has been very stable, there is no reason to think that won't continue."

Economic activity is expected to expand, as businesses initiate projects that were on hold before the election. GDP growth is seen as much as 6% this year.

Investors have been reassured by a reduction in political risk since the introduction of a new constitution in 2010, which included the reform of the judiciary and plans for a devolved system of government.

Market less bullish
        
But bond investors are less bullish, noting that Kenyan debt has already enjoyed a strong rally.

"A year ago when 10-year yields were close to 20% it was attractive but now it's down to 9% the yield is not compelling, especially with political uncertainty hanging over,'' said Stuart Culverhouse, chief economist at broker Exotix.

Investors point to two sources of uncertainty - Odinga's challenge to the election result, and the International Criminal Court's indictment of Kenyatta.

Odinga's Coalition for Reforms and Democracy plans to seek the nullification of the election result on grounds that Kenyatta's votes had been increased illegally.

The risk is of subsequent violence should Odinga lose the case, which may be heard in the Supreme Court in the next couple of weeks. That stirs memories of December 2007 when President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner, but Odinga said the vote was rigged.

Riots in early 2008 plunged Kenya into weeks of tribal bloodshed, scaring off investment. Under a power-sharing deal brokered to end the violence, Odinga became prime minister.

"It's a very fine line for Odinga to tread, the example from 2008 shows how dangerous it can be," said Stock.

Meanwhile, Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, have been charged by the ICC over their alleged role in the blood-letting five years ago. They deny the accusations and say they will cooperate with investigations. The trial is due to start in July.

The United States and other Western powers, big donors to Kenya, said before last week's election that a Kenyatta win would complicate diplomatic ties with a regional ally in the battle against militant Islam.

The election result is "a relative negative outcome for Kenya's international relations," analysts at Renaissance Capital said.

Ratings agency Fitch, which rates Kenya at sub-investment grade of B-plus with a stable outlook, also said "a political vacuum that delays reform could develop, should the president and deputy president face a lengthy trial."

Renaissance added, however, that Kenya's dependence on aid was small, so any suspension if Kenyatta were found guilty would have limited impact.

And those keen to buy Kenya's assets, such as David Mcilroy, chief investment officer of Alquity, are prepared to take the risks.

"The international community will take a pragmatic approach," he said. "I imagine the trial will take some time - we can park that for now."

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs