High Interest Rates Stall Kenya’s First Ever Bond Sale Via Mobile Phone

High Interest Rates Stall Kenya’s First Ever Bond Sale Via Mobile Phone

Kenya’s first ever Treasury bond sale exclusively via mobile phone set to be launched this month has suffered a setback by high interest rate in the country’s Treasury bills.

The 5 billion shillings ($50 million) bond, dabbed M-Akiba bond, targets ordinary citizen of the East African nation and is meant to stimulate public participation in the bond market that has for long been the preserve of commercial bank and institutional investors.

Interest rates in Kenya’s short-term debt securities have risen in recent months to above 22 percent as the central bank accepts high bids during its weekly T-bill auctions in an effort to attracted hard currencies from foreign investors and stem a local currency rout.

“We are waiting to see how rates in the market behave before we set an appropriate date,” Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich told Business Daily.

The Central Bank of Kenya governor, Patrick Njoroge, said last week he expected the inverted yield curve in the debt market to correct gradually to prevent a destabilization of the market, meaning the high rates are likely to remain propped up for a few more months.

“We want to give the economy a soft landing. We will engineer all the interest rates down gradually. We don’t want a situation where you have been accelerating the car and then you apply brakes suddenly,” Njoroge said.

The M-kiba bond will ride on the countries revolutionary mobile money ecosystem to sell bonds to individuals for as little as $30, down from the previous lower limit of about $500, on their mobile phones.

The bond is also aimed at helping the Kenyans improve their saving rate that currently stand at just 11 percent, half what their regional neighbors Uganda and Rwanda, while giving that country’s Treasury a cheap source of funds.

The East Africa’s largest economy of 45 million people, raised $2 billion last year in a debut Eurobond issuance amid strong global demand for African government debt.

“Obviously our strategy is to get cheap sources of funds so we’re looking at all answers for funding,” Rotich told the Financial Times in September, adding that the yield on the M-Akiba bond would be higher than commercial banks’ savings rates but lower than the market rate on government debt.