IN THE WOODS

Corona still a threat to Kenya's economy - Oigara

He is, however,confident that social-economic resilience exhibited in 2020 will give the country strength to businesses.

In Summary
  • He is confident that social-economic resilience exhibited in 2020 will give the country strength to businesses. 
  • Even so, the sector has been hit by a high loan default of almost 15 per cent. 
KCB chief executive Joshua Oigara on March 2
KCB chief executive Joshua Oigara on March 2
Image: ENOS TECHE

The healthcare crisis occasioned by Covid-19 still remains a big risk to business operations and economic recovery efforts, KCB Group MD Joshua Oigara has said. 

His sentiments are coming just a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta extended the nationwide 10 pm to 4 am curfew by another 60 days to March 12, a move that is likely to further cripple night activities. 

Oigara, who is also the chairperson of the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) is, however, confident that social-economic resilience exhibited in 2020 will give the country strength to businesses. 

National Treasury has projected a GDP growth of 0.6 per cent, figures that the apex bank maintains must be revised, based on new data from the Q1 and Q2 periods.

It has also projected Kenya’s economic growth rate at 1.3 per cent in 2020.

''We are confident in a positive outlook for the next 12 months. The economy has been in a rebound since the beginning of the last quarter of 2020, setting the stage for strong growth in 2021,'' Oigara said. 

He said that there are signs of recovery in the real economy with catalytic sectors like trade, transport, and manufacturing witnessing a significant level of vibrancy following the easing of the lockdown measures.

According to him, the banking sector is well primed to support the renewed economic activity and to enable the country to emerge out of a most turbulent period.

He said that banks will redouble their effort in facilitating economic turnaround and work with authorities to enable businesses starved of cash flow to return to trading.

Although the banking sector recorded a general drop in profit margins in the third quarter on Covid-19 effects, they played a huge role in stabilising the economy by ensuring the free flow of cash in the market. 

 Data from the Central Bank of Kenya(CBK) shows that commercial banks restructured loans totaling Sh1.38 trillion, which is 46.5 per cent of the industry’s total loan book of Sh2.9 trillion.

This is as the industry strived to shield its customers and balance sheet from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While most banks are still in a healthy position, pundits have it that the ongoing uncertainties may lead to industry casualties if Covid-19 causes further disruption to travel and trade. 

In March, the CBK again intervened to support the banking industry as the pandemic took hold by reducing the cash reserve ratio – the minimum amount a bank must hold in reserves – from 5.25 to 4.25 percent. 

This released around $261 million (Sh28 billion) in liquidity for commercial banks, allowing them to cover some of the extra costs incurred by Covid-19. 

Even so, the sector has been hit by a high loan default of almost 15 per cent. 

According to Oigara, the downside risks remain in the event of a second or even third wave of infections that have forced new lockdown measures in some countries especially in Europe.

''We remain optimistic that the development of the vaccine has covered significant ground that could make 2021 comparatively easier,'' Oigara said.