Saturday, January 29, 2011

Investing with 2012 general election in mind

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same over and over again and expecting a different results.

Prior to the 2007 general election, I argued here and elsewhere that Kenyans must ignore politics and effectively decouple it from business for our economy to flourish. I still urge us to do and the need to do so is even more urgent today. It saddens me when you see a whole mashinani town come to a standstill for a whole day when well-fed politicians land in their helicopters.

In part, my drive was because I used to think Kenyan siasa and had small if any effect and in any case this would be temporary. PEV and its after effects disabused me of this notion.

Politics does have a serious impact on the way your investments will turnout and you have to bear this in mind when investing. And the risk is higher the more liquid your investment is.

So real estate will be risky to extent there is a repeat of PEV because certain areas will become no go zones. Cosmopolitan towns like Nai, Mombasa and Nak will benefit on the other hand. Any slight hint of discord will send NSE investors scurrying into bonds, saving accounts and other frontier markets if they are foreign investors. IN which case, an investor will want to stay in stocks that show low volatility but give fair income (say 4%+ dividend yield). Alternatively, one can focus on being liquid to take advantage of volatile shares. As of now, I am looking at shares with that are either illiquid or have small floats in the NSE and either give good income or are more affected by other factors other than politics. Examples being Carbacid; EABL; Eagaads.

So what is the likelihood of discord or even PEV in 2012? The signs are not promising. The Ocampo announcement gave Kenyans hope that VIPs who had been able to escape the law would finbally be getting some law on their heads. It was to be a huge step forward in quashing impunity. Somebody would finally be held accountable for PEV. The new Katiba gave Kenyans hope that we'd henceforth start doing things legally, but also with goodwill.

Alas, Mwai Kibaki has other ideas. The first appointments under the new katiba for AG, DPP and CJ have be done with the utado attitude thaat we expect from Kibaki and since he has the numbers in bunge, the 3 will go thru. The appointments are not dissimilar to those of the ECK commissioners in early and late 2007 that effectively created the environment for the rejection of the 2007 ge results. The political elite don't suffer from the consequences of their actions and hence will never learn. There is no excuse for us investors.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kenya Real Estate for beginners - Plots/Land

It’s never too early to buy a plot for your own future home or for investment purposes.

Do your due diligence

1. Check in your proposed location of purchase for amenities that you require

a. Electricity

b. Water

c. Nearness to tarmac road/main road or river if for farming

d. Any proposed developments

e. Any past or present issues with land ownership such as reserves, demolitions, forest land

f. talk to neighbours understand if any issues over land

g. confirm pricing either via Nation’s Thursday property guide or visiting nearby shopping centre

h. above all, visit the plot/land you intend to buy wherever possible.

2. Paperwork

Get the owner to show you the title deed. Note the title deed number and the size of plot/land. Note that 1 hectare 2.47 acres. ¼ acre is therefore 0.24 hectares. Note that some surveyors can and do understate acreage

Take a photocopy of the title deed and take the same to the local district land registry where you will pay Ksh500 for a search. The search is a land registry document that confirms if there are any caveats from bank, other buyers or relatives.

There are occasions when owner may legitimately not have a title deed. The only legitimate reason is inherited plot/land. Certificates are tricky because there is a trade off between legit certificates that can easily be converted to title deeds and certificates of ownership that are in perpetuity

It favours you often to have a sale agreement that has the legal back up. If you are buying plot/land worth Ksh1m plus, the lawyer costs can to around 30-40k. I think it is worth it.

You will need original and copies of your ID, KRA PIN (which you can no longer obtain without an ID). You will also need 4 passport photos from buyer and seller.

Don’t bribe to get paperwork processed faster. For example special land boards will usually come back to bite you. Most land offices have the terms of service prominently displayed on the counter and its worth reminding them.

vii. Copy of owner's title deed->search->sale agreement->transfer->land board consent->stamp duty->your title deed

Pricing: Kenyans today know the worth of their land. No seller will overprice you if you make them a reasonable offer. Cash is king and if you have it, it opens doors to very reasonable price offers. As an example, most people nowadays do 10% deposit and remainder in 3 months. If you go to the seller 10% now and remainder in a month provided they drop price, it leads to a different outcome. It’s also possible to go to the same seller and offer 50% now and remainder in 6 months and they’ll favour you because of the cashflow aspect of a deal. Pointing aspects that please you and those that don’t while pointing out favourable payment terms will get the price down too.

Related costs: Stamp duty on plot/land is 2% in rural areas and 4% in urban areas. That is % of buying price or Lands’ valuation whichever is higher. Where land requires surveyor beacons, you need to add another Ksh10k though you should get the seller to these on. The costs of changing the documents tend to be around 3-4k. If you get a sale agreement, you’ll find most sellers don’t really care either way and you bear the cost 100%. All in all, these related costs will be between 3-6%.

Caveats: There is caveat emptor. You also place a caveat with Land registry if you are putting down a deposit and paying remainder much later or you fear somebody may attempt to sell your plot/land especially if you are in diaspora.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Please support the "Yes to ICC, no taxpayer money for ICC culprits" petition

Many of us lead busy lives. Many of us can't afford to march on streets of Nai or elsewhere against impunity. Surely, we can however sign the 1 million petion( in support of the ICC process and to say no to continued impunity in usage of our taxes.

Many of us are afraid to take a stand lest will be laughed at; injured by no brain kalaus; fired from our jobs; ostracised by fellow tribesmen.

Lakini today, we are faced by "manifest nonsense" of a different level. If you drive through the Nai-Eldoret road, you'll note that we still have active IDP camps. Kenyans like you and me who happened to be in their own homes were thrown out by impunity as a response to impunity. Many other Kenyans lost loved ones because of trigger happy cops given permission to let loose. And then we are being told that taxpayers money will be used to defend the drivers behind this PEV. I think we can agree, this is not a good idea.

1 million signatures are significant today in Kenya because its the number required to amend the new Katiba.

Did Raila create a frankenstein monster that will destroy him?

In the 2007 general election, Raila successfully campaigned on a platform of overt tribalism. Let’s be clear at the outset. Tribalism has plagued Kenyan since independence Kenyatta practised it; m-0-1 improved on the practice, Kibaki reverted to the Kenyatta practice and so forth. The first two presidents dealt with tribalism by dictatorship. Kibz on the other hand allowed democracy to flourish in country that is not yet a nation, but made the mistake of perpetuating past tribal practices. The difference is that democracy is a competitive where you gain voters by creating an ogre out of your opponent. So in the US, you call Obama a communist and a Muslim; in the UK, you used to anoint your opponent as a tax and spend Welshman with character flaws. They do however, campaign on issues pertinent to voters. If it was an issues based campaign, the 2007 ge would have been very close as I then alluded to.

Once the no campaign closed out the 2005 constitution with a convincing, Raila then moved on to create his 5 pillars effectively channelling tribal kings in each of the bigger tribes sans the Kikuyus. The campaign was successful in that he run Kibz to the finishing line. Unfortunately for him and us Kenyans, the general election campaign legitimised the no-issues, no-ideology way of campaigning. This was replaced with the tribal mathematics game whereby the most intense part of the campaign is spent in looking or creating tribal kingpins who can deliver a good number of votes.

Today, his protégé Rutovic is looking to copy and paste the same trick. He has already created his ogre, "Raila the betrayer", the next step is then to find kingpins with likeminds but with numbers and finally cobble up some bull to feed voters. There will also be subtle digs against "the people from the lake".

My hope is that this time round, Mzalendo Kibunja and his colleagues at the National Cohesion will step in to nip this nonsense on the bud before it steps us up for another PEV.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kenya in early 2011

  • The economy is growing once more at an amazing speed. Growth is not as uneven as some would have you believe. You can see progress in as devise places as Nai with multi-estates coming up every year; Kisumu with electricity even in such outposts as Sengho on the Nandi/Muhoroni border; Nanyuki with its expansion towards Naromoru and Timau; even Diani is seeing some huge real estate growth as people wake up to the huge potential of South coast. Its not just real estate growth. Businesses as diverse as greenhouse farming to new hotels are seeing good and sustained business growth. However, we are still too dependent on good weather for continued economic growth.
  • Kibaki is road builder per excellente. The only that will thing stop you from doing Nai to Eldoret in under 3 hours is that you may pass on since Kenyans can't drive safely at speed and of course a few bits of new tarmac ruined by overweight trucks. Yes, Kisumu to Kakamega remains neglected still, but I can safely say it is one of the few bits of bad road I encountered in a tour that took in some 2-3,000 kms of roads
  • Corruption remains big and bold issue: I was asked for bribes a record 4 times in one holiday. Imagine the I land at JKIA, as I pass through the obligatory custom check and after the usual queries about what I am carrying, the custom guy asks for my passport. As soon as he saw my name, the conversation was surreal. The customer guy to his colleague who was about to inspect my wife's cases "we, hawa wako pamoja, wacha waende". Then he turns to me in kiuk and says "Maina, what you'll do is buy 3 beers" then to a kalau standing by. "Wewe enda na huyu atakupatia pombe tatu". The custom guy is obviously from the Sonko school i.e. not too bright. As soon as I get outside and I am there with waiting family, the cop is prodding me on the back ati "si ulete pombe tatu". I just said loudly, "unataka ni kuhonge". And he practically ran-off. Corruption is now seen especially in mashinani as the only way to get service when you encounter public servants. This has in effect created a real problem in tackling the issue because the giver and taker of bribes almost think alike. Lakini if you pay taxes, and still pay bribes, its like paying your worker a salary and then bribing him to do a task for you.
  • There is a now a huge political disunity among Kenyans which poses questions about 2012. Many uniformly agree that our politicians are a problem and sow the seeds of disharmony and yet when they are asked to, they'll back their tribesmen without questions. The Ocampo announcement day was very instructive in this respect. Before and immediately the announcement was made, Kenyans almost to a man were agreed that the guilty must carry their crosses, that Ocampo and the ICC were impartial and that Kenyans would not support impunity. In contrast, the first MP to be questioned about it, said "Ocampo has totally failed, he has targeted Nandis". Two things wrong with this, firstly, there was no challenge from the Citizen reporter since the 6 also include 2 gema and one somali. Secondly, even other politicians who came after were similarly one-eyed. By the end of the week, you would hear similar views from mashinani guys.