There is palpable tension in Kenya over what its citizens consider a hostile takeover of their businesses by Nigerians.
The anxiety is coming on the heels of an alarming article written by a professor at the University of Nairobi, XN Iraki, published in one of Kenya’s largest newspapers, The Standard, lamenting how Nigerian banks like UBA and GTB have gained “a foothold” in the country. Ikari raised the alarm that Nigerians are not only coming but “have already arrived” to take over the levers of the Kenyan economy.
He said the entry of Nigerian lenders into the Kenyan market was well planned, noting that Access was not the first Nigerian bank to get a foothold in Kenya.
“Guaranty Trust (GT) and UBA already have a presence here,” the Kenyan professor said, adding that many Nigerians marrying Kenyan women was another grand strategy to get into the country’s market.
“Why is the buyout so significant to the banking sector and the Kenyan economy? Why didn’t we notice it? Is that the last Nigerian purchase? First, the entry of Nigerian lenders into the Kenyan market was well planned. It started by softening the Kenyan mind with Nigerian churches and Afrosinema movies.
That changed the hardened image of Nigerians as corrupt and happy-go-lucky—an outdated image,” Iraki wrote, hinting at Nigeria’s perceived posturing to become the continent’s superpower.
He said Access Bank is capitalised to the tune of $18 billion, with 36 million customers on three continents compared to Kenya’s biggest bank by capitalisation or customers.
“How will local banks compete with such a big bank? Will it list on the Nairobi Securities Exchange to give Kenyans a chance for ownership? What else will Nigerians go for after our banks? Are banks their Trojan horse into our economy?” Iraki queried rhetorically.
He further argued that financial services remain the best conveyor to Nigeria’s
“Oil needs a countervailing force. By making their banks global, Nigerians – like the British and Americans before them – will leverage onto other sectors. They can control industries, institutions, sectors – and politics indirectly. I am sure you will not see an American, Briton or Nigerian as a cashier in a bank. But who decides how the profits will
be shared?” He added.
According to him, Access Bank’s entry into the Kenyan market was more likely to disrupt the banking industry further.
“The demand for more bank capitalisation by the Central Bank of Kenya and investment in fintech were the first disruptors. We can’t discount COVID-19 for now.”
But following the development, Nigerian experts have reacted, saying Kenya, which is the largest economy in East Africa should be optimistic about Nigerians making inroads into its economy instead becoming apprehensive.
President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Quadri Olaleye, said it was a good development if Nigerians were dominating Kenya’s economy.
He said, “It is good news if truly Nigeria is dominating Kenya’s economy. When the AfCFTA was signed by the federal government last year; one of our fears as a trade movement was how the country is going to cope because we are a consuming nation. Oil contributes over 80 per cent to the national budget, while non- oil sector contributes about 20 per cent.
“The outbreak of coronavirus saw the fall in the price of crude. News had it that Nigeria had vessels on the sea waiting for buyers. Today I doubt if the price of a barrel of crude is far below the benchmark used for the 2020 national budget,” he said.
According to him, Kenya was not known to be one of the buyers of the country’s crude oil. “Therefore, if Nigeria is dominating, it means we are gradually exploring the option of the non-oil sector. It is a plus but what is the population of Kenya?”
He further noted that Kenya is too small for Nigeria to begin to celebrate her domination.
“Kenya will not give us the breakthrough and forex we need to boost our economy.
Nigeria has over 200million population and must dominate the whole of Africa, and at least two countries each in all the continent of the world to break even,” he added.
In his reaction, the national president, Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS),
Barrister Ken Ukaoha, commended Nigerians for hard work.
He stated: “Rather than condemning Nigerians, Kenyan people should try to
understudy and learn the innovative and enterprising spirit in Nigerians. Nigerians are not lazy people, they are smart in the right direction and ready to create a way out of a dry place.
“So, Kenyan people should try to adopt the way the Dubai government converted that country that has no natural endowment into a fantastic tourist country.
“They are only being envious of Nigerians. Even in South Africa, and other African countries they always envy Nigerians because of the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit in them.
“If they are accusing Nigerians, then, what will they say of Chinese people that are everywhere? Nigerian people are moulders, Nigerians are builders; they help to mould and build economies of all the countries they find themselves in. Have you ever heard from Nigerians that Chinese and other nationals have taken over their business?
“The sky of business development is too wide that any interested entrepreneur can tap into it without disturbing others. Kenyan people should desist from envying Nigerians”.
An economic expert, Dr. Ibraheem Saka Ominiwe, said Nigerians taking over businesses in Kenya was a very good development.
Ominiwe said Kenyans should be happy that it was an African country that has
taken over their businesses and not foreign countries.
He, however, cautioned the federal government to be wary of indigenisation
laws in Kenya, as the country might enact laws to take over those businesses owned by Nigerians.
Also, a serving immigration officer in South Africa who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday on condition of anonymity said it was true that Nigerians were taking over businesses in Kenya.