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Kenyan firms foreign debt now at Sh587bn

The private sector debts have been rising. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The private sector debts have been rising. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya’s private sector foreign debt stands at Sh586.8 billion according to the first-ever survey of such liabilities, much lower than the initial estimate of about Sh850 billion.

A survey done by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows the debt increased from Sh583 billion in 2014, a marginal change of 0.6 per cent.

In early 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had estimated that external private sector debt stood at 13-15 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), which was an equivalent of about Sh850 billion.

“The stock of private sector external debt (PSED) increased from Sh583.005 billion in 2014 to Sh586.765 billion in 2015,” said the survey. The debt was mainly driven by long-term loans.

The US, China, UK and France were the main source countries, collectively accounting for 41.7 per cent in 2015 compared to 36.6 per cent the previous year. The proportion attributable to international financial organisations averaged 27.5 per cent during the review period.

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In terms of yearly flows of the private external debt, there was a decline in 2015 mainly due to reduced flow from the US to Sh3.8 billion from Sh66.3 billion in the previous year.

“Inflows of PSED declined mainly due to a substantial reduction in inflows from the US from Sh66.3 billion in 2014 to Sh3.843 billion in 2015. However, inflows from China increased from Sh15 billion in 2014 to Sh54.281 billion in 2015, making it the leading source of PSED during the period under review,” said the survey.

In early 2016, the IMF had disclosed the preliminary estimate of the private sector foreign debt but noted that a further assessment of the same was needed.

The multilateral financier’s concern was the vulnerability of the corporate sector to external shocks should the debt remain unknown and continue growing.

The IMF said under the programme it had signed — in which Kenya is cushioned by forex to the tune of Sh155 billion — that several reforms, including improving data on external debt, should be made to strengthen Kenya’s resilience to shocks.

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