Kenyan citizens will soon be able to buy government bonds on their cell phones. Kenya’s Treasury said today that the M-Akiba bond, the world’s first mobile-only government bond, would go on sale on Thursday after a delay of almost two years.
Kenya first announced plans for the bond, named after the Kiswahili word akiba
or “savings,” in late 2015, as a way to give ordinary Kenyans access to
the country’s capital markets. Investors can buy in increments as small
as 3,000 shillings (about $30), compared to the minimum of 50,000
shillings individuals had spend to spend previously to buy government
“This product is for a mama mboga, farmer, employee, hustler or whatever,” the Treasury said in a press release
at the time, referring to women that sell vegetables at small market
stalls. A month after the announcement, M-Akiba was delayed over
Now, the bond will be offered on M-Pesa, Africa’s biggest mobile
money network that got its start in Kenya, as well as other mobile money
networks. Investors can buy and sell the bonds on the Nairobi
Securities Exchange via their phones. Coupon payments will be paid
directly to their phones. Like M-Pesa, both smart phones and basic
features phones can be used.
The bond isn’t just about offering encouraging Kenyans to save. The Kenyan government needs a new pool of cheap money
to finance large infrastructure projects and an upcoming election. Only
2% of government bonds in Kenya are bought and sold by individual
Last year, the IMF called on Kenya to lower its budget deficit. The
country’s financing gap, expanded to 9.6% of gross domestic product last
year, compared to 7.2% the year before, according to the World Bank.
This budget year, Kenya plans to raise 154 billion shillings ($1.5
billion) in external borrowing.