The costliest financial mistake I have ever made is pausing a ‘mjengo’ mid-way for a Christmas break, overindulging over the period only to resume the ‘mjengo’ in January to discover the cost of metals rose by 40 per cent in the intervening two weeks of Christmas and opening of schools.
That January, the ‘mjengo’ that needed to be finished and the school fees that had to be paid gave a rough start to the year. Proper character development as they say. In the end, I had to suspend the construction and deal with the more immediate pressing problem of school fees.
That was two years ago. Anybody who had a construction project and had not bought sufficient metal supplies came back to a shock and many people suspended their projects to absorb the shock.
Never has inflation hit me so hard in my entire life than that particular incident. Critical for me, I was at the stage of erecting a fence and gates that heavily relied on the metallurgical aspects of construction.
It is a painful fact of life that prices will always rise. Steadily, sometimes, to allow us to absorb the shocks. Too fast sometimes for us to cope.
Price hikes, especially for those critical goods and services that we have no control over have a way of eating into our savings and compromising the quality of our lives. Prices will always rise faster than our income. If anything, incomes can stagnate, and the business environment can be toxic for a long time but that won’t stop the price of petrol from rising. Or the cost of living. The ripple effect is felt across the board.
When we were young, with far fewer responsibilities, inflation was always one of those words bandied about that remain abstract. But as an adult, a family man or woman, no less, when the economy hits a bad run as has been the case the last decade, inflation becomes the polluted air you breathe. It is toxic.
It is a far cry from my days as a swashbuckling young man who would strut into Nakumatt, fill a trolley with frivolous stuff, cart it to the counter, swipe and head home, feeling no pinch. As I grew older my visits to the supermarket became a few and far between. Thankfully the missus taught me that you can save a lot if you shopped at Mhindi or Somali-run wholesale shops that sell large quantities of household stuff for an extremely good bargain. There was no looking back.
When you are young going all the way to Eastleigh or lining up in backstreets where such wholesalers are located can be humiliating or a shameful experience. But you grow old and realise the damage your pride will cost in the long run and drop all the pretensions.
One key aspect of financial literacy for adults is learning to deal with inflation. You buy now what can be bought now, with the firm knowledge prices can or will shoot. But also, you remain vigilant not to buy something that will remain a liability for a long time. Like folks who bought pieces of rock because of misleading advertisements or advice and pressure from peers.
Also one has to proactively review their lifestyle choices. The so-called negative-coping mechanisms are sometimes necessary. Cutting down on alcohol expenditure, eating out and other luxuries come in handy. And those who adjust quickly tend to survive high inflation than those who take too much time to adjust.
The middle-middle-class and upper-middle-class suffer the most during inflation. They have the highest problem adjusting their lifestyle since they don’t want to fall back to the lower echelons of society and they can’t break onto the big stage. It can be frustrating and many middle marriages collapse because many fail to agree on how to deal with the inflation. It is worse if one spouse is unemployed or is stagnated in their career. And the inflation is unrelenting.
As the year draws to a close, with a new government in place, there is optimism that the economy may breathe again. But before it does, beware of the choices you make. Before you buy, ask yourself if it is necessary. And be smart because sometimes saving can be dicey if inflation eats up your savings as it did mine those two Christmases ago.
A healthy balance between appreciating assets and savings, vis-à-vis spending on absolute necessity is the core duty of any adult. Nobody is coming to save you.
Here is to a great Christmas and a beautiful turn to 2023. Let us do it again.
SACCO Strategic Plans under Threat, Expert Says
By Ngumbo Njoroge
Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs) have been advised to stay vigilant against the volatility of the business environment and align their long-term strategic plans to adapt to the changing landscape.
The recent years have presented SACCOs with an unprecedented challenge as business volatility disrupts their carefully crafted strategies, compelling them to reassess their operations and embrace flexibility.
According to Mr Joshua Wambua, a leadership expert, the Coronavirus pandemic and rapid technological changes are major factors contributing to business volatility. He emphasized the need for SACCOs to regularly review their strategic plans at short intervals and assign an officer to monitor the business environment for potential threats.
“Constantly reviewing SACCO strategic plans and monitoring the business environment is crucial. This provides boards and management with up-to-date information on any changes that may impact their strategies,” Mr Wambua stated during the annual Chairpersons and Vice-Chairpersons Forum.
Mr Wambua highlighted the importance of this monitoring process, explaining that without it, SACCOs may continue to invest member resources into strategies that fail to yield desired results. By constantly reevaluating and aligning their plans, SACCOs can re-engineer themselves to adapt to the evolving business landscape, ensuring the best use of resources and ultimately benefiting their members.
During the forum, Mr Wambua urged SACCOs to devote resources to exploring new digital frontiers and building partnerships. He emphasized that embracing technological advancements and fostering collaborations are crucial steps in overcoming business volatility and securing a prosperous future.
“You must have the courage to be future makers, willing to explore new digital frontiers to reimagine today’s world for a better tomorrow,” he encouraged SACCOs.
The SACCOs’ response to the challenges posed by business volatility will determine their long-term sustainability and ability to support their members effectively. By staying vigilant, regularly reviewing their strategic plans, and leveraging technological advancements, SACCOs can navigate the unpredictable business environment and seize opportunities for growth and success.
As SACCOs continue to face uncertainties in the economic landscape, the expert advice provided by Mr Wambua serves as a guiding light, urging them to adapt, innovate, and collaborate to safeguard the interests of their members and ensure their resilience in the face of ever-changing business dynamics.
Deputy Chief Justice Champions Women’s Empowerment at Cooperatives Forum
By Ngumbo Njoroge
Deputy Chief Justice Hon Philomena Mwilu commended women involved in cooperatives for defying negative societal expectations regarding women’s leadership.
Speaking at the 5th Women in Cooperatives Forum, Hon Mwilu highlighted the disproportionate impact of poverty, discrimination, and exploitation on women, emphasizing their underrepresentation in senior leadership positions. She called for a transformative shift to address the scarcity of women leaders in cooperatives, emphasizing the significant role that Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs) can play in fostering change.
During her keynote address, Hon Mwilu recognized the critical contributions of women to society and the challenges they face due to prevailing stereotypes. Women continue to bear the brunt of poverty, discrimination, and exploitation, struggling to secure senior leadership positions.
To rectify this imbalance, Hon Mwilu emphasized the importance of financial inclusion as a catalyst for women’s full participation in the economy. She acknowledged that gender dynamics often hinder women’s access to financial and economic opportunities, stressing the urgent need for change. By equipping women with the necessary tools and support, financial inclusion can dismantle barriers and establish a more equitable and inclusive society.
Mercy Njeru, Advocacy Manager at the Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (KUSCCO), underscored the significance of leadership training programs in empowering women to assume leadership positions at national and international levels. Njeru emphasized the scarcity of women leaders not only in Kenya but globally, urging women to acquire the qualifications necessary to pursue leadership roles.
Florence Kerubo Omundi, Deputy Commissioner General of Prisons, echoed the sentiment that women must assert themselves and vigorously contend for leadership positions. Omundi emphasized the need for women to challenge societal norms that perpetuate gender disparities and carve out their space in leadership.
The 5th Women in Cooperatives Forum revolved around the theme, “Aggressive or Assertive? Addressing Gender Stereotyping,” reflecting the pressing need to confront and overcome deeply ingrained gender stereotypes that hinder women’s progress. The forum provided a platform for engaging in discussions and the formulation of strategies to empower women and foster a more inclusive cooperative sector.
The event served as a reminder of the ongoing efforts to promote gender equality and create an environment that recognizes and supports women’s leadership potential. Through dialogue, advocacy, and collaborative initiatives, the cooperative movement seeks to dismantle barriers and cultivate an environment where women can thrive and make meaningful contributions to sustainable development.
The 5th Women in Cooperatives Forum showcased a collective commitment to dismantling gender stereotypes and promoting women’s leadership. By addressing the challenges associated with stereotyping and negative gender roles, the forum strives to create opportunities for women to excel and make significant contributions in the cooperative sector and beyond.
SUSTAINABILITY AND CLIMATE RISK REPORTING – A SACCO PERSPECTIVE
By Robert Kanyua
The Climate Crisis is deepening and bringing along adverse and significant impacts across all sectors. The all too familiar threats occasioned by climate change include flooding, drought, unpredictable seasons and weather patterns that have turned hitherto fertile lands into deserts. Accordingly, the loss and damage associated with climate change impacts keep on growing. Yet, even as the consensus around climate risk reporting becomes stronger, not all financial services firms have embraced the practice. How should financial services firms approach climate risk reporting, and specifically, why must Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) embrace Climate Risk Reporting?
The Impact of the Climate Crises
The impacts of the climate crises extend beyond the environment to impact business. Even where slower-moving weather events like droughts and coastal erosion are not so apparent, their impacts contribute to economic erosion. That is why the climate change risk mitigation agenda should concern companies greatly just as it concerns nations across the world.
Climate-Related Risks & Their Connectivity to Business
The nexus of Climate Risk and Business Sustainability is becoming clearer. It is now evident that Climate change presents economic risks as it impacts the long-term growth of the organization and in certain instances business continuity.
As each year passes by climate risks are becoming greater and the potential for loss is becoming higher. Climate change impacts such as flooding along the water bodies have led to loss of businesses in Kenya amounting to millions of shillings.
In the financial services space, climate-related risks include and are not limited to, loss of markets and debt defaults. When climate risks actualize, they heap pressure on the balance sheet and profitability of a business.
Climate risk reporting will enable SACCOs to identify climate-related risks, prepare for shocks and recover quickly whenever they occur. It helps financial services firms unearth links invisible or not-so-apparent risks to the physical world.
The Importance of Climate Risk Reporting for Financial Services Firms
Financial services firms have a responsibility to safeguard the assets and value of their shareholders.
Even though climate-related risks are not limited to SACCOs, they are particularly vulnerable as a majority of their members are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for income or well-being. Indeed, in the recent past, SACCOs have been particularly impacted by the dwindling incomes of their members who rely on this sector.
Additionally, the role of cooperatives in SME development is set to expand as Small and Medium-sized Enterprises become significant economic players in the country. We anticipate the level of economic threat posed by climate-related risks to also rise as more SMEs onboard as SACCO members.
SACCOs must seek to understand the impacts of climate-related risks within the multiple sectors where their members operate. A potential challenge is that SMEs operate in multiple sectors that are impacted differently by climate change. Without proper climate risk reporting, SACCOs run the risk of failure if SMEs in certain sectors or regions face an uncertain future and begin to be a drag on their liquidity and members’ savings mobilization.
Given that climate-related risks can lead to a drastic reduction in members’ income and loan defaults, climate risk reporting will help SACCOs prepare to make the shift from the safe terrain of employer ‘check-off’ loan system to serving their business members.
Climate Risk Reporting, A Proactive Strategy
Most publicly owned firms produce and disseminate various reports including the regularly published annual report to shareholders. However, more often than not, these reports do not disclose climate-related risks or at best mention them in passing.
Globally, there is a push to leverage climate risk reporting to mitigate climate change risks. Regulators in the financial services sector have responded to the climate change threat by enacting guidelines to help build a better, solid and more sustainable future for financial services firms.
In Kenya, The Central Bank of Kenya introduced Guidance on Climate-related Risk Management for licensed institutions under its purview. Now climate risk reporting will feature more prominently to ultimately inform credit and investment decisions.
Whereas reporting itself does not eradicate climate-related challenges it goes a long way towards enhancing preparedness, monitoring and enabling prompt intervention where necessary.
It is my view that Climate Risk Reporting should be mainstreamed and go beyond best practices.
Priority Actions – How SACCOs Can Deal with the Widening Risk Landscape
An organization that assesses and reports on climate-related risks is less likely to be caught flat-footed by the occurrence. Below are two priority actions that SACCOs can adopt to address these risks.
First, assess your SACCOs risks and evaluate their impacts. This will enable you to have a deeper understanding of the risks to enable you to make decisions that reduce your risk profile.
The second is to report on all material risks – both current and emerging. This has the benefit of making you thoughtful and deliberate in decision-making about where and when to allocate your capital. Decision-making may entail revising your lending policies based on the disclosure results.
Assessing and reporting and monitoring climate-related risks helps you in strategic planning. As you continuously monitor current and emerging risks, you get an opportunity to devise mitigating measures and course-correct if the risk situation deviates from its target level. This minimizes the likelihood of impact and the severity of climate change shocks on the organization.
More importantly, appropriate climate risk information can help SACCOs identify new opportunities for growth and develop new products. Also, climate risk reporting will enable SACCOs to make informed investment and credit decisions.
Going forward, it is clear that climate-related risks will increase and hence the need to be proactive. Now is the time to embrace climate risk reporting even in the absence of any legislation. The payoff is in preparedness, better allocation of capital and in informing strategy. Hopefully, these benefits add impetus to the push for climate risk reporting.
The writer is a Consultant and Sustainability Expert with Pro Excellence Management Consultants.
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