necessity of inclusivity

‘The greed that sometimes drives capitalism must be tamed’ – James Mwangi

By Nicholas Norbrook

Premium badge Reserved for subscribers

Posted on October 29, 2020 16:31


If any banker was going to have an epiphany about capitalism during the pandemic, it was James Mwangi. “The bottom line […] is no longer a central focus,” he said, during a long video call in late August, in his capacious but empty office in central Nairobi.

Instead, the chief executive of Equity Bank has realised that the interests of the wealthy must be better aligned with the less well-off to avoid global calamity – in essence, inclusivity is self-interest. It has been a punishing year for Kenya’s biggest bank. “Up to June we are down 24% after tax,” says Mwangi. Waiving the fees to use its mobile platform forfeits $2m per month in revenue.

Whole teams have been set up to work from home, with all the security and equipment costs this entails. “We have a 200-member call centre working from home, our debt-collection unit – another 200 people – working from home.” Most expensive is the extra money set aside in case customers are unable to pay back loans. “Our provisions have gone up 15-fold up to June to take the heightened risk that we perceive. We are insulating our customers from shocks.”

While the government has “been very generous” with

There's more to this story

Get unlimited access to our exclusive journalism and features today. Our award-winning team of correspondents and editors report from over 54 African countries, from Cape Town to Cairo, from Abidjan to Abuja to Addis Ababa. Africa. Unlocked.

Subscribe Now

cancel anytime