29 November 2012

Kenya: First Handbook to Guide Chamas Out

The Kenya Association of Investment Groups (KAIG) has launched a detailed guidebook on investment groups titled 'The Chama Handbook', which will be a guide to proper information, management and growth of investment groups.

The chairperson of the Kenya Association of Investment Groups (KAIG) Patrick Kariuki said that chamas have become bigger and are taking on larger projects, hence the need for a reference manual.

"It is in this premise that The Chama Handbook has been published, to offer chama members the basic but often overlooked information which can make a difference between ultimate success and demise of the group," he explained.

The handbook will be available from KAIG at no cost.

Popularly known as chamas, investment groups became visible during the 1980s and 1990s when the country's economy was struggling, and were formed for social welfare purposes.

Chamas have matured over the years, with some registering as companies and other investment vehicles. Most of the groups initially invested at the Nairobi Securities Exchange and the real estate sector.

There are currently an estimated 300,000 chamas in the country, which collectively hold a combined asset base of at least Sh300 billion and Kariuki emphasised that The Chama Handbook will be the best practice reference for the thousands of investment groups in Kenya.

Some of the challenges investment groups face have been addressed in The Chama Handbook, such as the lack of investing knowledge, differences over investment strategy and risk appetite, lack of managerial skills and dispute resolution mechanisms.

"KAIG responds to the challenges by conducting various trainings to help members build up skills and knowledge," Kariuki said.

"We provide, at no cost to the members, investment experts to assist them learn about investing and the necessary and appropriate management and governance structures to have and a number of our corporate partners also offer administrative services to Chamas at preferential terms," he added.

Registered under the Societies Act, KAIG is the umbrella association for all investment groups in Kenya and Kenyans in the Diaspora.

The growth of investment groups has attracted various service providers such as banks, investment consulting firms, brokers and insurance companies.

Kenya's biggest private equity company, TransCentury Ltd. is one good example of a successful investment group, which has invested in power, transport infrastructure and specialised engineering.

TransCentury has a gross investment portfolio in excess of Sh9 billion.

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