Kenyan Shilling officially breaches 150 mark against the US dollar

The official exchange rate of the shilling against the dollar has breached the 150 mark, following a period of sustained and consistent depreciation that has narrowed the gap between the official and retail selling rates of the US currency.

Since the beginning of the year, the shilling has depreciated by 17.7 per cent against the dollar, which is more than double the 8.3 per cent it depreciated against the US currency in 2022 as a whole.

The Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK) indicative rate published on Monday morning showed the dollar buying rate at 149.84 shillings and the selling rate at 150.04 shillings units, or an average of 149.94 units. By the afternoon, the spot, or average, rate had risen to Sh150.03.

However, the retail and interbank markets tell a different story.

A spot check in the banking halls of 12 commercial lenders – including all nine tier one banks – showed that they were selling the dollar at between 154.95 and 157 shillings and buying at between 141 and 149.95 shillings.

Meanwhile, bureaux de change quoted the dollar selling at between 156.50 shillings and 157 shillings and buying at between 152 shillings and 153 shillings.

Treasury CS Professor Njuguna Ndung’u told the National Assembly on 27 September that the shilling’s recent slide was not a free fall but rather an “adjustment process” from what he described as historical policy mistakes in managing the shilling.

The CS said that over the past five to seven years, Kenya had kept its currency broadly stable even as the country’s price structure changed, leaving it misaligned with the real economy.
The Kenya Kwanza team had vowed to tame the fall against the dollar right from the campaign season, but this is only going in the opposite direction.

Banks have been selling dollars above the Sh150 level since late August. Foreign exchange dealers in Nairobi revealed that lenders see sell-side resistance at around 156 shillings to the dollar, suggesting that the currency may be finding its true value after months of steady depreciation.

The reopening of the interbank dollar market in April and the removal of a CBK rule that capped daily deviations from the indicative rate at 20 cents has helped the exchange rate find its own level through supply and demand.

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