Kenyans tell how allure of jobs landed them in hands of Myanmar junta

For every Kenyan who has been a victim of human trafficking to Myanmar, their story is that of hope for a rags-to-riches experience that instead dives them into the murky world of the Myanmar junta.

And as the government tries to save many from the jaws of militants, many Kenyans, particularly young women below the age of 30, are continuously getting duped into accepting fake job offers in Thailand, from where they are then trafficked to Myanmar to work as scammers targeting men from particular countries.

To help others from falling into the same trap, three women recently rescued from Myanmar shared the stories about how they left Kenya in search of job opportunities that never came, lost a fellow Kenyan but found a way back home after discovering that they had crossed over to a foreign land and were controlled by an armed group.

Their hope is to protect others from falling into a similar predicament and shed light on the desperation that makes young people easily trust whatever opportunity is thrown at them without thinking through the dangers that might lurk ahead.

Read: Family’s hope of receiving kin’s body from Saudi diminishes as agent vanishes

For 29-year-old Damaris Akumu, from Migori County, the allure of a better life for herself and her child pushed her to use her savings to pay for what she thought was an opportunity of a lifetime.

“I had searched for jobs but none was forthcoming, so I paid the lady that was to arrange my travel Sh150,000 and borrowed another Sh100,000 for emergencies and personal effects and left Kenya on August 4,” she recalls.

Ms Akumu travelled on the same day with 26-year-old Marleen Nduta Gitau, who learnt about the job offers through a relative that she had met at her grandparents’ burial earlier this year.

“I am the second-born in a family of three. My elder sibling has Down syndrome, our last-born is a college student and my parents are casual labourers. This, therefore, means the responsibility of the firstborn falls squarely on me,” Ms Gitau explains.

The relative told her about opportunities in Thailand and she quickly started thinking about working in another country.

source

For every Kenyan who has been a victim of human trafficking to Myanmar, their story is that of hope for a rags-to-riches experience that instead dives them into the murky […]

Continue reading "Kenyans tell how allure of jobs landed them in hands of Myanmar junta"

Regional forces mull next step after M23 decline ceasefire

Regional forces assembling in the Democratic Republic of Congo have underlined the priority of guarding civilians suing for peace, by providing a buffer against M23 rebels, The EastAfrican can reveal.

The decision came in response to a defied ultimatum given to the M23 last week by leaders who had gathered in Luanda, Angola.

And as community and armed groups representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo gathered in Nairobi this week, seeking long-term peace, military experts were holed up in Goma mulling the next step after M23 rebels defied a ceasefire call.

The three-day dialogue forum, the third in a series of the Nairobi Process, is backed by the East African Community.

Yet to ease hostilities

In Goma, military experts from EAC member states contributing troops to the regional force (EACRF), as well as the UN stabilisation mission (Monusco) were activated after participants of the Nairobi process reported that the group was yet to ease its hostilities in spite of publicly vowing to do so last week.

As the first step, sources told The EastAfrican the Kenya Defence Forces troops which have been on standby in Goma will be tasked with creating a ring around civilians to reduce casualties among local communities.

The idea is to ensure M23 attacks are thwarted by the Congolese forces, FARDC, the regional EACRF and Monusco, if the regional heads of state under the East African Community approve it.

The decision was first mooted in Angola last week, where a mini summit of the EAC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), under the chairmanship of Angolan President Joao Lorenco, called for ceasefire by all armed groups or they be forced out of occupied territories.

“Kenya to initially deploy its contingent in Goma, DRC and subsequently in Banagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja upon the withdrawal of M23 to its initial positions not beyond the line along Sabinyo (DRC side), Bigego, Bugusa, Nyabikona, Mbuzi, Rutsiro and Nkokwe,” the communique stated.

Continued battles

The M23 in a statement had agreed to the ceasefire call by the Heads of State after the Luanda process with a rider that they would not cease to defend themselves if they were violated by FARDC. But this week, locals reported continued battles between the rebels and Congolese forces.

The peace bid is, however, challenged by DRC’s own local politics. Kinshasa had opposed the idea of the buffer zone, fearing it could incite political heat, including ethnic divisions. Such an eventuality could hurt President Felix Tshisekedi as he bids for re-election due on December 20, 2023.

In the DRC, well before the announcement of the election date, candidates had already declared themselves for the elections and political parties had already put themselves in order of battle. Among the candidates is Martin Fayulu, his challenger in the 2018 election, who claims he won. Others are Moïse Katumbi. The former governor of the ex-province of Katanga is currently allied to Tshisekedi but is expected to challenge him.

Party dynamics

Former president Joseph Kabila’s camp has remained uncertain as his party the Common Front for Congo has yet to reveal its intentions. The other is Dr Denis Mukwege, the famous gynaecologist who co-won the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018. 

Some Congolese have asked him to stand, something he hasn’t taken on but which has attracted jibes on him from Tshisekedi.

After the announcement of election dates, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission Denis Kadima mentioned “constraints that may hamper the implementation of the elections.”

Among the challenges is insecurity, with Mr Kadima admitting that parts of DRC in rebel hands “have an impact on the smooth running of the elections.”

“No electoral operation can be organised properly without security for voters, electoral agents, sites of operations, materials and candidates,” he said last month.

Corneille Nangaa, former chairman of the electoral commission, said DRC’s “number one enemy of the electoral process is mistrust between actors and stakeholders.”

The registration of the estimated 50 million voters has not yet started, he told The EastAfrican.  In 2018, the electoral body needed 15 months to be ready.

source

Regional forces assembling in the Democratic Republic of Congo have underlined the priority of guarding civilians suing for peace, by providing a buffer against M23 rebels, The EastAfrican can reveal. The decision […]

Continue reading "Regional forces mull next step after M23 decline ceasefire"

Uprooting of baobabs in Kenya sparks outrage of conservationists

Lisa Libutu was going about her business at the Kenyan coastal county of Kilifi when a truck loaded with an uprooted giant baobab tree drove by on the Mombasa-Malindi Highway.

She was astonished at the sight of what is considered an everlasting tree uprooted.  It had not happened before.

The baobab is known as Africa’s “Tree of Life”, adapting to arid landscapes, living for up to 5,000 years and with many useful properties for local communities.

They are landmarks where they stand for centuries.

Libutu was not the only person shocked by the uprooting of the baobab. Soon, it became the talk of villagers as more of uprooted gigantic trees were seen being ferried to Mombasa.

Villagers approached by buyers

Libutu later learned that villagers had been approached to sell their trees for $3,000, an offer they could not turn down, she told The EastAfrican.

It is not clear whether the uprooting of the iconic baobab trees in Kenya’s coastal county of Kilifi is a case of ignorance on the part of national agencies and the county government or it is bio piracy.

Researchers fear that Kenya risks losing the baobab species to foreign multinationals who will patent its products and the country will pay the price of negligence yet again after it lost crucial species that were patented and cannot now be uses for commercial purposes in the country.

Lost patents

Dr Amos Lewa, a Kenyan biomedical scientist with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), notes that Kenya lost the Prunus africana (the African cherry), endemic in the Rift Valley, which was harvested and sent to Europe and later patented.

Formulations from the Prunus africana are used to treat prostate gland inflammation.

Dr Lewa says Kenya also lost frangipani, a flowery tropical tree whose milk is potent for herpes zoster, and is useful in HIV management of dermatological disorders.

“We lost the patent of the Prunus africana and frangipani, and we can no longer use it commercially. Kenya has lost patents of the kiondo basket and now the baobab tree – whose leaves, bark and roots show febrifuge potential and other medicinal uses – is threatened. The fruit pulp is highly potent for nutrition in children as an alternative to breast milk. We shall lose it in patents too,” he said.

Fibrous leafy tree

The baobab, or mbuyu in Kiswahili, is a gigantic fibrous leafy tree, common in the open semi-arid areas of eastern and coastal counties of Kenya.

Local communities use baobab leaves, pulp and seeds as a source of food.

Baobab seed oil is used in cosmetic products and stem fibres are used in rope making, the fruit shells as fuelwood, the leaves as vegetables and livestock fodder and the powder is used in making jam and juice.

Libutu is the founder of Baossence, an organisation that works with local women and youth at the Kenyan coast to care for and trade in baobab-based products.

“I used to get about 100kgs of baobab seeds in a week from women groups in Kilifi but they suddenly stopped supplying. It turned out the trees they harvested from had been “sold” to a foreigner who intended to export them to Georgia, in the United States,” Libutu said.

Go-ahead to uproot trees

It turned out that in October, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and the county government of Kilifi had given the go-ahead to Ariba SeaWeed International to uproot the trees in Mtondia and Tezo for botanical purposes for two years. A Kenya Forest Service approval was granted on November 1.

Eight huge baobab trees had by then already been uprooted and stored for shipping to Shekvetili Dendrological Park Ltd in Ureki in Ozurgeti Municipality, Georgia, US.

KFS said it allowed the uprooting of the baobabs because the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) did not list them as an endangered species.

Libutu has now launched a petition dubbed “Please Save our Baobab Trees from Wanton Destruction”, which has attracted over 3,000 people including government officials who sought explanation from county officials.

Petition details

The petition is an appeal to the Kenya government, the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Union for Conservation of Nature to immediately ban the “carnage” of baobab trees and to place them on the World List of Threatened Trees/Species.

The petition also seeks to have the baobab become a protected tree species in Kenya, included on the appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals from the threats of international trade.

Researchers, scientists and environmentalists have jumped on the petition and propelled it to the public for discourse. They are calling out the Ariba Seaweed International Ltd, which has been uprooting the trees in Tezo, Kilifi North, and condemning the environment management agency and the Kenya Forest Service for allowing the decimation of the iconic species.

Amisha Patel, the founder of O’bao, a baobab-based natural skincare brand in Kenya, called on the government to protect the trees.

“I would like to strongly condemn any uprooting and export of whole trees or live parts thereof. I strongly urge the Kenyan government to enforce, be vigilant and protect Kenyan resources,” said Patel.

she said uprooting the baobab tree deprives communities of future economic benefits and sets a dangerous precedent for other natural resources.

Nature Kenya coast conservation programme coordinator Francis Kagema alleged that the uprooting of the trees could be biopiracy as there were no consultations and there was no environment impact assessment.

“It is biopiracy because that is our biological resource. Someone is uprooting and taking it to another country. We do not know who allowed that and the process involved because there were no consultations,” he said.

Nagoya protocol

Kenyan President William Ruto says the harvesting of the trees must conform to the existing regulations, including the Convention on Biodiversity and the Nagoya Protocol.

“I have instructed the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to look into the ongoing uprooting of baobab trees in Kilifi County to ensure that it sits within the Convention on Biodiversity and the Nagoya Protocol,” he tweeted.

“There must be adequate authorisation and an equitable benefit-sharing formula for Kenyans. Further, the exercise must be in line with the government’s agenda of planting 15 billion trees in the next 10 years,” he added.

The Nagoya Protocol, formally known as the Convention on Biological Diversity, came into force on October 12, 2014, and has been signed by over 50 countries.

Baobab is native to Africa and is typically found in sub-Saharan African countries. In Kenya, it grows in several counties including Kitui, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi, and Lamu.

“Research shows that baobab trees, commonly called the iconic trees of life, grow in 32 countries in Africa and live for 5,000 years,” says Libutu.

source

Lisa Libutu was going about her business at the Kenyan coastal county of Kilifi when a truck loaded with an uprooted giant baobab tree drove by on the Mombasa-Malindi Highway. […]

Continue reading "Uprooting of baobabs in Kenya sparks outrage of conservationists"

Kenya’s tea ‘chokes’ under unclear policy, clashing roles

Kenya’s lucrative tea sector is running on contradictory policies, with players clashing on roles.

The East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) wants some of the policies addressed through a law that will clarify roles and relationships between management agencies, growers, and factory boards, to enhance accountability.

EATTA chairperson Arthur Sewe said the clash in roles can be resolved by adopting the Draft National Tea Policy (2018) to guide on procedures.

“The government initiated a draft National Tea Policy in 2013. However, arising from delay approving it, EATTA contracted a consultant to review it, identify any gaps and suggest remedies. It should be implemented immediately,” said Mr Sewe.

“The key issues to be addressed are low productivity, insufficient development and transfer of technology, high cost of inputs, multiple taxation regime and poor governance,” he proposed this week.

Extreme weather events

Since September, Kenya’s tea production has dropped significantly due to erratic weather, according to records at the Mombasa Tea Auction.

Data from EATTA indicated, a dip in the volume of tea offered by over half a million kilogrammes in October and projected that production is likely to drop further in the coming years.

The lobby blames climate change that had affected small-scale farmers’ livelihoods. According to a Food and Agriculture Organisation report released in May, Kenya’s temperature was expected to rise by 2.5 degrees Celsius between 2000 and 2050.

A new policy, the association argues, would set guidelines on sustainable farming practices to help farmers and small- and mid-sized enterprises in the agricultural sector adapt to the change in weather patterns.

These include selection of the most suitable areas for tea growing, crop diversification in low production areas, efficient management of soil and water resources, catchment protection, soil water conservation and rainwater harvesting.

For years Kenya basked under the optimal climate for tea growing comprising tropical, red volcanic soils, sunny days and stable rainfall.

Other major tea-producers India, Sri Lanka and China also face rising temperatures and extreme weather events that affect production.

source

Kenya’s lucrative tea sector is running on contradictory policies, with players clashing on roles. The East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) wants some of the policies addressed through a law […]

Continue reading "Kenya’s tea ‘chokes’ under unclear policy, clashing roles"

Kenya anti-tobacco crusaders fault President Ruto’s South Korea deal

A group of advocates of tobacco use control have denounced the deal Kenya’s President William Ruto made with South Korea to enhance tobacco trade, saying it will put more Kenyans at risk of diseases linked to the farming and use of the product.

The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (Ketca), an umbrella body of civil society organisations fighting tobacco use in the country, said the trade deal threatens to undo the progress made in reducing tobacco farming in the country.

Ketca said the agreement between Nairobi and Seoul is not only detrimental to the health of Kenyans, but also violates the Tobacco Control Act of 2007 which “commits the government to continually phase out tobacco farming in Kenya”.

“We ask the government to immediately cancel aspects of the Kenya-South Korea agreement that touch on tobacco,” Thomas Lindi, Ketca’s chief executive, said at a press conference in Nairobi on Wednesday.

President Ruto, after his first official visit to Seoul last week, announced that Kenya “commits to work together [with South Korea] in deepening and strengthening bilateral trade – especially in tea, coffee, and tobacco,” a move contradicting the very government’s efforts to phase out tobacco farming in the country.

Major problem

“We have a major problem with this because it means Kenya will try and increase tobacco planting in the country,” Mr Lindi said.

In March 2022, the ministry of agriculture partnered with United Nations agencies – World Health Organisation, the World Food Programme and the Agriculture and Food Organisation – to initiate the ‘Tobacco-free farms’ project to help farmers shift from tobacco-farming.

The programme, piloted in Migori County, western Kenya, sought to provide farmers dependent on tobacco farming with seeds, fertilisers, and ready markets to help them shift to more sustainable crops such as maize and beans.

“The project is a major step towards attaining a healthy nation and the Ministry of Health fully supports such ventures,” said former Health minister Mutahi Kagwe during the launch of the programme.

His Agriculture counterpart at the time, Mr Peter Munya, said the project would go a long way in boosting the nation’s food security, in addition to keeping farmers healthy.

Ketca praised the move and encouraged a speedy expansion to other tobacco-growing regions, saying the government was finally honouring the requirements of the Tobacco Control Act.

Speaking to The EastAfrican in March, Ketca Chairman Joel Gitari said “Tobacco growing farmers must be given the necessary support to switch to alternative crops that have the potential to improve their health and livelihoods as well as reduce the supply of tobacco”.

“Every effort made to reduce tobacco use is good for the environment, the economy, the future and the country in general.”

Now, noting that the project has been very successful in Migori, Mr Gitari says the agreement with Seoul could avert the gains made even in Migori and prevent the extension of the project to other tobacco-growing regions.

“The government should be focusing on such positive moves instead of engaging in retrogressive activities because whatever it is doing is illegal and we’re losing the gains that we’ve made,” he said on Wednesday.

Cause deaths

According to Ketca, tobacco use and farming will directly cause the deaths of more than 9,000 Kenyans by end 2022 and at least 40,000 others will be diagnosed with various forms of cancer.

“Numerous studies done in Kenya show tobacco farming is unprofitable, leaves farmers poor and sick,” Mr Lindi said.

A recent study by the University of Nairobi and the American Cancer Centre found that farmers in Migori, Busia, and Meru counties could earn on average Ksh80,000 ($697.47) more per acre from alternative crops like vegetables, grains and cereals, backing this claim.

According to the study, farmers in the tobacco-growing regions stuck to the crop because of “the structured supply chain of tobacco incentivises production” and due to lack of a ready market for the other crops.

The lobby now wants the government to completely discourage tobacco farming and use in the country by increasing excise duty on tobacco products, banning tobacco advertising and promoting health information and warnings against tobacco use.

source

A group of advocates of tobacco use control have denounced the deal Kenya’s President William Ruto made with South Korea to enhance tobacco trade, saying it will put more Kenyans at […]

Continue reading "Kenya anti-tobacco crusaders fault President Ruto’s South Korea deal"

Kenya Treasury says country has no room for fresh borrowing

Kenya’s National Treasury has doubled down on its efforts to swap the country’s short-term debt with longer-term issuances. 

This comes barely a week after it commenced a debt swap that will see Sh87.8 billion ($714.6 million) worth of short-term debt converted into long-term debt to ease the pressure it is experiencing from maturities. Last week, the Kenyan government floated its first switch bond since June 2020. 

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u said that Kenya has little wiggle room left for fresh borrowing, a situation that has been aggravated by the multiplicity of shocks to the economy, including the ongoing drought, effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

“Right now, we don’t have headroom for accumulating debt, so in a sense, we have to go down into liability management. When you are buffeted by multiple shocks, the reaction is often to use the resources that you have or even borrow to overcome the crisis,” Prof Ndung’u said.

A fortnight ago, President William Ruto directed Treasury not to borrow from the domestic market at rates above 10 per cent. 

Awaiting growth data

Prof Ndung’u further stated that the targeted Sh300 billion ($2.4 billion) worth of budget cuts anticipated in the Ruto government’s debut Supplementary Budget have been calibrated to ensure that it does not derail the economy’s growth momentum.

According to a circular issued by the Treasury on November 7, addressed to all Cabinet secretaries and accounting officers, the Kenyan government is pursuing aggressive rationalisation of the recurrent expenditure for the current financial year. The areas earmarked for slashes include expenditure on foreign travel and training for the remaining three quarters of the current financial year.

Prof Ndung’u said Kenya might be grappling with a recession even as it awaits growth data for the third quarter of 2022 from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. The economy grew by 6.8 per cent and 5.2 per cent in the first and second quarters, respectively.

“The budget cuts were necessary to try and shift resources to needy areas. It is austerity measures to try and save lives. We have to look at what is essential and what is not essential. You cannot affect aggregate demand in times of recession and that is why the budget cuts were in areas that are not essential,” the CS said.

source

Kenya’s National Treasury has doubled down on its efforts to swap the country’s short-term debt with longer-term issuances.  This comes barely a week after it commenced a debt swap that […]

Continue reading "Kenya Treasury says country has no room for fresh borrowing"

Kenya’s High Court puts the brakes on plans to import GMOs

The High Court in Kenya has temporarily suspended the government’s plan to allow importation and distribution of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pending determination of a lawsuit against the lifting of the ban.

The lawsuit, which is the second one to be lodged against President William Ruto’s administration for allowing the consumption of GMOs in Kenya, was filed by Kenyan Peasants League, a lobby representing small-scale farmers. The group claims that the decision to lift the ban is not procedural and it is unlawful.

The court orders, signed by Justice Mugure Thande, bar the government from gazetting any directives regarding GMOs or acting on the Cabinet dispatch that announced the lifting of the ban on GMOs.

The group alleges that GMO products pose a health risk to Kenyans, particularly the poor and those with low incomes. It also alleges that the government lifted the ban without involving Kenyans through public participation as required by the Constitution.

The group is opposed to the importation, cultivation and consumption of GMOs.

First lawsuit

The first lawsuit was filed last month by Mr Paul Mwangi. He sued the government for lifting regulatory barriers imposed a decade ago on GMOs and withholding public information on the genetically engineered crops.

He accused government of mischief, saying the decision was hurried and if not quashed, it would result in the violation of the rights of small-scale farmers and consumers.

He stated that the import of the 2022 Cabinet decision to allow introduction of GMOs was not to remove a ban on genetically modified foods, but to effect a blanket lifting of all protocols controlling the introduction of GMOs in Kenya. Mr Mwangi claimed that the decision by the Cabinet on October 3 will lead to the disappearance of indigenous seeds and pave way for the commercial practice of protecting the patent rights of the GMO seeds.

“Of particular concern is the imminent introduction into Kenya of crops developed using genetic use restriction technology (GURT), which is a technology involving the insertion of what is known as a “terminator gene” into seeds so that upon germination, the seeds ‘commit suicide’ and are therefore unable to pass any life after their harvest. The said harvest is thus incapable of being re-sown and cannot germinate into new crop,” said Mr Mwangi.

Regulatory protocols

GMOs were banned by former president Mwai Kibaki’s administration in 2012 and remained so under that of his successor Uhuru Kenyatta.

“The last two administrations had, following the ban imposed by the 2012 Cabinet decision, developed regulatory protocols that had seen the structured introduction in the country of at least one food crop and one cash crop developed through genetic modification without prejudicing the rights and freedoms of the people of Kenya and the Bill of Rights,” said Mr Mwangi.

According to him, the decision passed by President Ruto’s Cabinet to address food shortage in the country is bad for the country’s farmers and consumers.

The lawsuit also accuses the government of disparages the rights of peasant farmers and people working in the rural areas.

The government is yet to file its responses to the two lawsuits.

source

The High Court in Kenya has temporarily suspended the government’s plan to allow importation and distribution of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pending determination of a lawsuit against the lifting of […]

Continue reading "Kenya’s High Court puts the brakes on plans to import GMOs"

Kenya Airways targets corporate travel in new Ghana-Senegal flights

Kenyan flag carrier Kenya Airways has announced a new service linking the capitals of Ghana and Senegal starting this December 11. This is the first sign that African governments are serious in implementing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

The twice weekly service that complements the airlines’ existing schedule to the two destinations will increase options between Nairobi and Accra to nine flights a week and four to Dakar.

This comes hot on the heels of a new Nairobi-Mombasa-Dubai service, also to be launched this December, reflecting KQ’s push to get its growth plans off the ground following the two-year Covid-19 pandemic disruption.

The ease with which the Kenyan carrier will be able to pick intermediate traffic between Accra and Dakar without a reciprocal service by a Ghanaian airline to Kenya signals the beginning of a long-awaited era of open skies in Africa.

Pilot scheme

Kenya and Ghana were among the 15 African states that last week in Dakar signed up to pilot a scheme to test operation of air services under SAATM. Under existing restrictions such flights would operate under fifth-freedom rights on terms agreed on in a bilateral air services agreement.

According to Julius Thairu, Kenya Airways chief commercial and customer officer, the new connection “will offer our guests more travel and connectivity options within West Africa. Strategically, the bigger picture is to support the Single African Air Transport Market and the African Continental Free Trade Area, which are key pillars for Africa’s growth, by growing and deepening our network connections within the continent.”

KQ hopes to tap into existing demand from corporate travellers, traders as well as leisure travellers between Ghana and Senegal to support the service, which will be the first direct connection between the two west African capitals.

The proposed flights will be available twice a week. The outbound leg (KQ514) will originate in Nairobi at 21.30 local time on Tuesdays and Sundays, arriving in Accra at 12.10 local time. The leg to Dakar will commence 01.10 arriving at 04.15. The return flight KQ 515 will depart Dakar at 05.15 local time, and make one-hour a stop in Accra.

source

Kenyan flag carrier Kenya Airways has announced a new service linking the capitals of Ghana and Senegal starting this December 11. This is the first sign that African governments are […]

Continue reading "Kenya Airways targets corporate travel in new Ghana-Senegal flights"

Kenyan court quashes law allowing home buying with pension savings

The Kenyan government’s plan to accelerate its affordable housing agenda has suffered a setback in court after a judge quashed a law that allows members of retirement schemes to use a portion of their savings to purchase residential houses.

The court also stopped the implementation or enforcement of the amendments introduced to the Retirement Benefits Act No. 3 of 1997, which allowed the retirement benefits industry to help fill the housing gap.

Justice Anthony Ndung’u found that the amendment to the law was achieved through an irregular and flawed parliamentary process because MPs failed to allow public participation in the enactment process.

The amendment was introduced through the Tax Laws Amendment Act 2020, which came into effect on April 25, 2020, and the objective was to cure the large housing gap.

Boost home ownership

The Kenyan government’s aim in amending the law was to boost home ownership and lift the sluggish property market by enabling members of retirement schemes to purchase and own homes using their savings.

Changes to pension laws were also meant to make it easier for individuals to buy their first homes given that most Kenyan households are unable to raise the minimum house purchase deposit or afford the typical monthly mortgage payments.

To bring the amended law into force, former Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani published the Retirement Benefits (Mortgage Loans) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 showing the rules and limits for accessing pension savings for home purchase. The regulations were published on September 14, 2020.

Pensioners were allowed to use up to Sh7 million ($57,000) or a maximum of 40 percent of their retirement savings to buy a home from an institution or real estate investors.

An institution was defined in the regulations to include banks, mortgage or financial institutions, building societies, microfinance institutions, the National Housing Corporation, institutions approved by the Retirement Benefits Authority or any other entity offering a residential house for sale.

source

The Kenyan government’s plan to accelerate its affordable housing agenda has suffered a setback in court after a judge quashed a law that allows members of retirement schemes to use […]

Continue reading "Kenyan court quashes law allowing home buying with pension savings"

Uganda seeks Kenya partnership in deal to boost tourist numbers

Uganda’s tourism players are reaching out to Kenya in a controversial bid to help bridge market access challenges for Kampala’s hospitality offers.

The players in Kampala see Kenya’s coastal exposure to the world as a starting point where tourists arriving in Kenya can go on to visit Uganda on the same visa while using Uganda Airlines as a connecting carrier.

But that could bring new threats to Kenya’s own local sites, as well as affect market share for Kenya Airways, which has for years dominated the Kenya-Uganda route.

Mutual benefit

But if this plan works, the proponents argue, Kenya and Uganda will mutually benefit, with Uganda profiting from Kenya’s networks to attract visitors. Kenya in the meanwhile will have its tourists visit Ugandan sites at a discounted price, which stakeholders say could break monotony for repeat clients who have explored Kenya.

Alex Tunoi, the regional manager in charge of domestic and Africa tourism at the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), said they are aware of the proposed deal, but downplayed its potential to eat Kenya’s lunch.

“East Africa market has great tourism potential for Kenya; with a population of over 200 million, a growing middle class, improved infrastructure and relaxation of travel restrictions. KTB is focused on growing arrivals from the region,” he told The EastAfrican.

“Investment in these markets is bearing fruit with both Uganda and Tanzania emerging among top 10 key sources markets for the destination.”

Lucrative packages

According to the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) Kampala will offer lucrative packages to tourists arriving at Kenya’s coastal sites to explore its natural, adventure, leisure, business and cultural attractions.

Uganda intends to balance trade with Kenya by working with coastal tourism stakeholders to tap into Kenya’s booming beach tourism.

The first package is set to go online later this year after deliberations from a conference between Uganda and Kenyan on November 17.

“The partnership will ensure thousands of tourists visiting either Kenya or Uganda move freely between the two countries. The tourists can have breakfast at the beach and lunch in a safari in Uganda,” said Paul Mukumbya, Uganda’s Consul-General in Mombasa.

“The November conference in Mombasa will explore Uganda, ‘the Pearl of Africa,’ to give overview of the tourism attractions as well as specifying the investment opportunities in the tourism sector in Uganda and Kenya,” he said.

Eased travel requirements

The two countries are banking on eased regional travel requirements for EAC citizens to improve the balance of trade by jointly promoting beaches and parks in the region.

Citizens of the two countries can use their national identity cards to cross borders while international tourists will use the East Africa single visa to tour the two destinations.

Besides, both countries belong to the one-tourism visa programme that also includes Rwanda. Tourists arriving in one country can use the same tourist visa to cross to the other.

The challenge in the past has been the transportation connectivity.

The plan now is to use Uganda Airlines to connect tourists from Mombasa to Entebbe but once Kenya Airways starts direct flights from the coastal city, Kenya Coast Tourist Association chairman Victor Shitakha says people will have more options.

Packages for bus trips

Uganda Airlines flies between Mombasa and Entebbe three times a week. However, officials say other airlines will not be locked out and they will go as far as selling packages for bus trips.

“The move will create networks and synergies and we are not in competition but we complement each other, where we shall come up with packages marketed together [and] sell both safari and beaches as one package. We are working with Kenya Tourism Board to make it happen,” said Mr Shitakha.

Kenya remains Uganda’s biggest source market for tourists in the region, accounting for 29 per cent of total arrivals in 2018, the highest figure reported before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to figures by the Tourism Research Institute.

Rising numbers

At least 95,000 Kenyans visit Uganda every three months, according to the Ugandan Consulate in Mombasa. It expects this figure to rise.

Last year, Kenya received 870,465 tourists compared to 567,848 in 2020, with the US leading as the major tourist source with 136,981 arrivals, followed by Uganda (80,067), Tanzania (74,051), the UK (53,264) and India with 42,159 visitors.

Before the pandemic, Uganda received over 1.5 million tourists in 2019 and registered over 512,000 travellers in 2020. However, the country’s tourism industry is poised for recovery with renewed emphasis on intra-African travel market as a key marketing strategy.

In 2019, the Tourism sector contributed 7.7 per cent of Uganda’s gross domestic product and created over 667,000 jobs.

Tourism data from 2019 shows that its top three Africa source markets include Rwanda (32 per cent), Kenya (24 per cent) and Tanzania at six per cent.

source

Uganda’s tourism players are reaching out to Kenya in a controversial bid to help bridge market access challenges for Kampala’s hospitality offers. The players in Kampala see Kenya’s coastal exposure […]

Continue reading "Uganda seeks Kenya partnership in deal to boost tourist numbers"

Kenya joins calls for Russia to pay Ukraine war reparations

Kenya on Monday joined 93 other countries in supporting a UN resolution calling for Russia to compensate Ukraine after invading it in February this year.

The non-binding resolution A/ES-11/L.6: ‘Furtherance of remedy and reparation for aggression against Ukraine’ by the UN General Assembly reflected the enduring indifference to African countries in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But it did show significant support for Ukraine in seeking compensation and depicting Moscow as an aggressor in the war.

Ninety-four countries including Kenya, Ghana, Somalia and Djibouti voted to have Russia “bear the legal consequences” of its invasion of Ukraine, including recompensing for lost limbs, deaths or destroyed property.

“We had serious reservations on aspects of the resolution which were reflected in the outcome of the vote in the high number of abstentions and ‘no’ votes,” said Dr Martin Kimani, in a note explaining Kenya vote on Monday.
“Despite this, we voted yes because it is the right thing to do. Ukraine has a sovereign right to make claims for damages and loses incurred by virtue of conflict.”

No legal weight

It was the latest political symbol of opposition against Russia as voted by the UN General Assembly. Usually, such decisions reached by the Assembly do not carry legal weight, but can fuel political pressure on the affected party.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, there have been several UN General Assembly decisions, all reached under the rare Assembly’s emergency special sessions.

Weeks after the war, 141 member states denounced the invasion and when Russia annexed three regions of Ukraine in October under a shady referendum, 143 others voted to reject it.

Distant war

In Africa, however, the war continues to be seen as distant. Gabon, the other non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from Africa (besides Kenya and Ghana) abstained and so did Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi.

Fourteen countries including South Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Mali and Central African Republic voted no, while others like the Democratic Republic of Congo were not even present during the voting.

“This is the right of Ukraine but also for all the peoples and countries that are seeking reparations for colonial violence and dispossession, slavery, and other acts of aggression by powerful states, including members of the Security Council,” Dr Kimani added.

Since 1950, the UN General Assembly has often taken up matters regarding international peace and security if the UN Security Council, the most powerful organ of the UN, fails to gain a unanimous decision among its five permanent members. They are Russia, China, UK, US and France.

This session is the 11th since 1950 and it came after Moscow vetoed a resolution tabled before the Security Council condemning an assault on Ukraine.

“Seventy-seven years ago, the Soviet Union demanded and received reparations, calling it a moral right of a country that has suffered war and occupation,” Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the Assembly before voting.

“Today, Russia, who claims to be the successor of the 20th century’s tyranny, is doing everything it can to avoid paying the price for its own war and occupation, trying to escape accountability for the crimes it is committing.”

The Ukrainian diplomat wants the world to follow an example set earlier when it created the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) in 1991 to force Iraq to pay for illegally invading Kuwait. The Commission had overseen payments of over $52 billion in reparations to victims by the time it closed this year.

Nearly 50 nations co-sponsored the resolution on establishing an international mechanism for compensation for damage, loss and injury, as well as a register to document evidence and claims.

Pay for destruction

Ukraine wants Russia to pay for destruction including buildings, bridges and roads, demolition of power supply lines, displacement of civilians and killings, besides rape and torture.

His Russian counterpart, Vasily Nebenzya, argued that the Assembly had no powers to rule on legal cases and punish parties.

“These countries boast about how committed they are to the rule of law, but at the same time, they are flouting its very semblance,” he said.

“The UN will play no role in this process because the proposed mechanism is suggested to be created outside of the UN, and no one has any plans to account to the General Assembly for its activity.”

source

Kenya on Monday joined 93 other countries in supporting a UN resolution calling for Russia to compensate Ukraine after invading it in February this year. The non-binding resolution A/ES-11/L.6: ‘Furtherance of […]

Continue reading "Kenya joins calls for Russia to pay Ukraine war reparations"

Clashes in eastern DR Congo as Uhuru pursues ‘dialogue’ initiative

roops and rebels traded heavy fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, a military source and local inhabitants said, as former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community’s mediator in efforts to end the war between DRC forces and M23 militants, called for all armed groups to “silence the guns”.

Government forces and the M23 militia were fighting in Kibumba, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the strategic city Goma, the sources said, speaking by phone.

M23 fighters were also seen about 40 kilometres northwest of the city in the Virunga National Park, a wildlife haven famed for its mountain gorillas but which is also a hideout for armed groups, the sources said.

A mostly Congolese Tutsi group, the M23 (the March 23 Movement) leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured Goma before being driven out. 

M23 grievances

After lying dormant for years, the rebels took up arms again in late 2021, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate them into the army, among other grievances.

They have since won a string of victories against the military and captured swathes of territory, prompting thousands of people to flee their homes.

The resurgence has ratcheted up diplomatic tensions, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the group.

Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador at the end of last month as the M23 advanced, and recalled its own envoy from Kigali.

Rwanda denies providing any support for the M23 and accuses the Congolese army of colluding with the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) — a notorious Hutu rebel movement involved in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda. 

“The Rwandan army and its allies from the M23 don’t stop, every passing day, launching assaults on our different positions in Kibumba,” Lt Col Guillaume Ndjike, the army spokesman for the eastern North Kivu province, told reporters.

Witnesses in the rebel-held town of Kiwanja also spoke last week of school canteens backed by World Food Programme being pillaged on Sunday and Monday. 

“There was corn flour and oil. They took these provisions as food rations,” a resident said.

Another said oil cans, flour sacks and beans had been taken away by truck the previous day.

‘Silence the guns’

Eastern DRC saw two bloody regional wars in the 1990s.

That conflict, along with the Rwandan genocide, bequeathed a legacy of scores of armed groups which remain active across the region but especially in North Kivu.

The heads of the seven-nation East African Community (EAC) on Sunday announced they would hold a “peace dialogue” on the region’s conflicts. 

“All groups that currently bear arms should lay those arms down and choose the path of peace through dialogue,” said EAC’s mediator, former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, on Monday. 

He arrived in Kinshasa the day before to hold consultations ahead of November 21 peace talks in Nairobi. 

“Silence the guns and join in a political process,” he urged local armed groups. 

To foreign groups, “the DRC is no longer the battleground for problems that are not from this country,” Kenyatta added. 

“There is nothing that can be gained through the barrel of a gun.”  

Angolan President Joao Lourenco is exploring another diplomatic path.

He met on Friday with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and on Saturday with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.

source

roops and rebels traded heavy fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, a military source and local inhabitants said, as former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African […]

Continue reading "Clashes in eastern DR Congo as Uhuru pursues ‘dialogue’ initiative"

Kenya’s central bank directs lenders to forego half of $246 million digital loans

At least 4.2 million Kenyans who failed to pay Ksh30 billion ($246 million) they borrowed from banks, microfinance and mortgage finance companies digitally have been handed relief, after the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) rolled out a framework to slash the burden by half.

The CBK on Monday said the credit repair framework, to be undertaken by commercial and microfinance banks, and mortgage finance companies until the end of May 2023, will see the lenders forego at least Ksh15 billion ($123m) the borrowers owe them as they discount the loans by 50 percent.

“Through the framework, the institutions will provide a discount of at least 50 percent of the non-performing digital loans outstanding as at end of October 2022, and update the borrowers credit standing from non-performing to performing.

“The institution will then enter into a repayment plan with the borrowers for a period of up to May 31, 2023, for the balance of the loan. Upon expiry of the framework, the credit standing of the borrowers with respect to these loans will depend on their repayment performance during the six-month period,” the CBK stated.

The CBK said the objective of the framework is to improve the credit standing of mobile phones digital borrowers who had been reported to Credit Reference Bureaus (CRBs), for failing to service loans they borrowed using mobile phones.

It covers all loans with a repayment period of 30 days and below that were listed as non-performing by end of October 2022.

“It is anticipated that the framework will enable over 4.2 million mobile phone digital borrowers, adversely listed with CRBs, to repair their credit standing. The total value is approximately Ksh30 billion, equivalent to 0.8 percent of the gross banking sector loan portfolio of Ksh3.6 trillion ($29 billion) at end of October 2022,” the financial services sector regulator stated.

The CBK said most of the affected borrowers were individuals and small businesses that were heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which increased their inability to pay after they lost jobs and businesses.

“The adverse effects of the pandemic continue to linger for the covered borrowers. Accordingly, the framework is expected to enable this segment of borrowers to access credit and other financial services as they rebuild their lives and livelihoods,” the CBK stated.

The framework will expire on May 31, 2023, and meanwhile, the lenders have been asked to contact the borrowers and provide them with further details of the framework.

source

At least 4.2 million Kenyans who failed to pay Ksh30 billion ($246 million) they borrowed from banks, microfinance and mortgage finance companies digitally have been handed relief, after the Central […]

Continue reading "Kenya’s central bank directs lenders to forego half of $246 million digital loans"

Uhuru Kenyatta arrives in Kinshasa for DR Congo peace talks

The East African Community (EAC) is engaged in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A day after the arrival of Kenyan troops in Goma, North Kivu, former President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in Kinshasa where he is to stay for two days. The EAC facilitator is accompanied by East African Community Secretary General Peter Mathuki.

Advisers to the chairperson of the East African Community heads of state summit and President of the Republic of Burundi, H.E. Évariste Ndayishimiye, have also been invited to the talks.

The Eastern bloc authorities are preparing for the third round of the Nairobi dialogue, which will bring together the Congolese government and Congolese armed groups.

The Kinshasa talks come a week after a high-level meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, with President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Kenyan President William Ruto.

Mr Kenyatta is scheduled to meet President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa.

“The former Kenyan president will also meet the presidents of the two chambers of parliament (National Assembly and Senate), members of the government, diplomats and representatives of local communities, leaders of religious denominations, traditional chiefs and women’s associations of the provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu who have travelled from Kinshasa to meet and exchange with the team of President Uhuru on Monday,” reads a statement from President Tshisekedi’s office.

Also Read: DRC, Rwanda to maintain ‘political dialogue’

This will be an opportunity for Mr Kenyatta to talk with the communities and understand what they think after so many years of war.

Talks with M23

The meetings are being held against the backdrop of an intense war between the M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in North Kivu.

For the East African leaders, the parties involved must favour dialogue to achieve peace.

The DRC authorities say they have a “double strategy”: diplomacy, but also war to impose peace.

Also read: Cost of DRC war on EAC economies

For this reason, Kinshasa simultaneously says it remains open to dialogue while continuing to fight the rebels who paradoxically also say they are open to dialogue.

President Tshisekedi on Saturday welcomed President João Lourenço, the Angolan head of state and mediator of the Luanda negotiations.

João Lourenço was in Kigali on Friday to meet President Paul Kagame, again in the search for peace. For the moment, despite the increasing number of meetings, the resolutions of the Luanda roadmap, in particular the ceasefire in the theatre of war, have remained a dead letter.

In the DRC, many Congolese reject the idea of dialogue with the M23.

Kinshasa has already set its conditions, including the withdrawal of the M23 from their positions.

Martin Fayulu, a very vocal opponent of Félix Tshisekedi, also believes that Congo “should not dialogue with the M23”. He proposes to talk with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi “so that they withdraw their soldiers from the DRC”.

Fayulu also rejects the deployment of Kenyan troops in the DRC. According to him, “this deployment is a big joke”.

Almost the entire Congolese public opinion does not want to see DR Congo in talks with the M23. With one year to go before the general election, the authorities are sensitive to national opinion.

source

The East African Community (EAC) is engaged in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A day after the arrival of Kenyan troops in Goma, North Kivu, […]

Continue reading "Uhuru Kenyatta arrives in Kinshasa for DR Congo peace talks"

Kenya: This is why we deployed our troops in DR Congo

Kenya has defended deployment of peacekeeping troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying it has strategic investments interests to protect in the mineral-rich country.

While seeking parliamentary approval for the deployment, Nairobi said it has a lot to lose if the ongoing conflict in the eastern DRC is not stopped.

The National Assembly this week endorsed the deployment, completing formalities for the participation of Nairobi in its first ever direct military engagement in the DRC

The troops, which will begin touching down in eastern DRC, and cost at least Ksh4.5 billion ($37 million) in the first six months, are being seen as a means to achieving Kenya’s mark on the DRC map.

Cost of not sending troops

However, Kenyan legislators agreed with a pitch by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale that the cost of not sending troops would be worse than deploying. Members of Parliament noted that Kenya’s rising business interests in the DR Congo means Nairobi has a personal investment in searching for peace.

“The long-term local and regional benefits in peace and stability, as well as strategic Kenyan investments in the Democratic Republic of Congo outweigh the costs,” Nelson Koech, MP for Belgut and chairman of the National Assembly Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations, told The EastAfrican.

“Through this deployment, Kenya will also secure its vital interests including Kenyan businesses like banks operating in the DRC, numerous Kenyan businesspeople in the country, bilateral trade with the DRC, and utilisation of the Mombasa port by the DRC among others,” he added.

The Committee which had been assessing Kenya’s formal deployment, a legal requirement, agreed that DRC’s entry into the East African Community earlier this year provides Kenyan businesses with an opportunity, if the country gets security.

The troops will be part of the regional force deployed by the EAC to target rebel groups who refuse to disarm. But it won’t be the only means.

“The troops deployment is complementary and very strategic to the ongoing political process in DRC. The Kenyan Contingent (KENCON) has a lot of goodwill from residents of Eastern DRC due to the fact that Kenya does not share a border with DRC,” Mr Koech added.

Provide leadership

“The KDF will therefore provide leadership and tangibly contribute to the maintenance of peace and security being a current non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council,” he said.

For months, the question has been how the regional force, technically a combat mission, will work with the UN peacekeepers under the Monusco mission in DRC. Kenya had participated in Monusco in the past but the troops to be deployed under the EAC will be Nairobi’s first combat engagement. Other countries sending troops are Uganda, South Sudan and Burundi with Rwanda allowed to deployed on the shared border with DRC.

On Friday, Kenyan President William Ruto hosted Huang Xia, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General to the Great Lakes region whom he told to push for further support for DRC’s institution rebuilding.

“We urge the International Community through the United Nations to put more resources into the peace efforts by East and Southern Africa nations in the DRC,” President Ruto said on Friday.

“We will support all initiatives to end conflict and bring stability and prosperity to East Africa and the Great Lakes Region.”

Exit strategy

Besides financing, the deployment had faced questions on exit strategy. And Kenya has argued this mission will be different from when it launched an operation on al-Shabaab 11 years ago, its then first combat dealings of any kind.

“In Somalia’s case the priority was to crush the Al-Shabaab infrastructure to incapacitate their ability to attack Kenya. In DRC, the mandate of the KDF is simple. We move in to facilitate ongoing regional stabilisation efforts to create room for dialogue,” Mr Koech explained.

The mission will, however, rely other factors to succeed. One of them is the relationship between Rwanda and DRC who accuse one another of fomenting rebel movements. This week, the two countries agreed, for the second time in three months, to seek a solution against their military escalation, through political channels. It was a decision out of a meeting in Luanda, Angola, of their respective foreign ministers

In a joint communiqué, Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula, his Rwandan counterpart Vincent Biruta and the Angolan Minister for External Relations agreed that the parties must speed up the implementation of the roadmap of July 6 this year. On that date, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi met his Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a summit mediated by Angolan President João Lourenço, the African Union’s appointed mediator to reconcile Kinshasa and Kigali. The Tripartite summit had ordered a ceasefire between the M23 rebel group and the Congolese army and the withdrawal of the M23 from their positions.

source

Kenya has defended deployment of peacekeeping troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying it has strategic investments interests to protect in the mineral-rich country. While seeking parliamentary approval for […]

Continue reading "Kenya: This is why we deployed our troops in DR Congo"

KCB floats first Islamic bond worth $4.4 million in Tanzania

KCB Bank Tanzania has floated its first Islamic bond worth Tsh10 billion ($4.4 million) to fund its Sahl banking asset portfolio.

The Sharia-compliant paper was opened on November 9 and closes on December 5.

“KCB Fursa Sukuk provides opportunities for Tanzanian and non-Tanzanian individuals, retailers, corporations and institutions to invest in the capital markets for three years at an expected return of 8.75 per cent per annum, quarterly,” KCB Tanzania managing director Cosmas Kimaro said in a statement.

The minimum initiation investment is set at Tsh500,000 (about $218).

The bank will list the paper on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange after the ongoing initial public offer.

KCB joins NMB Bank and the National Bank of Commerce in offering bonds this year.

NMB floated its Tsh25 billion ($10.9 million) Jasiri bond to finance women-led businesses, with NBC’s Twiga bond targeting to raise Tsh300 billion ($131 million) for funding small and medium enterprises.

source

KCB Bank Tanzania has floated its first Islamic bond worth Tsh10 billion ($4.4 million) to fund its Sahl banking asset portfolio. The Sharia-compliant paper was opened on November 9 and […]

Continue reading "KCB floats first Islamic bond worth $4.4 million in Tanzania"

Kenyans’ visa-free stay in S. Africa comes with costs if one overstays

Kenyans planning to travel to South Africa will from January next year enjoy a visa-free stay of up to 90 days per calendar year, but those who overstay their welcome, or enter illegally will pay a huge penalty.

On Wednesday, Kenyan President William Ruto and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa witnessed an agreement that could end decades of complaints from Nairobi on immigration policies by South Africa.

It means that Kenyans will no longer need to apply for e-visas or regular visas before travelling to South Africa for business or tourism. The tradition has been that Kenyans apply for a ‘free’ visa from an agent of the South African High Commission who charges an ‘application fee’ to handle the paperwork. The visa often comes out after four working days.

With the new agreement, all Kenyans will need is an invitation and return ticket, as well as proof of vaccination for yellow fever and Covid-19; and proof of financial ability to stay in South Africa during the intended duration for tourists.

“This has been a challenge that has been with us for many years. Under the new dispensation, we can build a greater relationship,” said President William Ruto at a joint press conference in Nairobi. His South African counterpart said the deal could take business and tourism “to greater heights.”

Deportation costs

But there is a catch: Each country will bear the cost of deporting their nationals caught overstaying. This means that a Kenyan overstaying in South Africa or caught entering illegally will be returned at the cost of Nairobi. In essence, officials said this will mean the travel filters between the two countries will be stringent, sieving out illegal immigrants, criminal suspects and all those with no paperwork taking advantage of the system.

“People who abuse the system…don’t deserve to be in South Africa, and they don’t deserve to be in Kenya,” President Ruto added.

“This agreement will be implemented to ensure the bad elements that try to infiltrate our countries are dealt with firmly and decisively.”

Age-old complaint

South Africa, by easing the visa rules on Kenya, is merely responding to an age-old complaint. And President Ramaphosa’s predecessors often dodged the bullet, accusing Kenya of being a conduit for illegal migrants, mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia. But Ramaphosa’s regime has tried to ease things, including allowing those on student visas to renew their stays while still in south Africa and ending the need to travel back home for the same.

Ramaphosa also allowed Kenyans to transit through South African airports without a transit visa, but as long as they do not leave the airport. In the past, one needed a transit visa regardless of whether he or she would leave the airport or not. Until January next year, however, Kenyans will still need transit visas if heading to neighbouring countries via South Africa by land.

President Ramaphosa described the new ties as based on a “wonderful foundation that exists” between Nairobi and Pretoria.

Implemented fully

“We are committed to ensure that the agreements that we have signed now and in the past will be implemented fully,” he said before describing the visa issues as “thorny”.

“Our officials will speed up the processes to implement it. This dispensation will be available to Kenyans over a 90-day period in a given year, meaning that, yes, you can use the 90 days, ten days, 20 days or whatever. Kenyans will have a full 90 days to be able to visit south Africa and we would be able to review this and get reports from our ministers within a year and see how this is functioning,” he explained.

It means Kenyans must ensure their stay in South Africa does not exceed 90 days per year, cumulatively, to qualify for visa free stay.

“This will also be underpinned by other processes that we have agreed can take place: closer monitoring of the implementation process and also be able to have a return policy of those elements that would be undesirable to be able to be returned to Kenya.

“We are going to be monitoring this much more closely and we are setting in place various mechanisms to make sure that what we have agreed to is adhered to and that no one takes advantage of the agreement.”

source

Kenyans planning to travel to South Africa will from January next year enjoy a visa-free stay of up to 90 days per calendar year, but those who overstay their welcome, […]

Continue reading "Kenyans’ visa-free stay in S. Africa comes with costs if one overstays"

Kenya defers $699m loan repayments as debt pressure high

Kenya failed to meet KSh84.6 billion ($695.4 million) debt repayment obligations in the year to June due to a cash crunch and instead carried over the payments to the current fiscal year.

The public debt rose to KSh8.6 trillion ($70.7 billion) adding more burden on service costs, with more than KSh945 billion ($7.8 billion) used to pay domestic and external lenders in the 2021/22 financial year.

In its latest review of the progress on implementing projects under its 38-month credit scheme, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Kenya failed to pay 0.7 per cent of the country’s GDP to external creditors.

The IMF did not make public the identity of the creditors.

“A constrained borrowing environment meant that planned external commercial financing did not materialise. Lack of funds contributed to 0.7 per cent of GDP in unpaid obligations that were carried over to the 2022/23 financial year,” IMF stated.

Kenya’s GDP was Sh12.0982 trillion by 2021, according to the Central Bank of Kenya.

Debt pressures high

The IMF said while Kenya grew its tax revenue and cut budget deficits, the country’s debt pressures remained high.

The lender added that a mix of factors, including huge amounts spent on subsidising fuel, high inflation and disruptions in global supply chains drained Kenya’s efforts on growing revenue and cutting the budget deficit.

“Significant unbudgeted spending in the early months of this fiscal year, much of it for fuel subsidies, posed an additional challenge. There has been progress on fiscal adjustment needed to address debt vulnerabilities though pressure remains elevated,” the lender said.

The government cut the budget deficit from 8.2 per cent of the GDP to 6.2 per cent, during the year, while Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) grew taxes from 12.6 to 13.7 per cent of GDP, crossing the Sh2 trillion mark for the first time.

External financing needs

Announcing a planned release of KSh52.7 billion ($4.3 billion) in lending to Kenya under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and Extended Credit Facility (ECF) in the coming weeks, the IMF said nearly half of the money would be prioritised to cover external financing needs due to the ongoing drought.

“Upon completion of the Executive Board review, Kenya will have access to SDR 336.54 million (equivalent to about $433 million), bringing the total IMF financial support under these arrangements to about $1,548 million,” a statement by IMF heads of the delegation to Kenya Mary Goodman and Tobias Rasmussen read.

“This latter amount includes proposed augmentation of access of SDR162.84 million to cover external financing needs resulting from drought and challenging global financing conditions.”

The IMF says the new government must continue with measures to grow revenue further while controlling spending in a bid to cut budget deficits.

Structural, governance reforms

“It will also be important to move ahead with structural and governance reforms. This includes completing efforts to publish beneficial ownership information for awarded government contracts, which will be a major step towards greater transparency and accountability,” the statement said.

“Reform of financially-troubled state-owned enterprises – including Kenya Airways and Kenya Power – will also be key.”

President William Ruto’s initial measures to do away with fuel subsidies and reinstate variable cost adjustments in electricity prices led to a rise in fuel and power prices.

Kenya’s treasury in the quarter that ended June tapped KSh40.87 billion ($336 million) from the dollar reserves the CBK received from the IMF in form of special drawing rights in August last year.

source

Kenya failed to meet KSh84.6 billion ($695.4 million) debt repayment obligations in the year to June due to a cash crunch and instead carried over the payments to the current […]

Continue reading "Kenya defers $699m loan repayments as debt pressure high"

Kenya Airways pilots call off strike after court order

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association has called off their strike notice following an earlier ruling Tuesday by the Employment and Labour Relations Court which ordered the pilots to resume work.

In a statement Tuesday night, Kalpa withdrew their strike notice and urged their members to resume duty on Wednesday, November 9, 2022, at 6 am.

“Members are also urged to report to the Executive Council any incident of victimisation or disciplinary action that may be taken contrary to the court’s orders,” Kalpa said.

The pilots association said they regretted the disruption and inconvenience to KQ guests and urged their members to immediately restore normalcy to operations.

Kalpa launched the strike at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Saturday, defying a court order issued last week against the industrial action.

Return unconditionally

Labour Relations Court judge Anna Mwaure on Tuesday ordered “the Kenya Airways pilots to resume their duties as pilots by 6am on November 9, 2022, unconditionally”.

Kenya Airways later welcomed the court’s decision.

“We thank the court for the expeditious ruling that now allows KQ to resume its normal operations. We commit to complying with the court’s directions,” said a statement by Allan Kilavuka, the Group Managing Director and CEO of Kenya Airways.

Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen had also during the day also welcomed the court order.

He urged the airline not to victimise any pilot who took part in the strike.

“The past 4 days have been difficult for Kenya’s aviation industry due to the strike by the Kenya Airline Pilot Association (Kalpa). We convey our sincere apologies to travellers and cargo customers affected by the strike,” he said in a statement to newsrooms.

“I also urge the management of Kenya Airways to obey the court order barring the victimisation of any of the pilots who participated in the strike,” Mr Murkomen said.

He said a prolonged strike would have not only forced the closure of the airline which was losing over Sh300 million a day but also negatively impacted over 18,000 lives that depend on the airline.

“In the past 3 days, this strike has disrupted travel plans for over 12,000 customers across KQ network, forced the cancellation of over 300 flights and affected 3,500 other employees who were not part of it,” Murkomen said adding that the national government is committed to the well-being of the airline.

source

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association has called off their strike notice following an earlier ruling Tuesday by the Employment and Labour Relations Court which ordered the pilots to resume work. In […]

Continue reading "Kenya Airways pilots call off strike after court order"

Kenya makes public SGR contract which gives China sweeping powers

The standard gauge railway (SGR) contract signed by Kenya gives sweeping powers to its Chinese lenders, including requiring arbitration of any dispute to be held in Beijing, documents released by the government after years of secrecy have shown.

In the contract, which helped retired President Uhuru Kenyatta build what was Kenya’s most expensive infrastructure project, Kenya was bound to keep the details of the deal under lock and key, the reason why authorities, including the former Head of State, refused to make the contract public even after a court order.

The contract was Sunday made public by Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary, Kipchumba Murkomen, ending years of speculation on what the country signed.

But while Mr Murkomen shared the contract, which he said will be tabled in Parliament, details of the collateral Kenya put up—reported by the media, led by the Nation, as being the Port of Mombasa and other assets of the Kenya Port Authority—were missing.

In the documents shared by Mr Murkomen, China was to lend Kenya $1.6 billion at 2 percent interest per annum, with a 0.25 percent commitment fee.

Taxpayers paid a management fee of $4 million 30 days after the signing of the contract.

The SGR deal, the contract shows, is a 20-year loan with a seven-year grace period. Kenya was to repay the amount in 156 months (13 years), and was to dedicate 42.06 per cent of the proceeds from the railway to repay the loan.

For the Nairobi -Naivasha route, Kenya inked a $1.2 billion in a 20-year loan facility.

Kenya was required to pay $137.59 million as insurance fees.

The contract also confirms fears that Kenya had been bound to seek resolution—in case of a dispute—only in China, which experts have said gives the Asian nation a big advantage.

“If no settlement is reached through friendly consultation, each party shall have a right to submit a dispute to the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Committee for arbitration …” the contract states.

In the deal, Kenya was bound to establish an inland container depot in Nairobi “and its mandatory customs clearance” as well as a Railway Development Fund, that China had said should be established “to be applied in priority to make repayment of loans in relation to the project”.

The contract also demanded that Kenya first approaches China to purchase any goods from the proceeds of SGR, before going to any other market.

Also read: Samia’s basket of goodies from China

The deal, which was signed by former Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Li Ruogu, the President of the Export and Import (Exim) Bank of China, also precludes Kenya from sharing its details.

“The Borrower shall keep all the terms and conditions hereunder in connections with this Agreement strictly confidential. Without the prior written consent of the Lender, the Borrower shall not disclose any information hereunder or in connection with this Agreement to any third party unless required by applicable law,” the deal reads.

During his vetting in Parliament, Mr Murkomen had promised to make the SGR contract public, saying Kenyans had the right to know what the government signed on their behalf.

‘Never seen’

“I have spoken to everybody whom I thought was a person of influence in government and privy to the SGR contract but they have said they have never seen the SGR agreement. I don’t want to name those I spoke to, but once I get into the office, I will look for it,” Mr Murkomen said.

Following exclusive reporting by the Nation on the SGR contract in 2020, especially on the collateral Kenya put up, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “We have checked with the relevant Chinese financial institution and found that the allegation that Kenyan side used the Mombasa Port as a collateral in its payment agreement with the Chinese financial institution for the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway is not true.”

Since President Kenyatta promised on live television to make public the SGR contract in 2019, the government has been playing hide and seek with Kenyans on the matter, with the country left in the dark on just what it signed and what the Chinese were guaranteed in the process.

In January this year, the government, following a court order, cited a non-disclosure agreement with the Chinese lenders for its refusal to make the contract public. It argued that the contract contains non-disclosure clauses and its release would endanger national security and injure relations with China.

Also read: Hard times for Kenya SGR as port operations return to Mombasa

Then Transport Principal Secretary Dr Joseph Njoroge said in January 2022 court documents that agreements entered between Kenya and Chinese contractors over the construction of the SGR have non-disclosure clauses.

In the case, activists Khelef Khalifa and Ms Wanjiru Gikonyo sought to have all contracts, agreements and studies related to the construction and operations of the SGR made public. They argued that keeping the documents confidential violates the law and discourages transparency in governance.

In May, Justice John Mativo ruled that public officers have a constitutional duty to make information available to Kenyans saying that any restriction on access to information from the government must have a genuine purpose and demonstrable effect of protecting a legitimate national security interest.

“It is clear that the respondents’ attempt to hide behind the provisions of sections 3(6) & (7) of the Official Secrets Act flies in the face of Article 35, section 29 of the Access to Information Act and falls to be rejected,” ruled Justice Mativo.

The judge argued that there are no two systems of law regulating access to information held by public bodies.

Most expensive projects

Mr Khelefa and Ms Gikonyo had, in the case, argued that documents related to the SGR project and its financing have never been made public despite being one of the most expensive projects undertaken by the government.

“SGR is the largest capital-intensive infrastructure project ever constructed in the country, but despite this extraordinary expenditure of public funds, the project has been undertaken with controversy and secrecy from its inception,” they argued.

source

The standard gauge railway (SGR) contract signed by Kenya gives sweeping powers to its Chinese lenders, including requiring arbitration of any dispute to be held in Beijing, documents released by […]

Continue reading "Kenya makes public SGR contract which gives China sweeping powers"

Pilots strike clouds Kenya Airways plans to raise flight frequency

Troubled Kenya Airways is facing an operational crisis as pilots down tools protesting poor working conditions. This is amid plans by the airline to raise frequency of flights and return to old routes over the festive season to take advantage of rising traveller numbers.

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) said effective 6am November 5, there would be no Kenya Airways aircraft flown by its members departing from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The association is protesting a decision to suspend contributions to the provident fund, which they claim is a contractual agreement between the airline and all employees. The pilots said KQ has unilaterally stopped both the employees’ and the employers’ contribution since 2020 and has failed to resume the retirement benefits scheme.

Pre-Covid numbers

The strike now stands in the way of KQ’s plan to recover by 2023 its pre-Covid numbers of over five million passengers, recorded in 2019, through more flights and new routes.

This week, Kenya Airways increased the number of flights for the London route throughout winter, seeking to recoup numbers lost during the Covid-19 restrictions. It now flies to London 11 times a week up from five times.

“The increased flight frequencies will cater to this route’s increased demand and provide KQ customers with increased flight options in the upcoming winter season,” the airline said.

KQ also introduced direct Mombasa-Dubai flights during the festive season, targeting to reap from the traditional high demand.

“KQ will operate daily flights with two on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (morning and evening). Flights are open for booking via KQ’s website, travel agents and online travel agents.”

Left with no option

But Kalpa, which represents about 400 pilots, said the Kenya Airways management had left them with no option but to withdraw labour over unresolved grievances.

“We hoped that the management of the airline would soften its hard stance and engage in a negotiation on the issues raised. However … Kenya Airways management has not made any meaningful attempt to engage,” Kalpa’s General Secretary and Chief Executive Captain Murithi Nyaga said in a statement on Friday.

Kalpa had issued a 14-day strike notice on October 19.

Board decision

Now the carrier’s management will need to first handle the strike by its pilots.

KQ management issued a statement on Friday night saying the strike will cost the airline $2.47 million a day, terming the move by the pilots as unfortunate.

KQ Chairman Michael Joseph said the airline has been working with the Ministry of Labour and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) to resolve grievances raised by Kalpa.

“The board has unanimously come to the opinion that none of the grievances advanced by Kalpa merits an industrial strike and firmly holds that all CBAs (collective bargaining agreements) must align with the need to restructure the airline’s operations towards profitability and efficiency,” said Joseph, suggesting KQ’s financial situation comes first when it negotiates with pilots or staff.

‘Action is unnecessary’

“We wish to reiterate that industrial action is unnecessary at this point as it will delay and disrupt the financial and operational recovery and cause reputational damage to Kenya Airways.

“The board underlines its full support and confidence in [CEO] Mr [Allan] Kilavuka and the management in handling the matters at hand and the company.”

On Wednesday, a Kenyan Labour Court had suspended the strike notice issued earlier, even though pilots insisted they would down tools if their grievances were unmet.

The national carrier has been struggling with losses over the years.

Recently it defaulted on its aircraft purchase loans worth $841.6 million from the American Exim Bank.

The Kenyan government had guaranteed $525 million and has since offered to pay the amount. KQ disputed the figure this week, even though the National Treasury had listed it in its report.

Loan default

The airline has been focused on restructuring its fleet, including selling aircrafts and sub-leasing to other airlines in an attempt to return to profitability.

Data from the airline shows that the national carrier’s fleet size reduced in the last nine months to 41 aircrafts from 43 in December 31, 2021.

Hoteliers have lauded the decision to begin flying from the Moi International Airport to Dubai during the tourism high peak period , saying it will boost the sector.

The hoteliers have been calling for an open-skies policy to allow international airlines to land at the Coast region’s largest airport.

“The announcement of KQ’s direct flights from Mombasa to Dubai from 1 December 2022 is a welcome change and brings us a step closer to the open skies policy that all tourism stakeholders are strongly advocating for,” said Kenya Tourism Board director Bobby Kamani.

“The tourism fraternity looks forward to the resumption of flights to Mombasa by Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and the introduction of FlyDubai, to continue the momentum,” Kamani added saying their would be value from the open-skies policy.

“It is not just for tourism by way of lower air fares but for the economy as a whole with lower freight costs and an increased interest by international investors to invest in Kenya as they see the country being more accessible than ever before.”

Mohammed Hersi, the chairman of the Diani Hospitality Owners Association, lauded Kenya Airways for resuming the Mombasa-Dubai direct flights.

“The Dubai-Mombasa four times a week flight is progressive,” Hersi said.

“We can’t wait for the following – London-Mombasa even three times a week is good enough, Amsterdam-Mombasa, Milan-Mombasa to serve Malindi and Watamu and Paris-Mombasa flights.”

Players want the airline to also begin direct flights between Mombasa and Mumbai in India and Mombasa and Johannesburg.

KQ is yet to launch to the Italian cities of Milan and Rome, previously planned for June this year, due to reduced passenger demand as a result of slower than expected recovery from the pandemic.

Tourist boom

Some airlines that have asked for licences to fly directly to Mombasa include KLM, Qatar, Turkish, Fly Dubai and Emirates. Ethiopian and Uganda Airlines already fly into Mombasa directly

“If these airlines fly to Mombasa, we will have traffic to fill our beds and further create employment,” said Kenya Coast Tourism Association chairman Victor Shitakha.

In 2021, KLM announced direct flights from Amsterdam to Mombasa. But the plans were ‘halted’ after the airline failed to get rights to fly directly to the destination.

source

Troubled Kenya Airways is facing an operational crisis as pilots down tools protesting poor working conditions. This is amid plans by the airline to raise frequency of flights and return […]

Continue reading "Pilots strike clouds Kenya Airways plans to raise flight frequency"

Kenya deploys troops ‘to protect humanity’ in eastern DR Congo

Kenya’s President William Ruto announced Wednesday the deployment of troops to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a joint regional operation against a rebel offensive.

Armed groups in eastern DRC have stepped up attacks, reviving ancient animosities and unleashing a surge in tension with neighbouring Rwanda.

Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) agreed in April to establish a joint force to help restore security in the region.

Speaking at a ceremony in Nairobi, Ruto said the troops were “on a mission to protect humanity”.

“As neighbours, the destiny of DRC is intertwined with ours,” he added.

“We will not allow any armed groups, criminals and terrorists to deny us our shared prosperity.”

Command the force

Kenya will command the force, which will also include soldiers from Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan.

A Rwandan contingent will be deployed along the border, after Kinshasa objected to Kigali’s participation in any operations within the DRC.

Military officials in Nairobi declined to reveal the number of Kenyan soldiers involved, citing “obvious security reasons”.

A UN force, known by its French acronym of MONUSCO, is already operating in the DRC. Uganda and Burundi also sent troops to the DRC earlier at the invitation of the Congolese government.

M23 rebels

The M23 rebels, a mostly Congolese group, resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, accusing the DRC government of failing to honour an agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.

Fresh advances by the militia across North Kivu province last month prompted the UN peacekeeping mission there to increase its alert level and boost support for the Congolese army.

The M23’s resurgence has had resounding repercussions for relations in central Africa.

The DRC accuses Rwanda of backing the militia, claims denied by Kigali.

On Saturday, Kinshasa decided to expel Rwanda’s ambassador. In turn, Rwanda accused Kinshasa of being “on the path of continued military escalation.”

The increase in violence has alarmed the international community, with the African Union appealing for a ceasefire.

Source

Kenya’s President William Ruto announced Wednesday the deployment of troops to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a joint regional operation against a rebel offensive. Armed groups in eastern DRC […]

Continue reading "Kenya deploys troops ‘to protect humanity’ in eastern DR Congo"

Fallen giant: Dida, one of Kenya’s last ‘Tusker’ elephants, dies at 65

One of Africa’s last remaining giant “Tusker” elephants has died aged 65, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has said. An elephant is considered a ‘Tusker’ when its ivory tusks are so long that they scrape the ground.

Dida died at Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park from natural causes, KWS said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are saddened by the death of Dida who was possibly Africa’s largest female Tusker and a matriarch residing in Tsavo East National Park. She died from natural causes due to old age, having lived a full life to about 60-65 years old,” the statement said.

KWS described Dida as a truly an iconic matriarch of the Tsavo and a great repository of many decades’ worth of knowledge.

“Those who got to know her through pictures and videos as well as those who had the exquisite pleasure of meeting her in person will remember her,” KWS said.

Quite a spectacle

Dida was one of Kenya’s most famous Tuskers. Adorned with ivory that stretches down to the ground, she was quite a spectacle. Huge tusks are considered rare and noteworthy on a female elephant.

Usually, only old bull elephants grow their tusks long enough to reach “Tusker” status.

In 2020, another iconic elephant, Big Tim, died in Mada area of Amboseli National Park in Kenya from natural causes aged 50 years.

But unlike Big Tim, who was discovered soon after his death and his body transported to Nairobi where a taxidermist was able to preserve him for display at the national museum, Dida’s carcass had already decomposed by the time her death was discovered.

Few remaining

Conservationists estimate only a few dozen such animals are left on the continent due to poaching.

Animals with the biggest tusks face the highest risk from poachers. In 2014, poachers killed a famous big ‘Tusker’, Satao, in the park using a poisoned arrow, prompting global outrage. Poachers also killed Satao II, named after it, in 2017.

Poaching has seen the population of African elephants plunge by 110,000 over the past 10 years to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The carcass of Dida, who was possibly Africa’s largest female Tusker. PHOTO | COURTESY | KWS

Conservationists mourn Dida

Conservationists who interacted with the Dida mourned the animal on social media.

“I am so devastated to hear the news that Dida, arguably Africa’s most iconic elephant, passed away. I also celebrate that she was able to live a full life. It is difficult to comprehend how her ivory stretched all the way to the ground in absolute perfect symmetry,” photographer James Lewin posted on social media.

Hannes Kächele said, “Dida managed to beat the odds and lived a long life. She made it through poaching times, droughts, floods, habitat loss, and human encroachment. Her biggest flex was those unbelievable tusks and she managed to keep them until the very end.”

Tsavo is home to about 12,000 elephants, the largest population in Kenya.

Source

One of Africa’s last remaining giant “Tusker” elephants has died aged 65, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has said. An elephant is considered a ‘Tusker’ when its ivory tusks are […]

Continue reading "Fallen giant: Dida, one of Kenya’s last ‘Tusker’ elephants, dies at 65"

Nairobi moves to lift barriers on Ugandan milk, poultry products

Only the work rate of President William Ruto’s new technocrats can fulfil Kenya’s pledge to unban Uganda’s poultry and milk products into its market by unbinding the restrictions imposed last year to protect local producers.

Last week, while at a function at the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), President Ruto gave the strongest hint that he would open up the Kenyan market to Ugandan products and do away with the protectionism exhibited by his predecessor’s regime.

“Uganda should bring cheaper milk here because they can produce it more cheaply. We should (also endeavour) to add value to our milk,” he said.

The idea, the Kenyan leader argues is to allow in goods from neighbours in exchange for their opening up to ensure Nairobi benefits from the provisions of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which it can exploit instead of quarrelling.

Value addition

“We should be adding value (to our milk), producing butter, powder for sale in the DRC, Central Africa and West Africa and we import cheaper milk from Uganda for our consumption,” said Ruto.

“Why should we quarrel with Uganda? It is because we have refused to take our rightful place in our continent. We should have taken action earlier but allowed Uganda to occupy this space. We must (therefore) have a different conversation.”

Kenya will, instead, task the Kenya Development Corporation to help producers improve the value of their products and target the broader market offered by AfCFTA.

“We now have the market infrastructure for us to take over the market in our continent. The reason our continent imports milk, powder and food is because Kenya has not taken its rightful place.”

Trade Remedies Act

But the immediate task of lifting the ban will bank on the bureaucracy involved. As is the tradition, presidential declarations do not amount to policy until the local technocrats turn around the way of doing things, in writing.

“The ban on Ugandan milk was not imposed by us (Trade) but by another ministry (Agriculture). Only they can lift the ban,” said Johnson Weru, Kenya’s Trade Principal Secretary.

“There is a specific process under the Trade Remedies Act of 2017. We have not prescribed any action under the Act and will have to sit down with Uganda under a bilateral arrangement.”

The PS hinted that trade, Agriculture and EAC Cabinet ministers will hit the road to ensure the trade bans of Ugandan milk are lifted by the end of 2022.

Road to unban milk products

Kenya’s Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria has already met and held discussions with his Ugandan counterpart Frank Tumwebaze, on the road to unbanning the milk products this week. On Thursday, Mr Kuria formally took office, providing certainty to the Ministry charged with trade policy.

But EAC issues fall under a different docket handled by new Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano. Successful unbanning will depend on priorities the three ministries will focus on.

The plan to lift the ban is informed by Dr Ruto’s policy and plan to open up trade in the region to increase intra trade within the EAC, which is currently below 20 percent.

Volumes matter

Trade hostilities between the two EAC partner states began brewing in December 2019, when Kenya stopped importing Ugandan milk, particularly the Lato brand. And in July 2020, Kenya followed up with a ban on Ugandan sugar, against an earlier agreement to increase Uganda’s sugar exports to Kenya.

Kenya averted the ban on the export of its agricultural produce to Uganda after Nairobi agreed to lift restrictions on imports of poultry products from the neighbouring country at the end of last year.

The bilateral talks in December discussed and resolved trade issues touching on poultry, eggs, sugar and fish.

But immediately he took over from President Uhuru Kenyatta, Dr Ruto wants to have the ban on Ugandan goods totally lifted.

Open up more markets

The East African Business Council Kenyan chapter welcomed the move by president Ruto saying it will open up more markets for Kenyan goods as well.

“The point is for neighbours to trade with each other. It is the volume of that trade that matters rather than who is selling more eggs, milk or beans to the other, otherwise we will never grow. We must open up the market so that everybody can trade freely,” said Mucai Kunyiha, EABC board member and former chairman of KAM.

“People must also be able to trade in what they are competitive in because if we have expensive milk in Kenya, then you can’t sell it to Uganda. Conversely, since Uganda has cheaper milk, we must allow them to sell to us.”

The move is likely to see milk retail cheaply on Kenyan shelves where a litre milk costs Ksh78, the highest in recent times.

Struggling dairy farms

However, he warned that it could also impact negatively on Kenya’s dairy farms that are struggling.

“We have two levels of impact. We have two levels of producers, there are producers who are not competitive in Kenya; these will be outcompeted by the regional products which is a negative impact to some people,” Kunyiha explained.

“But on the positive scale, East Africa commerce grows, because that is the whole point of regional trade. Open markets are useful for us.”

“EAC intra-trade is between five to 10 percent of each country’s capacity and needs to be boosted. However, as we worry about Uganda, what about milk from Brazil, milk powder from New Zealand?” he posed.

Source

Only the work rate of President William Ruto’s new technocrats can fulfil Kenya’s pledge to unban Uganda’s poultry and milk products into its market by unbinding the restrictions imposed last […]

Continue reading "Nairobi moves to lift barriers on Ugandan milk, poultry products"

Kenya’s opposition pushes back Ruto’s plan to promote GMOs

Kenya’s opposition has vowed to push back hard against genetically modified (GMO) food imports into the country, opening a new political battlefront with President William Ruto’s government.

President Ruto, in one of his first major decisions in office, last month, lifted a 10-year-old ban on GMO foods and allowed cultivation of crop varieties developed using genetic engineering technology.

The approval comes in the wake of a biting drought that has exposed three million Kenyans to famine in 23 counties, forcing the government to intervene with relief food. Firms involved in GMO seed manufacturing will be some of the biggest beneficiaries of the policy shift that will put pressure on farmers to reduce prices or be forced out of the market.

But opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka have faulted the President’s move, alleging a scheme involving unnamed individuals in government and foreign companies to profit from the current drought and famine that have left about four million people in need of relief food supplies in parts of the country.

Foreign campaign financiers

Mr Odinga, who lost the August 9 presidential election to President Ruto by a narrow margin, released a statement early in the week accusing the ruling elite of seeking to exploit the humanitarian crisis to reward or court foreign campaign financiers instead of mobilising an effective emergency response.

“In this scheme, the worse the pain, the bigger the gain for the shylocks in government,” he said, vowing to mobilise Kenyans to stop GMOs ‘on the farms and in the courts’.

“This situation requires a massive emergency response programme to ensure rapid delivery of food, water and medicine to the millions of people… This required emergency response is evidently missing but instead the government is consumed by politics of survival and the elections of 2027.”

President Ruto has yet to directly respond to the opposition’s pushback against what is understood to be a key plank of his food security agenda, with the most high-profile official comments coming from his new Trade minister Moses Kuria.

Safety concerns dismissed

Speaking during the handover by his predecessor on Thursday, Mr Kuria asked Mr Odinga to withdraw a court case against GMOs, dismissing concerns about their safety.

“We should not be afraid that we are going to die more than the rich countries,” Mr Kuria said.

Kenya boasts some the best regulations and laws on biotechnology research, and cultivation and commercialisation of GMO crops and trade in related products in Africa.

In consideration of the adoption of GMO crops, the Cabinet said it put into mind various expert and technical reports including that of Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA), the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, United States of America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Awaiting approval

GM maize testing in Kenya started in 2010 but approval for the environmental release was granted by the NBA in 2016. The scientists completed research on genetically modified maize last year and the material has been awaiting approval by the Cabinet before release for commercial farming

But the technology continues to polarise public opinion in the country amid lingering concerns about human health and environmental safety and the implications of patent controls by Western multinationals on the seed systems in poor countries.

Geopolitica of GMOs

The geopolitics of GMOs, reflected by the polar opposite positions taken by the European Union and the US on related issues, has also tended to influence policy and political positions in Kenya at any given time.

The current political wars over GMOs mirror those in 2011 when the grand coalition government under then President Mwai Kibaki, faced with a similar food crisis, approved importation of the staple maize grain from South Africa to alleviate a shortage before public health fears fuelled by discredited research findings published in a European journal around the time prompted a ban in 2012.

Ironically, Mr Odinga, as then Prime Minister, publicly backed GMO food imports, labelling critics ‘conservatives’ and urging them to embrace the technology.

Like Mr Kuria the other day, the former prime minister was quite dismissive in his response to opposing views on GMOs.

“The Americans cannot be so negligent as to allow the American people to consume GMO food if it is harmful. Let us not be too conservative because science is moving on. Conservatism is not going to help this country. Alarming statements which are calculated to instill fear…” Mr Odinga said of adverse documents tabled in Parliament on August 3, 2011 by then Naivasha MP John Mututho.

Source

Kenya’s opposition has vowed to push back hard against genetically modified (GMO) food imports into the country, opening a new political battlefront with President William Ruto’s government. President Ruto, in […]

Continue reading "Kenya’s opposition pushes back Ruto’s plan to promote GMOs"

Troubled carrier KQ defaults on $841m aircraft acquisition loan

Kenya Airways has defaulted on a $841.6 million loan from the American Exim Bank for purchase of aircraft, the National Treasury has said.

In its latest Annual Debt Management Report (2021/2022 fiscal year) that the loss-making national carrier secured the loan with a security from the national government but failed to repay.

Of the 841.6 million, the government guaranteed $525 million.

“Kenya Airways defaulted on both the guaranteed portion of the loan amount as well as the non-guaranteed portion,” the National Treasury says.

“The National Government is in the process of novating the debt to be finalised during 2022/2023 fiscal year.”

Original contract extinguished

Novation is the process by which an original contract is extinguished and replaced with another, under which a third party takes up rights and obligations duplicating those of one of the parties to the original contract. This means that the original party transfers both the benefits and burdens under the contract.

KQ’s loan from the Exim Bank of USA was meant to purchase seven aircraft and one engine.

“The Covid-19 pandemic containment measures adversely affected the airline business globally including KQ. Government intervention included, among other financial support, the settlement of the guaranteed debt extended to KQ,” National Treasury’s director in charge of debt management, Dr Haron Sirma told The EastAfrican.

KQ chief executive Allan Kilavuka however disputed the Treasury figure when reached by The EastAfrican.

“The value you quote for the US Exim facility is not correct; $485 million is what relates to the US Exim guaranteed debt. I don’t have the context… maybe they have included other guarantees, not just the US Exim facility,” he said.

Negotiated moratoria

He said that due to Covid-19, when it reduced operations, KQ negotiated moratoria.

“The airline is yet to get back to full operations and has requested GOK (Government of Kenya) to support on the guaranteed loan to avert the possibility of the loan going into default.”

Treasury says it will closely monitor contingent liabilities arising from state-owned enterprises, as they pose major fiscal risks to the economy.

KQ is 48.9 per cent owned by the government and a group of 10 local banks which own 38.1 per cent of the shares.

Other shareholders include KLM Royal Dutch Airline (7.8 percent), employees (2.4 percent) and other shareholders at 2.8 per cent.

Push for restructuring

The government has been pushing for the restructuring of the airline on the back of state bailout plan.

Under the plan the airline is required to reduce its network, operate a smaller fleet and possibly reduce its workforce further.

As a result the airline has focused on restructuring its fleet including selling planes and sub-leasing to other airlines in an attempt to return to profitability.

Data from the airline shows that the national carrier’s fleet size narrowed in the last nine months to 41 aircraft from 43 in December 31 2021 after two leased aircraft (Embraer 190) were returned to the lessor following the expiry of their leases.

Of the 41 aircraft, 18 are owned/financed by the airline itself while 23 are on lease arrangement.

Its fleet size dropped to 39 in the year 2017 from a high of 52 in 2015, before rising to 43 in 2021.

Renegotiating lease contracts

The airline is renegotiating aircraft lease contracts with the lessors as part of a string of austerity measures to reduce operating costs.

Other measures rescue measures include engagement with principal shareholders (government) for financial support, engagement with key suppliers and financiers for moratoria, freeze on non-critical spending and implementation of temporary salary cuts for staff.

KQ has also increased focus on cargo business and has already converted two passenger aircraft to cargo freighters.

Source

Kenya Airways has defaulted on a $841.6 million loan from the American Exim Bank for purchase of aircraft, the National Treasury has said. In its latest Annual Debt Management Report […]

Continue reading "Troubled carrier KQ defaults on $841m aircraft acquisition loan"

Kenya’s KCB Bank now eyes Ethiopia financial market

Kenya’s KCB Bank on Thursday expressed its desire to engage in the Ethiopian financial sector, becoming the latest bank to show such an interest in Africa’s second most populous country with an estimated population of 120 million people.

The expression of interest comes after a delegation of senior executives from KCB Bank, including the bank’s CEO, finance officer and secretary, visited the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) in Addis Ababa where they held talks with Ethiopian finance officials.

The delegation commended the Ethiopian government’s recent decision to open up the financial sector to foreign investors.

Temesgen Tilahun, Deputy Commissioner of EIC, briefed the delegation about the investment policies, recent economic reforms and the objective of opening up the financial sector to foreign investors.

Landmark decision

In September, Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers passed a landmark decision to open up the country’s banking sector to foreign investors.

The first ever move was a part of the government’s economic reform that is opening previously state-controlled sectors to foreign investors.

The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) has been working on amending the law and regulatory system in a bid to change the banking policy.

According to the prime minister’s office, opening the sector to foreign investment is expected to support banking services in Ethiopia and would take the country’s economic link with the international market to “a higher level”.

Bring efficiency

The move would also bring about competitiveness and efficiency in the financial sector while boosting the inflow of foreign capital and job opportunities, the council observed.

According to NBE, the financial sector has shown strong growth in the last four years, during which the number of commercial banks increased from 18 to 30, and their branches reached 8,944 from 5,564 as of June 30, 2022.

The total assets of banks also grew from 1.3 trillion Birr ($242 billion) to 2.4 trillion Birr ($446.8 billion), registering a 92 per cent growth. 

Their cumulative annual net profit has jumped by 122 per cent to 49.9 billion Birr ($9.3 billion) in the recently concluded financial year as compared to 2019.

Get ready for competition

The fact that Ethiopia has closed its doors to foreign banks has benefited the sector until now, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told lawmakers in February.

“But after this, banks need to prepare themselves with modern ways and information technologies,” he added.

KCB’s interest to enter the Ethiopian finance sector also comes as Kenyan banks are threatened by another crisis triggered by the deteriorating economic environment and the persistent Russia-Ukraine military conflict after demonstrating strong recovery from the economic falling-out effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

KCB has over 125 years of experience in the banking sector and is operating in seven East African countries, according to EIC.

Source

Kenya’s KCB Bank on Thursday expressed its desire to engage in the Ethiopian financial sector, becoming the latest bank to show such an interest in Africa’s second most populous country […]

Continue reading "Kenya’s KCB Bank now eyes Ethiopia financial market"

Weakening economy pushes Kenyan banks to brink of fresh crisis

Kenyan banks are teetering on the brink of another crisis triggered by the deteriorating economic environment and the persistent Russia-Ukraine military conflict after demonstrating strong recovery from the economic fallout effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lenders, who were handed a severe blow by the Covid-19 pandemic, started 2022 on a strong footing, posting double-digit profit growth in the six months to June 30, with majority announcing resumption of dividend payment to shareholders.

The lenders’ growth in profitability was largely buoyed by increased revenues from banking transactions (non-interest income) and interest income from heavy investments in government securities.

On average the industry’s gross earnings rose 9.3 percent to Ksh62.6 billion ($517.35 million) from Ksh57.3 billion ($473.55 million) in the period, according to data from the central bank.

However, the impressive performance came under a weakening economy whose growth in the second quarter (April-June) of the year fell to 5.2 per cent compared to 11 per cent in the same period last year.

Risks in the economy

The industry lobby Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) said risks in the economy – including skyrocketing inflation, weakening currency, falling forex reserves and falling revenue collections – could filter into the banking sector dampening prospects for the entire year.

Kenya inflation for September rose to 9.2 per cent from 8.5 percent in August fuelled by fuel and food prices.

Meanwhile the shilling has plunged to a record low of Ksh121 against the US dollar, exacerbating imported inflation and pushing the cost of servicing foreign debts beyond the roof.

Revenue targets

The Kenya Revenue Authority has a failed to meet its prorated revenue targets three months into the 2022/2023 fiscal year largely due to the deteriorating business environment and inflationary pressures that have forced consumers to cut on spending.

Cumulatively, the taxman has collected Ksh465.2 billion ($3.84 billion), or 22.5 percent of the original estimates of Ksh2.07 trillion ($17.1 billion) and 89.8 percent of the prorated estimates of Ksh518 billion ($4.28 billion).

President William Ruto’s administration ascended to power on the platform of economic recovery and empowerment of the economically disadvantaged majority.

The president has ordered expenditure cuts of up to Ksh300 billion ($2.47 billion) and austerity measures to ride the economic tsunami.

Concessional borrowing

Last week, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary nominee Njuguna Ndung’u told a vetting panel that he would resort to concessional borrowing to pay off expensive domestic debts in an attempt to improve the country’s finances.

American rating agency Fitch in September said Kenyan lenders face rising asset-quality risks from weaker global and domestic conditions, but expected them to deliver strong returns in 2022.

“Kenyan banks’ sector outlook is negative, mirroring the negative outlook on Kenya’s sovereign rating. Operating conditions have worsened due to high inflation, risks to growth from global shocks and the harsh domestic drought,” the agency said

The asset quality of the lenders has deteriorated, with non-performing loans ratio at 14.7 percent during the six months to June 30, much weaker than the regional average.

“We anticipate continued asset-quality pressures, mainly from the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and retail loan books, which is likely to push up credit costs and increase risks to the banks’ performance,” said Fitch.

Higher rates

In September, the central bank increased the benchmark lending rate to 8.25 percent from 7.5 percent signalling a regime of higher interest rates as the regulator attempted to fight inflation compounded by the government’s move to abolish subsidies on food and fuel.

As a result several lenders such as Standard Chartered Bank Kenya, Housing Finance, Stanbic bank (Kenya) and NCBA Group have notified customers that their cost of loans will rise from October.

According to Fitch the rising rates and yields on government securities could be positive for the lenders’ pre-impairment operating profit, which will provide a large buffer for likely higher credit costs.

According to the central bank, the total lending increased by only 3.3 percent in the first half of the year to Ksh3.5 trillion compared to Ksh3.4 trillion in the same period last year, attributable to an increase in credit granted for working capital and loans granted to individual borrowers, analysts at Cytonn Investments Ltd said.

Fitch-rated Kenyan banks remain constrained by Kenya’s sovereign rating (B+/Negative), reflecting the concentration of their activities in the country and high sovereign-related exposure.

The large banks continue to build on their domestic franchise strengths through regional expansion in pursuit of diversification.

Source

Kenyan banks are teetering on the brink of another crisis triggered by the deteriorating economic environment and the persistent Russia-Ukraine military conflict after demonstrating strong recovery from the economic fallout […]

Continue reading "Weakening economy pushes Kenyan banks to brink of fresh crisis"

Kenya’s electricity consumption drops on higher prices

Electricity consumption in Kenya fell last month as users began feeling the pinch of higher energy prices on discontinued subsidies and a weakening shilling.

Data from the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) shows power use declined to 1.099 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in September from 1.11 billion units that were consumed in August after power prices were increased for the first time in 10 months.

Electricity use is one of the major barometers of how the economy is performing, with lower uptake signalling reduced economic activities such as manufacturing.

“Total units generated and purchased (G) including hydros, excluding exports in September 2022 (was) 1,099,340,544kWh,” said Epra Director-General Daniel Kiptoo in a gazette notice on Friday.

Fuel cost component

The drop in power consumption comes after EPRA increased the fuel cost component of the power bill by 46.6 percent leading to a sharp jump in prices.

The energy regulator raised the fuel cost charge (FCC) to Ksh6.79 ($0.056) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity up from Ksh4.63 ($0.038).

Epra also nearly doubled the Foreign Exchange Fluctuation Adjustment (Ferfa) to Ksh1.36 ($0.011) up from 73 cents ($0.006) to cater for the weakening of the Kenyan shilling against the greenback.

This was the first time Epra has adjusted the rates since December.

The new prices came after the government ended its subsidy on electricity.

Further, consumers are also paying more for electricity this month after Epra raised the FCC for the second month in a row thus higher bills.

Epra has increased the FCC to Ksh7.09 ($0.058) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) up from Sh6.79 last month.

The latest rise in the fuel component of electricity brings that cost element close to its record high in a month of Ksh9.03 ($0.075) per kWh that was set in June 2012.

Epra has also raised Ferfa by 8.8 per cent to Ksh1.48 ($0.012) per unit up from Ksh1.36 ($0.011) per unit last month after the Kenyan shilling continued to weaken further against the US dollar.

“Pursuant to Clause 1 of Part III of the Schedule of Tariffs 2018, notice is given that all prices for electrical energy specified in part II of the said Schedule will be liable to a fuel energy cost charge of plus 709 Kenya cents per kWh for all meter readings to be taken in October 2022,” said Mr Kiptoo in the notice.

Drop in cost of fuel

Higher power prices come despite a significant drop in the cost of fuel as the government moves to recover the money that had been used on the electricity subsidy since December.

The landed cost of petrol dropped by 10.6 per cent per cubic metre between August and September.

Meanwhile, the landed cost of diesel fell by 6.87 per cent while that of kerosene dropped by 1.82 per cent.

The higher power prices will further push up inflation, which hit a 63-month high of 9.2 per cent in September.

Source

Electricity consumption in Kenya fell last month as users began feeling the pinch of higher energy prices on discontinued subsidies and a weakening shilling. Data from the Energy and Petroleum […]

Continue reading "Kenya’s electricity consumption drops on higher prices"

Uganda, Rwanda to beat Kenya in dollar millionaires growth

Kenya will trail Uganda and Rwanda in terms of growth in the number of super-rich individuals with investible assets worth more than $100 million over the next decade, due to more conducive business environments in the two East Africa Community states.

Kenya is projected to post a 55 percent growth in the number of centi-millionaires over the next 10 years to 2032, trailing Rwanda at 70 percent and Uganda at 65 percent, said a report by research firms New World Wealth and Henley & Partners.

Globally, Vietnam, India and Mauritius are expected to post the fastest growth in centi-millionaires in the decade at 95 percent, 80 percent and 75 percent, respectively.

The report said Kenya remains strong in wealth creation partly due to well-developed and neutral news media outlets that form investment decisions.

“It is important that most major outlets in a country are neutral and objective. A well-developed financial media space is especially important as it helps disseminate information to investors,” the report says.

Besides a favourable financial media, Kenya remains a favourable holiday destination for the centi-millionaires. The country is ranked the 9th top holiday destination for the mega-rich, with the Hamptons in the US, leading the pack.

Read: Tanzania has the only dollar billionaire in East Africa: report

“American centi-millioanires travelling to Kenya for the annual migration boosts the nation’s tourism industry, with luxury hotels and lodges such as Giraffe Manor (the most Instagrammed hotel), Kichwa Tembo tented and Angama Mara cashing in to accommodate the moneyed guests” Maryanne Maina, the chief executive officer of Swan Maison Concierge Paris, said in a comment in the report.

A separate report by New World Wealth and Henley & Partners last month ranked Nairobi fifth in terms of the number of dollar millionaires. The report showed Nairobi has 5,000 high net worth individuals (HNWI).

The report showed Nairobi is also home to 240 multi-millionaires, who have a net worth of more than $10 million, and 11 centi-millionaires, who are worth more than $100 million. It, however, does not have a dollar billionaire.

Kenya has 8,500 dollar millionaires, according to the Africa Wealth Report 2022, which was released by the same firm in April. This means that Nairobi is home to 59 percent of Kenya’s HNWIs, underlining its status as Kenya’s economic hub and richest city.

However, no African city made it to the list of the top 20 cities globally that have the highest number of dollar millionaires, which was dominated by US cities.

Henley & Partners Chief Executive Juerg Steffen noted that 14 of the Top 20 wealthiest cities in the world are in countries that host formal investment migration programmes, and actively encourage foreign direct investment in return for residence or citizenship rights.

Source

Kenya will trail Uganda and Rwanda in terms of growth in the number of super-rich individuals with investible assets worth more than $100 million over the next decade, due to more conducive […]

Continue reading "Uganda, Rwanda to beat Kenya in dollar millionaires growth"

Tea volumes at Mombasa auction dip as drought ravages the region

The volume of tea auctioned at the Mombasa bourse has gone down significantly, with officials warning the trend may worsen in the next decade due to erratic weather.

Latest figures from the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) show the volume of tea offered on the auction dipped by almost 500,000 kilogrammes in the last trade, the second time in a row the quantities have declined in less than a month.

EATTA managing director Edward Mudibo said the decline in volume of tea offered for sale at the Mombasa auction was as a result of ongoing drought.

“Kenyan tea contributes about 60 percent of tea traded in the auction followed by Uganda at eight percent. Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania come third, fourth and fifth respectively. The total volume traded for Sale 39 was 407,913 kilos less than Sale 38, which was as a result of ongoing drought,” said Mudibo.

During the last sale at the auction, the average price increased to $2.27 from $2.25 in the previous sale.

Demand was reduced for the 181,340 packages (12,077,628kg) on offer, with about 120,480 packages (7,952,000kg) being sold, and 33.56 percent of packages remaining unsold.

Last month, Rhoda Ruto, a senior researcher at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation’s Tea Research Institute warned that tea production will be affected by increased temperature as a result of global warming.

“More effect of climate change on crops will be felt in Kenya’s tea sector as an increase in temperature beyond 23.5 degrees Celsius would significantly reduce yields of the cash crop,” she said.

Climate change has the potential to significantly affect smallscale farmers’ livelihoods.

Extremely low temperatures also affect tea production, with frosts cutting yield per bush.

Ruto, however, noted that climate change will enhance the suitability of tea production in areas where the crop is today not grown, especially the higher altitudes around Mount Kenya.

Kenya’s temperature will rise by 2.5 degrees Celsius between 2000 and 2050, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The country will experience extreme rainfall events, especially in the Rift Valley region.

Kenya’s yearly and monthly rainfall and mean air temperatures are expected to increase moderately by 2025, according the report, which will impact the very taste of tea.

Tanzania has also witnessed a decline in tea production over the past three years according to recent data.

Statistics from data aggregation portal Statista show that Tanzania produced 20,400 tonnes of tea in 2020/2021, a five-year low compared to 27,000 tonnes (2016/2017), 34,000 tonnes (2017/2018), a peak of 37,200 tonnes in 2018/2019 and 28,700 tonnes in 2019/2020.

Tanzania affected

According to the Tanzania Public Tea Company (Tatepa), a leading exporter of tea from Tanzania, production is being effected by weather patterns.

The firm said in a report that its subsidiary, the Wakulima Tea Company (Watco), decreased production due to climate constraints and as a consequence it made financial losses.

“During the year tea production decreased by three per cent as compared to 2018. This was due to weather conditions in 2019. The average selling price of $1.67 per kg was lower than last year’s price of $1.90 kg. The lower price was due to lower world prices,” said the firm.

Tatepa made a loss before tax of Tsh715 million ($305,444) in 2019 compared to 2018 where it garnered a profit of Tsh898 million ($383,621).

The listed firm also experienced bad debts amounting to Tsh452.9 million ($193,508) and disposed of its Kyimbila Tea Packing Company, also on a loss basis that year.

Tatepa is involved in growing, processing, blending, marketing and distributing tea. It three subsidiaries are Watco, Kibena Tea and Chai Bora.

While Watco and Kibena grow and process the commodity, Chai Bora is involved in blending, packaging and marketing of packed tea for local and export.

Tanzania exports fermented and partially fermented tea to Britain, South Africa, Russia, Pakistan and Poland among other countries.

Other major tea-producing countries including India, Sri Lanka and China are also facing rising temperatures and extreme weather that could affect their tea production, the FAO report noted.

Kenya is the largest producer of black tea in the world while China leads in green tea production.

Source

The volume of tea auctioned at the Mombasa bourse has gone down significantly, with officials warning the trend may worsen in the next decade due to erratic weather. Latest figures […]

Continue reading "Tea volumes at Mombasa auction dip as drought ravages the region"

Kenya-Ethiopia power buy deal to vary after five years

Kenya will buy power from Ethiopia at 6.5 US cents per kilowatt for the next five years before it can be allowed to renegotiate.

Ethiopian Electric Power (ECC) has revealed a clause in the power purchase agreement that says Kenya Power can only seek a review of the tariff after that period.

Kenya signed a 25-year deal with the Horn of Africa’s nation to start importing electricity from next month in a bid to edge out the expensive power from the national grid and ensure buffers to meet peak demand.

The clause allowing tariff renegotiation is a key plank for the State-owned utility to get cheap energy that will then be passed on to consumers in the form of lower bills.

“Ethiopia would sale this electric power at a price of 6.5 US cents per one-kilo watt for the coming five years having the room of negotiation table concerning tariff adjustment which was requested by Ethiopian Electric Power after five years,” reads a communique by ECC. This means that the earliest the talks to review can happen is 2027.

Read: Ethiopia to become Kenya Power’s second biggest source of electricity 

High tariffs charged by independent power producers have squeezed Kenya Power’s ability to lower the cost of electricity.

Kenya Power was unable to effect a second cut of 15 percent on power charges following failure to broker a deal with power producers to lower the wholesale tariffs.

The first cut of 15 percent was gazetted at the start of this year and allowed homes and businesses to enjoy lower bills before it was reversed last month.

Kenya Power buys the bulk of electricity from Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) at Sh5.3 per kilowatt-hour but other IPPs have priced their power as high as Sh195 for the same unit.

KenGen accounts for 70 percent of the electricity supplied to Kenya Power with the 21 IPPs supplying the balance.

The room to renegotiate lower tariffs is key to Kenya Power’s efforts of providing cheaper electricity and easing pressure on homes besides offering investors attractive rates in a bid to make local products more competitive.

Electricity prices jumped 15.7 percent last month reversing the January cuts of equivalent value that were gazetted by the former administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The jump pushed a kilowatt hour to Sh25.3 for domestic consumers who use more than 100 units a month.

Source

Kenya will buy power from Ethiopia at 6.5 US cents per kilowatt for the next five years before it can be allowed to renegotiate. Ethiopian Electric Power (ECC) has revealed […]

Continue reading "Kenya-Ethiopia power buy deal to vary after five years"

Puzzle of ‘missing’ Ugandan MP’s Nairobi-Kampala journey

A Uganda Member of Parliament who was reported missing after taking a taxi in Nairobi, Kenya, is reported to be in Kampala.

Just hours after media reports that he was reported missing when he boarded an Uber taxi from the Kilimani area on Sunday morning to the Nairobi City Centre, Bukigai County MP David Wakikona on Tuesday afternoon told The Monitor that he is in Kampala.

On Tuesday, details emerged of how the Ugandan legislator left Samra Court, located along Argwings Kodhek Road in Nairobi, and made his way to Kampala.

The Nation established that the legislator left the Nairobi apartment without informing any of his colleagues from the Uganda Parliament. 

Mr Wakikona on October 3, 2022, arrived in Kenya alongside fellow MPs including Abdi Fadhil Kisos Chemaswet (Kween County), John Ngoya (Bokora), Paul Busiro (Busiro) and Clerk of the National Assembly Opio Emmanuel.

Read: Ugandan MP missing in Nairobi after boarding taxi

On October 9, he asked a guard at the city apartment to get him a taxi to drop him off at Tom Mboya Street. It has been established that upon reaching Nairobi Central Business District, the Ugandan legislator proceeded to Latema Road where he booked a Molo Line matatu to Nakuru City.

A senior detective privy to the matter said that once in Nakuru, he then boarded another vehicle. His phone signal showed that by 2 pm he was in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County. He then proceeded to Bungoma County before travelling to Kampala.

Unaware of Mr Wakikona’s whereabouts, his colleagues filed a missing person’s report at Kilimani Police Station, prompting Directorate of Criminal Investigations officers to track him down to the Kenya-Uganda border. The officers could not get hold of the MP as he had already crossed into Uganda.

 “A missing person report was filed at Kilimani police station and the DCI took over the investigations. The MP has already returned to Uganda,” Kilimani Sub-County police boss Andrew Muturi said on Tuesday.   

Shortly after reports of Mr Wakikona’s disappearance appeared on Tuesday, he issued a statement in Uganda saying he was safe and asked local journalists to find him within Parliament Buildings in Kampala.

“I am here [in Kampala], you come to Parliament you will see me,” he said.  

Political career

Since he was re-elected in the 2021 Uganda General Election, Mr Wakikona has been embroiled in a court case challenging his academic qualifications.

His main opponent, Mr Wilson Watila, moved to court challenging his election victory. Mr Watila garnered 2,177 votes against 4,108 polled by Mr Wakikona.

Mr Watila rejected the poll results and filed a petition at the Mbale High Court, accusing his opponent of electoral malpractices, which he alleged had denied him victory.

He also cited discrepancies in the names on the academic documents belonging to his rival, saying that he did not swear a poll deed before his nomination.

Mr Watila claimed that the ‘O’-Level certificate presented by his rival indicates that he is David Wakikona Wanendeya while the ‘A’- level certificate reads Wakikona Wanendeya David.

He also said that his certificate from Soroti Flying School carries Wakikona D. Wanendeya while his advanced flying certificate reads Wakikona David. 

But Wakikona’s lawyers from Tumusiime Kabega and Co. Advocates told the court that the affidavits that accompanied the petition were defective since they were prepared by a commissioner of oaths who never had a valid practicing certificate.

SOURCE

A Uganda Member of Parliament who was reported missing after taking a taxi in Nairobi, Kenya, is reported to be in Kampala. Just hours after media reports that he was reported […]

Continue reading "Puzzle of ‘missing’ Ugandan MP’s Nairobi-Kampala journey"

CBK opens talks with telcos on separation of mobile money business

Kenya’s Central Bank has started negotiations with telecommunication firms with a view to separating mobile money activities from other businesses to enhance governance and minimise shocks on bank-related transactions.

The regulator said Tuesday that it has engaged Payment Service Providers (PSPs) to ensure that the activities under CBK’s supervision are appropriately ring-fenced from other business lines.

“This will allow the PSPs to protect their CBK-regulated activities from shocks emanating from the other business activities, strengthen governance, enhance resilience, and focus on improving its services to customers,” said CBK in a statement Tuesday.

According to CBK, separation of mobile money business from other businesses by telcos will facilitate realisation of a secure, fast, efficient and collaborative payment system that supports financial inclusion and innovations that benefit Kenyans.

The vision is enshrined in the National Payments Strategy (2022-2025).

The CBK statement comes after Airtel Networks Kenya Ltd (ANKL) completed the separation of its mobile money business from the telecommunications business.

This was effected by a separation and transfer of the mobile money business to the new entity Airtel Money Kenya Limited (AMKL), a journey that started in 2019.

“CBK welcomes this milestone,” the Bank said.

The completion of this restructuring enables AMKL to ring-fence its operations and focus exclusively on its mobile money business.

“Significantly, this sets the foundation for AMKL to enhance governance over its mobile money business, strengthen its operations, and offer better services to its customers,” according to CBK.

CBK licensed AMKL as a Payment Service Provider (PSP) in line with the National Payment System Act 2011 on January 21, 2022, and also granted a transition period to complete the transfer.

Both AMKL and ANKL are incorporated in Kenya as separate subsidiaries of Airtel Africa Plc (Airtel Africa).

Airtel Africa, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), is headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and has operations in 14 African countries.

In July this year, Airtel Africa sold 25.77 percent stake in its local mobile money business as part of a continental deal that saw the telco raise $550 million from four institutional investors.

As a result, the multinational’s interest in Airtel Money Kenya Ltd dropped to 74.23 percent in the year ended March from 100 percent a year earlier.

Similar changes in ownership of the mobile business were also witnessed in markets such as Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

Airtel Money Kenya is now run and regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya as a stand-alone business.

Safaricom is also facing mounting pressure to spin off its lucrative M-Pesa business but the telco is reluctant, arguing that the service benefits from the existing synergies with other offerings including voice, data and SMS.

SOURCE

Kenya’s Central Bank has started negotiations with telecommunication firms with a view to separating mobile money activities from other businesses to enhance governance and minimise shocks on bank-related transactions. The […]

Continue reading "CBK opens talks with telcos on separation of mobile money business"

MOTOKI: Kenya should resist pressure to subsidize consumption as it only helps the wealthy

Motoki Takahashi, the adviser at JICA, spoke to Vincent Owino about Kenya’s priorities for economic reforms.

***

Kenya has a new administration. What should be the government’s economic policy priorities to speed up economic growth and development?

President William Ruto should emphasise the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) development, and formalisation of the informal sector. These will be the key drivers of economic progress. The new administration should prioritise the development of manufacturing SMEs. They should also protect the intellectual property rights of SMEs, to foster innovation and safeguard the welfare of innovators. Security and infrastructure should also be high on the agenda. Without these, SMEs cannot thrive. The new leadership should also endeavour to protect the rights of the labourers.

Are these the pillars that fostered Japan’s rapid economic growth and development?

Yes. History indicates that Japan did not progress when labour movements faced difficulties and oppression from the government. But the workers fought for their rights and that fostered development. I hope that the Kenyan government will not suppress labour unions. They should be given a space to protect themselves and fight for their rights. Only then can there be real development. Besides that, financing for small businesses and innovations is important to foster growth. This should be done by the public and private sectors.

Public debt is a major problem in Kenya. What can be done about it?

It is justifiable to ask the government to slow down on borrowing externally because the world’s interest rate is rising, making it expensive to finance their outstanding debt. The infrastructural development experienced because of the borrowing in the past 10 years is good, but the big issue is in paying back. Management is important and the country should be careful what composition its public debt is. It’s advisable for Kenya to take more concessional loans from international financial institutions and developed countries, which charge low interest rates, as opposed to loans from emerging powers whose interest rates are relatively high.

The IMF has advised Kenya against subsidies. What do you think should be the policy on subsidies?

Subsidizing production is a better idea than consumption subsidies that Kenya has done in the past. A production subsidy is an investment in the future. For example, feeding school children is a subsidy and it is an investment in the future. The leadership should resist pressure to subsidize consumption, because this mostly only helps the rich.

SOURCE

Motoki Takahashi, the adviser at JICA, spoke to Vincent Owino about Kenya’s priorities for economic reforms. *** Kenya has a new administration. What should be the government’s economic policy priorities […]

Continue reading "MOTOKI: Kenya should resist pressure to subsidize consumption as it only helps the wealthy"

How Kafala system in Arab Gulf states is leading to the death of Kenyan girls

Eunice Wanjiku is long dead and forgotten. In the Kenyan records at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – she is just another name.

By the time she died at the hands of her employer in Saudi Arabia, Wanjiku, 23, had lost most of her liberties.

In death, they had taken away her last liberty: Her name. After that, she was ‘unidentified.’ Unknown. Her family only learnt about Wanjiku’s death two years after her demise.

Tortured by her employer, humiliated, raped, and later killed – Wanjiku is today a statistic.

For the love of diaspora remittances, now amounting to $3,718 million in 2021, the government has turned a blind eye to multi-billion-shilling house-help trade as long as the dollars can flow to the coffers.

In 2014, the government attempted to close Gulf’s house-help trade due to the reported abuse of domestic workers. But, after a few months, it was re-opened for a dubious reason.

Latest statistics from Central Bank show that for the first eight months of this year, Kenya received Ksh22.65 billion ($187 million) from Kenyans living in Saudi Arabia as the country emerged as the third largest source of our remittances after the US, which brought in Ksh188.8 billion ($1.5 billion), and UK’s Ksh25.4 billion ($210 million).

Last month, the story of an emaciated Diana Chepkemoi, who was ailing and held against her will, touched many Kenyans.

Diana had gone to the Gulf hoping to save money to pay for her university education.

Kenyans’ uproar rescued Diana before becoming a statistic – and she has now returned to university.

But 23-year-old Beatrice Waruguru, whose disfigured body was brought back in May, was not as lucky.

The five-hour stand-off at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, as her mother refused to sign papers to protest the torture her daughter was taken through, is a painful reminder of how the maid trade system is rotten.

Kafala system

The government knows that migrant workers in Jordan, Lebanon, and all Arab Gulf states have in place the archaic Kafala system, which ties the legal residency of a migrant worker to their employer for a specific period. During the days of slavery, this was called indentured labour. 

Unlike in the West, where migration targets highly educated workers, the Gulf countries target migrants from vulnerable families to work as domestic servants in this Kafala system – where you can only buy your freedom.

In the Gulf, the girls sign documents written in Arabic. The handlers then take away the girls’ passports, thus restricting their right to any movement. After that, any escape could only take you to a detention camp.

During slavery in the Caribbean, some enslaved people were set free after paying the masters who had “bought” them the shipping and purchase fee.

Today, migrant domestic workers in the Gulf are employed on similar terms. However, they can only earn freedom if they pay their “sponsors” some hefty amount calculated as the agency recruitment fee, visa fee and air ticket.

The stories that come from the Gulf – and told by survivors – are straight from Satan’s compound.

When Slaida Vugutsa was killed in Saudi Arabia last year, she was partially buried by her murderer in the desert – before somebody stumbled on the grave.

It took several months before her family received the body. At the airport, they were inconsolable– and angry. 

Last week, the family of Linet Akinyi, 24, who has been missing for three years, got the news that her body is in a Saudi morgue.

Blind eye

As the flow of dollars increases, the government has turned a blind eye to the number of cadavers of young girls that arrive at JKIA and continues to watch as agencies send more girls to the death traps of domestic labour. 

And it is not that they don’t know. In September last year, the PS in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Macharia Kamau, told a parliamentary committee that 41 Kenyans had died in Saudi Arabia within nine months, apparently of cardiac arrest.

That means we lose approximately two girls every week. The scandal is that we don’t seem to see it as an indictment of how we treat our poor.

There is a deep history behind this Kafala system. Historians argue that slavery had always been a fixture of the Persian Gulf societies, and the rich had always imported cheap labour from East Africa, which was regarded as a reservoir of slaves destined for the Middle East markets.

The efforts to eliminate the slave trade in the 19th century had limited impact on Gulf slavery as the British patrol ships could not, at times, outrun the dhows.

More so, the British had to face the powerful Persian Gulf sheikhdoms. As a result, it signed treaties with some of these entities, which allowed them to retain domestic slaves – and to enslave the slave descendants.

In 1916, the British government – which had colonised the Gulf – signed a treaty with the Sheikh of Qatar, allowing the Sheikhs to retain their black slaves as long as they “accord the negroes fair and just treatment”.

At best, the British did not interfere with local forms of slavery as long as they did not threaten the colony. At worst, they did not care.

By this time, some Saudi families had started to import what historians call indentured labour, where those kidnapped or lured to the Kafala system were contracted to serve for several years without the option of leaving – unless they bought their freedom.

Indentured labour

Today, in the Gulf states, we still hear stories of Kenyan girls asked to purchase their freedom by refunding the money used to recruit and ferry them into indentured labour. 

This type of labour was popular in the 19th-century British empires, and it is a pity that it still thrives – and that we still allow our citizens to get enslaved.

If you read the literature on Caribbean slavery and its indentured labour, the similarities with Kafala system will shock you.

You will find that indentured labour from India replaced slave labour, which explains the immense Indian population in some Caribbean islands. 

As the successor to slavery, indentured labourers operated in the same space as slaves – and some had been kidnapped to work as waged labourers.

In the British colony of India, this type of labour was called “coolie,” and the indentured labourers were once shipped and used to build the Kenya-Uganda railway in 1890. Many of these never found their way back home.

We know from the Gulf that the emancipation of enslaved Black people did not change their status since they had no place to go or means of subsistence.

Some historians have argued that the British popularised the current Kafala system to control the flow of migrants into the pearl hunting trade in the ocean, a lucrative business.

Rather than Britain’s control of these migrants, it allowed the employers to be in charge of their visas and delegated responsibility to the employers.

In essence, the British government left the migrant labourers outside its purview. That was in the 1920s.

Today, in Lebanon, for instance, Article 7 of the Labour Law expressly excludes migrant domestic workers from any labour protection.

As a result, they cannot enjoy a minimum wage, a limit on working hours, overtime pay, a weekly rest day, and freedom of association. 

Thus, the girls we usually send to Lebanon to work under the Kafala system get trapped in regulations that mimic slavery.

In all these cases, workers cannot leave or change jobs without their employers’ consent. If they leave their employers without permission, they risk losing their legal residency and face detention and deportation.

Because domestic servants’ visa and freedom of movement is at the discretion of private entities, all stories emanating from the Gulf start with the employers seizing passports – meaning they have control of their subjects.

Amnesty International has raised all these issues in the Middle East. They have told governments that the Kafala system is subjecting domestic workers to unpaid labour, forced labour, physical abuse, rape, and dangerous working conditions.

In all the cases we have heard, the recruiting agencies in Nairobi have no say on the recruits once they pass through our “door of no return” – to borrow the name given to the place slaves boarded their ships in West Africa.

The number of girls dying in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries is alarming. Yet, we still continue to send hundreds of them into servitude – allowing them to be trapped in the Kafala labour system that has been dismissed by human rights bodies as a new form of slavery.

Dr Alfred Mutua, who has been picked as the next Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Diaspora must streamline this trade – or stop it.

How many more should die before we stop this trade?

SOURCE

Eunice Wanjiku is long dead and forgotten. In the Kenyan records at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – she is just another name. By the time she died at the […]

Continue reading "How Kafala system in Arab Gulf states is leading to the death of Kenyan girls"

Tanzanian gas pipeline to cut cost for Kenyans

The Kenyan government has announced plans to speed up construction of the proposed gas pipeline from Tanzania in an effort to cut prices of cooking gas.

President William Ruto on Monday said the 600-kilometre pipeline that Kenya will use to import gas from the Mtwara plant in Tanzania is a priority item, a pronouncement that looks set to end a delay of over one year.

The pipeline whose cost is estimated at Ksh132 billion ($1.1 billion) is part of a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Natural Gas Transportation that former President Uhuru Kenyatta signed with Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu in May last year.

Importation of gas from Tanzania will offer Kenya an alternative to lowering the cost of cooking gas.

“We will expedite the gas pipeline from Dar es Salaam to Mombasa and eventually to Nairobi so that we can use the resources that we have in our to lower energy tariffs both for commercial and domestic use in Kenya,” Mr Ruto said on Monday in a joint briefing with Ms Suluhu.

“We will ensure that what the Government of Kenya is required to do will be done in a timely, efficient and effective manner so that in the shortest time possible we can access the gas resources that you have in your country.”

The project to be funded through Public Private Partnership (PPP) will, upon completion, allow Kenya tap the vast natural gas deposits of Tanzania and lower the cost of cooking gas and also electricity prices.

The 13-kilogramme cooking gas has shot up to Sh3,400 while the six-kilogramme is going for Sh1,500 at the back of global rally in crude prices and the re-introduction of the six percent Value Added Tax on the commodity.

Kenya re-introduced 16 percent VAT on cooking gas in July last year and coupled with the global jump in cost of crude, led to a surge in prices of the commodity.

The tax was halved this year after a public uproar but oil marketers have failed to pass on the tax reduction to consumers.

Unlike diesel, super and kerosene, prices of cooking gas are not controlled by the State leaving consumers at the mercy of oil dealers.

SOURCE

The Kenyan government has announced plans to speed up construction of the proposed gas pipeline from Tanzania in an effort to cut prices of cooking gas. President William Ruto on […]

Continue reading "Tanzanian gas pipeline to cut cost for Kenyans"

East Africa divided on GM foods as Kenya lifts ban

Kenya’s decision on October 3 to allow cultivation and importation of genetically modified (GM) maize for mass consumption elicited mixed reactions in the country and East Africa, and exposed the incoherent policies on GM technology in the region.

While President William Ruto’s administration sees it as a means to unlock a supply line of relief food, easing hunger for millions of people in the country and the Horn of Africa, agriculture lobbies are urging caution, with some demanding that the government reverse the decision.

Read: Is Kenya finally ready for rollout of GM crops?

Kenya’s Cabinet said the decision to lift the 10-year ban was in response to the worst drought to hit the country in 40 years, which has left more than three million people on the verge of starvation.

But activists protested the move, raising concerns over the safety of GM foods.

“Food security is not just about the amount of food but the quality and safety of food,” said a joint statement signed by a dozen groups, including Greenpeace Africa. “Our cultural and indigenous foods have proved to be safer, with diverse nutrients and with less harmful chemical inputs.”

Kenya, like many other African nations, banned GM crops over health and safety concerns and to protect smallholder farmers, who account for the vast majority of rural agricultural producers in the country. But it faced criticism over the ban, including from the US, which is a major producer of GM crops.

On Monday, a statement issued by President Ruto’s office said the decision was “a progressive step towards significantly redefining agriculture in Kenya by adopting crops that are resistant to pests and disease.”

Read: Tanzania steps up vigilance on GMOs as Kenya okays biotech foods

Also read: East Africa divided on GM foods as Kenya lifts ban

It said the Cabinet had considered expert views and technical reports, including by Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA), the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Food Safety Authority before arriving at the decision.

But the lobbies say the move was made without public participation and that it “essentially curtails the freedom of Kenyans to choose what they want to eat.”

“We demand that the ban be immediately reinstated and an inclusive participatory process be instituted to look into long-term and sustainable solutions to issues affecting food security,” they said.

They added that lifting of the ban opened up the market to American farmers using sophisticated technologies and highly subsidised farming that risks putting small-scale farmers in Kenya out of business.

Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy, contributing more than 20 percent of its GDP.

Dr Ruto was elected to the top job in August on a promise to turn around Kenya’s stuttering economy and tackle inflation. Within weeks of taking office in September, he reduced the price of fertilisers to improve crop yields in the midst of the drought that has affected 23 of the 47 counties.

Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, pushing millions across the Horn into extreme hunger.

Read: Kenya rules out GMO maize imports to tame cost of animal feeds

Tanzania opposition

Without a binding regional policy on GM technology, Kenya’s neighbours are scrambling to tighten controls, considering the porous borders.

Tanzania’s Agriculture minister Hussein Bashe said Dodoma was firmly opposed to the use of biotechnology in food production and would impose stronger measures to prevent GM food or cash crops produced in “neighbouring countries” from finding their way into the country.

Dar es Salaam-based lobby African Organic Network (AfroNET) said Kenya acted without properly considering the long-term ramifications of GM technology on the collective health of its citizenry.

“They have taken a wrong approach to such a contentious issue. It is not simply about ensuring food security in times of drought, as they seem to think,” said Constantine Akitanda, AfroNET spokesperson.

Kenya is the second country after South Africa to back out of an African Union resolution to adopt organic agriculture instead of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) methods to minimise the effects of climate change.

Read: East Africa region urged to adopt GMOs to boost food security

According to Akitanda, South Africa has been trying out GM farming for the past 25 years but is “only now realising that the hopes and dreams they had when they started have not materialised.”

“Kenya is now on course to also learn the hard way. The WFP [World Food Programme] stipulates in its own guidelines that any food crops it endorses for exchange between countries must be non-GMO, which means Kenya may have to forget about exporting any of its own farm produce,” he said.

On the argument that GM crops could help alleviate food scarcity, Akitanda added: “Africa has enough arable land to produce sufficient food without deploying unnatural methods to boost production.”

He said African countries need to withstand external pressures to embrace GM technology.

Observers say Kenya’s rash decision is informed by the need to open a window to receive relief food donations from countries that have authorised GMOs, such as the US.

The approval is meant to allow imports of GM maize that are readily and cheaply available on the market to help in lower the price of flour, which has hit a high of Ksh240 ($2) for a two-kilo packet after the new government dropped a subsidy scheme that Dr Ruto termed unsustainable.

Cancer link

The ban on GMOs was announced by former Health minister Beth Mugo in 2012, after a journal by French scientist Eric Seralini claimed that the crops had a link to cancer. The journal was, however, recalled two years later on grounds it was not conclusive on the matter.

Read: Uganda parliament passes biosafety Bill on GM products

GM maize testing in Kenya started in 2010 but approvals for the environmental release were granted by the National Biosafety Authority in 2016.

The scientists completed research on GM maize in 2021 and the material has been awaiting approval by the Cabinet before release for commercial farming.

Attempts by the East African Community (EAC) to legalise GMOs hit a snag back in 2013 as it emerged that partner states were at different stages in the formulation of biosafety policies and legislation.

Kenya and Uganda are leading the region in embracing agricultural biotechnology. Tanzania has formulated a policy for biosafety legislation and regulation but has been slow in allowing practice.

In Rwanda and Burundi, biotechnology research and development is mainly confined to conventional techniques and traditional biotech applications.

Regional law

The EAC prepared and submitted the draft regional Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy to the Council of Ministers in 2014 during the 30th Ordinary Council of Ministers session.

Read: EDITORIAL: Let’s base GMO debate on tech equity and not food security

The ministers made recommendations, including establishing a biotechnology and biosafety unit at the Secretariat to provide logistical, administrative and support to the policy framework. The matter is yet to take off.

“The meeting took note of the reports of the national consultations and made the following observations: capacity on the implementation of the national biosafety framework in application of biotechnology is inadequate,” says the EAC Regional Biosafety Report of 2013.

“However, lack of awareness, education and stakeholder participation is required for effective implementation of national biosafety frameworks.”

With maize being a staple in the region, scientists argue the GM maize can yield double what farmers are getting from the traditional breeds, given that it is drought-tolerant and can withstand pests and diseases.

Read: Comesa warns on Indomie noodles after Egypt recall

Timothy Njagi, a research fellow at Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute in Kenya, says the decision to allow GMOs was long overdue.

“GM maize is cheaper than the conventional one and once we start importing, it will lower the cost of food locally,” said Dr Njagi.

He said GMO imports will help address the high cost of animal feeds, which have for the past three years remained at a historic high.

The waiver on GMO imports would allow millers to import other non-conventional materials used in making feeds, such as soya.

Comesa policy

In the wider region, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has put in place a legal framework for GM produce.

In September 2013, the Fifth Comesa Joint Meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources endorsed a proposed common policy on biotechnology and biosafety, taking into account the sovereign right of each member state.

Comesa member countries are signatories to the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety but are at different stages of implementing the requirements, especially establishing their national biosafety regulatory frameworks, and adopting GM crops.

Read: Caution over gene-modified wheat offering

Comesa has a regional risk assessment mechanism for the sharing of information, resources and expertise.

The Cartagena Protocol, in force since September 2003, is an international agreement that aims to ensure safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology to protect biological diversity and risks to human health.

It establishes a procedure for prior informed agreement to ensure countries have the necessary information to make decisions about the importing of LMOs into their territory.

According to proponents of GM technology, the immediate benefit for Kenya could be unlocking billions of shillings for firms involved in the GMO industry.

Roy Mugiira, chief executive officer of the NBA, the regulator, welcomed the decision by Kenya’s Cabinet saying, “In the coming few days, we will be issuing guidelines on importing or growing of these varieties.”

SOURCE

Kenya’s decision on October 3 to allow cultivation and importation of genetically modified (GM) maize for mass consumption elicited mixed reactions in the country and East Africa, and exposed the incoherent policies […]

Continue reading "East Africa divided on GM foods as Kenya lifts ban"

Muhoozi’s ambition putting Museveni-Ruto ties at risk

Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba this week either marked a milestone in his political career or blotted ties between his country and Kenya. It depends on where you stand.

At 48 years, is the youngest general in Uganda today. But that title is already held by five other people in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), including his father President Yoweri Museveni. This week, President Museveni also dropped him as Commander of Land Forces, which means he is a general with no army.

So, what was the endgame of his controversial tweets in which he suggested an invasion of Kenya to occupy Nairobi in two weeks? In public, officials in Nairobi said they would let the matter slide after President Yoweri Museveni apologised to Kenya. In private, President William Ruto’s officials were so miffed they threatened to cancel his attendance of Uganda’s 60th independence anniversary in Kampala on October 9.

An earlier invitation to Dr Ruto to open a business forum in Kampala on Tuesday was not honoured. Initially, Nairobi dismissed the tweets. But then the general tweeted on about his supposed love for former President Uhuru Kenyatta, who he lamented should have tried a third term (under Kenyan law, that is unconstitutional), his admiration of revolution rather than democracy and aspiration to make Kenya and Uganda “one country.”

In Kenya, the feeling among some government officials is that Muhoozi is unhappy with the election of Ruto rather than Raila Odinga who was backed by Kenyatta. Nairobi diplomats indicated they expected “clarification” from Uganda. By Friday, Ruto’s team had indicated the president would attend the independence anniversary.

The tweets drew an apology from President Museveni, but he defended promoting Muhoozi saying he was focusing on the positives while discoursing negatives.

“I ask our Kenyan brothers and sisters to forgive us for tweets sent by General Muhoozi, former Commander of Land Forces,” he said.

The Ugandan leader said it was not proper for any public officer to comment about the affairs of another country or interfere in any way in the affairs of a brother country.

Thorny election issue

Yet this also gives a dilemma for Museveni: How to tame his son while keeping a domestic polity intact, and a fledgling bromance with Ruto. When Ruto campaigned for election, his closeness to Museveni became a subject of controversy in Kenya, leading to a ban on his travel to Uganda. Officials suggested there had been undue influence from Uganda in Kenyan elections, forcing Kampala to clarify it had no role.

On Thursday, Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga did suggest there had been foreign interference in the elections but did not directly accuse Uganda. He said the election had been stolen by “the work of a group of right-wing politicians and a group international monopoly capital.”

Beyond local elections, however, Ruto’s ethnic relations to some Ugandans in the east of that country is seen by Museveni as crucial. Kenyan President is said to have investments in Uganda, which explained closeness to the Ugandan leader.

Museveni also needs to keep his generals at home happy, even as he juggles the succession balls, some say. Muhoozi sees himself as the heir-apparent and suggested so in his tweets.

Balam Barugaharra, his confidant, says the rank of general is preparation for the presidency. He says they hope he gets appointed minister so that he can interact more with ordinary Ugandans and understand their plight.

At a recent function in western Uganda, Barugaharra told the president that Muhoozi was Uganda’s “standby generator,” in case he chose to step down.

In what looks like a formal introduction to the public and business sphere, Gen Muhoozi is expected to be chief guest at Business Breakfast in Kampala on October 12. The conference, sponsored by some of the leading brands in Uganda such as New Vision, Uganda Breweries and Uganda Airlines, is organised by an unfamiliar organisation, Kef Uganda.

But to some insiders, the president has lost patience with an erratic Muhoozi. At the height of what Ugandans thought was a problem in the military three months ago, Deputy Chief of Defense Forces Lt-Gen Peter Elwelu issued a standby order class one, which Muhoozi immediately countered, prompting a meeting in Ntungamo and chaired by the President in which Muhoozi was asked to desist from tweeting.

SOURCE

Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba this week either marked a milestone in his political career or blotted ties between his country and Kenya. It depends on where you stand. At 48 years, […]

Continue reading "Muhoozi’s ambition putting Museveni-Ruto ties at risk"

Kenya, Rwanda ride on AfCFTA to enter West Africa

Kenya and Rwanda are eyeing the West African market with Ghana becoming the next partner for both countries under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

On Wednesday, Kenya’s President William Ruto flagged off Kenyan tea to Ghana. He was with AfCFTA secretary-general Wamkele Mene.

Last week, a consignment of Kenyan batteries worth $77,000 was received in Tema Port, Ghana in a historic ceremony that marked Kenya’s first exports under the AfCFTA agreement.

“When we began the journey to consolidate the market in Africa, and provide the infrastructure using the AfCFTA statute, it looked like it was a dream but today we are living that dream as a reality,” said President Ruto.

“This event today marks the first step in a journey that will liberate our continent from export of raw materials to the rest of the world to the export of processed, manufactured products not just in our continent but to the rest of the world.”

And this week, Rwanda exported coffee products to Ghana as part of the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative.

Kenya is among six countries selected to participate in the pilot phase of the AfCFTA Initiative on ‘guided trade’. Others are Rwanda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Egypt and Mauritius.

“What Kenya and Ghana are doing is to give commercial meaning to the whole project which we all stand in the African Union, the project of integrating our market, our economy as a continent and placing our continent to global competitiveness one day,” said Wamkele Mene, secretary general of the AfCFTA.

“The display we have seen here in the packaging (Ketepa) is value added production for Africa to trade in industrial products, to create opportunities to uplift millions of people out of poverty, for SMEs industrial products and for young people.”

Mr Mene recalled that in 2015, the African continent exports recorded $6 million worth of unprocessed tea and coffee, thereby making huge losses for failure to include value addition.

“The global market for coffee and tea is estimated to be over $100 billion. The processing and repackaging is done elsewhere outside our continent and you can see the losses in the value chain. And so today is the beginning of reversing that trend which has sustained in the last 60 years or so,” said Mene.

“Another example that disturbs me is that in 2019 our continent imported $6 billion worth of pharmaceutical products but those components that make those pharmaceutical products that we import from the rest of the world are made in Africa. They are here in Africa.”

He added, “Our capacity as a continent to industrialise and accelerate our opportunities in terms of global competitiveness I believe starts today with this initiative. On Friday Cameroon, Tunisia, Egypt and Mauritius will follow, and will also be trading in manufacturing.”

Outgoing Trade Minister Betty Maina said Kenya was eyeing other export markets in Africa.

“We have identified other markets in Mauritius, Egypt and Cameroon, of products which we will be piloting under this initiative,” said Ms. Maina.

“This pilot’s initiative of guided trade under the AfCFTA has been preceded by preparations in our country. Our trade facilitation agencies such as the Kenya Revenue Authority, and Kenya Bureau Standards and others have all aligned themselves and have prepared the necessary documentation to support this initiative.”

SOURCE

Kenya and Rwanda are eyeing the West African market with Ghana becoming the next partner for both countries under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. On Wednesday, Kenya’s […]

Continue reading "Kenya, Rwanda ride on AfCFTA to enter West Africa"

Kenya Airways drops in global ranking as EA airlines fail to make top 100 cut

Kenya Airways dropped three places in the latest global ranking of airlines, trailing its regional rival Ethiopian Airlines, which recorded a significant jump to fly within the top 30 carriers in the world.

Skytrax World Airline Awards—which rates the world’s best carriers—placed KQ in position 81 in this year’s ranking, down from 79th in last year’s report.

Ethiopian Airlines, which rose 11 places to position 26, emerged as Africa’s best carrier, with South African Airways and Air Maroc coming in at position 66 and 79 respectively to stay within the top 100 carriers globally.

RwandAir, Uganda Airlines and Air Tanzania did not make the cut in the top 100 carriers in the ranking. However, the Rwandan carrier scooped some category awards in ‘Best Cabin Crew in Africa’ and ‘Best Airline Cabin Cleanliness’.

“While the awards celebrated the best of aviation, the industry is still tackling the strain of Covid, staffing shortages and fuel price surges caused by the conflict in Ukraine,” said Edward Plaisted, Skytrax chief executive officer.

Rising global fuel prices inflicted a ninth consecutive half-year loss on Kenya Airways increasing its default risk and sinking it Ksh15 billion ($124.1 million) deeper into a negative equity position.

KQ, which has been surviving on State bailouts since the Covid-19 pandemic, reported a Ksh9.8 billion ($81.1 million) loss last month — a better performance than the Ksh11.48 billion ($95 million) loss it recorded in the same period a year earlier.

The Skytrax awards are based on customers’ surveys. Travellers are asked about the performance and service quality of more than 350 global airlines.

The ranking comes at a time when the aviation industry is recovering from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic that saw the industry record one of the worst losses after passenger flights were grounded to curb the spread of the virus.

Overall, Qatar Airways was named the best airline in the world, a title it has now won seven times since 2001.

SOURCE

Kenya Airways dropped three places in the latest global ranking of airlines, trailing its regional rival Ethiopian Airlines, which recorded a significant jump to fly within the top 30 carriers […]

Continue reading "Kenya Airways drops in global ranking as EA airlines fail to make top 100 cut"

President Ruto unlocks GMO billions as Kenya okays biotech foods

Kenya’s Cabinet has unlocked billions for firms involved in the genetically modified organisms (GMO) industry after it approved the farming and importation of biotechnology crops in a major policy shift that seeks to make the country food secure and contain runaway prices.

President William Ruto Monday chaired a Cabinet meeting that lifted the 2012 moratorium that restricted importation or open cultivation of GMO crops, making Kenya the second country in the continent after South Africa to allow biotechnology foods.

The approval comes in the wake of a biting drought that has exposed three million Kenyans to famine in 23 counties, forcing the government to intervene with relief food. Firms involved in GMO seed manufacturing will be some of the biggest beneficiaries of the policy shift that will put pressure on farmers to reduce prices or be forced out of the market.

The approval is meant to allow imports of GMO maize that are readily available in the market at a cheaper cost to help in lowering the price of flour which has now hit a high of Ksh200 ($1.65) for a two-kilo packet as the new government drops the subsidy scheme, which Dr Ruto termed as costly to the economy.

In consideration of the adoption of GMO crops, the Cabinet says it put into mind various expert and technical reports including that of Kenya’s National Biosafety Authority (NBA), the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, United States of America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

“In accordance with the recommendation of the Task Force to review matters relating to Genetically Modified Foods … the Cabinet vacated its earlier decision of November 8, 2012, prohibiting the open cultivation of genetically modified crops and the importation of food crops and animal feeds produced through biotechnology innovations.

“Effectively lifting the ban on Genetically Modified Crops, by dint of the executive action open cultivation and importation of white (GMO) maize is now authorised,” reads a Cabinet memo.

Scientists argue the GMO maize variety can yield double what farmers are getting from the conventional breeds given that they are drought tolerant and can withstand pests and diseases.

Timothy Njagi, a research fellow with Egerton University-based Tegemeo Institute, says the decision was long overdue.

“GMO maize is cheaper than the conventional one and once we start importing it will lower the cost of food locally,” said Dr Njagi.

Dr Njagi said GMO imports will also help in addressing the high cost of animal feeds, which have for the last three years remained at a historic high. The waiver on GMO imports, he said, will now see millers import other non-conventional materials used in making feeds such as soya.

Roy Mugiira, the chief executive officer of the NBA, which is the sector regulator, welcomed the move by the Cabinet. “In the coming few days, we shall now be issuing guidelines to be followed in importing or growing of these varieties, but I can say that it is now legal to have GMO crops in the country,” said Dr Mugiira.

The ban on GMOs was announced by former Health Minister Betty Mugo in 2012 after a journal by French scientist Eric Seralini claimed that these crops had a link to cancer after a mouse that was fed on it developed a cancerous tumour. The journal was, however, recalled two years later on grounds that it was not conclusive on the matter.

GM maize testing in Kenya started in 2010 but approval for the environmental release was granted by the NBA in 2016. The scientists completed research on genetically modified maize last year and the material has been awaiting approval by the Cabinet before release for commercial farming.

Read: Kenya rules out GMO maize imports to tame cost of animal feeds

SOURCE

Kenya’s Cabinet has unlocked billions for firms involved in the genetically modified organisms (GMO) industry after it approved the farming and importation of biotechnology crops in a major policy shift […]

Continue reading "President Ruto unlocks GMO billions as Kenya okays biotech foods"

NSE mulls listing shoe retailer on main board after its $4m acquisition binge

Nairobi Business Ventures (NBV) is set to graduate to the main trading platform of the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) after spending Ksh428.75 million ($3.57 million) on the acquisition of four firms in four months.

The shoe retailing firm, which is listed on the Growth and Enterprise Market Segment (GEMS), disclosed through its latest annual report that between April and August last year it acquired the following business ranging from automobile to aviation and the extractive sector: Air Direct Connect Ltd for Ksh15.54 million ($129,500), Delta Automobile Ltd (Ksh130.4 million, $1.08 million), Aviation Management Solutions Ltd (Ksh61.56 million, $513,000) and Delta Cement Ltd (Ksh221.25 million, $1.84 million).

The acquisitions were financed through the proceeds of the sale of 857.51 million shares equivalent to 63 percent of the total issued shares of the firm estimated at 1.35 billion shares.

The new shares were priced at Ksh0.5 ($0.004) per share, helping the firm to generate a total of Ksh428.75 million ($3.57 million) from the share sale.

The firm’s top shareholders include Shreeji Enterprises Ltd (Kenya) which controls 32.69 percent stake, followed by Delta International FZE (30.66 percent) and Soni Haresh Vrajlal (16.42 percent).

NSE chief executive Geoffrey Odundo told The EastAfrican that the firm’s swift growth puts it in a pole position for promotion to the main trading platform of the exchange from the GEMS market that is mainly reserved for the small and medium-sized Enterprises.

Currently, firms seeking to list on either the Main Investment Market Segment or Alternative Investment Market Segment must have a paid-up capital of Ksh50 million ($41,666.66) and net assets of Ksh100 million ($833,333.33). The firms should also have a minimum of 1,000 investors, a minimum free float of 25 percent and should have recorded profits for three years in the past five years.

Strategic expansion

Last year, NBV was acquired by the UAE-based Delta International FZE, with the new owners seeking to use the four companies — Air Direct Connect Ltd, Delta Automobile Ltd, Aviation Management Solutions Ltd and Delta Cement Ltd — to transform it from a struggling shoe retailing firm to an industrial unit.

Delta Cement which is expected to be the most significant subsidiary of NBV, is seeking to set up a cement manufacturing plant with an annual capacity of one million metric tonnes in Mavoko, Machakos County.

“There has been a growing demand for cement in Kenya and the prices of 50kg bags have increased significantly in the recent past. We foresee this demand being sustained over the long term thereby providing us with the opportunity to establish ourselves in the manufacture of cement,” according to the report.

“Management has obtained all the statutory requirements for the establishment of the plant. So far, the factory’s building plans have received the requisite approvals and we have also received approval for the environment licence.”

The NBV management are negotiating on the funding facilities for the project.

Kenya’s cement sector is currently dominated by Bamburi, National Cement Company, Mombasa Cement, Savannah Cement, Rai Cement and Ndovu Cement Ltd.

Delta International also owns other subsidiaries in the region including Delta Holdings Kenya (real estate), Shreeji Glass Uganda and Shreeji Chemicals Kenya, which has an annual sodium silicate production capacity of about 180,000 metric tonnes.

In 2020, NBV shareholders approved Ksh83 million ($691,666.66) capital injection by Delta International FZE.

They also agreed to allot and issue up to a maximum of 415 million ordinary shares of Ksh0.5 ($0.004) each in the company to Delta International subject to payment of the aggregate subscription price of Ksh83 million ($691,666.66) being Ksh0.2 ($0.001) per new share.

The shareholders also approved a proposal to change the structure of the firm’s nominal capital from Ksh50 million ($416,666.66) divided into 50 million shares of Ksh1 ($0.008) each, to Ksh50 million ($416,666.66) divided into 100 million ordinary shares of Ksh0.5 ($0.004) each. There was an increase in the nominal share capital of the company by the creation of 400 million new ordinary shares of a par value of Ksh0.5 ($0.004) each which rank at the same rate and have rights equal to the existing ordinary shares of the company.

SOURCE

Nairobi Business Ventures (NBV) is set to graduate to the main trading platform of the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) after spending Ksh428.75 million ($3.57 million) on the acquisition of four […]

Continue reading "NSE mulls listing shoe retailer on main board after its $4m acquisition binge"

Rift Valley fever vaccine trials get under way

Trials for a human vaccine for Rift Valley fever will soon begin, giving hope that a vaccine will be released in the next five years.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which has been working on the inoculation, says trials will take three to four years.

CEPI project leader Mike Whelan said this week that 17 vaccine candidates have been selected to undergo trials for the vaccine, but will first go through pre-clinical stages to determine their suitability.

“We estimate that the initial trial projects will likely take three to four years to complete,” Mr Whelan said.

“After that, depending on available data, successful vaccines will move forward into efficacy trials before a licence for human use can be granted,” he added.

The efficacy trials will determine whether people in the clinical trial who got vaccinated with the Rift Valley fever vaccine are less likely to develop the disease than those who got the placebo shot.

CEPI estimates that approval of the Rift Valley fever vaccine, at least for emergency use, will happen within a five to 10-year period.

Rift Valley fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease caused by the Rift Valley fever virus, transmitted by mosquitoes (Aedes, Culex, Anopheles, and Mansonia spp) and blood feeding flies. It commonly affects domesticated animals (such as cattle, sheep, goats, and camels) but can also cause illness in people.

No vaccines are currently approved for human use, even though climate change could increase the severity and frequency of its outbreaks among human communities.

In East Africa, its outbreaks are associated with cycles of heavy rainfall that result in floods and increased vegetation cover favouring high vector density and species diversity.

During the 2006-2007 outbreak in East Africa, the fever caused a $60 million loss of trade due to livestock deaths and animal abortions.

The virus has been reported in 30 countries across the world and there have been heavy cases in Kenya, Mauritania, Uganda and Egypt over the past 40 years.

CEPI is supporting two vaccine programmes at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands and Colorado State University in the US.

Last month, CEPI launched its second phase of funding to advance the development of innovative vaccine programs against Rift Valley fever, including $35 million financial support provided by the European Union Horizon Europe program. Up to $50 million in total will be made available by CEPI to support promising Rift Valley fever vaccine candidates through Phase I and II clinical trials in endemic areas.

SOURCE

Trials for a human vaccine for Rift Valley fever will soon begin, giving hope that a vaccine will be released in the next five years. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations […]

Continue reading "Rift Valley fever vaccine trials get under way"

Kenya to list skilled refugees for online work

Kenya plans to start a programme to list skilled refugees in a digital database to enable them get work from international organisations interested in outsourcing services.

The Ajira Digital Programme will be implemented by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and funded by the MasterCard Foundation, both of which say they will help push for adoption of refugees into legal work by also providing constant training opportunities.

Read: CLEMENTS: Kenya’s generosity towards refugees is impressive

Also read: How refugees bring along their music and culture, creating a melting pot

KEPSA, with the Amahoro Coalition, a platform of private organisations in the region, will target refugees in Kakuma and Dadaab, Kenya’s refugee centres that host more than 400,000 people.

Nairobi is taking advantage of the program to entice refugees to leave the camps once they get legal work.

Kenya has traditionally allowed refugees to stay out of camps if they prove they can afford basic needs on their own.

But the refugee camps have had security issues in the past with Nairobi promising to close the two camps down on several occasions, citing terror threats.

Read: Kenya plans to close world’s biggest refugee camp Dadaab: document

Also read: Kenya revises refugee camp closure to June 2022

Last year, however, Kenya’s Interior Ministry agreed to stagger the closure of the camps based on voluntary departure as well as gradual programmes to enable refugees live normally in the country or find work abroad.

Officials did not indicate how many refugees will initially benefit from the Ajira programme, but they said that many refugees in camps may face challenges due to lack of adequate skills, limited movement, limited access to formal education, and lack of a form of identity.

“We have a lot of talent waiting to be tapped among the refugee population in Kenya,” said Dr Ehud Gachugu, Project Director- Ajira Digital Program and Youth Employment at KEPSA.

Read: Kenya targets easier integration of refugees

“We have seen many examples of bright but marginalised young people delivering quality work to global clients through online platforms. Our aim is, therefore, to help grow and harness this talent to also deliver work for our local businesses, thus creating even more opportunities for refugees to add value not only in their local communities but also nationally.”

Ajira Digital Programme initially only served Kenyans with beneficiaries now at 1.9 million people since 2020 when it was launched for Kenyans. 

A study dubbed ‘Private Sector Digital Outsourcing Practices in Kenya’ further indicates that 59 percent of the private sector in Kenya are currently outsourcing digital services with another 75 percent intending to outsource in the future.

Read: Education still elusive goal for refugees even with Uganda’s open door policy

Another study by the Amahoro Coalition and the International Trade Center (ITC) on “Kenya’s Private Sector Digital Outsourcing Landscape and Its Potential to Support Refugee Economic Inclusion” indicates that a lack of awareness of the skills and potential available among the refugee community is the greatest barrier to companies working with refugees. This is despite companies that had previously worked with refugee freelancers expressing satisfaction with their ability to deliver quality, timely and cost-effective work.

Kenya’s two refugee camps are located in Turkana and Garissa counties, some of the driest areas in Kenya. They host refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, DR Congo and Burundi.

SOURCE

Kenya plans to start a programme to list skilled refugees in a digital database to enable them get work from international organisations interested in outsourcing services. The Ajira Digital Programme […]

Continue reading "Kenya to list skilled refugees for online work"

And if you Join the experience?

It doesn't cost anything to try. Join our community today and take part in the latest discussions revolving around civic space.

This is an open online forum that seeks to re-inforce the capacity of civic actors in East Africa to counter shrinking civic space by sharing information, human resources and successful strategies.

© 2022 Protection of Civic Space in East Africa

Translate »