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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

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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 […]

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President Samia drops Mulamula in mini Cabinet reshuffle

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Sunday made changes to her cabinet, a few months after she reshuffled the cabinet in April.

In the new changes announced in a statement by the Directorate of Presidential Communication, Ms Stergomena Tax has been appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs and East Africa Cooperation, replacing Liberata Mulamula.

Prior to the new appointment Ms Tax served as the Defence Minister, being the first woman to head the docket.

Innocent Bashungwa, who was the Minister of State in the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government, has been moved to the Defence ministry taking over from MS Tax.

President Samia also appointed Ms Angela Kairuki to replace Bashungwa at President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government.

The new appointees are scheduled to take oath of office on Monday at State House Dar es Salaam.

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Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Sunday made changes to her cabinet, a few months after she reshuffled the cabinet in April. In the new changes announced in a statement […]

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Porous borders stoke Ebola fears across the region

Uganda health officials are suggesting expanded lockdown measures but President Yoweri Museveni has clarified that the government will not enact Covid-like restrictions that saw schools and worship centres shut down

Health authorities across the region are scratching their heads on how to counter the health and economic threats posed by the growing Ebola emergency in Uganda, even as economies struggle to recover from the effects of Covid-19.

This week, President Yoweri Museveni clarified that his government has ruled out Covid-like restrictions that saw borders, schools, entertainment and worship centres shut down for more than one year.

Ebola threat

The Ebola fear is not restricted to Uganda as health officials in the region continue to contend with porous borders that put the entire region at risk.

But an even bigger fear is that restrictions at border points could hurt movement of people and goods.

Read: Uganda Ebola outbreak: Here’s what you need to know

On Thursday, Dr Anthony Kafumbe, the East African Community (EAC) acting deputy secretary-general for Productive and Social Sectors, said the EAC Secretariat would work with partner states to co-ordinate emergency preparedness and response at common borders.

“I urge partner states to enhance surveillance and laboratory testing especially at border areas; to implement appropriate infection prevention and control measures and increase risk communication and community awareness of the disease,” he said.

“I ask partner states to consider the deployment of the EAC mobile laboratories to the strategic outbreak hotspots and at the various border point of entries.”

Taking measures

This week, Rwanda reinstated the use of non-contact thermometers across all its border crossings.

Rwandan health workers, in protective gear and face masks, were at the Gatuna and Kagitumba borders, engaging cross-border travellers, taking their temperature and noting down their travel history.

Although Rwanda has not suffered a single Ebola case in the past, Uganda’s Mubende District – the epicentre of this year’s outbreak – is about a six-hour drive from the border.

“The Ministry of Health strongly urges each and every one to be cautious and seriously comply with the preventive measures against Ebola,” reads a statement from Rwanda’s ministry of Health.

It warned against “unnecessary visits and contacts with people who have travelled to areas affected by the Ebola outbreak.”

The public has been advised to report all visitors from Uganda and observe high hygiene.

Read: Uganda closes clubs, limits gatherings to curb Ebola spread

By Friday, Ebola cases had been detected in Mubende, Kyegegwa, Kagadi and Kassanda across 120 kilometres, the World Health Organisation said in its bulletin.

“Some 400 had been identified and will be monitored as the search continues to identify other people who may be at risk,” it said.

WHO said confirmed cases need supportive care to improve their survival chances. The agency deployed three viral haemorrhagic fever kits with medical supplies, medicines and personal protective equipment to an isolation unit set up in the Mubende Regional Referral Hospital with plans underway for an additional Ebola treatment unit. “More kits will be deployed based on need,” a statement said.

Uganda will also receive $500,000 to support the country’s control efforts and another $300,000 from WHO’s preparedness programme to support readiness activities in the neighbouring countries, including screening, awareness campaigns and isolation centres.

Read: Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

The WHO had earlier in the week praised Uganda’s response and especially testing capacity for Ebola, with 5,000 tests having been done by Wednesday.

But health officials in the affected areas are expressing frustration that the localised measures imposed to contain the spread were being violated, and suggested expanded lockdown measures.

So far, there are 31 confirmed cases and six confirmed deaths.

Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director General of Health Services at the Ugandan Health ministry, said some people suspected to have contracted the disease had escaped from Mubende Hospital a week ago before samples taken from them had been tested. Results for one of the said people turned out positive, but his whereabouts remain unknown.

Risky behaviour

Officials say they have since tightened security at quarantine facilities, but are still worried of a possible community infection.

Yet when detected and treated early, the risk of dying from Ebola is significantly reduced.

In Kasese district bordering DR Congo, another suspected Ebola patient escaped from a health facility on Wednesday morning.

As the emergency escalated this week, the country has reported that five doctors and an anaesthetist have been gone into isolation for treatment after contracting Ebola in the line of duty.

“Initially, there were issues with personal protective equipment. In the areas where the patients reached first, the health workers there were not having PPEs,” Dr Herbert Luswata, the president of an association of doctors in the country said.

One of the health workers, a Tanzanian doctor, died on Saturday while receiving treatment. He was in Uganda pursuing a Master of Medicine in Surgery course at Kampala International University.

Sheila Nduhukire, the spokesperson of the National Medical Stores, says they have since supplied adequate PPE stocks to the Mubende Regional Referral Hospital.

On Friday, Health officials in Kenya said they were investigating a suspected case of Ebola in Kakamega County, western Kenya. The patient had recently travelled to eastern Uganda to visit relatives, officials said.

Mumias West Disease Surveillance Co-ordinator Boaz Gichana said the patient had been admitted at St Mary Hospital isolation unit awaiting laboratory results.

Last week, the Kenyan government issued an Ebola alert and called for screening of travellers at entry points on the border with Uganda.

Read: Ebola survivors to forego sex for 90 days

Tanzanian Minister for Health Ummy Mwalimu has meanwhile directed regional commissioners from high-risk Ebola regions to strengthen the rapid response teams to control possible spread of the disease.

The high risk regions are Kagera, Mwanza, Kigoma, Geita and Mara in the Great Lakes zone and Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Songwe for their high interaction with foreign citizens.

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Uganda health officials are suggesting expanded lockdown measures but President Yoweri Museveni has clarified that the government will not enact Covid-like restrictions that saw schools and worship centres shut down […]

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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.

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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 […]

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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.

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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 […]

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Erratic weather, global crises push cost of food to record high levels

Governments in East and Horn of Africa have rolled out food aid programmes to communities hit hard by inconsistent weather patterns and global crises that have pushed food costs beyond the reach of many.

This week, Kenya launched a relief food programme for communities trapped in a cycle of four failed agriculture seasons, and Uganda had already been distributing relief food to people in Karamoja regions.

UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha)is predicting the likelihood of a fifth failed crop season. Uganda, which has generally enjoyed above average food production from its arable fertile soils, having two harvest seasons annually, is now increasingly facing food challenges due to less erratic and less predictable rains and unprecedented prolonged dry spells.

According to the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), some rainy months now have only 18 wet days compared with 20 previously which impacts on food yields.

According to meteorological information, 40 per cent of all rainfall received in Uganda is influenced by natural features such as wetlands and forests, which have been encroached on and destroyed by developers for housing or peasants for farming and others decimated for firewood and charcoal.

Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, says the Ugandan government has been forced to provide food to areas that have “had pockets of hunger,” costing upwards of Ush19 billion ($4.9 million) in the past three months alone.

According to the Meteorological department, the country steadily been receiving less rainfall over the past 16 years. However, there are those that argue that the food shortages being currently experienced in the region is also effects of bad national policies, rather than the weather.

In Kenya, President William Ruto flagged off relief food to drought-stricken counties on Tuesday, but admitted it was only a short-term measure.

The programme is targeting 3.5 million people. Kenya’s Meteorological Department has declared severest drought in 23 out of the 47 counties.

And Ocha’s National Drought Early Warning data for September 2022, says 10 counties are under an alarming drought phase with at least 4.35 million people in danger.

The Horn of Africa, including parts of Kenya, is facing the worst drought with at least 20 million people in immediate need of food. This includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and South Sudan, and Djibouti and Eritrea

Kipkorir Arap Menjo, the director of the Farmers Association, a lobby for local food producers, said Kenya’s maize growing regions are expecting a harvest early October. But even in countries touted as having almost sufficient food supplies, like Tanzania, prices are soaring and limiting access for many.

As countries struggle to get cheaper grain from traditional sources like Russia and Ukraine, world prices and growing world demand is making the situation harder in the region.

According to the Bank of Tanzania, the price of maize alone has more than doubled over the past year, hitting Tsh87,383 ($37.66) per 100-kilogramme sack in July compared with Tsh43,371 ($18.69) in the same month last year. Other key basic foods like rice and beans have also registered sharp price increases.

In its latest monthly review report for August 2022, the BoT says wholesale food prices had increased “mainly due to low harvests associated with delayed short rains and a high demand for food from neighboring countries.”

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Governments in East and Horn of Africa have rolled out food aid programmes to communities hit hard by inconsistent weather patterns and global crises that have pushed food costs beyond […]

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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.

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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 […]

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Kenya on the spot as ICC suspect dies mysteriously

The sudden death of Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru, while out on Ksh1 million ($8278) bond and as he waited for the ruling in his case at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has put President William Ruto’s regime in the international spotlight.

Gicheru, 52, was found dead at his Karen home on Monday evening. This means his case at The Hague is over since the ICC does not convict or acquit the dead – as reasoned in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the case against Slobodan Milosevic.

It also means that President Ruto, who was adversely mentioned during the Gicheru trial, is off the hook — for now.

Mr Gicheru, a former ally of President Ruto, was charged with interfering with ICC witnesses in the case in which Dr Ruto was charged with crimes against humanity following the 2007/2008 post-election violence. His arrest warrant was unsealed on September 10, 2015.

However, though a Kenyan court had stopped his extradition, the lawyer surrendered to the Dutch authorities on November 2, 2020, surprising his friends and lawyers.

During his trial, which closed on June 27, 2022, Dr Ruto was adversely mentioned by the prosecution as the beneficiary of the “common scheme”, which included bribery and intimidation of witnesses.

Interestingly, Mr Gicheru, who was charged with eight counts of offences against the administration of justice, opted not to present any oral testimony during his case, and his lawyer relied on documents disclosed by the prosecution to extricate him from the jaws of the ICC. Even more intriguing is that Mr Gicheru’s defence failed to call any witnesses.

Mr Gicheru’s death is the second one among the members of the “common scheme”. In December 2015, one of Mr Gicheru’s allies, Meshack Yebei, was abducted and killed.

His body was later found in the Tsavo National Park. Mr Yebei was also implicated in efforts to corrupt witnesses in the case against Dr Ruto and his co-defendant, Joshua arap Sang.

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The sudden death of Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru, while out on Ksh1 million ($8278) bond and as he waited for the ruling in his case at the International Criminal Court […]

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Ruto Cabinet brings new faces to tackle regional problems

Kenyan President William Ruto this week named his Cabinet, bringing back politicians into the Executive, a departure from the Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta governments that had technocrats.

Dr Ruto who had the backing of several parties that supported his “Hustler Nation” and “bottoms-up” economic approach, rewarded his Kenya Kwanza base across the country by naming party loyalists expected to support, push for and implement his vision.

Of the 22 Cabinet seats, he appointed more than 10 politicians, and retained only three from the Kenyatta government team, one being Monica Juma, former Cabinet Secretary for Energy, who now becomes National Security Advisor on a Cabinet level position, having served as Defence Secretary.

“I have nominated a new team to serve in the Cabinet and subject to the approval of the National Assembly, shall in due course appoint them to take charge of various ministries and implement the agenda of national transformation,” said President Ruto on Tuesday.

The key dockets of Foreign Affairs, Energy, Trade, Defence, Interior, Water, Roads and Transport, Agriculture have been given to politicians. Treasury and Planning and East African Community Affairs will be led by technocrats.

President Ruto, while officially opening the 13th parliament, told legislators that the country is broke and living beyond its means and needs to rethink its financial state to grow. This explains why earlier, he named former Central Bank governor Njuguna Ndung’u Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury and Planning. (See separate story).

Kenya has in the past 10 years expanded its regional and international diplomatic presence by pushing for peaceful resolutions in regional conflicts through its Building Bridges Initiative, has offered candidates for several continental and international organisations top jobs and even got the rotational UN Security Council Seat.

With this background, Dr Ruto’s Foreign Affairs nominee, Alfred Mutua, a former governor, and former government spokesman in Kibaki’s administration, is a lightweight with big shoes to fill. Dr Mutua studied journalism in India and was known as Kibaki’s “PR man.” His credentials on the international scene are limited.

Mr Mutua takes over a ministry that will make or break the image of Dr Ruto’s government. Regionally, this job is taken care of by the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development.

This docket has been given to a technocrat, Rebecca Miano, the chief executive of the Kenya Electricity Generating Company, where she was the first female CEO. She has no known experience on regional integration.

Related to regional commerce and integration is the docket of Trade, Investment and Industry, whose nominee is fiery politician Moses Kuria, a former MP. Once a fierce defender of Mr Kenyatta, they had a falling out and he joined Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Mr Kuria will have to navigate not just Kenya’s international trade deals but also those that affect the region and need national policies to support such as the EPAs and Agoa.

Close to trade is infrastructure, in this case roads and railway network, particularly the extension of the standard gauge railway to Uganda.

The nominee for the Transport, Roads and Public Works Kipchumba Murkomen, a politician, serving senator and former leader of Majority in the Senate. As a first timer in Cabinet and with an expansive docket, much will be expected of him.

Transport infrastructure was one of the busiest and crucial dockets in the Kenyatta government, with major projects accomplished that changed transport, courtesy of major highways across the country, the Nairobi Expressway, rehabilitation and revival of the national railway network and the SGR, revival of ports and upgrade of county roads. The Ruto government is expected to build on these successes, and pursue regional connectivity to a new level.

Over at Defence, another key ministry in regional harmony seeing as EAC partner states have started sending security contingents to the restive eastern DR Congo, President Ruto nominated Aden Duale, serving Member of Parliament for Garissa Town and former Leader of Majority in the 12th parliament. Mr Duale is not associated with nor known for advocating regional issues. Same could be said of the nominee for Interior, Prof Kithure Kindiki, former Deputy Leader of Majority in the Senate.

Yufnalis Okubo, former registrar at the East African Court of Justice is, however, hopeful.

“If you look at the ministries of Trade, Foreign Affairs and the East African Community which all deal with regional and international affairs, I can only single out Dr Mutua, nominee for Foreign Affairs, who has some experience having been a government spokesperson and worked and lived abroad, and also as a two-term governor of Machakos,” said Mr Okubo.

“Ms Miano’s nomination from corporate Kenya, without exposure to handle regional issues, is the same mistake made with the Phyllis Kandie appointment in 2013,” Mr Okubo said, referring to Kenyatta’s first EAC Affairs Cabinet Secretary.

Ms Kandie was later named ambassador to the EU, in Brussels but also later made Kenya’s representative to Unesco.

“It will be interesting to see how Ms Miano fits in,” said Mr Okubo who has worked in the EAC for over 10 years.

Mr Okubo avers that compared with neighbours, Kenya does not take regional matters seriously.

“Uganda’s ministry of EAC has retained the Permanent Secretary (Mrs Mwanje) for over 10 years. While in Kenya has had more than five different Principal Secretaries in the same ministry since 2013, a worrying trend that shows we have failed to value experience in regional politics,” said Mr Okubo.

Mr Kuria’s immediate assignment will be the ongoing new trade deal negotiations between Kenya and the US.

The other pressing assignment is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) ministerial meeting to be held December 13 in Washington, DC.

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Kenyan President William Ruto this week named his Cabinet, bringing back politicians into the Executive, a departure from the Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta governments that had technocrats. Dr Ruto […]

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Violence threatens fragile South Sudan peace

The UN says there is a need to keep an eye on South Sudan, where fragile peace continues to be threatened by conflict.

On Wednesday, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) pointed out inter-communal conflict for repeated cycles of violence that may erode gains towards peace across the country.

Nicolas Haysom, the special representative of the Secretary-General to South Sudan, said fighting between rival factions in Upper Nile and parts of Jonglei States has caused massive displacement of civilians seeking refuge in the UN bases in Malakal town, the capital of Upper Nile State.

“The fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) forces and the Kitgwang and Agwelek factions has displaced thousands of people within Upper Nile, to Jonglei, Unity states, and parts of Sudan,” Mr Haysom told journalists in Juba.

He said more than 14,000 have been displaced and sought refuge at the Malakal Protection of Civilians site.

Mr Haysom said that the mission is working with state authorities and humanitarian agencies to support sustainable solutions in Malakal to mitigate overcrowding, and outbreaks of disease, as well as maintain peace within the community living within the UN Protection of Civilians site.

In recent days, the Twic/Ngok Dinka conflict has created a new wave of refugees in Abyei, Warrap, and Northern Bahr El Ghazal.

Escalated fighting

Earlier, UN-appointed human rights experts sounded the alarm on the likelihood of violence escalating.

Yasmin Sooka, the chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, asked the international community to pay more attention to the violence proliferating at a local level all over South Sudan.

Ms Sooka said donors and member states must continue to monitor the peace agreement and security sector reform and ensure constitutional legislation is pushed through before elections.

“Without these steps, we are likely to see millions more South Sudanese displaced or crossing borders, creating havoc for neighbouring countries and aid agencies,” she said in a statement issued in Juba.

The UN experts said the parties to the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement for South Sudan signed onto a further two-year extension of the transitional governance arrangements, postponing elections until late 2024.

The Peace Agreement included a national consultation process on establishing three bodies. Consultations were held in mid-2022, but excluded millions of refugees.

The UN experts said after four years, none of the three proposed transitional justice bodies have come into being — the Commission on Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing; the Hybrid Court; or the Compensation and Reparation Authority.

Andrew Clapham, a member of the team, said survivors in South Sudan, told them that criminal accountability is the only way to guarantee their safety and peace in the country.

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France ex-president urges regional forces in DRC to be on the offensive

Former French President François Hollande says the regional force to be sent by the East African Community to the Democratic Republic of Congo must be offensive and attack the enemy from the start.

Hollande who flew to Bukavu from Kinshasa for two-day trip in South Kivu, eastern DRC, met with Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018.

But he used the trip to address the issue of the deployment of regional forces to eastern DRC to quell rebel attacks.

While his host of the day, Dr Mukwege, is very much opposed to the deployment of contingents of soldiers to DRC, Mr Hollande suggests that the regional force should be deployed for a “short duration”.

This “force must be offensive. It must be a force of action,” he said on Wednesday.

Hollande made the trip to attend the inauguration of a modern operating theatre at the Panzi hospital which is run by Dr Mukwege, who is being pushed by several people in DR Congo to run in the 2023 presidential election.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is preparing to host the contingents of the East African Community that will come to stem insecurity in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri regions in eastern DRC.

Burundian troops have already been on the offensive since August 15 in South Kivu, and President Félix Tshisekedi announced the arrival of Kenyan troops in the coming days. South Sudan has also said it has prepared 750 troops to go into the troubled eastern provinces of the DRC.

The presidents of the East African sub-region expressed their urgency to put an end to nearly 30 years of violence in the eastern DRC during the April 2022 conclave in Nairobi.

The former head of state believes that it is “necessary that in eastern Congo, France and several personalities work so that crimes do not go unpunished.”

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Ruto pledges wealth tax on tycoons to fix Kenya’s budget

Kenyan President William Ruto has revived a proposal to impose higher taxes on Kenya’s super-rich and high-income earners, endorsing the introduction of a wealth tax that failed to sail through Parliament over the past four years.

The idea is the latest in a long list of efforts to raise taxes on the super-rich as the new administration seeks to cut reliance on loans to fund the national budget amid the burgeoning public debt.

The President told Parliament in his inaugural speech on the floor of the House on Thursday that his administration will seek to raise taxes from the wealth accumulated by the richest Kenyans over getting revenues from workers and traders.

This sort of tax would be based on a person’s net worth after deducting their liabilities and would only apply to the richest citizens.

Different from many other kinds of taxes such as income tax, people with sufficient networth would owe wealth taxes even if they failed to take any action, like earning income or selling assets.

It would apply to all property such as real estate, cash, investments, business ownership and other assets, less any debts, and investors would owe the tax each year based on the market value of the assets.

“The economic principles of equitable taxation require that the tax burden reflects ability to pay. This is best achieved by a hierarchy that taxes wealth, consumption, income and trade in that order of preference. Our tax regime currently falls far short of this,” Dr Ruto said.

“We are over-taxing trade and under-taxing wealth. We will be proposing tax measures that begin to move us in the right direction,” he said.

This means the government will impose higher taxes on the rich, followed by excise taxes on consumption of items like beer, cigarettes and betting before targeting workers’ income tax and lastly traders for corporate and sales taxes.

Dr Ruto took oath of office this month after a hard-fought electoral contest, in which he promised he would create economic opportunities for the poor.

But he faces a narrow fiscal space to implement his policies, after the government of predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta ramped up public borrowing to fund infrastructure projects, with debt repayments taking more than 60 percent of taxes.

Dr Ruto’s administration seeks to channel government resources to industries that can create the most jobs, such as farming and small businesses, which will be offered concessional lending through the so-called Hustler Fund.

He plans to introduce the wealth tax first, which was first mooted in 2018, to finance his pro-poor plans, and looks set to face opposition among the class it proposes to target.

Last year, the Treasury said they were looking at fiscal changes that would go into the Finance Bill, including discussions over the wealth tax among many other fiscal reforms to boost revenues.

The Treasury then increased capital gains tax from five percent to 15 percent in the Finance Act 2022 that will take effect from January next year.

Proponents view the wealth tax as a way to boost the government’s public coffers by taking extra money from those who do not really need it.

They argue that such a tax generally only applies to the wealthiest, and it can be argued that the extra taxation will have zero impact on their quality of life.

Critics reckon that a wealth tax is difficult to administer, tends to encourage tax evasion, and has the potential to drive the wealthy away from countries that enforce it.

These caveats, coupled with debates about how to implement it fairly, perhaps explain why only a few countries in the world impose such a tax on their residents, analysts say.

Of 38 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, only three European countries levy a net wealth tax, including Norway, Spain, and Switzerland.

France and Italy levy wealth taxes on selected assets but not on an individual’s net wealth.

OECD countries that have collected revenue from net wealth taxes grew only slightly from eight in 1965 to a peak of 12 in 1996 to just five in 2020.

“In the past and to some extent even now people try to hide their assets through trusts,” said Nikhil Hira, a tax expert and partner at Kody Africa LLP, a financial consultancy.

Kenya could introduce a wealth tax for the high net worth individuals, who will pay a small share of their net worth.

It could take the form of a higher tax rate for high-income earners.

In 2018, the Treasury sponsored a Draft Income Tax Bill that sought to impose a higher maximum tax rate of 35 percent on income of more than Sh9 million per annum or Sh750,000 a month.

At the time, the top tax rate was 30 percent on all income exceeding Sh564,709 per annum or Sh47,059 a month.

The Treasury said it dropped the bid for the higher tax rate after collecting the views of the public.

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Tanzania, DR Congo rank poorly on digital life quality: report

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania are among the countries with the worst digital quality of life globally, occasioned by slow internet speed, high costs of internet, and other factors.

The 2022 Digital Quality of Life Index, produced by Dutch network company Surfshark, reveals that DRC citizens have the least digital wellbeing, out of the 117 countries surveyed, with Tanzania ranking 107.

The index measures the quality or speed and affordability of internet in the countries along with the availability and strength of electronic infrastructure, security, and government.

Kenya was ranked the highest in East Africa, but 78th globally, with Uganda coming second in the region and 98th globally. There was no data on Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan.

DRC came last, particularly in electronic infrastructure which assesses how developed and inclusive a country’s digital infrastructure is; and in electronic government that assesses how advanced and digitised the government services are.

Kinshasa also came last in electronic security, which measures how safe and protected people feel while in the digital space in the country. Uganda was ranked to have the second least affordable internet globally.

According to the Surfshark report, electronic infrastructure and government are the leading determinants of citizens’ digital well-being, as many countries that ranked low in these also ranked low in the overall index 92 percent of the time.

Internet affordability and quality are the least important factors of the quality of life, the report says.

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Health officials probe suspected Ebola case in western Kenya

Health officials in Kakamega County, western Kenya, are investigating a suspected case of Ebola.

The patient had recently travelled to eastern Uganda to visit relatives, officials said.

Read: Uganda Ebola outbreak: Here’s what you need to know

Mumias West Disease Surveillance Coordinator Boaz Gichana said in a statement released on Friday that the patient is currently at St Mary Hospital isolation unit awaiting laboratory tests.

Last week, Kenya issued an Ebola alert and called for screening of travellers at entry points on the border with Uganda following an outbreak in the neighbouring country.

South Sudan and Tanzania also heightened surveillance, especially at their borders with Uganda, while Rwanda has began screening travellers at the borders to prevent cross-border spread of Ebola.

Last month, Kenya put health officials on the border on high alert after the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was investigating a suspected case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. DRC then announced an Ebola outbreak, and has this week announced an end to its 15th outbreak after no more new cases of the disease were reported for 42 days.

Read: Ebola survivors to forego sex for 90 days

Uganda is currently battling a rise in infections and deaths caused by the Sudan strain, which currently has no vaccine. Health officials have urged residents to adhere to measures to prevent infection and spread of the virus.

Previous outbreaks and responses have shown that early diagnosis and treatment, optimised supportive care with fluid and electrolyte repletion, and treatment of symptoms, significantly improve survival rates of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.

Read: Uganda rules out Ebola lockdown

Also Read: Uganda closes clubs, limits gatherings to curb Ebola spread

The disease is usually introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope or porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

It is transmitted from person to person through contact with body fluids.

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Tanzanian wanted in Kenya for killing colleague over ugali

Kenyan police are looking for a Tanzanian suspected of stabbing his colleague at a gold-mining site in Narok in a dispute over a bowl of ugali.

Narok County Police Commander Kizito Mutoro said the two men were having supper after a long day at the Got Kabong mines in Transmara West on Thursday when the incident happened.

“It was reported that while they were taking the meal, an argument ensued between Mr Mungare Busene, 27, and another only identified Magige, 23, (both Tanzanians) over ugali they were eating,” Mr Mutoro said.

It is believed that Mr Busene picked up a kitchen knife and stabbed Mr Magige in the left leg, inflicting a serious deep injury.

“Mr Magige was rushed to Lolgorian Level Four Hospital, where he was pronounced dead while undergoing treatment,” Mr Mutoro said.

After the attack, the suspect went into hiding.

Police are investigating the incident and are pursuing the suspect.

The body of the victim was taken to the mortuary at the same hospital.

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Tanzanian Maasais lose case on relocation from game reserve

A regional court on Friday ruled that Tanzania’s decision to cordon off land for wildlife protection was legal, dealing a blow to Maasai pastoralists who had protested the move, two lawyers for the community said.

The nomadic community in Loliondo in the northern district of Ngorongoro has accused the government of trying to force them off their ancestral land in order to organise safaris and hunting expeditions.

Read: Tanzania removes Maasais out of Ngorongoro

But the government has rejected the accusations, claiming it wants to “protect” 1,500 square kilometres (580 square miles) of the area from human activity.

After several postponements, the Arusha-based East African Court of Justice upheld the government’s decision, a lawyer for the Maasai told AFP.

“Unfortunately, the court ruled against us,” Esther Mnaro said.

“They have delivered a very impugned judgement,” another lawyer, Yonas Masiaya, told AFP.

Read: Tanzania ends hunting deal with Dubai royal family

Kenyan Maasai community members protest in solidarity with their counterparts from Ngorongoro conservation in Tanzania facing eviction at Namanga town on June 17, 2022. PHOTO | NMG

The Maasai had asked the court to “stop the evictions, the arrest, detention or persecution” of their members and demanded a billion Tanzanian shillings ($430,000) as damages.

The three-judge bench said no compensation was due, Mnaro said.

They “decided that there… was no loss of property and none of these people were injured during the evictions, but our evidence and our witnesses had said totally different things.”

Mnaro said the community would decide whether to appeal.

There was no immediate reaction to the ruling from the government, which had previously argued that the Arusha court did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Also read: Court criticised for entertaining Serengeti case without evidence

Tensions have soared in recent months with violent clashes breaking out in June in Loliondo between police and Maasai demonstrators.

More than two dozen Maasai protesters were charged with murder over the death of a policeman in the clashes.

Tanzania has historically allowed indigenous communities such as the Maasai to live within some national parks, including the Ngorongoro conservation area, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

But the authorities say their growing population is encroaching on wildlife habitat and began moving the pastoralists out of Ngorongoro in June, calling it a voluntary relocation.

Read: ULIMWENGU: Trouble in Ngorongoro paradise and MPs see no evil

The relocation has sparked concern, with a team of UN-appointed independent rights experts warning in June that “it could jeopardise the Maasai’s physical and cultural survival.”

Since 1959, the number of humans living in Ngorongoro has shot up from 8,000 to more than 100,000.

The livestock population has grown even more quickly, from around 260,000 in 2017 to over one million today.

As climate change leads to prolonged droughts and low crop yields, pressure on the pastoralists has increased, forcing them into conflict with wildlife over access to food and water.

In 2009, thousands of Maasai families were moved out of Loliondo to allow an Emirati safari company, Ortelo Business Corporation, to organise hunting expeditions there.

Read: Dar to crackdown on illegal Kenyan Maasais

The government cancelled that deal in 2017, following allegations of corruption.

The East Africa Court of Justice came into force in 2001 to ensure adherence to the laws establishing the seven-nation East African Community bloc, made up of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

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Uganda’s Sarrai Group cleared to resume operations in Mumias Sugar

Uganda-based Sarrai Group has been cleared to resume operations at Mumias Sugar Company in western Kenya after the Court of Appeal temporarily suspended a High Court decision to kick the firm out of running the troubled miller.

The appellate court said in a ruling that they were persuaded that the Sarrai Group together with KCB-appointed administrator PVR Rao had demonstrated that their appeal will be rendered useless if the decision cancelling the lease in April is not suspended.

High Court judge Alfred Mabeya had cancelled the 20-year-lease granted to Sarrai and appointed Kereto Marima as the administrator, pending a process to pick a new company to lease the Mumias plant. The miller was placed under receivership by KCB Group in 2019 over mounting debts.

KCB argued that its rights as secured creditors will diminish if Mr Marima’s actions pursuant to his appointment are not stayed.

“Indeed, they fear that they may not be able to recover the securities. To our mind, these fears are not idle,” appellate judges Asike Makhandia, Jamila Mohammed and Sankale ole Kantai said.

In the intended appeal, KCB and Sarrai argue that the trial court erred in undermining its interest as a secured creditor by holding that public interest surpasses the interests of the creditors.

The lender said Mr Marima will continue with the process of administration including the taking over the assets that had been charged to secure Mumias’ indebtedness to KCB and deal with the assets in whichever manner he deems fit its detriment.

KCB Group further said there was no guarantee that it will be able to recover its securities, should the intended appeal succeed.

Sarrai, in an affidavit of Mr Rakesh Kumar Bvats, a director, said the revocation of the lease had far reaching economic and social consequences to several people in the western region like employees who will definitely lose their jobs, as well as farmers.

Lawyer Jackline Kimeto, who is also a creditor, however, opposed the application saying KCB and Sarrai had not approached the court with clean hands. She said they had all along deliberately failed to comply with several court orders and that granting the prayers sought would be used as a shield to perpetuate illegal activities and disobedience of court orders.

Ms Kimeto said suspending the decision and allowing Sarrai to re-enter the premises of Mumias and continue with activities based on a nullified lease poses more irreparable harm, substantial loss to all other stakeholders, in the event that the nullification is upheld by the court of appeal.

Last week, Justice Wilfrida Okwany who was hearing a contempt of court application against Sarrai Group for going on with operations at the company, withdrew from the case citing several reasons, including her transfer from the Commercial division.

Her withdrawal follows that of the presiding judge of the division Justice Mabeya, who disqualified himself from the case in July. The file will be taken to Justice Mabeya who will pick another judge to hear the application.

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Ebola survivors to forego sex for 90 days

Ebola survivors have to wait for at least three months before having sex again unless they use condoms as one the preventive ways to curb spread of the disease, the Ministry of Health has advised.

“Before returning home, Ebola patients will have their blood tested in the laboratory to ensure the virus is no longer in their body. However, people who have recovered from the illness should not have sex for at least three months unless they use condoms,” the Ministry of Health’s advisory reads in part.

The executive director of Uganda Virus Research Institute, Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, said although Ebola is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, in some studies, experts have found the virus in sperms after recovery.

Dr Ataro Ayella, a clinical epidemiologist, who has managed previous Ebola outbreaks in Bundibugyo in 2007, Liberia in 2014, and DR Congo in 2019, told Monitor in a separate interview yesterday that Ebola can be transmitted sexually and the virus can stay in the semen for up to three months. This means transmission can occur even if the survivor has no symptoms of the disease.

“Besides having got cured of the disease, a relapse or reinfection could occur… The reinfection depends on the immunity of the person and other co-existing diseases,” Dr Ayella added.

Scientists say studies done in Liberia indicate that a woman was infected with Ebola following sexual intercourse with a male Ebola survivor.

Dr Charles Olaro, the Ministry of Health’s director for curative services, said the Ebola virus hides in testes after recovery.

Asked when the three-month count down starts, Dr Olaro said “from the time they (survivors) get discharged”.

Dr Ayella explained that the virus can hide in other places such as backbone fluid and eyes.

“The nature of the virus gives it ability to survive for long in reserves in the body (brain, spinal fluid, semen, placenta and eyes) even when the patient is declared cured…The virus can be stored alive in the semen for long since it is conducive environment for its survival, unlike other body fluids,” Dr Ayella explained.

Several people who spoke to Monitor urged the government to conduct more sensitisation.

Ms Grace Aine, businesswoman in Kampala, said: “The Ministry needs to sensitise the population. I am sure not very many people know about this despite the number of Ebola outbreaks this country has had. I am sure people will abide if they know the risk involved, after all they are saying protected sex is okay.”

Mr Alex Ariho, a resident of Kampala, said: “This message needs to be taken to people who need it the most, the sex workers. Emphasise the need for protected sex since they are saying with protection, it’s okay.”

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Kenya Power to spend $331,000 in pilot transition to electric vehicles

State-owned Kenya Power has said it has started the process of phasing out vehicles that run on fossil fuels for electric ones as a way of adopting “sustainable ways of doing business.”

The company, mandated to distribute electricity to final retail consumers in the country, said in a statement on Tuesday that it has set aside $331,372 in this financial year to facilitate the pilot stage of the transition.

This first stage will involve the purchase of three electric vehicles, two pick-ups and one four-wheel-drive, and the construction of three electric vehicle charging stations in Nairobi, to be used by the company and for demonstration to the public.

According to the statement, Kenya Power has already invited bids for the construction of an e-mobility network infrastructure system (Enis) for the initial charging stations, which will allow payment through mobile money and credit cards.

Acting Managing Director Geoffrey Muli said the company is initiating this transition as a demonstration of its commitment to “substantially reduce its carbon footprint,” adding that they will also purchase electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers for its operations.

“We must play our rightful role to combat global warming by championing mitigation measures such as adoption of electric motorisation,” he said.

Mr Muli was speaking at the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi during the launch of electric two-wheelers, produced by Swedish firm Roam Motors, which are being introduced in the Kenyan market.

He said Kenya Power will purchase 50 such electric motorcycles in the medium term.

“The company has also established a liaison office, which acts as our one-stop shop, to champion the company’s e-mobility business,” Kenya Power said in the statement. “Through this office, Kenya Power is working with other stakeholders to support the development of the e-mobility eco-system.”

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Dar, Mombasa in race to attract more cargo business

Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, the largest ports in East Africa, are in a race to attract more sea bound cargo and imports into the region.

While Dar projects to handle 30 million tonnes by 2030, its competitor, Mombasa, is undergoing expansion to increase its capacity to 47 million tonnes.

Read: Competition from new East Africa ports boon for importers

These emerged during a visit by the board members of the East African Business Council (EABC) to Tanzania’s largest port, which last year handled 17.03 million tonnes.

“We envision to boost capacity to 30 million tonnes by 2030,” said the director general of Tanzania Port Authority (TPA) Plasduce Mbossa during the Friday visit.

TPA has set up a One Stop Centre at the Dar port housing import and export agencies to boost capacity. The logistics centre will improve the Dar es Salaam port performance, he said during a briefing to board members led by chairperson Angela Ngalula.

Read:Kenya seeks to regain fuel business from Dar with its new reserve in Mombasa

The board members visited the port for updates on trade facilitation activities at the Dar port, which has undergone various improvements recently.

The Dar port serves land-locked countries—Malawi, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda—and also handles more than 80 percent of cargo destined for inland Tanzania.

The port’s main competitor in the East African Community (EAC) bloc is Kenya’s Mombasa port, which also serves Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and other landlocked countries.

Read: Kinshasa enters shipping business, set to rock EA boats

According to information contained in its website, the Mombasa port is currently undergoing expansion to raise its capacity to 47 million tonnes by 2030.

Kenya has also given incentives to other states, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to keep doing business using the Mombasa port.

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Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, the largest ports in East Africa, are in a race to attract more sea bound cargo and imports into the region. While Dar projects to handle 30 […]

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Catholic priest in court over sexual abuse of students in Tanzania

A Catholic priest was arraigned Monday at the Resident Magistrate’s Court in Moshi over allegations of raping and sexually assaulting more than 10 children.

He had been in police custody since September 20.

His arraignment came after he was accused of giving a Standard Six pupil and a Form One student Tsh3,000 ($1.29) and Tsh5,000 ($2.14), respectively, for sexual favours.

The children had been attending First Holy Communion and Confirmation classes.

Regional Commissioner Nurdin Babu said “it is a disgraceful incident”.

Parents had raised the alarm that the priest had abused many students and planned to march in protest to Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa’s office before the priest was arrested.

Sources said that the parents had reported the allegations to the leadership of the Catholic Church in Moshi and to the police.

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A Catholic priest was arraigned Monday at the Resident Magistrate’s Court in Moshi over allegations of raping and sexually assaulting more than 10 children. He had been in police custody […]

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Uber, Bolt drivers in Kenya stage go-slow over commissions

Taxi drivers signed on to the Uber Kenya and Bolt platforms on Monday staged a go-slow in a move to push the firms to lower the commission charged on their fees.

The industrial action came just days after the new regulations to cap the commission charged by taxi-hailing firms at 18 percent took effect—which have been challenged in court by Uber, which maintains that the move will restrict flexibility on its revenue model, and stifle the ability to negotiate suitable commissions that will affect its investment, demand and competition.

Read: Bolt switches to corporate clients only in Tanzania

A section of the drivers told the Business Daily on Monday they were not accepting rider requests from the two apps in areas such as Eastlands, Kasarani, Nairobi CBD, Waiyaki way, and Kilimani area.

“We are asking Uber and Bolt to obey the law. Regulations were supposed to take effect on September 22. This is the backbone of our strike which has started today morning,” said Zachariah Mwangi, chairman of Organisation of Online Taxi Drivers and Digital Taxi Association of Kenya.

“The other problem we have is we don’t determine prices, the companies do. We are still operating with the same price when fuel prices were at Ksh97 ($0.80).”

Fuel costs in Kenya have shot up with petrol retailing at Ksh179.3 ($1.49) a litre and diesel at Ksh165.82 ($1.37) in Nairobi.

Read: Uber suspends operations in Tanzania pending ‘deal with authorities

Also read: Tanzania says Uber, Bolt agree to resume services

Uber Kenya told Business Daily it was aware of the go-slow by some drivers, and that it would continue engaging them on their concerns.

“We are aware that a small group of e-hailing drivers plan to go offline (not using the app). We respect drivers as valuable partners with a voice and a choice and we want drivers to feel they can talk to us about anything at any time,” the firm said.

“However, drivers are diverse in how they use the Uber app and it would be difficult for an individual or group to holistically represent every driver on the app.”

Read: Auctioneer’s hammer to fall on Uber cars

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) in June 20 published regulations putting the ceiling on commission charged by digital taxi operators in the country on drivers at 18 percent per trip.

The law was expected to take effect three months after the notice, as a move to cushion thousands of drivers who for years have cried out on declined earnings.

Also read: Uber taxi wars in Kenya highlight tax loopholes in charging technology

Uber, however, filed a petition with the High Court to suspend the regulations.

Uber charges 25 percent commission per single ride, while Bolt and Little platforms charge 20 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

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Uganda’s Ebola death toll hits 23

The death toll in Uganda resulting from the Ebola Sudan strain has reached 23, health officials have said.

Read: Ebola infections, deaths rise in Uganda

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the senior communications officer, said the latest situation report indicated that as of Monday the country has a cumulative 36 cases of Ebola, 18 of which are confirmed and the other 18 are probable.

“The deaths stand at 23, five confirmed and 18 are probable. In the last 24 hours, we registered two new cases and two more deaths,” he said.

Read: Uganda closes clubs, limits gatherings to curb Ebola spread

The Ebola taskforce officials in Mubende District, the epicenter of the outbreak, revealed that five out of the deaths have occurred at Mubende Regional Referral Hospital where they have set up an isolation centre, while the other cases were registered from the community.

Ms Rose Mary Byabasaija, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and head of the area Ebola taskforce, on Monday said that while the number of admissions at both the emergency and isolation facilities stands at 38, the confirmed cases are 16.

“It is unfortunate that we have a positive case among the seven people that escaped from the isolation facility at Mubende Hospital. We have now got clues that will possibly help us get the woman that escaped from the facility. Both the security and health surveillance teams are tracking down the escapees,” she added.

Read: Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

The taskforce has also beefed up security at Mubende Hospital to ensure that all Ebola cases are isolated from the surrounding community to prevent spread of the disease.

“We have requested for extra deployment from police at the hospital,” the RDC said.

Meanwhile, a spot check in public places such as markets in Mubende revealed that many people are not heeding to the government’s calls to take measures to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus. Most shops did not have hand washing facilities.

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The death toll in Uganda resulting from the Ebola Sudan strain has reached 23, health officials have said. Read: Ebola infections, deaths rise in Uganda Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the senior communications officer, […]

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Rwanda genocide ‘financier’ Felicien Kabuga trial to open in The Hague

Alleged Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga will go on trial in The Hague on Thursday, one of the last key suspects in the 1994 ethnic slaughter that devastated the small central African nation.

Kabuga’s trial will open at 0800 GMT before a UN tribunal, where he has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the Genocide against the Tutsi 28 years ago.

Read: Rwanda protests Kabuga trial delay at Hague court

Also read: Genocide survivors welcome decision to begin Kabuga’s trial

Prosecutors and the defence are expected to make their opening statements on Thursday and Friday, with evidence in the case to start the following Wednesday.

Kabuga’s lawyers entered a not guilty plea to the charges at a first appearance in 2020.

Once one of Rwanda’s richest men, prosecutors say the octogenarian allegedly helped set up hate media that urged ethnic Hutus to “kill Tutsi cockroaches” and funded militia groups in 1994.

Now in his mid-80s, Kabuga was arrested in France in May 2020 after evading police in several countries for the last quarter of a century.

He was then transferred to the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, set up to complete the work of the now defunct Rwanda war crimes tribunal.

Read: Rwandan genocide suspect Kabuga denounces charges as “lies”

Said to be in fragile health, Kabuga in August appeared before the judges in a wheelchair — and it was not known whether he’ll be in court on Thursday as judges are permitting him to attend the hearings via a video link.

Kabuga was originally scheduled to appear in court in Arusha, where the other arm of the IRMCT — also referred at as the MICT — resides, but judges had ruled he would remain in The Hague “until otherwise decided.”

Also read: Kabuga’s trial in Arusha will lift the lid off a dirty East African family secret

In June, the judges denied a defence objection, ruling Kabuga was indeed fit to stand trial.

Swift trial wanted  

The UN says 800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda in 1994 in a 100-day rampage that shocked the world.

Read: Felicien Kabuga: The quiet businessman from Byumba who took over Kigali

An ally of Rwanda’s then-ruling party, Kabuga allegedly helped create the Interahamwe Hutu militia group and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), whose broadcasts incited people to murder.

The radio station also identified the hiding places of Tutsis where they were later killed, prosecutors said in the indictment.

More than 50 witnesses are expected to appear for the prosecution, which said they needed about 40 hours to wrap up their case.

Prosecutors said Kabuga controlled and encouraged RTLM’s content and defended the station when the minister of information criticised the broadcasts.

Kabuga is also accused of “distributing machetes” to genocidal groups, and ordering them to kill Tutsis.

Read: Felicien Kabuga pleads not guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity

Later fleeing Rwanda, Kabuga spent years on the run using a succession of false passports.

Investigators say he was helped by a network of former Rwandan allies to evade justice.

Following his arrest in a small apartment near Paris, his lawyers argued that Kabuga, whose age is now given as 87 on the indictment, should face trial in France for health reasons.

But France’s top court ruled he should be moved to UN custody, in line with an arrest warrant issued in 1997.

Kabuga is one of the last top wanted suspects for the Rwandan genocide to face justice.

Others, including the man seen as the architect of the genocide, Augustin Bizimana, and former presidential guard commander Protais Mpiranya have both died.

Victims of the genocide have called for a swift trial for Kabuga saying “if he dies before facing justice, he would have died under the presumption of innocence.”

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Alleged Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga will go on trial in The Hague on Thursday, one of the last key suspects in the 1994 ethnic slaughter that devastated the small central African […]

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Ebola infections, deaths rise in Uganda

The death toll from Ebola in Uganda has risen to four, while the number of confirmed Ebola cases rose to 16, data from the Ministry of Health indicates.

Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona said that apart from the four confirmed deaths, 17 other fatalities are probable cases of Ebola infection. He added that the number of confirmed Ebola cases in Uganda rose to 16 at the weekend, with 18 others listed as probable cases of infection.

Read: Uganda closes clubs, limits gatherings to curb Ebola spread

“Cases reported outside Mubende include three in Kyegegwa and one in Kassanda but all linked to the index case in Mubende,” ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona said, adding that there were “no confirmed cases in [the capital] Kampala”.

Health authorities said samples from suspected cases are being analysed at the Uganda Virus Research Institute.

The ministry appealed to residents to adhere to preventive measures and report any suspected cases to nearby health facilities or authorities.

Read: Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

At the weekend, officials expressed concern over the gaps in contact tracing.

While delivering his message at the national taskforce meeting at Mubende District headquarters on Saturday, Lt Col Henry Kyobe, the Ebola incident commander, said they are tracing 213 contacts.

“As we speak today (Saturday) we have 213 cumulative contacts. Contact tracing is still a challenge madam. The biggest proportion, numbering 118 (55 percent), are health workers, meaning that community contacts have not all been listed which creates a challenge,” he said.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng demanded a robust contact tracing.

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The death toll from Ebola in Uganda has risen to four, while the number of confirmed Ebola cases rose to 16, data from the Ministry of Health indicates. Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel […]

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Kenya quashes order on compulsory use of SGR for cargo transport

Traders can now clear their cargo at the Port of Mombasa and choose the mode of transport to Nairobi and the hinterlands after Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) reverted custom services to the coastal city in line with a presidential decree.

KPA has issued a notice to quash a 2018 notification banning the nomination of cargo to Mombasa and compulsory use of the standard gauge railway (SGR) for ferrying cargo.

“This is, therefore, to notify all shipping lines that importers’ documentation of place of clearance and mode of transport for their goods shall be at their choice,” acting KPA Managing Director John Mwangemi said in the notice on Monday.

“Shipping lines are hereby advised to facilitate importers’ nomination of place of clearance, including port clearance, Kenya Revenue Authority’s licensed container freight stations (CFSs) and KPA’s inland container depots (ICDs). This notice supersedes the notice of 6th June 2018 on similar subject,” KPA said.

Shippers’ take

The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) chief executive Gilbert Lagat said the notice has ended confusion on the implementation of the presidential directive.

“This is very clear. We are happy with the directive. The place and choice of mode and place of clearance rest with the shipper. This is what we had been pushing for to allow cargo clearance and delivery to compete on efficiency, predictability and cost-effectiveness,” said Mr Lagat.

He added, “rail, road, port, CFSs and ICDs will compete on level ground. We expect the cost to respond to market dynamics as it is a win-win for all.”

President William Ruto issued a directive a fortnight ago ordering that all cargo clearance be reverted to Mombasa port.

Cargo transporters had been protesting the directive by former President Uhuru Kenyatta to ferry their goods to Nairobi or Naivasha via the SGR for onward clearance, saying it had raised the cost of doing business, with the costs passed on to consumers.

Kenya Transport Association chairman Newton Wang’oo said SGR should compete with roads on an equal opportunity basis, which will ultimately lower the cost of transport and improve services.

“This is a positive move. We have been fighting against forced rail age. Let us looks out for the implementation of the directive on the ground,” said Mr Wang’oo.

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Traders can now clear their cargo at the Port of Mombasa and choose the mode of transport to Nairobi and the hinterlands after Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) reverted custom services […]

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Stiffer penalties for human traffickers in Tanzania

Tanzania has approved amendments to the local anti-human trafficking laws to include tougher penalties such as lifetime jail-terms and fines of up to Tsh200 million ($86,000).

Attorney General Dr Eliezer Feleshi said the country needed to implement punitive measures to effectively shut down the vice.

Read: UK, Dar partner to fight child trafficking and abuse in Tanzania

Also read: 22 Kenyans rescued from human traffickers in Laos

The Human Trafficking (Amendment) Bill fixes a minimum jail term at 30 years for offenders of trafficking and hands judges free rein to impose a life sentence depending on the nature of the case.

“We have amended section 5(4) which showed that a convict may be jailed for 10 to 20 years to a minimum imprisonment of 30 years depending on the nature of the case,” the AG said last week.

Serial human traffickers may be handed life sentences while first offenders would pay Tsh100 million ($43,000) fine.

Read: Tackle escalating human trafficking in Horn of Africa, IOM says

Also read: UN uncovers human trafficking at refugee camp in Malawi

Najma Murtaza, the deputy chairperson for the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs had suggested a tougher punishment to repeat trafficking offenders (serial traffickers).

Another MP, Salome Makamba said human traffickers were wealthy people, hence the need to hit them hard with large sums in fines.

“I want us to slap bigger fines because these are people with no economic problems,” she said.

Human traffickers are paid between $5,000 and $15,000 to transport a single person, mostly from Ethiopia and Somalia, through Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique to southern Africa states, a bulletin by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) indicates, suggesting existence of networks in these countries who collude to traffic people.

Read: Burundi, South Sudan: East Africa’s weak link in human trafficking

Also read: Human trade is alive and thriving across East Africa

The IOM estimates that over 15,000 illegal immigrants pass through Tanzania every year, mostly from Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi and Rwanda on transit to South Africa and its neighbouring states.

Other key destinations for their human cargoes are Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India and China, data from IMO showed.

Read: Covid-19 fueling rise in human trafficking, UN warns

Victims of serial traffickers are women and children for domestic work (household), crop farms, mines and the informal business sector.

Tanzania is a leading transit route for trafficking due to its geographical position and longer and porous land borders and the Indian Ocean routes with pirate ports in Zanzibar, Tanga, and Mtwara.

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Tanzania has approved amendments to the local anti-human trafficking laws to include tougher penalties such as lifetime jail-terms and fines of up to Tsh200 million ($86,000). Attorney General Dr Eliezer […]

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TotalEnergies walks a tightrope as fresh hurdles threaten to delay pipeline project

International oil major TotalEnergies will on October 10 answer to charges of environmental and human rights abuse before the European Union parliament in Brussels in a new threat to the actualisation of its East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) and related upstream oil projects in Uganda’s Lake Albert region.

The European parliament has summoned chief executive Patrick Pouyanné to Brussels to justify the project that the lawmakers denounced last week.

He will appear before the parliamentary Committee on Environment, Food and Natural Resources, as well as that of Human Rights. The outcome will determine how the company navigates this latest crisis.

Hit by opposition from environmentalists on one side and beleaguered by financiers on the other, Total is now walking a tightrope as it pushes ahead with the Eacop.

Last week, the European Union parliament passed a resolution calling for the French oil major and its joint venture partners to delay the projects by one year, to address environmental and human rights concerns.

That decision was dismissed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who said the country will look for alternatives if Total obeys the European Parliament.

The oil company, siding with President Museveni, has also vowed that the projects – now in the development phase – will not be halted.

As Total pondered how to navigate this crisis, President Museveni was on a warpath with the company, whose 62 percent stake makes it the biggest shareholder in Eacop. Uganda National Oil Corporation (UNOC) and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation own 15 a percent stake each, with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) owning eight percent shareholding.

First, while meeting ruling party MPs’ caucus on September 16, the president warned that should TotalEnergies cave in to pressure from the EU parliament and halt Eacop or pull out of the project agreement, he is ready to drag them to the international court of arbitration.

He later tweeted dismissing the EU parliament’s resolution but more significantly, he fired a warning shot at the French oil giant.

“We should remember that TotalEnergies convinced me about the pipeline idea; if they choose to listen to the EU parliament, we shall find someone else to work with,” read the tweet on September 16.

Total is a corporate citizen of the EU and could be swayed by the lawmakers.

However, it is obvious that the EU parliament’s resolution has shaken government officials in Uganda’s ministry of Energy, as well as those at TotalEnergies and the Eacop Company, who have all previously been very economic with information. They are all now scrambling to volunteer information about the project, either through media briefing or on their websites.

For example, the Eacop Company this week uploaded on its portal the status of compensation of project affected persons (PAPS) – a key tenet on which the EU censure is partly based, as well as the environmental and social impact assessment.

Before the Brussels resolution, this information was not available.

Displaced persons

With construction slated to start by end of this year, only 331 out of a total of 9,513 Eacop’s PAPs in Tanzania will be physically displaced and have been selected for replacement housing, but the website says “construction of these houses is ongoing” without giving completion timelines.

In Uganda, out of 3,648 PAPs, only 203 will be physically displaced, and majority of these have elected for replacement housing. These too are under construction according to the website, but no completion dates are given.

The EU parliament resolution puts the figure of those affected at more than 100,000 – mainly farmers, who are already being displaced from their lands without prior and fair compensation, a number that the resolution also quotes as putting communities at imminent risk of displacement.

Uganda government agencies are also sweating to dispel claims that Eacop will cross numerous protected ecosystems, which will be impacted by the heated pipe operating at 50 degrees Celsius. Officials counter that there only five small rivers and out of the 1,443km of the pipeline, only eight percent is a forest reserve.

Protected areas

The EU resolution called for an end to the extractive activities in protected and sensitive ecosystems, including the shores of Lake Albert, referring to the 132 wells that Total plans to dig into the Murchison Falls National Park.

“They will find it very hard to navigate past this,” said Omar Elmawi, co-ordinator of the Stop Eacop campaign, a network of organisations opposed to the project.

“This project has many problems. The biggest amongst them is the human rights violations,” he added.

EU parliament resolutions often bite those targeted if the European Council, the arm that implements policy, adopts them. So far, the council has said little.

TotalEnergies has kept a brave face in the face of the EU parliamentary resolution’s far reaching ramifications, which could put on hold the $10 billion investment.

The project was signed off in February this year by TotalEnergies with joint venture partners CNOOC and Uganda National Oil Company.

Since the resolution was passed on September 15, the French oil giant has played the sovereignty card, tweeting that Uganda and Tanzania are sovereign states that have made the strategic choice to exploit their natural resources to contribute to the development of their countries, and as such, are not bound by resolutions of the EU parliament.

“TotalEnergies recalls the significance of the Lake Albert/Eacop project for Uganda and Tanzania, and we shall do our utmost to ensure the project is carried out in an extremely exemplary manner in terms of transparency, shared prosperity, social and economic progress and sustainable development, including the environment and respect for human rights,” said Pouyanné.

“The EU resolution to stop the construction of pipeline is not binding on all nations in the world, Europe, European Commission or even a sovereign country like Uganda or Tanzania,” said Ali Ssekatawa, the director of Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Uganda Petroleum Authority.

“The progression of our project will go ahead, and even rigs that are needed to extract oil have reached Mombasa, and efforts are underway to bring them to Hoima and Buliisa so that they start operating,” Ssekatawa added.

Sticking with schedule

Indeed, executives of TotalEnergies and state-owned UNOC say the projects will proceed according to schedule, with site preparation for the two upstream oil production infrastructure at Kingfisher and Tilenga currently underway.

The joint venture partners – TotalEnergies, CNOOC and UNOC – target commercial production of oil and gas in 2025, and are prepared to defy EU calls to delay the project.

The projects main infrastructure is a $5 billion 1,443km long pipeline from Hoima in western Uganda to the Tanzania port of Tanga.

The EU resolution piles on a series of financial and reputational crises that Eacop faced as well as protests in several cities over the project. There were also delays and postponement due to tax disputes between Uganda and TotalEnergies.

For instance, the shareholders were expected to announce financiers that would put in the project’s debt financing before end of July 2022, according to Peter Muliisa, the chief legal and corporate affairs officer at UNOC.

But UNOC chief Proscovia Nabbanja says the shareholders are yet to reach financial close for the project and are still raising equity contributions, which will make up 40 percent of the required $5 billion, while the remaining chunk is debt financing, which “is proceeding as planned.”

She revealed that all International Finance Corporation standards on the environmental and social impact assessment, land acquisition process and technical standards – which are key to obtaining financing – have been achieved and verified by independent auditors hired by lenders.

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International oil major TotalEnergies will on October 10 answer to charges of environmental and human rights abuse before the European Union parliament in Brussels in a new threat to the […]

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Rwanda, DR Congo differ on M23 threat, offer parallel solutions in French mediation

Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo agree that M23 and other armed militia are a major security threat and are hurting bilateral ties. However, the two countries are prescribing different solutions to the problem.

This week in New York, presidents Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame met under mediation of French President Emmanuel Macron. They agreed to resume talks on how to tackle the M23 threat.

“The two presidents agreed to act together to obtain, as soon as possible, the withdrawal of the M23 from all occupied regions and the return of displaced people to their homes, with the support of the United Nations and their partners in the African Union, the East African Community and the Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR),” the DR Congo presidency said in a statement.

The dispatch said President Kagame and President Tshisekedi “have also agreed to intensify their co-operation in the long term to fight against impunity and put an end to the action of armed groups in the Great Lakes region, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). These efforts will take place within the framework of existing regional peace initiatives, including the Nairobi process.”

Kigali did not release the “joint statement” but indicates that the leaders had discussed solutions to the conflict in the DR Congo’s eastern region.

The New York meeting, however, was preceded by harsh words for Rwanda by President Tshisekedi in a speech on Tuesday at the UN General Assembly.

He said that Rwanda was undermining peace efforts in the DRC.

“Despite my goodwill for the search of peace, some neighbours have found no better way to thank us than to aggress and support armed groups that are ravaging eastern Congo,” he said.

President Tshisekedi added: “In defiance of international law, [Rwanda] has once again not only interfered in the DR Congo since March by direct incursions of its armed forces, but also occupies localities in North Kivu province by an armed terrorist group, the M23, to which it provides massive support in terms of equipment and troops.”

President Kagame hit back a day later, noting that the insecurity situation in eastern DRC had exposed Rwanda to “cross border attacks that are entirely preventable”.

“The blame game does not solve the problems,” he said in his speech to the UN General Assembly.

“There is an urgent need to find the political will to finally address the root cause of instability in eastern DR Congo. These challenges are not insurmountable and solutions can be found. This would ultimately be much less costly in terms of both money and human lives,” President Kagame added.

Tensions have persisted, with officials from both governments telling The EastAfrican that no progress has been registered since the height of hostilities earlier this year.

“There is no improvement in relations at all. DR Congo has insisted on Rwanda as its scapegoat for the insecurity in the east, even when they have so many rebel groups operating there,” a Rwandan official said on condition of anonymity.

Kinshasa sees Rwanda as a state aggressor, particularly with the capture of Bunagana town by the M23 rebels. Rwanda sees the DRC as a supporter of former genocide masterminds FDLR group, which is hiding in DR Congo.

“Bunagana has to be free for RwandAir to be allowed to resume flights to DR Congo. This is DR Congo saying, ‘M23 is Rwanda’,” a DRC official told The EastAfrican.

Takeover

Since June, M23 rebels have controlled Bunagana town in the North Kivu province that borders Uganda.

The advance of M23 culminated in the suspension of RwandAir flights to the DRC, as well as the shelling of rockets into Rwandan territory by the Congolese army.

This week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told France 24, that the only way to achieve peace is through “serious” discussions between the DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.

“We need to have a joint perspective to avoid this situation that always takes us backwards when we make progress.

“These countries need to understand each other. These countries must co-operate effectively for the security of the Congo and also to guarantee security in Rwanda and Uganda.”

The DRC and Rwanda had opened dialogue under a Joint Commission. But the two countries have only had one meeting, in late July. Previously, the Joint Commission had not met for 10 years.

After the resurgence of the M23 rebels, this year the DRC accused Rwanda of supporting the Congolese rebels militarily and in the supply of arms.

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Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo agree that M23 and other armed militia are a major security threat and are hurting bilateral ties. However, the two countries are prescribing […]

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Uganda increases surveillance as it confirms six more Ebola cases

Uganda’s Ministry of Health on Thursday reported six new cases of Ebola, raising the total number of confirmed cases to seven.

On Tuesday, the country confirmed the first fatality from the disease after a 24-year-old man died in Mubende District, central Uganda, and was confirmed to have been infected with the virus.

“As of today, we have seven confirmed cases – one confirmed Ebola death and seven probable [Ebola] deaths. We have listed 43 contacts [of the victims] and we are doing contact tracing,” said Dr Henry Kyobe, the Ebola Incident Commander.

Read: Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

He added that they forecast an increase in infections but actions are underway to protect the population and health workers.

“There are trial drugs using the monoclonal antibody technology. Largely, the treatment is mainly on supportive care. This [Sudan] strain has no vaccine,” Dr Kyobe said.

“For now we are concentrating on making sure we inform the population about what it is, guiding them on the measures to be able to protect [themselves], guiding them to show us where contacts are –identify them to be able to get patients early in care.”

Read: Kenya on high alert after Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Also read: South Sudan on high alert after Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Meanwhile, health authorities in Uganda are increasing surveillance and contact tracing of Ebola cases, widening their nets to many more parts of the country in a bid to control the spread of disease.

Health ministry spokesperson, Emmanuel Ainebyoona, told The East African on Thursday that the ministry had mapped out 13 districts, in the proximity of the Mubende epicentre, for contact tracing with more than 42 contacts identified by Thursday.

“We have also deployed our rapid response teams to all these districts which will orient health workers and prepare them for a possible outbreak,” he said.

The rapid response units will also be tasked with activating district health task forces, risk communication to communities and evaluation of laboratory preparedness in all the 13 districts earmarked as vulnerable.

Earlier in the week, Dr Diana Atwine, Uganda’s Permanent Secretary at the Health ministry, expressed worry over the fact that the country only has in store vaccines for the Zaire strain that has twice affected it, but not for the current Sudan strain it now faces.

According to Mr Bayo Fatunmbi, the head of disease prevention and control at the World Health Organization office in Kampala, vaccines for the Sudan Strain are currently being tested.

The Sudan strain was first recorded in Sudan in 1976 and in Uganda in 2011.

Uganda has experienced three Ebola outbreaks with its deadliest being that of 2000 that killed hundreds of people, including the lead medic Dr Matthew Lukwiya.

Around the country public places, authorities have heightened surveillance and are encouraging hand washing and proper disposal of waste.

In Mubende district which is the current epicentre of the outbreak, local leaders have ordered markets and entertainment places to close while crowded parties and burial are being restricted.

On Wednesday, the ministry of health issued new measures and standard operating procedures to inform national response to curb the spread of the contagion to both health workers and the public.

These measures include hand hygiene and proper use of Personal Protective Equipment; cleaning and waste management; safety with laboratory samples; managing exposure to the virus; burial protocol; and reducing home transmission risk.

Uganda’s neighbours Kenya and South Sudan have already heightened surveillance for the disease after Kampala confirmed its first case earlier in the week.

South Sudan has stepped up vigilance along its borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ainebyona said that Uganda is currently not worried about the border areas since the outbreak is far from border districts.

Ebola is a highly contagious disease transmitted to people from animals and rapidly spreads through human-to-human infection.

First identified in 1976 in the DRC, the virus, whose natural host is the bat, has since set off a series of epidemics in Africa, killing around 15,000 people.

Human transmission is through body fluids, with the main symptoms being fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments.

People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

At present, there is no licensed medication to prevent or treat Ebola, although a range of experimental drugs are in development and thousands have been vaccinated in the DRC and some neighbouring countries.

The worst epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 alone. The DRC has had more than a dozen epidemics, the deadliest killing 2,280 people in 2020. It is currently battling another outbreak

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Uganda’s Ministry of Health on Thursday reported six new cases of Ebola, raising the total number of confirmed cases to seven. On Tuesday, the country confirmed the first fatality from […]

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22 Kenyans rescued from human traffickers in Laos

Kenyan authorities on Friday warned against applying for online jobs in South East Asian countries after it emerged hundreds of East Africans are falling victim to trafficking.

The caution came as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had rescued 22 Kenyans, a Burundian and Ugandan, who had managed to raise distress calls from Laos.

Read: Kenya ‘overwhelmed’ by job scam victims in Myanmar

Also read: Tackle escalating human trafficking in Horn of Africa, IOM says

The rescued victims told authorities that hundreds more were still inside the Asian country, having been duped to go for hospitality and teaching jobs only to end up trapped.

“The government in liaison with the Government of Laos and IOM (International Organization for Migration) has rescued 24 nationals, among them a Ugandan and a Burundian, from trafficking cartels in Laos as more, still trapped in Myanmar and Laos, call for help,” the Ministry said on Friday.

Read: US offers $2m reward for two Kenyan ‘traffickers’

The 24 who were rescued have since been repatriated with the help of HAART Kenya, the IOM, and Laos government.

Earlier, 13 other Kenyans were rescued from traffickers in Myanmar .

“It is now emerging that there could be hundreds of mostly young Kenyans working in ‘Fraud Factories’ in South East Asia.

“More worrying is intelligence information that some of the factories may be facilities for extracting and storing human organs.”

Read: UK, Dar partner to fight child trafficking and abuse in Tanzania

Also read: UN uncovers human trafficking at refugee camp in Malawi

Kenya says the trafficking reflects the widening network of cartels to the region, taking advantage of joblessness and vulnerability.

Neither Kenya, Uganda nor Burundi have embassies in Laos, and Kenya had to coordinate the rescue from its diplomatic mission in Bangkok.

Traditionally, Kenya has had to deal with continual claims of mistreatment of its nationals working as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, including Bahrain.

Read: Burundi, South Sudan: East Africa’s weak link in human trafficking

But it has this year been receiving distress calls from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

“They (cartels) have established local networks and gangs that help them either lure the victims or transport them through various countries in the region,” the ministry added.

“This new breed includes young and tech savvy individuals, well-educated, computer literate, and multilingual.”

Read: Covid-19 fueling rise in human trafficking, UN warns

Once in the trafficked countries, the victims who are not tech savvy are offered training in computer applications for 10 days before commencing ‘work’.

The work is mostly cybercrime and sextortion, according to survivors.

The cartels reportedly lure them to the jobs by promising hefty perks, including an offer of $2,000 per month. However, they are soon only overworked, underpaid and given little rest.

Read: Human trade is alive and thriving across East Africa

Those who want to quit are told to pay $15,000 “compensation for the expenses the cartels used to traffic the victims.”

“[The government] warns Kenyans to stop applying for online jobs that are advertised in South East Asia without authenticating them, as this exposes them to dangers, including possibility of losing body organs,” MFA said.

“There are no sales and customer care jobs in Thailand or other countries in the ASEAN region.”

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Kenyan authorities on Friday warned against applying for online jobs in South East Asian countries after it emerged hundreds of East Africans are falling victim to trafficking. The caution came […]

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Campaigners want health funding cuts reversed amid Africa crises

Global leaders have been challenged to reverse funding cuts to vital health services for women, children and adolescents caused by Covid-19, conflict and climate change.

Civil society groups and health professionals, speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, said there was an urgent need for targeted investment in programmes and policies to tackle the devastating social and economic impact of crises, including the food crisis in Africa and the conflict in the Democratic of Congo (DRC).

 “It is essential for citizens to be heard at the highest levels of government and leadership. Leaders need to understand what people want, and to play their part as champions in creating robust and responsive health systems and communities,” said Helen Clark, the board chair of Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), at a breakfast meeting on Thursday.

Covid-19 has led to food price hikes and the overall rise in the cost of living in most African countries. Some countries have been limiting access to food and other essentials, even if food is available at increased prices in local markets.

Read: Drought-ravaged Horn of Africa in need of funding: envoy

About 5.5 million children in East Africa are facing high levels of malnutrition due to the compounding effects of Covid-19, intense drought, and the Ukraine crisis. About 97 million more people are living on less than $1.90 a day because of the pandemic, increasing the global poverty rate from 7.8 percent to 9.1 percent.

Data from the World Health Organisation, for instance, shows that in 2021 alone, 25 million children did not receive the basic vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis on account of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Further, conflict in Africa increased women’s mortality by 112 deaths per 100,000 person-years which translates to a 21 percent increase above the baseline.

The DRC continues to witness one of the most complex and long-standing humanitarian crises arising from conflict. More than 27 million people face severe and acute food insecurity, with nearly 5.5 million IDPs forced to move sometimes several times. Some 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers are hosted in neighboring countries.

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KCB to finalize purchase of Congo lender by year end

KCB Group expects to finalise the acquisition of Democratic Republic of Congo lender Trust Merchant Bank (TMB) by the end of the year after receiving shareholder approval for the transaction.

The tier-one lender said the shareholders’ nod at an Extra Ordinary General Meeting (EGM) held in Nairobi on Wednesday will see it accelerate the acquisition, which it first revealed last month.

KCB, which already has operations in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan, wants to acquire an 85 percent stake in TMB and plans to buy the remaining shares within two years.

Read: EA’s top banks scramble for a piece of Congo’s market

The deal will be priced at 1.49 times the book value or net assets of the DRC lender, which as of the end of 2021 stood at Ksh14.15 billion. This would value the takeover at Ksh17.9 billion at this multiple.

“The approval of the transaction demonstrates the confidence our shareholders have in the financial and strategic benefits of the transaction and the value it provides our regional clients and communities,” said KCB Group CEO Paul Russo.

“The transaction is expected to close before the end of the year, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.”

The deal will see KCB go to head-to-head with Equity, which entered the DRC in 2015 through a buyout of ProCredit Bank and increased market share in 2020 after acquiring another lender– Banque Commerciale du Congo (BCDC).

TMB is one of DRC’s largest banks, with Ksh181.5 billion ($1.5 billion) in total assets. The lender, which is headquartered in the DRC’s second largest city Lubumbashi, began operations in 2004.

As of June last year, the lender commanded an 11 percent market share in the DRC, having established 109 branches in the country and a representative office in Belgium.

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KCB Group expects to finalise the acquisition of Democratic Republic of Congo lender Trust Merchant Bank (TMB) by the end of the year after receiving shareholder approval for the transaction. […]

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East Africa exporters brace for impact as Suez Canal tolls rise

The increase in transit tolls for ships passing through the Suez Canal by 15 percent is likely to impact exports to Europe from the region, the shippers warned.

Egypt has raised the fees for all vessel types, except bulk and cruise ships, whose fees will increase by 10 percent from next year.

Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie said in a statement that the increment will take effect from January 1, 2023.

The authority cited rising energy prices, freight rates, and daily charter rates for ships, which are predicted to continue next year.

“The (tolls) increase is inevitable and is a necessity in light of the current global inflation, which translates into increased operational costs and the costs of the navigational services provided in the canal,” said Mr Rabie.

The key waterway connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean accounts for nearly 10 percent of global maritime trade.

The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) chief executive Gilbert Lagat said exports from East Africa destined to Europe would be the most affected.

“East Africa depends on most of its imports from Asia, which uses an alternative channel, whereas goods being exported from the region have to pass through the Suez Canal. This will complicate export, and some ships might opt to change their destinations considering the economies of scale,” said Mr Lagat.

He added, “We hope as shippers we shall come up with solutions or renegotiate with the authority for better rates.”

Exports to Europe from the region are mainly agricultural commodities such as coffee, tea, tobacco, cut flowers, fruits, vegetables and fish. Others are textile and clothing, and handicrafts, among others.

The Suez Canal is the main route used by vessels from Europe to the East African ports.

Daily charter rates for crude oil tankers increased on average in 2022 by 88 percent compared to 2021, while daily charter rates for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers rose on average by 11 percent during this year compared to the year earlier.

Mr Rabie said the current increased energy prices also impacted the authority’s fees calculations.

“The continued rise in crude oil prices above the level of $90 per barrel and the rise in the average prices of LNG above the level of $30 per million thermal units have led to a surge in the average prices of ship bunkers,” he said.

Consequently, there was an increase in the savings that ships achieve by transiting through the Suez Canal compared to other alternative routes, he explained.

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The increase in transit tolls for ships passing through the Suez Canal by 15 percent is likely to impact exports to Europe from the region, the shippers warned. Egypt has raised […]

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Kenya’s Ruto: Climate crisis ‘Africa’s biggest problem’

Kenya’s President William Ruto on Wednesday asked continental colleagues to see the climate crisis as Africa’s biggest problem, suggesting more financial focus on taming its effects.

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the President indicated while the world should focus on rebuilding from the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises, Africa may find itself hurt more by climate change, in spite of contributing the least of its causes.

“While these are important issues affecting the entire world, the greatest challenge that connects our world is Climate Change: unfortunately, due to many pressing concerns, CoP27 has not been given the prominence it deserves,” he told a gathering of African leaders at the continental meeting of the 3rd Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC).

The Committee is expected to push for one voice for the continent ahead of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (CoP27) due in Egypt in November this year.

Africa produced under four percent of greenhouse gases, the pollutants that have caused global warming over the past decades, contributing to irregular climate such as frequent floods, longer droughts as well as the spread of pests like desert locusts.

Adaptation funding

Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current African Union chairman, said Africa must be given its adequate share of resources to adapt to climate change.

“It is legitimate, fair and equitable that Africa, the continent that pollutes the least and lags furthest behind in the industrialisation process, should exploit its available resources to provide basic energy, improve the competitiveness of its economy and achieve universal access to electricity,” President Sall told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. 

“We see adaptation funding not as aid, but as a contribution by industrialised countries to a global partnership of solidarity, in return for efforts by developing countries to avoid the polluting patterns that have plunged the planet into the current climate emergency,” he said.

Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, developed countries are to raise $100 million annually for mitigation programmes in developing countries. The pledge has never been fulfilled, however.

An earlier dispatch from Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had indicated President Ruto would insist on more focus on climate change because Kenya sees most other problems tied to it. According to President Ruto, African countries have already been doing their bit to ensure mitigation, including 10 percent of GDP annual allocations.“

African countries will need financial and technical support for a just transition to low carbon, clean technologies to drive our industrial and productive sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure development and job creation.

“It is my hope that we will, at CoP27, call for enhanced adaptation efforts, fulfilment and implementation of pledges.

“Building resilience to address the multiple crises and risks, while ensuring the impact of climate change on Africa remain high on the global political agenda, and must remain a priority for CAHOSCC.”

President Ruto gave his maiden speech to the Assembly, as head of state, on Wednesday night. Watch here

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Kenya’s President William Ruto on Wednesday asked continental colleagues to see the climate crisis as Africa’s biggest problem, suggesting more financial focus on taming its effects. Speaking on the sidelines […]

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Emmanuel Macron meets Paul Kagame and Felix Tshisekedi over DRC war

French President Emmanuel Macron has met with the leaders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, seeing progress in easing tensions that have flared in recent months.

On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Macron on Wednesday invited Rwandan President Paul Kagame to lunch with his DR Congo counterpart Felix Tshisekedi, who a day earlier had accused Kigali of backing rebel attacks in his country.

Read: Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda, again, of backing rebels

The three leaders together “noted their concerns about the resurgence of violence in the east of the DRC,” the French presidency said in a statement.

France said that Kagame and Tshisekedi agreed on the need for the pullout of M23 rebels from the strategic town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border.

The three leaders want to “intensify lasting cooperation to fight impunity and put an end to activities of armed groups in the Great Lakes region,” including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, the statement said.

Kagame’s government has demanded a crackdown on the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu group that Kigali views as a threat due to links to the 1994 genocide.

But the M23, a separate group in the violence-wracked east of DR Congo, has been the focus of recent tensions. 

In his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Tshisekedi alleged that Rwanda has provided “massive support” to M23, which he blamed for the shooting down of a UN peacekeeping helicopter in March, in which eight people died.

“Rwanda’s involvement and responsibility are no longer debatable,” he said.

Kagame called for calm in his own address on Wednesday.

“There is an urgent need to find a political need to find and address the root cause of instability in eastern DRC,” Kagame said.

“The blame game does not solve the problems. These challenges are not insurmountable and solutions can be found,” he said.

“This would ultimately be much less costly in terms of both money and human lives.”

Kagame’s government has long rejected allegations of backing the M23, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on an August visit to Kinshasa, said there were “credible” reports of Rwandan support.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has met with the leaders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, seeing progress in easing tensions that have flared in recent months. On the […]

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Kenya exports to Uganda drop as rest of EAC soar

Kenya’s exports to Tanzania grew the sharpest among all East Africa Community (EAC) markets in the six months to June, new data shows, outshining the country’s slumped performance in its top trading destination, Uganda.

Statistics by the Central Bank of Kenya shows Kenya’s exports to Uganda dipped 8.5 per cent to Ksh46.77 billion ($386.3 million) during the half year compared to a similar period in 2021—breaking a growth trend in all EAC markets including Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Sudan.

Kenya’s exports to Tanzania jumped the highest by 46 per cent to Ksh28.66 billion ($236.7 million) extending a good trade run between the pair amid ongoing elimination of non-tariff barriers. There was a 39 per cent growth in Kenya’s exports to Rwanda in the half year to June to hit Ksh19.28 billion ($159.2 million). Kenya’s exports to South Sudan were up 34.11 per cent to Ksh13.73 billion ($113.4 million) in the period.

Although Uganda remains Kenya’s main export market, frequent trade tiffs over items such as sugar, eggs and milk have often soured trade. For instance, in June Uganda accused Kenya of sparking a fresh trade row by reintroducing a levy on eggs from the neighbouring country.

Uganda said Kenya is now taxing its eggs at a rate of Ksh72 ($0.59) a tray, bringing back a levy that had been suspended last December following bilateral talks between Kampala and Nairobi. The latest row came at a time when the two countries are yet to resolve a long-standing dispute on milk after Kenya barred Uganda’s dairy products in 2019.

Kenya had in the last two years restricted exports of poultry and dairy products from Uganda, straining the relationship between the duo. The issue on poultry was resolved after Uganda threatened to ban Nairobi from exporting its goods to the landlocked neighbor. In 2020, Kenya barred sugar from Uganda and sugarcane, costing traders who were exporting the raw material to sugar mills billions of shillings as the crop was left to rot on trucks at the border.

Contrastingly, Kenya’s trade with Tanzania has grown steadily in the past years in the wake of improved relations between the two countries after years of feuds that at one point resulted in retaliatory measures such as trade bans.

Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Tanzanian counterpart, Samia Suluhu ended persistent strained trade ties between the two largest economies in the six-nation EAC bloc which have, for years, hindered the smooth flow of goods and services.

Data by the KNBS shows that the value of Kenya’s exports to Tanzania jumped 43.39 percent to Ksh45.6 billion ($376.6 million) in 2021 compared to the previous year. Tanzania’s exports to Kenya on the other hand grew 95.3 percent last year—nearly double-to Ksh54.47 billion ($449.9 million) last year.

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Kenya’s exports to Tanzania grew the sharpest among all East Africa Community (EAC) markets in the six months to June, new data shows, outshining the country’s slumped performance in its […]

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Kenya's President William Ruto. PHOTO | FILE

Ruto pursues ‘new partnerships’ with US investors

Kenya’s President William Ruto says he is seeking to improve the bilateral trade relations with the US and establish “new relationships and strategic partnerships” with American businesspeople in his efforts to improve the country’s economy.

According to a statement by State House, the president, who is currently in New York city for the United Nations General Assembly, was hosted to a “high-level business roundtable” by the US Chamber of Commerce, a lobby representing American businesses and organisations.

“Participants explored ways in which the US business community can partner with Kenyan industries to achieve the President’s vision and development agenda,” the dispatch reads.

Dr Ruto said Kenya is ready for investments and that the partnerships with American businesses will help improve the country’s economic and social transformation.

“Investors can predict the future of Kenya because it’s a democratic country. We have demonstrated as the people of Kenya that the rule of law underpins public affairs,” he said.

The president also held separate talks on fertilizer production and green energy “to enhance agricultural production, create jobs and develop a more resilient economy,” but State House didn’t specify the attendees of this meeting.

President Ruto had vowed to reduce the cost fertiliser by nearly half during his inauguration on September 13, highlighting this as one of his administration’s key priorities and a strategy to bring down the cost of living in the country.

He also said his government “commits to create a business-friendly environment, eradicate barriers that hamper business development and growth, and make Kenya one of the most compelling and attractive business destinations.”

The US is the second leading destination for Kenyan exports, with data from the World Bank estimating that Nairobi exported about $509 million worth of goods to the US between 2015 and 2019, accounting for 8.7 percent of all exports.

Ruto was also the chief guest at the Africa Investment Partnership Forum organised by the United Nations Development Programme, in which “discussions centred on moving Africa from aid to investment.”

President Ruto is scheduled to address the 77th UN General Assembly on Wednesday at around 9pm EAT, before returning to Kenya where he is expected to announce his new cabinet.

DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi already addressed the assembly on Tuesday, while Rwanda is scheduled for Wednesday, and Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania are slotted for Thursday.

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Kenya’s President William Ruto says he is seeking to improve the bilateral trade relations with the US and establish “new relationships and strategic partnerships” with American businesspeople in his efforts […]

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South Sudan, Djibouti plan to lay fiber optic to Juba

South Sudan and Djibouti have signed an agreement to lay fibre optic cable from Djibouti through Ethiopia to the capital Juba.

The Ministry of Information, Communication Technology and Postal Services said the government and Djibouti officials would form a technical team to deliberate on the project, after they signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday.

The deal was inked by the Minister of Information Michael Makuei Lueth and senior officials from Djibouti.

Read: Internet down in South Sudan due to ‘technical problem’: minister

South Sudan said it is also working closely with the World Bank to connect the country with another fibre optic cable from Kenya. The deal was signed in 2015.

The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but years of civil war have denied it infrastructure to offer high speed Internet connections.

The country aims to link its citizens with the rest of the world as well as cut the high cost of using the internet.

Read: South Sudan youth look at a future driven by tech

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South Sudan and Djibouti have signed an agreement to lay fibre optic cable from Djibouti through Ethiopia to the capital Juba. The Ministry of Information, Communication Technology and Postal Services […]

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Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda, again, of backing rebels in DR Congo

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has reignited an accusation against Rwanda, insisting that Kigali is still fanning rebel groups in his country’s territory.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Tshisekedi claimed his efforts to reunite the country and pursue peaceful settlements have been dragged by continual external interference, accusing Rwanda, in particular, of fomenting rebel movements.

“Despite my goodwill for the search of peace, some neighbours have found no better way to thank us than to aggress and support armed groups that are ravaging eastern Congo,” he told an audience on Tuesday night.

Read: DRC, Rwanda agree to ease tension and normalise diplomatic relations

Also read: The M23 demon: Could Rwanda ultimately invade eastern Congo?

Turning to Rwanda, he said: “In defiance of international law, has once again not only interfered in the DRC since MARCH by direct incursions of its armed forces (Rwanda Defense Force RDF), but also occupies localities in North Kivu province (eastern DRC) by an armed terrorist group, the M23, to which it provides massive support in terms of equipment and troops.”

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Tshisekedi accuses Rwanda, again, of backing rebels in DR Congo

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 21 2022

    

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi at the UN headquarters.

Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 20, 2022. PHOTO | ANGELA WEISS | AFPADVERTISEMENT

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By PARTICK ILUNGA

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DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has reignited an accusation against Rwanda, insisting that Kigali is still fanning rebel groups in his country’s territory.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Tshisekedi claimed his efforts to reunite the country and pursue peaceful settlements have been dragged by continual external interference, accusing Rwanda, in particular, of fomenting rebel movements.

“Despite my goodwill for the search of peace, some neighbours have found no better way to thank us than to aggress and support armed groups that are ravaging eastern Congo,” he told an audience on Tuesday night.

Read: DRC, Rwanda agree to ease tension and normalise diplomatic relations

Also read: The M23 demon: Could Rwanda ultimately invade eastern Congo?

Turning to Rwanda, he said: “In defiance of international law, has once again not only interfered in the DRC since MARCH by direct incursions of its armed forces (Rwanda Defence Force RDF), but also occupies localities in North Kivu province (eastern DRC) by an armed terrorist group, the M23, to which it provides massive support in terms of equipment and troops.”

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The accusation against Rwanda, which has been rejected many times before by Kigali, is likely to elicit a response when Kigali’s representative addresses the UN later in the week. But it could also signal simmering differences between the two countries that had initially cut official communication between them before resuming talks.

In July, after meeting in Angolan capital Luanda, under mediation of President Joao Lourenço, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and President Tshisekedi agreed to reopen dialogue and have their differences solved diplomatically.

Read: Region steps up diplomatic firefighting in Rwanda-DRC tensions

Tshisekedi told the audience he is always ready to pursue peace, speaking of recent arrangements to hold dialogue with rebel groups that did not succeed as other parties to the talks pulled out.

“Since my election as head of state of the DRC, I have not stopped fighting every day for peace. In order to definitively eradicate insecurity, restore lasting peace and ensure stability in the East of my country, several agreements have been signed with armed groups and even neighbouring countries.

“National and international mechanisms have been created. All these prospects for a final settlement of the conflict lasted only a few months. Soon, the architecture cracked and the building collapsed; we always start with the same tragedies.

Read: Rwanda: ‘Leaked UN report’ on DRC invasion a distraction from real issues

Tshisekedi spoke at the opening of the regular session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. And for 38 minutes, the Congolese head of state touched on global security issues, including terrorism, which he argued had not spared the African continent. He also talked about the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the need for a peaceful settlement between these two countries.

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DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has reignited an accusation against Rwanda, insisting that Kigali is still fanning rebel groups in his country’s territory. In a speech to the UN General […]

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Kenyan students win $1 million prize for business innovation

A team of students from Kenya’s St Paul’s University last night won the global finals of the 2022 Hult Prize for their business innovation.

Competing in the finals as Eco-Bana Ltd, the students beat five other finalists and were awarded $1 million to boost their business. 

Eco-bana Ltd is a start-up that makes biodegradable sanitary pads using banana fibre. The idea aims to stop plastic manufacturing by providing biodegradable sanitary pads to end period poverty.

The team comprises Lennox Omondi, Keylie Muthoni, Dullah Shiltone and Brian Ndung’u. The event was held during the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City, US. Former US President Bill Clinton delivered the keynote address.

“The Hult 2022 Prize was such a joyful celebration of innovation and sustainability in business. All our finalists did incredible pitches today, but there could only be one winner. Huge congratulations to Eco-Bana Ltd,” Hult Business School said in a tweet.

Muthoni, however, did not make it to New York due to a visa hitch.

“With $1 million, we’re confident that we will be the best and become number one producers of biodegradable sanitary towels in Kenya and East Africa,” Mr Omondi told Daily Nation in an interview before they left for the finals.

He doubles up as the chief technical officer of the company. He is a third year student of mass communication, public relations and marketing.

“Today, at exactly 1.58 pm New York time, Eco-Bana is here to ask for one million dollars to make our dreams come true. We predict to sell more than three million pads, generating over $50 million and employ more than 2,000 people by 2024,” Mr Ndung’u said during their pitch. 

The company has already introduced the product in the market and plans to expand to the Egyptian market have started.

Mr Omondi revealed that for mass production, they need heavy duty machines which are costly.

Muthoni is the chief operations officer, while Shiltone and Ndung’u work as the chief financial officer and the marketing officer respectively. The students entered into the final after winning the regional summit in May in Johannesburg and emerging position two in the Global Accelerator in Boston, Massachusetts in August.

“We’re a team with a mind for business and a heart for the world. We’ll continue creating sustainable enterprises that will shape the future of the sanitary towels industry that will drive entrepreneurship growth,” Mr Omondi said.

The five other finalists are Breer from Hong Kong, Savvy Engineers from Pakistan, Openversum from Switzerland, Cooseii from Taiwan and Flexie from Australia. The six teams are the winners of each of the regional summits.

“At the point where I was founding the company, I had difficulties balancing with my studies. With proper guidance from my mentor, I’ve learnt how to balance by creating a weekly study plan and a work plan. That way, I’m able to know when I have to leave the office and go to class or do my assignments and still get to be with my friends and team mates,” Mr Omondi said.

His goal is to study for a masters degree at the University of Oxford.

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A team of students from Kenya’s St Paul’s University last night won the global finals of the 2022 Hult Prize for their business innovation. Competing in the finals as Eco-Bana Ltd, the […]

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Focus on prevention, no vaccine for rare Ebola strain, Uganda told

Health experts on Tuesday urged Uganda to focus on preventing and controlling the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, noting that there is no vaccine against the rare Sudan strain that has been confirmed in the country.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health confirmed an Ebola outbreak in the country after the virus was detected in Mubende, central Uganda. One death was confirmed while six other deaths are suspected to have been caused by Ebola, but remain unverified.

Bayo Fatunmbi, head of disease prevention and control at the World Health Organization office in Uganda, told reporters that the Sudan strain is rare and had only occurred in Sudan in 1976 and in Uganda in 2011.

“We have done something before in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but we find that the vaccination that worked with the Zaire virus [strain] will not be useful for this particular Sudan strain,” he said. He added that another type of vaccine is currently being tested.

Diana Atwine, Uganda’s permanent secretary at the Health ministry, said that while the country has the vaccine for the Zaire strain, there is no vaccine for the Sudan strain.

She said a team of epidemiologists has been sent to Mubende to investigate the source of the index case, a 24-year-old male who died on Monday.

“There is no need to panic at all because Uganda is well known for handling epidemics. We have built capacity, and we want to assure the public that we shall contain this epidemic,” Ms Atwine said. 

She added that Uganda is working with partners like the WHO to contain the spread of the deadly disease. 

The Ebola virus is highly contagious and causes various symptoms, including fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, generalized pain or malaise, and in some cases, internal and external bleeding. According to the WHO, the fatality rate for those who contract Ebola ranges from 50 percent to 89 percent, depending on the viral sub-type.

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Health experts on Tuesday urged Uganda to focus on preventing and controlling the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, noting that there is no vaccine against the rare Sudan strain […]

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South Sudan on high alert after Ebola outbreak in Uganda

South Sudan is stepping up vigilance along its borders following an outbreak of Ebola in neighbouring Uganda.

Kampala on Tuesday confirmed the outbreak of the virus in the country, with experts confirming that it was the deadly Sudan strain that currently has no vaccine.

On Tuesday, South Sudan’s undersecretary in the Ministry of Health, Victoria Anib Majur, urged communities living along the border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to report any suspicious cases of Ebola to health authorities.

“We are very concerned about the Ebola outbreak in Uganda because we share the border. We have a lot of movement across the border. Our families are in Uganda and Ugandans are on this side,” Majur told journalists in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

She also urged the public to refrain from eating bush meat as the Ebola virus can spread from animals to humans through contaminated bush meat.

Majur added that national assessment teams will be deployed in the border areas of Yambio and Nimule bordering DRC and Uganda, respectively.

On August 21, the DRC government announced an Ebola outbreak after detecting the virus in a 46-year-old woman living in the city of Beni, in the province of North Kivu. This came just a month after it had declared the end of the 14th Ebola outbreak in the country.

Majur added that Juba would partner with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) to promote public awareness of the Ebola virus disease.

Fabian Ndenzako, the acting WHO Representative for South Sudan, said that the Ministry of Health has already activated the incident management system for Ebola virus disease.

“There is a lot of movement across the border, so it’s really important that this incident management system is really activated. We don’t have a case in South Sudan but, given the proximity and closeness, we have to prepare,” Ndenzako said.

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South Sudan is stepping up vigilance along its borders following an outbreak of Ebola in neighbouring Uganda. Kampala on Tuesday confirmed the outbreak of the virus in the country, with experts […]

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Africa set for fertilizer boom as food crisis remains critical

A fertiliser boom is breaking out across Africa as calls for food security gain momentum amidst a widespread continental food crisis.

With an estimated 346 million people on the continent negatively impacted by a severe food crisis, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the use of fertilisers has become more central, even as environmental and green farming activists call for caution.

The global production of fertilisers is responsible for around 1.4 percent of annual CO2 emissions, and fertiliser use is a major contributor of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, according to Carbon Brief.

World consumption of the three main fertiliser nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus expressed as phosphate, and potassium, is estimated to have surpassed 186 million tonnes, up by more than 1.4 percent since 2015.

That said, Africa has barely used fertilisers. Only six percent of Africa’s cultivated land is irrigated, and the average fertiliser consumption in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at 17 kilogrammes of nutrients per hectare of cropland, according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra). 

That is only a drop in the ocean when compared with a world average fertilizer consumption of 135kg/ha.

At the just-ended AGRF Summit in the Kigali, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, urged Africa to increase fertiliser use, irrigation and thermal power in order to ensure food security.

“I recently inaugurated a fertiliser plant in my country… and I for one would not abandon thermal power,” he said, much to the amusement of the audience at the Kigali Convention Centre.

Cost for going green

“We have all the resources necessary to ensure food security for our countries and all the inputs for fertilisers security. Africa must be allowed a reasonable transition, but if they [international green energy agencies and governments] want us to leapfrog to their level, they must pay the cost.”

Zimbabwe, which suffered a failing economy and sanctions imposed by Western powers for two decades, now offers a rare example on food security policies and programmes.

For example, with multiplied irrigation and fertiliser use, the country has increased its wheat production from a three-month supply to a 15-month supply, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

“So the wheat crisis emanating from Ukraine does not affect us now,” President Mnangagwa said.

“Our wheat came from Ukraine and our fertilisers from the Russian federation. We have introduced a model that says that we need to have food security by exploiting domestic resources, and we have solved that big problem.”

Magic bullets?

Much as there is no single silver bullet to make Africa self-sufficient in food and cease to be a net importer, fertiliser use and irrigation are touted as key tools. But such projects cannot happen without good leadership.

Enock Chikava, the director of Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says that “trial and error” farming — which is practised across Africa — is not sustainable. He argues that leaders across sub-Saharan Africa are largely to blame for not adopting the so-called “green revolution of Africa.”

“If there is anything close to being a silver bullet that guarantees food security in Africa, it is good leadership. We can outsource technology but we cannot outsource good leadership.

‘‘We need leaders who understand the need to prioritise modern agriculture and deliver the Green Revolution,” he said.

Tanzania is among those that have acted fast. The government introduced a three-year programme that will see the construction of dams for irrigation in each of its regions – to cover an area of up to 360,000 hectares.

The country is also constructing a second fertiliser plant – expected to be completed by the end of 2022 – to benefit the 65 per cent of its population that are engaged directly in farming.

“Productivity in agriculture in Tanzania has remained low due to low technology and limited use of fertiliser. We still depend on the vagaries of weather…we still have huge post-harvest losses to the tune of 30 per cent,” Philip Mpango, Vice President of Tanzania said.

Chilli bucks in Rwanda

“But we now have a fertiliser factory under construction and soon we shall have two, to cover up for the deficit in fertiliser use. We also increased our budget allocation to agriculture from an average of around $125 million per annum, to $404 million, targeting research, irrigation, seed multiplication and training.”

Rwanda President Paul Kagame, however, sees the possibility for greater diversity in Africa to agriculture.  He argues that Africa has enough biomass and resources to shift to organic farming, and stop being too exposed to external shocks.

“The food crisis is a serious one and in order to deal with it we need to develop a sense of urgency…to treat food like a business,” he said during the AGRF summit.

“If you look at the crisis in Ukraine, the whole of Africa suffers because we cannot get wheat or fertiliser. All these are lessons we should learn from; but these lessons have been here for a long time. We need to act quicker.”

Rwandan chilli farmer Diego Twahirwa has benefitted from agribusiness. In 2019 he signed a $500 million deal to supply 50,000 metric tonnes of chili annually to a Chinese firm, GK International.

Twahirwa’s company, Gashora Farm, also exports chilli products to Europe.

“I have now expanded into Zimbabwe, where we have about 2,000 hectares to grow chilli in partnership with a Zimbabwe company,” Twahirwa told The EastAfrican.

“At our Gashora Farm, we use modern farming technology, and irrigation and fertilisers to ensure that the effects of climate change do not affect us much. It may not be easy at the start but eventually agribusiness pays off massively.”

Rwanda targets to reach agricultural exports of $1 billion, up from $465 million made in 2018/2019.

SOURCE

A fertiliser boom is breaking out across Africa as calls for food security gain momentum amidst a widespread continental food crisis. With an estimated 346 million people on the continent negatively […]

Continue reading "Africa set for fertilizer boom as food crisis remains critical"

Shelter Afrique approves $18m loan for DRC housing projects

Pan-African housing financier Shelter Afrique has approved an $18.5 million corporate loan to a Democratic Republic of Congo-based developer for three housing projects.

The five-year facility is part of “urban regeneration,” the lender said Tuesday and is the third credit line for the company since 2016.

The Katanga-based Maison Super Development (MSD) is building office blocks in the southern city of Kolwezi and southeastern Lubumbashi, the third-biggest DRC city, where it is also putting up a housing project.

“Lubumbashi and Kolwezi are two cities gradually being transformed into major cities in the DRC,” said Shelter Afrique acting managing director Kingsley Muwowo, adding that the funding makes it easy to “create a mix where both affordable housing would exist with commercial spaces to spur business activities and employment.”

“We are grateful for the partnership, which will enable us to change the face of Lubumbashi and Kolwezi one housing unit at a time,” said Dharmendra Kumar, MSD’s managing director.

Shelter Afrique has been ramping up its activities in DRC through public-private partnerships and equity investments in large-scale, low-cost housing projects. It also injected $11.4 million into a lender for mortgage financing.

The financier has been seeking to invest in lower-cost projects across its 40 member states in the continent. Early this year, it launched a ‘housing affordability calculator’ to vet proposals pitched by developers.

SOURCE

Pan-African housing financier Shelter Afrique has approved an $18.5 million corporate loan to a Democratic Republic of Congo-based developer for three housing projects. The five-year facility is part of “urban […]

Continue reading "Shelter Afrique approves $18m loan for DRC housing projects"

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