African industry captains see a silver lining in the rocky exit of the United Kingdom from the EU (Brexit) at a time when a continental free trade area is about to come into force.
A survey by Deloitte on how companies are prepared to exploit the broad market of $3 trillion and a population of more than 1.2 billion people found that three-quarters of executives polled were confident of benefiting from the African Continental Free Trade Area and that competition was the least of their worries.
Instead they were anxious about how the business climate was cyclically affected by elections, small fragmented markets, inadequate financing, high cost of financial transactions and energy.
While most have a strategic plan on integration, the survey found that it was focused on diversification, going Pan-African and proof of concept approach, where experiments are done in segments and countries before being scaled up across businesses and terrain.
Interestingly, few were thinking of going global because of uncertainties surrounding world trade, with the UK about to exit the EU, and China, US and Europe always one drastic decision away from a trade war.
The UK Trade Commissioner for Africa Emmah Wayde-Smith, however, told The EastAfrican they have, over the past two years worked to ensure continuity of trade with Africa, irrespective of what form Brexit takes.
Prime Minister Theresa May had pledged to quit if her proposal is adopted. It had already failed twice among seven other options, creating more anxiety over Africa’s access to the UK market.
On Friday, British MPs rejected Ms May’s EU divorce deal for a third time, opening the way for a long delay to Brexit or a potentially catastrophic “no deal” withdrawal in two weeks.
During yet another dramatic day in the House of Commons, Parliament voted down the Withdrawal Agreement by a majority of 58 – a smaller margin than when they rejected it for a second time in February by 149. The result is a devastating blow for the premier, who has tied her personal leadership to the success of this deal — but it is now dead in the water.
It means the UK could leave the EU with no deal on April 12 — in just 14 days’ time. It is more likely, however, that the UK will seek a much longer extension as it seeks to extract itself from the EU.
For this to happen, the UK will have to present a new plan to Brussels by April 10, which the EU would have to accept for Brexit to be pushed back any further.
An extension would also mean the UK takes part in European elections in May.
“There is a complex unfolding with no clarity on what form the withdrawal will take. The opportunities are yet to be discussed in detail but we have frameworks to ensure trade with Africa is not disrupted,” Ms Ward-Smith said.
Among the safeguards is UK applying the Unilateral Preferences law for qualifying countries in the Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
Another is the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Act 2018, which was signed into law by the Queen in September 2018. It allows the UK to continue with the least developed countries’ services waiver.
Tanzania and Uganda are in this category. For Kenya and Rwanda, the UK would replicate the preferences already agreed with the EU. This would be in place until 2021.
Trade between the UK and the ACP hit $28.8 billion in 2017. The UK is the third-largest foreign investor in Africa, second largest in Rwanda, and top in South Africa.
The EU has five economic partnership agreements with Africa and five association agreements, which she said could be tweaked once the UK exits the European bloc.
The UK has committed to the Sustainable Development Goals on free trade access for least development countries.
“We will replicate the EU preferences,” Ward-Smith said.
In A briefing to ACP representatives last October, UK Trade Policy Minister George Hollingbery said non-EU trade had become increasingly important to the UK and the imperative was “about facing out to the World.”
“We will be looking at how we can improve our trade preferences scheme by making it more generous, simpler to attain and easier to use,” he said.
The UK has already signed a Statement Agreement with Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique to transition the EU agreement ahead of Brexit.
The UK is also giving its companies $1.8 billion aid for trade programmes to enable them strengthen export competitiveness and helping their African counterparts address logistics costs through organisations like Trade Mark East Africa.
Mr Hollingbery added that the UK would also us its independent voice a the World Trade Organisation for better access to world markets by African countries. To exploit these openings, CEOs are being asked to pursue alternative financing for small and medium-sized enterprises.
“Africa is coming together when other continents appear to be splitting,” said Diane Karusisi, Bank of Kigali CEO.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.