The thyroid gland is one of the most vital organs in the body yet few people are aware of what the little butterfly gland located at the front of the neck does. However, it can malfunction and become either overactive or underactive.
The thyroid is a little gland located just around the Adam’s apple and it is responsible for hormones that help determine how fast or slow your body works.
It has been known to over produce these hormones (hyperthyroidism) or under produce them (hypothyroidism). Both these states can be difficult to live with and each requires treatment.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid?
Most people with an underperforming thyroid have very subtle symptoms. Generally, low levels of thyroid hormones leads to the slowing down of mental and physical function of the body. Common complaints include:
People with an underperforming thyroid are usually tired and lack energy even after they have had a decent night’s sleep.
An underactive thyroid leads to poor concentration and memory deficits. Most people feel ‘mentally sluggish’. This, combined with the constant fatigue has been found to be associated with performance decline in the workplace.
Apart from the performance decline that occurs in hypothyroidism, most people develop a degree of depression. It is important to understand that one cannot ‘snap out of depression’ and it usually needs treatment.
‘Why is it so cold in here?’
A malfunctioning thyroid can lead to increased awareness of the cold. You feel cold even though the surrounding environment is warm.
‘What is happening to my skin and hair?’
Thyroid dysfunction affects the skin and hair as well. The skin becomes dry and coarse whilst the hair thins out and feels dry despite moisturisation.
An underactive thyroid leads to reduced metabolism, ultimately leading to weight gain. You could be eating the same type and volume of food as before but still gain weight.
‘Why can’t I conceive?’
Hypothyroidism has been associated with infertility. In some cases, you may have conceived previously, even multiple times but find yourself unable to conceive again. Thyroid dysfunction also leads to changes in the menstrual pattern. An underactive thyroid leads to heavier and longer periods.
An underactive thyroid leads to a decrease in libido in both men and women. This has nothing to do with what one feels for their partner — and often cannot be treated by sexual therapy alone (it requires correction of the thyroid problem).
The digestive system in a person with an underactive thyroid is sluggish and subsequently, one develops constipation. This is often not fully relieved by increase of intake of fibre.
A dysfunctional thyroid can lead to muscle aches, weakness and cramps. The hands and fingers can also develop pins and needles (carpal tunnel syndrome).
An underactive thyroid can be associated with a hoarse or croaky voice. In infants, this is most evident when they cry.
An underactive thyroid can lead to slowing down of the heartbeat and changes in blood pressure. It has also been associated with an increase in bad cholesterol levels.
Are children exempt from thyroid problems?
No, and unfortunately, thyroid dysfunction is often diagnosed too late in children.
This can have catastrophic outcomes as an underactive thyroid causes stunted growth and severe mental or intellectual disability. Clues that your baby may be having an underactive thyroid include excessive sleepiness, constipation, poor feeding, bloating, cold hands and feet, swollen tongue and floppy limbs. If your child has several of these symptoms, see a paediatrician.
What causes hypothyroidism?
An underactive thyroid can be as a result of several issues. These include:
Thyroiditis: This is inflammation of the thyroid. This could be caused by a viral infection or because of an autoimmune attack. An autoimmune attack occurs when your immunity turns on itself and wrongfully attacks your body. The most common cause of autoimmune thyroiditis is known as Hashimoto’s disease.
Congenital: Some babies are born with an underactive thyroid.
Medication: Certain drugs used to treat mental health problems (lithium), heart problems and even cough syrup abuse has been associated with a dysfunctional thyroid. Radioactive iodine used to treat an overactive thyroid can sometimes lead to an underactivity of the gland.
Surgery to remove the thyroid: People with thyroid cancer or those with an overactive thyroid that is causing uncontrollable symptoms, may have to get the entire thyroid gland removed. (The body does not have a backup or replacement for thyroid hormones once the thyroid is removed).
Radiation to the neck: Treatment for certain cancers necessitates that one receives radiation to the neck. This often damages the thyroid gland causing it to malfunction.
Diet: The thyroid gland needs iodine to make hormones. Unfortunately, the body does not manufacture its own io—ine – you must obtain it from the diet. In Kenya, our salt has been iodised to help prevent iodine deficiency. Good sources of iodine include saltwater fish and seafood.
Brain issues: Problems with parts of the brain (pituitary gland and hypothalamus) can result in malfunctioning of the thyroid.
Pregnancy: Some women develop thyroid dysfunction during pregnancy or a few months after delivery.
Other risk factors: Although anyone can develop an underactive thyroid, it is more common in women over the age 50 years. It, sometimes, also runs in families. People with autoimmune conditions such as diabetes (type 1) and celiac dise e have an increased risk of developing thyroid malfunction.
If your doctor suspects that you may be having an underactive thyroid, diagnosis usually only involves a blood test. Treatment usually involves taking a tablet containing thyroid hormone replacement. If there are any other underlying issues, these need to be addressed.
If an underactive thyroid goes untreated, it causes several health issues develop.
Birth defects: Women with an underactive thyroid are at a higher risk of giving birth to a child with birth defects. Babies who live with a hypothyroidism often go on to develop mental/intellectual retardation
Thyroid enlargement: This is medically kgoitres ‘goiter’ and can lead to breathing and swallowing issues. The thyroid enlarges due to the constant stimulation in an attempt to produce sufficient hormones.
Heart problems: Changes in blood pressure and increase in unhealthy cholesterol levels have been associated with heart disease and heart failure in people with hypothyroidism.
Coma: This is a result of a rare, life-threatening condition that occurs in people with untreated hypothyroidism known as myxedema.
BCCI: The bank ‘that would bribe God’
“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank. The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain.
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
East Africa celebrates top women in banking and finance
The Angaza Awards for Women to watch in Banking and Finance in East Africa took place Online via Zoom on 8th June 2021.
The event was set to celebrate the top 10 women shaping banking and finance across East Africa. The 2021 Angaza Awards, which will be a Pan-African Awards program, was also announced at the event.
Key speakers at this webinar were Dr Nancy Onyango, Director of Internal Audit and Inspection at the IMF; and Gail Evans, New York Times Best Selling Author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman and former White House Aide and CNN Executive Vice President.
Dr Nancy Onyango advised women to deep expertise in their fields, spend time in forums and link with key players in that sector.
“Gain exposure with other cultures by seeking for employment overseas and use customized CV for each job application,” said Dr Onyango.
According to Gail Evans, women should show up and be fully present in meetings and not be preoccupied with other issues.
“Be simple and avoid jargon. Multi-tasking only means that you are mediocre Smart people ask good questions in a business meeting. Most women face drawbacks due to perfectionism, procrastination and fear of failure, said Evans.
She advised women to play like a man and win like a woman, be strategic, and intentionally make their moves to get to the top.
“For us to pull up businesses that have been affected by effects of COVID-19 pandemic, we need to re-invent business models, change the product offering and make more use of digital platforms,” said Mary Wamae Equity Group Executive Director.
Mary Wamae emerged top at the inaugural Angaza awards( East Africa) ahead of other finalists.
While women continue to excel in banking and finance, the number of that occupies top executive positions is still less.
“There is a gap for women occupying C suite level and it continues to widen in the finance sector. At entry level, there is still an experience gap for women,” said Nkirote Mworia, Group Secretary for UAP-Old Mutual Group.
She said that at the Middle Management level, women do not express their ambition. For this reason, UAP-Old Mutual has developed an executive sponsorship program to help women get to the next level.
Mworia added that most women hold the notion that top positions in management have politics and pressure.
“One needs leadership skills and not technical expertise to get to the top,” said Mworia.
According to Catherine Karimi, Chief Executive Officer and Principal Officer of APA Life Assurance Company, women need to focus on the strengths and natural abilities that they already have.
“Take risks and raise your hand to get to the high table. Find mentors along the way and develop your own brand and not compare yourself with others Focus on your strengths because it will make you move faster in the career ladder,” said Karimi.
Lina Mukashyaka Higiro, a Rwandan businesswoman and chief executive officer of the NCBA Bank Rwanda since July 2018, has three lessons for women who want to excel in banking and finance.
“Always spend at least 20 minutes each day reading, seeking genuine feedback from other staff members and widen your network,” Higiro told the webinar.
Women picked for Angaza awards
Mary Wamae, Executive Director, led this year’s Top 10 Women in Angaza Awards, Equity Group (Kenya)(2)Catherine Karimi, Chief Executive Officer, APA Life Insurance Company (Kenya)(3)Lina Higiro, Chief Executive Officer, NCBA Bank (Rwanda)(4)Elizabeth Wasunna Ochwa, Business Banking Director, Absa Bank (Kenya)(5)Joanita Jaggwe, Country Head of Risk and Compliance, KCB Group (South Sudan)(6) Millicent Omukaga, Technical Assistance Expert on Inclusive Finance, African Development Bank (Kenya)(7)Emmanuella Nzahabonimana, Head of Information Technology, KCB Group (Rwanda)(8)Judith Sidi Odhiambo, Group Head of Corporate Affairs, KCB Group (Kenya)(9)Rosemary Ngure, ESG & Impact Manager, Catalyst Principal Partners (Kenya) and(10)Pooja Bhatt, Co-Founder, QuantaRisk and QuantaInsure (Kenya).
The Kenyan Wallstreet, a financial media firm, partnered with Kaleidoscope Consultants to raise awareness of seasoned women shaping and influencing the sector through their organizations.
The Angaza Award criteria included assessing the applicants’ area of responsibility and contribution to firm performance. Professionals in Banking, Capital Markets, Insurance, Investment Banking, Fintech, Fund Management, Microfinance, and SACCOs were invited to submit their applications or nominations via the Kenyan Wallstreet Award Web page.
IFC in New Partnership to Develop Affordable Housing in Mombasa County
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 14 – International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, has signed a new deal in support of affordable housing in Kenya.
The corporation has partnered with Belco Realty LLP, to develop a mixed use affordable living complex that will consist of 1,379 residential units and over 4,500 square meters of retail and commercial spaces in Kongowea, Mombasa County.
Together with the Kenyan firm, IFC says the partnership will help meet surging demand for housing in Kenya.
Under the agreement, IFC will help identify suitable international strategic partners to invest equity of up to $12 million, or Sh1.3 billion in Belco and to provide the company with the necessary technical support to develop the project.
The development, known as Kongowea Village, will be developed to foster inclusive and affordable community living within the city.
Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa says the project, which will be located on eight acres within the heart of Mombasa city, will aim to be a catalyst for wider city regeneration.
The project will be developed to meet IFC EDGE certification requirements and will incorporate the latest technologies in passive cooling, energy efficiency and water conservation to support sustainable urbanization.
Kongowea Village is expected to create 1,160 jobs and business opportunities during the three-year construction period and many more after completion of the project within the themed retail arcade.
“Access to quality housing is a growing problem in Kenya and across Africa,” said Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.
“Developers often target the high end of the market, but this project is aimed squarely at the lower-income bracket. Helping Belco identify the right partners for this project is expected to attract more developers to Kenya and other parts of Africa to help meet rising demand for housing.”
“IFC‘s engagement with Belco will help Kenya support its rapidly growing and urbanizing population by increasing access to affordable housing. The problem is similar across most of Africa, where population growth and demand for quality housing are combining to outstrip supply. We are pleased to partner with a company such as Belco that is committed to contributing to solving this challenge,” said Emmanuel Nyirinkindi, IFC‘s Director for Transaction Advisory Services.
IFC’s partnership with Belco is part of its broader strategy to support better access to affordable housing in Kenya.
In 2020, IFC invested $2 million in equity in the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company (KMRC) to help increase access to affordable mortgages and support home ownership in the country.