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Cleaning up plastic waste by turning it into building materials

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By DELFHIN MUGO
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If 27-year-old Nzambi Matee was to take something you don’t need in your house, she would go for your plastics. Not to dispose of them, but because she has a noble idea on making good use of them.

Ms Matee, a Bachelor of science in Physics graduate from JKUAT, and a material scientist, is the founder of G-Jenge Makers Ltd.
The aim of the Nairobi-based social enterprise, she explains, is to address the prevailing issues of plastic waste pollution.

She does this by recycling and upcycling waste plastic into strong and beautiful construction products such as paving bricks, paving tiles, hatch and manhole covers.

“We use polymers from plastics and rubber to make building products,” she says.

Through partnerships with skilled and unskilled youth and women’s groups, Ms Matee and her two co-founders are able to collect plastic waste from the community around Industrial Area and South B neighbourhoods.

Strength of materials
The co-founders are Ms Paula Aschenbrenner, an environmental physicist based in Germany and Ms Margret Matee, the board adviser.

The latter happens to be Nzambi’s mother, of whom the daughter says: “She brings on board 20 years of experience in business management”, to explain why she was brought on board.

Paving blocks made from plastic waste. They

Paving blocks made from plastic waste. They come in different beautiful designs. PHOOT| COURTESY

After collection, the plastic waste is sorted, cleaned and then crashed before being put into an extruder machine where the polymers are heated and combined with sand and a hardener in a process referred to as extrusion.

At the moment, G-Jenge Makers is producing paving blocks to prove the concept and strength of the materials. They are also producing bricks for affordable house construction.

She says: “After casting the columns, construction work becomes easy. Since bricks are already pre-moulded and pre-cast, it is only a matter of stacking them together using steel beams to reinforce them. This eliminates the need for mortar and makes the process less laborious.”

According Ms Matee, pre-casting allows the client to customise their houses to taste in terms of brick colour and shape, and even match the pavers.

Also, the resulting house is sturdy, less costly and consumes little time during construction, since no time is lost in mixing mortar and placing it between bricks. There is also no time needed for curing.

All these efforts lead to a reduction in time and construction cost. “If all goes according to plan, we expect to build a two-bedroom house in one month, at a cost of Sh800,000,” Ms Matee says.

Kenyans are not known to embrace alternative methods of construction, afraid that they could be inferior to conventional methods that they are familiar with. This explains why Portland concrete (cement-based concrete) has dominated at the expense of polymer concrete (a type of concrete that uses polymers to replace lime-type cements as a binder), despite the latter penetrating other countries.

Ms Matee is banking on the renewed commitment to affordable housing to push the idea through the market.

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“The concept and science behind making buildings and reinforcing them with polymer is as old as time. A good example is the Colosseum, an oval amphitheatre in the heart of Rome, Italy. It is the largest amphitheatre ever built and now a heritage building,” says Ms Matee says.

Its builders used cement concrete and reinforced that with polymer, she adds.

Nzambi Matee, founder G-Jenge

Nzambi Matee, founder G-Jenge. PHOTO| COURTESY
Most people favour Portland cement concrete because of its arguably adhesive nature and the strength when it comes to binding the sand and the ballast, but Ms Matee says polymer concrete is even stronger and less brittle.

“If you were to hit a building constructed using Portland concrete with a wrecking ball, it would shutter almost immediately. However, a house built with polymer-based concrete will behave like a plastic, bending for a long time before shuttering,” she says.

“I consider myself a futurist”, Ms Matee says, and adds:

“It is estimated that by 2050, the world’s population will be somewhere around 8.6 billion people, with about 1.3 billion of these living in Africa. Already, decent affordable housing is a problem and when you look at it, apart from land, the cost of materials is the other factor that pushed construction costs up, yet we have so many resources like plastics that we have not exploited.”

By converting plastic waste into useful products, she points out, Ms Matee has found her purpose in life. She told DN2 that she resigned from a prime job with a major petroleum company to chase her dreams, much to the disapproval of family and friends.

She has since received training on how to make building materials from plastics at Wastson Institute in USA and the Germany-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN.

“This is my little way of killing two birds with one stone. Other than cleaning the environment, we will be providing shelter, which is a human need,” she says.

Ms Matee revealed that she is working closely with chamas (groups) keen on providing affordable housing. This is a market-penetration strategy, which is already bearing fruit. She told DN2 that she has 34 orders to run this year.

At ShelterTech Accelerator, a Habitat For Humanity’s start-ups acceleration programme happening at Strathmore University-based iBiz Africa, Ms Matee, alongside other young people, is gunning for the top prize: a Sh5,000,000 worth of investment into her business and a chance to pitch to investors.

Besides the co-partners, she has a staff of three, who are brought on board on a need basis.

Ms Matee believes that if young people, like her, were to be accorded the necessary support from the government and private entities during their baby steps, they would not only create employment for other young people, but they would also help the country find local solutions to local problems.



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General

Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“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.
Criminal culture
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).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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