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EDITORIAL: Save small businesses from imminent collapse

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EDITORIAL: Save small businesses from imminent collapse

Central Bank of Kenya
The Central Bank of Kenya. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The revelation by Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Patrick Njoroge that about 75 percent of SMEs will collapse by end of June if they don’t get capital injection is worrying.

It is our hope that the State will step in and provide some lifeline to small traders to see them through the pandemic.

Big businesses are likely to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, but small businesses that are critical to this economy will succumb.

Most small businesses are struggling to pay salaries, rent and utility bills. And with uncertainty of how long the global crisis will last, some have already closed shop.

Three months into the crisis, small businesses have not received any substantial support from the government. The result is that the remaining, which are still operating, will now be forced to suspend operations or close permanently.

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This will render tens of thousands of families that rely on them for income unemployed. Already, employees sent on unpaid leave are struggling to make ends meet.

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Small and medium-sized enterprises had employed 15.05 million Kenyans at the end of last year, according to data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, making them the biggest employer.

A survey conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) on the impact of Covid-19 on households and individuals showed that about a third (30.5 percent) of Kenyans struggled to pay rent in April. Majority of them are people who are out of work as a result of the pandemic.

The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), in a report released early this month, said that 81 percent of enterprises across all sectors have been impacted by Covid-19, calling for fast injection of funds to help them remain afloat.

The survey on 2,466 businesses across the country found that 45 percent of the enterprises had by April temporarily closed in efforts to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus. Small businesses are an important part of this economy as they bring goods and services closer to Kenyans. They are needed at this time also to help Kenyans access essentials critical to fighting this health pandemic.

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Pakistan overtakes Uganda as top Kenyan goods buyer

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By CONSTANT MUNDA

Pakistan overtook Uganda to become the biggest buyer of Kenyan goods in the first five months of the year after supplies to Kampala were largely slowed by coronavirus-induced delays at the border.

Earnings from exports to Pakistan, predominantly tea, bumped 19.37 percent to Ksh24.13 billion ($225 million), pushing the world’s fifth most populous country back to the summit of top importers of Kenyan products for the first time since 2017, official data shows.

The data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows supplies to the land-locked Uganda, Kenya’s largest overall trading partner, dropped 5.65 percent to Ksh20.22 billion ($189 million), largely hurt by delays in April and May due to a requirement for truckers to have Covid-free certificates.

That slowed delivery of goods – including vegetable oils, fuel, iron and steel as well as paper and paperboard– to Kampala, pushing the country down to third biggest buyer of Kenya’s after being leapfrogged by the United Kingdom (UK).

Revenue from exports to the UK, the former Kenya’s colonial master, grew at the fastest pace of 30.06 percent to Ksh21.49 billion ($200 million) on increased demand for fresh farm produce such as fruits, cut flowers and vegetables.

Kenya Flower Council, the lobby for large-scale flower farms, said demand for Kenyan fresh produce in Europe and other key destinations has been rising since April at about 30 percent of targeted sales to current levels of nearly 75 percent.

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Delivery has, however, been hurt by erratic freight services with most airlines prioritising medical supplies in the fight against contagious Covid-19, KFC chief executive Clement Tulezi said on phone.

“The biggest challenge we have at the moment is freight. It is only the UK which has remained open for the longest even when we were in the heat of Covid shocks two months ago,” said Mr Tulezi.

“Our hope is that as Europe and other markets start to open, and increased demand and less supplies comes in, we should be able to attract more freighters into Nairobi.”

Overall, Kenya’s exports rose 6.73 percent (or Ksh16.98 billion, $158 million) in the January-May 2020 period to Ksh269.13 billion ($2.5 billion) spurred by increased sale of tea and horticultural products.

Tea earnings jumped 18.90 percent to Ksh58.62 billion ($548 million), cut flowers by 4.23 percent to Ksh51.14 billion ($478 million), while income from sale of fruits surged 78.91 percent to Ksh11.09 billion ($104 million).

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Kalonzo Musyoka decries rising cases of teenage pregnancies

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Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka says parents must take a more direct role in raising their children now that they are at home due to Covid 19.

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Kalonzo said it is the responsibility of parent to ensure their children’s discipline through counseling.

“Teachers are there to help educate your children but it is you as parents who should be able to instill discipline, as you bring up your child,” He said.  

He says Kenyans are looking forward to less cases of teenage pregnancies during this pandemic period as well as other social ills associated with teenage hood.  

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Kalonzo says although a policy that allows teenage mothers to continue with their studies after giving birth is place, it should not serve as a catalyst to defend teenage pregnancies saying they should be totally discouraged.

The Wiper Leader made the remarks when he received more food donations from donors who included Agrichem African Limited, Pinkerton Kenya Limited and Mwingi Friends toward the KMF FOOD BASKET initiative.

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Microsoft Teams to accommodate up to 20,000 participants in a single meeting

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REDMOND, Washington Jul 10 – Microsoft Teams is upgrading the virtual platform to accommodate larger groups for meetings and classes.

As part of this new upgrade, meeting organisers who want to have more people watch a presentation or discussion, will soon be able to bring together up to 20, 000 participants at a go but for a view-only meeting experience.

And for more interactive meetings—where attendees can chat, unmute to talk, and turn on their videos for real-time collaboration, Teams meetings are growing to support up to 1,000 participants, up from a maximum of 250 participants currently.

These upgrades are part of a new features in Microsoft Teams that will make virtual interactions more natural, more engaging, and ultimately, more human. These features offer three key benefits for people at work and in education.

First, they help you feel more connected with your team and reduce meeting fatigue. Second, they make meetings more inclusive and engaging. And third, they help streamline your work and save time. It’s all about enabling people everywhere to collaborate, to stay connected, and to discover new ways to be productive from anywhere.

“As the global response to COVID-19 evolves, communities around the world have moved from an era of “remote everything” into a more hybrid model of work, learning, and life. And as we all scramble to keep up, the future of work and education is being shaped before our eyes. At Microsoft, we have spent the last few months learning from our customers and studying how they use our tools,” Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365.

Of the new features announced – the Together Mode – which will be available for users from next month, presents a new meeting experience in Teams that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background, making it feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class.

Research has shown that since most people started doing work remotely, many people are feeling less connected and experience more fatigue during video meetings than during in-person collaboration. This mode makes meetings more engaging by helping you focus on other people’s faces and body language and making it easier to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are so important to human interaction.

“It’s great for meetings in which multiple people will speak, such as brainstorms or roundtable discussions, because it makes it easier for participants to understand who is talking,” Spataro explains.

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The second feature – the Dynamic view – offers an extraordinary new meeting experience but it’s not intended for every meeting. The company says it believe that traditional video meetings people use every day can also be more engaging and dynamic. A set of enhancements we call dynamic view gives you more control over how you see shared content and other participants in a meeting.

Using AI, meetings dynamically optimize shared content and video participants.

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New controls—including the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side—let you personalize the view to suit your preferences and needs.

The third feature is the Video filters which allows users to subtly adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera to customize their appearance. Also introduced is the Reflect messaging extension which is based on research that shows that employee well-being is more important to productivity than ever.

Creating an emotionally supportive environment is key to keeping people healthy, happy, and focused. The new Reflect messaging extension gives managers, leaders and teachers an easy way to check in with how their team or students are feeling — either in general, or about a specific topic like work-life balance, the status of a project, current events, or a change within the organization.

IT administrators will be able to install the Reflect extension from GitHub, and then make it available to employees in their organization in the message extension menu.

In addition to the above, Teams users will soon be able to react during a meeting using emojis that will appear to all participants.

Live reactions is a shared feature with PowerPoint Live Presentations, which allows audience members to provide instant feedback to the presenter.

Also, during meetings, chat has become a lively space for conversation and idea-sharing and offers an option for people to participate in the discussion without having to jump in verbally. But it can be challenging to pay attention to video feeds, presentations, and chats all at the same time.

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Currently, Teams users need to manually open a chat window to view the chat screen. Soon, however, chats sent during a Teams meeting will surface on the screens of all meeting participants, making the chat more central to the conversation. 

While Teams already provides live captions as a way to follow along with what is being said in a meeting, soon we will add speaker attribution to captions so that everyone knows who is speaking.

Live transcripts, coming later this year, provide another way to follow along with what has been said and who said it. After a meeting, the transcript file is automatically saved in a tab as a part of the meeting.

“Unless otherwise specified, all of these features will roll out later this year. And they all reflect our vision for the future of work: where everyone is able to contribute and do their best work; where they can move fluidly between experiences, apps, and devices; where AI lends a helping hand to streamline tasks, provide short cuts, and save you time; and where technology contributes to wellbeing and doesn’t detract from it,” explains Spataro.

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