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How State is killing hopes of jobless youth : The Standard

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Mildred Jahenda shows President Uhuru Kenyatta her innovation of construction materials that can be adopted for affordable housing at last year’s ASK international show. (File, Standard)

For Mildred Jahenda, the day she met President Uhuru Kenyatta will remain vivid for years to come.

It was October 2018 and Ms Jahenda was one of the exhibitors at the Agricultural Society of Kenya annual show as one of the young people selected by the National Construction Authority (NCA) to showcase innovations in affordable housing.
“The NCA invited young people with innovative ideas for building materials and techniques that can be incorporated into Government’s affordable housing project and I was lucky to be one of those selected to exhibit,” she says.
NCA had assured the young people during a previous training session that innovators that showed promise would get a chance to supply their products for the Government’s affordable housing project.

SEE ALSO :What to do to ensure affordable housing fund gets critical buy-in

Jahenda’s items on show included an array of interlocking blocks made from easily accessible raw materials such as river sand, which impressed the President prompting him to linger at her stand as she explained what it was all about.
Accompanied by, among others, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, a beaming Uhuru gave the young exhibitor an enthusiastic handshake.
“The President seemed very impressed with my exhibition and he shook my hand and told me to keep up the good work,” she says.
Other exhibitors rushed to Jahenda’s stand to ask what the President had told her and what her next move was going to be. She also landed an interview with the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
Soon after the cameras were turned off, however, the bright future she had hoped would arise from her 15 minutes of fame soon started to turn bleak.

SEE ALSO :Housing fund could tip the balance for low income earners

Unemployed and her family’s breadwinner since her elder brother died allegedly during street protests in the aftermath of the 2017 General Election, Jahenda has made several attempts to engage Government officials, looking to take her idea forward and get involved in the affordable housing project.
But she has time and again been turned back at the office reception.
“I have been to the Ministry of Transport, Housing and Urban Development three times and been turned back. The last time I was there they told me never to go back,” says Jahenda.
“They tell us that the entire project will be executed by Chinese companies and there is no indication that young people will have an opportunity to benefit from any of it.”
Jahenda is just one of the many young Kenyans growing disillusioned by the Government’s failure to live up to its rhetoric of empowering the youth.

SEE ALSO :Bill through as MPs seek increased pay

Little change
Data from the International Labour Organisation indicates that despite Kenya’s annual gross domestic product growth of more than five per cent in the past several years, youth unemployment has shown little change, standing at a staggering 22 per cent in 2016.
“The danger of a ‘lost generation’ is running high in Kenya; and most countries in Africa record significantly lower youth unemployment rates than this relatively strong economy,” says a recent report by the British Council.
With 500,000 to 800,000 young Kenyans entering the job market each year, Kenya’s economy has been unable to provide the necessary amount of employment opportunities. both in the formal and informal sectors.
“Economic progress has primarily benefited the older generation; young females in rural locations constitute the largest share of unemployed Kenyan youth (in absolute numbers), while their counterparts in urban areas are most likely to be unemployed (in relative terms),” the report adds.

SEE ALSO :Uhuru gazettes panel to recruit new NPSC bosses

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Government officials and politicians constantly seek opportunities to align themselves with the youth demographic, often promising to improve young people’s fortunes by creating more opportunities.
“We have a youthful, energetic population looking to be constructively engaged to create jobs,” Uhuru told delegates at the EU-Africa Youth and Entrepreneurship forum in Nairobi last year.
“Those jobs create opportunities for your countries. Help us create jobs we help stem immigration, your companies grow and keep our people here where they want to be,” he said.
Part of the Government’s big four agenda on manufacturing that has set ambitious targets to grow the sector’s contribution to GDP from eight per cent to 22 per cent in the next three years leans heavily on job creation.
Access support
However, despite these and numerous other assurances from the Government, young people still struggle to access crucial State support, not just in starting their ventures but often also in maintaining them.
After failing to secure a job after graduating with a degree in economics and psychology, Joan Tubei was running a successful grocery shop in Rongai until the county government came calling a few months later.
Together with thousands of other traders and residents of informal settlements, she lost her entire business in an operation the county government said was meant to clean up the city.
“It is very demoralising when you are unemployed and start something from scratch only to have it destroyed,” says a disillusioned Tubei. “The impression we get from the Government is you need to have a lot of money or be connected to start and run a successful business.”
At the same time, the Government has made several policy interventions in recent years to make advance more opportunities for the youth, women and people with disabilities.
In 2013, Uhuru launched the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) programme with a legal requirement for women, youth and people with disabilities to access 30 per cent of Government tenders.
Over the years, however, the policy has fallen short in terms of opening up State procurement opportunities to young people with lengthy bureaucratic processes cited as a hindrance to many.
Part of requirements to bid for State tenders involves getting certified by several professional and regulatory bodies including the NCA, National Council for Persons with Disability and National Environment Management Authority depending on the tender in question.
And even after jumping through all the hoops and getting certified, an opportunity to supply the Government with goods and services is not guaranteed.
Jahenda, who obtained an AGPO certificate after checking all the necessary boxes, was still unable to convince Government officials to let her get past the reception.
“When you go to their offices you only see older, established business people being ushered in but where does this leave the youth?” she ponders.
“The President is our youth champion and we’d expect him to walk the talk in providing the youth with opportunities to grow our enterprises because for some of us, that is all we have,” she says.

JobsunemploymentJobless YouthsPresident Uhuru Kenyatta



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BCCI: 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.

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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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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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East Africa celebrates top women in banking and finance

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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.

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“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.

ALSO READ: Angaza Awards Top Finalist; Mary Wangari Wamae

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IFC in New Partnership to Develop Affordable Housing in Mombasa County

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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.

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 “Access to quality housing is a growing problem in Kenya and across Africa,” said Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.

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“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.

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