Inside one of the re-opened dusitD2 Hotel restaurants in Nairobi’s 14 Riverside business complex, it is easy to forget the hail of bullets and grenades that rained on hapless guests and other office occupants just over two weeks ago.
Signs of the 18-hour long terror siege and elite security forces battle to rescue hundreds of people in the high-end complex lay hidden under fresh coats of paint and new sets of glass doors. Construction workers put the final touches of repair, a sign that the hotel’s management was ready to rise from the ashes and re-open for business.
The scene of the January 15 Al-Shabaab attack that killed 21 people and left many nursing gunshot wounds is awkwardly covered in peace and tranquility.
But to be sure that a similar attack will not happen again, security barrier boulders have been installed near the building’s entry, providing an impenetrable.
The low security barriers are presumably aimed at preventing vehicles from approaching the compound at high speeds and to help protect the complex against an attack by suicide bombers.
The complex has also adopted additional multiple layers of security details.
A Business Daily tour of the complex Thursday revealed signs that the former bustling complex in the upmarket suburb of Westlands is slowly coming back to life with an assured determination.
Already, some businesses have resumed operations in the six buildings that housed about 40 local and international companies.
Signs of normal life at the complex began to return as early as Monday, when company executives and workers at the complex began the long journey back to normalcy.
Among those who have returned to work is Mr Ronald Ng’eno, a communications officer with the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA).
Mr Ng’eno, 38, unwittingly became the poster boy of rescue efforts on the fateful night of the terror attack, thanks to his desperate pleas for help through social media.
With his Twitter updates, he attracted the sympathy of Kenyans following his constant updates of the harrowing situation inside one of the buildings that the terrorists had laid siege at.
The tweets went viral as the enormity of the attack sunk among Kenyans.
“If I die, I love the Lord and believe I will go to Heaven. Please, tell my family I love them; I love you Caleb, Mark and Carol,” Mr Ng’eno wrote at the time.
On Thursday afternoon, Mr Ng’eno broke into a big smile as he narrated his joy to be back at work.
“I am happy to be back at work,” he said as he showed the Business Daily crew how he hid inside a bathroom.
He said the swift rescue efforts by Kenyan security agencies saved his life and that of his colleagues.
He was grateful to Kenyans for the moral support they gave those affect during the attack.
“I was moved that thousands of people cared about our plight. I will forever cherish that,” he said, holding back tears.
“It is a testament that the terrorists cannot win against us as one people.”
Adjacent to Mr Ng’eno’s office complex where the CRA’s offices are located is the I&M Bank branch that bore the brunt of the attack as it is situated along the main entry of the complex.
I&M Bank relationship manager Vanshaj Dhingra Thursday moved about his office serving the clients who walked in.
“I am happy to be back home,” he said as he pointed at a newly-repaired glass door which was shattered by bullets on the day of the attack.
“I believe it is important not to let the perpetrators win by staying back at home,” he added.
In yet another building, the employees of French spirits group, Pernod Ricard, went about their duties normally.
Two bullet holes on the windows are a stark reminder of the tragic events of the day.
A defiant Predrag Amidzic, managing director of the sprits dealer that imports among others the Jameson brand, said he is undeterred by the setback.
“Showing up to work is the best attack or defense to the senseless terrorists,” says Mr Amidzic, a national of Montenegro, a Balkan country in Southeastern Europe on the Adriatic Sea.
On the day of the attack, Mr Amidzic rallied his staff to barricade themselves and prevent the terrorists from gaining entry into their offices. Police would later evacuate them safely, after the gunmen blasted their way into the complex.
Mr Amidzic said the Nairobi office of the French firm will stay put in the complex.
“We are here to stay,” he affirmed, adding that the response by Kenyan security agencies was swift and remarkable.
“The GSU response made sure we were not left to the mercy of the terrorists. They would have killed us like sitting ducks. This was exemplary and the country should have a standby force to respond to any such incidents,” he said.
Not far from his office, smartly-dressed employees of Qatar Airlines also went about their duties in their office.
The Business Daily learned that most companies have offered counselling services to their employees to help them deal with the trauma.
According to the management of the complex, about 20 of the close to 50 companies that operate from the hotel are already back.
“We have beefed up security and repaired most of the damaged areas,” said Mr Chirag Sanghrajka from the Dusit management.
He described the re-opening of the complex as “a win” for the victims of the attack.
“The longer you delay to open, the more you give satisfaction to the terrorists. But as a country we have to overcome this,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Mr Joe Karago, another member of the management team who noted that all arms of the State including national and the Nairobi county government have been supportive in bringing back normalcy at the complex.
“The government has been action-oriented,” said Mr Karago. The two executives have, however, not forgotten about the horrors of the day.
“We understand that many employees will be confronting this. You look across the office and you see an empty seat of a colleague who died and it triggers all the memories back. But you can’t let the terrorists win by thinking about that. We have to stay the course”.
At the dusitD2 Hotel, the Business Daily team ordered a light lunch.
The sumptuous meal with an array of tempting salads laid out buffet-style, coupled with the quiet ambience of the hotel with its dramatic floor-to-ceiling window views of the outside gardens hides the scale of the attack.
Hotel staff said they were trying to confront the memories of the attack by providing their best service to guests.
Dusit Hotel lost six of its employees in the attack.
“We have to keep moving on and do what we do best,” a waiter who said she was not authorised to speak to media said.
For her, all she wanted was to ensure that every guest felt special.
Mr Sanghrajka said the resilience of the workers was a metaphor for the country’s battered, but defiant spirit.
“We are ready,” he said. It was evident.
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.