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Kenya has huge untapped potential for digital economy growth, President Kenyatta

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President Uhuru Kenyatta Tuesday said there is huge potential and numerous opportunities for the growth of the digital economy in Kenya.

The President observed that Kenya’s recent milestones in the digital space, especially in the development and deployment of disruptive applications, provide a good backbone for the growth of the digital economy in the country.

“Kenya has managed to record impressive progress in e-commerce especially in areas such as mobile banking and e-government. Some of the breakthroughs are in sectors such as agriculture, health and money transfer,” President Kenyatta said.

Speaking during the ongoing Africa-European Union (EU) High-Level Forum in Vienna, Austria, the President cited MPESA which has significantly improved financial inclusion in Kenya and in the eastern Africa region as an indication of the digital potential that the country holds.

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Besides the financial sector, President Kenyatta said Kenya has made remarkable progress in the infusion of ICT technology in the delivery of health services.

“In recently celebrated cases, hospitals in Kenya now have the capability of undertaking complicated medical procedures using the internet,” President Kenyatta pointed out.

Other areas that have benefitted from digitization include the retail sector where increased penetration of broadband internet has result in booming online retail business.

In agriculture, the President said, digitalization has transformed the lives of farmers and others in the value chain by providing near real-time agricultural and market information.

“Information from markets and payments are easily channeled to the farmers,” President Kenyatta said.

President Kenyatta underscored the importance of creating a conducive environment for the private sector to thrive so as to the much-needed jobs and wealth for the population.

The President emphasized that Governments need to put in place an enabling environment that enables businesses to plan ahead with certainty.

“There is a need for strong macroeconomic framework focusing on predictable policies, formalization of informal sector activities, addressing information asymmetries on existing investment opportunities, delimiting communication challenges, deepening reforms that reduce investment risks,” he said.

The Head of State urged the public sector policymakers to develop legal, political and regulatory mechanisms that support efficient and effective service delivery and which ultimately support the initiatives of the private sector.

In Kenya, the President said, the establishment of single contact points for business commonly referred to as “one-stop shop” where businesses can access all services under one roof has boosted the investment environment.

“In Kenya, we have fully operationalized one stop shop services, Huduma centres,” President Kenyatta said.

The President also singled out quality, reliable and resilient infrastructure as a key enabler for investment decisions.

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To prepare the youth well for the job opportunities in the private sector, President Kenyatta expressed the need to have in place commensurate education curriculum that links education institutions with the labour market demands as well as investing more in technical and vocational training especially among the post school population.

“There is need to enhance the education system to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education courses as a foundation for trade,” the President said.

President Kenyatta said provision of concessional credit and a favourable ease of doing business environment for start-ups and SMES is also key to creating jobs for the youth.

He singled out value addition targeting the current raw and unprocessed exports to developed countries as well as embracing digitalization as a means of value addition and transformation in public service delivery as key ingredients to Africa’s transformation agenda.

“Value addition of these products will stimulate vertical and horizontal opportunities across the economy,” President Kenyatta said.

The Head of State informed the forum that Africa has enormous investment opportunities in nearly all sectors including agriculture, agribusiness, manufacturing and value addition, tourism, clean and renewable energy, affordable housing, water, education, extractives industry, ICT and infrastructure.

“Africa is currently the most profitable region with 11.4 percent return on investment compared to the global average of 7.2 percent. With a young population and fast expanding middle-class formation, Africa has good prospects,” the President said.

President Kenyatta pointed out that trade agreements also provide a formal framework on which states trade in goods and services in an orderly and predictable manner, citing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) signed in March this year by African countries to facilitate intra-Africa trade.

Other speakers included President Paul Kagame and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria who co-chaired the forum.

Later, President Kenyatta and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda held a joint meeting with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker.

During the meeting, the three leaders discussed and agreed on mechanisms for the implementation of partnerships that will go a long way in strengthening relations between the AU and EU.

Separately, President Kenyatta also held a meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, where the two leaders declared support for the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiated between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partners to promote ACP-EU trade and investment.

President Kenyatta and the President of the European Parliament also spoke extensively on their support for peace and security, especially on counter-terrorism efforts.

On trade and investment, President Tajani pledged to lead an EU business delegation to Kenya next year.

 



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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