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Kenya, Rwanda ready for EU trade deal





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Kenya says it will begin implementing the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU) despite other East African Community (EAC) countries dragging their feet.

The set of agreements commonly known as EPAs were supposed to be a joint negotiation between the East African countries and the EU and meant to open up markets while allowing the European bloc access into the EAC.

But after four years of haggling, only Kenya and Rwanda have signed the deal.

Kenyan diplomats now say they have agreed with Rwanda to move on with implementing the agreement without being entangled in the EAC fold.

The matter came up early this week when President Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame met with senior EU officials in the Austrian capital of Vienna on the side-lines of the Africa-Europe High Level Forum.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement indicating president’s Kenyatta and Kagame had agreed with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union Commission and Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, to start implementing the agreement.

“In particular, the leaders had unanimous consensus on the application of the principle of variable geometry as a mechanism of launching the implementation of EPA commitments for Kenya and Rwanda in their distinguished identity as the only EAC countries that have so far signed the EPA agreement,” Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said in a statement.

Under the negotiations, the term “variable geometry” implies that while EAC was to negotiate as a bloc, both sides acknowledge that there may be differences, some irreconcilable, among the member states and that such should not delay implementation as long as there are mechanisms to iron them out.

As such, it allows one or more member states wishing to pursue a given goal to do so while allowing those opposed to hold back for a possible solution in the future.

Under EPAs, EAC member states stand to gain duty-free access to the EU market for their produce while partially and gradually allowing EU imports into their territory “taking full account of the differences in levels of development between the EAC and the EU”.

But while Kenya and Rwanda signed on the agreement, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi have been reluctant to do so.

Tanzania had cited uncertainties relating to Brexit (given that UK was initially part of the EU) as well as a threat to nascent industries in the EAC.


Foreign Affairs Director of Economic Affairs Johnson Weru told the Nation that the decision to move ahead will not affect the integration momentum since it is only one aspect of the community.

“The clock was ticking and we had spent a significant amount of time negotiating. That is why it was agreed at the political level that we can proceed. It means we can now apply for the funds as provided for in Article 75 of the agreement,” the diplomat told the Nation.

“There is no threat on integration because variable geometry is an implementation tool and it will not be the first time it has been used in the EAC,” added the official, referring to the Northern Corridor Initiative where Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan have in the past agreed on joint infrastructure projects, as well as the admission to the EAC of Rwanda and Burundi, nearly ten years after the EAC Protocol was signed.

On Thursday, Kenya said it expects to legally access a portion of the € 40billion (Sh4.6 trillion) available under EPAs to develop priority areas listed in the set of agreements.

These include infrastructure, green energy, agriculture and market access, establishment of disease-free zones, blue economy, water resource management, technical and vocational training, training of farmers, customs/border management and private sector development.

EAC countries had jointly negotiated the EPAs until 2014 but some countries cited provisions which they argued could injure their local industries.

The EU had insisted the agreement will be valid only if all five EAC countries signed it and argued there is no threat on nascent industries because the agreements allowed either side to reintroduce safeguards against flooding of goods.

Though Kenya could benefit more from the agreement by sustaining market for fresh flowers, the EU still sells more to the region than it buys from it.

In 2017, EU sold to EAC goods worth €3.6 billion (Sh417 billion) but bought goods worth €2.4 billion (Sh278 billion), leaving a balance of €1.2 billion (Sh139 billion).

Exports to the EU from EAC are mainly coffee, cut flowers, tea, tobacco, fish and vegetables.

Imports from the EU are mostly machinery and mechanical appliances, equipment and parts, vehicles and pharmaceutical products.

Kenya feels it is motivated to implement the agreement because it is the only country in the EAC which is considered above least developed countries, meaning it could suffer more were the EU to implement the tariffs.


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




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.


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




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




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.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

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.


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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