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Lack of rescue unit a risk to our lives, say Lamu sailors

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Shipping & Logistics

Lack of rescue unit a risk to our lives, say Lamu sailors

A boat full of passengers and cargo from Lamu Old Town heading to Kizingitini Island in Lamu East. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The lack of special marine disaster response and rescue units in the Lamu Indian Ocean waters is putting at risk the lives of hundreds of shippers and sailors in the region.

The Lamu channels are dangerous sailing zones and have witnessed a series of accidents in the past.

Shippers and sailors have been pushing for the establishment of disaster response units in order to save lives when such marine tragedies happen. However neither the county nor national government has taken any step to address their plight.

Boat operators and sea users who talked to Shipping on Tuesday said the government has always promised special rescue units when marine accidents occur, but the promises have not been fulfilled.

Hassan Awadh, the Lamu County Boat Operators Association Chairman, has challenged the County Government of Lamu, the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to act fast on the issue.

Mr Awadh said the lack of such a unit in Lamu is to blame for lost lives of many whenever accidents occur.

Common hotspots known for marine accidents in the Indian Ocean in Lamu are Mlango wa Tanu in Mkokoni, Mlango wa Ali in Kiwayu, Ndau and Mlango wa Bomani, which is an entrance to a channel connecting Kiunga harbour to the rest of the Indian Ocean. All these are in Lamu East.

Other black spots are Manda Bruno channel, the Mkanda Channel, Mlango wa Kipungani and Mlango wa Shella in Lamu West.

These killer channels are listed as the most dangerous in the Lamu waters with hordes of fishermen and sailors having perished there.

Mr Awadh noted that boat accidents are aggravated by the fact that very few people know how to swim, particularly when they find themselves in an unfamiliar territory.

“We call on the county and national governments to treat the matter with the urgency it deserves. We are tired of losing lives and property whenever marine accidents occur. They should think of providing special training to local divers and incoporate them into disaster response and rescue unit,” said Mr Awadh.

“We will be happy to see special boats on standby in places like Mkokoni, Kiunga, Manda Bruno, Mkanda, Kipungani, Kiwayu and Shella channels so that it becomes easy for them to act fast once accidents occur in those particular channels.” Athman Abbas, a coxswain plying the Lamu Island-Kiunga route, said the presence of the rescue units which are fully equipped with adequate infrastructure to counter marine disasters will give the sailors confidence while conducting their daily activities at sea.

Mr Abbas said on many occasions, seafarers involved in marine accidents have had to fight it out for survival on their own.

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“Knowing that we have rescue units on standby gives us the confidence to operate in the Indian Ocean. We have witnessed deaths that would have otherwise been avoided or reduced had there been a disaster unit to promptly respond. We need the rescue units as soon as possible,” said Mr Abbas.

Yusuf Kupi, a long distance boat operator, said local divers volunteer to respond to accidents, but their effort is not enough, as some of them lack the skills to navigate some parts of the Indian Ocean due to rough tides.

He said rescue units should be established and equipped with stronger boats and diving gadgets.

Captain Bob, another boat operator in Lamu Old Town, said owing to the history of marine accidents in Lamu, there is need for the region to have enough rescue boats patrolling the seas so that they can promptly respond in case of accidents.

“It’s unimaginable that Lamu with the kind of history we’ve had with marine accidents, we still have no proper mechanism put in place to respond. That’s why people continue to die at sea. These deaths could have been averted if we had a fully equipped rescue unit,” said Mr Bob.

“There is also a need for Lamu to have a clear disaster response plan. There have been so many promises by the county and national government but neither side seems genuine.” One of the worst marine accidents in the history of Lamu happened in 2017 when ODM politician Shekue Kahale lost 11 relatives, among them his four young children aged between nine and 11 as well as his wife.

Only the politician survived the boat accident after swimming for hours to an isolated island where he was discovered by local divers a day later.

On June 20 last year,10 people died after a dhow they had boarded capsized at the notorious Mkanda channel.

On October 9, 2017, four people who had been reported missing at sea were found alive and well after an extensive search mounted by the Kenya Red Cross Society in Lamu and the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA). The four had spent a nightmarish night on the lonely Indian Ocean waters after their boat was overpowered by rough tides at the Manda Bruno channel sweeping the vessel all the way to Dodori. On May 7, 2016, two people died after a boat they were travelling in capsized at the Kengen area in Lamu Island. The boat which was overloaded with timber had four passengers onboard but two — a coxswain and a passenger —survived by swimming to the shores.

In October, 2015, three officers, an Administration Police, an intelligent officer and a crew member died after a boat they were travelling in capsized at Mlango wa Tanu Channel in Mkokoni, Lamu East Sub County.

On September 6, 2014, 11 navy officials escaped death narrowly, leaving others critically injured after a marine boat they were travelling in capsized at Boru area in Lamu East.

On January 1, 2012, nine people perished after a passenger boat MV Safina carrying over 80 people collided with another vessel carrying nearly 50 drums of fuel, sending the passenger boat plummeting to the sea bottom.



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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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