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Mobile app that seeks to consolidate construction

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By BRIAN OKINDA
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Driven by the upsurge in the country’s demand for improved and affordable housing, besides the rapid growth of informal settlements, global building and construction solutions firm, iBUILD, formally launched its services as well as its mobile-based platform in Kenya.

The firm, whose main objective is to expedite solutions across the building and construction, as well as the housing value chain by making all construction services easily accessible to users, began its initial testing in the country in 2017, but is now fully rolling out countrywide.

“Technology transforms the way people achieve what they need, hence the reason we decided to empower average Kenyans to transform the way they carry out their housing, construction and building accomplishments,” said Lew Schulman, iBUILD’s co-founder and chair of the company board.

According to Lew, globally, Kenya is among the front-runners in embracing and making good use of technologies, thus the reason iBUILD chose to implement its programme in the country.

The iBUILD mobile application is essentially a citizen-to-citizen (C2C) housing market tool which empowers small-scale constructions based on each individual’s unique needs and affordability.

It empowers a citizen-focused virtual marketplace where customers directly engage with architects, lenders, artisans, material suppliers, and certified contractors, while equipping small scale construction markets to scale up and meet the growing housing demand.

The web platform is designed to lower construction transaction costs by providing citizens direct access to an active network of competitive housing construction services, while creating transparency of transactions across all involved stakeholders throughout the project.

The three-pronged approach of service provision largely revolves around the property owners, contractors and the employed construction site workers.

Through the mobile phone platform, for instance, individual property owners have the ability to search and find qualified contractors by reviewing and selecting contractors’ bids, track and manage their home construction and repair projects, assess their corresponding project budgets, project payments and project timelines all from the comfort of their mobile phone devices.

iBUILD chairman Lew Schulman, and market director Aggrey Wangwe during the media briefing.

iBUILD chairman Lew Schulman, and market director Aggrey Wangwe during the media briefing. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

On the other hand, through the same system, contractors can find projects, place bids, hire workers as well as pay them, rate the workers’ efficiency and productivity, manage the project details and make, as well as receive payments for their complete jobs.

Construction site workers and artisans also have the ability to build their profiles, find construction site jobs, track their work history and skills progression, and get paid through the same mobile platform.

“Construction work needs reliable service delivery and as such, contractors as well as site workers need to be reliable enough to do their duties for their pays’ worth. Fundis and construction site artisans also need to have a voice vouching for them, something that enables the good ones get more jobs, and the platform enables them to do that,” said Alice Mutai, who is the registrar at the Kenya Engineering Technology Registration Board (KETRB), whose duty it is to set and enforce standards that promote the engineering technology profession and ensure provision of quality services and works by its stakeholders.

The system, according to iBUILD, is set to help in digitally managing more than 100 million new buildings incrementally built, and repair jobs by ensuring up to 1.6 million homes are constructed and repaired each year, besides certifying more than eight million construction workers who are benefiting from the platform.

According to Habitat for Humanity-Kenya, the housing deficit in the country stood at two million in 2012 and continues to grow at the rate of over 200,000 units a year, which has led to a proliferation of informal settlements in urban areas with 60 per cent of the population living in informal settlements.

Families live in overcrowded homes- typically one room with no adequate ventilation, putting the members at high risk of diseases such as respiratory infections among others.

The government has put in place mechanisms to supply over 500,000 units of affordable housing over the next four years as part of its Big Four agenda, making technology an invaluable resource in realising this agenda.

It is for this reason that Habitat for Humanity sought to have partnerships with stakeholders such as iBuild, among others.

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The importance of technology in housing is paramount, which is why an application like iBuild, will make the process of achieving the affordable housing agenda, even faster, according to ICT CS, Joe Mucheru.

Avoid these mistakes and you will move houses stress-free

Just like any changes in human life, moving from one place to another comes with a lot of emotions — both positive and negative. Stress in particular is a dominant emotion associated with moving from one house to another.

Whether you are a first-time mover or a seasoned one who perhaps changes jobs frequently, the stress associated with moving is inevitable.

However, according to Mr Fred Magadi, the director of Pro Team Movers Kenya, a property moving company, stress can be minimised if people avoided these common mistakes:

Poor planning for the move

When planning to move, many ignore setting a specific move date. Majority concentrate on getting a new house, paying deposits and pay very little attention to how their things will be moved from one place to another.

“The moment you settle on the house you are moving to, it is important to begin making moving arrangements immediately,” advises Mr Magadi. “If you will be engaging a moving company, then it is imperative that you start looking around for one so that you settle on the one with the most competitive rates.”

He adds that poor planning in moving results in unpreparedness for the anticipated challenges that may come with packing and moving.

When one has a set date for the move, they are able to plan themselves accordingly and get their house in order in time. Proper planning helps avoid last minute packing which leads to stress.

Not taking inventory of one’s household goods

“After a long day moving, you will need time to relax. However, this may not be the case if you did not prepare an inventory of your belongings while packing. Many people pack without having a record of where specific items are being packed. This results in difficulties while unpacking and one may end up living out of boxes for quite a while because they cannot immediately trace the items they could be looking for,” notes Mr Magadi.

It is therefore advisable to clearly label each box and indicate what it contains. Alternatively, one can have a list detailing where specific items are.

It is widely believed that the best time to do away with items that are no longer in use is when moving houses. However, a number of people hold on to items that they no longer need and insist on moving with them to the new homes.

“Unpacking into a new home is a strenuous task, especially for first time movers,” says Mr Magadi, adding that disorganisation and hoarding of items simply adds to the stress of unpacking when trying to arrange your new home.

It is advised that before the move, one should go through their household goods and donate what they do not need anymore.

Doing everything by yourself in attempt to save money

Another common mistakes made when moving is trying to do everything alone.

“Engaging professional movers is not a common notion in Kenya as it is perceived to be very costly. People prefer to pack by themselves, or to invite relatives and friends to assist them. This makes the moving process tiring and time consuming. Should there be items of significant value, there is risk of damage if they are not properly tended to, as would have been by a professional. Most moving companies have invested in packing and moving materials, and will be better placed for this job,” says Mr Magadi.

He however notes that Kenyans are slowly embracing professional moving companies.

“In the recent past, it has been noted that most households prefer hiring professional movers which explains why we are having so many companies springing up,” says Mr Magadi. He nevertheless cautions that some of these companies are masqueraders who are out to con people out of their money.

To curb this problem, registered companies have come up with the Association of Professional Movers Kenya — Under Incorporation, which protects clients and their properties in the moving process. In case of a grievance, there is a mechanism that is in place for the clients to have their matters attended to”, notes Mr Magadi. By Julie Ambani



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General

Sordid tale of 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.
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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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

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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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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