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MUCHERU: Pooling resources to meet needs of film sector

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By JOE MUCHERU
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I love watching movies, particularly those with unpredictable twists. Beyond my fascination with movie plots and characters, I muse over what it takes to produce a good film.

Nairobi was once abuzz with movie theatres but most of them have either closed down or have been repurposed into houses of worship — not that I have anything against soul harvesting.

The obsolescence of movie theatres in Kenya is a stark reminder of how technology has revolutionised mass-entertainment along with other major industries. It is encouraging, however, that a new breed of state-of-the-art movie theatres is springing up in strategic locations to appeal to Kenya’s rising middle class.

Of greater interest still is that a majority of the films and movies screened locally are mostly from established movie spinners such as Hollywood and Bollywood. Occasionally, local productions are screened, and I was delighted to attend the premiere of Subira, which was crowned as the Best Feature Film at the Kalasha Awards 2018.

The talent and quality displayed through this production are impressive. Sadly, our productions barely command the cult following that is enjoyed by box office productions such as super hero film Black Panther. The fact that our very own Lupita Nyong’o starred in the film was a bonus to Kenya.

With all our expertise, talent and crew base, it is of concern that our local productions do not resonate locally and even globally. The dismal patronage of movie theatres threatens the sustainability of the film industry as producers are unable to recoup their investments through box office sales and actors cannot string together a decent income.

A good number of local producers are now caught between trying to produce flicks similar in theme as the Western blockbusters, but without budgets, production technology and equipment to back the pieces they make. This has led to increased deculturisation and westernisation in our society.

The economic value of the film industry in Kenya is yet to be properly understood and this, therefore, limits investment into the sector. Advanced film markets such as the USA, China and India and recently Nigeria employ deliberate strategies to support their film sectors. For example, China has set quotas on the number of foreign films that can be screened in the theatres in the country.

To penetrate wider markets including Africa, players from these film-developed countries leverage the internet and mobile telephone to distribute their content as exemplified by over the top operators (OTTs) such as Netflix and YouTube. Disney is also set to launch its streaming service. This, backed with major investments in dubbing studios, theatre and movie halls, guarantees that returns on the films produced in these markets are higher.

In Kenya, broadcasters will ultimately be required to air 60 per cent local content. However, most stations struggle to sustain the current 40 per cent threshold because they are unable to attract or sustain advertisement revenue, which is determined by viewership. These broadcasters, together with distributors and broadcasters, can draw lessons from the OTTs. To penetrate new and broader markets, the OTTs leverage local insights to produce content that is relevant for a specific market. Netflix, for example, will soon premiere Queen Sono, an African themed female-led spy series set in South Africa. This strategy, which they have applied before in markets like India and wider Asia, are meant to rump up viewership numbers in the specific markets.

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OTTs previously subsisted on content from other production houses but are now developing their content to reduce their dependence on others. All this points to the fact that besides just movie productions, we can invest and make significant returns in the film sub-sectors such as prop production.

The Kenya Film Commission (KFC), Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) and the Kenya Film School (KFS) will have to pool resources and efforts to address the needs of the film sector.

We need to have investments in film studios and sound stages that can appeal to both local and international movie makers. The government is also looking into putting in place attractive incentives to entice international movie producers to film on location and spur a positive ripple effect for the local communities and boost the tourism sector.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation recognises that digital technology has revolutionised production and distribution of music and movies and that revenue generated to access entertainment content has decreased in most parts of the world.

The local copyright and intellectual property laws, therefore, need to be harmonised with international laws. The sector players have also called for the conclusion of the film policy so that it can be the overarching reference for film production. The levies charged for filming in various counties also need to be renegotiated to avoid double taxation.

The fragmented African market stifles growth in the entertainment sector, but potentials exist through the Smart Africa initiative, under which Kenya is responsible for driving the digital economy. Co-production opportunities should be explored in these markets and producers should not shy away from looking East to tap into China’s 1.2 billion market.

The government seeks to establish a revolving film fund accessible to filmmakers for productions. In collaboration with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of ICT will also develop effective tools and mechanisms to aggregate data and analyse the value of the different verticals within the entertainment sector to influence investment decisions.

With a median age of 19 years, Kenya’s film sector has a huge potential to generate youth-centric job opportunities.

And just like the US and China have done, we can and must produce movies that portray our values, foster our patriotism, enhance cohesion and also validate the industry players who work tirelessly to entertain us. We need to advocate congenial and collective screen-time opportunities at movie theatres across the 47 counties. In the words of Walt Disney, “movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood.”

Mr Mucheru is CS, Ministry of ICT.



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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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