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Tea firms vow to block higher land rates

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Tea companies headed to court as counties push for higher land rates

 Stephen Sang
Mr Stephen Sang: Nandi county government will earn more than Sh1.4 billion from the 150,000 tea acre plantations. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The row surrounding expiry of leases for multinationals in tea growing zones in Rift Valley may now be headed to the courts after the firms vowed to block counties from imposing Sh10,000 new land rates per acre yearly.

The multinationals have complained that the new rates will drive them out of the industry and lead to massive job losses.

The firms were dealt a big blow recently after the National Land Commission (NLC) made a radical ruling directing that expired land leases be reduced from 999 years to strictly 99 years in line with the 2010 Constitution.

In their ruling before the end of their terms, NLC commissioners also said the companies must work in consultation with counties and local communities, which suffered historical land injustices.
The companies said the new rates which NLC directed the devolved units to implement will lead to collapse of the sector.

Managers said the tea industry is at the moment facing hard times due to prolonged drought coupled with demands from the Kenya Plantation Workers Union (KPWU) seeking high salaries for tea workers.

“Paying Sh10,000 per acre to county governments per year and paying high power bills and high wages will make new investors to shun Kenya,” five senior managers from multinational tea companies in Rift Valley said in a statement.

The managers who asked for anonymity for fear of victimisation by county governments blamed devolved units for not inviting them for talks before announcing the new rates, terming NLC’s ruling unrealistic.

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“Counties in regions where multinationals operate should have consulted first before imposing Sh10,000 per acre land rates. We will move to court to block and challenge the new rates since they are punitive and will discourage investors to Kenya,” the tea managers said.

Multinationals operating under the Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA), which has been warning that the high cost of operations could paralyse companies, says they have suffered due to high labour costs and power tariffs.

The NLC ruling is, however, a big win for counties which have been demanding that they take over expired land leases against the tea companies that have been in Kenya since the British colonial era.
The ruling spells doom for multibillion tea companies which have employed more than 360,000 tea workers in Kenya.

Governors Paul Chepkwony (Kericho) and Stephen Sang (Nandi), and MPs from areas where the multinational operate, have declared that they want uniform new land rents and rates effected as from July.

Mr Chepkwony and Mr Sang have vowed that they were ready to implement the ruling from the NLC which gave powers to counties to decide on how much the tea companies should pay after they presented petitions to the land commission.

“Nandi county government will earn more than Sh1.4 billion from the 150,000 tea acre plantations while in Kericho, Governor Chepkwony says the county would earn more than Sh5 billion through the newly announced land rates,” Governor Sang told the Sunday Nation.

International Labour Court

Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli had moved to the International Labour Court to sue the tea companies in Kenya for allegedly frustrating and under paying workers, among other complaints.

Nandi and Kericho counties are seeking compensation from the British government over forcible land eviction and massacre of Kipsigis communities during the colonial period.

British government officials, led by Deputy High Commissioner Susie Kitchen, last year held talks with both Mr Sang and Mr Chepkwony on expired tea leases affecting multinational tea companies.
According to Governor Sang, NLC’s move will help to solve land controversies in the counties.

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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