Last Thursday we hosted a public forum on the implications of the Nairobi Expressway on Uhuru Park. The debate involved the Kenya National Highways Authority, the agency responsible for the road, the National Environment Management Authority, the private sector, academia and the civil society. The debate was robust and informative.
We explored the levels of public participation so as to assess the extent to which citizens input were sought and incorporated in the decision regarding the project, the design of the road, the process of relevance of environmental impact assessment and the required balance between infrastructure development and environmental conservation.
At the time the debate took place the government had already announced that it would redesign the road so as not to affect Uhuru Park at all. However, the fact that attempts were even made initially to have parts of the road pass through Uhuru Park raises questions about the significance if Uhuru Park to the country.
Uhuru Park is a recreational park in the centre of Nairobi, gazetted as such 50 years ago. Despite this its original size has diminished over the years to other development activities, including construction of a hotel. The most outrageous attempt to interfere with the park however happened in the 1989 when the then government attempted to build a 60-storey Kenya Times Media Complex in the Park.
It took the intervention of the late Nobel laureate Prof Wangari Maathai to save the park. She went to court and although the court dismissed her efforts arguing that she had no special interest in the park, her continued agitation ensured that the construction never took off.
Thirty years later history was about to repeat itself. Again, it took public pressure to have the government change its original plans. We can argue about the importance of the highway and the fact that the size of land that was going to be affected is minimal. However, it shows that Uhuru Park is seen as just a public land which, constitutionally can be converted to other uses when circumstances demand.
In reality though, Uhuru Park is not just land. It means much more. First it is the most important open space in the city. On any day you will find preachers, families relaxing, workers resting during breaks, traders selling their wares and politicians holding rallies. Open spaces serve important functions in any society.
However, they are under threat from development activities. That is why there is international struggle to protect them from encroachment. To lose Uhuru Park would be to lose an important recreational site and even more.
You cannot speak about Kenya’s constitutional, political and environmental history without the park. It is important that this be protected both for current and future generations. Just a few days ago, the Building Bridges Initiative Report was launched. Amongst its concerns was Kenyans disregard of its history. For that reason, the report proposes that a national historian be commissioned to record Kenya’s history for posterity.
The Kenya National Archives records a little bit of that history. However, it requires to be given more prominence, resources and tasks. Uhuru Park forms an important part of the country’s history. To contemplate destroying even part of it is to interfere with or disregard the historical significance. This would ago against the spirit of the Building Bridges Recommendation.
The county government of Nairobi has a role in the protection and conservation of the park. However, except for beautification here and there, the greatest public focus of the county in relation to the park is the economic benefits that the park brings to it. It is time we moved the focus to the historical significance of the park.
The National Museums of Kenya has a responsibility to protect historical monuments. Internationally too under the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, states are obligated to delineate and Protect natural areas of outstanding universal value.
To avoid possibility of another attempt several years from now to convert Uhuru Park into another development, it is necessary that we deploy the Public Trust doctrine to elevate its status as an open green space that must be conserved for public use in perpetuity due to its historical, ecological , recreational significance.
World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
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.
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.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
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.
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.
Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets
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.
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.