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Video Gaming Has Evolved into a Money Maker

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A screenshot of Kratos spartan rage in God of war 4. PHOTO | COURTESY 

At video game lounges or in living rooms in urban centres, young Kenyans sit for hours on end, transported into a virtual world where they fight zombies and mythical creatures through pad controllers and mouse clicks.

Some employed and others in colleges, these young Kenyans have carried on their childhood thrill of video games into adulthood, playing to pass time, with others doing it professionally in tournaments.

Known as electronic sports or e-sports, the pastime is drawing many crowds and substantial amounts of money.

Mike Kiguta is one of the few who has won money from video games. Just like many Kenyans of a certain age, video games occupied a crucial place in his childhood.

However, he started playing them competitively last year in an Asus-sponsored event at Nairobi’s Sarit Centre.

Together with his friends, they each earned Sh10,000 after finishing fourth.

Mike who started playing at Tric Café Gaming, a lounge in Nairobi, to while away the time, says he does not fear getting addicted.

‘‘It is addictive, perhaps, just like dancing, because someone gets satisfaction from it and there is the monetary motivation after winning,’’ he says.

To gun for prize money, he turns to You Tube tutorials to master the gaming skills.

There are other groups that are organising tournaments in Kenya such as Ace Pro Gaming and Tekken Two-Five-Four Gaming where winners earn prize money.

Last year, they organised the first ever league series, attracting about 20 players. The tournament paved the way for others this year including Jumia Gaming Tournament, East Africa Gaming Convention and Pro Series Gaming tourneys.

As other young Kenyans go to nightclubs, there is this other group of ‘geeks’ that holes themselves in bachelor pads alone or with a few friends, attacking and counter-attacking creatures on laptops, Xboxes or on PlayStations.

Ellis Lunayo who recently got employed as a technology technician says he does e-gaming for fun and occasionally gets paid in tournaments.

He started playing e-sports three years ago during his final year in university. He prefers the National Basketball League, the English Premier League and car-racing.

The gaming platform has broken the barriers that traditionally have been played along gender lines. Ellis occasionally plays against his female friends, whom he says are fast matching up to him and his male colleagues. Leon Mandela, also in his early 20s, has found a new night-life away from the traditional drink-and-dance.

“It has kept me from the crazy night-life and I always look ahead to playing against friends and neighbours,” he says.

A near-unquenchable thirst for gaming saw Leon get a soft loan from a friend to buy his first-ever player while still in university. It was a PlayStation4 Slim going for Sh38,000 but as technology changes fast, it is almost reaching the end of its life cycle.

Console manufacturers often upgrade their products and to keep up with the latest models, gamers have to dig deeper into their pockets or risk having an obsolete gadget.

For example, PlayStation 4 pro, the ‘super charged console ‘that offers 4K television gaming goes for about Sh55,000, with each of its game retailing for at Sh10,000. Xbox 1X, thought to be among the best goes for over Sh60,000.

Electronic sports has also pushed up sales of more sophisticated laptops dedicated to gaming which range from Sh100,000.

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Competitors and their supporters at an Ace-pro Gaming-organized event in Nairobi

Competitors and their supporters at an Ace-pro Gaming-organized event in Nairobi. PHOTO | COURTESY

Like many gamers, Leon’s top games include ‘Call of Duty’, ‘FIFA 18’, ‘Grand Theft Auto’ and ‘God of War’. He adds that he is excited about the impending release of ‘FIFA 19’.

These games are not cheap. Games such as ‘Forza Horizon 4’ which is new and a favourite among many enthusiasts costs Sh8,000. A dedicated person may play one game in a week while others play it for one or two months, especially if they do it every day for an hour after work, and six to eight hours on weekends.

Davy Kamanzi of Tekken Two-Five-Four Gaming that organises competitions says that for tournaments, gamers can play for seven to nine hours.

Kenya’s e-sports industry is unregulated and gaming is not a rich man’s game. Even in Nairobi’s low-income estates, small makeshift kiosks host lovers of the game.

Players say it helps them relax while increasing the mind’s ability to solve problems.

A visit to Tric Gaming Café in Nairobi’s Moi Avenue Street depicts a picture of an industry that is growing fast.

The lounge has more than 10 screens, where gamers play after paying Sh150 per hour. Other lounges charge Sh500 and organise competitions where winners get up to Sh100,000.

The competitions are gruelling and to outgun the rest of the players is no mean feat. In some instances, gamers have adopted an unwritten rule that a loser foots the bill of the entire session.

In Africa, Egypt is the top gaming market, generating Sh20.6 billion ($205 million) a year, according to Statistica. Last year, Kenya ranked seventh among African countries, with gaming revenue estimated at Sh3 billion ($30 million). With investors opening more lounges and others organising tournaments, the game keeps appealing to the young population.

Charles Wambugu of Ace Pro Gaming, which also organises tournaments says, the business is not cheap to start.

“One tournament requires more than Sh100,000 which goes into the prize pool, hiring of venue, set-up and media engagements,” says Charles who has organised events in Kenya and Uganda.

However, Charles says Kenya is yet to reach to a level where gamers can make a living from e-sports.

“We are still at the infant stage, but not to say we are not making huge strides. It is only a matter of time before players are able to settle and concentrate on gaming as a source of livelihood,” he says.

Ace Pro Gaming usually collaborates with international gaming companies such as Electronic Sports Circuit in the US and Uganda’s Gamer’s Arena to sponsor players and the competitions.

“Gamers earn money from advertising revenue and viewer donations on videos and streams such as Twitch and You Tube and endorsement deals from companies that produce gaming products,” Davy of Tekken says.

Collins Akasa owns The Score Gaming Lounge, a quaint spot with red and black cozy seats, TV screens with two pads for each screen; a club that almost looks like a living room. He started the business with a friend. He says the club attracts both young women and men, mostly from college going.

When he started, he bought a few television screens each going for Sh50,000 and has increased them to about eight. He bought PS4 consoles, at Sh40,000 for one and two pads for each screen with one retailing at Sh5,500.

‘‘Most youths love video gaming. It is a game of peers. The women prefer action-packed or car-racing games while the men pick sports,’’ he says.

@ke.nationmedia.com



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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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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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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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