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What’s required for Kenya’s new normal under Covid-19

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What’s required for Kenya’s new normal under Covid-19

The real tragedy of Monday’s “reopening of the economy” is that it seems not to reflect on the quiet time we have had, and the moment we now have to reimagine and reshape Kenya.
The real tragedy of Monday’s “reopening of the economy” is that it seems not to reflect on the quiet time we have had, and the moment we now have to reimagine and reshape Kenya. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The partial lockdown has been lifted in Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera, although the nationwide dusk to dawn curfew remains. Church is back, so there’s no further need to summon church leaders to personal residences. Bars, politics and other socials remain closed for now. This we all learnt on July 6.

The next day, we were advised about a “lost academic year”; 2020 has been deleted from the school calendar, which now resumes in 2021. July 7 was also our 30th remembrance of “Saba Saba” Day, a particular significant milestone in the push for Kenya’s Second Liberation. Our leaders have forgotten. Our love of “colonial-like status quo” is designed not to learn from history, but to repeat its errors.

Which is why, on the self-same July 7 liberation day, we were informed that Government deemed it fit to return to “business as usual” with a Zoom meeting in which President Uhuru Kenyatta outlined government development priorities for the 2020/21 fiscal year, emphasized the completion of projects and programmes as a performance metric for ministers and their assorted secretaries, talked big about “Build Kenya, Buy Kenya” and the settlement of pending bills, and, for the umpteenth time, warned officials against corruption and malfeasance. Like Covid-19 never happened, or isn’t happening.

Consider this further. Pending bills (in many cases for unnecessary, or non-priority work) are a first charge on Ministerial Budgets (as is the bloated payroll). The conflation of projects and programmes consistently reflects an illogical government ignorance that projects must be located in programmes (they are not equal); SGR and Galana-Kulalu exemplify the disastrous exceptions to this rule.

The real tragedy of Monday’s “reopening of the economy” is that it seems not to reflect on the quiet time we have had, and the moment we now have to reimagine and reshape Kenya. Fellow columnist Mike Eldon brilliantly captured our need for a new vision in his Thursday July 9 piece, concluding with an invitation for some thoughts on a “New Kenya”.

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While some felt that the President threw Kenyans “under the bus” with his “you’re on your own” Monday address, one imagines he’s also had a Covid-19 epiphany about real people, not inanimate toys we can’t eat, or tools that won’t teach or treat us without human intervention. Put differently, it isn’t just Covid-19, but Kenya that needs a more human “whole of society” view of the future.

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Knowing we’re not getting back to normal any time this year, what should we be thinking about in terms of a “New Kenya for the People”? And please, not that BBI aka “Big Baron Interests”. Allow me to revert to my time-worn “household/family” framework – what do Kenyan families want?

First, food. Kenya now has more pages of written paper on agricultural strategy than the sacks of maize in National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores. Agriculture is a county function that is plagued by national interference. How do we get everyone who’s escaped Nairobi following the “reopening” to get back to farming? Or everyone remaining in Nairobi (and other urban places) to embrace “urban agro”? How do we make livestock clean, competitive and exportable? Think mindset change: not the right to be fed (a subsistence attitude) to the right to food (a market attitude); and then the ability to make money from food.

Second, basic rights. Take these four from Article 43. Education. Health. Shelter. Water and Sanitation. Where’s the “whole of society” vision on education (life skills, skills for life, knowledge itself) beyond buildings and BOMs, that doesn’t panic us when, like now, schools are closed for the rest of the year?

Remember Bill Gates taking about “banking without banks”? Well, what about health without hospitals, plus e-Health and tele-medicine? Or next-gen housing as a WFH (work from home) space? What of integrated water and sanitation in a recycling perspective?

Mindset change again: Not the right to be educated, but to an education. Not the right to be healthy, but to health as a function of lifestyles and living conditions, like water and sanitation. Not simply in Nairobi or Mombasa, but everywhere. Our shortcut mentality has corrupted us towards a scramble for equal outcomes for a few in certain areas, rather than equal opportunity for all, everywhere.

Third, access to assets and income opportunities. This is where we don’t get it. Opportunities lie in counties, but only a few have focused on their economic sectors (trade, tourism, industry, including agro-processing), having prioritized health and roads. Everyone’s building jua kali, shoe shiner and boda boda sheds, but where are our R&D and innovation centres in counties or regional blocs? Where are people innovating on product or service design, offering or customer experiences?

Finally, participatory governance, and security and safety at a family level. How can we better offer citizen voice outside elections, and what is the role of the state in keeping us safe and secure in public places and private spaces? How do we improve human security conditions at the family level?

Many questions, and this is the moment to ask them. BBI was supposed to create our new normal. It hasn’t. Maybe Covid-19 might, if we think of Monday’s “reopening” as the beginning of the future.

After all, “it’s the people, stupid!”

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Kenyan shilling weakens : The Standard

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NAIROBI, KENYA: The Kenyan shilling lost ground on Tuesday due to dollar demand from players in the energy sector and importers of merchandise, traders said.

Commercial banks quoted the shilling at 107.15/35 per dollar, compared with 107.05/25 at Monday’s close.
The shilling weakened slightly on Monday due to an uptick in dollar demand from merchandise importers after government begun a phased easing of coronavirus-induced movement restrictions last week, traders said.
Commercial banks on Monday quoted the shilling at 107.10/30 per dollar, compared with 107.00/20 at Friday’s close.

SEE ALSO: Corona now opens doors for Treasury to get cheap loans

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Meanwhile, the Kenyan central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee will hold its next rate-setting meeting on July 29, the bank said on Tuesday.
At its last meeting in June, the bank left its benchmark lending rate unchanged for the second time in two months at 7.0 per cent.

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Unlocking New Opportunities, Why You Should Pay Attention to Cryptocurrencies

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Due to growing interest in Cryptocurrencies in Kenya and East Africa today, Centonomy Ltd, a financial literacy institution based in Kenya and Cryptobaraza, Africa’s number 1 cryptocurrency learning and investing network, announced season 3 of Making Sense of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies Program, set to kick off on July 31st, 2020.

The program will be preceded by a 2-day Virtual Webinar series on 16th and 17th July 5.30pm – 7.30pm dubbed:

Unlocking New Opportunities and Why you should pay attention to Cryptocurrencies 

Day 1: July 16th

On this day Centonomy and Cryptobaraza are partnering with 4 leading community organizations from East Africa that are helping learners explore new opportunities while maneuvering challenges. 

This day will feature a distinguished panel of East Africa’s Blockchain Associations

  • Roselyn Gicira, Chairperson, Blockchain Associations of Kenya
  • Kwame Rugunda, Chairperson, Blockchain Association of Uganda
  • Norbert Haguma, Chairperson Blockchain Association of Rwanda
  • Sandra Chogo,Co-founder Blocktech Tanzania and Rwanda

Both days will be moderated by Michael Kimani, Creator of Cryptobaraza and the founder of Blockchain Association of Kenya.

Day 2: July 17th

On this day attendees will get a taste of Making Sense of Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies, a hands-on program from highly rated program instructors for free.

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All attendees of the 2-day event will additionally get a How to avoid a scam guide prepared by the associations.

Sign up for the event here

About Centonomy

Centonomy Ltd is a financial literacy institution that seeks to shift mindsets so that purposeful people can create wealth and live abundantly. Centonomy has trained over 15,000 people to date through various programs and reached millions via their online platforms. Through coaching, the institution assists individuals in achieving their own definition of financial freedom, career advancement, and business success. Individuals learn to define their values and be motivated to proactively structure their lives. It has since offered mentorship to youth through the Centonomy Teens and Campus Edition

programs.

About Cryptobaraza

Cryptobaraza brings together individuals and groups of people interested in learning and investing in Cryptocurrencies. It is designed, built and backed by Tollbridge International Limited.

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Homegrown multinationals gain firm foothold in East Africa

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By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA

The 150 million people strong EAC Common Market has opened a window for cross-border expansion, nurturing homegrown multinationals that now straddle the region.

Kenyan companies have been the most adventurous, with their cross-border advances returning a mixed bag of fortunes.

Some firms have recorded huge successes while others have rued the decision to venture outside their home markets. Fast-growing sectors such as financial services, manufacturing, retail, transport and ICT have provided launch pads for those itching to venture outside their comfort zones.

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“The spirit of the Common Market Protocol encouraged Kenyan companies to venture into the region but most realised the situation on the ground was quite different. Despite the challenges, Kenyan companies have benefitted specifically when it comes to free movement of persons, labour and capital,” said Meshack Kipturgo, managing director of logistics company, Siginon Group.

EAC countries have to a large extent domesticated the Common Market Protocol making it easier for private companies to establish cross-border operations, but some have gone against the agreement on areas like free movement of people and land use that remains restricted.

Some of the notable Kenyan companies with regional operations include KCB, Equity, DTB and NCBA banks, East Africa Breweries Ltd, Bidco Oil Refineries, Brookside Dairy, Siginon Group, Nation Media Group and Britam.

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Stiff competition

For most of these companies, the search for revenue growth opportunities and stiff competition in the domestic market both from local companies and global conglomerates coming into the region forced them to seek new opportunities regionally.

Efforts to harmonise taxes, creation of one-stop border points, common investments in infrastructure projects and other initiatives have turned the EAC into a fertile expansion territory.

Some companies, particularly banks, have cross-listed their shares in neighbouring bourses including Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, Uganda Securities Exchange and Rwanda Stock Exchange to create a sense of local ownership, improve visibility and enlarge their investor base.

However, low or no trading due to shallow depth of the stock markets, high stockbrokerage fees, clearing and settlement costs, and other charges have discouraged other companies to consider cross-listing.

Some of those that have crossed boundaries have struggled to sustain operations of the new subsidiaries, majority of which have taken years to break even and start contributing to the overall bottom line.

This reality is well depicted by Kenyan banks with regional operations. According to data by the Central Bank of Kenya, regional subsidiaries of Kenyan banks recorded $106.5 million rise in profit before tax in 2018 compared with $80.6 million in 2017, a 31.5 percent increase.

Financing pitfalls

Rwanda presented the best-earning capacity for Kenyan banks despite having fewer subsidiaries, while Uganda topped the list of loss-making units.

For companies like ARM Cement, the pitfalls of regional expansion have been catastrophic. This because the company’s demise is directly linked to a botched attempt to conquer the regional cement market using an expansion strategy crafted on borrowing short-term commercial loans to finance long-term projects.

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