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Which way now for KICC?

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By DELFHIN MUGO
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Late in 2017, Ms Nabila Almass, a marketer at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), was going through her photo album when she came across one photo towards which she felt great attachment. It was a picture of her taken outside KICC when she was just three years old.

“I was filled with nostalgia. I was going through my photos and then I saw it and I thought, ‘Who knew I would come to work in such a place where I took a photo so many years ago,’” says Ms Almass, who has been working in the marketing department since 2013.

Overwhelmed with emotion, she rushed to her mother with the photograph, as if to confirm that she had, indeed, visited KICC.

“My mom said, ‘Yes, that is you at KICC. I used to take you there every Sunday,” she narrates, breaking into hearty laughter.

“It used to be a thing, I understand, that you pass by here on your way to Uhuru Park. Those were the good old days when Uhuru Park used to be ‘the place to be’ on weekends.”

Though now an employee at the KICC, Ms Almass’ experience mirrors that of most Kenyans. Here, hardly a minute passes by without a photographer clicking away.

On any given day, there are at least three photographers at the KICC gate waiting to capture people’s special moments, with KICC towering in the background, and print the pictures almost immediately.

Ms Almass even showed us where exactly you should stand so that it appears like you are leaning on KICC.

Meanwhile, if you enter the phrase “Nairobi City pictures” on the Google search engine, the images that appear speak volumes of KICC’s role. The first two photographs by the Standard Media Group and CNN, have KICC in the background.

Interestingly, the next three photos, judging from the angle from which they were taken, seemed to have been shot from atop KICC, probably from the building’s helipad. They capture the aerial views of City Hall, Parliament and Cooperative buildings.

In total, out of 12 pictures that will pop up in your search results, three show KICC in the background, one depicts the KICC grounds, while three appear to have been taken atop the building.

This can only mean one thing: that KICC, whether by default or design, represents the face of Kenya, and indeed, that of Nairobi city.

When Kenyan architect David Mutiso began working on the design of Kenyatta International Conference Centre, as it was initially known, then the tallest building in Kenya, together with Norwegian architect, Karl Henrick Nostvick in the early days of independence, no one, not even they imagined that the 28-floor structure would become the face of Kenya.

DN2 sought to know from Mr Mutiso how the building, which resembles a traditional African hut, became the iconic building it is today.

The boxing match between Mexican Yamileth Mercado and Kenya’s Fatuma Zarika on September 8, 2018.

The boxing match between Mexican Yamileth Mercado and Kenya’s Fatuma Zarika on September 8, 2018 is among the recent, non-conference events hosted by the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. FILE | NATION

“It acquired that uniqueness from use and the fact that it has been used to advertise Nairobi as a conference destination. So people started associating Nairobi and Kenya with a building,” said Mr Mutiso.

For her part, KICC Chief Executive Officer Nana Gecaga, thinks the reason why Kenyans get that nostalgic feeling when it comes to KICC has everything to do with the memories they have created in, on top of, and outside the building.

“A lot of first dates took place here. Many families have come as a group and taken their pictures. Those are memories. Many groups of friends have come here and had a day out. So it is those long-lasting memories in people’s minds that we have been so fortunate to be part of,” she told DN2.

So, Kenyans love KICC? “Yes. When you look at it, it’s just a building but it is the memories that are created here that live long after the person leaves our gates.”

But the tide is shifting. KICC is no longer the tallest building in Kenya, having lost this status to Times Tower in 1997, before the Sh7 billion Britam Tower overtook the latter in 2017.

By December 2019, Nairobi will host the tallest building in Africa, known as The Pinnacle, whose construction is already under way in Upper Hill.

Besides, there are many hotels coming up around the city, with similar, if not better facilities than KICC’s.

To put things into perspective, data from the Ministry of Tourism indicate that some 15 high-end hotels have opened in Kenya since 2013, with about half of them beginning operations in 2016. Most of them are in Nairobi and have added 1,700 rooms to the market.

Some of the big names that have set up shop in Kenya recently are Villa Rosa Kempinski, Radisson Blu, Ole Sereni Hotel, Sankara Hotel and Movenpick Hotel and Residences.

KICC marked 45 years last week, and with the current developments in the hospitality industry, a number of questions arise. For instance, what’s the future of KICC? How will the management ensure that it maintains its iconic status?

For answers, DN2 sought to know how it feels for a young person like Ms Almass to work at KICC, an institution that goes way back to the KANU era.

“I would say we are dynamic. People working here are very receptive to change because we are moving from what we were before — perceived as government people — and right now I think we are at par with everyone in the industry. We are starting to embrace technology, and the market trends in the country and the globe are changing, so working here is actually a lot of fun,” says Ms Almass.

“Back then, we were very rigid in terms of the events we hosted. We did just the normal meetings, conferences and exhibitions,” she says.

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“Right now we are seeing that the market has much more to offer in that we are opening our doors to concerts, we are doing wedding fairs and partnering with many institutions to bring events to KICC, which was not there before.”

At 40, Nana Gecaga would be considered part of a young generation of leaders. Asked what she plans to offer young people, she said, “Having successfully hosted the World Cup and WBC boxing, I think it’s a matter of testing the waters to see what young people would like. We have created a mini gallery and we welcome any artist who has not had a platform to warm up to the opportunity. We will offer them space for two weeks for free.”

She adds that more outdoor entertainment like music concerts, fashion shows, arts exhibitions and comedy are in the pipeline for young people, but added that the older generation will not be neglected.

But in the recent past, the Rwandan capital, Kigali, has been giving Nairobi a run for its money as far as hosting international business events is concerned.

But Ms Gecaga maintains that that is healthy competition, but goes on to note that that is all the more reason KICC should be revamped.

One of the plans is to have a new building that can hold about 40,000 people.

Ms Gecaga says, “We are running out of space as a venue, but with the Nairobi regeneration plan, there are plans to have Garden Square come back to us. That, and the outdoor space. With that space you could easily fit in a building to hold 40, 000 people during a concert and still have some green space left.”

But speaking to DN2 atop KICC’s helipad, his brainchild, architect Mutiso, the first qualified African architect in East Africa, said he does not approve of any plans to have an additional building on the KICC grounds.

“Do you see that space running down from Uhuru Park to KICC? That is supposed to be open ground for the city to breathe. It is the reason we decided to sink that Hotel (Garden Square). It is sad that they have even expanded Parliament.”

He adds that people need a place to assemble when they want to make a statement to City Hall, and that there is no better place to do that than outside KICC.

Expressing sentiments from a small group of veteran architects and old heritage enthusiasts going by the name Architecture and Heritage Advisory Committee (Ahac), renowned journalist John Kamau on Sunday said that, after 45 years, KICC is still one of the finest architectural pieces in the country, and the country needs to think about what can be done to appreciate our history, mark heritage buildings and help preserve the visions of architects by respecting the original designs.

During the Russia 2018 World Cup, KICC hosted arguably the biggest outdoor live screening of matches, which saw at least 3,000 visit KICC every day, according to CEO Nana Gecaga.

More recently, the venue hosted one of the most colourful boxing events of our times: the WBC World Super Bantamweight battle pitting Kenya’s Fatuma Zarika against Mexican Yamileth Mercado.

As part of its evolution, Ms Gecaga said, the institution is diversifying to offer more than its perceived traditionally cast-in-stone mandate: conferencing.

“The new term now is business events and the reason why they have changed that from MICE (meetings, international conferences and exhibitions), which was mostly conferencing internationally, is because of all the other different events, apart from convention and exhibition. We now want to add on to our list concerts, fashion shows, cultural food exhibition or shows, everything that needs space; you think it, and we can do it.”

So, is she worried about global giants setting shop nearby?

“No. It’s actually healthy competition. It’s about sharing the pie,” she says, matter-of-factly.

Ms Gecaga envisions a situation where stakeholders will come together and sell Kenya as a single destination in a team effort.

“I would love to see an AGM meeting held in the Mara using our safari product. It’s about selling the destination as Kenya, where you have all of those stakeholders together and then decide where the meeting will go,” she says, in reference to tour guiding services, which include a safari and beach product, one of the new services KICC has in the pipeline.

Through these services, participants attending business events there will get to savour what the country has to offer in terms of tourist destinations, all in a pre-arranged package that includes the business event itself.

Ms Gecaga says: “Gone are the days when a delegate would come and go to the conference venue from 8am to 5pm, then back to the hotel for a karaoke and doing that kind of schedule for three to four days and leave. The country has benefited very little from such routines. Of course, the venue benefits and the event too, but we need to come up with packages where more people benefit from the dollars left by these delegates.”

For Ms Gecaga, who was recently named Deputy Chairperson of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) –African Chapter for a two-year term, the future of KICC is anchored on delicate experience, and delicate experience, she says, is what KICC will launch very soon.

“We will be pitching to companies or organisations wishing to have events here to include a day’s trip to the Nairobi National Park in the delegates’ schedule. You know, we are the only city in the world that has a national park bordering it. We can exploit that,” she says.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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