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Alibaba founder talks to Kenya


on  Thursday, July 20   2017 at  17:35

Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, Thursday afternoon delivered a speech at Kenya's pioneer University of Nairobi.

He offered Kenyan youth tips on how to build successful business empires.

Asia’s richest man sand his team of super-rich Chinese, had jetted into Nairobi Wednesday evening, for a packed two-day visit.

Internet tycoon

Mr Ma boasts a fortune of nearly $30 billion or nearly half of Kenya’s economic output.

His entourage include Internet tycoon Bob Xu, Alibaba’s founding partner Lucy Peng, founder and chairman of Mengniu Dairy Niu Gensheng and real estate tycoon Huang Youlong.

The 38 men and women, from the Beijing Chamber of Commerce, are looking to cut multibillion-shilling deals with the Kenya government and local businessmen.

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Former AfDB boss to head Sierra Leone Central Bank

Posted KEMO CHAM in Freetown

on  Thursday, July 20   2017 at  13:01

Former African Development Bank (AfDB) alternate executive director Patrick Saidu Conteh has been appointed Sierra Leone's Central Bank Governor.

President Ernest Bai Koroma appointed Dr Conteh to replace Dr Keifala Marah, who resigned to run for president next year.

Dr Conteh boasts of over 20 years experience in the financial sector.

His approval

He was until his latest appointment the Finance and Economic Development minister.

According to his biography, circulated on Wednesday, following his approval as per constitutional requirement, Dr Conteh served as director at the AfDB with oversight responsibilities for Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Sudan and Gambia.

Locally, he worked for the government-owned Sierra Leone Commercial Bank between 1996 and 2014, ending up as managing director.

The new Central Bank Governor has the task of fixing an economy undergoing turbulence after Sierra Leone came out of a two-year devastating Ebola epidemic, which coincided with the drop in iron ore prices, its major export.

The economy

Analysts say the most urgent issue Dr Conteh faces is stabilising the local currency, Leone, which was struggling against foreign currencies, particularly the US Dollar.

And Dr Conteh appears to be well aware of the weight of his task. He was quoted saying that despite recent improvement in the economy, it was moving too slow and needed pushing.

"We are back from a situation where the economy was on a negative growth and now witnessing positive growth. And the growth is a little slow and we need to put in place measures to ensure that growth is fast tracked."

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Relief as Internet service resumes Somalia

Posted ABDULKADIR KHALIF in Mogadishu

on  Monday, July 17   2017 at  17:28

Fibre Optic Internet service has been restored in Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia, official announced.

Post, Communications and Technology minister Abdi Anshur Hassan made the announcement in his office in Mogadishu on Monday.

Somalia has gone without Internet services for 22 days, after a ship damaged the underwater cable.

Mr Hassan said the line had been repaired and it was now functioning.

A backup

He said the country needed a backup system to mitigate similar damages in future.

“I want the companies involved in the Internet provision to provide back up to shield against future mishaps.

“I want the communication companies to collaborate to ensure that the ships sailing to the port of Mogadishu do not damage the fibre optic line feeding the country with valuable Internet,” he added.

All stakeholders

The minister said on July 9 that Somalia was incurring $10 million loss daily due to the Internet service disruption.

Mr Hassan indicated that business opportunities existed for companies in Somalia's ever growing communication sector.

“There are business opportunity, folks,” he said.

“The ministry of post, communications and technology is going to draft, together with all stakeholders, a master plan to streamline the use of Internet in Somalia.”

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Madagascar Finance minister quits as new currency is unveiled

Posted RIVONALA RAZAFISON in Antananarivo

on  Monday, July 17   2017 at  15:38

Madagascar’s Finance and Budget minister Gervais Rakotoarimanana resigned on Monday as the country unveiled new currency.

The new currency unveiled by the Central Bank include, for the first ever, $6 bill (Ar20,000).

“I am no longer minister,” Mr Rakotoarimanana stated at a press conference at the Antananarivo Carlton Hotel on Monday.

He said he handed his resignation letter to President Hery Rajaonarimampianina last Friday.

The law

Mr Rakotoarimanana was not part of the government delegation that received the World Bank officials at the State House of Iavoloha on Friday.

He attributed his quit decision to what he described as 'uneasy' work conditions.

Mr Rakotoarimanana claimed that the law, transparency, integrity and mutual respect were often disregarded within the government's ranks.

The former Québec, Canada university accounting lecturer was appointed Madagascar’s Finances and Budget minister in April 2015.

Was satisfied

He said he was satisfied with what he did for his country over the last two and a half years.

Madagascar last year signed $304 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) credit facility.

Mr Rakotoarimanana's negotiations with the World Bank led to the global lender approving $86 million credit to Madagascar.

Online platforms in Madagascar were over the weekend inundated with claims of Mr Rakotoarimanana’s resignation.

President Rajaonarimampianina appealed to journalists to always confirm their stories before publication.

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Traders fight plastic bags ban in Kenya

Posted MAUREEN KAKAH in Nairobi

on  Thursday, July 13   2017 at  12:32

Importers and sellers of plastic bags in Kenya have sued to suspend a government ban on the use, manufacture and importation of polythene.

In a suit filed by two people on their behalf, the traders have sued Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu and the Attorney-General.

Mr Fredrick Njenga and Mr Stepehen Mwangi claim the ban, issued through a legal notice earlier this year, did not comply with the law.

Through lawyer Antonny Ogesa, they argue that the six-month period given to importers, retailers and dealers of plastic bags is not sufficient for them to clear all their stock and fulfill their contractual obligations.

Economic losses

They claim that they were bound to suffer great economic losses since the regulation was effected without adequate consultation with stakeholders.

They want the court to temporarily suspend that regulation banning the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging.

Prof Wakhungu, in a Kenya Gazette notice dated February 28, banned two categories of plastic bags — carrier bags and flat bags.

She defines a carrier bag as one that is “constructed with handles, and with or without gussets” while a flat bag is one that is “constructed without handles, and with or without gussets”.

Achieved nothing

In tailoring, a gusset is defined as an extra piece of clothing sewn into another cloth to make it wider, stronger or more comfortable.

Previous efforts to abolish the use of plastic bags have failed, and it remains to be seen if the latest ban will bear fruit.

In January 2011, the National Environmental Management Agency (Nema) declared a ban on plastic bags below 0.6 millimetres in thickness, but the prohibition achieved nothing.

In 2007, the government banned plastic bags below 0.3 millimetres in thickness, and order that also failed.

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Cameroon secures $52m Spanish bank loan

Posted NDI EUGENE NDI in Yaoundé

on  Thursday, July 6   2017 at  15:53

Cameroon has secured $52 million (FCFA 30 billion) loan from the Deutsche Bank of Spain to strengthen the national electricity transmission.

The deal was inked Wednesday in Yaoundé, with on behalf of Cameroon by the Minister of Economy minister Louis Paul Motaze signing for Cameroon and on behalf of the donor institution by the director of operations, Mr Antonio Navarro Escabias.

The cash will, among others, assist the 21-months old National Electricity Transport Company (SONATREL) reinforce the grid between hydroelectric power producing town of Edea and the capital Yaoundé, with an additional transmission line.

“These funds will help us build a very important transmission line from Edea to Yaoundé. We will now have two transmission lines such that when one has a problem, we can be secured with the second one,” said the SONATREL Managing Director, Mr Mbemi Nyankga.

Football tournament

Water and Energy Resources minister Basile Atangana Kouna said the work on the additional transmission grid would begin next year and be completed before the start of the 2019 African Cup of Nations football tournament to be hosted by Cameroon.

A split from power monopoly, Energy of Cameroon (ENEO), SONATREL is charged with the transportation of electricity and the management of the transport network for the Central African state which suffers from a chronic power deficit and regular blackouts due to inadequate infrastructure.

Only 74 per cent of the Cameroonian population live in localities with direct access to electricity, according to the World Bank.

National debt

President Paul Biya’s government has continued borrowing despite reports of swelling sovereign debt loads and high governance default, characterised by deepening corruption.

Last month, parliament gave the government the green light to raise the national debt ceiling.

Cameroon was seeking to raise the ceiling of non-concessional borrowing from $854 million (FCFA 500bn) to $2,050 million (FCFA 1,200bn).

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Barclays Kenya to close seven branches


on  Monday, July 3   2017 at  20:50

Barclays Bank of Kenya has announced plans to close seven of its branches in a review of its business operations.

The affected branches include five in Nairobi and two in Meru and Wundanyi at the Coast respectively.

Those branches to be shut are Moi Avenue, Haile Selassie, Waiyaki Way, Kawangware, Rahimtulla, Nakumatt Meru and Wundanyi branches.

Competency skills

“Colleagues working in these branches will be redeployed based on available opportunities and matching competency skills,” said the lender in a memo to staff.

“We have briefed the impacted colleagues and HR will help them make a smooth transition as the changes take effect.”

Last month, the lender began implementing a voluntary early retirement scheme which it said would affect 130 of its staff.

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Ban on Dar’s products in Nairobi sparks trade, diplomatic dispute

Posted ALLAN OLINGO in Nairobi

on  Monday, July 3   2017 at  18:20

Presidents John Magufuli and Uhuru Kenyatta have stepped in to stem an escalating trade war that has seen Tanzania and Kenya exchange import bans on several commodities.

The EastAfrican has learnt that President Magufuli wrote to his counterpart in Nairobi early last week to complain about Kenya’s ban on its gas and wheat exports and other trade barriers.

“The Tanzania presidency has officially complained to Kenya. However, we have received communication from them banning our exports of tyres, margarine and fermented milk products. We hope this trade war is nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand,” a source said.

Kenya is digging in, saying it will only allow wheat flour and other products that are milled from grain wholly produced in Tanzania, or whose full Common External Tariff (CET) rate has been applied.

“The conclusion that wheat imported at a reduced rate of 10 per cent within Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda can be subjected to a preferential regime is not accurate. Not all importers in Kenya are allowed to import wheat at 10 per cent and millers are also subjected to restrictions on the limit they can import under the duty remission scheme,” a brief prepared in response to President Magufuli’s reads.

President Uhuru is expected to study the brief before responding to his Tanzanian counterpart. The trade spat comes just days after Kenya started enforcing work permit rules along its border, with Tanzania, rendering many workers jobless.

It also underlines uneasy diplomatic relationship between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam since President Magufuli came to power in October 2015, forcing a review of the Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe and persuading Uganda to opt for an oil pipeline through Tanzania.

Effect the ban

On Wednesday, Dar in a statement protested Nairobi’s move to totally ban gas and wheat imports from its territory despite an agreement reached between the two countries. Kenya said it would effect the ban this month because of safety concerns over the gas coming through from Tanzania.

Trade Principal Secretary Dr Chris Kiptoo said Kenya would not allow Tanzanian wheat if a 25 per cent CET tariff is not paid.

“We import our wheat under duty remission at 10 per cent instead of the 35 per cent. Our neighbours were granted a stay of application on the CET rate and therefore import theirs too at the same percentage as ours. The reason they got a stay was to allow them to plug their deficit, but we are seeing their traders trying to sell the same to us at no duty cost. That’s against the EAC rules,” Dr Kiptoo said.

Tanzania cited the same trade rules in its protest.

“We believe that decisions made in the official meetings between EAC member states must be implemented by concerned parts,” Permanent Secretary in Tanzania’s the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment Adolf Mkenda said.

Already, the EAC Secretariat has written to Kenya over the trade dispute.

A wheat deficit

The EastAfrican, however, understands that Kenya’s reservations with the wheat imports stem from the fact that Dar es Salaam is a wheat deficit country.

“The reason Tanzania asked for a stay is because they have a deficit. If then you don’t have enough supply, then how can you have enough to export? They were told that goods under remission of CET cannot be profitably traded,” EAC Principal Secretary Betty Maina told The EastAfrican.

Uganda and Tanzania have a stay of application of CET rate and import wheat at 10 per cent instead of 35 per cent. Rwanda and Burundi were last year granted stay of application of the CET.
Tanzania argues that even Kenya applies the 10 per cent CET stay but the governance structures for the two countries under this programme are different. Kenya requires its millers to stack up all the domestic wheat before applying for any import but Dar on the other hand does not.

Mr Mkenda said that Kenya’s decision was against the East Africa Community agreement reached between the two countries.

“We have expressed concern over Nairobi’s refusal to allow Tanzanian exporters to transport cooking gas to Kenya through Kenya-Tanzania land border. We decided at the EAC sectorial meeting, which brought together ministers of trade, industry, finance and investments from the EAC that Kenya should lift the ban. During the meeting, Kenya agreed to lift the ban on importation of cooking gas and wheat through Tanzania-Kenya borders,” Mr Mkenda said.

Cooking gas

Kenya’s Petroleum Principal Secretary Andrew Kamau said that it will not allow the imports of gas via trucks starting July over safety concerns.

“We have designated Mombasa as the only point of import for LPG. So if you want to play in this game, come and invest in Kenya, import through Mombasa and then we can follow up who is supplying unlicensed dealers. But now this whole thing about Tanzania is a thing of the past,” Mr Kamau said.

Ms Maina said that Kenya will be purchasing a gas testing facility to be stationed at the border Custom points of Namanga and Voi but in the meantime, the ban will stay in effect.

“Before the testing facility is installed in these Customs border points, Mombasa will remain as the only entry point for gas for the country to track the quality of LPG imports into the country. This isn’t a ban but an issue of the point of entry of the product.

What we have told Tanzania is that they should pass it through our designated gas facility in Mombasa where we will be able to test the product on its quality and safety, rather than through Namanga where we don’t have facility to test the product,” Ms Maina said.

Safety and quality

It is understood that at the Council of Ministers meeting, Tanzania insisted on its traders trucking their gas products through Namanga back into Kenya, with the latter arguing that given the region imports its LPG products through Mombasa, it made no sense in trucking it from Mombasa into Tanzania, then Dar re exporting it via Namanga.

“We have recently promoted the use of gas, and we would like to champion safety and quality of the same product. Unfortunately, we cannot vouch for the same product that is being trucked because we don’t know how it was handled and repackaged.

That’s the reason we aren’t allowing the gas imports through our inland ports,” Ms Maina said.

The EastAfrican understand that Kenya has already communicated its intention to have the ban stay for a period of up to four months as it seeks to purchase and install the new testing facilities at in the border points.

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Kenya halts oil export plan

Posted WANJOHI GITHAE in Nairobi

on  Thursday, June 29   2017 at  15:08

The Kenya government has suspended the much-awaited export of oil from Turkana in the north-east.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter on Thursday blamed the suspension on Parliament's delay in passage of the Petroleum Oil Bill.

This came as cases of banditry and other forms of insecurity continued to be reported in Turkana area.

The government had set June 31 deadline, when the first batch of oil would leave Kenya but that will now only be possible after the August General Election.

Upsurge of attacks

Mr Keter said the government had to wait until the Senate passed the Bill that stipulates how the national and county government, as well as local community would share oil revenues.

The suspension also belies the ongoing tension between the local community and Tullow Oil, the British company tasked with oil drilling.

In the last few weeks, there has been an upsurge of attacks on Tullow Oil employees by bandits.

Tullow oil had already drilled 40,000 barrels for transport to Mombasa at the coast, but bandit attacks have frustrated that plan.

State of insecurity

The companies that are constructing the key Kitale-Turkana road, which was to be used to ferry the oil, have also reported attacks on their employees.

Construction works have been suspended in some parts, reports indicate.

But Mr Keter on Thursday sought to downplay the state of insecurity in the expansive county that is the size of Rwanda.

“Insecurity has nothing to do with what Tullow Oil has been doing in Turkana,” he said.

“Insecurity happens everywhere. There have been incidences of insecurity in the area even before drilling started.”

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European bank to give Ethiopia $281m credit

Posted ANDUALEM SISAY in Addis Ababa

on  Thursday, June 29   2017 at  14:37

The European Investment Bank (EIB) will provides $281 million credit to small business across Ethiopian, official said.

Bank Vice-President Pim van Ballekom said: “This project confirms the EU Bank’s increased backing for financial services and enterprise crucial for future generations of Ethiopians.”

“Access to finance is essential for private enterprise to expand and innovate. This new initiative will support the local entrepreneurship and the creation of manufacturing jobs by hundreds of companies across Ethiopia.

"The strengthened partnership with the Development Bank of Ethiopia represents the European Investment Bank’s largest ever engagement with Ethiopia and demonstrates the European Union’s clear commitment to help unlock sustainable economic activity in this country,” explained Mr Ballekom.

Largest ever

The money will be managed by the state Development Bank of Ethiopia.

The EIB and the World Bank initiative represents the first international support to the Ethiopian financial sector and the former's largest ever engagement with Addis Ababa.

The deal will boost financing for local companies by Ethiopian microfinance institutions, commercial banks and leasing firms, according EIB.

EIB has been supporting investment to improve energy, water supply, communications and private enterprise across Ethiopia for more than 40 years, and remains a key partner for sustainable development in the country.

Private sector

The European bank has operated in Ethiopia since 1976 and prior to the Thursday deal, provided more than $460 million to support long-term investment in energy, communications and water infrastructure, as well as private sector operations.

EIB is the world’s largest international public bank, owned directly by the 28 European Union member states.

Over the last five years, EIB has provided more than $25 billion for investment in Africa.