Kenya’s Stability attracted UNCTAD14 and TICAD, Don’t Mar It!

While court petitions against the 26th October presidential election still linger and the country’s captain for the next five years still mysterious, we can’t as yet forget wide global attention and warmth basking in the warmth of hosting the UNCTAD14 in Nairobi. The event, last year with over 7000 delegates from across the globe was perhaps the hallmark of big events Kenya hosted in the recent past. As UNCTAD Secretary General, Kenya’s Mukhisa Kituyi pointed out ahead of the June 2016 event, he had ‘’brought home an opportunity to help Kenyans see beyond local political tensions and realize there is more to life than incessant political profiling.’’  He was right, but perhaps his words ring truer today than they did then. The event saw delegates reach important international consensus with ‘’Azimio’ and ‘’Maafikiano’’ on the direction for global trade strategy for the next several years carrying as Kenya’s Amina Mohamed pointed out the ‘’Kenyannes’’ of the trade agreement.

Hot on the heels of UNCTAD14 was TICAD-VI, held outside Japan for the first time with the promise to mobilize resources for Africa’s development. During his stay in Nairobi, the Japanese prime minister and his entourage may not have wished for better reception; what with the monopoly of Japanese cars on Nairobi’s roads proudly declaring ‘’the car in front is always  a Toyota.’’

As Kenya shined, Rwanda glowed in the limelight of hosting the 2016 AU Summit and the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the newly built Kigali Convention Centre (KCC), a state-of-the-art architecture whose completion was a conditionality by AU for Rwanda hosting the summit.

Nairobi’s and Kigali’s success in hosting big events spoke of something bigger; that meetings mean business and that the region needs to maintain tranquility to continue competing for a slice of the global Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events (MICE) or as is now called the Meetings Industry. To date, Uganda’s Speke Resort-Munyonyo still bears the legacy of the Commonwealth conference held there several years ago.  Conversely, hotel industry players in Tanzania have been grumbling for lost business and job redundancy since president Magufuli came to power with the directive stopping meetings and government functions being held in hotels. While austerity serves its purpose, Tanzania must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

In its 2014 report, UNWTO noted that the meetings industry had come of age, firmly placing itself at the center of tourism as a key driver and generator of income, employment and investment. Recent studies show for example that in UK, meetings & conference delegates make up around 30% of total visitors to Britain, while in Mexico, over 780,000 jobs are classified in the meetings industry. About 32 billion Canadian dollars are directly spent in Canada on this subsector according to reports. With joint tourist Visa and electronic passport, EAC with its varied tourist beauty can increase its share of this pie.

Rwanda playing international host was a vote of confidence in a country that has defied stereotypes. Given its emerging jewel status, some during the WEF called it the young Switzerland of Africa but Rwanda clearly aspires for more. Notwithstanding, although the country’s candle has shone brightly against the wind of its tragic past, many feel the oil of democratic space has dried up in equal measure citing media stifling and the crackdown on alternative voices. But Kagame, smarting from reelection last August defies such opinion, pointing rather to the picture reflected in the newly built KCC-ability to meet timelines, leading in ease-of-doing-business among other indices with high women participation in public service for which Kagame received the Gender Champions Award on the sidelines of the last year’s AU summit.

As a region, EAC must position better as a MICE destination combining with traditional tourism to attract the world. Governance systems need strengthening and transparency and being open for scrutiny under the Africa Peer Review Mechanism. Nairobi must continue to lead the way. Violence and its relatives have no place. Stability is crucial if we are to attract the world. Then our diet as EAC won’t depend only on exports of tea, bananas, gorillas and tanzanite. As UNCTAD14 and WEF2016 showed, there is sufficient nutrition from eating MICE! May Peace Prevail!

 

Jackson Kiraka

Executive Director-RiimNet-Africa

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New law could clash with Kenya’s obligations to Monetary Union

New law could clash with Kenya’s obligations to Monetary Union

After President Kenyatta signed the interest rates Bill into law, you would have expected a street festival, an extravaganza of joy and bravado. After all, legislator Jude Njomo and President Kenyatta won where former MP Joe Donde and former president Mwai Kibaki failed.

Instead, across the board, we got a bag of mixed feelings, perhaps out of the sober realisation that although Parliament and the President had achieved quite a feat, the final outcome of access and low interest rates on loans is still largely unknown.

But is the capping a bad thing? Well, not on the face of it. Granted, the interest rate will be capped at a maximum 14.5 per cent, but every Tom and Mary will still walk individually and humbly into the banking hall.

Forum must go beyond talk to address Africa’s food supply

Forum must go beyond talk to address Africa’s food supply

Mr Strive Masiyiwa, he of the Econet fame, was at State House, Nairobi, recently to brief President Uhuru Kenyatta and apparently officially invite him to the African Green Revolution Forum, which will be held in Kenya next month.

Mr Masiyiwa is not a stranger in Kenya. His name first surfaced here when the mobile telephony market cake was still hot and he was seeking a slice of that. Kenya did not work out for Econet, but that did not stop the man from prospering. Starting off in his native Zimbabwe, he has built a telecom empire that straddles the southern African region.

His latest visit to Kenya was in his capacity as the chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, founded a decade ago by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Agra works across sub-Saharan Africa, addressing structural and policy bottlenecks that hinder production and market access for smallholder farmers.

Address Fears of Fake Fertilizer to Ensure Food Security

  Address Fears of Fake Fertilizer to Ensure Food Security

As the Kenya government and private millers under the aegis of the Cereal Millers Association engaged in a back and forth over whether the country has enough food stocks, it was emerging that the next crop harvest in the rift valley breadbasket could be less than optimum as a result of ‘’fake fertilizer’ that has led to significant crop failure. Farmers have claimed losses due to what they allege could be fake fertilizer sold to them under the government subsidy program. While government has come out to refute those allegations, those fears cannot be wished away.

Increasingly, government is having to do more to feed a growing population now arguably approaching 45 million souls and growing at about 2.7% per annum. With an annual average per capita requirement of about 90kg of maize, Kenya needs to produce at least forty five million bags (4.5m MT) of maize to feed her people. However in the best of seasons, and these have been few and far in between, the country produces between 25-30 million bags (about 3m tones). Other food staples like rice and potatoes supplement food demand, so a deficit of about 1m bags is filled mainly from the EAC region (Uganda & Tanzania) among other sources.

Caution Needed in Ongoing ‘’highly-paid’’ Expatriate Debate

Caution Needed in Ongoing ‘’highly-paid’’ Expatriate Debate

Even before President Kenyatta had landed back from the land of Seretse Ian Khama, the small twitter dove flew ahead of him with good tidings that Kenyans living in the land of the man who famously asked his party members to get him a ‘’tall slim and good looking’ lady for wife would henceforth receive fair treatment with regard to local jobs that otherwise belong to the Batswana.

While addressing Kenyan professionals and business people living in Botswana, president Uhuru reportedly told the gathering (to great applause) that he had met President Khama who promised to solve the problem (of work permits) as soon as possible. Meanwhile in Nairobi, the NGOs Coordinating Board convened a meeting to cancel work permits for some foreigners working in Kenya. The irony in the two cases could not be starker.

Hue and cry about expatriates in Kenya arose from allegations of alleged disparity between expat salaries and those of Kenyans employed by the same organizations. But wait! Till recently, Kenya has been hosting perhaps the highest concentration of NGOs and other humanitarian organizations on the continent. Even for those without local operations, Nairobi has strategically served as their base for operations in the horn of Africa and beyond. Simply, Nairobi has been the ‘head office’ and with it, the flow of big grants (money) that Kenya did not even solicit for. The result being jobs we could not create ourselves. Literally, Kenya has been eating from other people’s treasuries because the development (donor) world is an industry in itself-(you will feel it once Daadab is closed).

Terrorism shouldn’t hinder free movement

President Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by Deputy President William Ruto is taken through a demonstration on the use of National Identity card for free movement within the East African Countries by Immigration officer Gladys Kang'ethe.

Life in prison is what the young men who carried out the twin terrorist attacks in Kampala on July 10, 2010, will face, according to a judgement meted out recently.

That attack came just days after the launch of the EAC Common Market on July 1. The years after that incident have been no less eventful — Westgate and Garissa University College happened in devastating fashion with several other cases of terrorism, leaving in their wake terrified citizens, affecting lives in sundry ways, and sending security organs back to the drawing board.

As with international travel, related security matrices across the region have been revised, with greater surveillance on cross-border travel. Thankfully, the integration agenda in the EAC has somewhat ebbed on, helped in no small measure by enhanced cooperation among the security actors.

And this is as it should be. Anything less would be too costly, both in terms of a concerted (regional) effort to defeat terrorism and the huge opportunity cost of deferred attainment of key integration milestones.

Lessons EAC can learn from Brexit

Lessons EAC can learn from Brexit

The impending referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union has dragged in even the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

So high are the stakes that President Obama, while on a State visit to the UK recently, warned that a vote to exit the EU would see Britain move to the back of the queue in America’s trade negotiations with the world because, in his words “our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union”.

The EU, with 28 members, is a single market that allows goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country, and it has one currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries.

Reaction to Mr Obama’s comments came fast and rather dismayingly racist. This underlines the stakes associated with regional integration, not just in Europe but more importantly in Africa, where several such blocs now vie for attention.

Kenya should now concentrate on Lapsset, the bigger picture

Kenya should now concentrate on Lapsset, the bigger picture

.It was a show of political maturity to see President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Northern Corridor counterparts walk hand in hand at their review meeting in Kampala.

If there were any sour grapes, then they did a good job of hiding it, especially after Uganda pulled the rug from under Kenya’s feet and handed the pipeline deal to Tanzania’s Dr John Magufuli.

It will be remembered that the Kenya-Uganda agreement on the pipeline had been in the locker since 2012, when discussion on the building of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor picked pace.

Let us put this in context. Even with its estimated generation of over 15,000 jobs during and after its construction, it must be noted that the Ugandan pipeline was to be only a relatively small component of the larger Lapsset corridor.

With row over pipeline, is EAC ready for a political federation?

President Uhuru Kenyatta (second left) joins other Heads of State from the East African Community for the 17th Ordinary EAC Summit Arusha Tanzania on March 2, 2016.

The confiscation by Tanzanian authorities of passports belonging to members of a Kenyan team that was visiting the port of Tanga took many by surprise.

Ostensibly, it was Tanzania’s reaction to being locked out of an earlier meeting held in Nairobi to discuss Uganda’s oil pipeline route.

President Yoweri Museveni was the chief guest and his country, Uganda, the “beautiful maiden” being wooed by both Kenya and Tanzania to be the preferred route choice for the pipeline.

But this tit-for-tat is not new. It will be remembered that in 2015, Tanzania cut Kenya Airways’ flights from 42 to 14 per week (although this was later reversed) after Kenya denied Tanzanian tourist vans entry into the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. This was after Tanzania has denied Kenyan tour vans entry into its territory.

It was only recently that the regional paper, The EastAfrican, was allowed back into Tanzania, after a long hiatus. While these incidents may be unrelated, their frequency must be seen in the context of the competing interests that are only likely to intensify as the bloc navigates its way into the proposed political federation.

It is time to rebrand the East African region

President Uhuru Kenyatta (second left) joins other Heads of State from the East African Community for the 17th Ordinary EAC Summit Arusha Tanzania on March 2, 2016

During a television interview a few years ago, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was asked why he was considered a tough leader. His answer was typical Kagame; spot-on and unhesitating. “I see the country as Rwanda Inc and every Rwandese as a shareholder and thus entitled to annual dividends.”

In other words, if Rwanda were a company, it would have to pay dividends to its shareholders. President Kagame’s answer is a good analogy that the CEOs of the other East African Community member states need to heed, especially as the bloc welcomes South Sudan, as the its latest member.

Mr Kagame’s answer also raises questions: what should EAC as a bloc be known for and what should the new EAC secretary general, Dr Libérat Mfumukeko’s job description include? Should we maintain “the war-ravaged and corrupt region” tag or would we rather see ourselves as the urbane, progressive, and suave bloc?

While Salva Kiir’s South Sudan suffered from war, Kagame’s Rwanda has come to be known for its sleek streets, efficiency, and ease of doing business as well as a once traditional practice now turned into a national community mobilisation pursuit and mandatory duty — Umuganda (coming together to achieve a purpose).

President Museveni’s Re-election and Prospects for an EAC Political Federation

President Museveni’s Re-election and Prospects for an EAC Political Federation

As the dust settles on the Ugandan elections with Yoweri Museveni having been declared as President for a fifth term by the country’s electoral commission, focus now shifts to what he will do for his country, but equally important, what sort of influence he will bring to bear on the EAC region as the ‘Senior-most,’ of the five EAC presidents; this as the bloc begins implementing the monetary union, and readies for a political federation. In a radio interview during the campaigns, Museveni is reported to have said that "I am here (for another term) to see whether we can help you get the East African Federation so that we have a critical mass of strength that can guarantee your future...The other time, we almost succeeded in forming the East African Federation, Mzee Moi was committed, Mzee Kibaki was committed, Uhuru is committed… This is the number one target that we should aim at." Clearly, he is a man on a mission.

This interview came shortly after news photos appeared with Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto accompanying Museveni on the campaign sending many tongues wa

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