Using a Cessna Caravan (carrying 12 passengers), the Homa Bay route is about USD 70 one way. It says a lot about the state of aviation that a flight of less than 200 nautical miles should cost that much.
However, kudos to Renegade Air, which only started operations in 2015, for expanding the routes. So far, from Nairobi, this airline serves the following destinations: Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Malindi, Lokichogio, Kigali, Marsabit, Loyengalani, Ileret, Kapese and Nariokotome.
The spat between Kenya and Tanzania is the latest twist in the uncomfortable relationship between these two East African neighbours. The situation has always been tense and these countries merely tolerate each other despite the fact that they need each other and trade with each.
Tanzania is blocking Kenyan trucks at the Lunga Lunga/Horohoro and Taveta/Holili border points in response to Kenya’s demand that truck drivers be tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to cross into Kenya.
Tanzania has been charting its own path with regard to Corona virus with President Magufuli insisting on prayers, very doubtful testing and no reporting of positive cases for over 2 weeks . As a result, the neighbouring countries have been routinely detecting positive cases from Tanzanian truck drivers.
Trade between the two neighbours annually reaches Ksh 62 Billion. The people living near the borders routinely cross from side to side in search of livelihood. The Kenyan minister for East African affairs, Adan Mohamed is downlplaying the tiff:
We are aware that there are a few trucks of Kenyan registration that have been denied access and entry into Tanzania, but we have not stopped processing vehicles coming from Tanzania into Kenya
Right in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, Kenyans are being treated to an example of how dimwitted and unfocused their leaders are. The battle between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto is gaining pace steadily. That senior members of our ruling elite have time for this, at this crucial time, shows how casually they take their duties.
Five senators who did not support President Uhuru’s move of “fumigating the Jubilee party” are to face disciplinary action from the Jubilee party. They include Iman Dekow, Millicent Omanga, Victor Prengei, Naomi Jillo and Mary Yiane. The ultimate plan may be to get rid of them from the party simply because they appeared to support the Deputy President by not showing up for a meeting with the President.
The language being used is telling. Newspaper headlines carrying words such as “fumigate” show exactly what Uhuru thinks of Ruto and his supporters. In the president’s mind, they are not equal partners in this alliance – Uhuru feels he owns the house and can get rid of “pests” that have been enjoying the comfort of his shelter. His Secretary General, Raphael Tuju, in explaining what is planned for the senators is even more revealing as it seems the decision has already been taken.
They have to explain why they didn’t attend the PG. The object of the summons is to subject them to a disciplinary process that shall result in expulsion. Those with genuine reasons will be spared based on the outcome of the disciplinary process
Between 2003 and 2007, Kenyans witnessed the deterioration of the relationship between 2 coalition partners, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga. Four years of infighting and mutual disrespect resulted in parting of ways and a disputed election that still haunts Kenya’s memory. It did not appear to be a big deal when the squabbling began but it built up slowly, tit for tat, until it was simply out of control.
Uhuru is not content to have Murkomen and Kihika’s heads on a platter. He is now combing through his backyard to identify MPs who support Ruto and will only rest when they lose their seats. In his crosshairs are Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Kandara MP Alice Wahome, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and Kikuyu’s Kimani Ichung’wa
In an unprecedented move, the head of state plans to pitch camp in select Mount Kenya constituencies to spearhead the removal of some elected MPs through the recall clause. This would be a Kenyan first.
Such energy would have been very welcome in fighting Corona virus. It is admirable that the president wants this task done to completion and it proves that when he puts his mind to something, he can complete it. If only it was the right task. For a President and DP who were elected on a promise to unite the country, their score card is hardly impressive.
All in all, the tempo is picking up ahead of the 2022 elections. These machinations create tension in Kenya among the politicians and their supporters and they lead to more entrenched positions creating a dangerous attitude of “us versus them”. If unchecked, they can easily lead to the horrid post-election violence that was witnessed in 2008, leading to over 1500 dead and about 600,000 displaced.
While ultimately Kenyans must be accountable for their actions, the civil society, the members of the fourth estate and the international community must not keep silent when these early war drums are being played. The media, for example, must stop these incendiary and cheerleading headlines and instead call out the leaders for their irresponsible utterances and actions. When the music finally stops, it is the poor people who are left without a seat.
If it was possible to separate their actions and words from the wider interests of Kenya, Uhuru and Ruto could be left alone to humiliate each other as much as they like. Theirs, after all, is a convenient fellowship of thieves and as such we do not expect them to conduct their affairs in an honourable manner. However, we must ask ourselves if they are not already setting us up to be at each others’ throats in 2022. If they are and all indications are that this is the case, they must be stopped, at all costs.
We have paid the price before. The lessons remain with us.
It is official. The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) is broke and the Daily Nation has reported the same.
The research agency is so broke that it cannot replenish Covid-19 testing materials, protective gear and the much-needed reagents
The folks at KEMRI do a good job and even the Africa CDC recognises their dedication. It is a pity that the government of Kenya does not see value in them.
The institute has also been nominated by Africa CDC as a centre of excellence in evaluation of Covid-19 diagnostics in the continent
The Ksh 158 Mn Covid-19 funds that the government had allocated to KEMRI has run out. What a time to run out! The institute has now requested Ksh 950 Mn to hire personnel, buy equipment and fund other programmes. Of this amount Ksh 540 Mn will be used to buy coronavirus reagents and screening materials. Ksh 100Mn will be used to hire 62 more scientists.
It is now close to 2 months since Covid-19 was detected in Kenya and close to 6 months since the first case was detected in Wuhan. This was more than adequate warning for Uhuru Kenyatta and his team to get their act together. Yet, with all that time, the government of Kenya has not seen a need to ensure uninterrupted funding to an agency that is on the frontline of fighting this crisis. However, there has been time to take tea and snacks worth $40,000 in one month.
This is a country that has a new Minister of Health who spends his time in front of the cameras because he loves the spotlight but he cannot be bothered to ensure there is a proper program of response in the backend. Is it for this sparse funding that a top scientist at KEMRI who had stood firm in asking for funding, was demoted? He is surely vindicated by this turn of events.
If anything, this shows what value the government attaches to the lives of Kenyans – 0.
Dr Bitange Ndemo, former permanent secretary in the Kenyan Ministry of Information & Communication, has penned an opinion article in the Daily Nation whose main thrust is that Kenyan children would fare well in online learning if the people changed their attitudes.
As the government tries to get teachers to teach online, voices of resistance continue to rise. Parents are arguing that not every child has access to broadband or devices.
The parents are right. It is not an empty argument. Forget broadband, there are houses without any means to access the Information Superhighway. The good prof just needs to walk to slums that surround Nairobi. Even in the “well-to-do” families, some kids in the city have to wait for Mum and Dad to come home in the evening so that they can use the company-assigned laptop. What happens in a family that has 2 or 3 kids?
In my view, these parents are abdicating their fiduciary duty on their children. When in a crisis, the immediate reaction is how do we effectively deal with it? If we ask the right questions, we might solve a big problem
Very good. These questions have been asked many times. The answers, from the government are still not here. Ndemo then gives examples of the questions that we should be asking and it is good to see that he is at least addressing them to the right quarters.
Can government zero-rate broadband? Can we crowdfund laptops for the poor? Can those with extra devices donate to the poor? Can the syllabus be put online for parents to assist their children? Can we have a hotline for consultations?
However, he must have forgotten that there are places where even charging the laptops battery will be a problem because such places are yet to be connected to the national power grid. I was born in such a village and the situation is still the same. Perhaps the laptops he is talking about will be solar powered? Even then, some families who do not have food for tomorrow will swiftly sell those devices. When the people are steeped in poverty, showing up with a connected laptop will not fix their problems. E-learning does not exist in a vaccuum.
Ndemo also writes about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and why we need to get on with the flow.
Our attitudes towards anything that is not within the norm is wanting in this era of rapid technological changes. We are in serious transition into a new era called the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will change the world like we have never seen before.
Spoken like a person living in the affluent part of the city. The rich and the middle class can afford to think about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and “changing the world”. The downtrodden in the villages worry about their next meal. A child not going to school is not their urgent priority. Sad as that may sound, it is the reality within which they operate.
Ndemo talks about 3G and 4G, forgetting that coverage of the country is one thing. Including the population in having that access is yet another thing.
As it is, 70 per cent of the population, is covered by either 3G or 4G. At least 95 per cent of Kenyans have access to radio and 100 per cent can access television. The question is how do we get our children to access in any of these platforms but more specifically through broadband in the shortest period.
There have been countless opportunities for the government to help the people access these technologies. There just was never enough will to do so because of the shortsightedness of the leaders. We forgot to lift our people out of poverty because we were too busy deploying 3G and 4G.
In times of crisis, we need to project a positive attitude to solving the emergent problems like learning of our children. With determination, we can resolve the challenges. We undermine the future of our children when use excuses to resist change that could likely be our new normal in the days to come.
I agree on the need to be positive and optimistic. However, the reality is that for a long time, the government has done little to enable the people. To harangue the same victims of the ineptitude of this and previous regimes is callous and will achieve nothing.
We can bring Google balloons to Kenya but we still have not found a way to make those balloons help the 10-year old girl in the deepest recesses of Kenya. When she is not going to school, she is fetching water and firewood or foraging for food. This has nothing to do with the attitude of her parents. It is all about the thieving and bad governance which is the government, in which Ndemo once served, is well known for. And, that is not an excuse.
Emergency financing under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) will deliver liquidity support to help Kenya cover its balance of payments gap this year
Being a Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) The terms are quite favourable:
Financing under the RCF carries a zero interest rate, has a grace period of five and a half years, and a final maturity of 10 years, according to the IMF concessional lending terms
Knowing the pilferage that is the lasting legacy of the Jubilee government, I am not holding my breath that this money will be put to good use.
We can expect the government to devise all manner of ways to loot. Soon we will hear claims that the government is taking care of 15,000 people in quarantine at a cost of Ksh 5000 per person per day. For a 14-day quarantine window, that is Ksh 1.05Bn meaning Ksh 2.1Bn per month.
It is one thing to announce an economic stimulus package. It is quite a different thing to implement it. It is yet another different thing to measure the impact. With the COVID-19 starting to bite, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a stimulus package as March drew to a close and a very uncertain April started. It aims to shield Kenyans during these tough times and also ensure that the economy grind ahead slowly and that when the dust settles (or reduces), we can still forge ahead.
100% per cent tax relief (monthly gross income of Ksh 24000/USD 225)
Kenyans in this category will save Ksh 1,414 (USD 13) and this should help them in purchasing essential supplies such as food. This should be enough to purchase 1 litre of cooking oil, 2 kilos of rice, 100 grams of tea leaves, 2 litres of milk, 4 kilos of maize flour, 2 kilos of rice, 1 kilo of sugar, 1 kilo of beans and 1 kilo of green grams. Work out how long a family of 4 will take to eat through that.
PAYE from 30% to 25%
A 5% reduction is better than nothing and that is where we shall leave it. To place the reduction in context, half of employed Kenyans earn less that Ksh 30,000 (USD 280) according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics hence a 5% reduction is a couple of dollars for the month. The Kenyans in this range also happen to be the ones who need the relief most. The relief will however be perceptible for those who earn top-dollar. Well, those who have much will have more added unto them. Those who have little will have even the little taken away from them.
Resident Income Tax from 30% to 25%
Here, the effect will be felt. The income brackets are typically higher so a 5% reduction should be material. Again, it will go to those who do not feel the pinch too much. Perhaps the government was just balancing the optics to give the impression of fairness across board.
Turnover tax reduced from 3% to 1%
The moneyed political class that also controls the economy should be happy about this. It is a significant drop in tax and the president, his deputy, ministers and members of parliament have protected their enterprises well in this regard. This is where the big bucks game is played and shaving off 2/3 from the tax rate is sure to be appreciated wherever the rich and powerful congregate. The gap between the haves and the have-nots will remain…or even increase.
VAT from 16% to 14%
Some items were already VAT exempt and these are the ones that people need mostly for basic survival. Items such as milk, eggs, meat, rice, maize, bread, beans, unprocessed vegetables, tubers, infant food formula, medicines, fertilizers and sanitary towels do not attract tax. Utilities such as electricity fall into the VAT-able bracket so there would be some relief there. Essentially, this reduction is a feel good cut and it seems the more things change, the more they remain the same.
KSh 10Bn (USD 94.4 Mn) cash-transfer for Elderly and Other Vulnerable members of the Society
This is a good move. Hopefully the funds will be disbursed in a timely manner and will reach the intended recipients in a manner that makes a difference in their lives. In November 2019 it was announced that USD 87.4 Mn was transferred for the elderly and orphans. As such one would hope that the processes have already been fine-tuned to ensure that this wave of disbursements goes smoothly given the urgent purpose.
Pay Cuts for President, Deputy and Cabinet Secretaries
The President and his deputy will take an 80% pay cut while Cabinet Secretaries will take take a 30% pay cut. Past experience has shown that these declarations sometimes do not materialise. In any case, even if they come to pass, they are a drop in the ocean when we put government expenditure in context.
In summary, we should ask ourselves who feels the biggest pinch in a time like this. Conversely, who is getting the lion’s share of of the goodies in this package.
The informal sector (jua kali) that does not fall into the PAYE system and lives day to day is suffering. The low-wage earners are also in this boat. The jua kali artisans, for example, need to go to work every day otherwise they do not get to feed their families. They also happen to be the people who do not have fridges and such conveniences to stock up on supplies hence life for them is extremely difficult and they bear the brunt of this lockdown in a deeply personal fashion, much more than well-fed government mandarins can appreciate. Their food, transport costs, rent and other utilities largely remain unaffected by this package. Their flexibility in earning is curtailed. They truly are between a rock and a hard place.
There is thus a lot to say but little to celebrate.
In January, Kenya’s economy was projected to grow at 6.2%. The first case of COVID-19 was announced in March – on Friday the 13th. It has been a month of learning and unlearning and it looks as if we shall be in this state for quite some time. When the dust settles and it is time to take stock, we can almost certainly say 6.2% is not possible. The economy will take a big hit. More areas of our lives will also be affected, during the lockdown and in the aftermath.
Agriculture accounts for about 21% of Kenyan economy. Whilst some activities in farms will continue, the supply chain is suffering. Supermarkets, greengrocers and open air markets are all operating for shorter duration. Hotels and eateries all have reduced clientele and schools are closed hence bulk food orders are at all time low thus the income of farmers is affected. Many farmers rely on the sales of a season to prepare for the next season. If the cash flow is affected, reduced production can be expected.
With reduced activity on farms, food sufficiency is already a concern. The Strategic Grain Reserve is already running out at a time when we are not even sure how long these uncertain times will last. The Kenyan government is not known for good planning so it remains to be seen how well the needs of the country will be anticipated and met.
Horticultural exports already started suffering weeks ago. The Kenya Flower Council already announced that the industry was losing KSh 250 Mn (USD 2.4Mn) per day and about 170 horticultural farms were running low on cash hence laying off workers at flower plantations in places like Naivasha. Understandably, consumers are only worried about immediate needs such as food and safety in terms of health. Flowers are just too much of a luxury at this time.
The “Hustler” Sector
All businesses will be affected. The large businesses are getting some concessions from the government and although it is doubtful the impact of the measures announced by the president, some relief will nevertheless be obtained. Businesses were facing tough times even ahead of COVID-19 to such an extent that large corporates were announcing layoffs. The government had failed to create a conducive environment and now with the attention take up by this crisis, much less effort is being expended in fixing old issues.
The small businesses will take a harder hit. There are many Kenyans who run side hustles that may not even be registered or in the radar of the government. They however provide employment to their owners and a few employees. Whatever help the government is giving to big businesses will not get to these small businesses. Additionally, some of these hustles require flexibility in operating hours and with the ongoing curfew, those that cannot be done online will not last.
Travel and Tourism
Tourism is the third largest source of foreign exchange inflow. It is estimated that Kenya earned USD 1.6Bn last year from tourism. We can pretty much estimate it will not recover for much of 2020. Actually, make that 2021 and beyond. By the time the global economy picks up and people start traveling for leisure, this sector will be on its knees.
The post-COVID-19 travel arrangements are not clear at this point. Will countries require that travellers undergo mandatory test before/on arrival? Will there be requirements to quarantine? If there will be requirements to self-quarantine, how intrusive will such measures be and will they be to an extent that people will restrict travel to essential things? Also unpredictable is how long it will take before people feel comfortable to criss-cross the globe especially if new waves of COVID-19 pop up in different parts of the world at different times.
The school calendar is already in tatters. Primary and Secondary school pupils went home right with a good portion of first term uncovered. Attending school in second term is looking unlikely and even if it happens, it might only be for the tail-end of second term.
The Ministry of Education is yet to provide guidance on the outlook for two final examinations i.e. the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). Possibly, they are watching to see how things unfold. Either way, there will have to be changes on the school calendar and that will affect new classes in 2021 as well as university entry.
Politics and 2022 Effect
If there is one thing Kenyans have enjoyed for the past few weeks, it is the near 100% absence of our politicians arguing on TV, exchanging slurs on during funerals and generally irritating us all. When the dust settles, will they emerge out of the woodwork and start their games all over again?
One would imagine the politicians are sorely missing the spotlight and they will try to make up for lost time, what with the 2022 general elections around the corner? It does not portend well for us if a national leader is already saying they will resume the music. If we get caught up in their din, the road to recovery will be even longer.
COVID-19 is bringing to the fore, once again, how differently the East African states of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda tackle the problems confronting their people.
Kenya is effectively in some sort of lock-down. There is a curfew from 7pm and this is enforced, rather violently by the police force. Coincidentally, the new Minister of Health was appointed just in time for this crisis. This docket has been dogged by massive corruption in the past.
Kenya has failed to come to the rescue of Kenyans stuck in places like China and very weak border control was witnessed until late in the crisis. Flights from China were still coming into Nairobi as late as 26th February and the government offered a half-baked justification when the last flight raised uproar on social media.
All 239 passengers were screened onboard, cleared and advised to self-quarantine for the next 14 days
How the government was enforcing “self-quarantine” remains a mystery.
As always, the media can be expected to do everything except hold the government to account. Instead, on Easter Sunday, one of the leading dailies, the Daily Nation, saw it fit to remind Kenyans of the long running tiff between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto. The headline, “Ruto Edged Out in Battle for Jubilee Party” completely missed what was keeping all Kenyans awake.
A stampede occurred in Kibera slum as thousands of people scrambled for food that had been donated by a well-wisher. This further shows the sore need for government to provide ways of people to access food during this lockdown. One would expect that beyond scolding Kenyans who do not stay in their houses as much as they should, the government should be aware that there are Kenyans who cannot eat unless they go out every day and engage in some sort of manual labour or other.
People arriving in the country are quarantined. There has been complaints with regard to the quality of the quarantine facilities managed by the government. This report quotes some of the quarantined individuals claiming 30 individuals have to share 3 toilets and 3 bathrooms – some of the sanitation facilities are faulty. With such crowding, the danger of turning quarantine facilities into infection hotspots is real. Those who opt to stay in hotels are supposed to meet their bills and there has been some controversy about this, especially after the initial quarantine period at some facilities was extended.
In mid-March, Museveni had urged Ugandans to stay at home but stopped short of ordering a total lockdown. There were restrictions on transport and as expected, police brutality was witnessed in enforcing the restrictions on movement. Two men were shot by police for violating restrictions on transport. On 30th March, President Museveni finally announced 14 days of lockdown.
The president was also featured in the media showing his country men how they can exercise indoors in order to keep fit. He was seen jogging in a spacious and tastefully furnished room in Statehouse and also doing some 30 (poor quality) pushups. His handlers could have informed him that the space he was was using for his indoor exercise typically fits 30 housing units in Katanga slum. Of course most of the people “wandering” the streets instead of staying safe in their houses are actually engaging in whatever economic activities they can find, to feed their families – counting calories is the least of their concerns.
Rwanda was the first African country to order a total lockdown on 21st March. President Paul Kagame took measures early and he has sustained them, leveraging on technology where possible. Rwanda is using drones to broadcast health messages. Not to depart from Kagame’s usual high-handedness, the police shot two people who broke curfew rules early on. The police spokesperson claimed the two men engaged in a tussle with police officers.
Social protection in Rwanda appears to be much better coordinated. The lockdown is to run until April 19th and the government has set up food distribution centres. Some hotels are designated as quarantine areas and the government picks the tab for the people in quarantine. To avoid crowding, for the first time in history, Rwandans had to commemorate the 1994 genocide indoors.
President Magufuli of Tanzania is charting an entirely different course. He declared that there would be no shutdown because 8 countries depend on Tanzania and if he closed the borders, those countries would be in problems. Tanzania only announced cessation of flights on 12th April. In a short clip that was widely circulated on Twitter, the Minister for Health, Ummy Mwalimu actually chuckled as she admitted Tanzania was unprepared for COVID-19.
As he prepares for reelection in 2020, Magufuli seems to be attempting all tricks to ingratiate himself to the voters. He has declared that churches and mosques would remain open ostensibly to cast the image of a devout leader who places God first. Attending church, he declared church services would continue because COVID-19 cannot survive in the body of Jesus Christ.
These Holy places are where God is. My fellow Tanzanians, let us not be afraid of going to praise Him
There is no doubt that freedom of worship is important and all people who practise one faith or the other will have deeply personal attachment to their religion. However, experience in other countries has shown the need to exercise caution, for example social distancing, even in places of worship. In some countries, gatherings in places of worship have been replaced with streaming services or meetings outdoor with appropriate distance. To advise people to continue mass gatherings is hardly responsible.
Magufuli’s government has been talking at cross-purposes and sometimes the statistics provided by one office (ministry of health) do not tally with the statistics provided by another (government spokesperson). No clear view exists as to the amount of testing being carried out.
When all is said and done, East Africa has very porous borders. If one neighbour is taking such a casual approach in fighting this scourge, the neighbouring countries will suffer just as much. This is hardly the time for lone ranger tactics.
The common theme of delayed response, police brutality in enforcing lockdowns and a leadership that is not in tune with the needs of the citizenry runs across East Africa. A regional (harmonised) approach that coordinates the fight against COVID-19 is lacking. Tanzania, as usual, is charting its own course and will neither consult nor cooperate.
The Daily Nation newspaper reports that Kenyans are among Africans facing difficulties in China.
As China eases limits on the movement of people, a dark side is emerging from its numerous cities, where residents of African descent have been kicked out of apartments on accusations of spreading the virus.
When the Wuhan lockdown happened, the Kenyan government took little action to help the Kenyans who were affected. Even at this point, as the suffering continues, we see less and less concern from the government.
This website reports that the Ambassador is even requesting to be removed from the WhatsApp group that Kenyans have been using to share their frustrations.
Ambassador Sarah Serem has requested me to remove her, but I have been informing her about the needs spelt out in this group. If she offers any assistance, I will communicate promptly
There is a reason Kenyans travel to foreign lands. They seek a better life, better education, more business opportunities – things that are hard to come by. Some of them form run a vital supply chain delivering goods to Kenya. To abandon the same Kenyans at their time of need is needlessly callous.
However, it is precisely what we have come to expect from the Kenyan government.