By Dr. Ferdinand Nyongesa

News has been awash in the media about transport challenges facing the City of Nairobi in the preceding weeks.

In the Daily Nation of May 15, 2017, I lauded the government on the prompt decision to form a body dedicated to issues of transport in Nairobi and the surrounding areas, the Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Authority (NMTA).

The expectation was that the body would hit the ground running and position itself to focus on the city’s transport woes. This was not to be as demonstrated by the events of November 12, 2018.

CONGESTION

The governor banned matatus from accessing the Central Business District in a campaign meant to ease congestion.

Traffic jams are a threat to economic development. Combined with traffic injuries, jams cost low- and middle-income countries between one and two per cent of their gross national product.

However, the pain and anguish felt by travelers because of the governor’s action is a demonstration of serious technical capacity deficiency in his backyard, which raises the question whether NMTA is alive.

More than a year after the inauguration of the authority, Kenyans expect at least a roadmap on how the chaos associated with transport in the city is to be tackled.

ACCIDENTS

Sadly, it is missing in action. The authority is expected to embrace emerging technologies to tackle problems of road accidents and traffic jams by applying state-of-the-art technologies embedded in wireless communication technologies such as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and Internet of Things (IoT).

The US Department of Transport has been at the forefront of technology development based on wireless Dedicated Short Range Communication protocols and implemented as vehicular networks, which has since spread globally.

If appropriately adopted and domesticated by NMTA, vehicular technology as part of ITS can solve most of the traffic problems experienced in Nairobi and other urban centres.

In South Africa, the technology has been domesticated in the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research and deployed with tremendous success in easing transport in both intra-city and inter-city operations.

SUCCESS

The Rapid Bus Transport in both Johannesburg and Pretoria, integrated with the Gautrain, form a transport network that tells a success story on how technology can guarantee safe and convenient transport in densely populated urban areas.

In Bangok, a metropolitan authority has implemented an integrated urban transport system based on wireless communication technologies that exploits IoT to synchronise operations to guarantee safe and efficient transport involving railway lines (sky trains and subways), rapid transit road systems, public buses, airport express rail links and rickshaws (tuk-tuks).

RELEVANT SKILLS

NMTA’s launch must be followed up by relevant appointments for its full potential to be realised. A long-standing practice in this country has always viewed such developments as another opportunity to place homeboys without regard to qualification and experience, who end up sleeping on the job.

The appointing authority has not only a responsibility but also a duty to staff the Authority with relevant skills to tackle the problems at hand through deployment of cutting-edge technologies. This will enable it to deliver on the national agenda.

Dr Nyongesa is a lecturer at Masinde Muliro University. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This piece appeared in the Daily Nation on 29th April 2019.

Posted On Friday, 03 May 2019 09:10

By Phyllis Wakiaga

As far as trading blocs go, the European Union (EU) has been a global case study of turning a free market into a common market. Faced with notable challenges in the integration process such as the consecutive crises in the Exchange Rate Mechanism in the early 90s, the EU defied all odds and continued to expand in depth and geography in a historic feat.

However, only two years ago, this ideal trading bloc took a hit with the Brexit vote, which triggered a global conversation on regional trading, agreements and integration towards creating shared prosperity for the countries involved.

In our own context, a snapshot of intra-East African Community (EAC) trade in the past few years will reveal tension-filled and sometimes hectic trade-relations, as well as an overall cloud of uncertainty on the future of the EAC.

Yet with our geographical advantages, natural resources and global reputation, the EAC holds huge potential to set the pace for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and lead the continent into a new age, trading with the world on an equal and mutually beneficial platform.

While there isn’t much comparison to be made with the EU, one indisputable thing is that their integration process was marred by political and social differences especially with bringing on board of Eastern European countries. This, many times, caused an uproar in member States with populations demanding that their nations’needs come first’. Through the chaos, nonetheless, members designed new institutions with a view to open markets and ideological alignments.

Our challenges in integration are also hampered by political and social differences, which manifest in seemingly endless Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) that threaten to weaken our overall contribution to global trade.

For instance, EAC global trade decreased in 2017 to a meagre 0.2 per cent from 0.3 per cent the previous year.

The trade deficit also increased by 63.1 per cent to $17.4 billion. Our exports to the world also decreased, and of these, only 29.2 per cent were destined for Comesa and other intra-regional markets.

The latter numbers can be boosted within the AfCFTA through increased collaboration and goodwill to make use of existing instruments and well-designed policies that will enhance trade and get rid of long-standing barriers.

We have witnessed some progressive steps that have made a significant contribution to the growth of EAC intra-regional merchandise trade. These include the elimination of restrictions for imports on sensitive products allowing for greater trade among partner States.

We have also had elimination of NTBs on certain products such as dairy products, as well as increased trading in intermediate products. Bilateral meetings continue to find solutions to rising problems and this addresses the fact that we all have the same vision of shared prosperity.

Going forward, it is important to give priority to collaboration that will see supply chains strengthened across borders and governments laying the groundworks for the ease of movement of goods and people.

This will help in realising the full potential of the intra-regional market. Additionally, we need to put into action a robust EAC export promotion strategy for products in other regions and minimise intra-regional rivalry.

It will, similarly, define the role of incentives in trading with future EAC trading partners.

Indeed, the EAC is uniquely poised to be a leading regional bloc in the next few years. We ought not to let what’s in store for us be derailed in the short-term.

Phyllis Wakiaga is the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. This piece was featured in the Business Daily on May 2nd 2019.

Posted On Friday, 03 May 2019 09:06

By Karin Boomsma

A couple of years ago, one of our partners invited me to their rather expansive farm to witness their work growing beans for the export market. I honoured the invitation almost immediately not because they were big in production and making money while at it; I did so because of what they were doing with the waste.

Mara Farms, an agricultural company that produces beans for export, redirects beans that do not make it through its export packaging process to produce high-quality soup for the bottom of the pyramid customers often without a profit markup. These are customers who in ordinary circumstances wouldn’t afford such kind of a meal as the price would be way out of reach.

This is the rationale: Why throw away the beans when it can make a huge difference elsewhere in another market? This is one way of making a product affordable while also reducing hunger and contributing to poverty reduction.

At Mara, there is simply no waste. Or rather, waste is converted to something useful. Nothing is thrown away. Little wonder and this is no exaggeration, the farm is so relaxing it feels as if no work is going on there.

This is what Mara Farms is good at and they can become even better at it. Certainly, other businesses, big and small, can do something along the same lines. At Mara, the management made a decision that any produce which doesn’t meet the specifications for the export market (the specifications tend to be very stringent, sometimes it is more about shape than quality) isn’t discarded.

Well, that should be obvious, you say? Actually, it is not always obvious. On these large-scale operations, there is usually little time, workforce or space to properly dispose of produce that does not accurately fit the market requirements. Often it is discarded as waste or given to somebody who can transport it. That is almost always another firm or a person of means, not the disadvantaged in the community who need it most.

The foregoing, in a way, describes what circular economy is all about. Circular economy, as the name suggests, means we more or less end up where we started, only better. To use the example given above, the bottom of the pyramid families which benefit from the soup project end up healthier because they get to consume healthy food, rich in some of the vital nutrients including micronutrients. But more than that, they get to save money on hospital bills and expensive food.

What is the significance of this? There are two aspects to this narrative. The farm contributes to a more sustainable environment and a more inclusive society by supporting a segment whose survival options are limited and may, through lack of alternatives, engage in activities that destroy the earth. This ‘saving the earth’ ends up benefiting the farm whose success depends a great deal on the balance of nature. It may not seem that obvious but it is a fact which almost every business appreciates.

The second aspect of this narrative is that the people who are very often forgotten by the system get to take their children to school, stay together as families and have a real chance of overcoming poverty without necessarily leaving their communities. Their contribution to the economy ends up benefiting everyone including the farm that started it all.

I will put it out there that Circular economy is not a new idea, much as it sounds like one of those crazy concepts which environmentalists often attempt to force down our throats. Everywhere, there are examples of communities innovating and going the extra mile to limit waste and ensure they live in harmony with nature. The Maasai community, for instance, has always co-existed with wildlife as they move with their livestock across the plains of Kenya and Tanzania. The Ogiek have been exceptional at protecting natural forests which have been their dwelling for centuries. Quite evidently, what is creating imbalance is unchecked capitalism and excessive greed.

There is little doubt that something must be done to protect the earth from human greed. We may not necessarily go back to traditional ways of survival. But we must innovate. We must be better. The Netherlands, for instance, is working on going fully circular by 2050. What this means is that its economy will run fully on reusable raw materials.  This is the antithesis of an unsustainable linear economy which is basically the take, make and waste economic model. Circular economy, on the other hand, is about Rethinking, Redesigning, Reusing (Repairing, refurbishing, Remanufacturing) and Recycling.

The ultimate goal is to not have waste. Everything which is no longer needed is not disposed of but they or their parts are turned into something of value.

I can’t conclude this piece without saying something about my pet subject: plastic bags and bottles and their impact on terrestrial and aquatic life. It is true that plastics, by virtue of their basic composition, present one of the biggest challenges to our efforts to manage waste sustainably. The thin plastic carrier bags may have been banned but PET bottles are very much a part of our lives. With proper legislative framework and cooperation by all Kenyans, PET is a goldmine, not something to stress over. When I think about it, I think about recycling, incubating business solutions, designing alternatives and collaborating with existing good practices and proven business models. More importantly, I think about resource value, local manufacturing, job creation and value addition.

Before you go away, I want to let you in on another goldmine, the electronic waste or simply, e-waste. But that’s a story for another day.

Karin Boomsma is Director, Sustainable Inclusive Business

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Posted On Wednesday, 24 April 2019 11:23

By Nickson Onyango

Every year, farmers lose a third of their produce through post-harvest losses, while consumers waste food by buying more than they need.

Post-harvest losses negate farmers’ efforts to get their crops ready for the market. The fundamental factors that lead to this situation include poor management, storage, and conveyance of the crop from the farm to the market.

LOW PRICES

As much as food spoilage is a global problem, it’s most prevalent in Africa due to poor physical infrastructure as well as technological mishaps. Lack of proper facilities after harvesting means that 40 per cent of food is wasted before consumption.

Farmers and consumers have been taken hostage by middlemen because dissemination of information is controlled by a few players in the agricultural value chain. This is estimated to cost the Kenyan economy Sh150 billion, which calls for a multi-sectoral approach to counter.

Although infrastructural developments such as good road networks will ensure farm produce reaches the market on time, it needs a huge capital outlay. In this regard, we cannot but underscore the importance of technology in bridging agricultural food distribution gaps because it has a latent potential of bringing on board all the players seamlessly and cost-effectively. Notably, it will help in marketing and avoiding intermediaries who buy farmers’ produce at low prices, yet it spoils en route to the market or while at the market.

The rationale for embracing technology in agriculture is to ensure farmers find markets within and without the known localities. For example, a carrot farmer from Londiani does not necessarily have to rely on a middleman to inspect his carrot crop and propose a day for harvesting if all he needs is to sign up to a mobile application to sell his crop.

SOURCE MARKETS

For a sustainable agricultural ecosystem, players should be encouraged to develop platforms that provide a market place for both buyers and sellers, which will infuse e-commerce in the food supply chain. This can be achieved because Kenya’s mobile penetration has hit 100 per cent, according to data released by the Communications Authority of Kenya for the quarter ending September 2018. The critical perspective is that vendors will only procure the produce that they need, which will annihilate all the losses that farmers make perennially.

With technological advancements, farmers can enhance their bargaining power through mobile money payments because they will not have to worry about their produce going to waste, forcing them to sell at throwaway prices. They can source and secure a market well in advance before produce is ready for sale, thereby negotiating for a good price that will sustainably enable them to grow subsequent crops and improve their livelihoods.

Farmers and consumers need to be part of this digital revolution because they are key players in minimising food wastage. The optimistic perspective is that there are plans to lessen these losses to 15 per cent by 2022 as part of the government’s Big Four Agenda. Therefore, scientific methods of determining post-harvest loss will make it easier for authorities to take sanguine action with key deliverables in mind.

Nickson Onyango is an agricultural economist. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted On Wednesday, 24 April 2019 11:09

By Samuel Kahariri

The livestock sector contributes over 12 per cent to the gross domestic product and half of the agricultural GDP with 10 million Kenyans in the arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) derive their livelihood largely from livestock.

The multi-billion-shilling sector has the potential to provide an adequate supply of all animal products and by-products for domestic use and export. It is, therefore, strategic in reducing poverty levels, aiding in the attainment of food security and contributing to economic growth, leading to the achievement of Kenya Vision 2030 and the ‘Big Four Agenda’.

FOOD SECURITY

As we focus on the Big Four, particularly its agriculture pillar, it is critical to note that the livestock sector holds the potential of becoming the single-largest contributor to the GDP and the ultimate achievement of food security.

But that would require the government to establish reliable market infrastructure for livestock and livestock products and create an enabling environment to unlock the sector’s economic potential.

Kenya’s livestock and livestock products are largely uncompetitive for reasons such as prohibitive cost of production, high prevalence of transboundary animal diseases, and low quality of the produce owing to underutilisation of modern technologies and genetic advancements.

They also suffer unfair competition from the neighbouring countries due to illegal entry of animals and smuggling of animal products such as eggs, milk and meat through the porous borders. The main culprits are the Uganda and Tanzania borders.

Due to over-reliance on maize as the national staple, the cost of the cereal is higher in Kenya than elsewhere in the region. And since the grain is a key component in most animal feeds, their prices shoot up, rendering the cost of production for animals and animal products uncompetitively high.

That threatens the enterprises in the entire value chain and may eventually lead to closure and lack of incentives for producers and investors. The net effect is Kenya remaining a net importer of all animal products and lack of realisation of food and nutritional security.

GENETIC IMPROVEMENT

To reverse the trend and avert the impending crisis, the government should consider all possible measures to significantly lower production costs, make the environment conducive for livestock value chain enterprises, devise an incentive system for the local livestock producers.

Over-reliance on maize should be avoided by supporting pastoral communities to expand and modernise their meat and milk storage technologies as well as use other traditional foods to cushion them from the impact of drought in the Asals.

Interventions include zero-rating animal feeds and other inputs, animal genetic improvement, investment in livestock disease control to improve access to the international markets and guaranteeing the safety of the food of animal origin.

Required is a master plan on revival and transformation of the sector to safeguard the millions of jobs and encourage producers to increase the quality and amount of produce.

Dr Kahariri is the national chairman, Kenya Veterinary Association. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted On Wednesday, 17 April 2019 08:40

By Rosemary Okello-Orlale 

Solid waste management is a subject that is rarely discussed, especially in policy forums.  Further, when it is done, on many occasions either policy makers or the government receives the brunt of the blame for poor management of the environment. People hardly talk about what their individual role is in solid waste management.

Yet proper waste management can provide an opportunity to generate value from the waste and reduce the quantities ending up in landfills, while at the same time creating employment opportunities as in the case of Netherlands and Austria which have the best waste management programmes in Europe.

This came out clearly during a  recent media policy breakfast, at the Stanley Hotel, on the challenges, barriers and opportunities associated with improving waste management in the transition to a green economy. The event was held by the Africa Media Hub based in Strathmore University Business School, in partnership with Business Advocacy Fund.

Karin Boomsma, the Director at Sustainable Inclusive Business (SIB) while demonstrating a scenario on ‘Beyond Waste’, talked of how we have cultivated a certain view of solid waste in our minds, in our economy and in our country.  According to her, this has made a majority of the Kenyan population to make the Kenyan economy a one-way track of consuming and disposing of.  “We need to change this whole concept by adopting a new concept of take-make and dispose of. And start asking ourselves, how can our waste help us re-build our economy rather than reducing it,” says Boomsma.

In countries where waste management has been given priority, the majority of the challenges they present, including health problems, poverty, unemployment and food shortage, have been addressed. According to her, such countries have developed policies to ensure that no resources are wasted.

Currently, as people the world over are linking sustainable development and business success to form a perfect exchange, three types of economies which are linked to waste management have emerged. These are (i) Linear Economy, (ii) Recycling Economy, and (ii) Circular Economy.

While a majority of countries have shifted their economy to a circular economy, whereby they have transformed their waste into materials, products and set up policies and ecosystems for re-use and recycling, Kenya is still stuck on a linear economy. “This has made our economy to depend on cheap materials and we have resorted to dumpsite which is not a solution,” explains Boomsma.

While the country has in place relevant policies and laws to help address the problem of waste management, little attention is being paid on the many opportunities the country can derive and benefit from the solid waste management.

Kenya made commitments on the environment. Article 42 in the Constitution of Kenya (COK 2010) acknowledges that every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment, while Vision 2030 has accorded some recognition to waste management systems. At the county level, Nairobi, Eldoret, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu and Thika have enacted an Environment Management and Coordination Act.

According to Faith Ngige of KEPSA, this move should be used to redefine waste management, “especially how do we rethink of waste as a nation,” stated Faith. 

“Going by the success registered in the management of plastics in Kenya when the country stopped the manufacturing plastics,” Ms Ngige said, “Having an enabling environment both at the national and county levels can harness the expertise of environmental professionals with the need to deliver improved waste management systems for a green economy.”

Talking on Zero Waste, Ms Ngige challenged every stakeholder that they have every responsibility. “We can change the whole narrative on waste management including how we value the workforce in the sector”.

For the Kibra community, the narrative on waste management has already changed. According to Hamida Malasen of Kibra Green Group, her team is transforming Kibra Constituency through solid waste management because it is helping them address a majority of the challenges faced by the community, including health problems, poverty, unemployment, and food shortages. Through this, they are directly contributing to a number of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as ending poverty, good health and wellbeing, clean water and sanitation. “We demystify the feeling that someone else is supposed to come to Kibera to clean our environment when we ourselves are the ones disposing of the waste,” says Hamida.

Kibra Green sells a variety of products including engraved recycled glass gifts, water and wine glasses, bowls, decoration bottles and glass utensils, packaging bags made from carton, shopping bags from recycled clothing, and, decorative glass bottles and plastics. They also supply plastic and tin as raw materials for recycling to manufacturers. However, its core business focuses on composting organic waste to fertilizer for urban agriculture.  “The remaining products from waste will be mentioned as complements during the sale of organic fertilizer generated from composting organic waste,” says Hamida.

What came out clearly is that the feeling that someone else is supposed to be in charge of waste management is a thing of the past. All of us must be involved in making our environment clean and turning our waste into a resource for the economic growth of our country.

Rosemary Okello-Orlale is the Director of the Africa Media Hub- Strathmore University Business School.

 

Posted On Tuesday, 09 April 2019 13:55

By Karin Boomsma

A circular economy is not an entirely new concept. The Netherlands, for instance, is working on going fully circular by 2050.

This means its economy will run fully on reusable raw materials. It is an idea that is looking quite popular in the tiny European nation sandwiched between Belgium and Germany.

Many businesses and NGOs are signing up for a 100 per cent circular economy.

Like other concepts, the circular economy has its antithesis, which also happens to be the dominant economic model. As the name suggests, a linear economy is simply a take, make, waste economic model. It is an outdated energy system. Linear economy assumes that resources are infinite and that irrespective of how we use them, they always regenerate themselves for the benefit of man. But we now know that resources are finite. In fact, our world as we know it has its limits beyond which it cannot be stretched any further.

Therefore, if we do not manage our resources intelligently and sustainably, there will be nothing to hand over to the next generation.

This is where the circular economy comes in.

Circular economy basically is borne out of the reality that we must manage better and fast to create both prosperity and sustainability. It brings different elements together to drive towards a low-carbon economy. It is about rethinking, redesigning use of materials, reusing (repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing) and recycling.

The ultimate goal is to not have waste. What this means is that everything which is no longer needed is not disposed of but turned into something else of value. But this poses another challenge.

We are assuming that everything shall be made of material or parts that can be remoulded into good-quality material, which can be used to make a similar or a different item.

Considering the sheer number of poor-quality gadgets that flood our markets, going full circular will require more than lofty policy pronouncements.

Water bottles

It might have significant cost implications to consumers, at least at the time of initial purchase, but then the item so purchased will create more value to the consumer.

The tourism industry, which lives off the environment and markets the environment at the same time, also happens to be one of the biggest users of plastic.

Water consumed by millions of tourists who visit Kenya every year is packaged in tens of millions of water bottles.

The question every tourism industry player should ask is, “what is my footprint of single-use plastic per day, month or annum?”

Single-use plastics end up in our landfills or find their way into the ocean, yet they are not biodegradable? It is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions that every minute one truck full of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans.

Plastics and single-use plastics, in particular, exhaust raw material resources, take hundreds of years to decompose and release toxic chemicals into our environment causing hormone disruptions and cancers, polluting our land and sea and killing marine animal and birds.

Boomsma is project co-ordinator, Sustainable Inclusive Business Initiatives, a partnership between Kepsa and MVO Nederland.

Posted On Thursday, 04 April 2019 08:29

By Dr Amit Thakker and Ms Joelle Mumley

The limits to private doctors’ fees published by medical doctors and facilities regulator Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) recently should worry us.

Despite the supposed good intentions, it will not solve the problem of our weak health system and will negatively affect the workforce and the economy.

Capping prices sets a dangerous precedent for broader economic growth. We saw this phenomenon in the current financial sector with the government’s intervention to cap bank interest rates.

Top-down enforcement to the private market only hurts the economy, making the population poorer and perpetuating the very problems we seek to fix.

MORALE

Our southern neighbour offers a warning to us. For many years, Tanzania created an environment that was unfavourable to private practitioners. The country now suffers one of the worst doctor-to-patient ratios.

This is also the reason we have repeated strikes and low morale within the public health sector workforce.

Strikes do not take place overnight; it’s a result of prolonged unattended agony of the workers.

Striking workers will happily go back to work if there is appropriate engagement and effective leadership from the authorities.

An unfavourable environment is the main cause of a failed health system, not just pay. Along with the maximum fee for doctors, the KMPDB has also set a minimum charge.

DETERRENT

This is more evidence that the publication was not well-thought out. Does this mean that a doctor could be punished for giving a discount or even waiving the bill for a patient who cannot afford to pay?

This, clearly, goes against promoting affordable healthcare. In fact, poor implementation of this guideline may have the unintended effect of raising the cost of healthcare if those at the low end of the range choose to move towards the maximum.

The impact of the cap would be most strongly felt if it were used as a guideline for the public to refer to rather than instituting it as a gazetted document.

Patients and payers could use it as a way of setting expectations, providing a sense of predictability of medical costs.

The purpose of this publication should be to empower patients with knowledge and choice, not to impose caps on the prices of medical services.

If a facility is charging outside the recommended range, patients would be empowered with the knowledge to go elsewhere.

PRICE ISSUE

The medical insurance industry has agreed to use this document just as a tool for negotiation of rates and feels that the rates are too high and may not help in reducing healthcare costs.

Price control is a superficial fix to a much more significant problem: a weak public health system.

The Kenyan health system, stewarded by the government, should be robust enough to accommodate those who need more affordable options.

We have a price issue in healthcare because public sector facilities do not provide the quality of care Kenyans seek, forcing them to go to the private practitioners.

The price of medicines and drugs also contributes to the high cost of healthcare. There are chemists and drug vendors selling all sorts of medicines at all sorts of price mark-ups depending on how much you can pay.

MEDICINES

Patients commonly go “pharmacy hopping”, looking for the best price.

You can also easily buy prescription drugs in Kenya without any legal prescription from a doctor.

This errant trade practice has encouraged fake and counterfeit medicines to flood the markets in several counties, leaving the unsuspecting patient at high risk.

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) is yet another regulator that needs to up its game in this space.

Health sector regulators need to prioritise efforts where they are most required to safeguard the quality of services in the industry, in both the public and private sectors.

A case in point is the recent alleged “botched abortion” at a clinic in Dandora. This unregistered clinic was said to be operating in Nairobi over the past 10 years. Didn’t KMPDB have a clue? How many more are there?

SCRUTINY

The KMPDB must use its regulatory authority to ensure private doctors uphold ethical practices at all times.

It needs to strictly address issues of overcharging, overservicing and poor quality. Too few private doctors have been subject to the necessary scrutiny.

Hence, the public feels that the healthcare is quite “commercialised”, which, generally, is not the case.

How many Kenyans know that they can seek redress if they are not satisfied with a doctor’s care or fees?

It is time the regulators got their priorities right and started helping to strengthen the health system, especially the public sector, which is non-negotiable if universal healthcare is to be realised.

Dr Thakker is the executive chairman of Africa Health Business. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Ms Mumley is a health journalist for Africa Health Business. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Posted On Thursday, 04 April 2019 08:14

By Mercy Chepkirui

The Agriculture and Food Authority has called for public comments on proposed regulations under the Crops Act 2013.

The regulations impose enormous obligations of registration, licensing and criminal penalties to tea growers, manufacturers, dealers, brokers and so on, who are dealing with their private property, without any corresponding responsibilities assumed by neither the national nor county government.

And they are unconstitutional. First, they were made under a national legislation that purports to regulate the growth and development of agricultural crops under the 4th Schedule of the Constitution, which restricts the role of national government to formulation of policy.

Secondly, they place an unnecessary burden on the right to private property. Regulation of land use and private property under the Act can only be justified under Article 66(1) of the Constitution.

SMALL-SCALE FARMERS

Section 4(d) of the Act states that in the management and administration of agricultural land, the national and county governments shall be guided by Article 6(2) — the powers of the State to regulate “use of any land in the interest of public order, public morality, public health and land use planning”.

It is unclear how that applies to farming of tea on private land.

The proposed Section 4(3) states that “no grower shall sell green leaf to any person other than to the manufacturing factory where they are registered”.

But few clerks and trucks lead to poor services at tea collection centres; some leaf is uncollected, and the farmer loses time and potential income.

Small-scale growers produce most of the tea but receive low and fluctuating prices for their produce and are the most vulnerable in supply chains controlled by large firms.

PRICING

Tea is a labour-intensive product; labour accounts for half the cost of production.

Farmers undertake physically demanding tasks, often enduring exhaustion and exposure to chemicals and the elements. But they have no power over factory and company management on pricing.

Tea farmers should be protected from an unpredictable market, ensuring they get prices that cover their high costs.

The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has weakened its supervision by farmers, leading to major compromises that have led to the growers’ exploitation through levies and fees and inflated project costs.

Farmers own the factories yet earn no dividend, even in a successful year of trading.

RESTRUCTURE KTDA

KTDA properties, like the multibillion-shilling high-rise building being put up in Nairobi’s city centre, do not benefit farmers.

The fertiliser prices imposed by the KTDA is perceived by farmers to be too high; it should be subsidised.

And then there is corruption as regards insurance; ‘doctored’ weighing scales; a mandatory 2kg deduction for the weight of every bag, which must hold a maximum of 16kg of green leaf, yet it is hardly half a kilogramme, and the weight of leaf is rounded downwards.

There is a need to restructure KTDA and review its contracts with farmers to reduce the 16 per cent levies and unregulated credit. They make farmers poor.

These issues, and more, should be tackled before implementing any new regulations as that will only add confusion in the sector.

Ms Chepkirui is a law student at Moi University. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted On Thursday, 28 March 2019 10:25

By Rizwan Fazal

A year ago, one or two months of dry weather meant an automatic switch from hydro power to expensive diesel-generated electricity. This year is different.

The country is calmly awaiting the onset of the long rains without the yester-year worry about the declining levels of water in the Seven Forks dams which generate the bulk of Kenya’s hydroelectric power.

Energy sector players, including Kenya Power, KenGen and the Ministry of Energy, have not called a press conference to announce power rationing or justify increased uptake of costlier thermal power.

DEMAND

To the contrary, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) reported in January that the proportion of wind power in the national grid had surpassed diesel-generated electricity.

Geothermal, solar and wind energy investments in the past decade are beginning to pay off with great benefits to both the energy mix and the country’s current account. Since Lake Turkana Wind Power started injecting into the national grid in September 2018, it has produced 463.069GWH of clean, renewable energy.

This has increased Kenya’s spinning reserve capacity (the generating capacity available to the system operator within a short interval to meet demand in case of a disruption of supply) and saved the country approximately $35 million in fuel imports between November 2018 and January 2019. The multiplier effect of this is being felt at the macro-economic level.

In one year, wind-generated electricity has grown from a negligible under two per cent of the overall energy mix to 14-17 per cent of total installed national capacity during the day and up to 30 per cent during off-peak hours at night.

Geothermal electricity, now tops, contributes 45 per cent of the overall energy with hydro second at 29.8 per cent.

The most expensive power source — thermal — which used to account for nearly half of the national electricity consumption, now contributes less than 10 per cent.

At 8.53 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to thermal’s up to 28 cents, depending on the global oil prices, wind power offers an enticing opportunity for electricity tariff cuts.

POLICY

There is a need, however, for renewable energy providers and policy makers to have discussions on how a new, lower tariff structure for the citizens can be achieved. Wind, geothermal and solar energy are already viable alternatives.

The fundamental question that policy makers and stakeholders should answer is: With an oversupply of electricity, do you wait for demand to grow organically or actively encourage the growth of consumer demand?

Unfortunately, in the short-term, unless the demand for electricity increases, the cost of electricity will not come down.

From an energy consumption per capita indicator perspective, Kenya consumes half more than the predictive kWh per capita — hence the line-up of planned generating capacity. The solution is not to control supply but to fix the demand side.

The government should hold candid and informed discussions with key energy stakeholders and industry players to develop a clear roadmap for the sector. That is the only way that the Kenyan dream of lower tariffs will become reality.

Mr Fazal is Executive Director at Lake Turkana Wind Power Ltd. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted On Wednesday, 20 February 2019 10:18

By Michael Arum

In the Daily Nation dated February 4th 2019, it is reported that Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri stated that he would neither engage with Sugar Campaign for Change (SUCAM) nor receive our report consolidating farmers’ views.

SUCAM is an independent lobby and advocacy coalition consisting of grassroots farmers’ organisations, Civil Society Organizations and private institutions working in collaboration with various farmers associations.

By refusing to engage with us the Cabinet secretary may be perceived to be taking an unconstitutional stand.

The constitution of Kenya, 2010 provides the key principles of governance and the rights of all citizens. One of the key principles is public participation, which sugar cane farmers are seeking. Secondly, farmers have the freedom of speech and that of association. Farmers are free to belong to SUCAM and to express their views, through SUCAM, on the issues affecting them.

SUCAM applauds the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation for constituting the task force on the sugar industry in a bid to find long-term solutions to the problems ailing the sector. The task force was set up through a Gazette Notice No. 138 of 9th November 2018, with the Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya as co-chairs.

The task force was formulated by a directive from the president to the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture during Mashujaa Day in 2018. The president further directed the Cabinet Secretary to have farmers arrears paid in 30 days. The president also advised farmers to supply their cane to millers who pay them promptly. In spite of this directive, by 31st December 2018, farmers had not been paid.

The 16-member task-force consists of 12 public servants, 3 millers and 1 farmer representative. SUCAM seek to have an equitable representation of farmers in the task force. There are 250,000 sugarcane farmers in the country, while there are 13 millers in the country. Increasing the number of farmer representatives on the taskforce would go a long way in improving the likelihood that the voices of farmers are heard.

Equitable representation of all key stakeholders in the sugar sector would enable the Cabinet Secretary to support the sector players to realise value from their endeavours.

On January 16th 2019, the task force commissioned public participation however, it later suspended the consultative meetings as farmers demanded to be paid their outstanding arrears first. Farmers also called for an extension of the timelines the committee was given to present its report to President Uhuru Kenyatta to allow farmers to consult widely.

SUCAM is leading efforts to collect views, and have a unified voice of sugar cane farmers. Farmers have raised the following issues: zoning, pricing of cane, outstanding debts, a suitable regulatory framework, and increased farmers’ representation on the sugar taskforce.   

SUCAM, a farmer based organisation, is not fighting the taskforce nor the Cabinet Secretary. We are advocating for the right of sugarcane farmers to be heard, and their views considered by the sugar taskforce. We stand ready to collaborate with the Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture and irrigation to revive the sector. 

www.sucam.co.ke ; Twitter: @sucamkenya

This article was prepared by Michael Arum, the Coordinator of SUCAM.

Posted On Friday, 15 February 2019 10:57
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