Lamu, Kenya and Amu Power: Part I

Earlier this month, I took a trip to the Lamu county at an invitation from the Gulf Energy side of Amu Power, and Gulf are the leading a project that will see the construction of a coal power plant that will generate 980 MW for Kenya.

This is part of an ambitious project by the government to invest in and diversify its future energy generation capacity, from one that’s relied for years on hydropower dams and more recently to diesel, geothermal and wind power sources.

The coal plant to be built by Amu Power is one of several large projects planned by the government for Lamu, and the team from Amu Power has been meeting with various stakeholders over the last few months including sessions with residents of the area, coastal governors, other politicians, and elders.

Amu Power at Lamu meet This one, at the American Centre in Lamu town, saw the Amu Power team meet with their community partners, and local county staff, led by the Lamu county commissioner, district officers and area chiefs, and DO’s. They form a vital link being the government administrators in the community, heading security and intelligence teams, and it was to explain what the company would be doing over the next 3 years.

The 980 MW Coal Plant in Lamu is being built for Kenya’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum on a build, own, operate and transfer basis for 20 to 25 years. But already, there has been some controversy by some NGO groups who have started a campaign in communities and on social media to stall or discredit the project. By having such sessions with the area leaders, Amu Power were hoping to avoid a repeat of issues such as in Kinangop where residents have delayed a wind power project.

Sanjay Gandhi, a consultant working for Amu Power, explained that coal plants of years past are not built anymore and there is new technology that mitigates the old environmental challenges that come from coal. He noted that all projects have effects on the community, but with good mitigation measures these can be alleviated. The Amu Power plant will be built by Chinese contractors, but to standards set by American institutions. Also the Amu Power offices will be on site and they will live and supervise the plant with full teams of staff for the next 25 years. Sanjay speech Lamu

Sanjay explained that Kenya needs the electricity and that peak demand has gone up from 899 MW in 2005 to 1,470 MW in 2014, with Lamu town itself still powered by diesel generators. KPLC is adding 200,000 customers every year, and it is expected that peak demand for electricity will reach 5,359 MW by 2017.

Coal is also the cheapest form of energy at 7.5 US cents (Kshs 6.30 per unit) compared to geothermal at 9 C, and solar and wind power 12 C /kwh (Kshs 8 per kilowatt-hour). He said coal is the most cost-effective way of generating industrial power, and once you turn it on, the plant will be able to run for 8 months without turning off. Kenya’s ability to add new hydro dams is diminishing and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are not consistent enough for industries to run.

The government’s only investment will be a through commitment to buy electricity 981.5 MW of electricity at Kshs 6.3 per unit and the Amu Power plant will be built  to handle different types of, whether from Kitui county (where coal has been found), or imported from South Africa, Mozambique, or Indonesia.

Amu Power is planning to complete the plant through 21 months of day and night work; this is  after 7 months were lost in court following the government decision to award them the project. They will build on 870 acres of land that the company will lease from Kenya Ports Authority who are buying land from residents in the area, and while actual boundaries have not all been determined, people have been buying and speculating on land value appreciation in and around the site.

They have identified a Chinese contractor to do the work, and the company wants 1,000 local youth to go to the National Youth Service (NYS) for 6 month training to be ready for work in October. They have started with Pate area and plan to find 100 people in each of the 10 Lamu wards to be trained and employed as masons, brick layers, welders, fitters, riggers, electricians – and if the contractor can’t find local people, they will get others from outside the area.

They estimate that the plant will need 2,000 employees on a full-time basis during construction, and 3,000 at peak. Thereafter, there will also be 500 permanent jobs for 25 years, and while early managers will be Chinese, there will be a requirement for each foreigner to have a Kenyan understudy throughout. There are opportunities for the local community to prepare and provide all that is necessary for these workers, such as housing and food in addition to supplying building materials for the construction. Lamu chiefs

After the talk, there was question and answer session in which local chiefs raised various points of concern including – plans for local fishermen who rely on fish catches for they livelihood, need to re-forest the area, need for completion of school classrooms, need for sea wall rebuilding in some places, a need to train youth in small business skills, the lack of bursaries for school kids, as well as the challenge of combating drugs and alcohol, which were mentioned in the Lamu county development plan. They also raised the issue of controversial payments for land ownership that has happened in some areas of the planned Lamu port.

The county commissioner spoke and appealed to chiefs to look at security in their areas, and talk to people, as ultimately, all Lamu people will benefit from the new Lamu projects. He noted chiefs have a lot of influence and can combat propaganda, as people still believe what a chief says and this has a big impact on communities. He asked the chiefs to look out for issues that concern him including ensuring that no one invades other people’s land, especially with violence, that they curb burning of bushes to eliminate historical land barriers, watch out for illegal cutting of forest trees and ensure that there are no more night weddings / night discos – as they had to put an end to the practice of school girls being married off.

JamboJet Turboprops

@FlyJamboJet recently introduced some Bombardier Q400’s planes (leased from DAC Aviation) as they also increased routes to the coast (Lamu, Malindi, Ukunda) and other increased daily frequencies. What’s changed now from the Boeing 737’s they started with? JamboJet Q400

  • Better views. When you take off on a Western Kenya (Kisumu or Eldoret) flight in the morning, and if you are seated on the right side of the plane, you get an nice view of the clear snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and when the plane banks left to turn, 30 seconds you have the snows of Mt. Kenya. Spectacular! I hope MutuaMatheka @Gitts @Asayf or someone else at @igkenya can try and capture that scene and get both mountains in one picture or short video.  The flight is also lower and slightly slower than the 737 so you get better views form the planes e.g. clearly see the slopes of the Rift Valley, the Mau Forest, and different lakes (Nakuru, Naivasha), as you can easily trace familiar landmarks like the long stretch between Salgaa and Menengai, and see the turnoff as the plane makes a slight turn over Njoro.
  • The journeys are  slightly longer by about fifteen minutes, so there’s now more time to take one of the snacks – which you still have to pay for, but now you’ll have time to enjoy them
  • The overhead luggage racks in the cabin are not as generous as a 737 so more luggage has to be checked to go under the plane. You may opt not to check it in (and not pay extra to JamboJet), but at the plane door, you’ll have to slide it up a ramp at the rear of the plane and collect it on arrival.
  • There also seems to be more legroom in the Q400 than the 737’s, but for very tall people, the aisle may be better than window seat in the 2 X 2 layout  as the lower curve of the cabin means, has a floor seat beam which means you have an uneven floor.
  • For short trips lights – same day, or 2,3 days – take advantage of the daily parking from Kenya Airports that costs Kshs 700 per day at JKIA  - so you can drive to the airport and get you car back the next day for about 1,000, halving the back and forth cost of an airport taxi that is usually 1,500 one way. JamboJet also have shuttles in some towns like Eldoret that cost a fraction of individual taxi rates.

Strathmore Masters 2015

Strathmore University had a cocktail event to introduce their 2015 Masters Program.

Some of the interesting programs include masters of applied philosophy & ethics, masters in public policy management and masters in healthcare management. They also have three new masters maths programs (biomaths – that can be  applied in healthcare, financial maths – that can be applied in NSE/capital markets, and a masters statistical sciences).

Strathmore also has executive programs  to short courses tailored for professionals like  business owners/managers, construction project managers, digital advertisers (a partnership with Google) and an upcoming summit for women executive leaders to prepare more of them to take up seats on company boards.

At the event, Joseph Sevilla said all masters classes in his program (masters at iLab are in information security and mobile telecommunications) are taught by PhD’s as they won’t compromise on that – though it meant they had to use distance learning as some lecturers could not be found in Kenya.

The Strathmore Business School was opened in 2005 so this is their 10th anniversary.

Kenya Bank Rankings 2014 Part I

Ranked by assets (and placing in 2013)

1 (1) KCB [Assets of Kshs 376 billion ($4.21 billion), and profits of Kshs 22.36 billion ($250 million)]
2 (3) Cooperative
3 (2) Equity
4 (5) Barclays
5 (4) Standard Chartered
6 (7) Commercial Bank of Africa
7 (6) CFC Stanbic
8 (8) Diamond Trust
9 (10) Investment & Mortgages
10 (9) NIC [Assets of Kshs. 137 billion ($1.53 billion), and profits of Kshs 6.08 billion ($70 million)]

11 (11) National Bank
12 (12) Chase
13 (13) Citibank
14 (14) Bank of Africa
15 (15) Baroda
16 (18) Family
17 (17) Houisng Finance
18 (19) Imperial
19 (16) Prime
20 (20) Ecobank
21 (21) India
* Kenya Women Finance Trust
22 (22) Guaranty Trust
23 (23) ABC
24 (25) Gulf African
25 (28) Victoria
26 (26) Development Bank of Kenya
27 (28) Equatorial
28 (32) Fidelity
29 (30) K-Rep
30 (33) First Community
31 (29) Giro
32 (24) Consolidated
33 (31) Guardian
34 (39) Jamii Bora
35 (34) Habib AG Zurich
36 (37) Paramount
37 (35) Transnational
38 (36) Habib
39 (38) Credit
40 (40) Oriental
41 (41) Middle East
42 (42) UBA
43 (43) Dubai [Assets of Kshs 3.50 billion ($39.1 million)]

Guide to Bukavu

A guest post by @abbyqoey

Getting There: We did not take a direct flight to Bukavu. We flew with Kenya Airways to Kigali (Rwanda) then took a taxi to Rusizi the border town between Rwanda and DRC (South Kivu).

On Arrival: The Kigali International Airport is pretty fast and efficient. As an East African citizen, I did not have to pay any taxes or get visa to go through Rwanda. However, for non-East Africans you have to make a visa application online otherwise even the authorities from the point of origin (Nairobi) won’t let you fly to Rwanda (it happened to my Canadian colleague and he missed his flight from Nairobi to Kigali. They also do not allow visa payments at the airport – which differs from the information on their website)

The taxi ride takes about 5 hours one way, and it’s a scenic route through the forest on a really good road. The border crossing was not too hectic. It took about 10 minutes on the Rwandan side and about 15 minutes on the DRC side. People have to be wary of the moneychangers on the Rwandan side. The guy at the border office warned me that they sometimes give people fake currency and it’s safer to just stick to the legit bureaus.

Getting Around: We has a personal driver to take us round and this was mostly because we were working in a village that was about 1.5 hours out of Bukavu city. I did notice that locals took either small saloon cars or what appeared to be 14-seater vans to get round the city. These vehicles were mostly in a sorry state, but there were quite a number of taxis in a much better state. We took one once at night and it turned out okay. Out in the village we saw quite a few lorries transporting cargo and people, and we were told this is a popular form of public transport out there.

The locals speak French and Swahili. The Swahili dialect was quite different to what we speak in Kenya. Some people do speak English but they are few and so we had a local translator helping us for our time there. Our host client hired the driver and translator for us.

During the day we felt pretty secure walking around. We would sometimes walk around 7:00 pm to a restaurant near our hotel but we were a bit antsy doing it as we had been warned about doing so at a security briefing given by our host client. We also had to make sure we were out of the field by 3:00 pm so as to get to Bukavu by 5:00 pm. We noticed the streets emptied out really early in the night (compared to Nairobi).

Staying in Touch: We were able to use our personal mobile phones. We got new phones and local SIM cards too. We chose Tigo as our carrier, over other available carriers like Airtel, Orange and Vodacom. But sometimes we had problems making local and international calls via the network. Our friends and family also reported having problems while trying to call us from Nairobi. That said, the quality of calls when they worked was good.

We also had access to Wi-Fi at the hotel we stayed at, at some places we frequented for dinner and also at the office we sometimes worked out from.

Where to Stay: We paid $60 USD per night for B&B at the Horizon Hotel, which was for a simple standard room. The lights kept going off a lot of the times and most places in the city seemed to have generators.

We didn’t use any credit cards. We ‘d use both the USD and Congolese Franc. You can pay for something in USD and get the change back in Francs, dollars or both. On average I spent about $22 per day, usually on food.

Eating Out: There was a lot of plantain and different types of fish in the local hotel we frequented. There was also cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, rice, ugali, pork and a kind of eggplant stew. Lunch was always buffet style so I couldn’t really tell what was the staple dish. Also, mayonnaise was served with meals at almost all the hotels.

Beer is mostly in one-litre bottles and goes for around $5. A double tot of rum, whisky and other spirits is an upward of $10 and a red wine carafe was about $20.

Shopping & Sightseeing There is an area that has a lot of colorful Congolese fabric. My colleague got some for his aunt and friend.

Gorilla trekking is something I would recommend for those who are fit. This is because it entails about an hour’s drive out of the city and then walking through a hilly forest to get to where the gorillas chill J in the Kahuzi-Biega park area

You can also chose to take a ferry ride to Goma in North Kivu and go see some volcano. We heard it’s awesome but we couldn’t manage the logistics given the limited time we had. (You need to book for an excursion online, go across Lake Kivu to Goma, get a vehicle to get you to Mt. Nyiragongo which you then scale and then spend a night at the top – as it’s best to view the volcano at night).

Odd Points: The country uses two currencies, the US dollar and the Congolese Franc. The Franc notes were quite old, like really old and tattered. The Congolese would happily trade in these notes but if you gave someone a dollar with even the slightest of rips or dent they wouldn’t take it. They’d tell you stuff like, “This is not money here.”

Solomonic Blue Dress Courts

A few weeks ago there was an odd debate by thousands of people in many countries over what color a certain dress was – “White and Gold?” , or “Black and Blue?”.

While the dress debate rages on, there are similar debates are going on in the Kenyan judicial system. If you attend a Kenyan court, and hear lawyers for two sides argue, they will say polar opposites of each other. E.g a bank lawyer will say that Person A has defaulted on a Kshs 10 million loan and they want to sell his/her house. In reply, the lawyer for Person A will deny that he knows the bank, or took a loan from the bank, and that there is a fraudulent attempt to sell his house.

confusion-over-exact-colour-dress-appearing-picture-tumbler-has-triggered-frenziedOr in the case of the Tatu City, you have two groups of directors saying totally different things. One side calls the others fraudsters who have never put a cent in what is a billion shilling project, while the other  side says that foreigners want to deprive them of a rightful stake.

The truth is usually somewhere in between in these cases, but why do antagonists, through their lawyers and affidavits retreat to polar opposite sides ahead of court? This forces a judge to  wade through months or years of volumes of evidence and documents in order to arrive at at a Solomonic decision that may reflect the reality, or a sense of fairness. Not the truth.  In these drawn out cases sides are given injunctions and orders that prolong, and make the ultimate decision, needlessly more expensive.

Could a lot of cases be settled faster, and less time lost in the courts? There’s no need for Solomon in every case.


Jijini finance comparisons

Jijini Markets is a new site I stumbled on that compares Kenya financial products.

Jijini Markets screenshot

Jijini Markets screenshot

The rates are quite good and up to date E.g. just compared the ones for 3-month fixed deposits at various banks. Here’s hoping they expand their product range into other areas like telephone rates, credit cards, mortgages and enable loan rate comparisons at different banks using APR.



M-Pesa across Borders

Today brought an announcement that Safaricom’s M-Pesa customers in Kenya would now be able to send and receive payments with mobile money customers of Vodacom in Tanzania – enabling true cross border payments to take place between mobile companies in the two countries.

A sample transaction today shows how it works:


  • The (mean) Central bank rate today was 1 Kshs = TZS 20.17
  • M-pesa transfer cost in Kenya for Kshs 100 to 500 is Kshs 11 to a registered customer versus Kshs 44 to an unregistered customer.
  • Initial theory that the charged would be for unregistered were proved to be wrong in an experiment

Sending Mpesa from Kenya to Tanzania

  • Sent Kshs 300
  • Charge Kshs 11 (about 4%)
  • Exchange rate 20.17Kenya Tanzania Mpesa
  • Recipient got Tzs 5,757

Sending Mpesa from Tanzania to Kenya

  • Sent Tzs 5,000
  • Charge (assume 4%) Tzs 200
  • Exchange rate 20.17
  • Recipient gets Kshs 236

The transactions takes a few minutes to effect, but they actually work and it seems, for now, that there’s very little margin being made on the exchange rate, while the remittance / transaction charges are in line with in-country transactions.

This comes a few weeks after Tanzania enabled cross network mobile payments, which were endorsed by their main mobile money companies – Tigo (Milicom), Airtel, Zantel and Vodacom.

Guide to Cebu City, Philippines

A guest post by @sportskenya about a visit to Philippines. Home to boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, famous political families the Aquinos and the Marcos’. The Philippines archipelago is a collective of over 7,000 islands, spread over an area of 300K sq. kms along the SE Asia. Here’s a sneak pic of the island nation through one of its cities, Cebu;

Getting There: I used Etihad Airways which is a 3-leg trip Nairobi-Abu Dhabi; Abu Dhabi-Manila and Manila-Cebu (though on the second & last part of legs to Cebu was through Philippines Airlines (partner of Etihad). The cost of the trip is about US$1,850 per person for a round trip. There was an hour layover in Abu Dhabi going to Cebu, but with 4 hours on the way back, there were no complaints while exploring Duty Free area and beautiful airport…☺. There is also an alternative route via Abu Dhabi to Hong Kong and finally to Cebu at approx. US$ 2,100.

Image 1 - Cebu City Sign courtesy of

Cebu City Sign

On Arrival: It was fairly easy to go through the Manila Airport as well as Cebu airport. No visa is required from Kenya and a number of other countries. However there is an exit/departure charge of Philippine Pesos (denoted as ₱ or PHP) 300 – 2700 (US$ 6.7- $60) depending on your travel class i.e. from Economy to First Class  - and the fee charged on every visitor irrespective of country or destination. Interestingly I was put on the Express Lane while leaving Manila airport because I was Black or is it of African origin…which the Immigration office said, was a rare thing (or did I miss the jibe?)

At Cebu, we were welcomed by the local tourism officials who had arranged for a welcoming party for attendees of Global Voices Summit. Security was tight thanks to the Papal visit a few days before, but nothing overzealous from the security personnel.

Getting Around: The main form transportation in Cebu are the Jeepneys (equivalent of matatus in Kenya), which are open and fairly reliable. The charges are subsidized, meaning the Jeepneys can only charge a certain rate even at peak hours. The holding areas for these are also fairly well-organized with long queues forming at peak times. It costs between PHP5 -15 (US$ 0.10-0.35) per person per trip.

Cebu City - Jeepney courtesy of @sportskenya

Cebu City – Jeepney courtesy of @sportskenya

Cab services are also available though slightly pricey since most of these are metered and a standard fee of PHP (₱) 40 is charged by local transport authorities (...don’t know if it’s the same in other cities in the Philippines). Traffic does get heavy as is expected in any city at peak hours, but there are traffic marshals who make it orderly and less stressful of travels.

Cebu is relatively safe and is comparable to the Mombasa of yesteryear. Petty crimes like pickpocketing are also rare though not totally non-existent. I did my usual evening walks every day without any incident.

Where to Stay: We were booked at a business hotel (Harolds’ Hotel) at approximately PHP3400 (approx. US$ 67) per night which can go up to PHP6000 for Executive suites. There is also the Golden Peak which had slightly lower prices at PHP1180 per night. Most hotels are between $100 – 300 USD/night. Power is reliable with few outages, however one needs to carry a universal plug as most power sockets are 2-hole meaning it was hassle for those of us who use British standard plugs.

Staying In Touch: Thanks to the Global Summit organizers’, we got SIM cards and free daily airtime. However the calls are fairly expensive especially international calls as well as for data. The infrastructure has been largely GSM and 3G in Cebu (though 3G is more prevalent in Manila). You can purchase a SIM card easily for about PHP100 (US$ 2.20) for the SIM card and some airtime at PHP100, 300 or 500 etc. Calls are at US$0.40 per minute, while data is expensive to use on the SIM and phone calls cost more than they do in Kenya. The issue is due to the spread of the islands which makes network towers investments expensive. Fibre optics cables are being laid in parts of Cebu as I could see from freshly dug trenches on some pavements and walking areas.

Cebu was also the landing spot for the country’s Internet through cable laid in the port city in 1995. However authorities have only recently upgraded the infrastructure to fibre optics in a bid to organize the normally slow Internet and communications links.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: Most Cebu speak Cebuano – the 2nd most spoken language in Philippines which  comprises a mix of Spanish, Malay and a bit of English from the US. One can get through by speaking English, though on back streets one may need to get a local to accompany you especially if buying items (for haggling purposes). There are quite a number of major malls in Cebu which explains the US cultural influence, and major US brands such as McDonalds, Starbucks, among others, are big here.

Ayala-Cebu -Courtesy of


Cebu is mainly a tourist city and also a port hub for this part of the Philippines. Historically the town was the point of entry for Spanish explorers including the famous Ferdinand Magellan who met  his death here. This was at the Battle of Mactan under the hands of Lapu-Lapu – a native ruler who became a hero for his resistance. The Spanish heritage is rich in the architectural and street designs as well as some of the words in Cebuano language and naming too. However not as much Spanish is spoken as would be expected.

The city has beautiful beaches and for those with an interest in marine life and nature trails, there is quite a variety of things choose from. From walks at the scenic Chocolate Hills, to bathing in the beaches of Logon beach Malapascua. It also has some beautiful historic sites such as the Capitol Hill (venue of GV Summit), Magellan’s Cross among others.

Eating Out: Filipinos love their meat and have a certain fascination for pork. I sampled mostly red and white meats; from beef to pork and chicken. Local dishes include tapa – cured beef; abodo – chicken or beef in some garlic and soy sauce; hamonado – pork in some pineapple sauce (almost like Hawaiian pizza but richer servings…) among others.

As far as sea food goes, I chose to play safe lest I pick reactions or trigger any allergies. But for all you seafood lovers, the sushi and octopus stew as well as other delicacies are in plenty. Interestingly I managed to sample a Chinese eatery which was quite busy in one of the many malls. The meals prices ranged from PHP150 to PHP450 on the higher end for a single meal (and therefore PHP300-900 for a double).

As for beer and other alcohol drinks, the Cebuanos love their alcohol and would walk around meeting many going to make merry or having a good time. There are no Mututho laws here! They have some potent beer which retail at between PHP55 to PHP 80, depending on your choice of club. There is an interesting beer brand by the name, Beer Na Beer (almost thought there are Swahili people here too). Other brands include the potent Red Horse (which also comes in a large 1 litre bottle) and San Miguel. I usually opted for the Cali, a non-alcoholic brand or fresh juice (…teetotaler habits…). Filipinos also love clubbing with a number of clubs hosting international DJs during our stay as some were on holiday but mixing it up with some work. Their love for karaoke though was always one to behold.

Did You Know? The country was colonized by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Spaniards for over 400 years who left them the architectural heritage and bits of words in Spanish. They also left behind the Catholic religion of which 85% of population of over 100 million are followers. This trip came after the first papal visit by Pope Francis, who like most of his modern-day predecessors, has to make the pilgrimage to this island state.

The Philippines name is a tribute to King Philip the II from Spain – of the 16th Century – who was a devout Catholic who established the first trans-Pacific trade route between Asia and Americas. The Americans who are their ‘latter day occupants’ left more than that with the language, the road network, the love for anything consumerist and a largely capitalist state. After the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, the country embraced the Aquinos who have now managed to get a stronghold of the country’s political psyche.


  • Karaoke, I spotted at least 5 different fellows on different days doing karaoke at their shops, complete with loudspeakers and screens to boot! Don’t ask me how they make their money…the only guys who can beat this are the Japanese I guess.
  • The country has a peculiar fascination with #Selfies – 2 of its cities rank among the top 10 #Selfies Cities of the World – Cebu City is ranked 9th.
  • Sinulog Festival is a religious festival usually celebrated every 3rd Sunday of January in honour of the Santo Nino de Cebu (loosely translated to Holy Child Jesus of Cebu) as well as the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan. It has a Mardi Gras-like parade which sees both young and old dance and make merry around the town for a couple of days. It has also recently been incorporated with the biggest outdoor dance party in the Philippines.
  • This island nation is the home of one of modern day’s sports legend, Manuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao, who is a senator in the country’s Senate. He is also one of the biggest brands making endorsements all around. This may explode further if his next fight, titled as ‘The Showdown’, goes his way. It has been a long way coming, but might finally happen in May 2nd, 2015.

Cebu is a perfect honeymoon location especially around Jan-Mar of the year when temperatures are said to be cooler than usual (between 24-27 degrees). In the summer these can rise to a high of 33-36 degree with humid conditions given the large water masses around. All in all, a fascinating city which I’d recommend to visit beyond your more storied Manila.

Namibia President wins Mo Ibrahim Prize

President Hifikepunye Pohamba was today announced as the winner of the 2014 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The award

Earlier, there was some speculation or expectation, with the announcement being made in Nairobi, that Kenya’s former president Mwai Kibaki might be this year’s winner. The prize panel comprising Salim Ahmed Salim, Martti Ahtisaari  Aïcha Bah Diallo, Mohamed ElBaradei, and Graça Machel addressed that in a  Q&A session after the announcement was made by Salim

He said President Pohamba made a mark in terms of reconciliation, cohesion, and respect for the constitution. He had offered sound leadership while remaining humble. His achievements were seen in gender equality (48% of parliamentarians are women) a focus on health (80% of HIV cases receive therapy and transmission rates are falling) and education, tackling poverty (social safety nets and disability grants) while grappling with challenges like the widening inequality.

  • Questioned on the criteria, Baradei said the awards are not given in a vacuum – and this is measured by improvements in governance and leadership. President have to do the right things amid challenges, and create a cohesive society in which citizens can work together. Aicha mentioned his acceptance of political parties  and consultation with opposition leaders.  Graca said the achievements in his country were done in a very short period of time.
  • Are all winners from the Southern Africa region? Machel said that was not true and they analyze every case regardless of region. She said that while three winners are from Southern Africa, the SADC regional also had some bad (young) countries
  • Does it create encouragement? Has the prize had an impact in Africa and is it work all that money? Yes they said. Salim said they would rather go a few years without an award, than give an award for no reason. There has been no winner for three years, and that may happen again in future. Ultimately, the answers lie in numbers derived from the Foundation’s Index of African Governance.
  • The MC read out a tweet from a Kenyan newspaper that Kibaki lost to the prize to Pohamba’ – and Salim said that it was an assumption that they had considered Kibaki for the prize.Mo Ibrahim at the 2014 Prize announcement
  • Chris Kirubi compared giving a prize to wealthy retired presidents to putting water back into the river. Mo Ibrahim stood and disagreed with the that generalization saying it was detrimental  to make. He said this was due to Africans relying on foreign media  and only knowing a few continental leaders like Mandela and then the infamous ones – and asked how many in the room knew the past winners like presidents’ Festus Mogae  or Pedro Rodrigues Pires or Pohamba (before today)? He appealed to the media to report properly on Africa by knowing the 54 presidents, some of who were wealthy, but others who lived humble lives, and find more heroes, beyond Mandela. He said Pires, a former liberation leader who became president, called a taxi and went to live with his mother after he lost the election. He also cited Botswana’s former President Masire who once traveled to  a meeting in Addis where he was overlooked by VIP protocol as they didn’t know he was traveling in economy class (to set an example).
  • ElBaradei said  the fact they don’t have winner every year is also a message. They would like to see 2 or 3 qualified ex-presidents every year but Africa is still facing challenges of transiting to democracy and good governance.
  • The award, which is a $5 million prize paid over 10 years, followed by $200,000 annually for life thereafter, remains open to any president who has left office in the previous three years. It affords winners a chance to have dignified years in retirement and invest or fund activities they believe in.