Category Archives: Agriculture

Flowers by the Lake: Karuturi and the Bankers

Kenya is known as one of the giants of the giants of the fresh flower world, producing roses, lilies and other carnations that are freighted around the world to be used as gifts, tokens of affection, and to spruce up weddings, offices and restaurants.

A large share of these flowers come from farms around Lake Naivasha, a tiny lake in the Rift Valley of Kenya about 90 kilometers Northwest of Nairobi.  Many of the farms are on Moi South Lake Road, which is also where most of the picturesque Naivasha tourist lodges are also located. The road is a bumpy, potholed road, one which seems illogical given the investments on each side of the road, that run into tens of millions of dollars of lodges interspersed with flower farms, that neighbour each other for almost ten kilometers. In between are small ramshackle town structures that are a common peri-urban feature across the country housing bars, chemists, mobile money agents and other shops. There are also schools named after flower companies and you may spot hundreds of school children playing football or lounging at break time as other kids walk towards their homes, along the road which has sparse traffic of flower company buses and land cruisers and minivans ferrying tourists to different lodges, with familiar names like Simba, Enashipai, Sopa, Pinkman, Crayfish and Crescent. There are also signs for land for sale, usually on the left side of the road, away from the prime lake shore and some with unfinished building structures, outcomes of a dream sold years ago of Naivasha as a place to buy a holiday home.

Then there appears a large group of greenhouses, on the right side of the road, the preferred side. But unlike other farms you have passed, you can see past the ever-present Naivasha thorn bushes and security fences, that the greenhouses plastic walls and roofs are torn, flapping in the wind.. Inside the compound looks overgrown, and devoid of busy activity at other flower farms.

This is Karuturi, a farm that has spawned a long-running case in the Kenya courts. It is not the longest, not by far.  If you spend time in Kenya’s courts you will discover there are cases, commercial and civil, that stretch as far back as ten, twenty, and even thirty years.

The case, Civil Suit No. 78 of 2014 of Surya Holdings, Rhea Holdings and Karuturi Limited, against CFC Stanbic Bank collectively known Karuturi case is a unique one. One that has roped in banks in Kenya and India, landowners, flower pickers, workers unions, schools, two receiver managers, audit firms, suppliers and government agencies.

 A summary of the case events:
  • December 2012: Stanbic advances facilities to Karuturi; with the main loan to be repaid over five years. The facilities are secured by guarantees from directors of Karuturi as well as Rhea Holdings and Surya Holdings, related companies which are the registered owners of the land parcels the farm was situated on, The first repayment was made in January 2013 but then none was made for the next three months in succession.
  • January 2014: Stanbic obtained an advisory opinion which showed that the Karuturi farm was insolvent, its financial accounts were questionable for 2012 and it appeared the directors of Karuturi had abandoned the farm. They advised that putting the farm under receivership was the only way to stop further degradation of the assets. as the farm had stopped sales and production of flowers at Naivasha in August 2013.
  • February 2014: Stanbic places Karuturi in receivership and appoints Kieran Day and Ian Small as Receivers and Managers.
  • February 2014: Receivers advised the bank to move to dispose of the farm as soon as possible and to preserve assets by continue trading.
  • March 2014: Karuturi sues to challenge the appointment of receivers and stop the sale of the charged properties.
  • June 2014: Court rules that the appointment of receiver managers was proper. It also restrains the receivers from selling the charged properties (Rhea’s LR 10854/60 and Surya’s LR’s 12248/20, 12248/21, 12248/38, 25261 and 25262)
  • Karuturi was reported to have been relocating to Ethiopia in March 2014  in what was seen to signal a loss for Kenya as a preferred flower growing powerhouse.
  • October 2014: The Receivers create a company called Twiga BV to facilitate the sale of Karuturi flowers to the Netherlands and to receive revenue in order to pay expenses, staff and suppliers of the business. This came after Karuturi BV had been declared insolvent.
  • October 2015: One of the Receiver Managers is relocating from Kenya and the firm resigns. The bank appoints Muniu Thoithi and Kuria Muchiri of PWC as the new receiver-managers. Twiga was transferred to the new receivers at the end of 2015.
  • March 2016: In a hearing of a case filed to wind up Karuturi, and with lawyers for Polythene Industries, Agility, Ivaco, Inter Label, ICICI and Stanbic, the lawyers for Karuturi side with the winding up clause and allowed this process to proceed.
  • October 2016: A High Court judge finds that Karuturi had admitted (in March 2016) that they owed the bank $4M and Kshs 2.7 million before the receivership and that Surya and Rhea had provided securities to secure this debt. The court also directs that an independent forensic audit be done on business and operational transactions during the receivership period and look at items such as the expenses paid by the bank, repayments by Karuturi to the bank, balances outstanding, exports and production, payments to workers, tax payments, status of assets bought or sold during the receivership inventories, and compare the performance of the company between 2007-2012 to the receivership period.
  • November 2016: The suit parties settle on Deloitte to do the audit.
  • August 2017: Karuturi applies to the court seeking to pay $3.8M and Kshs 2.7 million within sixty days and have the bank release the land titles of Surya and Rhea.
  • October 2017: The audit report to the court reveals that, in addition to the debt owed before the receivership of $6.2M, another $9.4M had been spent during the receivership. The audit showed that 403 million good quality roses had been harvested (between February 2014 and May 2016), 2% of which could not be accounted for. Altogether in 2015 and 2016 Twiga received $23.6 million and paid $23.5 million for vendor expenses and administrative functions. Also, the assets of the company were intact, contrary to a Karuturi claim that the receiver managers had run down the assets of the company and it dismissed many of the accusations of Karuturi including that on transfer pricing and found that the receivers had not engaged in misconduct. The audit also found that the last known date of production at the farm was early in May 2016 and that the farm was descending into disrepair as costs continued to be incurred in preserving it.
  • October 2017: ICICI Bank of India wins a separate demand for $40 million from Karuturi.
  • January 2018: Courts rule that the receivership was proper and that Karuturi directors should pay the pre-receivership debt of $4M and Kshs 2.7 million, with interest, within 60 days. Also that, within 90 days, they are to pay $6.3M owed to creditors during the receivership and $6.7M advanced by the bank during the receivership period up to December 2016 and another $0.97M of receivership expenses incurred the following year to July 2017.
  • March 2018: Reports that an American company, Phoenix Group, has invested an undisclosed sum, said to be $2 billion, in Karuturi Global to help it pay its debts and revive its Kenya operations.

  • May 2018: The Receiver Manager of Karuturi (in liquidation) puts the movable assets of the company on sale. These include 1,400 steel greenhouses, vehicles, refrigeration and irrigation equipment. The land they occupy at Moi South Rd, Lake Naivasha is not part of the transaction.
  • Later in the month, Karuturi appealed against the court judgment and sought to terminate the receivership and also stop the sale of assets.

  • September 2018: The case is due for hearing this month. In the meantime, Kenya has enacted new company laws and insolvency laws. The main difference is that whereas before a receiver manager would act in the interest of the bank, they are now mandated to act on behalf of the bank and all creditors of the company.

Asoko reviews Flower Farms (Floriculture) in Kenya

Asoko Insight has published an interesting review of flower farms and the floriculture industry in Kenya showing trends for the region and new markets for what has been a steady export for the country. It is Interesting that the Netherlands is considered the world’s largest producer of flowers with a 45% of the export value, followed by Colombia 17% and Ecuador 10%. Kenya has 9% of the global flower market, far ahead of Uganda and South Africa in Africa.

  • Export-oriented: Kenya flower exports earned $813 million (Kshs 81 billion) in 2017 according to Kenya’s Horticultural Crops Directorate and these are growing at 11% per year. Kenya’s 2018 economic survey has these cut flowers, 160,000 tones of them representing 71% of horticultural earnings; much larger than vegetables and fruits at Kshs 24 and 9 billion, respectively. Most flowers are grown for export, while domestic demand is but a small fraction that comprises purchase of low grade products. 
  • Producers: There are 236 companies actively growing flowers, 24 are large, and these include Oserian Development, James Finlay, Carzan, Primarosa, Vegpro Group, AAA Growers, Mount Elgon Orchards, Flamingo, PJ Dave, Kariki, and Timaflor. Producers need certification to break into export markets and sell at premiums. Large farms market their flowers to sister companies and contract smaller farms who also have the option of using international wholesalers.
  • Netherlands: FloraHolland is the largest flower auction in the world and has historically Europe has been the main destination of Kenya’s horticultural trading, but the report  mentions that some large Kenyan producers are bypassing the Dutch auction system, directly supplying bouquets and loose flowers to large Western retailers such as Walmart and Tesco who focus on delivery, reliability, and traceability, not just price. Primarosa was recently in the news pushing for the Kenya floriculture industry to set up its own flower auction.
  • Ethiopia: The report also compares the floriculture industry of Kenya and Ethiopia which has been in the news due to the long-running Karuturi versus Stanbic bank case which has highlighted that some flower farms are shifting their floriculture interests and investments to Ethiopia where there are less labour (union) and tax issues in production. Kenya’s flower exports in 2016 were $690 million compared to $190 million for Ethiopia. That said, it has not been smooth sailing for Karuturi in Ethiopia so far.  

Read more in the Asoko report (PDF) on Kenya’s floriculture industry.

Kenya Income Tax Cuts, Increases, and Other changes 2018

The Kenya government, through the National Treasury, is proposing some long overdue changes to the country’s income tax laws, which are contained in a draft bill that will be submitted to Parliament.

The bill has new clauses that affect transfer pricing, new extractive (oil & gas) industries, phase out of turnover tax, and an apparent tax cuts. It comes after other recent changes to the tax code. Kenya also has an ongoing waiver and amnesty program for income tax and assets held outside Kenya to be declared and repatriated to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA)  by June 30.

Leading accounting and audit firms such as KPMG, PWC, and Deloitte have looked deep into the clauses, and these are some of their findings: 

KPMG:

  • Companies are to produce and maintain transfer pricing documentation and policies in place for the year of income.
  • The withholding tax threshold of Kshs 24,000 had been deleted.
  • Payments to non-resident petroleum contractors will be 20% (up rom the current 12.5%)
  • Developers who build over 400 houses to pay taxes of 15% on gains.
  • Micro-finance institutions (MFI’s) interest will be exempt from withholding tax.
  • Sports clubs & associations will get taxed on entrance fees and subscriptions.
  • Farms, warehouses or doing consultancy work for more than 91 days in a year are now considered permanent establishments. KPMG comment – This will require non-resident persons doing business in Kenya to re-think their operational models.
  • A listed company will pay 25% taxes for five years if 40% of its shares are floated.  KPMG  comment – this will reduce the impact of taxation as an incentive to list.

Deloitte:

  • Income tax rate of 35% on more than Kshs 750,000 (~$7,500) per month
  • Non-residents’ who receive their pensions in Kenya will pay a tax of 10% on transfers (up from 5%) 
  • A higher corporate tax of 35% for large companies with taxable income over Kshs 500 million (~$5 million).
  • Real-estate capital gains tax of 20% (up from the current 5%). Deloitte comment – Though the increment is quite steep, it enhances equity considering that CGT is regarded as a tax on wealth.
  • Equality: Each person in a marriage is now required to file their own tax returns: no more cases of wives having their incomes filed under husband’s income tax returns.  
  • Mining & Oil: Losses can be carried forward for a maximum of 14 years (There is no current cap)
  • EPZ holiday removed: Now EPZ’s will pay 10% tax for the first 10 years, and 15% for the next ten years (other companies pay 30% corporate tax).
  • SACCO’s: Cooperative societies to pay a withholding tax on dividends and bonuses of 10% (up from the current 5%) 
  • Subsidiaries in Kenya to pay 10% tax on dividends remitted to the parent companies.
  • E-commerce: The Treasury Cabinet Secretary will be allowed to introduce taxes on digital platforms.
  • Capital allowances reduced: The 150% allowance for investments outside cities has been removed, those for filming equipment reduced from 100% to 50%, and educational institutions from 50% to 10%.
  • Small businesses, that are licensed by counties, will pay a presumptive tax of 15% of the business permit fee. Deloitte comment – (this) replace the turnover tax, currently at the rate of 3% of a person’s turnover (KRA has faced challenges collecting) ..  will require collaboration with the county governments. 

PWC

  • All medical insurance paid by employers for employees is now tax-exempt (even for expatriate staff) and age limits for children covered goes up from 21 to 24 years.
  • withholding tax of 5% will be levied on payments to foreign insurance companies. PWC comment – this is aimed at promoting local insurance companies.
  • Income tax exemptions that have been dropped include income of the Export-Import Bank of the USA (relates to Kenya Airways?). Also on the income of stockbrokers from trading in listed shares. PWC comment – this may have a negative impact on the growth of the capital markets in Kenya;
  • 20% withholding tax on payment to non-Kenyan companies for horticultural exports. 
  • 20% withholding tax on payment of air-tickets to non-resident agents. PWC comment – may lead to increase in airline ticket prices in Kenya which may affect competitiveness of local airlines.

They also looked at other recent tax adjustments which PWC notes will mainly alleviate the government from paying VAT refunds.

  • Milk, maize, bread, bottled water, will all cost more after moving from “0%” VAT to “exempt” VAT as importers will pass on non-recoverable VAT to consumers.
  • Same for LPG gas, some medicines and agricultural pest control inputs.
  • Making housing affordable. PWC comment – the Government is also proposing a stamp duty exemption for the purchase of a house by a first time home owner under an affordable housing scheme
  • Betting/Gambling: For winnings, a 20% tax will be deducted at source i.e the betting company) on any prizes (this is up from the current 5%)

Other Clauses in the Income Tax bill

  • Parent companies are to file country-by-country reports with KRA within 12 months of year-end.
  • No capital gains tax is due on land if it is compulsorily acquired by the government.
  • No capital gains on listed securities.  
  • While there is a new 35% tax for the rich, the income tax bill appears to lower taxes for the low-income.  e.g. someone earning Kshs 40,000 (~$400) per month, who pays 5,932 in tax per month now after personal relief, will have a lower tax burden.  Income tax bands are expanded in the 10% range (now up to 13,000 from the previous 10,000) and there is also a higher relief of Kshs 1,408 versus the current 1,162) and the resulting net tax for the person will now be Kshs 5,009 for the month – a 15% income tax cut?.  
  • Tax rate of 15% for five years for local vehicle assemblers. This can be extended by another 5 years if the company achieves 50% local content value in the vehicles.  
  • Taxes waived on the income of disabled persons, amateur sports associations, and NGO’s (relief, poverty, religion, distress) whose regional headquarters are located in Kenya.  

Finally, other stakeholders are invited to review the proposed changes to the 103-page income tax bill and submit comments via email to ITReview2017_at_treasury.go.ke by May 24.

Idea Exchange: Food, Fellowship, Counties, Army Worm, Film, Sports, AI, Oil Opportunities

New, and ongoing, opportunities to apply for.

UNCTAD: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, jointly with Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, have the eFounders Initiative aims to help bridge the digital divide faced by young entrepreneurs in developing countries and allow them to grasp the opportunities of e-commerce ecosystems.  This capacity building programme to empower 1, 000 e-commerce entrepreneurs from developing countries over a period of five years to become catalysts and the next course will focus on African entrepreneurs from Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda and will take place at the campus of the Alibaba Business School in Hangzhou, China from 19 to 29 June 2018. Application Deadline: 4 May 2018
Earth Journalism Network: Climate Change Media Partnership 2018 Reporting Fellowships Apply to report from both the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco and the UN Climate Negotiations in Katowice, Poland.

The Africa Food Prize is the preeminent award for recognizing the extraordinary individual or institution whose contributions to African agriculture are forging a new era of sustainable food security and economic opportunity for all Africans.  The deadline for nominations for the USD 100,000 prize is Tuesday 15 May and the 2018 winner will be unveiled at a high-profile gala dinner at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2018 this September in Kigali, Rwanda.

African Food Security Prize Launched to Stop Devastating Crop Pest: Feed the Future, supported by Land O’Lakes International Development and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, has opened its call for applications for the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize that offers to fund up to $400,000 in digital solutions that aim to help stop the spread of fall armyworm in Africa-a pest that is devastating agriculture and demolishing billions of dollars’ worth of crops across the continent. The application deadline is 14 May 2018 and applications may involve a range of digital solutions and must demonstrate how the proposed tool(s) will help smallholder farmers and those that reach them, such as extension agents, monitor, identify, treat or report the incidence of fall armyworm.

Africa Innovation Summit II: A call for application has been launched across Africa for innovations addressing the continent’s challenges – which include energy access, water, food insecurity, health systems, and governance. Applications close on 15 April.

The 2018 African Union Research Grant offers up to $9 million of funding. The deadline for applications is May 22 The call supports research on food, nutrition security and sustainable agriculture (FNSSA).

Andela Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria Fellowships:  The recruitment Schedule for Andela Kenya fellowship cycle 29, and Andela Nigeria, cycle 33 deadline is May, while for the Andela Uganda fellowship cycle 9 and boot camp, the deadline is April 27.

Anzisha Prize: Aims to find a young entrepreneur who is making a difference in their community,  aged 15- 22 so that they can have the chance to win a shared amount of US$100 000 and become an Anzisha fellow. The deadline is 15 April.

Asoko, in a new collaboration with the London Stock Exchange Group, PwC and CDC Group is seeking Africa’s leading private companies – companies to Inspire Africa for a leading report showcasing Africa’s 1,000 most dynamic private, high-growth companies. Deadline is June 11.

BAKE Awards 2018: The nominees of the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) Awards 2018, that recognizes and awards the best in Kenyan blogging have been announced  in categories including Technology, Photography, Creative Writing, Best Business Blog, Food , Environmental , Fashion & Style, Agricultural, Best New Blog, Corporate Blog, Sports, Entertainment, Education, Travel, Public Health, County Blog, Religious or Spirituality , Lifestyle, Beauty & Hair, Best Video Blog (Vlog), Social Issues & Active Citizenship, and Kenyan Blog of the Year. Voting for the winners is now on, up to 30 April.

The BMCE Bank of Africa – African Entrepreneurship Award 2018 has $1 million of prizes and a trip to Morocco for entries in categories of innovation or sports entrepreneurship. Deadline is  April 30, and more details here.

Chatham House invite applicants for the Academy Africa Fellowship in the Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs in research topics for 2018-19 of
new technologies and their impact on international security (with a focus on artificial intelligence or space), the geo-economics of technology, climate-resilient development ( managing energy transition in a low-income context) and the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) in Africa. The deadline for applications is 29 April.

DEMO Africa 2018: DEMO Africa is a launch pad for emerging technology and trends, attracting over 2000 people from around the globe to experience the finest African innovations. The top five startups from DEMO Africa will be sponsored to Silicon Valley for an all-expense paid trip to be part of the Lions@frica Innovation Tour. Now accepting startup applications until June 15.

EDiT Research Fellows in Applied Development Finance: The Global Development Network (GDN) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have partnered to create the ambitious EIB-GDN Program in Applied Development Finance for deepening understanding of EIB’s investment operations in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Under this partnership, GDN and EIB will identify, train and deploy teams of research professionals in the ACP regions to conduct “deep dive” studies of selected projects funded under EIB’s Impact Financing Envelope (IFE).

Kenyan winners from the Tony Elumelu Foundation announced earlier this year

Fourth Mining 4i: The Strathmore Extractives Industry Centre (SEIC), in collaboration with the Kipya (Africa) Limited and Extractives Baraza, hosts the Fourth Mining 4i, an annual invite-only forum which focuses on the promotion of Kenya’s mineral potential by attracting investment in technological innovation.

Google Africa Scholarship Program:  Web and Android Scholarships available for residents of African countries. Some scholarship recipients may be able to participate in an Andela Learning Community with our partners from Andela. Finally, top students from each track will earn full scholarships to one of our Android or Web Development Nanodegree programs. Applications due by April 24.

Kalasha Kenya: Submit your entries for the #MyKenyaMyStory competition for a chance to walk away with grand prizes worth Kshs 500,000 Check poster for more details.

The Competition Authority of Kenya #CAKuzaAwards2018 is celebrating excellence in Kenyan Broadcasting. Vote for your favorite TV and Radio Station, by sending the word KUZA to 15601. Voting is free.

Merck Accelerator Nairobi Satellite Program: In partnership with Mettā, Nairobi, Merck Accelerator’s satellite program in Nairobi is seeking early-stage startups with no more than 4 years in existence, startups in the fields of Healthcare, Life Sciences, Performance Materials and other search fields such as Biosensing and Interfaces, and Precision Farming. For startups based in East Africa, Nairobi Applications are open to May 5, 2018, and founders that are available are to attend a boot camp on May 15-18 in Nairobi, Kenya, if selected.

MEST Africa Challenge 2018: MEST is celebrating 10 years of supporting aspiring African entrepreneurs with a first Pan-African pitch competition, the MEST Africa Challenge. MEST Africa Challenge 2018 will give winning applicants the chance to meet and pitch to leading investors, corporate and ecosystem partners from Africa and beyond, at the finals in Cape Town. The trip will be fully funded. The winning entrepreneurs could receive, as much as, sh.5,000,000 ($50,000) in equity investment and space in one of MEST’s incubators. Companies that apply must be primarily tech-focused. Details here and the deadline for applications is April 22.

Microsoft Imagine Cup 2018: Microsoft has announced this year’s Imagine Cup, the students’ developer technology and innovation competition that will see winners walk with $100, 000 in prizes. Imagine Cup participants create or join a team of up to 3 students. Together, they make an original technology project from start to finish: come up with a great idea, make a plan, build a project, and submit. This year’s Imagine Cup has three special awards that represent the current state of digital transformation: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Mixed Reality.

Norwegian Accelerator, Pangea, a platform connecting African startups with international investment & expertise, has shortlisted 11 start-ups who will be considered for funding of up to 50,000 USD per startup. The 11 start-ups companies are drawn from Kenya-9, Egypt -1 and Nigeria-1. Pangea plans to launch a crowd investment platform in June 2018, allowing accelerated startups further access to funding.

The 8th Orange Social Venture Prize for Innovative Startups in Africa and Middle East (50,000 Euros in Prizes) aims to reward the best innovative business projects. Application deadline is May 31, but now no more Kenyan firms are eligible after Orange divested from Kenya.

Pitch AgriHack 2018 for young agriculture entrepreneurs is a competition for agriculture startups owned by young entrepreneurs, with reward being capacity building and access to a grant. It is organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). 8 winners will be selected from 2 categories and there will be an additional category to reward a woman-owned, founded or co-founded startup by one of the partnering organizations that made Pitch AgriHack 2018 possible. It is open to e-agriculture startups offering digital services in the agriculture sector. Details here and the deadline is 21 May.

She Leads Africa Accelerator is set to provide training and funding for women-led technology enabled businesses. The 2018 Accelerator will consist of three 1-week residencies in Lagos where entrepreneurs will receive training from the SLA team, business leaders and experts. Applications close on May 20.

Upstream Oil & Gas Awards: The Upstream Awards 2018 is a ceremony to recognize and celebrate outstanding achievements from within the emerging upstream oil and gas industry. Nominations have closed for, among others, nominees for company of the year, drilling contractor, oil field services ​company of the year, upstream CEO, upstream woman of the year award, local community award, local supplier, oil & gas future leader, upstream financier of the year, journalist of the year, legislator of the year, engineering award, life achievement award, and upstream county award.

USAID and Feed the Future have issued an invite to Sub-Saharan Africa women in agribusiness for the Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs Prize 2018. It is open to women helping smallholder farmers increase access to agricultural input (seeds, fertilizer, etc.), technology (ICT, irrigation, etc.), financial and risk management services. Winning applicants will enjoy access to capital to scale and improve their work. Details here and the deadline for applications is 25 April.

Visa will open the first Visa Everywhere Initiative for Sub Saharan Africa to young developers at this year’s Nairobi Tech Week (NTW) taking place from April 19- 21. Developers who win the Visa-led hackathon during the tech week will automatically gain entry into the Visa Everywhere Initiative where they will have an opportunity to compete for a chance to win up to US $50,000, at a regional event in the region.

WTO 2018 Essay Award for Young Economists:  The WTO has issued a call for young economists to submit papers for the 2018 WTO Essay Award. The award aims to promote high-quality research on trade policy and international trade co-operation and to reinforce the relationship between the WTO and the academic community. Essays must be submitted by 1 June 2018, must address issues related to trade policy and international trade co-operation and cannot exceed 15,000 words.

2018 World Travel Awards:  Nominees have been selected and voting for African winners in is open up to 19 August in categories including (*Kenyan nominees in brackets) – Leading Luxury Private Villa (Cottar’s Bush Villa, Maasai Mara) Africa’s Leading Tented Safari Camp(Elephant Pepper Camp Masai Mara, Fairmont Mara Safari Club, Finch Hattons, Mahali Mzuri, Porini Amboseli Camp, Selenkay Conservancy) Africa’s Leading Safari Lodge (Borana Lodge, Kicheche Bush Camp, Loisaba, Ngerende Island Lodge, ol Donyo Lodge, Sirikoi),  Africa’s Leading Meetings & Conference Centre 2018  (The Kenyatta International Conference Centre), Africa’s Leading Serviced Apartments (Cowrie Shell Beach Apartments), Africa’s Leading Private Island Resort (Manda Bay, Rusinga Island Lodge) Africa’s Leading Luxury Hotel Villa (The Cliff Villa, Alfajiri Villas) Africa’s Leading Hotel Residences (Palacina),  Africa’s Leading Hotel (Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel), Africa’s Leading Green Hotel ( Nairobi Serena Hotel, The Aberdare Country Club) Africa’s Leading Family Resort (Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, Leopard Beach Resort & Spa), Africa’s Leading Business Hotel 2018 (Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel, Radisson Blu Hotel, Nairobi Upperhill, Tribe Hotel), Africa’s Leading Boutique Hotel (Giraffe Manor, The Safari Collection,  Hemingways Nairobi, Lion in the Sun)  Africa’s Leading Beach Resort (AfroChic Diani Beach, Almanara Luxury Resort, Swahili Beach, The Majlis), Africa’s Leading All-Inclusive Resort 2018 (Diamonds Dream of Africa) Africa’s Leading Tourist Board 2018 (Kenya Tourism Board) and Africa’s Leading National Park (Masai Mara National Reserve).  

Kenya Airways has been nominated for Africa’s Leading Airline – Business Class, Africa’s Leading Airline – Economy Class, Africa’s Leading Airline, Africa’s Leading Airline Brand 2018 and Leading Inflight Magazine (Msafiri). Also nominated are Fly540 and Jambojet, for Africa’s Leading Low-Cost Airline 2018  and AirKenya, Fly540, Mombasa Air Safari, Safarilink Aviation, Tropic Air for Kenya’s Leading Domestic Safari Carrier 2018.

What other opportunities are there for readers to apply for?

Reading the Tea Leaves at Kurwitu Ventures

Kurwitu Ventures published their 2017 accounts last month. The company listed on the Growth Enterprises Market Segment (GEMS) of the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) back in November 2014 at a premium price of Kshs 1,250 per share. The GEMS segment was created was created to give small and medium enterprises an easier route to the capital markets through lower requirements such as being in operation and audited accounts for just a year and took take steps to improve their governance

Their 2017 report notes that Kurwitu offers Shariah-compliant investments and asset management services – including Sukuk securities (Islamic bonds) – and their key focus remains on agriculture investments. The company may also invest with others persons in pass-through ventures such as REIT’s and investment notes – and such products may not appear on the group balance sheet.

In their original listing document (PDF), the company had forecast to generate revenue through three sources; from early-stage equity investments (generated by investing Kshs 100M in in projects in 2015, up to Kshs 200M in 2017), doing three (3) pass through investments a year of about Kshs 400 M in value – out of which they would earn a 1.5% fee and finally, corporate financial advisory deals for which they would earn a minimum of Kshs 4 M per deal. But in 2017, the company lost Kshs 10 million (10 M) compared to a loss of Kshs 14 M the year before. They had revenue of Kshs 317 shillings (all interest income, and still an amazingly low amount of interest income in relation to their bank balances) while they had revenue of Kshs 20,885 in 2016.

Directors at the time of listing were Abdikadir Hussein Mohamed, Mohamed Abdirahman Hassan, Sumayya Hassan Athmani, Jamal Isaak Ibrahim, Abdikadir Mohammed Haji, and Abdirahman Abdillahi and shareholders were Abdirahman Abdillahi (51%), Mohammed A. Hassan (27%), Ali Daud Mohamed (4%), Noordin M Haji (4%) and Anas Ibrahim Hussein (4%).  Abdirahman Abdillahi and Mohammed Hassan have since reduced their stakes in Kurwitu. To date, shareholders have lent Kshs 70 million to Kurwitu (including 20M in 2017) and these loans, which have no repayment date or interest charged, can be converted to shares at a value of Kshs 1,400 per share – and the current outstanding loans are equivalent to 50,000 shares against the current 102,000 issues shares. The company is authorized to have 125,000 shares.

The company created an asset management subsidiary in March 2015 that is 99.9% owned by Kurwitu Ventures and 0.01% by Abdirahman Abdillahi (the managing director). It has 3 plots of land in Lamu – Magongoni that it bought for 102 million and which it has owned since its listing, while in 2015 they bought another parcel in Lamu – Lake Kenyatta for Kshs 4 million.

In 2017, the company had Kshs 6 million (6M) in the bank, paid 5 M in salaries and another 3M in professional fees. Their accounts were audited by Abdulhamid & company. This accumulated losses at the end of  2017 were Kshs  44 million, compared to Kshs 33 M the previous year.

Other companies on the GEMS segment of the NSE include Home Afrika, Flame Tree, and Nairobi Business Ventures. Cytonn Investments, which was granted a fund manager license last month, also plans to list under GEMS later this year, while Atlas has already exited.