Category Archives: France

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Bethwell Ogot Footprints on the Sands of Time

My Footprints on the Sands of Time is an autobiography by Professor Bethwell Ogot (wikipedia),  an eminent academic scholar. It is a tale of a young man overcoming incredible hardships, and going through early schooling at Maseno, and later through winning scholarships and prizes, on to excelling at Makerere, St. Andrews (Scotland) and teaching with Carey Francis at Alliance High School. It also touches on his work and roles in the establishment of the University of Nairobi, and Maseno University, and at his travels to present papers and speak at prestigious conferences and other institutions across the world.

Ogot narrates tales on growing up in Luo culture, seeing emerging economic changes e.g. he took a honeymoon trip to Uganda in 1959 traveling on first class from Kisumu to Kampala via Nakuru, a twenty-seven-hour train journey. Later, when his father died on August 30, 1978, this was the day before Kenya’s first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was to be buried, and it was a period when the sole broadcaster – the Voice of Kenya refused to publish any other death announcements, newspapers would not publish any other obituaries as a sign of respect to Kenyatta, and coffin-makers were not willing to make any other coffins.

He was close to former schoolmates, who were now in government and its leaders. Ogot was waiting to meet Tom Mboya for lunch at the New Stanley Hotel when Mboya was shot (his death was not unexpected to his friends), and Ogot had an encounter with Mboya’s killer who was fleeing the scene.  He writes of his work to establish and get government and financial support for the Ramogi Institute of Advanced Technology – RIAT and a delicate dance with community leaders including Oginga Odinga who was firmly out of government.

The book has a wealth of information on corporate governance and management from Ogot’s time at regional bodies, parastatals, international organizations, donor-funded ones, universities that were in slow decline and government. He writes of working in research and publishing, and struggling to document and publish African history. Also of his times at the East African Publishing House that published books on political science, history, geography and a modern African library with much opposition from British Publishers who controlled publishing and later from government officials who set out to shut down independent academic stories. They published Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino that some critics considered a terrible poem ahead of its publication but which went on to be celebrated and sell over 25,000 copies.

There are also stories of navigating the East African Legislative Assembly, travels around East Africa, interacting with leaders and observing actions that were either supporting or undermining the East African Community. Uganda’s President Amin spoke of supporting the community even as he launched Uganda Airlines that he said would only do domestic flights in Uganda. There was also the importation of goods for Zambia through Mombasa that undermined the Dar es Salaam port and the Tazara railway, so Tanzania banned Kenyans trucks with excess tonnage from using their highways, and Kenya retaliated by closing its border with Tanzania. Officials in different countries also tried to keep community assets from leaving their borders, and Kenya grounded planes and withheld fuel of East Africa Airways which owed money to Kenya banks in a move designed to hurt vast Tanzania the most.

The most shocking tales are from his time working at the Museums of Kenya and its spinoff that saw Ogot as the first director of The International Louis Leakey Memorial Institute for African Prehistory – TILLMIAP (see an excerpt). It is a serious indictment of Richard Leakey who regarded TILLMIAP as his personal family fund-raising institution and who, with the support of Charles Njonjo in government and diplomats and donor agencies, warded off transparency and Africanization efforts – and was eventually to hound Ogot out of the institution.

Another tale is of when, as the candidate representing Africa on the executive board of UNESCO, he ran for the Presidency of the General Conference. But what should have been a formality of confirming his position became a long process after a surprise Senegalese candidate emerged to run against him – and France lobbied Francophone countries to only vote for a French-speaking African candidate, rules were changed, documents forged, and additional multiple election steps added before Ogot finally won.

The 500+ page book by Prof. Ogot does not have an index, but it’s worth reading all over again.

Air France resumes Nairobi flights

Air France has resumed flights to Nairobi and will join an expanded joint-venture partnership between KLM and Kenya Airways that was established in 1995.

Flight crew of the inaugural Air France flight

The inaugural flight using a Boeing 787-900 landed on March 26, which was eighteen years to the day when Air France had ended its Nairobi flights. The new flights will be three times a week using a Boing 787 and AF814 will leave Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 20:50 on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, arriving in Nairobi at 6:00, the next day and AF815 will leave Nairobi at 08:20 on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays and arrive at Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 15:50.

The expanded code-share will see the airlines have a combined three hubs (Amsterdam, Paris, Nairobi) enabling passengers to have seamless connections through booking on any of the three Air France flights (Paris-Nairobi), 14 Kenya Airways flights (7 Amsterdam-Nairobi and 7 Paris-Nairobi) and 7 KLM flights (Amsterdam-Nairobi)

From this summer, the Air France-KLM group comprising Air France, KLM, Transavia, and Joon will serve 51 African destinations on 489 weekly flights as in April 2018, Joon will begin serving Cape Town (South Africa) from Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

Airline Megadeal

As KLM scales down its investment in Kenya Airways, it is involved in another aviation mega-deal.  Air France-KLM is buying a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic as part of a series of deals that look set to shake up the airline world.

IFC celebrates KLM’s investment in KQ

Excerpts 

  • Delta Air Lines becomes the largest shareholder at 49 percent in Virgin Atlantic and founder Richard Branson cedes control. He will retain a 20% stake through his Virgin Group and the airline will continue to fly under the Virgin brand.
  • Delta Air Lines will take a 10% stake in Air France-KLM with the three airline companies coming together to create a single global joint-venture.
  • China Eastern Airlines will also take a 10% stake in Air France-KLM.
  • Air France-KLM’s investment in Virgin Atlantic will cost around $287 million (£220 million), while the two 10% stake sales are being valued at $981 million (€751 million) each for Delta and China Eastern.

The long-term aim of the deals is to bring the two pre-existing joint ventures—Air France-KLM, Delta and Alitalia, and secondly Delta and Virgin Atlantic—within a single joint-venture. The goal is that all the companies work more closely together, helping them fly more passengers to more destinations at a lower cost (to themselves). Plus, Air France’s balance sheet gets a makeover.

While Virgin has been struggling, as shown by the modest transaction price, it has one very attractive asset: landing slots at London’s crowded Heathrow airport, where passengers tend to pay higher fares

Meanwhile, some tension has been cited in the partnership between KLM and Air France.

  • A clash of national cultures and an inability to understand each other’s languages threatens to make the merged Air France-KLM group of airlines unmanageable, according to a leaked internal company report.
  • French staff in the Franco-Dutch company complain their colleagues from the Netherlands are money-grubbing, while the Dutch regard the Air France staff as aloof, according to the report. Among the petty grievances, there is irritation that a KLM employee working in Paris is charged €10 for lunch in the canteen, while an Air France colleague pays only €4.

 

Kenya Bank Receivership Updates: June 2017

Chase Bank: The Business Daily has unveiled the results of the bidding for Chase Bank in an ongoing receivership exit process that has been organized by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) .. “France’s third-largest bank by assets, Societe Generale, and Mauritius-based SBM Holdings are the frontrunners to acquire troubled Chase Bank and its subsidiary, Rafiki Microfinance.. The two have emerged top of the list of investors, including KCB Group, I&M Bank, Stanbic Bank and South Africa’s First Rand, who had expressed interest in taking over the Kenyan lender.”

Dubai Bank: The bank is in liquidation and the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation is calling on all depositors and creditors of the bank to show up and file their claims. During the court process, before liquidation, few depositors showed up after bad debts stalled the closed bank.

Imperial Bank: A court has just granted a 90-day extension of the receivership. It is “without prejudice” which means that the extension does not imply an endorsement of any the ongoing discussions between the shareholders of the bank, the CBK, and the KDIC. The statement ends with “a tentative timeline will be issued in the coming days.”

CFA: West Africa’s Brexit Moment

CFA Facebook post republished with permission of  TOS.

Today Senegal celebrates its independence; strangely enough, I am not in a celebratory mood. 50+ years of so-called independence, the more things are the same.

I am somehow very encouraged by President Alpha Conde’s and Kabore’s recent remarks, which makes me think that something is brewing…I had posted an article in a private forum and feel the need to share it with a bigger audience in hope to widen the tent that will lead our leaders to the waters…Here you go..
“If you want your independence then take it”, uttered De Gaulle in 1958 frustrated by young men heckling him.  Independence was given a few years later, but independence was not gained, as the terms were never negotiated in good faith but dictated by France and the CFA became a by-product of that.

At recent events, the Minister of Economy of Senegal suggested that Senegal is not considering dropping the CFA, which given the current climate, to me is a political response to an economic problem.

In contrast the President of Chad, Idriss Debby landed on the opposite side of the argument, and clearly established himself as the only head of state siding with a growing number of Africans, who have come to accept that Africa cannot be truly independent if its financial system is controlled in France.

In many parts of Francophone Africa, there is an emerging sense that economic growth cannot happen without economic independence especially with 50% of CFA member countries reserves being deposited into the French coffers. Such an awareness implies that people are ready for an alternative and a clean departure from the CFA and transition into an independent currency.
A move like this has to be strategic and deliberate simply because doing away with 70 years of political and economic control, will not be without peril. The French economy came out of its economic crisis after World War II in big part because of the CFA and relies on this system of exploitation to remain a strong economy in Europe.

Therefore, dropping the CFA, without a clear well laid out plan and implementation strategy might not be a winning strategy, but a knee-jerk reaction. It is also important that we take timeless lessons from previous movements that called for change such as the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street etc. These movements were well-meaning and all called for positive changes, but they were all reactive and started without a clear end game and solid alternative in place.

So my question is how do we form a coherent strategy consistent with the efforts already being put forth on the ground, and overcome the challenges ahead? Here is a summary of what I think might be a good starting point:

  • Understand the forces at play: Understanding the lay of the land, including the historical backdrop, the parties involved will help us not duplicate efforts and coordinate our efforts to support the different fronts that are on the ground presently. The first step should be to research and take stock of all the current issues, what the movements are doing, including the Front contre le Franc CFA, led by people like Kemi Seba, who have been fighting the good fight for years now.
  • Build on strengths of the movements already on the ground: A number of organizations have been laying the ground for years, but efforts have not been coordinated enough to reach a critical mass. I think the time is ripe and we can build on the January 7, 2017, events that were synchronized in Paris, Abidjan Dakar etc.…  Some research will be beneficial in order to know what people are doing and what is working, and what is not. Based on this information a framework can be built for how we can contribute positively to the cause. However, so far it seems the conversation has not gone beyond denouncing and asking for the end of the monetary servitude, for I am yet to see any concrete steps that lay a blueprint of how to achieve this objective and the ultimate goal of self-determination.
  • Develop a framework to complement these efforts: The framework should consider an end game, formalize the necessary steps, and then develop an initial response to potential challenges for each step. The benefit to this approach is that it allows us to look ahead, identify, anticipate and help us adapt to changing situations.
  • Educate ourselves and inform others, to build a critical mass: The only way to be effective is to have a full understanding of the high and low points of what an independent currency would bring in terms of positive changes. There are several resources from African born experts who have written and spoken extensively on the subject, such as Nicolas Agbohou who wrote “Le franc CFA et L’euro contre l’afrique,” Demba Moussa Dembele, author of “Sortir l’afrique de la servitude monetaire” and many others. There are also many short and easily digestible videos available on the subject.
  • Enlist Monetary Policy and Economic development experts: We need to know what our competencies are, and seek out outside experts such as Dr. Abdourahmane Sarr President at the Center for Local Economic Development Financing (CEFDEL), on areas where we do not have either an expertise or sound plan in place. A winning proposition will have to add something positive to the debate, therefore it is important to know what are the winning strategies being currently executed and try to complement the gaps we can identify.
  • Craft a value proposition to engage those on the sidelines: Assuming that despite framing the value a departure from the CFA will bring, we do not succeed in getting people to get involved, we should be able to pivot and appeal to people’s selfish nature, and what they personally stand to gain, for example: If a person lives in the US, and sends money home monthly, could they be swayed if they see that they monthly remittances can drop considerably? If the person lives in Senegal and wants to start a business or grow their business, could we explain how this will possibly affect access to capital and help them export?
  • Attack the CFA weaknesses and offer alternatives: Every solution has weak points and every problem presents new opportunities. Let’s list these out, and take the message within our networks and above. Winning people’s support and buy-in will build momentum and bolster enough support to put pressure on our leaders to hold referendums and in term force on the hand of France to accept new terms in its relationship with its former colonies.
  • Negotiate a win-win economic partnership with France: Coming up with a creative offer for France will be a better solution than a confrontation, which will simply be suicidal, and will lead to more destruction of our economies. Let’s capture our imagination, if you have ideas or know others who might have ideas on how we can give incentives to France to accept a different partnership agreement that can allow both parties to benefit, please share these ideas.

If you subscribe to this vision, I challenge you to engage people in your networks, one conversation at the time. The lives of close to 150 million people depends on this, so if you are from Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo Cameroun, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, or know someone from those countries, get educated, get involved and be the change you want to see.

Read up on the CFA Franc.

Image source: Silicon Africa