Category Archives: egovernment

Dalberg on Kenya’s Digital Economy

Dalberg has released a report titled Kenya’s Digital Economy: A People’s perspective. It finds that, in terms of digital transformation, Kenya is a lower-middle/income country that shows some characteristics of a higher middle-income economy.

The survey is based on in-depth responses from 2,456 people in Kenya’s 47 counties. It was done in 2020 to assess their perceptions on the state of the supporting ecosystems, digital infrastructure, enabling resources, applications and services.

The report differentiates between the uptake of “basic” digital services (sending money, buying airtime/data) and “advanced” digital services (e-commerce, paying for goods and services – health, education, agriculture, supporting livelihoods). It notes that some challenges to the next step of Kenya digital economy including exclusion and digital safety (fraud/harassment, cybercrime when using devices).

A stunning finding is that there is a low demand for advanced digital services, beyond mobile money, digital communication and social media. This is because non-users and 30% of current basic digital users do not find digital products or applications that are relevant.

Some of the sectors it touches on:

  • Agriculture: Kenya is one of the most advanced agri-tech markets with approximately 30% of agri-tech startups in Sub-Saharan Africa operating here and with 18% having their headquarters in the country But the awareness of landowners of digital services is low. 45% of those surveyed are not aware, while just 13% use digital services for their livelihoods – mainly to communicate with customers, suppliers and vendors while 10% use it for inputs and 15% for knowledge sharing. Half of those who do, use it as a result of assistance from field agents who are strong support factors for rural digital economies. Also half of adult female farmers face challenges in affording devices and accessing the internet which makes them hard to reach with interventions.
  • Health: There is low use of digital health services with only 15% of respondents aware, and of those, 35% use it mainly to consult health workers and pay for medicine with mobile money. The challenges cited are high costs and mistrust of doctors they can’t see while a quarter are concerned about sharing health information online.
  • Ecommerce is urban: 23% use e-commerce in urban areas compared to 9% in rural ones, and in Nairobi and the central region, uptake (24%) is twice as popular as in other counties in the rest of the country where it ranges between 1-12%.

On Financial Access:

  • Mobile Money has (+) and (-) aspects. The usage of mobile money is near-universal with 95% of lower-income and 93% of rural people using it as Kenyans have good user experiences with it, unlike some other countries. And while there have been concerns about fraud, 80% have trust in mobile money, but also 53% cite high costs as a reason not to use mobile money, more so with lower-income Kenyans.
  • Easy Credit: The report cautions that government should watch for debt traps from increase ease of digital credit in the country. Half of the respondents have had to sell assets, borrow more or reduce food & education expenditure to repay a loan – and this increases the chance of financial exclusion. Also, basic digital users lost an average of Kshs 1,470 to fraud while advanced users lost twice as much (Kshs 2,996) over the past three years. This is a risk that can grow as more unexposed people turn to advanced services and may face devastating losses that they cannot absorb.
  • Social safety nets: People with government stipends or pensions are more likely to use e-government services (such as eCitizen, iTax NHIF) than other Kenyans in general.
  • Entrepreneurs use it little: Among self-employed and business owners half use digital services and mainly for basic reasons like communicating with customers and vendors. Only 15-18% use it for advanced reasons like keeping business records, tracking stock, paying taxes, selling services and buying supplies through e-commerce platforms.

The report by Dalberg, done with support from the Omidyar Network, along with its data sets, can be downloaded here.

Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan

Getting There: Qatar Air was the best, and the only real option picked by our travel agent. We booked tickets early and they cost about $1,000 for a round trip. The flights are Nairobi-Doha and Doha-Baku and total time and the total journey time was about eight hours. Our layover in Doha was short and we had to sprint through the airport to get our connecting flight. Fortunately, we had received boarding passes for the Baku-leg in Nairobi, but in the rush, we lost some documents.

In the weeks prior to departure, there was some confusion about how to obtain a visa to enter Azerbaijan. The country has an e-visa page, but the pull-down menu of country choices does not list Kenya. Some other travellers going for the race chose South Africa as the nearest country to complete the e-visa application but we chose to wing it.

The Formula One race is a big business deal in Baku, and there was a Presidential directive on the internet that the Government of Azerbaijan would offer visas on arrival for F1 fans coming to attend the race. We had arrived early for check-in for our flight in Nairobi which was a good thing as we had to haggle with the Qatar Air staff and make some calls as they checked a book register of passengers. Eventually, they allowed us to proceed and board. There was no issue in Doha, other than the sprint across to catch the connecting flight.

On arrival at Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD) in Baku, there was a special desk section for F1 fans with special ushers around, dressed in F1 garb, ready to assist. You showed your ticket, paid a $26 fee and were issued with a 30-day single-entry visa. Note: We had bought our tickets through the official F1.com site and they arrived two weeks before the race, delivered from the UK by DHL to Nairobi.  

For other fans who already had applied for and got e-visas online, they could walk up to airport machines and get served.

After getting an e-visa, you then proceed to the immigration area.  There, they ask a few questions about the purpose of your trip and you also have to provide an email and phone number (we gave Kenyan ones).

if you intend to stay for more days in the country, you have to register online within 10 days of arrival and even the hotel you are staying at can process this

Getting Around: Baku is a small city and we walked end-to-end across it on different days. There was no need for taxis as it’s a very walkable city with lots of sights. We took a taxi from the airport that cost 50 Manat for a distance of about 40 kilometers using an unofficial cab (the official airport ones charge 70 Manat) and that was the only ride we hailed. All cabs are old Mercedes cars. As you walk around, note that weather changes were quite abrupt from sunny to cloudy. days were ok, but the nights were chilly.

Where to Stay: We had made a reservation at the Viva Boutique using Booking.com which we had made a while back and the rate was about $120 (200 Manat). They cost much more if you have booked late. Hotels tend to block off and charge higher fees for Grand Prix weekends. This room which would now be about  400 Manat on race day while other hotels would charge about 800 Manat. 

The hotel is not far from the track and we walked to different events of the race weekend.

We had arrived a few days before the race and had made an Airbnb reservation for the first few days. The homeowner had offered to pick us from the airport, and we had even negotiated an amount for this. But after clearing immigration, the Airbnb host was not answering his phone and we got worried. So we went to the hotel and negotiated for extra nights.

What to Eat: Restaurants are many, from local ones to others serving common international cuisines such as London Pub, McDonald’s and Starbucks.  Local restaurants had many dishes which we did not try. They have chicken served in many different styles and we ate a lot of chips and bacon.

Staying in Touch: It’s usually advisable, when visiting a new country, to get a local phone SIM card, in order to avoid roaming rates that are very expensive. We got Azercell lines from a booth at the airport that cost about $20, and which came with lots of minutes, SMS and 10GB data bundle that lasted the whole trip. This enabled lots of phone chats, browsing, and sharing of images and videos from the Baku trip with friends. However, like in a few other countries, you can’t make phone calls on WhatsApp – a VPN is advisable for that.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: The local currency is called the Manat. It’s quite strong $1 = 1.70 Manat (so a Manat is ~$0.6 or ~EUR 0.5). Credit cards work well here for most purchases, but it is always a good idea to call your bank before you travel to any country.

Sights to see on the streets of Baku are the full-grown trees, especially in the old city section. The buildings also have interesting architectural designs, walling and engineering of tiles on newer buildings.

Baku is a small town. Malls are modest in size. There are kiosks that are rather expensive, compared to the supermarkets.  By Monday, after the race, malls were quite empty.

One popular tourism attraction is Yanar Dağ, (“burning mountain”), a natural gas fire which blazes continuously on a hillside on the Absheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea near Baku. Tourist charges to visit are 2 Manat each.

Race Day:  The race is at 4:10 PM, which is late compared to other F1 races, and Baku is an hour ahead of Nairobi. 

We had great seats across the pit lane that cost about $500 and it was a fun vantage point. The race itself was kind of anti-climatic given the dominance of the Mercedes team who recorded their fourth consecutive 1-2 finish in 2019, and pre-race favourites Ferrari again seemed lost. The stage was set on Friday, during practice, when one of the cars from team Williams ran over a manhole cover which had come loose. This cause extensive damage to the car and the session had to be stopped. Other teams, including Ferrari, had their practice time limited as a result and this may have contributed to their Sunday pace.

During the weekend, we did the pit-walk to view cars up close in the garages. Many F1 races now put on huge musical concerts to entertain fans from across the world who have come to attend, and this year Baku had American rap star Cardi B performing on Sunday night, after the race.

Odd Points: You can exchange foreign currency with no questions asked and no need to show any identification (ID) in Baku.

A guest post by @asemutwa who travelled to watch the Formula 1 Socar Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2019 race in Baku.

Also see this other race trip report.- Guide to Abu Dhabi.

Idea Exchange: ALN, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, MAVC, Research, Rhodes, World Bank, YALI opportunities

Acumen: regional fellows program is a one-year, fully funded leadership development program designed to equip East Africa, India and Pakistan’s next generation of social leaders with the tools needed to unlock their full potential and drive positive change. Applications for East Africa close on July 27.

Africa Business Fellowship: will match young American business professionals with paid 6-month placements in African companies.

African Fact-Checking Awards: organized by Africa Check and the AFP Foundation, these are the only awards that honour journalism by media based in Africa that expose misleading claims made by public figures and institutions. Eligible entries must be original pieces of fact-checking journalism first published or broadcast between 1 September 2014 and 31 August 2015, by a media house based in Africa – in print or online, broadcast on the radio or television or published in a blog. Winner will receive a cash prize of €2000 and the two runners-up a prize of €1000 each.

Africa Leadership Network: apply to join hundreds of Africa’s most influential leaders at the sixth annual ALN gathering which will be held in Morocco from November 3 to 7, 2015. . Early bird discounts are offered, and for the first time, select non-ALN members will be eligible to attend #ALN2015.

Ampion: Venture Bus Africa Incubation Road Trip is a 7-day road trip across the continent that aims to take up to 200 participants on five buses in Morocco, Tunisia and Western, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa regions. Apply now for the East Africa group which has e-health, and governance themes for a trip planned 22 – 28 Oct.  2015.

Aspiring Entrepreneurs Program: targets 30 promising and aspiring entrepreneurs between ages 18 – 35 to join the program, in which they will get the opportunity to start their own business with grants approaching one million Naira (~$5,025). Apply by 30 July.

BAKE/ Mzalendo:  Political blogging workshop aims to help bloggers improve their writing or blogging skills on any of the following topics: parliamentary business, devolution and county Assemblies work, data journalism and constitutional Implementation? There are 30 slots, and the deadline is 19 July.

Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa: (BMIA) is a prestigious pan-African executive training program that’s been developed for mid-career journalists, financial professionals with an interest in financial journalism; government professionals, development practitioners and civil society professionals.  Apply for the this fully funded, free program worth $15,000 for sessions at leading universities in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

British Institute in Eastern Africa: (BIEA) has research funding for projects in the areas of spending time, everyday states, connections & disconnections, bio-cultural frontiers, and land, heritage & memory. Deadline is 1 August.

Commonwealth Writers: call for writers is seeking commission correspondents in the different regions of the Commonwealth and also writers for longer pieces. Dealing is July 27.

Eisenhower Fellowships: seeks a diverse mix of applicants from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe in a wide range of professional sectors to tackle big challenges in the future. Deadline is October 16.

Traveling to Kenya? From 1 September all visitor visas will be applied for online at an eCitizen website with payments made via debit or credit card and a 2 (working) day processing time.

Kiswahili Kshs 1 million (~$10,000) literary award is the Tuzo ya Fasihi ya Ubunifu Kiswahili Literary Award which will see will see winners eligible to win up to Kshs 1,000,000 and be published in Kenya by Spotlight Publishers and translated in France. Submit manuscripts of novels written in Kiswahili by 15 September.

Making All Voices Count: (MAVC) has grant funding for practitioner research & learning (up to £25,000 for projects, of a minimum of 3 – 12 months) and for research (up to £75,000 for research projects of 3 – 18 months)

– Also, there’s a MAVC #Tech4CitizenVoice competition in South Africa to find local innovators with early-stage tech governance projects that the programme could potentially incubate and fund. Deadline is 10 August.

The Mobile Application Challenge: (MAC) has an African Tech Challenge that comes with  a $5,000 first prize  (plus free access to Gearbox incubator for 6-months), $2,000 for second and $1,000 for third place during which the final 10 contestants will have the opportunity to build the mobile app and demo the results in front of a judging panel. Apply by the 18 July deadline. The aim is to help Kenyan youth get technical skills in manufacturing that will help them in future to engage in entrepreneurship and in getting quality jobs. This year, there are two competitions (Technical Challenge and Mobile App Challenge) with cash prizes amounting to $10,000 for the Technical Challenge’s top six teams and $8,000 as a cash prize for the top three individual winners of the Mobile App Challenge.

Rhodes: scholarships fully fund and support post-graduate study at Oxford University for scholars from 32 counties, with 2 places for Kenyans in 2016. Application deadline is 31 August.

World Bank:  Young Professionals Program has been the preeminent program preparing global development leaders. The application for the 2016 group runs through July 31, 2015. The World Bank also has an ongoing  recruitment drive for African nationals that aims to increase the number of Sub Saharan Africans in its workforce. The application deadline is August 31.

YALI East Africa: apply to join the YALI regional leadership center East Africa, which is based in Nairobi and has three program tracks; business & entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management with a note that applicants from Eritrea can only join either the business & entrepreneurship or the civil leadership ones and applicants from Sudan can only join the civic leadership one.

EDIT

AfricaKnows monthly photo competition is back, with the theme is ”Highways and Road Infrastructure”. Submit your best images that showcase highway construction projects and other road infrastructure for a chance to win cash prizes.

Apply for the Ambassadors to the Internet Governance Forum (João Pessoa, Brazil) as either a First-Time or as a  Returning Ambassador. IGF Ambassadorships are for young Internet Society members who have a strong interest in the issues and themes of the IGF. Applications close on August 2.

Glaxo Smith Kline and Save the Children have launched their 3rd annual $1 million Healthcare Innovation Award which awards healthcare innovations that have helped reduce child deaths in developing countries. Apply online by September 7.

Graduate trainee at Mabati Rolling Mills can build personal skills and experience in specific functions in preparation for growth into a senior role at the Safal Group in the next five years. Apply by 17 July.

Safaricom have launched the 3rd edition for the Safaricom Appwiz Challenge, a 3-month developer challenge targeting Kenyan innovators in mobile ICT. Since its introductions in 2013, and has since incubated close to 30 tech start-up solutions including Safaricom M-Ledger and Magazine Reel, both of which are now commercially successful and sustainable businesses. The Grand Winner will receive a cash grant of Ksh1.5 million (~$15,000), while the 1st Runner-up and 2nd Runner-up will receive Kshs.1million and Kshs. 500,000 respectively. The submission period kicks off on 20th July 2015 and closes on 16th August 2015.

Orange have launched the 2015 Orange African Social Venture Prize now in its 5th edition to encourage innovative start-up projects that help accelerate development in Africa. The prize awards three projects with grants of 10,000, 15,000 and 25,000 Euros, along with six months of mentorship from Orange, and the first prize will also receive free patent registration in the country of the project’s deployment. Deadline is September 18.

EDIT II

The 5th edition of the CIO100 have been launched and they enable corporate organizations (both MNC’s and SME’s) to nominate and share the various technology innovations that have enabled them to enhance their operations. Deadline is September 30.

International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative will enable six (6) women journalists to travel to the Central African Republic and report on civil society, governance and humanitarian issues. Deadline is August 12

Graça Machel Scholarships for Women is open to nationals and residents in any of the SADC countries: Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe – who have good first degrees and are studying or applying to study at a South African university.

The second round of the Safaricom Business Journalism Fellowship (SBJF) Program is now open to full-time editorial employees of newspapers, magazines and broadcast news organisations and freelance journalists who have at least four years’ experience. There are 15 places this year for the eight month, mid-career program that gives business journalists the opportunity to train alongside Kenya’s leading business lecturers and some of the top leading newsmakers in the region.

The International Reporting Project (IRP) has a group reporting trip to Ecuador focusing on health and development issues on October 18-29, 2015. Apply by August 7.

EDIT III

African Business Awards  aim to recognize individuals and companies driving the continent’s rapidly evolving economy forward. Categories being competed for are (i) African business of the year (ii)  business leader of the year (iii) outstanding woman in business (iv) award for good corporate governance (v)  award for best corporate social responsibility (vi) award for innovation (vii) insurance company & initiative of the year (viii)  African business icon and (ix) lifetime achievement award. Deadline is August 10

African Media Initiative media competition is open to professional journalists and media organizations can apply. The Zimeo excellence in media awards are in gender reporting, youth reporting, maritime economy reporting, business and finance reporting, technology reporting, agriculture and food security reporting, health reporting, education reporting, peace and security reporting, energy reporting, data journalism and climate change reporting. Deadline is Aug. 31.

EDIT IV

Centum Foundation is an initiative is to fund a crop of promising businesses, and within a year,  to turn businesses to a sustainable and successful enterprise.

Disruption By Design Awards 2015 – DXD 2015, is a platform that recognizes and awards local changemakers and innovators. Details here and the deadline is August 28.

Airtel and  Samsung, have partnered to search for the next big app developer from the continent. Deadline for applications is 5 September 2015.

Diplo and the NEPAD Agency invite applications for an 11-week long online training course Internet Governance in Africa which starts on 14 September 2015 and covers fundamental aspects of Internet governance and Internet policy. Applications should be received by 15 August.

Knight-Mozilla Fellowships 2016 present a unique opportunity for people who love to code and who want to influence the future of journalism on the web. Deadline is August 21.

M-PESA Foundation Academy has started the formal applications process for bright, talented but economically disadvantaged students in all 47 counties, from which 2 students per county will join the inaugural class starting in January 2016,.

Hadithi is the Airtel blog that allows people to share exciting ideas and stories on innovative people and out of the box concepts and are seeking people to submit their content for Airtel to publish by sharing their contact details, rate card and at least 3 writing samples.

Jumia Kenya wants to pay you to post status updates on Facebook, Twitter and other sites in Kenya. Launched in January 2015 the Jumia affiliate program has become a cash cow for the social media lovers. Commissions vary depending on the different categories of products one chooses to promote but to a maximum of 11%.

Mining 4 1 is a call for innovations on technology in the Kenya mining sector. The top five innovators will be given a chance to present their ideas before a panel of leading entrepreneurs, industrialists and senior executives from the mining industry at the upcoming ‘Mining 4 I‘ event to be held at the Strathmore Business School. Applications deadline is 20 August.

What other opportunities are there for readers to apply for?

E-Government Moment: Part II

Stuff happening on the e-government sidelines
  • July 1 is the deadline for Matatu’s and other Public Service Vehicles (PSV’s) to switch to cashless payments of accepting fares, in lieu of hard currency. PSV’s are meant to have signed on to services like Google & Equity’s – BebaPay or be in breach of the law.  It’s not expected to be smooth sailing considering the slow uptake of cashless systems among smaller matatus within  Nairobi, and it’s possible that after taxes, the minimum fare will be more than Kshs 30.
  • June 30, (today) is also the deadline for Kenyans to file their tax returns. This had been a largely academic exercise of submitting paper forms that the revenue authority (KRA) was unlikely to ever go through, and had even been discarded. But in rejecting a bill, parliament re-opened this tiresome exercise. This year, KRA has advertised its website, as the only way for Kenyans to file their taxes – but the site and service still has many challenges, including inaccessibility. 

  • While the schools laptop project seems to have stalled at the procurement stage, some $200 million has been allocated in the 2014/15 budget to procure some laptops. More visible in terms of making the government digital, has been the procurement by by county governments and parliament of iPad’s and other devices for leaders to use.
  • In the banking sector, June was a turning point for the migration to debit and credit cards to Chip-and-PIN enabled cards. While the benefits to consumers appear negligible (less fraud identity than swipe cards) and there is a cost of about $1.80 to 3.20, there has now been a liability shift, and going forward, costs associated with fraud involving non-EMV compliant cards will be borne by the issuing bank (currently they are borne by the acquirer/merchant).
  • In terms of digital television, there’s one year left for the analogue to digital migration in Africa. However, most countries are unlikely to make this deadline. Read more.
EDIT
  • The Kenya Government has automated registration of companies by launching a one-day registration of companies system to improve efficiency at the state law office.

Visit a Huduma Centre

Arguably, the President was probably wrong when he said during a TV interview on the one year anniversary of his government, that their biggest achievement was free maternal health care.

A better answer was probably their introduction of Huduma (swahili for service) Centres in the country. Huduma Centres, which are at two post offices in downtown Nairobi, are offices where citizens can access a whole range of government services that they would previously have to visit a dozen different  offices over several days to complete.
Services offered in one room include business registration, driving license renewals, national ID’s, birth certificates,  city parking permits, land rate payments, querying NSSF & NHIF, and they even act dropping points of KRA (taxpayer) forms. 

They are popular and the parking at one had several red-plate (diplomatic) cars outside as vehicle log book collection is one of the services offered.

One Huduma Centre had a few important things that made the visit to this government office pleasant including: 

  • A ticketing system and customer service person at the door to get you to the right queue quickly. 
  • In case you need more cash, there is a mobile money agent (both M-Pesa & Airtel)
  • A cyber cafe inside in case you need to print documents or make an (inevitable) photocopy.
  • Free parking for customers.

Huduma Centres are pleasant, and airy, and served by smiling staff that make you want to get more and more essential services completed when there. 

Going forward, will this good feeling last? Will departments continue stop supporting services here? Will parking remain free? Will the staff get tired of smiling as crowds grow? Will the quality of service deteriorate over time? Can it scale to other towns? 

That remains to be seen but for now Huduma Centres which enable citizens to access several individual and business services in one time-saving office is the most important government achievement to date. 

The Huduma Kenya website notes that additional centers will be opened in each of the 47 counties within the next 24 months. And as the government grapples on how to revive post offices  that it owns in prime locations around the country (in an an electronic age with fewer letters), Huduma Centres may be the answer.