Category Archives: Nairobi Jobs

Future of Tech summit.

The Rest of World publication celebrated its second anniversary with an event in Nairobi featuring techies, writers and other guests and with panel talks on issues around technology in Africa.

Excerpts from the event.

  • Valuations: Panelist Ali Hussein Kassim wondered about the venture capital due diligence that placed the valuation of Flutterwave at $3 billion exceeding Nigeria’s largest bank, Zenith which has a stock market listed valuation of $2 billion.
  • Compliance: Kassim also lamented that fintech companies were doing business without engaging with regulators or undergoing KYC (know your customer), AML (anti-money laundering) and CFT (combating the financing of terrorism) steps that would keep them out of trouble. The result of this was cases like Flutterwave in Kenya, while in Ghana, Dash, a remittance firm had one of the largest pre-seed funding rounds in Africa, raising $32 million, only to be shut down a month later by the Bank of Ghana for not having a license. – “you can’t build a payment service for Africa when you don’t have a license to operate in your own country.”
  • Salaries: Whether the global tech giants that have recently set up in Nairobi are distorting employee pay scales and leading a talent war that smaller firms are losing out.
  • Appropriate Policies: Another panelist Nanjira Sambuli said techies must engage with governments about what is going on in their industry, or they would wake up and find unfavourable attempts to regulate them. She warned of the danger of the government’s copy-pasting regulations from other markets such that “that we must now opt-out of marketing messages that we never signed up for” and the excessive obsession with certifications that the government now wants to extend to informal workers. Also, in Kenya, after an umpteenth attempt, an “ICT Practitioner bill” was passed by Parliament in June 2022, only for the country’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, to refuse to assent to it.
  • Knowing what problem you’re solving: About the spectacular year of Kune Foods from its million-dollar VC funding to its (not unexpected) demise.

One of Rest of World’s first stories was on the lending app Okash and its unorthodox collection methods. In two years, it has since published over 8,000 stories from 80 countries around e-commerce, labour, culture and social media.

More tech events are planned for Mexico City, Jakarta, and Delhi.

Nairobi Hub Spaces in 2022

Interesting times in Nairobi the last few weeks as Microsoft launched its Africa Development Centre (ADC) office. The Kenya ADC, was launched three days after another one in Lagos, Nigeria that will serve the West Africa region. Across Africa, the company now has 450 staff and engineers working at ADC’s in the two capitals.

The new office also houses the Microsoft Africa Research Institute, its first on the continent as all as a Microsoft Garage, an incubation hub, joining others located in the USA, Canada, Israel, India, and China.

Visa launched an innovation studio in Nairobi, its first in Sub-Saharan Africa to showcase payment solutions and innovations. Visa will co-create e-commerce solutions for the future with partners in the new space that was launched by Patrick Njoroge, the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya. Visa has other innovations centres in Dubai, Singapore and USA (San Francisco) – which is its flagship “One Market”. There are already partnerships in Africa with Paga and Safaricom.

Who’s next?

It’s not just about technology; NSE-listed agricultural firm Kakuzi has launched an online “Avocademy” hub for farmers to learn about the processes of growing and managing avocado – the current “green gold” crop.

Other Hubs and co-working spaces:

Amazon announced that a new AWS Local Zone would be available in Kenya providing cloud infrastructure. Companies can use it to host their applications by connecting through Amazon local partners including Safaricom.

Google has announced that they will be opening a product development centre in Nairobi and is now hiring engineers, product managers, software engineers, user experience (UX) designers and researchers. Perfect timing as their pioneer Country Manager, Joe Mucheru will continue to serve as Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs for the next few months.

Dominoes.

Digital Roadmap launched in Nairobi

The Pathways for Prosperity Commission launched a new Digital Roadmap report in Nairobi outlining steps that developing countries, especially in Africa, can follow to prepare for a future that will be vastly different thanks to rapid digital developments.

The Report outlines broad recommendations on issues like digital identity and payments while ensuring all citizens are included and have their rights protected. It emphasizes how physical infrastructure and connectivity are essential and how they are combined with continual educational processes to build flexible skills that young people can adapt to different careers of the future.

It encourages developing countries to come up with their own localized digital governance structures and not import these wholesale from developed countries. Collaboration should see all participants in government work with the private sector and civil society. Governments should break down silos, and also make rules that allow for technological innovation by not being too rigid. Also, of some relevance to Kenya, is the need to consider county governments in planning for a digital future.

“We have seen the impact of mobile money on Kenya, but in the digital ocean coming to hit Africa, mobile money is a toe in the water,” said Strive Masiyiwa (Econet) who, along with Melinda Gates (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), serves as a Co-Chair of the Pathway’s Commission

He added that the world was at another moment like it was at the start of the internet era, around 1995, and with artificial intelligence poised to add $16 trillion to the world economy, African countries should aim for a tenth of that and grow their continent’s GDP from its current $2.5 trillion. 

The Commission also launched a Digital Manifesto with 10 steps to transform economies. Some of the measures proposed include empowering all citizens, securing their data, developing digital identity & digital financial systems, providing social safety nets, and enabling investment environments suitable for different countries. New ways of finance include deploying pension funds as local venture capital, and nurturing patient angel capital groups such as the ones in Nigeria and South Africa that have sprung up to finance other young entrepreneurs. 

Countries also need to use technology to build resilience. One potential roadblock cited was the possibility that incumbent giants in different countries would use their governments to seek protection from new technologies.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Diplomatic Engagement

This week saw the publication of “Kenya’s 50 years of Diplomatic Engagement, from Kenyatta to Kenyatta,” a book on the history of the diplomatic services and foreign policy in Kenya.

Edited by Dr. Kipyego Cheluget, Kenya’s Assistant Secretary General at COMESA, it is a collection of writings by different authors including foreign ambassadors. It is the result of a nine-year journey that came from an idea that came when he was Director of the Foreign Service Institute – to document the history of the diplomacy in Kenya. And he then set out to travel around the county, interviewing and recording former ambassadors and diplomats such Munyua Waiyaki, Njoroge Mungai and even unofficial ones like politician Mark Too. Some of them have since passed away like Bethuel Kiplagat and Phillip Mwanzia, and whose widows were present at the book launch.

The Chief Guest was Former Vice President, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka who has also served as a Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Education and he said that to upgrade Kenya’s  diplomatic performance, the country should reward career diplomats and have them, not election losers, as Ambassadors, and legislate a 70:30 ratio of professionals over politicians in such posts, a reverse of the current imbalance. The event had panel talks with former ambassadors on topics like peace-building in Ethiopia, Somalia and the East African region, using sports as a tool of diplomacy, combating apartheid, the lost years of engagement with Russia shaped by the Cold War and how the pioneering diplomats worked through trial and error for decades without an official foreign policy.

The MC for the event at Taifa Hall of the University of Nairobi, Nancy Abisai said the only good books is a finished book, and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Education Dr. Amina Mohamed, added that, following a challenge by President Kenyatta, her Ministry was in the process of setting up a unit for the publication of Kenyan memoirs and which would be operational by January 2019. Former Vice President Moody Awori, who at 91 is still an active Chairman of Moran, the publishers of the book, said they were looking for more scripts to turn our more such books.

Excerpts from early sections of the book and launch

  • It has never been right to say that Kenya’s foreign policy is a “wait and see” one. Diplomats were able to negotiate to host a combined World Bank/IMF meeting in 1973 and for UNEP to have its headquarters in a newly independent African country – Ambassador Francis. Muthaura.
  • Njoroge Mungai initiated steps for President (Mzee) Kenyatta to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1972 and Singh Bhoi drafted the dossier.
  • Dennis Afande opened the Kenya Embassy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in February 1977. He was the only employee there for four months and the only signatory to the Embassy bank account for the period.
  • When Paul Kurgat went to apply for his scholarship visa at the Nairobi Russian embassy, in 1984. he was arrested and questioned about links to Oginga Odinga. He was later to return to Russia as Kenya’s Ambassador in 2010.

The book is available in local bookshops, such as the University of Nairobi one, at a cost of Kshs 1,395 (1,200 + VAT) and a digital version is also available on Amazon for $8 (~Kshs 800).

Kenyan Mergers and Job Retention

This week the deal for Diamond Trust Bank to acquire Habib Bank was approved by regulatory authorities. The Central Bank of Kenya approval notes that Habib will acquire 4.18% of Diamond Trust (the 6th largest bank in the country) and that the transaction would be completed on August 1, 2017, when Habib Bank (the 33rd largest) will cease being a licensed bank, and all its depositors, borrowers, employees, and creditors will be transferred to Diamond Trust.

As is the norm these days for large M&A deals to be approved in Kenya and the COMESA trade zone of Africa, there is a focus on job retention for as many of employees, and that there be no layoffs, while some business will continue with existing partners in terms of sales, distribution, servicing, and licenses for a defined period of time after the deal.

  • The Competition Authority (CAK) has approved the Diamond Trust Habib deal “on condition that the acquirer, Diamond Trust Bank Kenya retains at least 41 employees of Habib Bank post transaction.” This is also seen in other recent deals approved by the Competition Authority:
  • Distell Holdings which became the majority owner of Kenya Wine Agencies Holdings East Africa earlier this year was required to “retain the 42 employees at the production unit of KWAL for at least three years,”
  • For the Coca Cola Beverages Africa purchase of Equator Bottlers (at Kisumu through Kretose Investment) “the merged entity retains at least 2,279 employees post transaction”
  • And approval of the acquisition of 57.7% of General Motors East Africa by Isuzu Motors has a “condition that the merged entity will absorb all of the 383 General Motors East Africa employees.”
  • Also, earlier, CAK, ordered listed banker I&M Holdings to retain 108 employees of Giro Commercial Bank, as a pre-condition for approval of the takeover.