Category Archives: Uganda

Cashless pushes around Africa

Nigeria: The Central Bank of Nigeria set a tariff of 3% for deposits and 2% for withdrawals of  more than Naira 500,000 (equivalent to ~$1,380) from individual accounts. They also set a tariff of 5% for withdrawals from corporate accounts, and 3% for deposits, over Naira 3 Million (equivalent to ~$8,280) from corporate accounts. This is in the states of Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Abia, Anambra, and Rivers States as well as the Federal Capital Territory. This is to promote cashless transactions. (Source)

Uganda: The Bank of Uganda has banned merchants from imposing surcharges for the use of electronic card payments and also the setting of minimum and maxim amounts that can be transacted on cars. In addition, they have asked banks in Uganda to harmonize tariffs that they levy on customers of banks for when they use each other’s ATM’s.

Kenya: Today is the deadline set by Kenya’s Central Bank after which the old series of the Kshs 1,000 (~$10 notes), bearing the image of the first President of Kenya, will cease to become legal  tender for transacting in the country.

Tanzania: Mobile app lender Tala suspended issuing loans in Tanzania. The company which claims to have lent over $1 billion to 4 million individuals will continue in Kenya which they say, with 3 million customers, is a critical part of their global business, and where they are piloting new financial education services. California-headquartered Tala also has customers in The Philippines, Mexico and India, and is backed by investors like PayPal, IVP, and Revolution Growth.

Zimbabwe: The Cashless push has gone awry in Zimbabwe where the Government has now banned Ecocash agents from making cash deposits and withdrawals for customers as these are now happening at values that are at variance. This has resulted in a situation where $1 in cash is worth ~$1.50 in digital money. 

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).

Financial Sanctions for South Sudan? Part II – The Profiteers

The Profiteers is a documentary by Africa Uncensored that was unveiled in Kenya this week. It was to air on television but was cancelled a few hours before airing on Kenya Television Network (KTN) a local TV channel. The producers confirmed the network’s abrupt decision to pull the broadcast, and then went ahead to release the feature on their own, on Youtube in three parts, and with links and commentary on Twitter.

The Profiteers production by Africa Uncensored follows other work by The Sentry Group and are featured in the latest Sentry report on the situation in South Sudan. Sentry continues to run a watch on events in South Sudan, corruption, the growing refugee population, and complicity of foreign organizations such as banks in Kenya and security forces in Uganda.

The Profiteers investigative team led by John-Allan Namu extensively document, both with straight and under-cover reporting, stories of South Sudan leaders luxuriating in other countries and cutting deals for weapons, logistics, security and valuable wood as they purchase luxury houses and real estate properties in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Australia, flashy cars and are flush with cash which is the basis of their profligate lives and which does not match their official modest salaries. They are able to freely travel and operate bank accounts and transact vast sums through them, even though some of them face international sanctions.

The Profiteers and The Sentry mention several institutions including banks like KCB, Stanbic and Equity bank, and money transfer services such as Dahabshil, and Amal. Some activities look questionable but are understandable such as the decision by the Bank of South Sudan to hold the bulk of its reserves outside the unstable country while soldier battle.

Sentry Recommendations
  • Kenya and Uganda should strengthen regulatory bodies to track money and enforce sanctions.. compliance departments in Kenyan and Ugandan banks should not wait for financial regulators to request information and should immediately find and flag high-value transactions, all real estate transactions, and the accounts of South Sudanese politically-exposed persons (PEPs)
  • Law Enforcement Should Investigate South Sudanese property without political interference
  • Trade Associations should improve standards for investments
  • Businesspeople should share investment information.
Also mentioned in the Sentry report is a wave of posts by Kenyan bloggers: In mid-2018, a group of Kenyan bloggers garnered significant attention when posting photos on Twitter of luxurious homes owned by South Sudanese elites or images of top officials’ family members living extravagant lifestyles in Kenya and Uganda. Referencing the impunity apparently enjoyed by these well-connected South Sudanese, the bloggers labelled their tweets with the hashtag #SouthSudanUntouchables. The same day that hashtag went viral, a high-level U.S. government official spent the day in Kenya, addressing government agencies, financial institutions, and civil society to deliver a related message: that South Sudanese officials should no longer enjoy impunity and that their ill-gotten gains should not be welcome in Kenya and Uganda.

Paper Planes: Big Day for African Airlines on Paper

July 18 was a big day for various African airlines with news affecting travel in different parts of the continent, ahead of the Farnborough Airshow in the UK.

Nigeria announced plans to revive a national airline – Nigeria Air, a new private sector led-airline in which the government would own no more than 5% and would not manage. It is planned to start flights in December with a target of serving 81 destinations. The launch was officiated by the Nigerian Minister of State for Aviation at Farnborough and he said that they were in talks with Boeing and Airbus and also financiers such as Standard Chartered Bank. The new airline was shown in the livery of new Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A330 models. 

Just a few days after leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea announced a cease-fire and made historic visits to each other’s countries, Ethiopian Airlines made it’s first flight since 1998  to Eritrea. On the flight were many families reuniting, and former Prime Minister former Hailemariam Desalegn. The flights will be seven days a week, between Addis and Asmara and Ethiopian,  which is expected to be part of some privatization program, was also reported to be planning to invest in a 20% stake in Eritrean Airlines.

Also there are reports that Ethiopian Cargo, Africa’s largest cargo operator, is to sign a joint venture with parcels and logistics giant DHL that would see DHL take up a 49% stake in the company.

A few days ago, Air Tanzania received its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is expected to carve some routes in East Africa that are controlled by Kenya Airways and Rwanda Airlines.

Also at Farnborough, Uganda Airlines signed an MOU for two A330-800 Neo planes which they would fit in a three class-layout.

Earlier the same day, Uganda (National) Airlines announced an order with another manufacturer Bombardier for four CRJ900 planes.

Kenya Airways continues to market new routes Mauritius, Cape Town and the new direct non-stop flights to New York that will start in October 2018.

At Farnborough, Embraer and Kenya Airways announced a spare parts deal.

South Africa Airways celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday with some new livery on some planes.

The revival comes all comes at a time when African Airlines now account for just 20% of the air traffic from the continent, down from 60% in a decade as Gulf carriers have made great strides in the continent. African airlines have also struggled with financial performance and management, with only Ethiopian posting consistent profits in the last decade. And, notably,  the deals announced at Farnborough lack detail on the financing aircraft, with Boeing 787’s and Airbus A330’s each having official prices of over $200 million.

Earlier, Skytrax published its list of the top 100 airlines in the world and it featured some African airlines including Ethiopian Airlines (at number 40), South African Airways (45), Air Mauritius (69), Air Seychelles (82), Kenya Airways (85) and was topped by Singapore, Qatar, All Nippon, Emirates and Eva Air. Other awards for African airlines were in categories of best airline staff service (South African Airways), best regional airline (Royal Air Maroc), best low-cost airline ( Mango) and best African airline (Ethiopian).

EDIT: More from Farnborough – via Leeham News & Comment.

  • Air Botswana signed a firm order for two ATR72-600s.
  • Mauritania Airlines placed a firm order for two E175s that will deliver next year.

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.