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Kenya struggles to give life to futuristic Konza city

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Labourers milled around an unfinished eight-storey building in an expansive field in Konza dotted with zebra and antelope – the only visible sign of progress in a decade-old plan to make Kenya into Africa’s leading technology hub by 2030.

Grandiose plans, red tape and a lack of funding have left Konza Technopolis – the $14.5 billion new city to be built some 60 km (37 miles) southeast of Nairobi – way behind schedule on its goal of having 20,000 people on site by 2020.

“It has taken too long and I think people have moved on,” said tech entrepreneur Josiah Mugambi, founder of Alba.one, a Nairobi-based software company, who was initially excited by the government’s ambitious project.

Dubbed the Silicon Savannah, Konza aims to become a smart city – using tech to manage water and electricity efficiently and reduce commuting time – and a solution to the rapid, unplanned urbanisation which has plagued existing cities.

About 40 percent of Africa’s 1 billion people live in towns and cities and the World Bank predicts the urban population will double over the next 25 years, adding pressure to already stretched infrastructure.

Konza’s dream is to become a top business process outsourcing hub by 2030, with on-site universities training locals to feed into a 200,000-strong tech-savvy workforce providing IT support and call centre services remotely.

But the first building has yet to be completed on the 5,000-acre former cattle ranch, three years after breaking ground, and business has shifted its focus to other African countries, like Rwanda, with competing visions to become modern tech hubs.

“Nobody can wait that long for a city to be built. For a tech entrepreneur, they think about where their startup will be two to three years down the line,” said Mugambi.

Other smart cities planned across Africa include Nigeria’s Eko Atlantic City near Lagos that will house 250,000 people on land reclaimed from the sea, Ghana’s Hope City and an Ethiopian city styled as the real Wakanda after the film “Black Panther”.

Bringing such utopian schemes to life is no easy task for African governments that are struggling to provide adequate roads, power, water and security to their existing cities.

“Upgrading infrastructure in places like Kibera (slum) in Nairobi to provide water and a better sewerage system is equally as important as building a new city such as Konza,” said Abdu Muwonge, a senior urban specialist with the World Bank in Kenya.

Some critics say Konza was ill-conceived from the start.

“The vision is wrong; the vision is too big,” said Aly-Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based independent financial analyst.

“This is miles from anywhere. There are not leveraging the existing infrastructure … It is assuming that you can bring in academia, you can bring in venture capital, you can bring in corporates.”

The first serious hurdle arose in 2012 when the National Land Commission (NLC), which manages public land, introduced a cumbersome land acquisition procedure, said Bitange Ndemo, who led a team that conceived Konza Technopolis in 2008.

“The NLC was saying we should follow the processes of acquiring public land, which would take years to complete,” Ndemo, now an associate professor of business at the University of Nairobi, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The delays caused at least one deal with a German university to fall through, he said, as the process was much slower than the old one where investors signed deals directly with government ministries which took care of land leases.

To resolve this, the government transferred ownership of the site to the Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA), set up in 2012 to co-ordinate development of the new city, which now allocates land to investors on 50-year renewable leases.

Financing has also proven a major issue.

In its strategic plan, the government promised to fund 10 percent of Konza, laying the infrastructure, while the private sector would come in with the rest of the money to build universities, offices, housing and hotels.

But the government was slow to contribute its share and has yet to pass a law to create KoTDA as a legal entity which would make it easier to sign contracts with external lenders, said Lawrence Esho, one of Konza’s project planners until 2013.

“They are way behind schedule partly because the government took time to give Konza money,” he said, adding that no money came in until 2013.

“This stopped any work from starting at the site and investors may have developed cold feet as they waited.”

KoTDA’s chief executive, John Tanui, said the government has committed to invest more than 80 billion shillings ($780 million).

“When I say committed does not mean we have absorbed. Our absorption is less than 10 percent of that figure,” he said, without elaborating.

The government has stepped up funding since last year, said Abraham Odeng, deputy secretary at Kenya’s Information Communications and Technology ministry, without giving figures.

Odeng pointed to a 40 billion shilling contract signed in 2017 with an Italian firm to build roads, water and sewerage infrastructure by 2021, funded by the Italian government.

“That is a concessional loan, which is a long-term loan that the Kenyan government will pay,” he said.

But Kenya’s growing reliance on loans is causing jitters, with the International Monetary Fund warning of an increased risk of default this year.

Cities cannot be financed through central government but the absence of international firms points to a lack of investor confidence in the project, said the World Bank’s Muwonge.

“Getting Konza city off the ground will require that we pull in private capital with concessions for them to deliver certain kinds of infrastructure for which the government may not have resources,” he said.

“The issue is eliminating the challenges for the private sector to come and do business.”

Five local investors, including Nairobi-based software developer Craft Silicon and the state-run Kenya Electricity Transmission Company, are expected to build offices, residential buildings and hotels by 2020, KoTDA head Tanui said.

But critics say it is not enough.

“What (investors) have allocated so far is still a drop in the ocean,” said Ndemo, the former government technocrat.

And international interest is shifting elsewhere.

Rwanda – widely regarded as the least corrupt country in East Africa – launched its Kigali Innovation City in 2015, designed to host 50,000 people in universities and tech companies on a 70-hectare site outside the capital.

The $2 billion plan, due for completion by 2020, is seven times cheaper than Konza.

“All these other (cities) have better proximity, have better density and have better collaborative feedback loops,” said financial analyst Satchu. “We are now at a serious disadvantage vis-a-vis these other countries.”

Reuters

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Africa

Man praises stepdad for being amazing father

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Thabani Nhlengethwa, a South African man, has shared a touching story on Facebook about the man who raised him.

Thabani Nhlengethwa praised his stepdad for making him the man he is today. Photo credit: Facebook/Thabani Nhlengethwa

Thabani Nhlengethwa owes every success he will experience in the future to his stepdad. Photo credit: Facebook/Thabani Nhlengethwa
Source: Facebook

In a post written on #ImStaying group, the young man praised his stepdad for being an outstanding man and amazing human being.

He said he owes every success that he enjoys in the future to his dad, Jita.

According to Thabani, Jita met his mom back in 1996. He was only four years old at that time.

Jita accepted Thabani and his siblings who were all sired in previous relationships.

Man praises stepdad for being amazing father, exceptional husband

Thabani hopes to give his stepdad the world one day. Photo: Thabani Nhlengethwa
Source: Facebook

The kind man schooled them, fed them and protected them as if they were his own flesh and blood.

The netizen owed everything he knew to the man who raised him and hoped that one day fortune would knock on his door and enable him to treat Jita like a king.

He added that at the moment, the fanciest thing he can do is take his stepdad out for breakfast, but soon things will change.

Man praises stepdad for being amazing father, exceptional husband

The man said his stepfather was the breadwinner and did not mind providing for them. Photo: Thabani Nhlengethwa
Source: Facebook

“I love and owe every success I might have in the future to this amazing gent right here. Jita met my mom in 1996, I was only four-years old by then and my mom already had 4 kids from her previous relationships.”

“Jita took all of us under his wing, took us as his kids and loved us. He took us to school and we all were able to finish matric because of him. My mom was not working and so Jita was the breadwinner,” he said.

In a related story by TUKO.co.ke, a young lady took to Facebook on Monday, June 15, and shared a beautiful story about the hero of her life.

At the age of three, Portia Thabisile’s biological father decided to leave her and her mother.

Thankfully, her mother met a wonderful man who raised Portia as his own daughter.

She shared her inspirational post via the I’m Staying Facebook group.

“I am staying because of my daddy, he took me in when I was three years, after my biological father left me and my mum, he gave me love till today,” the lady wrote.

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Africa

Uhuru names Amb. Martin Kimani new envoy to NY as he moves to cement his legacy in foreign affairs

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President Uhuru Kenyatta has either moved or nominated envoys to fill 12 positions globally. In the new line-up, Uhuru  has settled on a member of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce Amb Martin Kimani as the new Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations who will be based in New York.

The position fell vacant when Amb Lazarus Amayo moved to Washington DC as the envoy to US.

But who is Ambassador Martin Kimani? He was the Director of Kenya’s National Counter Terrorism Centre and Special Envoy CVE, and once served as the Permanent Representative and Head of Mission to the United Nations at Nairobi and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Kimani holds an MA and PhD in War Studies from King’s College of the University of London and is a Fellow of the African Leadership Initiative and the Aspen Global Leadership Program.

He was also the 2013 Distinguished African Visiting Fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs.

Learn more here:

 

Kenyatta has also nominated three former IEBC commissioners for deputy head of mission positions in the latest appointments.

Connie Maina, Paul Kurgat and Margaret Mwanchanya have been picked as deputy heads of mission in the latest changes made by the Head of State.

The list of nominees features 25 people who are expected to fill up the positions of high commissioner, permanent representative, ambassadors and deputy heads of missions.

According to an Executive Order signed by Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, and released on Thursday evening; the group will join the country’s foreign service in various capacities.

The order states partly, “His Excellency the President has on this fifteenth day of October 2020, caused nominations and appointments to the senior ranks of the public service for persons to serve the nation as Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Permanent Representatives in Kenya’s Embassies/High Commissions/Missions abroad. The persons who by dint of the Presidential action will join our nation’s esteemed foreign service…”

Former IEBC vice chair Consolata Nkatha has been picked as the deputy head of mission in Rome, Italy. Her colleagues, Paul Kurgat and Margaret Mwanchanya will occupy similar positions in Moscow (Russia) and Islamabad (Pakistan) respectively.

Below is the list of individuals nominated for the positions of deputy heads of missions:

In the order, Amb John Tipis who headed the Directorate of the African Union heads to Canberra as Kenya’s High Commissioner to Australia. Immaculate Wambua has been picked as Kenya’s High Commissioner to Canada, and she will be based in Ottawa. Closing the list is Amb Catherine Mwangi who will be Kenya’s High Commissioner to South Africa. She will be based in Pretoria.

 

In the list of appointments are 12 people who have been picked for ambassadorial positions. They include Amb Jean Kamau (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), Linday Kiptiness (Bangkok, Thailand), Amb Tom Amolo (Berlin, Germany), Amb Lemarron Kaanto (Brasilia, Brazil), Amb Daniel Wambura (Bujumbura, Burundi), Stella Munyi (Harare, Zimbabwe), Maj. Gen. (Rtd.) Samuel Nandwa (Juba, South Sudan), Maj. Gen. (Rtd.) Ngewa Mukala ) Khartoum, Sudan), Amb Benson Ogutu (Moscow, Russia), Joshua Gatimu (Tehran, Iran), Amb Tabu Irina (Tokyo, Japan) and Amb Jean Kimani (UNHABITAT).

Resignation from IEBC

The three former IEBC officials announced resigned from the commission on April 16, 2018, claiming that their boss Wafula Chebukati was incapable of running the IEBC affairs.

“For far too long and way too many times, the commission chair has failed to be the steady and stable hand that steers the ship in difficult times and gives direction when needed,” the trio said in a statement.

They added: “Instead under Chebukati’s leadership, the commission boardroom has become a venue for peddling misinformation, grounds for brewing mistrust and a space for scrambling and chasing individual glory and credit”.

But on August 12, 2018, Justice Wilfrida Okwany ruled that the commissioners did not legally tender their resignation and were still adjudged to be in office. The court ruled that the trio ought to have resigned in writing rather than in the press conference.

“As I have already found in this judgement, the issue of the alleged resignation of the four commissioners was a matter that was neither here nor there and was not proved by any tangible evidence,” said Okwany.

-Standardmedia.co.ke

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Africa

Kenyan entrepreneur among top 10 finalists of Jack Ma Foundation competition

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Kenyan entrepreneur Chebet Lesan is among the 10 finalists of Africa’s Business Heroes, a competition organized by the Jack Ma Foundation to identify and recognize the continent’s top entrepreneurs.

Chebet is the founder of Bright Green Renewable Energy, a social enterprise that turns urban waste into clean burning charcoal for households, schools, farmers, hospitals and many others.

She is now among the 10 finalists who will pitch at the competition’s grand finale in November for a chance to win a share of a US$1.5 million prize pool.

Speaking to Nairobi News, Chebet said being among the top 10 is a humbling experience for her as they were up against strong competition.

For Chebet and the team at Bright Green Renewable Energy, a win in the competition will be a win for more than 800 million people in Africa who cannot access clean energy.

“It will mean that the problem we are solving of energy poverty across Africa, that the voices of 800 million people in Africa who still don’t have access to clean cooking fuel have been heard and are going to get the support they need to be able to improve their situation,” Chebet said.

For Chebet to win, As Kenyans you can support her by sharing your first Ugali experience using the hashtag #ugaliyanguyakwanza

https://twitter.com/lesanerick/status/1316076593492701185

The finalists were chosen from a pool of more than 22,000 applications across all 54 African states and key sectors, including agriculture, fashion, education, financial services, healthcare and renewable energy.

The top 10, an even split of female and male entrepreneurs whose average age is 34, represent eight African countries: Kenya, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

On November 13 and 14, Africa’s Business Heroes will host its Grand Finale and winners of the 2020 ABH prize will be announced on November 14.

During the online Grand Finale pitch, the top ten heroes will present their business ventures, as well as their vision and leadership profile, to the finale judging panel that includes Jack Ma, Founder of the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Group, Ibukun Awosika – Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria and Founder/CEO of The Chair Centre Group, Strive Masiyiwa – Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Group and Joe Tsai – Executive Vice Chairman of the Alibaba Group.

All of this will be part of ABH brand-new business entertainment televised show due to air in five episodes from November 21-December 19 across Africa.

BY NN

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