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US woos Kenya with big deals, takes swipe at China strategy

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The US has unveiled a new strategy to deepen trade relations with Kenya while taking swipe at China’s inroads into Africa.

American Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter yesterday announced the roll-out of a Sh41.3 billion credit facility targeting businesses that source their products from the US, especially those dealing in infrastructure.

He also unveiled a private sector-led initiative meant to spur trade and investment in eight counties.The counties in the Prosper Counties Initiative are Isiolo, Kakamega, Mombasa, Makueni, Kiambu, Kisii, Kisumu and Nakuru.

Mr McCarter said the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) is currently reviewing “several transactions” that will benefit from the credit line.

“Several engineering firms are in discussion with the National Treasury… we believe this is a start of a strong relationship between our governments,” he said.McCarter was speaking in Nairobi at the second American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Business Summit that seeks to strengthen trade relations between Kenyan and the US.

And in a thinly-veiled swipe at China, which has been accused of saddling African countries with debt through its Belt and Road Initiative, the envoy said that the US advocates a “self-reliant” Kenya and that its model would not burden the country with debt.

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“We’re going to put forth projects that have meaning to Kenyans. Our shared goal is to pave a path to Kenyan self-reliance, for Kenya to move from beneficiary to benefactor,” he said.

“The United States model focuses on long-term growth and sustainability, not debt.”US Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Middle East and Africa Seward Jones urged businesses to identify potential projects that could benefit from the funding.“It is up to US and Kenyan businesses to identify those bankable projects involving US exports,” said Mr Jones.

McCarter, meanwhile, said the Prosper Counties Initiative is in line with the government’s renewed focus on Public-Private Partnerships for projects to cut borrowing.The heightened efforts at deepening trade relations between the two countries are part of a deal signed between the US and Kenya under President Donald Trump’s “Prosper Africa” initiative.

Under the agreement, the government will identify particular projects and areas that “would like to see a greater participation by US companies” mostly in the Big Four agenda.

It will also identify “business climate issues” and unlock bottlenecks that might hinder US companies from taking advantage of business opportunities.The US provides Sh1 billion annual financial assistance to Kenya ranging from health, agriculture, education and security. President Uhuru Kenyatta told investors that he would not relent on the war against corruption in a bid to improve the country’s business environment.

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by Standard.co.ke


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Business

Top athlete turns to jiko-making to beat pandemic

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They say a man must do what a man must do.

This idiom has become a reality to Dominic Samson Ndigiti, the reigning Africa U20 10,000 metres walk race champion and former World U17 10,000 metres walk race bronze medalist during the Covid-19 times.

Ndigiti, who has won Kenya a gold medal at the Africa Under-20 Championships held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, has been crisscrossing the country, doing what he now loves to do most: Making affordable, energy-saving jikos – charcoal cooking stoves.

Coronavirus pandemic

Though the walking race champion learnt the skills of making this particular kind of jiko in 2018 when in Finland where he had gone for a competition, he did not put them to use until when coronavirus hit the world, putting a break on most sporting activities.

“I saw the whites making the jikos in 2018 when we had gone to Finland for Under20 competitions. It took a week for me to learn. But I started being serious when coronavirus hit us. The jikos now earn me a living,” he said.

The 20-year-old says the modern jikos use charcoal or firewood.

The jikos are of different sizes and can fit in any kind of house be it permanent, temporary or semi-permanent.

“I do not discriminate for which house to make my jikos. Charges vary according to sizes. A one-stoned jiko goes for Sh3,000, two 4,500, three 6,000 and four and above goes for Sh10,000,” said Ndigiti.

He says that materials needed include cement, clay bricks, fireproof and red-oxide paint.

Different work

Ndigiti says many people see him as a successful person owing to his record in the walking race, but the tough times have forced him to work differently.

“I am grateful because Kenyans have responded very well to my venture. I have visited many counties in the past few months, making jikos. Before coronavirus, I did not know my home county of Kisii well, though I have was born and brought up here, but making jikos has made me a tourist,” he said.

Ndigiti, who hails from Marani sub-county in Kisii County, schooled at Kiandega High School in Nyamira county and developed a passion for the walking race while in Standard Six.

He says he was inspired by his teachers.

The IAAF World U18 Championships is an international event bringing together athletes from all over the world who are 17 or younger.

“Coronavirus brought a lot of problems in the world and we couldn’t go out to compete. I hope this will end soon. But this pandemic has made me learn the hard way. Talents are to be exploited, no matter how much little income they bring,” said Ndigiti.

He is hopeful that after the pandemic, he will represent Kenya in the Olympics and will bring home a gold medal.

Ndigiti comes from a humble family and his success in the walking race has not taken away his humility.

Ruth Mbula | Nation Media Group

“We live life easy. Living well with people has taught me a lot during this coronavirus time. The requests to make more jikos is overwhelming,” he said, adding that Elgeyo Marakwet Woman Rep Jane Kiptoo has already asked for his help in making more than 100 jikos for women groups.

He says most of his clients are women. “They have embraced my idea of making our kitchens look better.”


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Business

Navigating through the Covid-19 Terrain and a Story of Exceptional Transformation at Optiven

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Navigating through the Covid-19 Terrain and a Story of Exceptional Transformation at Optiven

Optiven Group has continuously had all its eyes trained on its vision of economically and socially empowering and transforming the society.

This vision was however momentarily shaken by Covid-19, especially on the month of March 2020, when the first case was reported. Soon, all was not business as usual. The pandemic scared our staff and customers alike. With huge loans to pay, massive salary bills and many office rentals to cope with, everything seemed daunting. The worst was when we closed our offices and temporarily sent hundreds of staff home. That was extremely agonizing to bear.

As an entrepreneur, this was one of my worst periods ever. The headaches were not ceding ground and the only thing that was consoling was the power of prayers. It is during such times when the test of leadership comes to play.

Our most affected area of business was our sister venture entities in the name of restaurants. Indeed, we sent hundreds of staff home. We are now however thanking God that 85% of these staff are back and with a projection of bringing back the rest soon, as business starts coming back.

READ ALSO:   US envoy urges Kenyans to intensify war on graft

Importantly, soon after Covid-19 pandemic hit, Optiven Group was swift in adopting new strategies and quickly embracing appropriate technology to counter the new terrain. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the firm is still expanding, especially on the area of job creation and mentorship front.

It is largely courtesy of these strategies that despite the current pandemic, we have managed to launch enormous mentorship programs such as the George Wachiuri School of Mentorship and also engaged in encouraging SMEs that have really been struggling to stay afloat through our business mentorship sessions. Through the latter, we have continued to inspire over 7,000 active participants through George Wachiuri’s Facebook LIVE shows that are also available on my You Tube channel, this has continued to give hope to many.

Still, during this period, we have managed to create over 100 permanent jobs for both senior and middle level employees, plus over 200 casuals that daily work in our projects. This job increase is in line with our goal of creating over 30, 000 jobs by the year 2030.

On the real estate front, we really had to think away from the box and undertake a massive 360 degree transformation that was educated by thinking differently and changing how we used to do things before Covid-19.

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Thanks to this, we have continued to provide our customers with even more offerings in terms of value additions to our projects. It is during this period of Covid-19 when we decided to put our efforts towards GoingGreen in most of our projects. Matter of fact, we have surprised our customers by further transforming our projects through installation of green energy, massive tree planting, and installation of water recycling systems, encouraging plot owners engage in farming of organic foods and subsequently feed their families from their previously idle plots. Significantly, we also changed from use of Kenya Power electricity in our projects to the use of solar energy on almost all amenities and by so doing, we have now managed to save millions of shillings in terms of KPLC bills. Most importantly, we are glad that we are now fully plugged on the green energy agenda.

All along, the company has continued to flourish through innovation, partnerships, massive philanthropy activities and even more importantly, a commitment to always entrust all our undertakings to God.

We are glad that we are consistently realizing our vision of being pacesetters in social economic transformation through opportunities such as job creation that have a positive multiplier effect on the society.

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Guided by the same vision, we always dedicate 5% of what we make in business and channel it to the less fortunate through a registered foundation viz Optiven Foundation. We have hundreds of orphans whom we support to go through school. We also support the physically challenged to get free wheelchairs and support girls to access schools. The Foundation also cares for over 300 families and helps them to get food daily.

Indeed, we at Optiven exist to economically and socially empower and transform the society.

#ChangingLives
#EyesOnTheCommunity
#CreatingJobs
#GoingGreen
#HousingKenyans

Contact Optiven Group:0790 300 300
Email: admin@optiven.co.ke Website: www.optiven.co.ke George Wachiuri Blog: www.georgewachiuri.com
YouTube: https://bit.ly/2VdSuFJ


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How I made my first million

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At what age did you make your first million? 

I was 19.

How did you make it? 

I was running a creative design and printing agency. I bid for and won an order to design and print marketing materials for a global NGO which has offices in Kenya.

How did you spend or invest it? 

I re-invested most of it into the business by buying more machinery to reduce costs associated with outsourcing. I also set up a new business with a friend – a movie shop in Nairobi CBD.

The biggest money mistake you have ever made? 

Setting up the movie shop was the greatest money mistake – but I picked up two of the greatest business lessons. One, to never divest too early, and only invest in a business you understand well.

What is the best investment you have ever made?

 I would say investing in myself and in my exposure through travel. Travel has made me see endless possibilities for innovating new products, business models and solutions in the African market. A combination of the international exposure and strong local market understanding is priceless.

What is the worst purchase you have ever made? 

The movie shop. I bought a ready business that I did not understand and it went crumbling down. We eventually closed it a few months later.

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If you had a spare million or two, where would you invest it right now?

I would invest it in my current business – a software technology company. This is because I believe the business has potential to become a great success.

What is the biggest money lesson you have learnt about growing it and making it work for you? 

Initially, we all have to work for money. However, I have learnt that the wealthy person has learnt how to make money work for them, through consistently investing what one earns.

Where do you learn about finances? 

I read a lot of books about real success stories from entrepreneurs because I believe entrepreneurship is a great way to create wealth, while creating value in the society. I also stay curious to learn about different investment vehicles because I know I shouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket.

Any financial myths you think should be busted? 

Money is not the root of all evil; greed may be. Money is a good thing because it can create freedom and prosperity, if well spent.

What two personal finance rules do you follow? 

Live within your means; and work to make money as a tool to accomplish real goals. Real goals are not just about making “enough” money, because it is almost impossible to define “enough.”

READ ALSO:   US envoy urges Kenyans to intensify war on graft

Investing or saving…Which one carries more weight?

Investing. However, they go hand to hand as saving to invest is acceptable.

One can get rich easily… but how does one stay rich? 

By constantly making calculated investment risks, and always striving to be wealthy, not rich.


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