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The Tatu City dream begins to take shape after misses



On a quiet Thursday morning, H&A drove into Kiambu County to check on the progress of Tatu City, a mixed-income community whose construction started in 2015.

Ruiru-Kamiti Road ushers us into the city, which aims to welcome potential residents to utopia, or as close as they can get to it.

As we approach the 5,000-acre development, expansive lush greenery meets the eye. At inception, the place was planned to be home to around 150,000 people.

Driving down Tatu Navigation Road, some of the buildings that will be home to these tens of thousands start to come into view.

An imposing edifice of white and maroon is the first of the residential buildings we approach. This is a Lifestyle Homes’ project, and it has 1,200 apartments.The first phase is complete and ready for occupation.

Its first resident moved in in October 2019. Next is Kijani Ridge, a 300-acre low density neighbourhood that offers quarter-acre and half-acre fully serviced plots.

For the half-acre plots, the price ranges between Sh23 million and Sh28 million; the quarters cost between Sh11 million and Sh14 million.

“The price is dependent on the location of the plots and also the payment options picked,” says Justus Kariuki, an advisor to Rendeavour, the private developer behind Tatu City.

Potential buyers And despite several businesses across the country stalling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, here, construction is ongoing. Potential buyers are still visiting the site. They, however, are required to wash their hands first and exercise physical distancing in their cars; these are the few signs at the development that things are not entirely going on as normal.

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Twenty-six homeowners are constructing their houses, with an additional 69 home designs having been approved, pending construction.

“Yesterday alone, 10 buyers visited,” says Beatrice Njeri, the head of residential sales, adding that the management is taking precautions against Covid-19 while ensuring work goes on.

“All workplaces are disinfected at regular intervals, and handwashing and sanitising is enforced. We are also disseminating regular coronavirus awareness updates for staff and local communities,” reads a message from Tatu City Chief Executive Stephen Jennings.

The development, on completion, will have homes, schools, offices, a shopping district, medical clinics, nature areas, a sports and entertainment complex, and a manufacturing area. Just metres off the entrance into Kijani are the private Nova Pioneer Girls Secondary and Nova Pioneer Boys Secondary schools. These are both day and boarding schools.

Along Ruiru-Kamiti Road is Nova Pioneer Primary School, as well as the public institutions Tatu Primary School and Ngewe Primary School. And for those interested in an international curriculum, Crawford International School sits inside the ridges of Tatu City.

The goal is to make the city self-sustaining such that staff at the park can own homes in the city, shop in the city and have their children go school here.

The industrial park already has 50 Kenyan and international firms that are open or developing. Of 450 acres at Industrial Park Phase 1, 30 acres remain unsold, the developer says. Among resident companies are Cooper K-Brands, Dormans, Maxam, Copia, Africa Logistics Properties, Chandaria Industries, Kim-Fay and Davis and Shirtliff. Commercial spaces in Kijani Ridge are in the design stage ahead of the construction of a central business district, which is expected to kick off in three years’ time, according to Mr Kariuki.

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“We have a development control company that has to approve plans for construction. We do not approve construction of high-rise buildings in the estate. People buying plots here in pursuit of serenity will always have their privacy and serenity,” he adds.

Kariuki says the developer helps its customers get approvals for construction from the relevant authorities, and walks them through the legal process of coming up with a construction plan. The standard fencing style for Kijani prohibits the erection of stone walls or any forms of solid walls, so steel bars reinforced with mesh wire fence most homes.

This, Ms Njeri explains, is aimed at maintaining the scenic views of the ridge as stone fences cause an obstruction and create a drab scenery. Natural hedges, however, are welcome, she says. A sewerage system has been laid, and roads are being upgraded from basic access roads to tarmac as the construction of homes progresses.

Tatu has a utility company, Tatu Connect, which attends to residents’ needs. It also has an emergency response team, and a partnership with Gallagher Security Company to automate security.

“We will have smart gate-opening. You can open the gate for your guest from the house,” says Kariuki. Alongside a clubhouse whose construction is underway is a jogging track, which is among the amenities the city will be opening soon.

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Buyers of plots in Kijani are, however, discouraged from making an investment by planning to resell the plots. There is a deadline for construction after the purchase of a plot, though a buyer can get their money refunded if they are unable to start building. Rendeavour has constructed six such cities in Africa.

In Nigeria, it has Alaro City near Lagos and Jigna in Abuja; in Ghana there is Appolonia and King City; Kiswishi in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Roma Park in Zambia.


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Anxiety high over Uhuru speech



If there was a day Kenyans have recently looked forward to, it is today. This is the day the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on the country to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus is supposed to end after President Uhuru Kenyatta extended it for 21 days last month.

But recent statements by senior government officials have tended to dampen the expectations of a majority of Kenyans, with some resigning to the possibility of the perpetuation of the status quo or a new order with just slight changes.

Friday, Cabinet secretaries seemed to be managing the people’s high expectations, with hints that a wholesome opening of the economy could lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases and put the vulnerable members – such as old parents – at risk when they host their kin from the cities.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha Friday hinted that schools will not be opened any time soon.

“The ministry will advise the level of preparedness that will be required of all stakeholders involved in the running of schools and teacher training institutions,” he said.

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho earlier in the week said the government was considering a phased easing of the Covid-19 restrictions to help people to generate incomes.

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He said Kenyans should not expect a sudden return of normalcy.

President Kenyatta has also been facing pressure from religious leaders to open places of worship. Religious organisations have formally written to him asking for a review of the measures and promising to adhere to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.

Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and his Health counterpart Mutahi Kagwe met with religious leaders ahead of the handover of the report from the National Coordination Committee on Coronavirus to discuss how to proceed with religious activities in the event the government agrees to relax some of its guidelines.

Dr Matiang’i said the contents of the report will be communicated by the President.

Mr Kagwe urged religious leaders to assist in effecting home-based quarantine, a measure that the government is advocating as it moves to ease the Covid-19 restrictions.

Kenyans took to social media to express their optimism – and pessimism – about today’s speech by the President.

From making merry at entertainment joints to travel and reuniting with loved ones and lovers, expectations were so high that the hashtag #June6th was the number one trending topic locally on Twitter.

Tweeters filed their wishlists, a majority of which were hilarious.

Yet others just wanted the economy to be opened up.

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How working from home charted a new career for me



When her children began going to school, Frida Mwangi, a stay-at-home mum, found herself in a crisis: she didn’t know what to do with the free time in her hands.

Though she really wanted to work, one thing she was sure of was she didn’t want an eight-to-five job.

“I wanted to be able to manage my house as usual. I had heard about online work and I started researching on what it was and how I too could do it from home,” she narrates

The research took about a month, and during this time, she connected with a Facebook community in Kenya comprising people who worked online.

It is by following the conversations that she discovered what she wanted to try out: transcribing.

“I was in the house for so long and lacked technical skills. I realised the easiest work I would have done there is transcription because all I needed was to understand English, which would assist me in following guidelines clients were looking for,” she says.

Determined to learn more about transcribing, Frida reached out to one of the ladies doing transcription training for tutorials and that’s how she learnt the craft.

In 2015, she began working as a transcriber in one of the leading global freelancing market spaces, where she became top rated after only four months in the job.

In 2017, she built a website, and registered her own online company dubbed, Kazi Remote.

“When I was still working as a transcriber, I thought transcription was a western thing and Kenyans did not need them.

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After creating the website, I began getting calls from academics doing their thesis, market research companies in Kenya and law firms in need of transcription services. This expanded the base of my customers,” she explains.

Her website has also attracted clients from Europe, Canada and American clients, some of whom have come to the country for research and are looking for a person who understands and can write Kiswahili.

“I got Sh1,000 from my first client, but after PayPal charges I received Sh800.

For the first six months I worked alone and after that, I got a big client who had over 200 hours of work, which would last up to six months. He was a Stanford university student,” she says.

Frida soon realised she needed other trained transcribers to assist her with the workload.

Due to the nature of the work, Frida doesn’t have a permanent workforce, but works with freelancers who can work from home, provided they have a laptop and reliable Internet. She began with five freelancers, but is currently working with 20.

She says one hour recording can take four hours of writing and two hours for going through the work if one is a very experienced transcriber.

The standard time given in transcription is 24 hours hence one can plan on the amount of time they can spend on work.

“When I started, I charged clients Sh1,000 an hour of recorded work. Currently there are clients paying Sh6,000 or even Sh10,000 an hour, especially if you are working with business companies,” she says.

But working indoors came with the challenge of people dropping in her house all the time thinking that she was free with nothing to do.

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“I would receive visitors and I didn’t know how to tell them that I am working.

It got to the point where I would lock the house after taking my kids to school so that people would think am not around.

Or if they managed to come in, I would leave them in the living room on their own,” she narrates.

Slowly by slowly, Frida managed to resolve this issue as family and friends began taking her work seriously.

But even while others understood she was working, there were those who branded her a mzungu, because of this strict way of living.  Another challenge was the consistency of work.

“When it comes to bidding, this is online and it’s not about where you went to school or how many degrees you have, but whether you are able to solve the client’s problem,” she says.

Frida notes the reason most people fail in online work is because they treat it as a side hustle instead of a main gig and also don’t conduct enough research while at it.

“Online work is something you can do as a career. For instance, right now, the highest paid job is intellectual property something that a lawyer from Kenya can do if they acquire the relevant skills.

There is a lot of demand for them in that they can actually earn Sh15,000 per hour online,” she explains.

People interested in this field should ensure they learn new skills on top of the ones they have and be intentional on their career path.

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Her customer base increased after she created her website as people were able to find her on Google.

Frida notes one reason transcribing is not established in Kenya is because unlike in the West, it is not included in the laws.

In countries such as the US, there are laws which ensure that videos, audios are also texted so people who can’t read or write can access the information.

“In America, there are companies who have earning calls (teleconference, or webcast in which a public company discusses financial results of a reporting period), which must be transcribed.

These calls need to be transcribed within six hours and uploaded to the company’s websites. These are the ones who pay up to Sh10,000.

There are also universities, which require students doing research projects must have their interviews transcribed when it’s qualitative.

Some colleges there go as far as having budgets for transcription,” she adds.

Her effort was rewarded in 2018 when she was listed among the Business Daily 40 under 40 Women.

“When you look at that whole list, there was no single person in the online industry so I am happy that through me, they were represented.

One of my aunties saw that and asked how the media found me when I’ve always been in the house,” she recalls.


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Adopt cremation instead of burials, Kenyans urged



Kenyans have been urged to adopt cremation instead of burials in order to save trees and also reduce the cost of resting their loved ones.

According to Rotarian Mburu Machua, using wooden coffins during burials had contributed to the depletion of both indigenous and exotic trees thereby posing a serious global climate change.

He says that the country’s forest cover had continued decreasing due to logging and charcoal burning as well as using firewood in cooking in rural areas.

Machua who is a lawyer said that it would be prudent for the government to encourage people to be cremated if it expects to achieve the globally required 10 per cent forest cover.

‘I have been prevailing upon my clients writing their wills to state that they should be cremated upon their death and believe you me, most of them have embraced the idea’, he said.

He spoke at Bibirioni primary school in Limuru during a tree planting exercise which saw the Limuru rotary club in conjunction with the Limuru municipality planting close to 500 indigenous tree species.

Machua said that the cost of burials has become very expensive compared to cremation which is cost-effective.

‘Being cremated wastes fewer resources than burial more so because one does not incur plot or land fees’, he said.
Several prominent Kenyans including environmentalist Wangari Mathai, Kenneth Matiba, and Bob Collymore were cremated when they died.

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Many Kenyans take cremation as a bizarre and unchristian exercise arguing that it’s lack of respect for their loved ones.

Municipality manager Michael Muna said that Kenyans should endevour to live in a paperless society for absolute afforestation to be realized.

Muna who is also the Kiambu West Kenya National Union of Teachers branch secretary said that Kenyans ought to embrace using metals and plastic instead of timber and wood.

‘If only it can dawn on every citizen that trees play a crucial role in our health particular in the prevention of respiratory diseases such as Covid-19, they can choose to voluntarily plant trees in every open space within their localities’, he said.

He said that the municipality is planning to plant trees in all schools and road reserves even as it engages in other development matters such as improving infrastructure.

‘The county government has channeled resources to municipalities from the World Bank and we have used the same in street lighting, drainage, and rehabilitation of bus park and roads’, he said.

He said that tree also prevent soil erosion thereby increasing productivity’s in farming.

The manager encouraged Kenyans to plant indigenous trees and fruits adding that the collaboration between Rotary clubs and the area municipalities envisages planting 1 million trees every year.

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