Friday, Jan 21, 2022
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The Swedish-Kenyan technology firm Opibus has unveiled first electric bus in Kenya.

The bus has a superior performance compared to diesel bus and Kenyans will spend less on acquiring it than importing electric buses.

 “The first electric bus is set to be launched commercially mid this year. Following this, the platform will be tested at scale in commercial deployment of 10 buses during the second half of 2022,” project coordinator – Public Transport, Dennis Wakaba said.

He said the step is a major step in the company’s vision to provide a locally designed and developed electric bus that can be mass-produced for the Pan-African market by the end of 2023.

The initial deployment of the buses will be in peri-urban areas around Nairobi.

This is also the companies first Africa-designed electric bus.

The firm said this enables the creation of a bus that is suitable for use in Africa in terms of reliability, durability and pricing

It is installed with a powerful motor to give it maximum torque, which improves performance while enabling the driver to accelerate more responsively.

This comes one week after the Kenyan goverenmnt lowered the cost of power consumption to protect households and businesses amidst ravaging economy due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cost of electricity was brought down by 15 percent in order to ease inflationary pressures on citizens and stimulate the growth of indigenous manufacturing, President Uhuru Kenyatta said on December 13 last year.

With the cost of electricity being lower than diesel prices, the total operating expenses will be lowered by 50 percent and will revolutionise the public transport sector in Africa.

Several charging points will be installed with a mix of AC (slow) and DC (fast) chargers. Using the fast charger, the electric bus will be fully charged within an hour enabling seamless operations.

Kenya, however, is not the first East African nation to unveil an electric bus.

Uganda has been exercising domestic vehicle manufacturing and shipped in fully build of a 90-seater bus by Kiira Motors Corporation.

The buses, to run exclusively on electric batteries, can travel for 300km on a single charge at 80km/hour.

Three charging stations, which can recharge the electric batteries in under two hours, have completed calibration at Nakasongola.

Tencent topped China’s most valuable private company list in 2021, while Alibaba dropped to third place, according to a Hurun Report released on Wednesday.

Tencent amassed a valuation of 3.9 trillion yuan ($610 billion) last year after 1 trillion yuan was wiped off the market. In comparison, Alibaba lost half of its valuation at 2.5 trillion yuan.

Valuation of ByteDance tripled last year, rising to fourth place on the list. CATL entered the top 10 for the first time with a valuation of 1.5 trillion yuan.

The top 10 companies have a combined valuation of 19 trillion yuan, accounting for 29 percent of the entire list, basically unchanged from the last year.

Companies have found growth opportunities through continuous innovation despite the COVID-19 pandemic, said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief research officer of the Hurun Report.

The top 500 private Chinese companies have gained over 30 trillion yuan in valuation over the past two years, he added.

Hoogewerf said that movements in the Chinese economy can be detected from companies entering and exiting the list.

“The energy, chemical and medical and health industries are expanding fast. Industries with the most companies falling off the list are traditional medicine, pharmaceutical retail, real estate and education,” he said.

Compared with the previous year, 180 companies fell off the list in 2021, including tutoring group TAL and debt-laden property developer Evergrande.

The Supreme Court of Kenya has adjourned its sitting after three days of hearing the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) appeal which was filed by the Attorney General and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The Apex Court Chief Justice Martha Koome dismissed a report by NTV that the judgment would be delivered on February 14, 2022.

CJ Koome, rather, said the bench will give notice on when the judgment on the BBI appeal shall be delivered.

“I do not know where NTV got the date of 14th of February. I am not going to enter into that but you will be given a notice on when the judgment will be delivered,” said the humble charismatic CJ Koome.

It will be a waiting moment to hear the ruling which is centered around two political factions in the country, with President Uhuru Kenyatta and chief of opposition Raila Odinga’s side pitting themselves against Deputy President William Ruto’s.

Government representation through Attorney General Paul Kihara appealed the Court of Appeal ruling which upheld the High Court’s that the initiative was unconstitutional, null, and void.

Since the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in 2010, this is the first case that has heavily litigated the content on the Constitution of Kenya.

AG Kihara filed his appeal on eight grounds that included court findings that basic structure doctrine is applicable in Kenya.

He is also challenging appellate court finding that civil proceedings can be instituted against the President or a person performing the functions of the office of the President in Kenya during their reign with regards to anything done or not done contrary to the constitution of Kenya.

AG is also appealing the ruling that the President does not have authority under the Constitution to initiate changes to the Constitution, and that a constitutional amendment can only be initiated by Parliament through a Parliamentary initiative under Article 256 or through a popular initiative under Article 257 of the Constitution.

Kihara is disgruntled with the findings that the BBI process contravened the constitution; in particular Article 10.

The Court of Appeal and the High Court ruled that the President can be sued in his personal capacity during his tenure in office for anything done or not done.

The government (Uhuru Kenyatta), through Lawyer Waweru Gatonye, said the lower courts erred in law by finding that a sitting president in Kenya can be sued.

Gatonye told the court that the appellate court came to this conclusion even though the President had been sued not in respect of a private or personal matter but in respect of what he did as a head of state.

“If it were that it was allowed for every Tom and Harry to file suit against the President, it would distract him from performing the more important duties for running the state,” Gatonye said.

IEBC on the other hand appealed findings by the Court of Appeal over the constitutional composition, quorum and mandate of the Commission.

Some analysts say that even if the Supreme Court sides with the government and allows the proposals to be put to a public vote, there will likely not be time to hold a referendum before the August election.

Madagascar’s risk and disaster management office says 10 people died in flash floods in and around Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo.

About 500 people were displaced and two people were injured, according to the office’s latest report.

The floods were the result of heavy rainfall that started on Monday night and continued into the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The heavy rains also caused destroyed several homes and flooded farmland in the region.

Madagascar is in the midst of its rainy season.

The government has pumped in Ksh.5 billion for the expansion of Malindi airport as it seeks to open up and improve accessibility to the North Coast region of the country.

The project which has stalled for over 18 years has been marred with compensation wrangles between the government and landowners whose land will be affected by the project.

The National Development Implementation Technical Committee (NDITC) now says the project will resume in time to boost business, especially those in the tourism and hospitality sector, a major attraction of the region that has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Kenya Airport Authority (KAA), the airport currently occupies 100.6 Hectares and needs a minimum of 259 hectares to extend the runway to enable large passenger planes to fly in and out directly from Europe and ensure security and safety of the Airport.

The main runway, which is being extended from the current 1.4 Km to 2.5km, will also enable cargo cargo planes, promoting agriculture and further increasing investments and property values in the area.

The extension project also included the upgrade of the security perimeter fence and the expansion of the car park to accommodate 51 more vehicles.

According to the World, Bank, Small micro and Medium enterprises account for over 90 percent of global businesses, thus proving to be the greatest contributor to the job market.

They represent more than 50% of employment worldwide. Formal SMEs contribute up to 40% of national income (GDP) in emerging economies.

According to Carrol Rutto, Director Retail Banking, National Bank of Kenya, SME sector in Kenya has employed over 14 million people but due to emergence of coronavirus pandemic, majority of small businesses shut on account of unsustainable balance sheets.

These numbers are significantly higher when informal SMEs are included.  According to our estimates, 600 million jobs will be needed by 2030 to absorb the growing global workforce, which makes SME development a high priority for many governments around the world.

In emerging markets, most formal jobs are generated by SMEs, which create 7 out of 10 jobs. However, access to finance is a key constraint to SME growth, it is the second most cited obstacle facing SMEs to grow their businesses in emerging markets and developing countries.

In small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) employ fewer than 250 people. SMEs are further subdivided into micro enterprises (fewer than 10 employees), small enterprises (10 to 49 employees), medium-sized enterprises (50 to 249 employees)

A deal has been reached for Kenyan potato farmers to supply their produce to the fast-food chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants.

According to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, the farmers are well prepared to produce high standard potato varieties that are required by KFC when sourcing the products to make chips.

 “We have actually agreed with KFC to work together. They have identified the people they want to work with to start rolling out particular varieties that they require and they have partners who do it the way they want it done and I think there is a team already working on the rollout,” the CS said in an address in Nairobi on Wednesday during the 4th intergovernmental Forum for Agriculture.

“We have come up with a plan on how to grow those particular varieties that KFC requires and to ensure that we have varieties that please the palate of those interested in KFC chips.”

Munya downplayed information that Kenyan potato farming was facing a crisis due to the product shortage that hit KFC.

 “The real crisis in the potato sub-sector is supporting farmers to grow, supporting them to deal with the post-harvest losses and ensuring they reach the market. The post-harvest losses is where the middlemen come to exploit them. When there is overproduction, potatoes are highly perishable,” said the CS.

KFC had announced that it had exhausted its chips stock post-New Year’s celebrations prompting a heated discussion on social media as to why the eatery prefers importing potatoes instead of sourcing for them locally.

On January 4, Kenyans were angered after KFC announced it had run out of imported potatoes and thus substituted chips with alternatives such as ugali in its menu.

In its outlets and online, the food chain had issued a notice advising customers to choose the substitutes such as ugali, coleslaw, snack buns, cobs, extra chicken.

“Fam it was truly a Furaha December. Mlikula sherehe with your KFC faves. Ya’ll loved our chips a little too much, and we’ve run out,” KFC tweeted.

“Sorry! Our team is working hard to resolve the issue. In the meantime here are some SWAP options for combo meals if you are craving our Kuku.”

Reports indicate that KFC imports its potatoes from Egypt, the Netherlands, South Africa among others.

The Micro and Small Enterprises Authority has called upon the government to support the activation of the MSE fund regulations which are still awaiting approval from the National Treasury.

The fund will grant affordable credit facilities to support the development of the MSE sector.

According to MSEA Board Chairman James Mureu, the sector was being exploited by the informal money lenders giving loans at commercial rates.

“There are many people who have gone out there and picked out very soft loans at almost 5 percent carrying that money in a briefcase to come and help the SMEs space and we know them and if they do not change we shall name them. They are people who have collected money that are  purportedly targeting the SME space but that money has ended up at commercial rates and it has not helped us,” said Mureu.

Mureu urged all the stakeholders in the MSEs sector to support MSEA by channeling all the MSEs issues through the Authority issuing a warning to such companies to enhance the ease of accessing credit at a lower rate.

“We are again sounding a warning to all those who have picked that money and if you don’t cascade it down at a lower rate because we know you get concession rates but they come and give these loans at commercial rates.”

He added, “We are ready to work with willing institutions that are genuine with us and want to help us. We have the critical numbers but we don’t want people to exploit us at SME space going out with briefcases but I don’t know how many of them can genuinely say that they have impacted the MSME space.”

The authority also raised the concern of an influx of foreign hawkers in the Kenyan market creating a crisis within the formal and informal.

“I was in Isabania recently when I crossed over to Mwanza. I drove all the way to see exactly what was going on and I saw hawkers hawking products from Uganda through to Kenya and Tanzania. When the reverse is applied they are refused and we are saying to the government if you cannot protect us we will protect ourselves,” Mureu said.

On his part Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya National Juakali Federation Mr. Richard Muteti said MSEs are represented by both the public and private sector and called for enhanced collaboration and synergy between the industry players to realize the strengths of the sector.

He also revealed that the sector has never received share of the COVID-19 stimulus package which was put in place by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

 “Apparently there are people who told the President we have received those funding and they have not received as much as we should have because really the target was to help most vulnerable sectors that could have collapsed,” said Mureu.

The sector leaders resolved to speak in one voice and engage like-minded partners to support MSEs build back stronger as the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

BAT has created a virtual R&D Visitor Experience, an online tour of its global Research & Development hub in Southampton, UK, that allows people to explore its cutting-edge science and innovation.

The experience builds on BAT’s open and transparent approach to the science underpinning its reduced-risk product portfolio and beyond nicotine activities. The company regularly welcomes visitors in person to its global R&D hub, with more than 3,500 people viewing the facilities first-hand since 2011.

However, with travel significantly reduced, the virtual experience allows people from across the globe to access and understand BAT’s scientific research, Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) activities, and gain perspectives and insights from experts.

Dr. David O’Reilly, Director, Scientific Research at BAT, said: “At BAT R&D is fundamental to what we do. Our focus on science and research has enabled us to make significant progress in developing and evolving our New Category products, which are rigorously tested and scientifically substantiated as reduced-risk alternatives to cigarettes. Our R&D is based around consumer preferences, as well as applying evolving science and innovation to our products.”

This allows us to offer a range of enjoyable, reduced-risk* alternatives to cigarettes, while ensuring we maintain very high safety and quality standards.

“Our new R&D Virtual Visitor Experience demonstrates the breadth of science we are undertaking and the robust scientific framework we use to evaluate and support the role our products play in delivering Tobacco Harm Reduction.”

With 360-degree lab tours, animations, videos, scientist profiles, podcasts, and more, the R&D Virtual Visitor Experience is the one-stop hub for those looking to find out about BAT’s science.

The tour illuminates BAT’s purpose to build A Better TomorrowTM and mission to reduce the health impact of its business. BAT invests almost £350 million a year to find innovative ways to reduce its effects on public health and aims to have 50 million consumers of its non-combustible products by 2030.

BAT conducts research in a broad spectrum of scientific fields, including molecular biology, toxicology, and chemistry, fuelling the relentless innovation and learning that set the company apart as an industry leader.

Visitors to the R&D virtual experience will be able to explore:

• Sensory Science: This unique department helps BAT better understand the consumer product experience and decode that experience into actionable insights that support product and brand development

• Biotechnology Laboratory: Here, BAT’s scientists leverage their expertise across whole genome sequencing, metabolomics, and computational biology to deliver enhanced consumer experiences. The teams also grow plants and identify sustainable sources of compounds

• Biology Laboratory: This is where scientists test BAT’s New Category products for their potential impact on human cells compared to cigarette smoke.

• Battery Laboratory: This facility has revolutionised the way BAT’s rechargeable devices are designed, developed and tested. Batteries are put through their paces to ensure they meet high quality standards.

Kenya’s tourism revenue in the year 2021 went up 34.76 percent to Ksh.146 billion compared to Ksh.88 billion that was netted same period in the year 2020.

In fresh data from the Tourism Research Institute, the surge in revenue was on the back of a 53.29 percent growth in the number of international visitor arrivals in the country in the period under review.

“The 34.76% increase translated to Ksh.146 billion ($ 1.46 billion) in revenue, as compared to Ksh. 88 billion ($885 million) in 2020, indicating that we are on an upward trajectory. The numbers are still low, but we are optimistic that we will eventually go back to our all-time high international visitor arrivals that is 2019 or even surpass it. This is because the majority of our masses are vaccinated and international visitors will have faith in our destination again,” said Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.

In 2021, tourist arrivals stood at 870,465, compared to 567,848 in 2020 according to data released today by the Tourism Research Institute.

Out of the 870,465 international arrivals, 299,802 (34.44%) were on holiday, 257,357 (29.57%) visiting family or friends, 229,804 for business and Meetings, Incentives, Exhibitions, and Conferences (MICE)- 26.40%, 46,654 (5.36%) on transit, 19,053 (2.19%) for education, 8,737 (1%) for medical purposes, 7,010 (0.81%) for religion, and 2,048 (0.24%) for sports.

The top five international arrivals by country are, USA (136,981), Uganda (80,067), Tanzania (74,051), UK (53,264), and India (42,159).

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport remains the major point of entry with 644,194, Moi International Airport 48,749, and others 177,522.

From January to September 2021, the bed occupancy rates increased to a total of 4,138,821 as compared to the same period in 2020 (2,575,812) recording a recovery of 60.7 percent.

This sustained recovery of the hospitality sector was largely supported by domestic travelers (domestic bed nights grew by 101.3% while international bed nights grew by 0.05%).

Performance was undermined by the upsurge of the Delta variant of COVID-19 during the first quarter but registered steady growth from June to December.

Amidst the ravaging pandemic, the Ministry of Tourism initiated Magical Kenya Expo, which resulted in renewed marketing efforts and instill confidence in the country’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

The growth was also supported by innovative products offered to both domestic and international markets by major players mainly hotels and domestic airlines.

Hosting major sporting events specifically the World Rally Championship, WRC – Safari Rally and the World Athletics Under 20 also helped a lot to rebuild confidence on destination Kenya.