The multiplication of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) has continued to cause panic worldwide, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) saying that the virus is far from over.

This is after Chinese President Xi Jinping claimed “positive results” from efforts to contain an epidemic that has now officially killed 1,367 people and infected nearly 60,000. However, most economies globally have been affected, with traders barred from travelling to China, and hundreds of countries including Kenya cancelling flights to the world’s second-largest economy.

Metropol TV spoke to Sammy Karanja, the Chief Executive Officer of Importers and Small Traders Association of Kenya (ISTAK) who had insights on how the outbreak has impacted Kenyan traders, and the counteractions the government is undertaking to keep the economy steadfast.

How is the business in the country performing right now following the outbreak of Coronavirus?

Business is not very good right now, it is in its worst low. Because you remember we were from presidential amnesty when the goods of traders had been held for about one year without being cleared. After the president gave us the amnesty we knew that we were going to sell the goods and go back to China. With the striking of Coronavirus, traders have not been able to do so because the government had issues with travelling and we have seen Kenya Airways restricting travels to china. Traders are eating on their stocks and without stocks, you’re selling nothing.

Are there no imports coming from China?

“There are no imports because the only way to get goods from China is: For example, some of the traders who are in contact with manufacturers and have been doing that for the longest time possible but most of our traders go China to fetch goods from different cities to another city trying to get good prices and also the standards which KEBS look at. We take ourselves to china to look for goods, so we can’t go to China.

Statistics show containers which come annually at the dock in Mombasa is about one to 1.2 million and 30 percent of the containers belong to Small Medium Entrepreneurs (SME). So we are talking about over 300,000 containers docking in Mombasa. Unless a trader is bringing the FLC full load container where a few traders are able to do that, we do consolidation and gather and fill the containers. But currently, there are no goods coming into the country.

What businesses are struggling the most?

We import a lot of electronics from China, a lot of beauty products, spare parts, cartridges, and computers and these are some of the goods that are being affected so much. Full load containers, maybe construction materials which some traders are bringing are not many. But when you look at electronics and beauty products, we are not able to bring these from China after the outbreak of Coronavirus.

The death toll is surging the affected getting higher by day how will businesses rebound from this outbreak?

China has said it’s worse than SAR which was reported in 2003. We have to look for new markets so that we can be relevant or remain in business because as long as you see travel advisory being put on China, we can’t be able to travel there because of the intensity of infection of the virus.

We are currently talking with traders and have had meetings with them so that we can be able to get goods from other markets like India which is also a huge market. India has a very strong manufacturing front.

We have to diversify right now because there is no way out, this is our livelihood, it’ is from where we grow our economy. We are looking at how we can open other markets, even with other “Asian tiger”-we can go to Thailand and see how we can get these markets.

How easy is it going to be for Kenyan traders to start forming relationships with other countries?

It is not easy. Because for the time we started going to China, it was personal initiatives whereby traders decided to go and see how and at how much one could get goods at cheaper prices. Unless the government steps in and see how we can be introduced to new markets, it won’t be so easy.

It is a huge opportunity for any other country that we are going to eye on and also get into those bilateral relationships. We import about Ksh391 billion every financial year and I think based on where we are right now, it is also going to go high because the demands will be high and pricing is going to shoot.

The Bank of Uganda has held its benchmark lending rate at 9 percent, citing balanced risks to inflation and the need to maintain an accommodative monetary stance to support growth.

Uganda’s central bank also kept its 2019/2020 economic growth forecast of 5.5 to 6 percent, while expects it to accelerate to 6.3 percent in the medium term, though below the estimate of potential growth of 6.5 percent.

However, the Governor of the Bank, Professor Emmanuel Mutebile expressed concerns over export weakness, amid risks related to the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in China and agricultural production constraints due to uncertain weather patterns and a massive invasion of desert locusts.

Sudan’s government and rebel groups in Darfur agreed on Tuesday that all those wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) should appear before the tribunal, including ousted president Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir, who is jailed in Khartoum since he was toppled after mass protests last year, is wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Information Minister Faisal Saleh did not specifically name him when announcing the move, but said the decision applied to all five Sudanese suspects wanted by the ICC over Darfur.

The government and the rebel groups reached an agreement during a meeting in South Sudan’s capital Juba that included “the appearance of those who face arrest warrants before the International Criminal Court”, said Mohamed al-Hassan al-Taishi, a member of Sudan’s sovereign council.

Taishi also said that the two sides agreed to create a Darfur special court to investigate and hear cases including those investigated by the ICC.

That court would try Darfur suspects not indicted by the ICC, said Nimri Mohamed Abd, chief negotiator of the Darfur people in Juba. He said Darfur groups and Sudan’s government had agreed to “fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court”, and that the timing of the handover would be decided in final negotiations.

Bashir’s lawyer said the ex-president refused to have any dealings with the ICC because it was a “political court”.

World Bank President David Malpass chided other development banks for lending too quickly to heavily indebted countries, saying some were helping worsen already-challenging debt situations.

Malpass said at a World Bank-International Monetary Fund debt forum in Washington that the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development were contributing to debt problems.

Said he “We have a situation where other international financial institutions and to some extent development finance institutions as a whole, certainly the official export credit agencies, have a tendency to lend too quickly and to add to the debt problem of the countries.”

He said the Asian Development Bank was “pushing billions of dollars” into a fiscally challenging situation in Pakistan while the African Development Bank was doing the same in Nigeria and South Africa.

A spokesman for the Asian Development Bank could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Manila-based development lender in December approved $1.3 billion in loans for Pakistan, including $1 billion for immediate budget support to shore up the country’s public finances and $300 million to help reform the country’s energy sector.

The loans came as the country is struggling with billions of dollars in debt to China from Belt and Road infrastructure projects, which helped cause Pakistan to turn to the IMF for a $6 billion loan program in 2019.

Malpass said there is need for more coordination among international financial institutions to coordinate lending and maintain high standards of transparency.

“And so, we have a very real problem of the IFIs themselves adding to the debt burden and, and there’s pressure then I think on the IMF to sort through it and look at the best interest for the country,” he said.

Malpass added that the new Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was seeking to develop lending standards that were equal to those of the World Bank and was causing fewer problems than some of the more traditional development lenders.

Although China often gets blamed for burdening some developing economies through Belt and Road, Malpass said the country was looking for ways to bring its debt contracts in line with international norms.

One way to do this is to improve transparency in lending contracts, to eliminate non-disclosure clauses that have hidden liens and contingent liabilities that could hamper economic growth.

In an interview, Malpass cited liens against Angola’s oil revenues associated with Chinese debt that were hidden by non-disclosure agreements, convenient for politicians and contractors.

“Let the people of the country see what the terms of the debt are as their government makes commitments,” Malpass said.

The World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, the International Development Association, is implementing a new set of lending rules on July 1 as it unlocks a new round of funding expected to make some $85 billion in loans and grants available.

These are aimed at setting new standards for transparency and require coordination with other multilateral lenders working with the same country.

China’s Communist Party has sacked its two top-ranking officials in Hubei Province under criticism over the handling of the deadly Coronavirus.

China’s official death toll from the virus rose on Thursday after authorities changed their counting methods, fueling concern the epidemic is far worse than being reported.

The developments came hours after President Xi Jinping claimed “positive results” from efforts to contain an epidemic that has now officially killed 1,367 people and infected nearly 60,000.

But the World Health Organization warned it was too soon to declare victory.

“I think it’s way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now,” said Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme.

Even as death toll keeps soaring in China, a troubling new front opened abroad as neighbouring Vietnam placed 10,000 people under quarantine after six COVID-19 cases were discovered in a cluster of villages.

In Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where tens of millions of people are trapped as part of an unprecedented quarantine effort, 242 new deaths were reported on Thursday.

Another 14,840 people were confirmed to be infected in Hubei alone, with the new cases and deaths by far the biggest one-day increases since the crisis began.

Outside Hubei, there were 12 more deaths but the number of new cases fell for a ninth day in a row, with 312 extra patients.

Hubei authorities said the increases were because they had broadened their definition for infection to include people “clinically diagnosed” via lung imaging.

Up until now, they had been documenting cases using a more sophisticated laboratory test.

World’s richest man Jeff Bezos has purchased a Los Angeles-area estate for $165 million (Ksh16.6 billion), which became the most expensive property of the area, surpassing the previous record of $150 spent by media mogul Lachlan Murdoch, Bloomberg reported.

Amazon chief has bought a Beverly Hills mansion known as the Warner Estate from media giant David Geffen. 

Bezos’s newly-bought 9.4-acre (3.8-hectare) property is named after Jack Warner, the Warner Bros Studio chief who built it in 1937.

The Warner Estate also includes a floor once owned by Napolean, other than guest houses, nine-hole golf course and a tennis court.

Bezos, whose net worth was estimated by Forbes at $131 billion this year, is considered the world’s richest man and owns properties around the world.

Bloomberg also reported that Amazon chief bought three New York apartments earlier this year in a deal valued nearly $80 million (Ksh8 billion).

The world’s biggest smartphone maker unveiled a new foldable device, the Galaxy Z Flip, at its Unpacked press event in San Francisco on Tuesday.

The 6.7-inch smartphone folds into a square about half its size, with a small rectangular display on the front cover for notifications.

It comes in three colours — purple, black and gold — though only the first two colours will be available initially when it goes on sale February 14 in select stores and online.

Samsung also unveiled a limited edition of the flip phone in partnership with New York fashion brand Thom Browne, which features the brand’s signature red-white-and-blue stripe on a gray exterior.

“This is no ordinary smartphone. It changes everything,” Rebecca Hirst, Samsung’s head of UK mobile marketing, said while unveiling the device.

The phone will cost $1,380 (Ksh.138,883), placing it at the higher end of Samsung’s new S20 lineup.

It features three variants: the 6.2-inch S20 starting at $999.99 (Ksh.100,509); the 6.7-inch S20+ starting at $1199.99 (Ksh.120,730); and the 6.9-inch S20 Ultra starting at $1399.99 (Ksh.140,852).

But the Galaxy Z Flip is cheaper than its closest competitor: Motorola’s rebooted smartphone version of its iconic Razr flip phone costs $1,500 (Ksh.150,915).

And while the Samsung flip phone’s camera system isn’t as powerful as the one on the S20 devices, it does have three lenses — two at the back and one in the front — capable of taking wide and ultra-wide shots.

This is Samsung’s second folding smartphone, and the company will be hoping to avoid the problems it had with its first.

The rollout of the $1,980 (Ksh.199,207) Galaxy Fold was delayed by several months after some early reviewers in April flagged that the phone constantly flickered and the folding screen broke too easily.

The phone finally launched last fall. Unlike the Galaxy Fold, which folded vertically outward similar to butterfly wings, the Galaxy Z Flip stays true to its name by adopting the clamshell design typical of more traditional flip phones.

The company promises that its “ultra thin” folding glass display won’t break as easily this time. “This glass is built to last,” Hirst said.

Samsung first teased the Galaxy Z Flip in an ad during the Oscars two days before its “Unpacked” event.

Joe Irungu alias Jowie who is the prime suspect in the case of a slain businesswoman Monica Juma has been freed on a Ksh2 million cash bail.

He was released on Thursday and the court forbade him from talking about the ongoing case anywhere including on his social media platforms.

This follows his numerous application to the court to be granted bail since September in 2018, when he was detained following the murder of his alleged fiancé Juma.

In November 2019, Jowie filed a bail application over claims that he was suffering at Manyani Maximum Prison asking the court to consider the period he had served in detention.

He also argued that his co-accused, the former senior reporter at Citizen TV Jackie Marie was released on cash bail and did not abscond bail terms, therefore, be accorded with similar respect.

“My second accused (Jacque Maribe) was granted bail and she never absconded court. I deserve the same,” he said.

Maribe was freed on bail in October 2018, with the court denying Jowie bail on grounds that he was a flight risk and was likely to intimidate witnesses.

In December 2019, Jowi had been moved from the Kamiti Maximum prison to the Manyani Maximum Prison in Voi under mysterious circumstances.

According to sources at Kamiti Maximum Prison where Jowie has been held for the past year, the unceremonious transfer was effected after he was allegedly found with contraband.

President Kenyatta has said a solar energy plant will be installed by his government at Kabarak to finish up a referral hospital which Kenya’s second President, the late Daniel Arap Moi had started.

The President said it was Moi’s big dream to build a missionary hospital in Kabarak.

“Mzee Moi had his last project before retiring from the presidency, he had started a project of establishing a referral hospital for all missionary hospitals. But he did not finish it before God could take him away.” Said, President Kenyatta.

As a result the President assured the people of Nakuru County that his administration will take over the project and ensure that he sees it to its completion.

Along with the implementation of the project, the head of state said it will be the government’s first interest to build a solar energy plant in the region, and the dues from it will be used to finish the project Moi had started.

“As the government we are going to help build the hospital together with his family, to put up solar energy to generate power, from where the money generated from the project will be used to finalise the project Moi had started.”

He said this when he attended the burial ceremony for Mzee Moi at his home in Kabarak, Nakuru County on Wednesday.

Thousands of mourners flocked Moi’s residence in the early morning of Wednesday in readiness to befit Mzee’s final respect.

The ceremony was graced by leaders from across the continent, many who identified Mzee Moi as a Pan Africanist, and a true leader who inspired peace among many nations.

Moi’s funeral will be the second one to have full military honours. The late President Jomo Kenyatta was the first to be honoured full military accolade when he died in office in 1978.

Since Moi did not die in office like Kenyatta, he will get 19-gun salute unless it is decided that he be buried in military uniform for his role as Commander-in-Chief during his 24-year rule. In that case, he will have a 21-gun salute.

Mzee Moi was born on September 2, 1924, and died on February 4, 2020, while in Hospital.

Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanne has dismissed the idea it might buy its partner in East Africa and Guyana, Tullow Oil.

Tullow’s share price slumped to 19-year lows in December over a string of bad news, stoking takeover speculation.

Total is a partner in all growth markets for Tullow Oil whose market capitalisation shrank to around £633m (Ksh82.7 billion) from £3.28 billion (Ksh418.1 billion) in September.

The company is also slashing its workforce and restructuring its portfolio.

Amid industry speculation about a potential Tullow takeover target, Pouyanne told Reuters when asked whether Total might buy Tullow: “Stop dreaming. No”.

As of late 2019, Tullow was saddled with $2.8 billion (Ksh200.8 billion)in debt, a hangover from the last oil price crash which saw Brent crude futures plummet to below $30 (Ksh3000) a barrel in 2016.

Offshore Guyana, Tullow owns 60% and Total 25% of the Orinduik block, estimated to hold around 5.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

Total also holds 25% in the Kanuku block, adjacent to Orinduik, in which Tullow holds 37.5 percent.

While two of Tullow’s previous wells in Orinduik produced heavy oil, calling into question the quality of the reservoir, other wells targeting deeper layers have produced lighter oil – reviving hopes for the commerciability of wells targeting the so-called Upper Cretaceous.

Pouyanne said he expected two or three wells to be drilled offshore Guyana this year.

Total, Tullow and their Orinduik partner Eco are due to meet this month and discuss next steps for their drilling off Guyana.

In Uganda and Kenya, Total and Tullow have partnered to bring the countries’ first oil projects onstream, but both projects have hit snags.

Onshore Uganda, a deal for Tullow to sell a chunk of its stake to Total fell through in August due to tax disputes with the government.

Uganda’s government said in December it had settled the dispute with the companies, but they have not yet confirmed any such deal.

Pouyanne told Reuters that discussions were still ongoing, but that Tullow’s “financial issues” must also be dealt with.

In Kenya, Tullow and Total aim to reduce their stakes with a joint sale that could see Tullow exit completely amid uncertainty over the project’s launch, banking and industry sources said.

A point is equivalent to Ksh130.78