SOKO allows artisans in the developing world to create online storefronts
“Emerging economies are really a hotbed of next-generation innovation.” – SOKO co-founder Gwendolyn Floyd
- The company uses an automated SMS form to let vendors sell their goods worldwide.
- SOKO currently has about 250 artisans on its website and is adding more through a peer recruitment model.
- The startup has raised $200,000 in grants and awards and almost $1 million in seed funding.
Kenya's government is passing new laws to combat poaching
New legislation approved by Kenya's Cabinet will overhaul wildlife laws in order to protect rhinos and elephants
New legislation includes:
- The creation of an inter-agency security team to track down poachers in wildlife sanctuaries and private conservancies
- Increased fines of up to one million shillings ($11,000) for poaching
- A program to rapidly increase the number of Kenya Wildlife Service rangers by 1,000
Kenya is attracting the attention of global technology and communications investors
“Technology is playing a critical role in building stronger Kenyan and East Africa companies”
- Vision 2030 Delivery Board Director General Mugo Kibati
- IBM's new innovation center will provide Kenyan entrepreneurs, developers, and academics with resources and training.
- The IT sector in Kenya has contributed up to 40 percent of the economic growth in East Africa in the past 10 years.
- Kenya's IT industry is expected to grow 11 percent annually, increasing job opportunities for those with technological expertise and attracting outside investors.
Source: Captial FM
Honda is building a new plant that is expected to open in September 2013.
“With its well-educated workforce and relatively strong tertiary education sector, the country is well positioned to create the right environment for advanced manufacturing and the high-wage high-skill jobs it brings with it.”
- Stepane Paquier, President, Dow Africa
- The plant will have an initial production capacity of 25,000 units per year.
- The Nairobi-based subsidiary is one of only three Honda has opened in Africa.
- Honda expects local demand to increase as Kenya's economy continues to grow.
Sources: Japan Times, Business Daily Africa
In anticipation of the March 4 elections, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is working to ensure:
- Voting will be easy. Registered voters will complete a separate paper ballot for all six elected offices; the ballots have been color coded by office to reduce confusion, and will include a picture of each candidate next to their name.
- Vote counting will be efficient. Polling centers will send the results counted from the paper ballots to tallying centers. The results can only be made official once the paper ballots themselves have been certified through a thorough verification process.
- Results will be transparent. Voters will be able to watch the votes total in real-time on screens at tally centers, and view the verified results on IEBC's website, vote.iebc.or.ke.
Source: All Africa
IBM, Microsoft and Google have invested in new technology and infrastructure in Kenya.
“Nairobi has emerged as a serious tech hub and may become the African leader,” Google Chairman Eric Schmidt
- IBM is using cell phones and security cameras to gather traffic data to help determine the best places to build new roads.
- Microsoft is bring broadband to places without electricity, planning to give 6,000 people in the Rift Valley access in the next year.
- Google provided seed money for iHub, which connects young entrepreneurs with mentors and investors.
Sources: The Economist, Bloomberg, Newsweek
The new city, which is being dubbed as “Africa’s Silicon Savannah,” is a $14.5 billion investment.
“[Konza] is expected to spur massive trade and investment as well as create thousands of employment opportunities for young Kenyans in the ICT [information communications technology] sector.”
- President Mwai Kibaki, January 23, 2013
- 20,000 IT jobs are projected to be created in Konza by 2015, and more than 200,000 total jobs by 2030.
- More than 250 foreign and local firms have already applied to invest in this project.
- Konza is part of the government’s Vision 2030 initiaive to improve Kenya’s infrastructure over the next 18 years.
Source: Business Daily, BBC
Foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in Kenya increased 77% in 2011.
Quote: “This attests to the ongoing institutional reforms in the country, development in infrastructure projects and the human resource capacity in the country,”
- Esther Koimett, Investment Secretary at the Ministry of Finance
- In 2011, there were 55 FDI projects involving infrastructure, real estate, manufacturing and tourism – a 77% increase from the prior year.
- The increase came from companies seeking to invest in recent discoveries of oil and minerals.
- On the African continent, Kenya placed ahead of Nigeria and Egypt. In the East African region, Kenya was the number one destination for foreign direct investment.
Source: Daily Monitor
- Kenya will have its first-ever live presidential debates this election season, with the first debate set for November 26. Two additional debates are set for January 14 and February 11 of next year, ahead of the elections on March 4.
- The first debate will be broadcasted by eight television stations, 32 radio stations and streamed online.
- Kenyan citizens will be able to submit questions for the presidential candidates and participate by expressing their opinions live through social media.
Source: Voice of America
- The IEBC is engaging with Kenyan citizens to ensure the March 2013 elections run smoothly. The IEBC is working to put polling stations in the best possible locations and ensure Kenyans are informed of their Constitutional rights when they go to the polls.
- The IEBC has recruited and trained 290 new poll officials who will supervise and administer the vote.
- The IEBC has begun to receive Biometric Voter Registration kits. The kits will allow the IEBC to register 22.5 million voters in 30 days and create a credible, accurate voter list.
Source: Voice of America
Source: Voice of America
Source: Capital FM
Source: All Africa
Economic factors point towards investor confidence in Kenya.
“We believe with lower interest and inflation rates, macroeconomic stability and improved confidence, we think that 5 percent [economic growth] should be well within reach.” Domenico Fanizza, International Monetary Fund.
- September marks downward trends in inflation for 10 straight months, as lower food prices offset upward pressure from a jump in retail fuel prices. The Kenyan shilling has also held steady against the U.S. dollar.
- Kenya's central bank began an easing cycle in July after inflation slid continuously since December and after the shilling stabilized against the dollar, restoring a measure of confidence in the economy and policymaking.
- Kenya's central bank has a high buffer of reserves to $5.2 billion, which also builds confidence in the economy.
New port, pipeline and roads will open up export routes, attract oil and gas investors
Quote: “Right now our interest rates are extremely attractive in a global context to bring investors in.” – Aly-Khan Satchu, CEO of Nairobi-based Rich Management Ltd.
• The Kenyan government has agreed with South Sudan to build a 1,243-mile pipeline to the northern Kenyan coastal town of Lamu, providing a critical secondary route for oil exports.
• It has opened a tender for the design and construction of the first three berths at Lamu, to be financed by the annual sale of 154.4 million of infrastructure bonds over five years.
• The Lamu project is part of the Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor project aimed at furnishing northern Kenya with roads, airports and a refinery, and help spur economic growth of at least 10 percent by 2030.
- Kenya will be the fourth nation, and the first on the African continent, in which IBM has opened a research lab in the last two years. Other countries recently selected for IBM research facilities include Ireland, Australia and Brazil.
- IBM and its researchers will work with the Kenyan Government to develop solutions to common African problems such as traffic congestion and water shortages. Additionally, IBM will use the lab to help tailor products and services to African companies and governments.
- The partnership with IBM represents a key milestone in implementing Kenya's Vision 2030, a blueprint to transform Kenya into a middle-income country providing a high quality life to all its citizens by the year 2030.
Source: The New York Times
Source: Financial Times
HR&A Advisors appointed to initiate the $7 billion development plan to build Konza into the “Silicon Savannah,” complete with technology companies, thousands of residential homes, a central business district and even a university.
Quote: “The implementation plan will recommend the appropriate strategies for attracting developers and private investment to the site. The construction of roads, utilities and buildings will follow subsequently.” – Shuprotim Bhaumik, partner at HR&A Advisors
- The first part of the four-phase development plan includes the construction of an IT business park, residential and hospitality facilities as well as a science park.
- Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permenant Secretary of Information and Communications, says that the project has drawn interest from a number of foreign investors already.
- A high-speed rail and World Bank-funded 60km motorway will connect Konza to Nairobi airport, while a dam for irrigation and electricity generation funded by the African Development Bank will be ready in 2013.
Source: Financial Times
- NBA star Dirk Nowitzki married his longtime girlfriend Jessica Olsson, born of a Swedish father and a Kenyan mother, over the July 15 weekend in Kenya.
- The Kenya ceremony was a traditional Kikuyu wedding ceremony, commonly referred to as Ngurario, meant to announce to the community that the daughter is engaged.
- Olsson wore a traditional Kikuyu garment while Nowitzki wore a dark brown traditional outfit with orange hues. Jessica was also presented with a kiondo by elderly kikuyu women. After the ceremony, the couple and the guests danced to Mugithi songs, featuring one man guitarists strumming electric benga tunes.
Source: Jambo News Spot
Source: Newstime Africa
- Kenya's David Rudisha broke the 13-year-old men's 800-meter world record for the second time in eight days in August 2010. He clocked 1 minute, 41.01 seconds in the two-lap race meeting in Rieti, shaving 0.08 seconds off his mark set the previous weekend in Berlin.
- He is the only runner to have run under 1 minute 43 seconds this year and has lost only one race in nearly three years – last September in a sprint finish at the end of a long season
- London 2012 will be Rudisha's first Olympic experience since an injury kept him out of the Beijing Games. Experts consider him a likely athlete for gold medal glory and even perhaps a new world record at the London Games.
Source: Guinness World Record
Source: Vanity Fair
- Based on the IMF fiscal monitor, if Kenya was a member of the Euro-zone, its debt-to-GDP ratio would rank only behind Estonia and Luxemburg.
- Kenya's macroeconomic success is home-made. Through prudent fiscal policies—particularly strong revenue mobilization—and economic growth, Kenya has gradually brought its debt burden down 20 percent in five years.
- Kenya understands that what matters is not the absolute amount of debt, but its proportion to the overall economy, and has therefore been praised for its wise fiscal policies and sound budget management. Through its economic reforms, especially in the service sectors, it has managed to open up the economy and create a growth momentum that has benefited the country over the last decade.
Source: World Bank (blog)
- In a ceremony held in Monte Carlo on June 9, CEO and Managing Director of Kenya’s Equity Bank, Dr. James Mwangi, was named the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year 2012. He was picked from among 59 finalists from 51 countries vying for the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs.
- Dr. Mwangi joined Equity Bank as finance director in 1994 when only 4 percent of the population had bank accounts. Now, 26 percent of Kenyans have one, and the bank manages more than 7 million bank accounts – over half of all bank accounts in Kenya. He became the bank's chief executive in 2004 and he listed the bank on the Nairobi Stock Exchange in 2006.
- Dr. Mwangi's sees Equity Bank as transforming the economy of the East African region with its focus on providing services to the “unbanked” poor. Meanwhile, through the bank's foundation, it now funds several philanthropic initiatives including providing healthcare to 1.8 million Kenyans, 10,000 scholarships to educate orphaned and children in need, and 1,300 university scholarships.
Source: Financial Times
Source: Ernst & Young
The World Bank's economic update on Kenya forecasts 5 percent growth in 2012, and found actions by the government successfully stabilized the economy.
Quote: “Kenyans have an opportunity to enjoy better standards of living as the economy progresses towards middle-income status in the coming years.” Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Kenya
- The World Bank report projects that inflation will remain below 10 percent during the second half of 2012.
- Interest rates are expected to fall and the exchange rate to return to “more competitive levels” that will spur economic activity.
- Strong growth of the East African Community has created opportunities for Kenya to reduce its vulnerability from external shocks.
Source: World Bank
Did you know? Kenya has achieved remarkable progress in implementing electoral reforms.
- Election commissioners are no longer appointed by the president without approval of parliament; they now face a competitive application process for the positions, which includes the approval of parliament. The commissioners, meanwhile, have the power to investigate and prosecute elections irregularities.
- Kenya is utilizing technology to ensure the integrity of the next election. For example, a new biometric voter registration system is being implemented along with electronic voter rolls. Meanwhile, election results will be transmitted electronically from polling stations to a central tallying center once the polls close. All of these measures reduce the opportunities for improper voting or fraud.
- The new, strengthened Judiciary is working hard to instill confidence in the courts and improve the credibility of the legal system before the election. The Judiciary has appointed a team of eight judges to help the courts prepare to handle election disputes.
Source: International Foundation for Electoral Systems
Source: Daily Nation
- FirstRand is the fourth bank to open offices in Nairobi in the past four years, along with companies like Samsung and Nestle
- The World Bank points to Kenya's expanding working-age population, access to the sea, developing education system, and improving macroeconomic policies as qualities that make it perfectly situated for companies bent on regional expansion.
- The financial sector grew 8.8 percent in 2011
“We believe there's a gateway, a pipeline of business that exists between India and Africa coming through Kenya,” – Jabu Khethe, head of Africa at FirstRand
Sources: Financial Times
- An e-health pilot program to digitally convert health records is underway at the Kenyatta National Hospital and a nationwide rollout should be expected within the next year.
- The initiative to store health records digitally will make statistical information regarding the country’s health sector more accessible. This data enables medical researchers to consult with doctors in other countries and share best practices.
- The pilot program will also include an electronic medical supplies procurement system aimed at making buying goods cheaper and more efficient. Digital medical records will also help cut costs by eliminating duplication of medical tests.
Source: Business Daily
- The Doing Business in EAC (East Africa Community) Report compiled by World Bank and the International Finance Corporation cites the “case track” system introduced by the Judiciary in 2011 as one of the outstanding improvements in the region.
- The “case track” system categorizes cases into three groups depending on their complexity, allowing for the strategic allocation of resources to avoid delays in commercial disputes.
- In a bid to reduce congestion in courts and ensure speedy trials, the Chief Justice increased the limit of jurisdiction in certain courts to $6,000, to reduce the pressure on courts and reduce litigation and transportation costs. The inspection of serving judges and magistrates and the recruitment of new ones has also been put in place, to improve the legitimacy of the verdicts.
Source: Business Daily
- Speaking to ministers and conservationists at the Durban climate talks this month, Obama hailed Maathai's life as “a testament to the power of a single person’s idea that the simple act of planting a tree can be a profound statement of dignity and hope first in one village, then in one nation, and now across Africa.”
- Maathai's legacy and accomplishments were commemorated last week in TIME Magazine's “Person of the Year” issue. Oprah Winfrey, writing for TIME, called Maathai a “peaceful warrior who used her voice for the voiceless.” She is also the subject of the 2008 documentary “Taking Root.”
- In 2004, Dr. Maathai received the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Green Belt Movement, a pro-democracy and women's rights group that inspired activists around the world. She was the first African woman to receive the prize, as well as the first female in East Africa to earn a Ph. D.
Source: The Guardian
Source: The Green Belt Movement
Source: “Taking Root” Website
- In a ceremony held in London's Central Hall on Monday, February 9, Vivian Cheruiyot was given the Laureus Award for Sportswoman of the Year. Cheruiyot won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs at last year's Track and Field World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
- Laureus is an organization dedicated to bringing people together through sport. Cheruiyot received her award alongside Laureus's Sportsman of the Year Novak Djokovic, and joined fellow Laureus award winners like golfer Rory Mcilroy and the FC Barcelona soccer team.
- Cheruiyot, already a two-time Olympian, is among the favorites to medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
- A report by Kenya-based Portland Communications and Tweetminster titled “How Africa Tweets” found that with 2.5 million tweets over a period of three months, Kenya was the second most active country in Africa.
- Uses for twitter vary: over 80 percent of those polled said they mainly used it for communicating with friends and 68 percent said they use it to monitor news. The study also found wide use of other social media services in Africa. Of the people using Twitter, 94 percent also used Facebook, 69 percent used YouTube, 46 percent used Google+ and 37 percent used LinkedIn.
- Twitter became a key tool during the Kenyan constitutional referendum in 2010. Voters and poll watchers used Twitter to communicate in real-time, and help ensure a peaceful and successful referendum.
Source: Washington Post
Source: Christian Science Monitor
- A recent African Development Bank report found that “Strong economic growth in the past two decades has helped reduce poverty significantly and lift previously poor households into the middle class,” in Kenya and in other African nations.
- With East African economies among the fastest growing in the world, and Kenya's own GDP growing