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Sunday, October 7th, 2018

 

US to counter China with new Africa plan

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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US President Donald Trump is expected within days to approve an initiative to overhaul the US investment strategy in Africa.

Kenya is likely to benefit from the plan designed by key figures in the US Congress in response to China’s enhanced economic and political influence in the sub-Saharan region. A State Department official told reporters last week that the shift will offer Africa “a better alternative to Chinese state investments.”

Known as the Build Act (Better Utilisation of Investments Leading to Development Act), the legislation will double, to $60 billion, funds for promoting US corporate investment in Africa.

DIRECT INVESTMENTS

“Our theory on engagement (in Africa) is that it should be led by the private sector,” said Manisha Singh, the top business-focused official in the State Department. The Build Act reflects that emphasis, Ms Singh added. It is “very different” from China’s approach, she said. “Predatory lending” is a hallmark of China’s government-directed investment strategy in Africa, added Matthew Harrington, an assistant secretary in the State Department’s Africa Bureau who also spoke at the October 4 press briefing.

But following China’s lead, the Build Act will also enable a newly created US government agency to take an equity stake of its own in development projects in Africa.

The US government entity that the Build Act replaces had not been permitted to make direct investments of that sort. Its mandate was limited to activities such as underwriting risk insurance for US companies venturing into emerging markets.

MORE COMPETITIVE

Trump administration officials say they cannot yet provide specifics on how the new International Development Finance Corporation will benefit Kenya. But they add that the increased funding provided by the Build Act will likely lead US private businesses to invest more aggressively in countries such as Kenya that are viewed as posing comparatively less risk.

“It makes US companies more competitive and reduces the risk in a growing market that is not well understood by American business,” Witney Schneidman, an Africa specialist at a Washington consulting firm, wrote regarding the Build Act in a recent blog post.

The legislation soon to be signed into law by President Trump has also drawn criticisms.

Raj Bhala, a US law professor and adviser to the Dentons investment consulting firm, argues that the $60 billion in funding for the Build Act is too “paltry” a sum. 


Anchor economic blocs in law to realise potential, governors told

By KENNEDY KIMANTHI
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By MACHARIA MWANGI
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A majority of county assemblies are yet to ratify legal instruments to anchor the regional economic blocs in law, threatening to derail the partnerships intended to help drive growth.

This means the more than 40 out of the 47 counties involved in such groupings cannot implement ideas contained in policy documents formulated by members of the regional blocs outside legal and institutional frameworks.

A reading of the Constitution and relevant statutes such as the County Governments Act, the Inter-Governmental Relations Act and the Public Finance Management Act indicate that there is no legislation, or policy framework, to guide and regulate these kinds of relationships.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

It is for this reason that the Devolution ministry and Council of Governors (CoG) are jointly developing a common policy to provide for the establishment, composition, management, operations and governance of such blocs.

“Both levels of government will, through a technical committee, develop a policy and legal framework to provide the composition and governance of Regional Economic Blocks (REBs),” said CoG’s Legal and Human Rights committee chairman Kivutha Kibwana.

Additionally, challenges such as financial contributions to bloc activities and projects, conflict resolution and administrative structures will be best served by a policy framework that provides guidelines in the engagement of counties.

PERTINENT QUESTIONS

According to CoG, there are six economic blocs formed by counties brought together by common interests such as marketing agricultural produce and tourism sites, as well as enacting trade and investment laws that cut across their regions.

They are the North Rift Economic Bloc, Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC), Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB), Jumuia ya kaunti za Pwani, Central Economic Bloc and the South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc.

But the delay by assemblies to enact legal provisions to operationalise such trade blocs has brought about pertinent questions on their success, with devolution experts warning that counties should tread carefully.

VICIOUS WAR

While the partnerships will help drive growth plans and speed up economic development, the premise on which these regional economic blocs are founded has been questioned.

Nearly half of Kenya’s 47 counties are involved in a vicious war for cross-border resources — which could run into hundreds of billions of shillings — with one or more neighbours and are moving their mandate to protect what they have.

For instance, Nairobi and Murang’a counties are embroiled in a fight over water from Ndakaini dam. The Murang’a leadership has proposed that Nairobi be taxed a 25 per cent levy for the use of water from the dam.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

Kiambu, which borders Nairobi and Machakos counties, as well as Kilifi, which borders Tana-River, Mombasa and Taita-Taveta, early this year passed laws barring Kenyans from other counties from taking more than 30 per cent of the job openings in the two counties.

Meru County is still embroiled in border disputes with its neighbours, Isiolo and Tharaka-Nithi.

County Assemblies Forum secretary-general Eric Mwangi acknowledged the delays but said public participation processes have started.

ATTRACT INVESTMENTS

“The way counties are currently structured, they are too small to leverage on huge economic activities. Therefore, for better coordination, they should form the blocs to attract investments and assemblies have a crucial role in this,” said Mr Thomas Tödtling, the project director of Konrad Adenauer Foundation which monitors devolution issues in Kenya.

But FCDC CEO Simba Guleid argued that while it is good for assemblies to ratify the legislations, it is not a must. “The blocs are an executive creation of governors where like-minded counties sign Memoranda of Agreement signifying how they wish to co-operate and in what specific areas. The passing of Bills recognising the blocs is merely for sustainability and not a legal requirement,” Mr Guleid stated.

However, LREB chief executive officer Abala Wanga says county assemblies are crucial to the bloc’s success. Kakamega assembly is the first to pass a Bill ratifying the formation of LREB.


Lower power costs for real this time around

By EDITORIAL
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Kenyans have been grappling with a high cost of electricity that has had an adverse impact on the economy. Early in the year, Kenya Power suddenly hit consumers with hefty bills that caused an uproar. Indeed, this culminated in a public interest court case that has challenged the bills.

In turn, the government was compelled to intervene with the promise to reverse the pricing. But there has never been a significant change; the costs have kept rising, worsening in July, when the Energy Regulatory Commission introduced a new billing system. Besides, the bills are erratic, such that consumers cannot accurately project their expenditure on electricity month on month.

PINCH OF SALT

Yet electricity should be a low consumer item. Unfortunately, the production, processing and distribution of electricity is characterised by wastage, pilferage and inefficiencies. Worse, billing is recklessly done and, often, exaggerated bills imposed on consumers, who have no option but to pay. It is all about the curse of a monopoly that forces its will on consumers and always has its way.

Energy Minister Charles Keter has once again promised to lower the cost of electricity this week. But we have heard such promises several times before and learnt to take them with a pinch of salt. It has become a broken record. For Mr Keter to change this perception, he must enforce the directive. He must honour his pledge. ERC should seize itself of the matter and do fresh costings.

SHRINKS INCOMES

For the past few years, the Jubilee government has undertaken massive expansion of electricity coverage. Thousands of households have been brought onto the national power grid under the Last Mile electricity supply programme. Concomitant to that is the drive to make electricity affordable. But all these great initiatives come to naught when Kenya Power imposes huge fees on consumers.

The challenge with high cost of power is its negative impact on the economy. It shrinks household incomes and raises the cost of industrial production and service delivery. Increased production and manufacturing cost is a disincentive to investors and makes ours a hostile environment to do business.

PROPER STRATEGY

Besides reducing costs, the Energy ministry must deal with reliability and efficiency of power. Outages have become rampant, posing a serious challenge to consumers, especially manufacturers, who require a constant supply of electricity.

It also needs a serious strategy to deal with electricity pricing and supply. Relying on hydro-power as we do and contracting independent power producers at exorbitant rates cannot guarantee adequate and affordable power. Pronouncements on electricity costs are meaningless unless backed with a properly thought out strategy. Even then, the government must reduce electricity costs.


Give counties technical support in PPPs

By NDERI NDIRIANI
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Public-Private Partnership is extensively touted as a viable alternative source of capital investment for infrastructural projects. PPPs have significant transformative potential nationally and within the devolved governance.

Uptake and successful conceptualisation and implementation of PPP projects is, however, dependent on the level of knowledge, expertise and technical know-how of the contracting authority, which counties are.

LOW UPTAKE

Unfortunately, going by the statistics provided by the  Public Private Partnership Unit (PPPU) at the National Treasury, counties seem to be groping in the dark as far as this financing model is concerned, even though the term ‘PPP’ is a constant terminology in their respective County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs).

There is a glaring disparity of PPP expertise between the national government and counties. The irony of low uptake has triggered policymakers to wrongly think that the solution lies in amending the Public Private Partnership Act 2014, hence its proposed amendment.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The Act may not be friendly to the counties; however, the main thrust is not lack of a facilitative legal framework but dearth of software in terms of technical knowhow. Aiming to put counties at par with the national government through a list of PPP projects to be approved by the PPP Unit and the Cabinet is not the solution.

Only three counties — Laikipia, Nakuru and Murang’a — have initiated PPP projects that didn’t hit the tendering stage, a clear indicator of lack of capacity by counties to pursue PPP to bridge the financing gap.

Probably, this would also explain why, despite pompous investors conferences held by some counties in the previous regimes, where memoranda of understanding (MoUs) worth billions of shillings were signed with the would-be investors never took off.

REQUIRED EXPERTISE

Some counties have even contemplated enacting their own independent PPP Acts, probably out of frustration. Of course, that would be futile.

There are a myriad other factors that curtail the potential of counties to fully exploit PPPs, the cardinal one being the lack of policies to create a conducive investment environment.

The Treasury has a key role to play in ensuring that counties get the requisite skills, knowledge and expertise in initiating and running PPPs. It should also enlighten counties on the legal framework and the required expertise.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The Council of Governors (CoG) should pursue capacity building in a more focused manner and with utter determination. Further, the question of control of projects initiated by this model should not elude the policy implementers.

Finally, the risks to the macroeconomic dynamics of the country, even in terms of debt levels, should be an issue of concern. additionally, the undying constitutional principles of accountability, transparency and value for money should be adhered to.

Mr Ndiani, the Clerk to the County Assembly of Nyandarua, is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]


It’s only fair that we don’t mix misogyny with sexual offences

By KALTUM GUYO
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During the lecture on sexual offences in college, most of my male classmates could not stop giggling. They were tickled by the intimate details on the laws surrounding ‘penetration’.

This was a criminal law class, where future lawyers were being equipped with the tools to help victims of sexual violence. The insensitivity was shocking but there is still a sense that patriarchy does not seem to take sexual violence towards women that seriously.

A lot of nuances of sexual offences in Africa seem lost in the midst of cultural norms in customary law. With the rise in sexual violence, especially against girls and women, it is important to divorce misogyny from sexual abuse matters.

GOLDEN BLUDGEON

When in 2016 Justice Said Juma Chitembwe acquitted a man engaging in sexual acts with a minor, I was horrified. He decided the case on the basis that “the child appeared willing to have sex with the defendant and the frequency with which she visited the man indicated she was fully aware of her actions thus had to be treated as an adult”.

The ruling was condemned internationally and went on to win Justice Chitembwe the Golden Bludgeon ‘award’ in Spain by Women’s Link Worldwide, beating 18 other cases to emerge the worst ruling for women’s rights in 2016. It remains the worst, moreso with the spike in sexual abuse against minors.

The glaring issue with Justice Chitembwe’s decision in the case is his departure from the law. Regardless of the number of times the minor engaged in a sexual act with the offender, there was no justification to set a dangerous precedent that could put many other minors at risk.

MENTAL ILLNESS

The law on age of majority in Sexual Offences Act was enacted in order to offer protection to minors. The issue of consent in this regard cannot arise for a person as young as 13. The only time she ought to be considered an adult is when she reaches the age of majority, which is 18.

Such a decision may not also have considered the risk vulnerable girls can be put to; for example, those with mental illness or other disabilities.

The ruling did not take the issue of grooming into account either. A lot of minors end up being abused by adults who groom them from a young age in order to set them up for years of sexual abuse. There have been cases in northern England, where a group of young vulnerable girls from challenging backgrounds were plied with alcohol and drugs and taken advantage of by being passed around men.

TV PERSONALITY

Grooming of children is one issue that, perhaps, we have swept under the carpet but is a reality in many poor neighbourhoods. And we have to wake up to it.

It can be through the use of intoxicants or unsolicited gifts. Even adult females have found themselves in the hands of sexual predators, as witnessed recently in the case involving American comedian Bill Cosby, who was recently convicted of such crimes.

Cosby drugged young female fans and violated them sexually during his time as a television personality.

Patriarchy seems to feel entitled to sexually abuse the female, as envisaged in the characters of the incels (involuntary celibates) in the recent past. These were a group of young men who felt the need to violate the right of women to ‘give consent’ by raping them if they turned down their advances. The formed the online movement to advance their warped idea.

DISTURBING RULING

The incels blamed the feministic agenda of empowerment for denying them the right to engage in sexual acts on their terms. When rebuffed, they used force. Gladly, their social media presence has since been erased.

It was disturbing, therefore, to see a judge rule in favour of an abuser based on the patriarchal pre-disposed idea of entitlement.

For centuries, the girl-child had no say in her sexuality or affairs and it was acceptable to marry and violate girls at a tender age. This culture has been found to disadvantage girls by interfering with their schooling and socio-economic advancement.

Age of consent is important in order to create equal opportunities for both boys and girls; otherwise, the girl-child would always lag behind. Most importantly, it was brought in to protect young girls, in particular, from sexual abuse by adults. That’s why is worrying to see the law on sexual offences being reversed, least of all in a court of law!

PREDATORS REGISTER

Personal misogynistic views and considerations should never be allowed to occlude judgment in sexual offences cases. The law must be the guiding factor, unless there are legal fundamental reasons to depart from it.

A change of attitude by men, especially within the criminal justice system, on sexual abuse would go a long way in tackling the problem and offer the much-needed protection to victims of sexual abuse and violence. Expediting investigations, lab tests and treatment would equally hasten justice for victims.

What is required, above all, is a register of sex offenders to record details of sexual predators in order to save vulnerable children, girls and women from sexual abuse.


Team’s situation a shame

By EDITORIAL
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It’s a tragedy that both the government and Football Kenya Federation are yet to embrace the fact that the national football team, Harambee Stars, is close to qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The team now needs only four points from their remaining matches — with Ghana and Ethiopia — after Sierra Leone were banned by the world football governing body, Fifa.

Harambee Stars meet Ethiopia on Wednesday and Sunday in their Group ‘F’ matches. Beating the northern neighbours over two legs would see Kenya qualify for the premier continental championship, ending a 14-year jinx.

However, the emerging sideshows, with the Kenya coach Sebastien Migne threating to quit over unpaid salaries, is sure bad recipe for failure. This comes weeks after some key players also turned down call-ups to the national team for lack of motivation.

NO SPONSOR

There has been no cohesion in the team’s training. There is no residential training, while locally based players only linked up with their 14 foreign-based colleagues in Ethiopia for the match.

Finances have emerged as the biggest threat to Kenya’s plans. FKF has been pointing fingers at the Sports ministry, accusing it of neglecting the team. While this may be true, it begs the question, how come the national team does not have a financial sponsor? And what was the wisdom of acquiring a Sh130 million second-hand outside broadcasting van during such dire financial times?

The team is a national asset having multiple sources of revenue will ease the burden on both the government and the federation. Our western rivals, Uganda, are not struggling to get sponsors. In fact, they are spoilt for choice with Airtel, Nile Special, NIC Bank and BUL coming on board.

The prevailing state of affairs at Harambee Stars is a national disgrace. It’s simply unacceptable and must be rectified.


Every four of 100 deaths in Kenya linked to alcohol use

By PAULINE KAIRU
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Four out of every 100 people who lost their lives in Kenya in 2016 did so as a result of alcohol abuse, the most recent report on the subject says.

The report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday also shows that alcohol consumption has become alarmingly routine among minors.

Use of illicit brews commonly referred to as “changaa” or “kumi kumi” remained predictably high, at 37 per cent of all the alcohol consumed.

In Kenya, the prevalence of alcohol use disorders was at 4 per cent, that of alcohol dependence at 1.4 per cent, and that of harmful use of alcohol at 2.6 per cent of the entire population.

UNACCEPTABLY HIGH

WHO says the overall burden of disease and injuries caused by harmful use of alcohol is unacceptably high.

And it is worried that the alcohol pandemic is preventing affected populations from achieving a number of health-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including those for maternal and child health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and mental health, injuries and poisonings.

“Far too many people, their families and communities suffer the consequences of harmful use of alcohol through violence, injuries (including road accidents), mental health problems, poisoning and diseases like cancer and stroke,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, in a press release sent to newsrooms. He adds: “It’s time to step up action to prevent this serious threat to the development of healthy societies.”

DISEASE BURDEN

The report also considers the disease burden attributable to high-risk alcohol use. Of all deaths attributable to alcohol, 28 per cent were due to injuries, such as those from traffic crashes, self-harm and interpersonal violence; 21 per cent due to digestive disorders; 19 per cent due to cardiovascular diseases, and the remainder due to infectious illnesses, cancers and mental disorders, among others.

Around the world, according to the analysis by WHO, more than three million people died as a result of alcohol use. This means one out of any 20 deaths reported that year around the globe was as a result of an alcohol-related malady.

Of all these deaths, more than three quarters were among men. Globally, an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women suffer from alcohol-use disorders.

14.1 LITRES

But startlingly also, worldwide, more than a quarter, or 27 per cent of all 15—19-year-olds, are current drinkers.

For Kenya, the survey found that there was prevalence of heavy episodic drinking among 14 of all 100 15-19 year olds.

The data contained in WHO’s Global Status Report on alcohol and health 2018, says research is now showing that generally the harmful use of alcohol causes more than 5 per cent of the global disease burden.

According to the report, Kenyans above the age of 15 recorded a total alcohol per capita consumption (APC) of 3.4 litres in pure alcohol. That is to say that every single Kenyan (including those that do not drink) above the age of 15 imbibed those many litres of pure alcohol in 2016 — the year under study. This translates to 14.1 litres of pure alcohol for drinkers only.

Kenyans’ average daily intake in grammes of pure alcohol was 30.4 grammes that year.

This is only a few grammes shy of the global average daily consumption of people who drink alcohol, which was 33 grammes of pure alcohol a day; roughly equivalent to two glasses (each of 150ml) of wine, a large (750ml) bottle of beer or two shots (each of 40ml) of spirits.

Of the kinds of alcohol Kenyans consumed, 39.8 per cent was made up of beer, 37 per cent by ‘others’ which predominately comprise the illicit brews often known locally as “changaa” or “kumi kumi”, 21.4 per cent spirits and 1.8 per cent by wine.

Men drank five times more alcohol than women.

RESTRICTING ADVERTSING

The report paints a grim picture of the toll that alcohol consumption has had on public health and the disease burden attributable to the alcohol pandemic globally.

WHO prescribes what countries   ought to do to reduce this burden. To this end, the organisation has launched an initiative dubbed SAFER, proposing strategies that governments can adopt to support them take practical steps to reduce harmful use of alcohol, accelerate progress on health, and beat non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Some of the suggestions include taxing alcohol and restricting advertising.

Global consumption was predicted to increase in the next 10 years.

SOCIAL COSTS

How much alcohol are people drinking around the world? School surveys indicate that, in many countries, alcohol use starts before the age of 15, with very small differences between boys and girls.

Worldwide, 45 per cent of the total recorded alcohol consumption is in the form of spirits. Beer is the second alcoholic beverage in terms of pure alcohol consumed (34 per cent), followed by wine (12 per cent).

Restrictions needed

“All countries can do much more to reduce the health and social costs of the harmful use of alcohol,” said Dr Vladimir Poznyak, coordinator of WHO’s Management of Substance Abuse Unit. “Proven, cost-effective actions include increasing taxes on alcoholic drinks, bans or restrictions on alcohol advertising, and restricting the physical availability of alcohol.”

HEALTH EQUITY

Higher-income countries are more likely to have introduced these policies, raising issues of global health equity and underscoring the need for greater support to low- and middle-income countries like Kenya.

Almost all (95 per cent) countries have alcohol excise taxes, but fewer than half of them use other price strategies such as banning below-cost selling or volume discounts.

The majority of countries have some type of restriction on beer advertising, with total bans most common for television and radio but less common for the Internet and social media.


If fossil fuel is too expensive, go for biodiesel to fuel cars

By DAN ODIDO
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When the German engineer Rudolf Diesel invented an efficient engine that would bear his name, the idea was to provide affordable energy for smaller industries and farmers.

Diesel initially powered his engine using peanut oil and coal dust; it was designed to use vegetable oils. He eventually discovered that the by-product of crude oil distillation, ‘distillate’, was the best match. This was eventually renamed to ‘diesel fuel’ as it’s widely known.

Diesel noted in 1912: “The use of vegetable oils as engine fuels may seem insignificant today but such oils may become, in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal-tar products of the present time.”

EXCISE DUTY

That time has arrived. Vegetable oils do not pollute and are environmentally clean; they are a renewable form of energy. However, the use of renewable energy sources raises issues of public taxation, especially when used to power motor vehicles.

Fossil fuel is not intrinsically expensive; the consumer price is escalated because governments consider it a convenient vehicle for taxes. Fuel is the blood of the economy— powering vehicles and industries and used in households for cooking, any tax on fuel touches everyone.

Excise duty is charged on fossil fuels due to its polluting nature and is expected to internalise the externalities associated with pollution. The difference in price between super, regular, diesel and kerosene is purely the result of the taxation policy.

Also charged on the fuel are merchant shipping, road maintenance, petroleum development, petroleum regulation and railway development levies. Other costs include storage, transportation and oil marketers’ margins.

Tax and levies constitute the largest fraction to the cost of fuel in Kenya — about half of the price. Also, marketers have previously colluded and exhibited monopolistic tendencies in their pricing. The Energy Regulatory Board (ERC) has attempted to curb this by capping pump prices, which marketers take as a de facto price control and quote the maximum, regardless of costs.

‘Manufacturing’ your own fuel — such as renewable ones — will cut out the middlemen and deliver substantial cost savings. If you fuel your car with it, however, you will not be paying the road maintenance levy!

MODIFICATION

A few years ago, UK traffic police carried out raids to catch those using cooking oil to power vehicles and charged them with tax evasion. UK law now allows one tax-free usage of up to 2,500 litres of vegetable oil in vehicles yearly. Many other countries give tax breaks for use of renewable fuels in cars.

But the use of vegetable oil as fuel should, ideally, not be subject to excise duty since it is ‘green’ and not polluting.

The use of vegetable oil in cars is a mature technology and is widely applied. You can hack and modify your engine. Modification kits are commercially available in many countries. You will, however, need to consider a few issues.

THREE FORMS

Vegetable oil can be used in three forms: Straight as pure plant oil (PPO); first utilised for other purposes and then the waste used for automotive purposes (waste vegetable oil, WVO); or first converted to ‘biodiesel’. The typical diesel engine can use the fuel in any forms. Biodiesel can be used without any further processing or engine modification.

WVO may be obtained from typical restaurants, chips joints and other food processors that deep-fry their food. And since it may contain animal and fish oil from cooking, a more accurate term is ‘used cooking oil (UCO)’. Due to impurities, the oil first needs some processing. Vegetable oil is also much thicker (viscous) than diesel and may crystallise in cold weather.

The use of biodiesel, made using natural vegetable oils and animal fats and also WVO, generally does not require modification to a diesel engine.

INNOVATORS

Popularising the use of renewable energy has several benefits to the economy. It releases pressure from the importation of fossil fuel, saving foreign exchange; enhances energy independence; develops non-traditional industries, broadening the manufacturing base; and provides employment.

The policy framework is, largely, in place. It is up to the innovators to take up the challenge and provide us with affordable cleaner energy.

Mr Odido heads the Department of Flying Studies in the School of Aerospace Sciences of Moi University. [email protected] Twitter: @aerospaceKenya


We need to devise new strategies to provide water for all Kenyans

The stand-off between Nairobi and Murang’a counties over water brings into focus the thorny issue of guaranteeing access to the commodity to, especially, urban populations.

The ongoing verbal exchange between the respective county governors Mike Sonko and Mwangi wa Iria may offer political comic relief but it only shows how leaders don’t understand the complexity of increasing urban populations vis-a-vis availability of basic commodities such as water.

Nairobi, just like other African cities, is grappling with an acute shortage of water. With an increasing rural-urban migration as people seek opportunities, there is another painful reality: The few water sources have been polluted downstream or grabbed to put up high-rise buildings.

SECURITY CONCERN

Again, Nairobi is a pointer to the crisis our cities are sitting on.

With this sad reality obtaining, the only clear picture is that of long lines of urban dwellers making a fight for the few running taps. And with water rationing schedules planned for years, the problem goes beyond water into a security concern.

For instance, Nairobi residents have to contend with a rationing regime that stretches into 2026 with the probability of a further extension being high.

In informal settlements, women and young girls have to risk attacks, including rape, by gangs in pursuit of the precious commodity. Most of these gangs are politically connected and have the audacity to disconnect millions of people from water supply as they seek to mint billions of shillings from the ensuing high demand.

4 MILLION RESIDENTS

In the rural areas, women lose many productive hours walking to fetch water away from home. School-going girls have to skip classes to help their mothers.

If the recent high-level exchanges are anything to go by, we are far from striking the wells of water for the rising populations. Granted, the over four million Nairobi residents deserve access to water, just like their Murang’a neighbours.

Herein lies the problem: To give the dwellers of Nairobi water, we must ‘rob’ those of Murang’a.

Whereas this has been the easy route, however, the reality is that it is not sustainable. We must rewrite the script in water management and provision.

MORE WORRYING

A report released in February by the accounting firm Deloitte on the water situation in African cities shows a need to plan better for the increasing populations to ensure access to water.

“Nairobi’s water system was planned for a population of about a million but it now has more than four million,” reads the report, calling for urgent advance planning by policy makers.

The Murang’a-Nairobi battle has the potential of spilling over into other counties with uglier scenes in the arid and semi-arid regions, which have perennially lacked water since Independence.

More worrying is that we are staring at more vicious struggle for water and more counties are likely to increase claim to ‘their’ water sources that quench their neighbours’ thirst.

BENJAMIN OBEGI, Nairobi.


Fight rape culture, the unacknowledged monster amongst us

Of late, we have seen and heard about campaigns to raise awareness about mitigations pertaining to rape culture, whose existence is not acknowledged.

This vice spreads its roots far and wide and it needs to be addressed with immediate promptitude.

Rape culture is normalisation and pervasiveness due to societal opinions about sexuality and gender. It strips off the criminal aspect on rape and related assaults and permits perpetrators to commit the heinous acts and walk free. As such, people of both genders fall prey to it.

The Gender Violence and Recovery Centre, a non-profit branch of The Nairobi Women’s Hospital, recently released some shocking statistics on the vice. About 20 cases were reported for inpatient and 75 outpatient males while for females it was 99 cases for inpatient and 1,023 for outpatient.

VICTIMS MURDERED

A further 32 inpatient cases and 161 outpatient male children were recorded in addition to 153 inpatient and 1,191 outpatient female children.

The statistics also reveal that 62 per cent of reported rapes were by a person with a direct or an indirect relationship with the victim.

In worst-case scenarios, the victims get murdered.

To understand the dangers of the normalisation of assault, we need to understand the extent of the statistics and the potential of damage that it holds.

We need to stand up and stamp out the rape culture by holding high our values and respecting one another. Also, perpetrators of sexual attacks should face the full force of the law.

ONYIMBO NELSON, Kisumu.