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Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

 

Innovate housing financing for affordability

By ANDREW CHIMPHONDAH
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Affordable housing in Africa should be addressed from two very critical interdependent sides: Demand and supply.

Governments are typically keen on providing mass housing by offering incentives to stimulate the supply side and subsidies to enhance affordability, critical to stimulating demand.

CAPITAL RESOURCES

Generally, they prefer delivering the house and taking full control of the process. But that is not pragmatic due to limited capital resources, given the size of the housing shortage.

Most housing policies harp on boosting supply. However, developers and construction companies are more interested in maximising profit and gravitate towards the middle- to high-end market. That leaves large sections of the lower end of the food chain unhoused or housed inadequately or indecently.

PROSPECTIVE OWNERS

Recently, however, African governments have taken a dual approach to intervene with the supply side of building houses and demand side to purchase them. They promote boosting of housing supply while exploring ways of improving demand through subsidies that help to enhance affordability and comprehensive borrower education for prospective homeowners.

Interestingly, there is a perception of a burgeoning demand for housing while the cost of houses make them unaffordable.

A study by the Centre of Affordable Housing last year estimates that the cost of an affordable unit in Africa should be $7,500 (Sh750,000) by industry standards, albeit this price point being unattractive to profit-seeking developers.

ENHANCE DEMAND

At that price, housing demand amounts to a staggering 52 million units. Only eight African countries could afford houses for more than 50 per cent of the population at that cost.

In 29 African countries, less than 10 per cent of the population would afford the cost of the unit. In Ghana, that number is five per cent and Malawi three per cent.

That points to two major observations. First, we cannot conclude that Africans are not purchasing houses because of the price without an understanding their level of affordability.

Secondly, there is a need to enhance demand for housing to make it effective. Less that five per cent of the prospective homeowners who apply for housing finance are approved.

LEAPFROG MODEL

But what is affordable? Is there an index of affordability we can ascribe to? How is Africa rising if a significant number of Africans cannot afford affordable housing?

Innovation is the mantra du jour; we are witnessing the potential of Blockchain to revolutionise transactional businesses, and how Artificial Intelligence will make life more efficient. It is no different for Africa and, given the prevalence of information sharing using the “leapfrog model”, Africa can skip several development steps by deploying new and innovative thinking.

With innovation, sometimes all that is required is to pay attention to a process. This leads us to the potential of informal land holdings and the potential for mortgages of the unbanked.

DEAD CAPITAL

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto coined the term “dead capital”, for underexploited assets. A report in the Economist magazine says De Soto put, 21 years ago in 1997, the value of Africans’ informally owned houses and farmland at roughly $1 trillion — nearly thrice Sub-Saharan Africa’s annual GDP and more than 70 times the aid the continent receives yearly.

The principle is simple: If we formalise the unbanked and tie this to property rights, Africa would see an explosion in new affordable housing possibilities for those who need it the most.

Investment behaviour tends to be more long-term and bullish if the investor feels secure, for instance, and the patch of land is guaranteed by owner rights.

UNLOCK CORNERS

It would be folly, however, to expect that that can be done immediately. It has taken some developed countries centuries to evolve these rights and, as we have seen with Blockchain, they are still changing. But we can determine best practice and sometimes this can also mean cultural practices.

There is a need to resurrect this dead capital and unlock these corners of our economy. This need transcends housing.

The consumer market in these corners of the global economy is an estimated $5 trillion. The African housing market is valued at $332 billion and against an annual $32 billion mortgage market, which represents a 90 percent room for growth.

BETTER INCENTIVES

There is a need for better incentives for mortgages in order to improve the levels of qualifying demand. More innovation in supply and demand is imperative to increase the levels of qualifying demand while leading to the large-scale production of affordable homes.

Mr Chimphondah is the chief executive officer and managing director, Shelter Afrique.


Referendum not a priority, it’ll derail ‘Big Four’ programmes

By PETER WARUTERE
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The gathering political storm over calls for a referendum to fix real and imagined weaknesses in the Constitution threatens to overshadow the economic gains that Kenyans have achieved since last year’s elections.

While need to resolve the political issues bothering Kenyans, including the costly governance structures protected by the Constitution, cannot be wished away, the timing isn’t right. The economy is just recovering from the impact of last year’s elections and needs breathing space to consolidate and scale up the gains achieved.

10M KENYANS

The economic environment has improved, underpinning better prospects for the implementation of the Big Four programmes that define President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy. In the quarter ended June 30, the economy expanded by 6.3 per cent, compared to 4.7 per cent over the same period last year, according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicators. If the trend is sustained, the growth of the national output this year is likely to be higher than the 5.5 per cent World Bank projection.

Moreover, the large-scale investment in infrastructure and social development programmes in the past decade has contributed to a significant drop in poverty levels — from 46.8 percent to 36.1 percent. Nearly 10 million Kenyans are better off than they were a decade ago.

HOUSING SCHEMES

The government’s resolve should be to deepen these gains by scaling up investments in least-cost, effective programmes that would expand opportunities for growth, reducing poverty and promoting equity in distribution of resources.

The game changers in transforming the people’s lives include scaling up investments in food and nutrition security, affordable housing and universal health coverage (UHC).

The housing programme has kicked off with projects being launched in Nairobi and other counties that have offered public land for a partnership with the government. The ambitious plan is to provide social housing schemes for Kenyans who cannot afford mortgages and low-cost mortgages with interest rates capped at 10 percent for those earning Sh15,000 to Sh50,000.

HEALTHCARE AGENDA

Implementation of UHC has progressed through the National Hospital Insurance Fund’s expanded coverage, both in membership and benefits. The government’s plan is to scale up the membership from 16.5 million to 25 million next year and 46 million by 2022.

The healthcare agenda also includes enabling millions of low-income households to buy 6kg gas cylinders, complete with burner and gas (first time only) at a discounted cost. This is intended to reduce diseases such as bronchitis caused by use of dirty fuels like wood and charcoal and save our forests.

FOOD & NUTRITION

For food and nutrition, Kenyans shouldn’t just rely on the weather as the key determinant of food stocks. This year, good rainfall distributed well across the country has improved the performance of agriculture and increased food stocks. Last year, the situation was dire and the government spent billions of shillings on food imports.

How to mitigate the weather variability has always been the problem. The solution is to expand irrigation, not just from large dams but through small individual and community programmes for water harvesting and collection of storm drain water during the rainy seasons.

PER CAPITA INCOME

Although Kenya is classified as water-scarce, it has enough rainfall to support its population. A 2006 joint report by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Agroforestry Centre may be dated but its conclusions are still valid. It says Kenya receives enough rainfall to support six times its population (now about 300 million people) and Nairobi alone has enough to supply water to 6-10 million people.

The government should ring-fence the investments to ensure that the political drive does not derail Kenya’s transition from a lower- to an upper middle-income country in the next decade. Kenya needs to grow at 10 per cent for just 12 years to achieve a per capita income of $3,956, the threshold of World Bank’s classification of upper middle-income countries.


Red flag raised on cross-county wrangles over shared resources

By KENNEDY KIMANTHI
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The second phase of devolution has reignited simmering disputes over resources, with several counties caught up in wrangles over geographic boundaries, taxation and natural wealth.

And now the national government has raised the red flag on the matter, saying these disagreements, some of which have turned bloody, should be resolved urgently through engagement and consultation.

Nearly half of the 47 counties are wrangling over cross-border resources valued at hundreds of billions of shillings.

BUREAUCRATS

Many leaders have raised concern on the adverse effects these wrangles are having on devolution and have called for amicable resolution, apart from legal action.

On Wednesday, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and his Water counterpart, Mr Simon Chelugui, said these wrangles could adversely affect devolution.

Mr Wamalwa called for resolution of cross-county conflicts on revenue sharing, human resources and management, roles that were previously carried out by bureaucrats at the national level.

CONSULTATION

“We are likely to see more of these clashes unless there is a workable framework for engagement and further consultation,” Mr Wamalwa said. He asked counties to form regional economic blocs where these disputes can be resolved.

“The national government is developing a policy on economic blocs. We are optimistic that such blocs will resolve the current resource wars between devolved units,” he said at a meeting attended by Ukambani governors to discuss Nolturesh Water Supply project.

Counties embroiled in cross-border tussles include Meru and Isiolo, over administrative boundaries.

The matter resurfaced late last month after Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi visited disputed areas such as Kiwanja and Epiding, drawing sharp criticism from Isiolo leaders.

Meru also has a border dispute with neighbouring Tharaka-Nithi County, while Nandi and Kisumu counties are wrangling over a boundary.

Nairobi and Murang’a counties are yet to agree on sharing of water from Ndakaini Dam, leading to intervention by the Council of Governors and the Devolution ministry. Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria is, meanwhile, being accused of impeding the autonomy of water companies and rolling back the gains of the Water Act.

INEQUALITIES

The Water Act 2002 was replaced by the Water Act 2016, which gave county governments the mandate to provide water and sanitation services.

On Wednesday, governors Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Joseph ole Lenku (Kajiado) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos), who was represented by his deputy, Mr Francis Maliti, made a pact on sharing of water from Nolturesh pipeline.

But before they could reach the agreement proposed by Water CS Simon Chelugui, Mr Lenku made a compelling case on injustices and inequalities on water provision in his county.

He said he had toured the Nolturesh water pipeline from Sultan Hamud and was shocked to see how water has been diverted to the disadvantage of ordinary people.

People from Makueni and Kajiado have been accused of sabotaging water supply in the two counties and sabotaging the main pipeline that runs from the base of Mt Kilimanjaro to Mavoko, redirecting almost 80 per cent of the water for personal use and irrigation.

Consequently, the Nolturesh/Loitokitok Bulk Water and Sewerage Company (Nowalsco) is facing closure due to losses and debts.

“Pertinent issues on water use must be addressed properly, not just on paper. Unless we are in this together, injustices will continue,” said Governor Lenku.

He added: “The Maasai are no longer pastoralists. They are trying a hand at farming. They need adequate water supply.”

CS Chelugui called for reconstitution of the ownership of Nolwasco and the setting up of new tariff structures.

He said water services are being affected by misunderstandings on the legal and institutional mandates assigned by the Constitution and other statutes.


Leaders want Fort Ternan crash families compensated

By SHABAN MAKOKHA
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Political leaders from western Kenya used a requiem mass in Kakamega County on Wednesday to demand compensation for the families of 58 people who perished in the Fort Ternan crash last week.

The leaders, who joined hundreds of mourners and family members of the 30 out of the 58 victims during the mass at Amalemba Grounds in Kakamega town, also asked the government to launch a commission of inquiry into the accident.

Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi, Senators Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma) and Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), former Senator Boni Khalwale, Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya also called for the arrest of police officers who were manning roadblocks between Nairobi and the accident scene.

TRAFFIC RULES

The leaders were making a series of demands, not new in the wake of public anger following last Wednesday morning crash involving a bus operated by the Western Cross Express Sacco.

They described the country’s transport system as a death trap where the role of safety has been left to a police force that has a big appetite for bribes and is unwilling to enforce traffic rules.

The politicians criticised the government and demanded the resignation of the Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary (CS) James Macharia.

However, enforcement of traffic rules is the work of the Interior Ministry through the police. Last week, the Interior CS said he took responsibility for the laxity but vowed to crack down on errant officers.

BREAD WINNERS

“The deaths were not God’s will but those who are supposed to inspect vehicles did not do their work right; those who were supposed to enforce traffic laws did not play their roles correctly. Something must be done,” said Mr Mudavadi.

Mr Mudavadi said the government should compensate the families because some of those who perished in the crash were the sole bread winners for their families.

“Insurance firms may fail to compensate the families if the bus will be found to be faulty. The government must, therefore, come in handy and compensate the bereaved families,” he said.

NATIONAL DISASTER

Mr Wetang’ula accused the Transport CS of failing to give a statement on the accident or send a condolence message to the families that lost their loved ones.

“In other countries, an accident of this magnitude would be declared a national disaster and attract the attention of the minister in charge and the Inspector-General of Police to condole with the bereaved families. But, unfortunately, this is Kenya,” said Mr Wetang’ula.

Senator Malala called for the Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet to take responsibility for the accident.

MORTUARY BILLS

The Kericho County government cleared hospital and mortuary bills for the injured and victims of the accident before releasing the bodies to their home counties.

Governor Chepkwony also joined the politicians in demanding that the accident be declared a national disaster.

Governor Oparanya urged passengers to desist from boarding overloaded vehicles.

He regretted that several rules that were intended to help curb road carnage, including use of uniform by PSV operators and mandatory seat belts, are no longer observed.


We all have a duty to stop gender violence

Despite significant attempts at curbing Gender-Based Violence (GBV), it remains the most extreme expression of unequal gender relations in society and a violation of human rights.

GBV is, arguably, a major obstacle for achievement of gender justice, posing a serious threat to democratic development and public health, and a critical barrier to sustainable development, economic growth and peace.

A World Health Organization (WHO) report says 38 per cent of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner. The Huffington Post reports that at least a third of women murdered in the United States are killed by their male partners — husbands and ex-husbands, boyfriends and estranged lovers. That is three women dead everyday. And although GBV affects both men and women, it disproportionally affects women and girls more.

HUMAN DIGNITY

Kenya, though a signatory to several related conventions, treaties and human rights standards and programmes of action, does not fare any better. The ‘Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014’ shows 45 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since they were 15.

GBV directly violates 23 rights and fundamental freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights in Chapter Four of the Constitution — including the rights to life, equality and freedom from discrimination, human dignity and freedom and security of the person.

CONTAGION EFFECT

Media reports show 10 people, most of them women and girls, were killed by people close to them in Kenya between May and September. We are inundated with news stories about violence against women.

There is a contagion effect between a highly publicised occurrence and the propensity of that translating into more incidents. The increasing cases of grisly murders of women may not be a coincidence but more of a social influence.

In a study, David Phillips, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, found that immediately after stories about suicides appeared, suicide cases in the area served by the newspaper jumped. Traffic accidents had the same pattern.

HIGH HORSE

Misogynist ideologies are being propagated on social media that women bring these atrocities upon themselves by seeking flashy lifestyles.

We all have a part to play in creating safe spaces for women — for instance, getting off our moral high horse and acknowledging that violence is being perpetrated against them.

Secondly, stop victim-blaming as it minimises the criminal act and makes the affected people less likely to come forward.

HIGHER STANDARD

Thirdly, let’s understand that women are not special; they have the propensity to be criminals, morally wayward, violent and, simply put, bad. Like men, they are flawed and should, therefore, not be victimised for being human or judged at an unfairly higher standard.

The acceptance of violence against women as the norm is, perhaps, more popular than we admit. No wonder, diehard female feminists who face violence have had to contend with it in secret. That is an acute cognitive dissonance and, until we confront this issue head-on, we will continue to battle some form of GBV.

Ms Mwende is a communications consultant. Twitter: @yvonneemwende


Why leaders are wrong

By EDITORIAL
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The biggest criticism of our politicians is their tendency to permanently engage in the pursuit of self-interest and gain. And yet, these are the same people who purport to have been inspired into leadership for public service. Nothing can be further from the truth. They are preoccupied with efforts to entrench themselves in those positions for their own benefit.

One can see why the country is always in election mode day and night, throughout the tenures of the Senate, National Assembly and county assemblies. Politicians are driven by an obsession with their own success. Even the management of funds allocated to the constituencies is manipulated to achieve political goals.

POLITICAL COMPETITION

Sadly, with the daily focus on political competition, programmes meant to improve the lives of the majority suffer. The end of one election immediately ushers in campaigns for the next. Ideally, the leaders should be delivering on their pledges and campaign promises instead of viciously defending their turf and trying to undercut those whom they perceive as their potential opponents.

Indeed, the time and terms for the delimitation of boundaries and the procedures used are well-anchored in the law and the IEBC is quite right that this is not the time for it. There are more immediate challenges and needs that the leaders should address to help improve the lives of the voters. Tackling corruption and the current economic difficulties now makes much more sense.


Support small-scale trade, boost economy

By EDITORIAL
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Small- and medium-sized enterprises portend the future growth for industry and trade in this country. They constitute the next frontier for economic growth and transformation. They contribute 25 per cent of the gross domestic product, but have potential to expand exponentially, if properly supported.

Policy papers have been published and the government has on several occasions expressed its desire to promote SMEs. However, oftentimes the discussions take place at workshops and conferences or exist just on paper. There is little evidence to demonstrate that the policymakers are actually seized of the matter and, therefore, driving it to the desire destination.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Precisely, the growth of SMEs lies in practical support, including incentives and markets for the products, which is what the government should focus on.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has aptly captured the state of SMEs and, in particular, did the right thing to admit that the government has given lip service to the sector. Speaking at a conference at Strathmore University this week, the President was candid that the government has done little to support SMEs other than giving lofty promises that are never actualised.

The role of government is basically facilitation, which means providing the right infrastructure, formulating proper policies, minimising administrative and legal bottlenecks in addition to operating a favourable financial and tax regime.

RESTRICTIVE

In reality, the obtaining scenario is restrictive and punitive. In major cities like Nairobi, the areas where SMEs operate are poorly serviced in terms of infrastructure, water and sewerage. Take the case of Gikomba, one of the country’s largest open-air markets; infrastructure and services such as security are appalling.

At the macro level, the cost of utilities such as electricity, as well as tax structures, are prohibitive, making it difficult for small-scale traders to break even, let alone make a profit. Matters are made worse by the proliferation of cheap imports arising from the liberalisation policies, which goods saturate the market and crowd out locally produced commodities. Services such as banking are equally expensive as they are generally designed for the high-end clientele, hence locking out small-scale traders.

In effect, there is clear mismatch between policy and practice in regard to small-scale trade. And this is the subject that the government must address. Large-scale enterprises are growing minimally, if not stagnating, which leaves SMEs as the alternative for economic development. The corollary, therefore, is to give serious attention to that sector. That means the national and county governments must provide infrastructure and create a conducive environment that facilitates such enterprises.


Bobi Wine visits Kenya, gets star treatment: We’ve been there before

By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO
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Youthful Ugandan MP Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known by his musician name Bobi Wine, was in Kenya last week. From arrival at JKIA, Nairobi, through a series of rallies, media events and the high and mighty of the Kenyan activist world, he received a hero’s reception and celebrity treatment.

With his Embakasi East counterpart, Babu Owino (real name Paul Ongili Owino), he addressed an enthusiastic rally at Jacaranda Grounds and together they launched a “Youth for Africa” movement.

Even hard-nosed veterans of Kenya’s activism and democracy movement told me they were impressed by Kyagulanyi, although they considered him to be a work in progress and still far from being fully-baked.

BROKEN BODY

Kyagulanyi has ridden an incredible wave ever since he was bludgeoned by President Yoweri Museveni’s guards, then jailed, in August in the aftermath of a contentious by-election in the northwestern Arua won by an independent candidate whom he backed.

First charged in a military court with treason, the case was dropped but later picked up by a regular Magistrate’s Court. Bruised and limping, Kyagulanyi was granted bail and eventually allowed to travel to the US to mend his broken body parts.

UP TO SOMETHING

A stream of international news and media appearances cast him as the face of a new politics bubbling around Africa in which youth are rejecting septuagenarian and octogenarian strongmen. Museveni, officially 74, will soon clock 33 years in power.

Are Kyagulanyi and Babu Owino up to something new?

While clearly in the past five or so years there has been cross-border political inspiration taking place in the region, especially between Kenya and Uganda (in 2013 after Kenyan activists released pigs and piglets upon Parliament to protest corruption in the Legislature, their Ugandan counterparts followed suit), we have been there before.

MAKERERE UNIVERSITY

In the 1950s, Tanzanians joined the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya. Uganda’s independence Prime Minister, Dr Milton Obote, cut his radical teeth in the early labour movement in Kenya.

In the 1960s, many of Kenya’s future radical politicians and intellectuals got their baptism at Makerere University in Kampala. And in the late 1960s and 1970s, with Dar es Salaam the liberation capital of Africa, Dar es Salaam University incubated Uganda and Kenya’s future progressive class.

STAGING POINT

In the 1970s, dictator Idi Amin was wreaking havoc in Uganda and a record number of political exiles scattered to Kenya and Tanzania. Eventually, several Ugandan dissident groups formed in Kenya and Tanzania. In late 1978, they rallied around Tanzania as it struck back against Amin and ejected him from power in April 1979.

Kenya was again an important staging point for Museveni’s National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/NRA) in the war they won in January 1986. NRA was heavily staffed by Rwandan refugees, who would defect en masse in October 1990 to launch their fight to return home. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was one of the founders of the NRA and was a senior intelligence officer when the October war started.

UGANDAN BOOTS

Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania supported various groups in the long Burundi civil war and, though they have since fallen out, President Pierre Nkurunziza was what Kenyans would call a “Kagame project”.

Kenya and Uganda backed the Sudan People’s Liberation Army of Dr John Garang — Kenya did so diplomatically and financially, but Uganda brought the sharp edge, deploying its forces to fight Khartoum. Between 1990 and the Sudan Peace Talks in Kenya in 2002, most of the major offensives against the SPLA by Khartoum were repulsed, or made possible, by extensive Ugandan boots.

MILTARY FATIGUES

Though it’s still outside the East African Community, the war that ousted DR Congo’s corrupt and enduring dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 was largely undertaken by a military consortium led by Rwanda with Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia ranged against the man who called himself “Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga”.

During Kenya’s democracy struggle in the 1990s against Daniel arap Moi, many activists fled through Uganda or were openly active there. The most prominent was Koigi wa Wamwere, who was unmistakable in his military fatigues when he was in town.

PEOPLE POWER

There has been no major ouster of an entrenched ruler or regime, which has not been possible, because a neighbour was heavily vested in backing it. The difference with Kyagulanyi’s “People Power” is that regional support for it so far is from the people, down up, not from governments. But, I guess, the Tanzanians who supported Mau Mau and the Kenyan labour leaders who supported Ugandan pro-independence politicians would say they did that, too, over 60 years ago — and won something.

Mr Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of Africapedia.com and explainer Roguechiefs.com. Twitter: @cobbo3


Guards lock up clinics in dispute over salaries

By ALEX NJERU
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Several patients in Tharaka-Nithi County were Wednesday left stranded after security guards locked up dispensaries in protest over non-payment of salaries.

The standoff, which involved other workers, crippled health services in the region as the employees resorted to the unorthodox means to push the county to pay their dues.

Patients arriving at Gaceeraka and Gitogoto dispensaries were turned away by health workers who also could not access the buildings which had been locked from outside with two huge padlocks.

GROWN TIRED

The watchman at Gaceeraka Dispensary, Mr John Mutiiria, vowed not to open the facility until he is paid his money.

“I have never received a salary since the coming in of Governor Muthomi Njuki despite reporting to work every day,” said Mr Mutiiria.

He said he had grown tired of visiting the county headquarters at Kathwana to follow up on the matter.

“Any time I ask for payment, I am told to wait,” he said.

SCHOOL FEES

He said he decided to take the bold step out of frustration after his children in secondary schools were sent home for non-payment of fees.

Residents expressed disappointment with the county government and called for an immediate solution as they threatened to hold protests.

Mr John Mutiga, a watchman at Gakurungu Dispensary in Chiakariga ward, also told the Nation that he had not been paid for the last 14 months.

He said he had borrowed a loan from a bank and he was not able to repay.

HUNDRED UNPAID

“I am totally frustrated because I borrowed money and I cannot repay since the county does not pay me,” said Mr Mutiga.

A month ago, MCAs raised concerns over cries of hundreds of unpaid county employees.

The MCAs demanded answers from the executive, which they accused of intimidating workers by threatening to sack them whenever they asked for pay.

Mitheru MCA Charles Nyaga said two watchmen working at Nithi Cultural Centre had also not been paid since August 2017.

Magumoni MCA Justin Kithinji said casuals in all health facilities and youth polytechnics in his ward had not received a salary since the current government came into office.

“Health is the most affected department and I don’t know what its executive, Dr Gichuiyia Nthuraku, is doing,” said Mr Kithinji.

He said the assembly was waiting for a report on the matter from the executive.

LIST OF WORKERS

Deputy Governor Nyamu Kagwima told the Nation that he had asked all heads of department to submit a list of all workers demanding pay so that he could follow up with the County Public Service Board. Initially, Finance executive Dorothy Igoki had told the Nation that those complaining over non-payment were sacked following an audit months ago.

Her Education, Youth and Culture counterpart Abraham Maruta said he was aware of the case of the two employees working at Nithi Tourism Centre.


Ride-hailing firm Uber launches emergency safety features on app

By ANNIE NJANJA
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Ride-hailing firm Uber has introduced new security features on its app that allow riders and drivers direct access to emergency response services, adding to a raft of measures put in place recently by the tech giant to boost safety.

Uber is set to rollout the new measures over the next few weeks to its app users in Africa including Kenya, Middle East and Europe.

The new features on the safety kit include backup contacts that will enable riders to save up to five contacts, whom they can share trip information with. It will also include an emergency button to trigger private security response from the firm’s third-party responders.

The kit’s safety centre will ensure that riders and drivers will have access to information about the trip driver and the car, customer care services, trip GPS-tracking.

Speed alerts will remind drivers and delivery-partners to maintain recommended road limits. The toolkit aims to raise the bar on safety and increase transparency, accountability and peace of mind for all users.

“With more than 15 million trips on the Uber app every day, there is nothing more important than the safety of riders, drivers and couriers. Over the last year we’ve been working to develop innovative products that increase transparency, accountability and peace of mind for all users,” said Uber’s Global Head of Safety Product, Sachin Kansal.

“The rollout of our new Safety Toolkit features across Europe, Middle East and Africa is the next step in making sure that we’re helping everyone stay safe and connected, wherever you might be,”

The safety measures are meant to improve Uber’s image following sexual harassment claims that have rocked the firm since inception. Uber has been accused over poor driver vetting.

To boost security, in June last year Uber rolled out a feature that runs real-time security checks every time drivers log in, to protect their accounts from fraudsters and boost safety of riders using its service.

The security feature requires drivers logging in to share their image, which is then verified against Uber’s records through facial recognition technology.