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Monday, November 5th, 2018


Training and funding key to health goals in Africa

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Africa is a continent of contradictions. It is the land of new opportunities and home to some of the most globally acclaimed and disruptive technologies. It is also home to many weak political, social and economic systems and millions of poor, disease burdened population.


And while the continent has in the past few decades leveraged its people’s unbridled spirit, ingenuity and capabilities and recorded some good progress in some areas, the reality is, there are sectors that are still lagging behind. The health sector is one area where Africans’ resourcefulness has not been adequately applied to address inequalities and disparities in the system, which continue to widen.

Whereas the Western world has put in place public health interventions and strategies that have reduced mortality and raised life expectancy, Africa is still burdened and grappling with treatable and preventable diseases. African children, for instance, are 16 times more likely to die before the age of five than those in the developed regions.


And while the situation can be attributed to several major factors, the one that is often not given the deserved prominence, is the underinvestment of scientific funding in the health system. The insufficient public sector funding in health research and development, means that not only is there limited innovation, medicines, vaccines or diagnostics, but the continent’s health systems are not equipped to handle emerging and re-emerging catastrophic and infectious diseases. This makes it that much harder to improve its performance in the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.

Globalisation has brought with it complexities in the spread of these diseases that are hard to treat or manage despite the efforts being made to address them. And while there’s consensus that funding of medical research should be a key priority for all governments, especially those in Africa, it is also a fact that the health sector ranks lowly on many governments’ priority national agendas if their commitment to the Abuja Declaration of 2001 is anything to go by. Nearly 17 years after they pledged to commit 15 percent of their annual budgets to public health spending, only six countries have reached and or surpassed the target. African researchers cannot continue to work in silos. Supported by the governments, they should be integrated into the larger continental community.

Africa can draw lessons from Afrique One-ASPIRE, a programme designed to expand research capacity and promote sustainable interactions among professionals in human, animal and environmental health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Funded by a consortium of donors, including nine African institutions, it is focused on endemic zoonotic diseases to put into practice the One Health approach. It has recruited more than 60 scientists, from 12 East, Central and West Africa, to conduct research on rabies, tuberculosis, brucellosis and other diseases. This opens avenues to develop health system models, share and improve their knowledge.

It will help to not only shine a spotlight on neglected diseases, but also bring the work of African scientists to the attention of the global scientific community.

Prof Bonfoh is the director, Afrique One-ASPIRE. Twitter: @babonfoh

U.N. Security Council considers lifting Eritrea sanctions next week

Nov 5 (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council is considering lifting sanctions on Eritrea next week after a rapprochement with Ethiopia, although some members want to maintain some diplomatic pressure to ensure a dispute with Djibouti is resolved, diplomats said on Monday.

A British-drafted resolution, seen by Reuters, proposes the immediate removal of an arms embargo and targeted sanctions – a travel ban and asset freeze – imposed on Eritrea. It also strongly encourages Eritrea and Djibouti to work towards normalizing ties and settling a decade-old border dispute.

However, diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said France and some other council members were keen to maintain some sort of diplomatic pressure on Eritrea. Council members can propose changes to the text during negotiations on the draft resolution this week.

A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, China, Russia, Britain or France.

When asked if Beijing was in favor of removing sanctions, Chinese U.N. Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu said: “We’re in consultations.”

Ethiopia and Eritrea in July declared an end to their state of war and agreed to open embassies, develop ports and resume flights between the two countries after decades of hostilities.

The Security Council welcomed the renewed ties in a statement at the time, but it stopped short of pledging that it could review sanctions after the United States, China, Britain, France and Ivory Coast raised concerns about linking the development.

Then in September, Eritrea and Djibouti agreed to work on reconciling. Deadly clashes broke out between the Horn of Africa countries in June 2008 after Djibouti accused Asmara of moving troops across the border.

A November 2017 Security Council resolution said the peaceful settlement of the border dispute would be a factor in any review of sanctions on Eritrea. Both the United States and China have military bases in Djibouti.

“The United States will continue to support efforts throughout the region towards peace, integration, and cooperation on shared objectives and challenges,” said a U.S. mission to the United Nations official, adding that they would not speculate on negotiations on the resolution.

Eritrea has been subjected to a U.N. arms embargo since 2009 after U.N. experts monitoring sanctions on Somalia accused Eritrea of providing political, financial and logistical support to armed groups undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia. Eritrea has denied the accusations. (Reporting by Michell Nichols at the United Nations; editing by Grant McCool)

Current English set books are ranged against boys

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There is a general concern that the gender activists majorly focus their attention on the girl-child. In addition, the Ministry of Education, through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, seems to have joined this league. The current trend on the selection of secondary school set books is worrying. I will specifically pay attention to the English set books.

From 2014 – 2017, The River and the Source by Margaret Ogola has been the compulsory novel. The text is basically centred around the achievements of women cutting across five generations. All these women are portrayed to have very strong will, a pioneering spirit and a strong sense of resilience. This runs down from Akoko, Nyabera, Awiti, Vera and Wandia to Alicia.

Being the key pillars in their respective generations, these women reveal a lot of ambition and achievement at the expense of their male counterparts. In academics, Awiti, Vera and Wandia beat the boys in their classes hands down. They are also painted to be pioneers in leadership, with Vera being the first female school captain and Wandia being the first female chairperson of the Department of Medicine at the University of Nairobi.


The strong male characters in the text are diminished. Those who suffer premature deaths include Owuor Kembo, Obura and Owang Sino. Those who survive seem to bow down to the pressure from these women. Otieno is openly blasted by Akoko. Mark, despite being in a good marriage, always seeks advice from Awiti. Aoro is at first portrayed as a mischievous boy and after he marries Wandia, he is left with the children as his wife goes to pursue her PhD. This book achieves the motive of empowering the girl-child, but not without leaving the boy child undignified.


Blossoms of the Savannah by Henry ole Kulet replaced the River and the Source in 2018 as the compulsory novel. In this text, the quest for girl-child empowerment continues. Through Resian, the girl-child is portrayed as very focused, ambitious and resilient. She refuses to get married to the rich Oloisudori in pursuit of her dream to study veterinary medicine. She is highly supported by Minik Ene Nkoitoi, a woman who graduated from Makerere University.

The value of education is only shown through these two women. The dominant male characters are portrayed as gullible, extortionists and rapists. Parsimei ole Kaelo falls into Oloisidori’s trap to lend him money. He later suffers for it when Oloisudori demands to marry his underage daughter. Oloisudori is portrayed as morally rotten. He harasses Resian sexually when he comes to their home. He is also portrayed as a dishonest character who has achieved his wealth in dubious ways. Others like Olarinkoi and the two vagabonds are portrayed as rapists.

The man who is painted in a positive light is Joseph Parmuat, the teacher who coaches Resian and Taiyo, but he dies in his attempt to save Taiyo. The last chapter ends with a song of hope for girls, which shows they are ready to fight for equity with men through education. The text has strong role models but lacks male figures to shape the boy child.


A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, the compulsory play starting next year, also has no ray of hope for the boy child. It is a text revealing the fact that, for a woman to make it in life, she must break loose. The husband of Nora, the protagonist, treats her like a doll. She breaks the rules of marriage by secretly borrowing money to save his life through forgery. Women were not supposed to handle “big” issues like acquiring large sums of money. When her husband gets to know of the long-kept secret, he scolds her. She feels unappreciated. To Nora, her husband’s health was important but to Torvald, her husband, his reputation was more important. With the resulting domestic conflict, Nora decides to walk away from the confinement of male dominance. She gives no room for negotiation and makes it clear to Torvald that their relationship is over.


Is this not what is happening in our society today? Marriages are breaking at an alarming late. The conflict resolution in this text worries me. It teaches girls that if the worst comes, they should just walk away and seek a life of their own. From this brief review, there are indicators that the Ministry of Education needs to do more in the selection of set books. Boys need strong and respectable male characters to look up to.

 Ms Njeri, a teacher of English and literature in Nyandarua County, is the founder and chairperson of Dhahabu Daima Teens Organisation. [email protected]

Uhuru pushes for more trade with China during Shanghai trip

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President Uhuru Kenyatta has invited Chinese firms to form joint ventures with local companies to create more manufacturing bases.

While acknowledging China’s leading role as a trading partner in the Kenyan economy, the President said his administration will give priority to trade and investment opportunities that lend support to the government’s Big Four Agenda especially on manufacturing.

“China now ranks as the number one trading partner with Kenya accounting for 17.2 per cent of Kenya’s total trade with the world. I would like to encourage more firms to establish joint ventures with Kenyan entrepreneurs and to increase the content of locally produced goods and services in their projects and industries,” he said in Shanghai where he gave a keynote address at the inaugural China International Import Expo.


China, a resource-hungry economy, has in recent years made inroads in African nations including Kenya.

The president’s remarks coincided with the announcement by one China’s largest tiles manufacturing firms, Keda Ceramics, that it plans to expand its operations in Kenya with the launch of the third phase of its production plant in Kajiado.


In a statement, the firm said it will invest Sh2.5 billion in that phase, pushing the total investment in the country to Sh8.1 billion since 2016 and adding 500 more jobs from 2019. This investment is expected to be a major boost to the country’s manufacturing and housing sector, said the firm’s administrative manager, Ryan Chen.

On Monday, President Kenyatta asked his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to enact measures which can raise the volume of goods coming from Africa to China. He asked more Chinese firms to invest locally, saying Kenya has one of the most conducive business environments in Africa.

LSK takes measures to weed out fake lawyers

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The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) is seeking to establish an inspectorate to lock out fake lawyers.

Chief executive officer Mercy Wambua Monday said the society has presented proposals to the National Assembly, which, if passed, will allow for creation of the body.

Ms Wambua said that the LSK has also launched a countrywide crackdown on fake lawyers.


“Quacks masquerading as licensed lawyers have been a thorn in the flesh for the LSK. However, we are keen to introduce a number of regulations to keep off imposters. Among the moves are the proposals from our Annual General Meeting last month, which seek to establish an inspectorate to ensure that the legal practice is not infiltrated by quacks,” she said.

“The LSK will not allow imposters to tarnish the good name of our profession. We are currently working with the Land ministry, the private sector, the police and the Judiciary to bring the quacks to book,” she said.

“Imposters bringing the legal profession into disrepute will be apprehended and dealt with as provided for by the law,” she said

Ms Wambua said that they had shared a list of practising, licensed lawyers with their branches countrywide. This, she added, would make it easier to arrest and prosecute imposters.

“We have security officers to track down and arrest quacks in court precincts and outside law courts,” she said.

The society also has a website where it publishes information on the status of its members. It lists lawyers who are dormant or inactive (not certified to practice), suspended, have been struck off the Roll of Advocates and, therefore, not allowed to practice and those who are active and certified to practice

The moves comes amid increasing reports that people posing as lawyers are fleecing the public in different parts of the country.

“The society has also rolled out programmes to make Kenyans aware of the legal fraternity and its operations to help them avoid quacks.

Ms Wambua advised the public to establish whether the person they are dealing with is a licensed advocate.

Solve counties' cash woes

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All the praise heaped on counties for revving up grassroots development notwithstanding, running them is proving to be a major hurdle.

And the problem revolves around what has become a perennial cash crunch due to delays by the Treasury in releasing the allocations to the 47 counties and also their inability to raise their own revenue to meet the shortfalls.

When the counties came into existence after the 2013 General Election, they were rightly perceived as a game changer in the country’s governance after many years of a centralised administration that had been accused of perpetuating the marginalisation of some regions.


Businesses quickly sprang up in the county headquarters with investments geared towards doing business with the devolved units.

Several years later, though, some have burnt their fingers, having taken loans they cannot service, after doing business with the counties, whose payments have remained elusive. Doing business with the counties has thus become some deadly business in itself.

The counties are reeling from the inability to meet their financial obligations, as their pending bills continue to pile up.

This raises the key question as to whether this popular system of governance is sustainable in the long run.


The counties are entitled to 15 per cent of the government’s audited revenue and cannot be faulted for expecting what they are legally entitled to.

However, the devolved units have also been accused of wanton wastage, pilferage of public funds and rampant corruption.

The Treasury’s tough measures to cut back on public spending were bound to adversely affect the counties.

But even as we urge the counties to also clean up their act, it is only fair that the National Treasury should endeavour to release their allocated funds promptly to enable them to plan properly to pay salaries and meet their other financial obligations.

Enforce rules to restore sanity in public transport

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When the government recently issued a two-week notice to public service vehicle operators to instal safety gadgets or face sanctions, there was no illusion that the directive would be implemented smoothly. Past experience has shown that the operators are averse to law and order.

They thrive on chaos and disorder and hence fight every attempt to tame them. But that precisely is what must be done.

Even then, it was expected that they would be sane enough and hold their horses until the deadline expires. However, that was not to be.

On Monday, the operators within Nairobi and environs withdrew their vehicles from the road, paralysing public transport.


Commuters were forced to walk long distances to work, or pay extortionate prices to the few operating vehicles or ride motorcyles with all their credulities.

Clearly, the boycott was calculated to blackmail the government so that it can rescind the notice. But that should not be. The new rules must be implemented.

The operators have a week to fix speed governors and seat belts and kit their crews as provided for in law.

They should do the needful and stop the sideshows. Nobody should entertain their complaints should they fail to meet the deadline.


The reason for the rules is to enforce order. It is incredible that we have evolved a culture of impunity on the roads and turned them into death-traps.

Reckless driving, faulty vehicles and non-adherence to traffic rules have led us to where we are to date. We have to bring that to an end.

Everybody has a duty to obey the law and the operators are no exception.

They are not any special and should not imagine they can intimidate and manipulate others to get their way.


In the countdown to the roll-out of the rules, which served us well when John Michuki was the Transport minister, the various government agencies have to devise strategies to deal with recalcitrant operators. We want a resolve to deal firmly with those who do not obey the law. Importantly, reforming the public transport sector has to take a multipronged approach.

First is to enforce traffic rules and this should include motorcyclists who have become a menace. Second, the operators must be sensitised to handle commuters with respect and dignity.


Overloading, overpricing and physical abuse must stop. Third, the government must improve the road network. Fourth, stop traffic police officers from extorting bribes from motorists. The government should not be cowed by the protests by the operators.

Instead, it must ready itself to crack down on defective vehicles and enforce the rules to create order on the roads.

Social media can effectively be used in road safety campaigns

Road safety is regarded by the World Health Organisation as one of the fastest growing threats to the lives of people across the globe.

Knowing how to drive does not necessary mean you have stopped learning. Learning and applying the knowledge are two different things. Obeying road signs is a very important aspect of good driving.


Communication and education through the distribution of road safety information are some of the important elements of all road safety strategies. It is important that road safety communicators stay in touch with the latest technology and that the newest tools of communication be used to convey road safety messages in the best way possible.


The campaign should focus on pushing for improved infrastructure, raising safety standards, proper enforcement, proper traffic control, incident response and better pedestrian management.

This will help reduce deaths on the roads and create awareness. The behaviour of people, both drivers and pedestrians would change and as a result make Kenyan roads safer.

Social media has opened a new world of communication. The platforms can be used to spread messages on road safety to help reduce deaths on the Kenyan roads.

Road safety can only be achieved with the participation of the public and social media providing the opportunity to the public to be involved in the road safety discussion and share their concerns, suggestions et, meaning a world that can assist in changing driver behaviour and enhance road safety.


 It is becoming a ritual for matatu owners to ground their vehicles whenever traffic police execute laws to the letter. That’s what they are doing right now.

They are hoping a politician may pounce on the current predicament facing them, intervene then stop the police from arresting them. In short they want to blackmail the Kenyan public into accepting their primitive, uncouth, wayward, uncivilised gangster behaviour.

While conductors have killed innocent travellers by throwing them out of moving vehicle’s after differences arise due to chargeable fare, drivers have killed passengers by dangerous driving

Matatus themselves are coloured differently from the original manufacturers colour which is a crime. Almost all don’t have functional seatbelts. Some from shear neglect are breeding grounds for fleas and bedbugs.

The sector currently is held hostage by underworld groups that extort money from matatu owners. They will resist any move to introduce any mass transport city service. Lawlessness thrives in the matatu industry and this must stop.


Some business lessons from the tragic Fort Ternan bus accident

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It has been several weeks since nearly 60 people perished in the tragic Fort Ternan road crash in Kericho County. As the dust settles on the tragedy and the story fades from the headlines, I hope some useful lessons are learnt by all stakeholders if only to make public transport a lot safer.

Even as investigations continue, there are a few facts that we know already that could offer useful insights into public transportation and the conduct of business in general.


We now know, for instance, that the bus driver, who had reportedly been with the firm for just a couple of days, had no co-driver, had probably done more hours than prescribed by law and had complained about the road worthiness of the bus. Reports indicate that the bus was overloaded to the extent that some passengers sat on soda crates. The bus was not licensed to operate at night yet it left Nairobi at midnight and at some point had to return to the stage to pick up more passengers.


Concerns have also been raised about the workmanship and quality of material used to build uses with reports that some entrepreneurs go for cheap material which easily fall apart on impact. Added to these is the bad condition of that road, which has been described as “incomplete” and lacking in signage and markings. Considering this, it is safe to conclude that the accident wouldn’t have happened and 56 lives would have been saved had the entrepreneur taken a few steps to make his business safer.

No country can develop if it does not have a vibrant private sector and an aggressive entrepreneurial class to create jobs and generate revenue for the government through taxes. However, no entrepreneur, big or small, should exempted from adhering to the laws of the land.

In the case of public transport, I hold that it is many times better to park your bus in the yard for a period as you try to get it right than to have it on the road against the law. The police may look the other way or may be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of vehicles but when something as tragic as an accident happens, you can be sure you will bear the burden alone.


The second lesson is that profit should never be the only driving motive for business. Sure, profit is important but it is only one of the three Ps and by itself, is not enough to keep a business in place in the long term. The second P refers People while the third stands for Planet. These are the three key planks not just for business but for also civil society and government. I equate it to a three legged stool. When one leg is missing, the stool may seem to stand until it is subjected to a little shaking.

For any business to succeed in the long term, it should, from the very outset, to be both inclusive and sustainable. This is not just about spending part of the revenues on corporate social responsibility. It is about ensuring that the business DNA supports people’s aspirations and protects the planet from destruction. The bus which caused the deaths of 56 people, probably did not have safety as part of its DNA.


There is a good reason why every business should never ignore people and the planet. By evaluating your full impact on people and the planet, you can come up with the correct price for your product or service. So, for instance, if a bus company is charging Sh700 per passenger for a one-way trip from Nairobi to Kakamega, it may come to the realisation that the actual fare could even be double that amount when safety, efficiency, emissions and employees are taken into consideration.

Business is not just business. Business is business when it has, as part of its DNA, a plan to advance people’s aspirations, not having a negative impact on the environment (lowering as much as possible), calculates the correct pricing for its product or service and still makes reasonable return on its investment. The bottom line is not today’s profit, but growing a sustainable business that will be good for the people, the planet and profit.

Uhuru dilemma in appeasing Mt Kenya voters and leaders

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President Uhuru Kenyatta was last week brought face to face in a most public manner with a dilemma that has faced all his predecessors.

Every president has had to find a balance between satisfying the demands of his ethnic base, and focussing on his mandate as the leader of all Kenyans.

At first glance, this should be a no brainer. The President of the Republic of Kenya is not President of the Kikuyu or Kalenjin or any other ethnic cluster.


It would be utter folly, however, for any president to disregard his political base. An undeniable, if uncomfortable, fact is that no politician in Kenya can be a national player unless he first secures a sizeable ethnic stronghold.

One may use command of a constituency to ascend to national leadership, but it is also obvious one cannot rise on an ethnic vote alone, and must build alliances and secure votes across boundaries.

The balancing act can easily be upset when provincial politicians exert pressure on a president to accord them special attention.


That is the situation President Kenyatta recently found himself in when central Kenya leaders pressed demands for what they called a fairer share of development resources.

The President rightfully reminding them that development funds are not doled out from State House, but as part of the national budgetary process in which they, as legislators, play a central role.

What really made news about the encounter, however, were the shenanigans about the presidential succession as Mr Kenyatta serves out his second and last five-year  term.

The President seemed aware that the MPs were sending a message that they have another reference point, which pays more attention to their ‘needs’. That would be Deputy President William Ruto, whose campaign for the 2022 presidential election is well underway and matching the ‘generosity’ of the Moi regime when it comes to spreading the largesse.

The President upbraided the MPs for spending all their time on premature election campaign jaunts instead of serving their constituents, and starting to behave as he was no longer of consequence.


There has been speculation, however, on what exactly the President meant. Last Friday, the two main daily newspapers ran virtually identical headlines on President Kenyatta telling the central Kenya MPs that they would be shocked on who he endorses as his successor. The interpretation was that the President meant his choice would not be Mr Ruto, but the quotes used by both papers to didn’t quite justify that conclusion.


All the same the Ruto camp was unhappy, and suspicious that the newspapers had been manipulated by his foes in President Kenyatta’s inner circle to splash a false spin on his words. Those spreading the alternative spin probably did not pause to consider that if true, a push from State House in that direction would only serve to confirm what the President meant.

There was another quote that could be even more prescient. Opening the revamped Karatina Market in Nyeri, the President defended his peace pact with Raila Odinga, saying he sought accommodation “so that we can have peace and be able to serve our people’’.

Then he turned to what could only have been in reference to Mr Ruto: “That’s what I’m telling leaders, and leaders from our region are the ones who have been captured by… I don’t know what has captured them. But now is when they want to start politicking, and I’m telling them, ‘you start but that’s your business, I’m not with you’”.

He went on to chastise those presuming he was a lame duck since he was in his last term, revealing that one of the leaders present had suggested that his “gun has run out of bullets”.

He went on to insist that while silent now, he would still have a say come the 2022 elections, warning the MPs that he would stand with those who support him in development efforts, while “The loudmouths will go home and we’ll bring in the ones who will work for the people”.

That was in specific reference to the MPs who will be seeking his support for re-election, rather than whom he supports for president.


It is germane, however, that the MPs in President Kenyatta’s crosshairs are the ones who have joined the Ruto campaign train, and they are generally being told to cease and desist.

Whether they will heed the warnings is another issue altogether. A lot will depend on whether an outgoing president retains the clout to dictate the political direction in his community, if not across the country. That might be a hard sale unless Mr Kenyatta can rise to transcend the holding of elected office.