Business

Microsoft unveils Africa advisors

Microsoft has presented the first four-member board of the Microsoft 4Afrika Advisory Council, an external board of advisers tasked with guiding strategic investments undertaken by the company in Africa. The board that was officially announced in October last year and features a Rwandan, Akaliza Keza Gara, an entrepreneur and founder of a multimedia company, was presented in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Tuesday. The youthful board will be tasked with presenting issues facing Africa’s rural and urban youth, including unemployment, education and access to technology. The initiative will facilitate Microsoft’s active engagement in Africa’s economic development. Akaliza Keza Gara, who represents the East African region, said that she would use the opportunity to share opportunities in the use of technology to impact people’s lives. “I hope that I will be able to represent my region well by sharing the unique needs and opportunities that exist. My role involves sharing my own experience working in the tech industry in East Africa, and the stories of youth in my social and business circles, to help the initiative better understand the region and inform them about the existing activities promoting ICT for development.” Tayeb Sbihi, a Moroccan entrepreneur who is also a board member, said that the diversity of the board was an advantage that would create different insights as well as bring out a range of ideas. “Our skills complement each other, and we bring different insights, be it technological, political, environmental or social. We represent a good mix, and we will work together to do something good,” he noted. Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, the chairman of Microsoft 4Afrika Advisory Council, said the youth are playing a big role in presenting solutions in various sectors through ICT which has helped create employment opportunities. “The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) field is not only redefining how we conduct our major businesses on the continent, it is increasingly improving the efficiency of critical support services such as education, health, and disaster mitigation and management,” Mkapa said. “Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative will be critical in defining a framework that other global and indigenous organisations in the ICT space can adopt to leverage this emerging space and promote economic development in Africa. We are excited about the induction of the new 4Afrika Advisory Council youth members because it helps the initiative stay true to the spirit of youth, enterprise and innovation”. By Collins Mwai, The New Times

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Kenya tour operators now welcome to Tanzania

NAIROBI, KENYA: Kenya has finally resolved a long-standing dispute with Tanzania, which initially restricted her tour operators from dropping off tourists to sites within the neighbouring country. East African Affairs Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie (front right) with her counterparts from Uganda and Tanzania The breakthrough was realised by East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie during a two-day stakeholders meeting in Arusha, Tanzania. While Tanzanian operators have been dropping off tourists to Kenyan towns, including the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, the Tanzanian authorities had restricted their Kenyan counterparts to dropping off their tourists in Arusha, Dodoma, Moshi, Musoma and border towns of Namanga, Isebania and Lungalunga. During the talks which were concluded on Thursday, Kenya and Tanzania agreed to fully implement a bilateral agreement signed between the two countries in 1985. The agreement spells out how tour operators will conduct their business across the borders. The agreement also outlines among other things the drop and pick up points for tourists visiting both countries. The two countries however agreed to hold a bilateral meeting in the coming months in order to update the agreement to incorporate emerging issues. Kandie has hailed the progress, terming it “a win-win situation for all”. “The arrangement will encourage private sector to private sector partnership between the operators in the two countries. This is timely and in accordance with the introduction of a single regional visa.” On the sidelines of the meeting on “Issues on Tourism and Wildlife Management”, Kenya and Uganda held exploratory talks to prepare grounds for a proposed bilateral meeting which will lead to the signing a bilateral agreement on tourism and wildlife management. By OSCAR OBONYO, The Standard

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MOTV sues UCC over out-dated decoders

Digital satellite television service provider, MOTV Africa Limited, is demanding sh14.6b compensation from the regulator of broadcasting and communication services, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) for financial loss over outdated decoders. MOTV Africa dragged UCC to the Commercial Court accusing it of dishonesty. It contends that it pioneered digital terrestrial broadcasting in Uganda, and introduced DVT-B standard, after getting certification from the Government to embark on the project. The UCC, according to the complainant, changed the technology to DVT-B2 standard without consulting stakeholders on the implications of the move. The case was filed in court by Byenkya, Kihika and Company Advocates on February 12. MOTV Africa says the unilateral decision by UCC to change the technology from DVT-B to DVT-B2 was contrary to the declared government policy and consequently unlawful, null and void. MOTV Africa complained that the change in technology made its technology obsolete and irrelevant to consumers. The particulars of damages amounting to sh14b include loss of capital equipment, pre-operating expenses, operational expenses and projected profits, the digital TV company said. July 2011 had been set as a switch-on date for digital television services and December 2012 as a switch-off date for analogue TV broadcasting. But the position for digital migration has since changed, with UCC setting December this year as the roll out of digital migration to replace analogue television transmission. The implication is that analogue television transmitters will be shut down and only digital television signal will be accessible. The global deadline for digital migration is June next year. Television set owners are expected to acquire compliant decoders to enable them access digital television services. In its summary of evidence, MOTV claims it relied on Government policy when making its investment in the technology that has now been rendered obsolete by UCC’s actions. The regulator has not yet responded to the accusations. The hearing date of the case is also yet to be set. By Andante Okanya, The New Vision

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Uganda: Sh2b fruit bottling plant commissioned

Sarah Kataike the state minister for Luweero triangle has commissioned a sh2b bottling plant in Kawempe in a move to add value to Uganda’s agricultural products. Sarah Kataike, the state minister for Luweero Triangle and other delegates being taken around J and S Bottling Company. Photo by Abu Mwesigwa The factory is equipped with machines to process fresh fruit into bottled juice. Its main source of raw material is the recently commissioned Bulemezi food processing plant in Kapeeka, Nakaseke. The J&S bottling company is currently producing tomato sauce, mango juice and chili sauce from locally procured raw materials. “Uganda’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture. This factory is the next step in value addition,” Kataike, who represented President Yoweri Museveni, said at Kawempe Muslim Primary School grounds after commissioning the factory. “We have been losing a lot by exporting unprocessed agricultural products. Value addition will keep the jobs and money in the country,” she added. According to Shadrack Nzeire, one of the proprietors of the J&S bottling plant, the company has contracted 300 out-growers in the Kapeeka region and has given them seedlings. “Our main aim is to create jobs for the youth. Ugandans should buy Ugandan products as this will in turn lead to more jobs and boost incomes of farmers,” he said. Nzeire noted that the Uganda Industrial Research Institute was instrumental in developing the quality of products they manufacture. Nzeire teamed up with Stephen Wamala and Jackson Kajoba to start the plant

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UN agro-devt agency urged to give small farmers more support

The UN agricultural development fund has been asked to focus more on promoting small holder farmers to reduce poverty. The call was made during the 37th session of the Governing Counsel of IFAD in Rome. Fabrizio Saccomanni, the Italian minister for economy and finance, asserted that ensuring small holder family farmers have adequate access to credit and investment is of paramount importance for poverty reduction. Speaking to international policy-makers, farmer leaders and private sector representatives, Saccomanni said that while some progress had been made, much remains to be done to eliminate hunger and poverty. “The challenges ahead require a radical increase in agricultural productivity, but this has to be pursued in a sustainable way. “Supporting smallholder agriculture is the way-out, as evidence and research show; it breaks the vicious cycle of poverty while preserving scarce natural resources.” IFAD is a specialised UN agency and international financial institution that provides investment funding aimed at creating a route out of poverty for rural people in developing countries, most of which are involved in Agriculture. In developing countries, 67 per cent of the population is said to be vulnerable to poverty, with about a third of that number living under poverty line. In Rwanda, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, but most of the farmers engage in subsistence farming, whose livelihoods are threatened by the changing climate and lack of assistance to mitigate increasing loss of soil fertility and droughts. The conference noted that farming families are important for socio-economic development and stability.  It emphasised the important role women play in food security, saying that through their empowerment, poverty can be eradicated. IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze, noted that agriculture has an unprecedented potential to drive economic development and inclusive growth. Agencies

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Kenyan Ministries on the spot for under-reporting State revenue

KENYA: Several Government ministries and agencies failed to remit billions of shillings of internally generated cash to the Treasury in the first half of this financial year. Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich The Quarterly Economic and Budgetary Review covering the first-half of 2013/14 shows that collections of ministerial Appropriations-in-Aid (AIA) or internally generated funds recorded an under-performance of Sh19.4 billion for the first half of the current financial year. “Part of the shortfall in Appropriation-In-Aid collection is explained by the delay in information on collections by a majority of the ministries, departments and universities,” Treasury says. For the six months to December 2013, the Government received Sh14.289 billion in AIA against a target of Sh33.684 billion, a shortfall in revenue that heavily hit implementation of budgeted programmes. “Under-reporting of AIA has been a major issue. But we will get the actual expenditure returns at the end of the financial year when the books are audited,” National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich told Weekend Business. Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo has already raised the alarm over failure by several ministries and agencies to account for the collections. Non-remittance of funds could open loopholes through which billions of taxpayers’ funds are lost or mismanaged. Ms Odhiambo said incomplete expenditure returns by the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) affected the smooth implementation of the budget during the first three months of July to September in the 2013/2014 financial year. She said a number of MDAs had more expenditure than Treasury issued during the period under review. For instance, the Ministry of Transport and Information sector spent a colossal Sh4.6 billion against a Treasury release of Sh700 million, while Education, Science and Technology spent Sh25.8 billion against a release of Sh20 billion. Exchequer release Others include Defence, which spent Sh16.6 billion against a Treasury release of Sh14.7 billion, Environment, Water and Natural Resources which spent Sh2.3 billion against an exchequer release of Sh2.1 billion and the mining sector, which spent Sh30 million against Sh10 million. Land, Housing and Urban Development spent Sh900 million against a Treasury release of Sh500 million, while the Witness Protection Authority spent Sh40 million despite not having been allocated any Treasury release. The latest concern also comes amid growing suspicions over the basis of the Sh797 million found to have been over-spent in payment of debt, pensions and salaries for constitutional office holders. “Financial reports submitted to the Controller of Budget do not provide complete information on how much is collected as AIA,” said Odhiambo, adding, “ Failure to disclose AIA affects the accuracy of the expenditure reports. “To ensure accuracy of the quarterly financial reports, MDAs should report all AIA collected during the period,” she said. “The pension returns do not clearly show the source of the over expenditure. There is need for transparency in the public financial management for both the national and county governments.” This also comes at a time when Treasury is cash-strapped as revenue collection fell short of target. Already, Treasury has suspended a number of projects such as the implementation of the new Civil Servants Pension Scheme, and cut down on wasteful spending, especially foreign travel and hospitality. Treasury data shows that as at the end of December 2013, total revenue collection, including AIA, was below the target by Sh29.8 billion. Source The Standard

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Portland eyes growth as it sets up another plant

KENYA: The new East African Portland Cement chairman William Lay has expressed optimism that the company will recoup lost business. New East African Portland Cement chairman William Lay Mr Lay, who is the former CMC Motors Chief Executive, said during a Press briefing that his focus is on gaining back the lead in the cement market. The cement maker lost about 11 per cent market share within three years to the current 21 per cent. “Prospects are that the cement market will be growing and thus we should be prepared to take the lead in the growth,” Lay said. Lay, who termed internal wrangles “side shows”, said the company will be cutting the cost of the product and ensuring that there is enough supply to the consumers. The company’s CEO, Kepha Tande, attributed the decline of the firm’s fortunes to stiff competition due to the entry of new players in the market. “The CEO has no objection on the appointment of the chairman. My duty is to co-operate with Lay as the court has now cleared the storm that had crippled daily operations. Three years have been marred by wrangles but we have weathered the storm,” said Tande. Tande said the firm has also stopped operating in South Sudan due to the crisis in the country. . He, however, expressed optimism in the Ugandan market and in Arusha, Tanzania, saying that they would double the production of cement from the current capacity of 2 million tonnes. Tande said the firm will be setting up another milling plant in Kajiado County within the next three years. “We want to make the company more efficient in its milling capacity by bringing in new machinery,” said Tande. Portland has been embroiled in a long and bruising shareholders’ war centred mainly around Government’s determination to have a new team shepherd the cement firm, a move that has been difficult with Lafarge’s upper hand on the board.

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