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Mobile money transactions rise 11.2 percent during first half 2019

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s mobile money transactions rose 11.2 percent in the first half of this year as compared to a similar period in 2018, the apex bank said in a report released on Wednesday.

The East African nation’s citizens transacted 2.14 trillion shillings (20.9 billion U.S. dollars) in the first half of the year, up from 18.8 billion dollars in the first six months of 2018, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) said.

The rise in transactions points to growing use of the technology by Kenyans as service providers come up with innovative ways to transact, putting mobile money at the center of all sectors of the economy.

The bulk of the transactions in the first half of the year were done in January and March, where Kenyans moved 3.6 billion dollars.

On the other hand, the least of the transactions were in February and June, where usage stood at 3.2 billion dollars and 3.4 billion dollars respectively, according to the apex bank.

The number of agents working in the sector continued to surge to hit 222,484 in June, up from 197,286 in a similar period in 2018.

Similarly, the number of subscribers stood at 46 million in June, who carried out an average of 140 million transactions monthly, up from 42.3 million in at the end of June 2018.


Improved infrastructure betters lives and
create new opportunities in Kenya slums

by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A recently built tarmac road stretches through New Embakasi, an informal settlement on the east of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Months ago, at the place where the tarmac sits, there was an earth road, full of potholes and covered with filth and dirty water.

Residents had to "hop, skip and jump" as they used the key road, with children being the worst affected, especially when it rained.

Now, however, the tarmac road constructed in a project by the World Bank and the Kenyan government and other partners, has transformed the slum, improving the general welfare of the residents and economic activities.

Lining both sides of the road are floodlights that have improved security in the slum.

"This road has brought new opportunities in our community," said John Ondiek, a resident.

"Women can now sell vegetables and other merchandise until 10 p.m. because of the lights that are also in other parts of the slum."

Similar scenarios are replicated in Mathare, Kibera and Korogocho slums in Nairobi, Obunga and Nyalenda in Kisumu, western Kenya, and in Mkomani, Jomvu Kuu, Mikanjuni and Ziwa la Ng’ombe slums at the Coast as new roads, better lighting, improved water supply and recycling of waste, components of the initiative dubbed Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Project (KISIP), better lives in the settlements.

"As a small businessperson, the building of roads and other infrastructure in this areas has improved lives," said Beatrice Awino, a resident of Obunga slum in Kisumu.

"Initially, it was really hard to transport goods from the market to my place of work, but right now vehicles and motorbikes carry our produce to the destination," added the fish monger.

Thanks to better roads and improved security, Awino said, she is now able to sell her fish at better prices to more customers.

Edwin Otieno, a motorbike taxi driver, said he is now able to ferry more customers in Kasarani slum in Kisumu due to better roads, earning him more income.

Since inception in June 2011, KISP, which costs 16.8 billion shillings (165 million U.S. dollars) and ends this year, has positively transformed the lives of 1.2 million people, according to the World Bank and the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development.

This has been through upgrading of 100 km of roads, construction of drainage systems, installation of high-mast security floodlights and ablution blocks.

In addition, water supply systems and biogas digesters for recycling waste have also been installed.

Ernest Manuyo, a business lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, said improving infrastructure in slums is one of the easiest ways to significantly reduce poverty in urban areas.

"Once you build roads, install lights and create a system of waste management, residents can live quality lives, which means less diseases, thus they can remain healthy and work to better boost their lives," he said.

KISIP National Coordinator Peris Mangira said that the infrastructure upgrade has transformed the face of the informal settlements, improved the housing and living conditions of the beneficiaries and increased opportunities to lift more people out of poverty.

"This has given people back their dignity so that they can actively contribute to the country’s social and economic growth," she said.

According to the World Bank, Kenya is home to hundreds of slums, with close to 56 percent of the population in urban areas living in informal settlements.

Kenya plans establishment of regional trading houses to boost export

by Ronald Njoroge NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya plans to establish regional trading houses in a number of African countries to boost exports to the continent, a senior government official said on Thursday.

Peter Munya, cabinet secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, told journalists in Nairobi that Kenya has identified pieces of land in a number of African countries where modern warehouses for storage of Kenyan goods will be constructed.

"The regional trading houses will provide a convenient storage space where consumers in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) will be able to purchase Kenyan goods," Munya said during the launch of the Kenya National Trading Corporation strategic plan 2019/2020-2023/2024.

Kenya will begin with a pilot trading house in one of the EAC partner states to assess the effectiveness in promoting exports, he said.

Munya said Kenya is for the first time experiencing a trade deficit with the the rest of the African continent.

Kenya’s agricultural exports to the EAC trading bloc has also been declining due to low domestic production, coupled with poor farm productivity that makes products expensive to sell abroad, he said.

"Exports of manufactured goods are also facing a challenge regionally as countries in Africa improve their industrial capacity," Munya said.

East Africans encourage policy harmonization to boost private-sector investment

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Member states of the East African Community (EAC) will harmonize policies and legislation to facilitate private-sector investment in promising sectors like manufacturing, information and communications technology (ICT) and agro-processing, officials said on Thursday.

Adan Mohamed, cabinet secretary in Kenya’s ministry of East African Community and Regional Development, said governments have resolved to enact policies that encourage private-sector investment to boost economic growth.

"We are committed to promote growth of the private sector through harmonization and convergence of macroeconomic policies," Mohamed said.

He spoke in Nairobi during the 20th anniversary of the East African Business Council (EABC), a regional business lobby, which was attended by policymakers, industry leaders, and representatives of multilateral lenders.

A vibrant private sector is key to realization of the regional integration agenda that is expected to boost economic growth, political stability and cohesion, Mohamed said.

"The EAC partner states will provide incentives like enhanced connectivity and elimination of trade barriers to make the private sector thrive," Mohamed said, adding that market reforms have powered growth of private businesses in the region.

Steven Mlote, deputy secretary general in charge of planning and infrastructure at the EAC, said the bloc has been promoting private sector-led growth through elimination of barriers to trade and movement of skilled labor.

"Our overriding goal is to create an environment through which the private sector can thrive and contribute to well-being of citizens in the region," said Mlote.

He said that key EAC integration pillars include the establishment of a customs union, a common market and monetary union, aiming to promote market and private sector-led economic growth.

Inter-regional trade, which grew by 13.9 percent between 2017 and 2018, presents new opportunities to the private sector, Mlote said.

Peter Mathuki, executive director of the EABC, said a dialogue with governments is key to addressing regulatory and capacity bottlenecks that have undermined growth of the private sector in the region.



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