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Africa must work towards self reliance in manufacturing her own Covid19 vaccines

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Africa needs to be self-reliant in the face of the latest vaccine and Covid-19 politics, speakers at the Kusi Ideas Festival said Friday.

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the third Kusi Ideas Festival in Accra, Ghana, Nation Media Group Chairman Wilfred Kiboro challenged the continent to build on its own ideas to develop its own capacity to deal with the pandemic.

“We need to get out of the slumber. We have amazing human resource, even with the limited resources. Reflecting on what the last two years has taught us, I see we have a continent that is resilient and can actually turn around its fortunes through innovation, and building on its own capacities,” Dr Kiboro said.

A pariah status

The continent is now facing a pariah status from Western countries over the latest coronavirus variant – Omicron, even as it battles low vaccine uptake, stifled by poor distribution, and access.

“We are now meeting in Accra to look at what the two years have taught us. Then, we were told that Africa was going to be wiped out by Covid-19. And here we are, resilient that any other continent. We have survived better than the naysayers,” he said. “We have risen to the occasion. At the start of the pandemic, only three countries could test for Covid. Now, we have made progress  — all countries can do it.”

In the last two years, the continent has also witnessed a boom in ideas and innovation as countries tried to work around the fears of the pandemic to keep their economies running and afloat.

Continents innovativeness

Dr Kiboro said the continent’s innovativeness kept most of the countries open, as young people turned the fear of the pandemic into a positive and found innovative means to help in the public health campaigns run.

“We witnessed a boom in innovation. Ghana and Rwanda were collecting samples with drones. Uganda had its biggest coffee sales. Kenya’s Revitalise firm, based in Kilifi, became the continent’s largest producer of syringes. In 2020, they did over 70 million syringes. We saw innovation by students in Africa — from ventilators to hospital beds and such. That is the spirit of Kusi ideas,” Dr Kiboro said.

The continent has also been challenged to push its own ideas and stories, which will help eliminate stereotypes pushed by Western media.

Strategic importance of Africa

“The strategic importance of Africa telling its own stories is important. The stereotype characterisation of the continent has been here for years and we now need to change that, change what people say about Africa and tell our own stories. We need to influence the direction of the narrative,” Dr Kiboro said.

This year’s festival, in its third edition, will be seeking to draw lesson from the last two Kusi festivals held in Rwanda’s capital Kigali in 2019, and Kenyan city Kisumu in 2020.

“We need to purpose to leave this festival with a commitment to do better. For the next two days, we shall have panellists discuss Africa’s infrastructure and the opportunities to improve it. We shall also see discussions touching on Intra African trade, politics of Covid vaccines, vaccination apathy, technology, innovation. All this will be done to enable Africa create African wins in the next century,” Dr Kiboro said.

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African diaspora

“The return of the African diaspora is also an important area of discussion this year, given the huge intellectual and financial capital they bring, which Africa needs to tap. Finally, we shall also talk about the open borders, and why it is important for the continent to grow. Let us invent the Africa we want tomorrow. We need to see our continent take its place in the international community.”

Speaking at the festival, Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, castigated Western countries for turning the continent’s biggest public health crisis into a political chess game in the last two weeks.

Mr Mene termed the current vaccine politics as modern-day colonialism, and apartheid.

Apartheid regime

“What we are seeing around the world is exactly what the apartheid regime did. These restrictions are imposed because we are Africans. This points now that we must accelerate our ability to manufacture and produce vaccines, generic drugs, to improve public health and position ourselves for industrial development capacity and ensure that we rely less on others to improve our public health.”

“We are confronting a public health nightmare that has recently become a political crisis in the last 10 days. This pandemic has caused the Africa burden, especially on the economies, inducing a recession. The expected growth rate and recovery in the continent will be the slowest among world regions given the small rooms Africa has on fiscal and monetary space.”

Mr Mene challenged African countries to diversify their markets post Covid-19, adding that the Kusi IdeasFestival offers a better chance to see how the continent transforms.

Global supply

“When global supply chains are interrupted, then the continent suffers immensely. And the pandemic has shown that with our dependence on Asia, mostly China and India, then the continent is at a weak position. We see most of the food, pharmaceutical imports, and in 2019-20 period, we saw the continent struggle, as it sought to manage the pandemic.”

Africa has now been challenged to accelerate industrial development through regional value chain.

“Together with MasterCard Foundation, we have developed a private sector strategy focusing on agro-processing, auto motive sector, pharmaceutical, and transport and logistic sectors, based on potential of import substitution and existing value chains. These value chains have the potential to contribute $11 billion in production and $5 billion in trade creating almost a million jobs. This strategy will help in improving investments in the continent, and guide the private sector where to invest,” Mr Mene said.

AfCTA

AfCFTA also said that the continent must use the new strategy tool to address the imbalance seen in the intellectual property rights around the production of the Covid-19 vaccination.

“As it is, only 7 per cent of African countries are fully vaccinated yet most Western countries procured over five times of the vaccination they required, with most looking at booster shots. This now means that Africa must use this as lesson to manufacture vaccines, push its own agenda, and avoid this vaccine politics that leave the continent at disadvantage,” he said.

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Three Global Firms Signed By Nairobi Financial Hub On Its Launch

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Three companies were signed by Nairobi’s international financial centre on the day of its launch. The three include Prudential plc, ARC Ride Kenya and AirCarbon Exchange (ACX).

The Nairobi International Financial Centre (NIFC) is a special economic zone for financial firms.

Prudential, one of the world’s biggest insurers and asset managers, became the first firm to formally join the NIFC.

Singapore-based global carbon exchange ACX came along with Prudential. It seeks to set up a carbon exchange in Kenya.

Check out: Why Buyers Are Now Running Away From Popular Used Toyota Cars

NIFC has also admitted ARC Ride Kenya. It is a new start-up that is going to establish an electric vehicle assembly plant in Nairobi. The plant will produce two and three-wheeled electric bikes and scooters.

Also, the Financial Centre is determined to bolster the manufacturing sector in the country. It has signed an MoU with the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), to help increase financing and investment in the sector.

NIFC authority has hinted at being in discussion with other participants seeking to join it and will give official news soon.

“Last year Prudential Plc, one of the world’s biggest insurers and asset managers, made a commitment to relocating their Africa headquarters from London to Nairobi and join the Centre. Today we are proud to announce that Prudential becomes the first firm to formally join the Nairobi International Financial Centre,” Vincent Rague, Chairman NIFC Authority.

After many years of waiting, the hub will eye large foreign firms, boosting capital flows to Kenya and the region.

The authority has singled-out four sectors that it will prioritise for growth: financial technology, green finance, investment funds, and becoming a hub for regional multinationals.

The NIFC general regulations have been enacted, as the initial set of tax incentive proposals have been passed.

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Certification from the NIFC Authority must be applied by Firms considering conducting business through the NIFC.

A 15% corporate tax will benefit firms operating a carbon market exchange or emission trading system under the NIFC. The 15% advantage will happen for the first 10 years of operation.

Companies certified by the NIFC Authority and have invested a minimum of Sh5 billion will benefit from the certainty that, the Capital Gains Tax applicable at the time they make their investments will remain unchanged during the lifetime of the investments.

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Hackers Make Tactical Change, Now Targeting Small Businesses

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Traditionally, cybercriminals have been targeting big companies with aim of demanding ransoms running into millions. Nonetheless, the trend no longer holds, as new studies have shown the shift in hackers’ interest from big companies to small and medium ones.

Studies have shown that hackers are shifting their focus to small online businesses which they believe are more vulnerable.

Experts have warned that these SMEs and payment portals, especially those relying on mobile payment solutions, are now facing high risks of cyber attacks coordinated by these hackers.

Speaking during the inaugural Africa Cybersecurity Congress held in Nairobi, Hadi Maeleb, Agora Group co-founder and CEO said the threats to online businesses were growing at a high rate.

Further, he stated that more than 90% of business owners are unaware that their enterprises are at risk, despite the high growth rate of the attacks.

“Cybercriminals are now targeting small businesses more as they have realized that these enterprises do believe they would be exposed due to their comparatively low turnovers until they lose their data and payments are compromised,” said Mr Maeleb.

With the adoption of e-commerce platforms, State agencies, financial institutions, healthcare, energy and utilities have persistently faced cyber-attacks in the recent past.

According to CAK- Communications Authority of Kenya’s first-quarter data (between January to March 2022), a total of 79.2 million cyber-attacks were reported. This has prompted the government to issue 28,848 advisories in an attempt to fight the rising attacks.

Invest in Cybersecurity

Mr Maeleb noted that business owners should invest in cybersecurity tools as there is no magical solution to cybercrime.

“This ‘democratization’ of cyberattacks is expected to push losses due to business interruption, financial theft, personal data breaches and even ransom payments over the Sh4 trillion mark by end of 2022,” he said.

At the peak of the pandemic, several states adopted tough lockdown measures such as social distancing, working from home, and online learning.

Also read: Why Buyers Are Now Running Away From Popular Used Toyota Cars

Hackers shifting focus to small businesses.

This adoption of digital solutions such as e-commerce, remote working and banking went up as Kenyans turned to online platforms to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately for them, the business of cybercrime has evolved to a point where attacks like ransomware are now sold as a service,” he added.

Even though these measures triggered the adoption of digital platforms, they also increased vulnerability such as ransom, data breaches, harassment, cyberbullying, and data breaches.

Kenya’s ICT Policy which came into effect in 2006, is credited for creating an enabling environment for the growth and usage of technology.

Kenya’s ICT Policy which came into effect in 2006, is credited for creating an enabling environment for the growth and usage of technology.

To achieve Kenya’s Vision 2030 goal of a regional ICT hub, the tech sector was expected to contribute directly and indirectly to an additional 1.5% of Kenya’s GDP by 2017/2018.

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Why Buyers Are Now Running Away From Popular Used Toyota Cars

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As it has been noted that Kenyans are now running away from the popular used Toyota car models, contrary to what has been a tradition in the country. The rise in their costs has seen even dealers cut down on imports of these vehicles due to decreased demand.

Traditionally, popular models such as Toyota Premio and RAV4 have been synonymous with middle-income earners over the years. However, this is no longer the trend.

Car dealers say more Kenyans are now going for vehicles such as Nissan Sylphy and Mazda, which cost less compared with popular Toyota models.

Toyota Vs Nisaan and Mazda models

According to Charles Munyori, the secretary-general of Kenya Auto Bazaar Association, Nissan Sylphy and Mazda’s CX5 and Axela, are quickly gaining popularity among Kenyans.

Mr Munyori said the price of a Toyota RAV4 has short up to Sh3 million currently from Sh2.8 million in February while a Premio is going for Sh2.2 million from Sh2 million four months ago.

On the contrary, Mazda Axela is now selling for Sh1.6 million with Nissan Sylphy (Blue Bird) going for at least Sh1.5 million.

Currently, consumers find these brands to be the best alternatives to their preferred models, as they are relatively cheaper and good.

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With the rising household costs, these car prices are making them affordable to most Kenyans as they struggle to balance the high cost of living.

“We are seeing a shift where Kenyans are now moving from the popular brands such as Toyota Premio and RAV4 to other models. This shift has been occasioned by the high cost that these cars are now fetching at the market,” said Mr Munyori.

“In fact, most of the car dealers are hardly bringing in Premio and RAV4 models because they are not moving and they will tie up money that they would need for importation of more vehicles,” he said.

Ex-Japanese vehicles

Ex-Japan vehicles dominate the Kenyan second-hand sector with a more than 80% market share.

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The buyers in the sector prefer these cars as their spare parts are easier to obtain locally compared to other brands. Additionally, buyers believe that the resale value of Toyota vehicles are higher than that of other brands like mazda or Nissan.

Reasons for risisng vehicle cost

The rising cost of vehicles in the country has been linked to the unavailability of dollars locally, a shortage of electronic chips in Japan, and a weakening shilling against the dollar.

The country is currently experiencing extreme dollar shortage, that one has to wait for at least three days to get $20,000 or $25,000 from the banks.

“We have to wait for like nine days in order to accumulate $80,000, and this has seen car dealers delay in making their orders. We are really feeling the impact of the dollar shortage in the market,” Mr Munyori said.

banks have imposed regulations on dollar purchase. This has forced traders to face difficulty in meeting their obligations.

Industrialists are forced to start seeking dollars in advance. The shortage puts a strain on supplier relations and the ability to negotiate favourable prices in gap markets.

On the other hand, Semiconductors are used in making electronic devices. Their shortage has forced the vehicle manufacturers to scale down the production. The quantity and quality cannot be maintained with decrease in one of the crucial raw material.

Finally, the shilling has persistently remained weak against the dollar. this has made it costly for importers shipping in goods.

The shilling has hit a record low trading at of Sh 117.06 against the dollar. This predicts a continued rise in imported goods, and signifies a further dollar shortage crisis.

The continuous depreciation in shilling stability is attributed to increased demand for dollars from importers. This highly arises on importaion of crude oil and merchandised goods.

It should be noted that most external debt is repaid in the dollar. Therefore, a weakened shilling increases prices of imported goods, and puts pressure on the country’s debt repayment.

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