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Kenya’s Safaricom launches fraud intelligence solution to curb cyber crime

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Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, the Chief Financial Services Officer of Safaricom, told journalists in Nairobi that the anti-fraud tool will help banks and insurance firms better authenticate mobile and internet banking customers.

Lopokoiyit said in addition to authentication, the solution will also provide financial firms with capabilities to better design their lending propositions, enhance the registration and onboarding of new customers.

He said it will also help in managing phone numbers linked to a customer’s accounts but which may no longer be in use.

Safaricom controls approximately 65 per cent of Kenya’s telecom market, which has an estimated 50 million mobile subscribers.

“Through the years, we have developed in-house capabilities that have helped us cut down on attempted fraud incidences targeting our customers by more than 75 per cent,’’ he added.

He said that the solution works across the three channels including USSD, internet banking and Smartphone apps.

“Such banking channels have been on the rise in the country, corresponding with increasing internet and smartphone usage.’’

Lopokoiyit added that the adoption of the anti-fraud tool is expected to benefit the country through increased usage of mobile and internet banking due to increased confidence both from the financial sector and customers.

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Kenya coffee farmers adopt home processing to seek better prices

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Some small-scale coffee farmers in Kenya have started processing their coffee to protect the quality, aiming to get a share of the lucrative premium export market where quality coffee beans fetch a premium price.

Data from the Nairobi Coffee Exchange shows that top quality coffee known as AA grade fetched up to 45,326 shillings (about 427 United States dollars) per 50-kg bag compared to a price of 199 dollars fetched by the majority of the coffee during the auction that ended on May 24th.

Samuel Muchiri, 44, a farmer in Kirinyaga County in central Kenya is among small-scale farmers who have embraced home-based processing to avoid mixing their coffee with the rest of farmers in order to maintain quality and therefore get a better price.

“Coffee has money. But it needs to be of high-quality coffee. That is why I decided to do home processing to ensure I maintain high quality,” Muchiri told Xinhua on Friday at his farm.

When the coffee is processed at home, it is then taken to a miller where it is also milled separately and then graded ready for auction in the capital Nairobi or direct export.

Traditionally in Kenya, green harvested coffee is taken to a common processing factory owned by farmers where different grades are mixed.

Although grading happens later when the coffee is milled, the final payment is usually an average of the price fetched by all the grades, meaning that those farmers who have to take care of their coffee to get a better grade are not rewarded.

According to Muchiri, processing his coffee at home has enabled him to earn at least double and sometimes triple the amount of money earned by other farmers who sell through the cooperative societies.

“My coffee goes to the market as organically grown and therefore specialty coffee, which fetches a premium,” he said.

Gichuki Wambari, 54, from Nyeri County also in central Kenya, said he invested some 1,000 dollars in machinery to process his coffee.

“The pay from home processed coffee is better than processing and selling collectively,” he said.

He said although he is yet to establish a stable market for his coffee which he processes and then outsources the milling services, he is realizing better returns.

Home processing is part of the ongoing formal and informal reforms taking place in the coffee industry which was once Kenya’s largest foreign exchange earner.

President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed a committee to advise and steer reforms in the industry in 2016. The final report from the committee will be ready in July, said its head, Joseph Kieyah.

Kenya’s ministry of agriculture has also been pursuing new markets for coffee in China and the Middle East to reduce dependency on the traditional European market.

(XINHUA)

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Kenya announces ban on single-use plastics in forest reserves

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Kenya on Friday banned single-use plastics in forest reserves while encouraging adoption of wooden, metallic and reusable plastic containers that are less polluting.

Julius Kamau, chief conservator of forests said in a statement issued in Nairobi that the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) will begin enforcing the national ban on Single-Use Plastics in forest reserves with effect from June 5.

“The ban covers public forests managed by KFS, that comprise 2.59 million hectares and those managed by the County governments and communities that make up 1.7 million hectares,” Kamau said.

He said that KFS has developed guidelines for the implementation of the national ban with an overall goal of contributing to the sustainable management of plastic waste in the country.

KFS is rolling out programs to educate stakeholders, promote appropriate alternatives to the use of single-use plastics in the forest areas, sensitize communities on the laws and regulations and ensure the ban is fully enforced, “said Kamau.

He said that the use of polythene tubes to grow seedlings in nurseries managed by KFS and other stakeholders will also come to an end.

He said that KFS has developed a transition plan that will guide the use of polythene tubes in tree nurseries, with a policy of reusing and recycling being applied in all forest reserves.

Kamau said that accommodation facilities, nature trails, picnic sites, tree platforms, boardwalks, canopy walks, guided tours, adventure activities, quarry sites, construction sites and installation sites within forest reserves will be subject to the ban on single-use plastic.

The outlawed single-use plastics include disposable plastic water bottles, disposable cutlery, non-woven plastic carrier bags, confectionary and snack wrappers, disposable sanitary items, wet wipes, single use toiletries packaged in plastics.

Dumping waste in a forest without authority is prohibited and any person convicted of this, is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding three million shillings (about 30,000 United States dollars) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both.

(XINHUA)

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Feature: Kenyan slum dwellers on edge amid spike in COVID-19 cases

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Johnston Waweru huddles around a communal water point with nearly ten other people, all eagerly waiting to fetch water, a precious commodity in the informal settlement area. Here, the idea of social distancing is a myth.

The middle-aged casual laborer is a resident of the densely inhabited Kiambiu slums, located on the eastern edges of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Kiambiu slum is characterized by littered broken bottles, haphazardly disposed face coverings, the trade of uncovered cooked food and close engagements of area residents oblivious of a looming danger.

Waweru’s living environment mirrors the circumstances inhibiting containment measures aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus in Kenya’s informal settlement areas.

“Social distancing is impossible if not unachievable because of our poor economic status. Our quarters are thinly spaced out leaving no adequate space for the pathways,” said Waweru. “It is common to rub shoulders with people along the narrow paths.”

Last year’s national census put Kenya’s urban informal settlement population at over 1.5 million. The presence of a large population coupled with poor sanitation has made these areas a ticking time bomb.

Some major slums in Nairobi that have seen a spike of positive cases include, Kibra, Mathare, Mukuru kwa Njenga, Mukuru kwa Ruben and Kawangware.

The government established an exponential rise in cases after conducting targeted testing in these areas.

Waweru says that his community is aware of a simmering health crisis, however implementing some directives such as hunkering down at home is not an option for people who live from hand to mouth.

“We are making use of handwashing stations donated by well-wishers as well as donning our face masks but we still feel at risk. Financial constraints have kept residents with underlying health conditions out of hospital, leaving them vulnerable to COVID-19,” Waweru told Xinhua during a recent interview.

Kibra, the largest slum in Africa has recorded more than 200 positive cases and the government has alluded at introducing further measures in addition to the dawn to dusk curfew, to protect the area from a disastrous eventuality.

“We are continuing to watch this epicenter within Kibra and are mapping out clusters because it’s possible that not the entire Kibra has cases. Meanwhile, measures to completely lock them down are on the table and the government will effect this when it feels it’s necessary,” said Rashid Aman, chief administrative secretary, Ministry of Health.

On account of this situation, community interventions as well as grass-root authority has been singled out by health experts as an effective way of sensitizing communities living in the urban slums.

“My administration has been conducting community sensitization through community healthcare volunteers who move from home to home educating residents on preventive inexpensive measures they can adopt to keep the disease at bay,” said Paul Runo, an administrator at Kiambiu slums.

He said that his administration continues to receive donations of masks, sanitizers as well as soap from the national government while reiterating his commitment to working with local communities to protect them from the disease.

“My administration will continue to enforce comprehensive and rigorous preventive measures to ensure the disease does not penetrate into the area,” said Runo.

Even as Kenya started recording COVID-19 cases in three digits, President Uhuru Kenyatta recently hinted at de-escalating restriction measures in the country.

“We cannot be in lockdown forever, we have to reopen our economy somehow as much as we are seeing cases rising. We are also seeing more people recovering and not many people dying,” Kenyatta said.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Kenyans ready for partial lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

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A cloud of expectation hangs over Kenya as citizens are ready for the easing of some restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the COVID-19.

Private businesses, places of worship and government offices are among entities that are gearing up for the resumption of operations after June 6, the day when current restrictions end and President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to review the measures.

Kenyatta hinted that the government will loosen some of the restrictions, noting that lockdowns and curfews are unsustainable in the long term.

He noted that once the restrictions are partially lifted, citizens will be expected to remain responsible by wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distancing to curb the spread of the disease.

Kenya imposed a partial lockdown in the capital Nairobi and four other counties some 70 days ago and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew across the country, which are the restrictions lauded for slowing down infections.

But they have affected business for schools, gyms, bars and hotels, among others, with up to 1.2 million people losing jobs, according to the Labor Ministry of Kenya.

It is these businesses that are ready to reopen by installing handwashing and sanitation points and measures to enforce social distancing.

At a hotel along Moi Avenue in the central business district in Nairobi on Thursday, a worker was busy fumigating the facility.

In a separate section, another was remodeling chairs and tables to comply with measures to curb the spread of the disease in anticipation of the partial reopening of the country.

And at the entrance, a handwashing point was prominently installed as well as sanitizers at various points.

Like many other such facilities, all its workers would be expected to take COVID-19 tests and get certificates to show they are free of the disease.

“We were not offering to take away services or did not open earlier because it did not make sense to reopen when workers are still at home. But we believe this is the right time when the government is expected to loosen some restrictions,” said a worker introduced as Martin Kinuthia.

Places of worship are also instituting measures to allow the resumption of services.

Among the new protocols, they are taking the use of thermo guns, having shorter services, ensuring all worshippers sanitize by washing hands and installation of sanitation booths and everyone must wear face masks.

“As we wait for the presidential directive, it has been agreed upon by the government and religious leaders that the following measures must be taken. There shall be a sitting plan with markings on the floor where chairs will be placed observing the 1.5 meter rule in all directions,” said John Kitula, the administrative secretary of the African Inland Church.

Other places of worship, including mosques, will follow the same protocols to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Karanja Kibicho, Interior Principal Secretary of Kenya, said on Wednesday that the government has found itself in a tight spot since the outbreak of the disease, whose cases have taken an upward trajectory, clocking 2,340 on Thursday.

“We cannot stay in a lockdown forever, as a government we make money from taxes but most people are currently not working. We must reopen the economy but under strict guidelines,” said Kibicho.

But as the cloud of optimism hangs over Kenya amid the rise in infections, health experts have warned that most citizens are throwing caution to the wind by resuming old behavior that does not help to curb the spread of the virus.

Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on Thursday acknowledged that the government would ease some of the restrictions as it moves to adopt a home-care approach, but COVID-19 remains a huge threat to the east African nation.

(XINHUA)

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Retired Kenyan athletes to benefit from COVID-19 food relief

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Retired Kenyan athletes who have been financially effected by the COVID-19 pandemic are set to benefit from a food relief program launched by the local Olympics committee on Wednesday.

The initiative, that was started with seed capital of over 500,000 shillings (4,700 United States dollars) by the National Olympics Committee of Kenya (NOCK), will initially target athletes who retired by 2004 and have competed for Kenya in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and African Championships.

This is after the group was identified according to NOCK to be the “most vulnerable” by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic since Kenya declared its first case in mid-March.

“Food support has been identified as a critical priority need area of focus for the next three months. We want to give food support to retired athletes.

“After consultation, we felt food aid will be of greater assistance as we continue looking for other partners in this initiative,” the acting general secretary of NOCK, Francis Mutuku, said.

He added that a mobile phone contribution service number will be launched on Monday next week to enable the public to contribute towards cushioning needy athletes through the COVID-19 crisis.

The program is the latest relief effort targeted towards athletes in Kenya with active athletes starting to receive 95 dollars each from the Ministry of Sports kitty that rolled out last week as part of a state-run effort to alleviate the suffering brought by loss of income due to COVID-19.

The Olympic champion and world marathon record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, has been distributing relief food to athletes in the vast and talent-rich Rift Valley for three weeks now.

“Many people have lost their relatives due to the virus and I want to ask them to take heart at this trying moment. Countries have lost many people and we are experiencing worse situations but it will come to pass,” said Kipchoge, the first man to run the 42.195km marathon distance in under two hours.

The food rations donated by Kipchoge, in addition to the government stimulant fund, have benefitted the likes of Beijing 2008 Paralympics star, Abraham Tarbei, who won gold medals in the 1,500 meters T46 and 5,000 meters T46 as he continues to train in isolation in Kaptagat, western Kenya.

(XINHUA)

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Kenya confirms 123 new COVID-19 cases as tally hits 2,216

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Kenya’s Ministry of Health on Wednesday confirmed 123 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 2,216.

Rashid Aman, chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of Health said the latest figures are from 2,112 samples that were tested in the last 24 hours.

Aman told journalists during the daily briefing that 54 people have recovered from the deadly respiratory disease, the highest number since Kenya reported its first recovery on April 1, bringing the total number of recoveries to 553.

“This is the highest number of recoveries we have so far recorded since we announced the first discharge case on April 1,” Aman added.

He said that with good management, the disease, when clinically manifested, is curable and hence not a death sentence.

The official also revealed that three patients succumbed to the disease while undergoing treatment in various hospitals, raising the total number of fatalities to 74.

Aman noted that 85,058 samples have so far been tested since the outbreak of the disease in the country and urged Kenyans to adhere to the containment measures to avoid being infected or infecting others.

He said the ministry has enforced protocols for cross-border truck drivers, requiring them to take COVID-19 test 48 hours prior to commencement of the journey and not at the border of crossing.

(XINHUA)

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Kenyans adopt new greeting habits amid coronavirus pandemic

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As COVID-19 cases take an upward trend in Kenya, reaching 2,093 on Tuesday, citizens are adopting new greeting habits, such as elbow bumps, which are helping people socialise as they maintain hygiene and keep social distance to curb the spread of the disease.

With handshakes, hugs, cheek kisses, and shoulder bumps among other forms of salutations dead, thanks to the new coronavirus pandemic, new forms of greetings considered safer are taking root in Kenya, both in official and informal circles.

One such a greeting that is taking the east African nation by storm is elbow bump as citizens consider it much safer.

From the old to the young, men and women, elbow bumps have now become the official greetings of Kenyans both in formal and informal settings like homes.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto cemented the greeting in Kenya’s formal circles on Monday when they used it during independence celebrations in Nairobi, the capital.

Wearing masks, clenching their fists and smiling, Kenyatta and Ruto bumped their elbows to greet each other.

Their greeting did not only acknowledge the popularity of the salutation amid the pandemic, but it also confirmed to citizens that they can use it.

Several dignitaries at the event that was attended by few government officials and opposition leaders also used the elbow bump to greet each other.

“I have been using the elbow bump since last month.

“Some people have been comfortable with it, others are not, avoiding contact but when I saw the president use it on Monday, I felt happy, that this is the greeting for those of us who are used to handshakes,” said Gilbert Wandera, a businessman in Nairobi.

Wandera, who sells computers, had shunned any form of contact greeting when the disease broke out to maintain hygiene.

But I changed my mind as people embraced face masks and other sanitation measures.

“Besides, elbow bumps are a little safer because chances that you will touch your face with the elbow are nil,” he said.

The greeting has also been embraced in households, corporate offices, operators of public transport vehicles commonly known as matatus, commuters, motorbike taxi riders and traders among others as it quenches citizens’ thirst to shake hands.

Besides elbow bumps, other forms of greetings that Kenyans are using include foot taps and hand on my heart – what the World Health Organisation recommends.

But these are not as popular as elbow bumps.

Another culture that has taken root in the east African nation, thanks to the pandemic is the wearing of face masks.

Initially, wearing of masks was seen as a mark of style mainly done by the sophisticated or wealthy, but it has now been embraced by all citizens, with thousands hardly venturing out of their houses without the gadget.

“I am also finding myself maintaining the 1.5m social distance in public places naturally.

“No one is reminding me to keep distance in supermarkets, at ATMs, in public transport vehicles or in the office.

“And this is what many other people are doing.

“It is now a culture that is helping curb the disease,” said Victoria Selima, a government auditor.

Initially, funerals in the east African nation would attract hundreds of people, some who would stay at the affected families’ homes for days mourning.

But with COVID-19, citizens have learnt to keep away from the events without being forced by government officials, noted Victor Mulanda, who traveled to western Kenya on Monday from the capital for a funeral.

Rashid Aman, Kenya’s health chief administrative secretary, noted Tuesday that citizens must be responsible and embrace new norms to beat the disease that is currently deeply entrenched in community across the east African nation.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Roundup: Kenyans adopt new greeting habits amid COVID-19 pandemic

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As COVID-19 cases take an upward trend in Kenya, reaching 2,093 on Tuesday, citizens are adopting new greeting habits, such as elbow bumps, which are helping people socialize as they maintain hygiene and keep social distance to curb the spread of the disease.

With handshakes, hugs, cheek kisses and shoulder bumps among other forms of salutations dead, thanks to the new coronavirus disease pandemic, new forms of greetings considered safer are taking root in Kenya, both in official and informal circles.

One such a greeting that is taking the east African nation by storm is elbow bump as citizens consider it much safer.

From the old to the young, men and women, elbow bumps have now become the official greetings of Kenyans both in formal and informal settings like homes.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto cemented the greeting in Kenya’s formal circles on Monday when they used it during independence celebrations in Nairobi, the capital.

Wearing masks, clenching their fists and smiling, Kenyatta and Ruto bumped their elbows to greet each other.

Their greeting did not only acknowledge the popularity of the salutation amid the pandemic, but it also confirmed to citizens that they can use it.

Several dignitaries at the event that was attended by few government officials and opposition leaders also used the elbow bump to greet each other.

“I have been using the elbow bump since last month, some people have been comfortable with it, others are not, avoiding contact but when I saw the president use it on Monday, I felt happy, that this is the greeting for those of us who are used to handshakes,” said Gilbert Wandera, a businessman in Nairobi.

Wandera, who sells computers, had shunned any form of contact greeting when the disease broke out to maintain hygiene.

But I changed my mind as people embraced face masks and other sanitation measures. Besides, elbow bumps are a little safer because chances that you will touch your face with the elbow are nil,” he said.

The greeting has also been embraced in households, corporate offices, operators of public transport vehicles commonly known as matatus, commuters, motorbike taxi riders and traders among others as it quenches citizens’ thirst to shake hands.

Besides elbow bumps, other forms of greetings that Kenyans are using include foot taps and hand on my heart, what the World Health Organization recommends. But these are not as popular as elbow bumps.

Another culture that has taken root in the east African nation, thanks to the pandemic is the wearing of face masks. Initially, wearing of masks was seen as a mark of style mainly done by the sophisticated or wealthy, but it has now been embraced by all citizens, with thousands hardly venturing out of their houses without the gadget.

“I am also finding myself maintaining the 1.5m social distance in public places naturally. No one is reminding me to keep distance in supermarkets, at ATMs, in public transport vehicles or in the office. And this is what many other people are doing. It is now a culture that is helping curb the disease,” said Victoria Selima, a government auditor.

Initially, funerals in the east African nation would attract hundreds of people, some who would stay at the affected families’ homes for days mourning.

But with COVID-19, citizens have learnt to keep away from the events without being forced by government officials, noted Victor Mulanda, who traveled to western Kenya on Monday from the capital for a funeral.

Rashid Aman, Kenya‘s health chief administrative secretary, noted Tuesday that citizens must be responsible and embrace new norms to beat the disease that is currently deeply entrenched in community across the east African nation.

(XINHUA)

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Kenya confirms 72 new COVID-19 cases, tally rises to 2,093

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Kenya’s Ministry of Health said Tuesday 72 more people tested positive to COVID-19, increasing the national tally to 2,093.

Rashid Aman, chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of Health, said the latest cases were detected after testing 2,892 samples in the last 24 hours.

Aman noted that during the period, 17 patients recovered after being treated in various health facilities in the country, bringing the total number of recoveries to 499.

He however announced that two patients, unfortunately, died while undergoing treatment, bringing the total number of fatalities related to the disease to 71 since the outbreak was reported in the country.

COVID-19 disease remains a serious threat to the well-being of our people, and the country at large. Our fight against it has achieved results, but we are still not out of the woods yet,” Aman told journalists in Nairobi.

The east African nation has so far tested 82,946 samples since the disease was detected in the country in mid-March.

Kenya has so far enforced dusk to dawn curfew and banned traveling to and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Mandera counties to contain the spread of the disease.

The government has also increased testing at the border towns as well as intensified mass testing in high-risk areas within Nairobi and Mombasa as part of efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic.

(XINHUA)

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