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Archive for February 2nd, 2012

He gave me the virus, I revenged on womanisers, but that was then

Posted by Administrator on February 2, 2012

Photo/JARED NYATAYA/NATION When Evelyn Nyambura Simaloi was infected with HIV by her lover, the world around her collapsed, until she realised hope and audacity were part and parcel of the struggle against the virus.

Photo/JARED NYATAYA/NATION When Evelyn Nyambura Simaloi was infected with HIV by her lover, the world around her collapsed, until she realised hope and audacity were part and parcel of the struggle against the virus.

Because in our country, and on our continent, HIV has pervaded the most intimate moments in peoples’ relationships, it has burrowed itself deep into the very soul of our most unmentionable of taboos — sex.

It has held us hostage through our own silence and our burning shame. And most strangely, in a country and a continent divided by many things, it has united us, in the deaths of our parents, our brothers and sisters, our friends.

Even our enemies. But amid the pain that HIV/Aids has caused, are threads of hope — that one day there will be a generation that doesn’t know how to describe HIV, because they don’t have to experience it.

This is a story of that hope and the audacity of those, infected and affected, who have remained unbowed by the enormity of the task of finding a cure for HIV/Aids.

In the middle of the ever growing grey rows of apartment blocks in Mwiki, east of the city centre of Nairobi, Evelyn Nyambura Simaloi, and her seven-year-old son Emmanuel are preparing to go on a journey, one that they hope will change both their lives.

Simaloi, especially, has hoped that this day will come for almost all of her adult life.

“It was about two years after I had finished high school; my step-mum had kicked me out for stealing a plate of chips.

“So I met a guy who became my boyfriend and took me in. One day, I was looking for a job and they required that I take a HIV test.

“Around the same time, my boyfriend fell very sick and was admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital Ward 7D. I’ll never forget that ward. Then he later told me that he knew he was HIV-positive. I was really shocked,” she recalls.

The news of her status was a blow she just wasn’t prepared to take. To this day, she still has a photo of the man who infected her with the virus.

At just 21 years of age, Simaloi felt the cruel irony of contracting a disease she thought would kill her just as she was about to begin life as an adult.

This, to her, was yet another dark twist in the tough life she had already endured. When Simaloi was an infant, her father, then, an airforce pilot, and her mother, separated.

Esther Wanjiku, Simaloi’s paternal auntie says: “Me and Simaloi had a special bond. I felt very sad, especially for her, although I didn’t fully understand why they were separating.”

Simaloi found herself in the homes of step-parents whom, she says, saw her as a burden — as a baggage from past relationships.

After they discovered her status, her family was the last place she was going to look for support. Desperate, bitter, and in denial, Simaloi told herself that she wouldn’t die alone.

“I used to have multiple sexual partners,” she told the radio station QFM. It became more than promiscuity for Simaloi.

She turned to commercial sex work to support herself, and try to soothe the bitterness that she felt for having contracted HIV.

For three years, Simaloi partied, drank, and had sex with many men. “I used to look for womanisers — men who like women. I was young and attractive.

“When men would see me on the dance floor, they would come running. I would always propose a condom, but some would refuse and I would say ‘fine, have it.’” But all that changed one night in 2002.

“I was coming from a chang’aa den at like 3 am. A man who had wanted me followed me, and raped me. I conceived,” she says.

Simaloi decided to turn her life around after discovering that her rape ordeal had left her pregnant. She became a Christian, stopped drinking, and reconnected with some members of her family.

Nine months later, Emmanuel was born; spinning her rape ordeal into what she says is the biggest blessing she has ever received.

But even Emmanuel, or Manu as she likes to call him, wouldn’t escape her past. “My son is a blessing. He has the virus, and that is one thing I regret. I gave him the disease through breast-feeding.

“He gets really sick two or three times a year and I panic, but whenever we celebrate his birthday, I thank God because I never thought we would go this far,” says Simaloi.

Manu had a positive impact on her as she eventually came to terms with her status. More than that, in her work as a freelance journalist and a peer educator, she found her purpose.

She would tell people that HIV is a virus like any other and encourage HIV-positive people to get on anti-retroviral treatment as soon as possible.

But in telling people this, Simaloi was secretly fighting her own battle with the disease — that of getting onto ARVS herself.

“For me personally, I don’t want to get onto ARVS. Yes they prolong life but I don’t want them,” she says. In truth, Simaloi didn’t know that HIV was eating away at her.

Says Dr Nicholas Muraguri of Nascop: “The period between the time one gets infected and the time the disease manifests itself can be between 8 and 15 to 20 years.

“There are three stages of HIV; in the first phase, after two months of infection you develop flu, or you have flu like symptoms.

“The next phase is asymptomatic HIV where you don’t have any symptoms. Then there is stage three where opportunistic diseases begin to develop and stage four when you develop full blown Aids.”

A month before we first met her, Simaloi was admitted in hospital for one month with a severe case of cryptococal meningitis.

Her son Emmanuel took pictures of her while she was ill. She was advised to start anti-retroviral treatment immediately, before she slipped into stage four of HIV — full blown Aids. But Simaloi resisted.

“I eat well, I’m OK even after getting ill,” she says. Simaloi admits that she didn’t want to get onto anti-retroviral treatment, because, apart from the side effects she had seen, it is a life-long treatment, and not an absolute guarantee of recovery from illness, especially for people like her who have already progressed into stage three of HIV.

ARVS are recommended once HIV-positive people’s CD4 count, that is, the number of white blood cells in the body, goes below 500.

When Simaloi was discharged from hospital after recovering from meningitis, her CD4 count was just 107.

Her attempts to boost the count with vitamin pills were working in fits and starts, but she nursed the hope of finding one set of medication that would leave her healthy for life, without committing to taking it every day.

Then one day, she heard about medication that promised that. And more. The medicine was made by a man in Molo, in the southern Rift Valley region of Kenya.

And it wasn’t just medication for HIV/Aids management, its maker said that it had the potential to cure her of HIV.

So on November 11, 2010, Simaloi, still weak and shaken from her last battle against HIV, set out with her son.

Ironically unshaken by the looming consequences of her decision — she walked with the support of a crutch, the lingering effect of the meningitis, which at times causes partial paralysis — but she was also leaning on her faith.

Faith in a man she had never met, medicine she knew little about, and faith in time, which she knew she may have little of.

For most of the drive to Molo, Simaloi sat in silence, reading a brochure that told her about the herbal medicine she was on her way to take.

It was a big decision; and having lived with HIV for 11 years, she knew that there were many herbalists who had claimed to have the answer to HIV — many of which she has tried before. This time around though, she was confident.

“I don’t know why, but this one is different,” she says. In pursuit of her story, we all arrive in Molo town, a small outpost of the large breadbasket that is the Rift Valley.

A beautiful landscape from which, like in many other places in Kenya, the cries of people who have lost loved ones to HIV, have echoed.

But there too have been whispers of a man trying to turn this tide of tears back. A son of the soil with a remedy that people say has worked wonders for the health of many who were staring death in the face.

Sixty-year-old-David Mwangi is that man. And as he comes out to meet Simaloi and Manu, he looks like a man who, if all the rumours about him were to go by, cloaked this mystique well under his unassuming appearance.

But once inside, his faith, and his convictions are very clear. After Simaloi tells David how she and Manu contracted HIV, David begins what he calls a counselling session, heavy laden with biblical references.

“I believe anybody has the capacity for everything. Nebuchadnezzar was used to destroy the Middle East. To believe you must cleanse yourself of all of these other beliefs,” he says.

“You have to believe that this works.” A lot of what David tells Simaloi on this day is about her own belief that his medicine can work.

Because he doesn’t profess to have any specialised knowledge as a doctor or as a traditional healer, we ask David on a different occasion how he came about this medicine.

The one area he says he does have experience in, belief, and faith, gives us the answer. “There is something inside called a guiding spirit,” he says.

David then goes on to explain to Simaloi what his medicine is. “What we are going to do is that we are going to kill the virus. One thing is that you will start to feel changes in 10 days.

“In 15 days’ time people will start to notice. My medicine will do its work. You will have to attend to other things like eating right.”

But having heard advise like this before, an attentive Simaloi has some questions. “Are you saying that this will kill the virus completely?” she asks whereupon David explains:

“When you see people who have lived for six years without using ARVS coming back to help, what do you say? We are coming from old wineskins to new wineskins.” He explains.

After what has been 30 minutes of a back and forth between David and Simaloi, he goes to get his medicine.

His medicine, which he calls poochmed, is extracted mostly from plants and natural products but he won’t tell us what it’s made of.

Simaloi though seems happy with the discussion. “I’m still very positive. Usually I walk into a place but today I have got no nagging feeling about this,” she says.

Minutes later, poochmed, David’s medicine is brought out. Simaloi and Manu have their first taste. David insists on their taking more water than usual to help the medicine in its effectiveness.

This first dose will last Simaloi and Manu two weeks, after which they will need to come back and get a second dose.

David also wants them to return so that he can monitor their progress, and chat with Simaloi, who he feels still has misgivings about the medicine; especially whether it will or won’t cure her of HIV.

A week later Simaloi and Manu are on their way to their regular clinic near their home and Simaloi says she’s feeling a big change in her since she began taking poochmed.

Manu, however, reacted to the medication badly and had diarhorrea for three days. “Now I have to take half dose”.

At the clinic, Simaloi decided to take a HIV test. Even though she knew her status, she thought it was a good opportunity to get the message out there that knowing your status is half the battle won.

She was also feeling very optimistic about poochmed. “I am positive, definitely positive,” she says.

In most hospitals that run HIV clinics, once a person tests positive for HIV, the next step is to get their CD4 count taken. Because she’s been feeling better, Simaloi decides to check her count.

“It’s not good,” she says. The doctors here shepherd her to the drugs counter to ensure that she takes her dose of ARVS.

But as we go back to her home, Simaloi begins to regain her confidence in poochmed. “I have seen drastic changes,” she says.

The effects of her bout of meningitis seem to have worn off, but this is where most doctors claim that herbal medicine can be at best confusing, and at worst, disastrous for someone’s health.

Prof Omu Anzala is the director of the Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative. He’s been at the forefront of the search for a Kenyan developed aids vaccine.

“With proper science we diagnose and give treatment for HIV as well as for opportunistic diseases. With herbs you don’t know what is being treated,” says the professor.

“I don’t think that there is any herbal concoction that has proved efficacious against the disease,” says Dr Muraguri.

Even David himself knows that his chances at being taken seriously as a researcher that may have stumbled onto what could be the biggest medical triumph of this generation are slim.

“The biggest drawback with Africans is that if something does not come from the West we consider it primitive, backward. It has to come from over there so we can take it,” he protests.

In our company, Simaloi and Manu are back in Molo to see David for their second dose of poochmed. Mother and son claim that their health has vastly improved.

The molluscum — the black pimples on her face, seem to have faded since the last time we saw her, and so outwardly at least, something seems to be happening.

But Simaloi still has questions about the efficacy of David’s drug. “I’ve always feared to ask this: Will I turn negative, what am I expecting?” she asks.

There seems to be confusion about whether David’s medicine cures or manages HIV, so I jump in to ask what exactly David believes the medicine does. He obliges.

“There has been no medicine that can isolate the virus within the CD4 and kill it,” he says. When we ask him if that is what the medicine does he replies in the affirmative.

“After the medicine does its work, you will test negative but if you go for another test you will test positive.

For instance there is a lawyer; a lady who says she tests negative but when she goes for, I don’t know what, virology, she tests positive,” says David.

David also claims to have given his medicine to nearly one hundred people like the lawyer he has just described. We ask to contact them, but he is hesitant.

He claims that none of his former patients ever wants to be associated with the disease — or with him after they’ve been healed.

It takes us months to convince him to let us interview one of his “patients”. On our third visit to Molo, he introduces us to a friend and a neighbour of his whom he says took poochmed. He is the 30-year-old John Hamisi Hanga.

John Hamisi looks frail, the effects of what he says was his brush with death, after contracting tuberculosis late in 2010.

Tuberculosis is one of the more common and deadly opportunistic diseases that affect HIV positive people who have progressed to stage three of the virus.

Hanga though, claims that he’s doing much better than he was in January 2011, when he was given anti-retrovirals after his diagnosis.

“The drugs reacted badly on me so I took them back to the doctor who said I had no alternative but to use them. But then I happened to meet this man David.”

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/DN2/-/957860/1318584/-/awrpek/-/index.html


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Posted by Administrator on February 2, 2012

VICE-PRESIDENT Kalonzo Musyoka would be the big winner if Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were forced to pull out of the presidential race this year. A new survey by polling company Strategic Research indicates that Kalonzo would get around 20.9 per cent of the vote compared to Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s 36.5 per cent. However the poll interestingly indicates most Kenyans believe that Uhuru and Ruto should be allowed to contest the presidency, with 61 per cent saying they should be allowed to stand and 39 per cent saying no.

The Strategic Research poll interviewed 2433 randomly selected people across Kenya between January 27 and 30 on behalf of the Star and Radio Africa group. It is the first opinion poll to be conducted since charges were confirmed against Deputy PM Uhuru, Eldoret North MP Ruto, former Civil Service boss Francis Muthaura and radio presenter Joshua Sang on January 23.

There had been expectations of a sympathy vote for Uhuru and Ruto after the ICC charges were confirmed but it is not apparent in the poll as the ratings are similar to last year’s surveys. If they were all standing, 36.9 per cent said they would vote for Raila; 23.9 per cent for Uhuru; 10.6 per cent for Ruto; 9.7 per cent for Kalonzo; 4.6 per cent for Martha Karua; 2.6 per cent for Peter Kenneth; 2.1 per cent for George Saitoti; 1.8 per cent for Eugene Wamalwa; 1.8 per cent for Musalia Mudavadi; and 1.2 per cent for Raphael Tuju.

Kalonzo would make the biggest jump if Uhuru and Ruto are disqualified from running for president by the ICC charges. Raila’s share would hardly change at 36.5 per cent but Kalonzo would jump to 20.9 per cent with Martha Karua third on 8.1 per cent; George Saitoti on 8 per cent; Eugene Wamalwa on 5.2 per cent, Raphael Tuju on 2.7 per cent; and Musalia Mudavadi on 2.5 per cent.

At the moment therefore the most likely outcome will be a second round run-off in the presidential poll with Raila facing either Uhuru or Kalonzo. If Central fronts a single candidate candidate, the clear front runner would be Martha Karua. She was the preferred candidate of 46.5 per cent of respondents with Peter Kenneth second on 37 per cent. Other Central politicians were far behind: John Michuki was preferred by 1.8 per cent; George Saitoti by 1 per cent; Kiraitu Murungi by 1 per cent; and Amos Kimunya with 0.7 per cent.

But among Central Province and Nairobi respondents, Peter Kenneth led Martha Karua by 53.1 per cent to 37.9 per cent, and 41.7 per cent to to 36.7 per cent respectively. Some Central hardliners have been advocating for a constitutional amendment to allow President Kibaki to run for a third term. But ut would do them little good.

If Kibaki was running again, according to the poll, Raila would get 38.6 per cent of the vote; Kibaki 17 per cent; Uhuru 15.5 per cent; Kalonzo 7.1 per cent; Karua 5.6 per cent: Ruto 5.5 per cent; Kenneth 2.5 per cent; Mudavadi 2 per cent;  Saitoti 1.9 per cent; and Wamalwa 1.5 per cent. And in a final unexpected twist, 58.7 per cent of respondents said Uhuru should retain his position as Deputy PM with only 33.9 per cent saying he should resign. The poll indicated that support for politicians varied little among age groups.

However there were big regional shifts with Uhuru supported by 77.8 per cent of Central; Raila by 72.3 per cent of Nyanza; Kalonzo by 41.4 per cent of Eastern; and Ruto by 30.1 per cent of Rift. Raila’s overall strength appeared to come from his national support with a lead of 41.7 per cent in Nairobi; 42 per cent in Coast; 51.7 per cent in North East; and 62 per cent in Western.

In 1999 Strategic Research we conducted the first political opinion poll in Kenya and has since undertaken more than 100 opinion polls on topical issues. Its clients have included the American government, the International Republican Institute, UNIFEM, Community Aid and many other institutional clients. The poll of 2,433 respondents was conducted with a representative demographic spread across all regions of Kenya.

Source: http://www.the-star.co.ke/national/national/60615-61-want-ruto-uhuru-to-stand

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Court blocks debate on Uhuru, Ruto’s bid for presidency

Posted by Administrator on February 2, 2012

The Constitutional Court has issued orders stopping all public debate on whether deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto can vie for presidency following confirmation of charges facing them at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Justice Isack Lenaola on Thursday issued the orders after three voters Mr Patrick Njuguna, Mr Augustino Netto, Mr Charles Omanga and two civil society organisations; Kenya Youth Parliament and Kenya Youth League moved to court seeking orders to bar the candidates from contesting for presidency.

” In view of the fact that this court is now seized of the question whether Uhuru and Ruto are qualified or not to run for presidency, the court is now sub judice and all persons and authorities enjoined should not discuss the matter in public failure to which the court may take such action against them”, ruled Justice Lenaola.

In a suit filed at the High Court in Nairobi, the petitioners had argued that allowing Uhuru and Ruto to run for public office would be a recipe for chaos.

Through their advocate, Mr Anthony Oluoch, they further claimed that allowing Uhuru and Ruto to run for presidency would amount to perpetuating a culture of impunity. The petitioners are also seeking orders to bar Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) from accepting nomination or election of any candidate accused of committing serious offences under the International law or Kenyan law until they are cleared.

The petitioners also argue that the candidature of Uhuru and Ruto is a threat to the Constitution.

They want the court to determine whether the decision by the two to vie for presidency, despite confirmation of charges against them in The Hague-based court, would be a threat to the Constitution.

Further, they want the court to determine whether presumption of innocence in favour of the two persons overrides the overwhelming public interest to ensure protection and upholding the principles of the Constitution.

The petitioners also want the court to declare that presumption of innocence of the two does not override public interest.

The petition came after the ICC pre-trial judges confirmed charges against Uhuru, Ruto and former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang.

Source: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000051309&cid=4

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Men who have sex with men may now be the highest-risk group for HIV in Africa

Posted by Administrator on February 2, 2012

Men who have sex with men may now be at considerably higher risk of acquiring HIV than other at-risk groups such as female sex workers or young people of either sex, if findings by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) of HIV incidence at two centres in Kenya can be generalised to other populations.

The study, which compared the Kenyan populations with a largely heterosexual group from South  Africa, also found lower-than-expected HIV incidence amongst female sex workers and their clients. The researchers also found that recruiting MSM into the study was easier than expected, but note that there was a particularly high dropout rate in MSM.

They comment that while MSM “need urgent risk reduction interventions, and may be a suitable cohort for future HIV prevention studies,”because African MSM face considerably legal and social hurdles in coming forward,“careful consideration of the counselling and clinical needs, follow-up schedule and social support is vital to ensure continuing research participation.”

The study

The aim of the study was to collect data on HIV and STI incidence and risk factors in three populations in Kilifi, a district north of Mombasa, and the Kangemi district of Nairobi, both in Kenya, and from Gugulethu township in Cape Town in South Africa, the better to target HIV vaccine trials.

The researchers recruited 716 people in Mombasa, 653 in Nairobi and 465 in Cape Town, The researchers primarily used participants to recruit their peers in South Africa, where background HIV prevalence at 28% is ten times higher than in Kenya, but in Kenya recruited attendees at HIV testing centres, via outreach work in bars and brothels, and via ‘snowball’ sampling (asking members of a particular group to recruit others from the same group). The original idea had been to collect data on high-risk heterosexuals including sex workers but, as the researchers comment, “it quickly became apparent that MSM were willing to come forward and participate in HIV prevention research”.

Somewhat different monitoring and follow-up criteria were used in the three centres. In Cape Town participants were monitored monthly and followed up for one year while in the two Kenyan cohorts participants were monitored quarterly for two to four years. In Mombasa participants were examined for STIs at every visit but in Nairobi and Cape Town only examined if they had symptoms. As a result annual STI incidence was much higher in Mombasa (23%) than in the other two centres (3.7% and 4.4%).

The average ago of participants was mid-20s (slightly older in Nairobi); nearly 70% were women in Cape Town, 50% in Nairobi and 36% in Mombasa. Participants in Capt Town were almost entirely heterosexual men and women and were not sex workers.

In Mombasa 56% of men (36% of the study population) was an MSM; 63% of men said they had sold sex (mainly to other men) and 54% had bought it.  Three-quarters of female participants said they were female sex workers while one in 20 women said they had bought sex.

In Nairobi nearly all women defined as a sex worker and 85% of the men had bought sex; 22.5% of the men had had sex with other men and 33% defined as a male sex worker.

There was a high dropout rate in the study: 13% did not return after their enrolment visit, 37% altogether left the study prematurely. Annual attrition rates were 22% in Cape Town, 20% in Mombasa and 10% in Nairobi.

The results

HIV incidence was high in MSM in the Kenyan centres: annual incidence in MSM was 9.7% in Nairobi and 6.1% in Mombasa (there were only three individuals who said they were MSM in Capt Town, and none contracted HIV).

Annual HIV incidence in women was 3% in Cape Town, 2.7% in female sex workers and 2.3% in non-sex-workers in Mombasa, and only 0.4% – much lower than expected – in Nairobi. Annual HIV incidence in non-MSM men was 0.9% in Mombasa and zero in the other two centres.

In a multivariate analysis predictors of HIV infection included:

  • No secondary education versus some: Hazard Ratio     (HR): 3.34
  • Genital ulcers,     yes versus no: HR 4.48
  • Paid for sex versus not: HR 0.17
  • Receptive-only anal sex versus no anal sex     (in men and women): HR 8.19
  • Receptive and insertive anal sex versus none:     HR 3.55
  • Insertive-only anal sex versus none: HR 0.88     (non-significant)

Thus while receptive anal sex was very strongly associated with HIV infection, insertive anal sex was not. The finding that people who paid for sex were more than five times less likely to acquire HIV than people who did not was described as ‘unexpected’; the researchers suggest that people having paid-for sex may be more wary of HIV and STIs and more likely to use condoms.

The fact that HIV incidence in female sex workers was far lower than expected, especially in Nairobi, is likely due to decreasing background HIV prevalence and possibly more use of antiretrovirals. Higher condom use is a less likely explanation, because annual pregnancy rates remained high: the annual pregnancy rate was 18% in women in Nairobi, 14% in Cape Town and 11% in Mombasa.

This is some of the first data on HIV incidence in MSM in Africa, a continent where, as the researchers say, “the focus of prevention trials in adult Africans has largely been on heterosexual transmission.” They add that a recent UNAIDS report highlights the deficiencies in addressing the needs of MSM and comment that it “reinforces the importance of closing this gap from both a human rights and public health perspective.”

Source: http://www.aidsmap.com/Men-who-have-sex-with-men-may-now-be-the-highest-risk-group-for-HIV-in-Africa-IAVI-study-suggests/page/2234346/

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MasterCard Opens East African Regional Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya

Posted by Administrator on February 2, 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 2, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — MasterCard Worldwide (http://www.mastercard.com), a global payments and technology company, today launched its official East African regional headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. This development brings the number of MasterCard offices across the African continent to five, with other offices operational in Cairo, Casablanca, Lagos, Johannesburg and now Nairobi.


Logo: http://www.apo-mail.org/Mastercard_Worldwide_logo.jpg


The Right Honorable Raila Odinga, Prime Minister, Republic of Kenya welcomed MasterCard’s announcement. “We are pleased to welcome MasterCard to East Africa and in particular to Kenya, as we see the region’s growth path continue. MasterCard’s products will see the benefits of inclusion into the financial system extend to many more East Africans, giving them the opportunity to transact electronically with people and companies and so keep their precious money safe and secure, helping to build prosperity for their future.”


“Nairobi’s reputation as an African commerce, trade and development hub made it a strategically sound location for MasterCard to establish its regional headquarters. We believe it is a natural recognition of Kenya’s role as the financial heart of the East Africa region,” says Daniel Monehin, Area Head, East & West Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, MasterCard Worldwide.


The Nairobi office will act as MasterCard’s liaison office for customer banks, business associates and consumers in its main markets of Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Ethiopia and Uganda, as well as across the rest of the East African region, bringing the organisation’s knowledge of electronic payments best practice to these markets.


This will include a significant emphasis in the areas of card knowledge and skills development, advising on development of card acceptance infrastructure, new products, and developing partnerships with ‘technology enablers,’ as well as retailer education and best acceptance practice.


“We are establishing the new Nairobi office as a gateway through which MasterCard will liaise with its existing customers across the East African region. It will also be a launch pad for further expansion across the region, by providing advice to support MasterCard’s ongoing quest to shift consumers from traditional cash payments to non-cash payment systems, so that they can avoid the costs, risks and inefficiencies associated with cash,” comments Monehin.


Bringing the benefits of electronic payments to people across the African continent is a primary focus for MasterCard. “East Africa, and indeed Africa as a whole, has always been heavily reliant on cash – both in the consumer and corporate sectors,” says Charlton Goredema, Vice President and Market Manager for East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands for MasterCard Worldwide. “This dependence is costly – the costs of printing notes and keeping them secure are significant – and cash payments restrict an individual or company’s economic activity to their immediate geographic area.”


MasterCard has already been active in the Kenyan market working with banks and other business organisations to advise on developing payment solutions that are best suited for Kenyans. Most recently, in collaboration with Airtel & Standard Chartered Bank, the world’s first virtual card that operates off a mobile wallet was launched in Kenya.


“PayOnline is a unique virtual card payment solution, developed specifically to address the needs of consumers in Kenya. At the Mobile World Congress 2011 this product was awarded top honours as the Best Mobile Money Product or Solution. PayOnline makes it possible for Kenyan Airtel clients to shop online, even if they do not have a bank account,” says Goredema. “This is just one way that MasterCard products are working to extend financial inclusion to all through the development of solutions that take into account the unique attributes of each local market.”


“MasterCard products make it simple and safe to process electronic payments anywhere in the world,” Goredema points out. “Consumers using electronic payment systems don’t have to worry whether the cash they are carrying is sufficient for their intended purchase, and they do not have to fear for their security, as is common when carrying a large amount of cash on their person.”


In addition, the electronic payments solutions brought to market by MasterCard facilitate transparency in banking, through innovation and security that provide clear transaction records at every step, allowing protection from fraudulent activities. Goredema believes that these solutions are key to the continued success of East Africa’s rapid economic growth.


“MasterCard’s products include debit, prepaid, mobile and credit card payment solutions, which can be used to avoid the pitfalls of cash,” says Goredema. “We have already used these products in a variety of revolutionary applications on the African continent, including prepaid solutions for transport, and the secure disbursement of citizens’ social security payments.”


MasterCard’s global payments expertise will be very relevant across East Africa and particularly in Kenya, as the country evolves to implement the National Payments Systems Bill, passed by the country’s government during 2011.


“We believe that the Bill is a recognition that efficient payment mechanisms are essential to the development of the Kenyan economy, and we look forward to working with policymakers to bring electronic payment solutions to this market,” says Goredema. “We have worked on similar projects across the globe, where we have responded to local needs with products that offer the best of MasterCard’s global experience.”


MasterCard will also be offering the services of MasterCard Advisors into the East African region, helping to ensure that best-practice principles are implemented across the payments network. MasterCard Advisors is the professional services arm of MasterCard that provides payments consulting, information, analytics, and customised services to financial institutions, governments and retailers worldwide.


“We have invested significant resources into understanding East Africa, its business dynamics, how its consumers operate and the unique conditions that make this region one of the most exciting places to do business,” says Goredema. “We realise that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy and each market has its own unique challenges, opportunities and needs. MasterCard has invested extensively in research both on the African continent, and globally, and we are equipped to offer advice on payment industry best practice at every level.


“For MasterCard, the opportunities Africa brings forth will push the payments frontier faster and further than ever before and we continue our vision to realise a world beyond cash, bringing greater efficiencies to the payments system,” concludes Goredema. “We look forward to now working even more closely with our customer financial institutions, businesses and consumers across East Africa to leverage new technologies and innovative payment methods to enable safe, simple and convenient ways for consumers to pay.”


Distributed by the African Press Organization for MasterCard Worldwide.



Posted in Kenya | Comments Off on MasterCard Opens East African Regional Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya

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