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Archive for April 11th, 2012

A Kenyan Scholar in New York in a Legal Battle Over Kwame Nkrumah’s Diary

Posted by Administrator on April 11, 2012

Dr. Nkrumah wrote in his diary: "Things will not go well for Ghana"

Dr. Nkrumah wrote in his diary: "Things will not go well for Ghana"

A diary belonging to Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, which dates from the mid-1960s, and has been at the centre of a long legal battle between an American businessman and an African scholar from Kenya, will soon be returning home.

An American, New York businessman Robert Shulman is battling Vincent Mbirika, a Kenyan-born, New York-based scholar and amateur investigator, who doggedly tracked down and succeeded in retrieving the diary from the American who had it in his possession for many years.

The Kenyan, who describes himself as Africa’s “Indiana Jones” has convinced the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania in the US that the diary rightly belongs to Ghana and to the Nkrumah family and should be returned to Africa.

The judge ruled that the diary, which offers a rare look into the public and personal life of the great Pan-Africanist, was among the possessions of Dr Nkrumah when he died in Romania in 1972. The judge has ordered that the diary should be handed over to the Ghanaian ambassador in Washington for onward conveyance to Ghana.

Mbirika invited Sadick Abubakar, a Ghanaian living in Washington and a director of the United African Congress, a US advocacy group for African expatriates, to help in contacting Nkrumah’s relatives back home to provide the necessary backings.

The diary has travelled around the world over the last 40 years from Ghana to Guinea to Romania and America. Shulman has been keeping the diary for many years now and with the latest ruling Ghanaians will now have a feel of what their founding father wrote about his career.

The diary entries start from the mid-1960s, when the Osagyefo was president, and run to the late 1960s when he had been deposed and was living in exile in Guinea as a guest of President Sekou Toure.

One entry, from 1966, the year Nkrumah was ousted by the military, mentions the purchase of military equipment from the Soviet Union. In another entry, from 1968, when Nkrumah was living in Guinea, the former president instructs his wife, Fathia, to “take care” of their children – Gamal Gorkeh, Sekou, and Samia (who is now an MP in Ghana and chairperson of the Convention People’s Party founded by her father).

Possibly the most compelling entry in the diary (which is about the size of a small paperback and has a bookmark with the colours of Ghana’s flag stuffed in its pages), is one where Nkrumah, who had been Ghana’s head of state since independence from Britain in 1957, reflects on the abrupt end of his presidency. It makes clear that Nkrumah was worried about Ghana and Africa’s future. He wrote: “Things will not go well for Ghana” and said his “vision” for Ghana would now be “lost”.

Source: http://www.citifmonline.com/index.php?id=1.852988

Posted in Diaspora News | Comments Off on A Kenyan Scholar in New York in a Legal Battle Over Kwame Nkrumah’s Diary

A Kenyan Man Has Passed Away in Baltimore, Maryland

Posted by Administrator on April 11, 2012

The Late Justin Marasa

The Late Justin Marasa

It is with deep sorrow and sadness that we announce the sudden death of Justin Marasa which occurred in Baltimore, Maryland on April 9th, 2012.

The late was a dear brother to Dr. Bernard Marasa of Baltimore, Maryland and brother-in-law to Nancy Angwenyi and loving uncle to Watson Marasa and Janelle Marasa of Baltimore, MD. He was a beloved father to Alexander Leland Marasa.

Daily Prayers/Meetings

Family, relatives and friends are meeting daily at Dr. Benard Marasa’s residence: 5205 Saybrook Rd, Baltimore, MD 21206 for prayers starting at 6pm sharp.

Friends and relatives are encouraged to pray for Dr. Marasa’s Family.

Please send your contributions to support transporting the remains to Kenya to:

Bank of America
Account Number: 003936284531
c/o Dr. Bernard Marasa

Memorial Service/Fundraising

The memorial service and main fundraising is scheduled for Saturday April 21st, 2012 at 9600 Pulaski Park Dr, Suite 115, Middle River, Maryland 21220 starting at 4:00pm.

For directions or information please contact the following :

In Maryland:
Dr. Rodgers Mokua: 443-635-0792
Dr. Josephat Omwancha: 419-699-1881
Mr. Sammy Nyamao: 443-983-2630
Dr. Robert Matunda: 443-531-4761
Mr. Zablon Karara: 410-412-6259
Mr. Vincent Mongare: 443-418-7817
Mrs. Damaris Victor: 410-802-4317
Mr. Gitau Njenga: 410-961-1215
Mr. Benard Nyagechi: 410-245-6446
Mr. Josphat Kobia: 443-527-8217
Mr. Steve Mwangi: 443-621-0551
Dr. Jari Raji: 443-622-8592
Pastor Patrick Kibui: 443-527-4556

In New Jersey:
Mr. David Orwochi: 201-920-6611
Mr. Richard Nyamao: 973-454-8830
Mr. Gilbert Monyancha: 201-892-9096

In Minnesota:
Jared Okindo: 952-406-2034

In Texas:
Onditi Mogoba: 682-597-0096

In California:
Dr. Moses Bosire: 510-688-1832

Posted in Obituaries | 16 Comments »

Kenya’s Startup Boom

Posted by Administrator on April 11, 2012

Limited lifeline: Zuhura Hussein, who does outreach in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, has the names of many TB sufferers and HIV-positive clients on her phone but no technology to track them. Credit: Frederic Courbet/Getty Images

Limited lifeline: Zuhura Hussein, who does outreach in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, has the names of many TB sufferers and HIV-positive clients on her phone but no technology to track them. Credit: Frederic Courbet/Getty Images

Erick Njenga, a 21-year-old college senior wrapping up his business IT degree at Nairobi’s Strathmore University, has a gap-toothed grin and a scraggly goatee. A mild-mannered son of auditors, he didn’t say much as we tucked into a lunch of grilled steak, rice, and fruit juice at an outdoor café amid the din of the city’s awful traffic. But his code had done the talking. Last year Njenga and three classmates developed a program that will let thousands of Kenyan health workers use mobile phones to report and track the spread of diseases in real time—and they’d done it for a tiny fraction of what the government had been on the verge of paying for such an application. Their success—and that of others in the nation’s fast-growing startup scene—demonstrates the emergence of a tech-savvy generation able to address Kenya’s public-health problems in ways that donors, nongovernmental organizations, and multinational companies alone cannot.

Njenga was humble about the project, but the problem he had tackled was critical in a nation where one in 25 is HIV-positive (10 times the U.S. rate) and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria are among the leading killers. In 2010, the Kenyan government realized it had to do something about its chaotic system for tracking infectious diseases in order to improve the response to outbreaks and report cases to the World Health Organization. Handwritten reports and text messages describing deaths and new cases of disease would stream in from more than 5,000 clinics around the nation and pivot through more than 100 district offices before being manually entered into a database in Nairobi. The health ministry wanted to let community health workers put information into the database directly from mobile phones, which are ubiquitous in Kenya. The ministry initially sought a solution the usual way: it explored hiring a multinational contractor. It drafted a contract with the Netherlands office of Bharti Airtel, the Indian telecommunications giant that also operates a mobile network in Kenya. The company proposed spending tens of thousands of dollars on mobile phones and SIM cards for the data-gathering task, and it said it would need another $300,000 to develop the data application on the phones. The total package ran to $1.9 million.

The contract was never signed; Kenya’s attorney general stopped the deal over questions about its reliance on one mobile carrier. Not very many years ago, there wouldn’t have been any options within the country. But Kenya’s director of public health made an urgent call to Gerald Macharia, the East Africa director for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), a wing of the foundation started by former president Bill Clinton. Macharia then called an instructor at Strathmore, who quickly rounded up the four students. They spent the spring of 2011 at the CHAI offices, receiving internship pay of about $150 a month. They sat for days with the staff in the health ministry to understand the traditional way of gathering information. Then they pounded out the app and polished up the database software to allow disease reporting from any mobile Web interface. By last summer their “Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response” system was up and running at the ministry, obviating much of Bharti Airtel’s proposed costs. The process was “rough—but not too bad,” Njenga says. “There were some nights we worked until 2 a.m.” He and his colleagues are now finishing an SMS version so that health workers without Web access can make reports via text message from mobile phones of any make or model. The students are also working on another key problem: coming up with ways for the health ministry to track pharmaceuticals it ships to the government’s hospitals and clinics, to avoid shortages or waste.

Mobile phones are lifelines for Kenyans. Some 26 million of the nation’s 41 million people have phones, and 18 million use them to do their everyday banking and conduct other business; most use a service called M-Pesa, which is offered by the country’s dominant wireless provider, Safaricom. If mobile phones could play as big a role in Kenyan health care as they do in Kenyan financial transactions, the effects could be profound. A growing body of research worldwide is showing that beyond disease surveillance, mobile phones can improve public health by connecting people with doctors for the first time, reminding people to take medications or bring children in for vaccinations, and even enabling doctors in remote areas to view, update, and manage crucial clinical records.

Still, there are big gaps between the promise of mobile health technologies, or “m-health,” and their actual implementation. According to the mHealth Alliance, a Washington-based group, 45 mobile health projects are active or have already been completed in Kenya alone—more than in any other country. Most have been devised and paid for by philanthropies, aid agencies, and NGOs. The projects vary widely: one delivers money via M-Pesa to pay for repair of fistulas, a damaging complication of childbirth; another verifies the authenticity of drugs when workers text their serial numbers. Some have had substantial impact. But most are limited in scope and time frame. And there’s often no business model for sustaining them when the funding runs out, leaving the field suffering from a bad case of “pilotitis,” says Patricia Mechael, executive director of the mHealth Alliance. “The space is incredibly fragmented, unfortunately,” she says. “You have a lot of bits and pieces coming from different angles and lots of pilots going on.”

Meanwhile, IT contracts for government websites, electronic registries, and other large projects are typically conceived by NGOs or donors and carried out by contractors who may be remote from the specific needs of workers at the front lines. “You have people thinking at 30,000 feet: ‘Let’s do websites for every government ministry,'” Jackson Hungu, CHAI’s country director, told me over dinner in Nairobi. That’s good, he says, but it may not meet the needs on the ground: “Have we gone to that pharmacist and asked, ‘Look, what do you do? You are the one who meets the patient and feels the pain.’ Have we understood it thoroughly from that guy’s point of view? Or are we building something so donors can say, ‘Oh, we are online’?” Successful national technology strategies, he argues, require people like the Strathmore students, who have the code-writing chops, can readily work with the people who need to use the technology, and are likely to remain in Kenya to sustain the effort.

Face of AIDS: Hussein helps a 48-year-old Kibera resident who needs daily drugs for HIV and tuberculosis. Text-message reminders to take antiretroviral drugs have been shown elsewhere to help prevent the onset of AIDS and reduce mother-to-infant HIV transmission. Credit: Frederic Courbet/Getty Images


Nairobi’s Prestige Plaza shopping center would look familiar to anyone from a rich country: it’s got an anchor megastore, called Nakumatt, and a food court (the Swahili Plate concession, which dishes up beef stews and curries, is a clue you’re not in Kansas). But one block away, a rutted dirt road perpendicular to the complex leads to the maw of one of Africa’s largest urban slums, Kibera, with 170,000 residents. The outskirts bustle with stalls selling kale, peanuts, sugarcane, herbs, and cell-phone SIM cards. The ground is hard-packed mud littered with stones and garbage. Single-story huts flank alleyways. Rusty corrugated-metal roofs shed the rains. At the nicer huts, curtains blow through openings. But the smells of smoke and feces linger, and children play near fetid rivulets lined with plastic refuse. The river at the lowest end of the slum becomes like a sewer when it rains. Kibera is, unsurprisingly, a hotbed of infectious disease, including HIV and tuberculosis.

Zuhura Hussein was born in Kibera 38 years ago and never left. (Her roots in Kenya are deep: she is descended from the Nubians conscripted in the Sudan by British colonial forces a century ago and permitted to settle in what was then a lush forest.) A mother of three and grandmother of one, Hussein is one of 140 community health workers attached to one of the clinics that serve the slum. She encourages the people of Kibera to venture out for medical checkups and vaccinations; she also urges patients with HIV or tuberculosis to take their medications every day. She and thousands of Kenyan workers like her are crucial to the success of many global health initiatives, such as the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which spends $500 million per year in Kenya alone.

The day of my visit, Hussein and I snaked through a four-foot-wide alleyway, past two girls peering into a fragment of shattered mirror as they braided their hair next to a pot of boiling meat. We ducked into one of Kibera’s dim, cramped habitations. When our eyes adjusted, a bed came into focus. A figure wrapped in blankets stirred. The woman (who wasn’t well enough to give permission to use her name) was 48 years old but looked 75. She was HIV-­positive and was struggling with a severe case of tuberculosis. “The TB has come back—so many times, I don’t know why,” Hussein said. Asked what she needed, the woman whispered in Swahili: “I want just food—only food.” Amid this scene of despair, a phone rang; Hussein reached into her dress and produced a Nokia model 6070. Later, I scrolled through her contact list and found more than 300 names, from Abdala to Zubeda. Many, she said, were patients she’s worked with.

Phones like Hussein’s hold great potential to improve the way health services are delivered. One major study demonstrating as much was started five years ago by Richard Lester, a Canadian infectious-disease specialist. After arriving in Kenya for a research fellowship, noting the ubiquity of mobile phones, and recognizing that the country has only one doctor for each 6,000 citizens, Lester and his team developed a communication link with HIV-positive patients at three health centers, asking them weekly by text message whether they needed any assistance with their antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Once 500 people were participating, Lester conducted a clinical trial. The results, published in 2010, showed not only that a higher percentage of those receiving the reminders said they took their drugs regularly, but also that viral loads were suppressed in 57 percent of them, compared with only 48 percent of the control group. Today he estimates that expanding that system to all 410,000 Kenyans on ARVs would suppress HIV in 36,000 people, saving $17.4 million in health-care costs by averting the onset of AIDS or making more expensive drugs unnecessary.

More evidence is streaming in. In western Kenya, a research project called Academic Model for Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH), led by the Indiana University School of Medicine and the local Moi University, recently began keeping track of 130,000 HIV-positive patients using electronic health records and automated reminders on Android phones. Now workers in 55 clinics can quickly and easily see what tests or drugs patients need. Published research suggests that the proportion of HIV-positive mothers passing the infection to their babies has dropped below 3 percent, compared with nearly 15 percent in other areas, probably because more of the pregnant women are receiving antiretroviral drugs consistently. “These reminder systems are an extremely important way to make sure all of the ts are crossed and better quality of care is provided,” says Paul Biondich, a research scientist at Indiana’s Regenstrief Institute, who co-developed the underlying open-source records system platform, called OpenMRS.

Start me up: Jackie Cheruiyot (left), project leader for a Nairobi startup, tells a Kibera resident about MedAfrica, an app that provides links to ­doctors, dentists, and first-aid advice. After an investment of less than $100,000, the app is on 43,000 phones. Doctors are scarce in Kenya, but some people get care from storefront clinics like this one in Narok (right). Credit: Frederic Courbet/Getty Images (left); David Talbot (right)

But all this groundbreaking work is still reaching only a fraction of the people who need help. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than two-thirds of the 33 million people estimated to have HIV worldwide. Health IT projects established the usual way—funded by donors or NGOs and run by international contractors—are benefiting relatively few of them, and they are vulnerable to financial cutoffs. Indeed, when Lester’s research funding—$719,000 from PEPFAR—ran out in 2009, two of the three sites he was servicing stopped providing the SMS messages. Lester is now back at his desk at the University of British Columbia, doing what most people do when trying to fix health care in Africa: seeking more grants. “That is the unfortunate fate of the study,” he says. “It’s been very frustrating to go from research finding to programmatic funding. I think there is an ethical obligation, when you have a clinical trial with positive results, to do everything in our power to provide it as a service.”

I had expected that Hussein—a community health worker right in Nairobi, in the heart of a much-studied slum—would have some mobile health technology on her phone. I was mistaken. She can call patients to keep in touch with them, but Hussein had no automated SMS system to remind them to take their drugs. She was not using her Nokia to report any newly discovered disease cases. She received no formal instructions or updates from it. If the phone slips into one of Kibera’s ditches, or if Hussein jumps at an NGO’s offer for a paid stint of community work (these opportunities sometimes arise only to evaporate after a year or two), the crucial human connection to dozens of people like the patient we called on may be lost.


If you travel back up a rutted dirt road from Kibera and turn right on the Ngong Road, just past the Uchumi Hypermarket, you’ll see a five-story office building completed in 2009. From the patio ringing the top floor, a haze from diesel fumes and the cooking fires of Kibera’s shacks is visible just beyond the crest of a hill. But step inside, and it feels as if you’ve been transported to a Silicon Valley startup. Dozens of twentysomethings toil away on laptops; a few blow off steam at a foosball table; Pete’s coffee bar (not to be confused with Peet’s of the United States) doles out cappuccinos, milk shakes, and slabs of banana bread. This is a business incubator called iHub, the fruit of a homegrown information technology culture that had its coming-of-age moment in December 2007. That month, ethnic violence broke out after a disputed presidential election; at least 1,100 people died and 300,000 were displaced. Ory Okolloh, a human-rights activist, put out a call to Kenya’s loosely knit blogging and technology community to help report on the fighting (see “Frustrated Innovation). Several people responded, including Erik Hersman, Juliana Rotich, and David Kobia. In 48 hours, Kobia had written the first draft of an incident-reporting platform called Ushahidi, the Swahili word for “testimony.” Now any Kenyan could send in an eyewitness report by text message, and it would be reviewed and then posted on an online map. Ushahidi has since been used widely, in countries including Haiti, South Africa, Russia, and the United States (where it helped map flood-related problems on the Missouri River).

An incident in Ushahidi’s formative days planted the seed for iHub. Ushahidi’s developers had initially offered the technology free of charge to the Kenya Red Cross Society and other NGOs monitoring the violence. But the NGOs didn’t want it; it wasn’t part of their existing plans and funding models. “We had so much resistance,” Hersman recalls. “We kept trying to say, ‘It’s free, we will hold your hand, we will help you communicate with the public to say how you are providing a service.’ They weren’t willing to do anything with it.” The experience taught Hersman, 36, that more might get done if local hackers would get together, write more code, and start some companies that had sustainable business models. He pitched the idea of a corporate-funded space for the tech community to companies including Google and Nokia. “Nobody wanted to set up a hub/lab space in Africa,” he says. “That sounded crazy in 2008.” Finally, the Omidyar Network, the philanthropy founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, donated $200,000 to fund iHub for two years. Other donors, including Nokia, Google, and the African ISP Wananchi, stepped up with equipment and high-speed Internet service.

The incubator opened in 2010 and now counts more than 6,000 members, with an average of 1,000 new applications a year. Most members are merely part of iHub’s online community, but more than 250 of them use the space. Some 40 companies have launched from iHub, and 10 have received seed funding from venture capitalists. The most successful so far is Kopo Kopo, which helps merchants manage payments from M-Pesa and similar services. One key to iHub’s growth is that Kenya’s IT infrastructure has improved significantly. The first Internet fiber connection landed at the Kenyan coast in 2009 (previous service had come through satellite dishes in the Rift Valley), and the country’s first truly mass-market Android smart phone went on sale in 2010, for $80. Safaricom now counts 600,000 smart phones of all kinds on its network and expects them to make up 80 percent of the market by 2014.

App for that: Mark Ekisa, a Strathmore University student, shows off an interface for the new mobile and Web-based disease reporting system he helped create. Credit: David Talbot

Inevitably, this petri dish produced a mobile health startup. Shimba Technologies, led by a couple of University of Nairobi graduates named Steve Mutinda Kyalo and Keziah Mumo, created a platform called MedAfrica with the simple goal of providing basic health information to Kenyans in the face of the national doctor shortage. So far, MedAfrica offers lists of doctors and dentists taken from government registries, plus menus for finding basic first-aid and diagnostic information. “What we want is for the common man to have the right information in his hand,” says Kyalo, the company’s CEO. “We can’t replace the doctors, can’t replace the hospitals, but we can improve access to relevant information.”

MedAfrica illustrates the power of local entrepreneurship. Though it has few connections with the medical community or the health ministry, its health-care app has been downloaded on  43,000 phones, and the company is still only halfway through $100,000 in seed funding. The service can be delivered through an app or through a mobile Web interface (nearly all Kenyans who access the Internet do so through mobile devices). Soon it will be available through SMS—an essential feature, because 85 percent of Kenyan mobile-phone owners don’t yet have Web access. Kyalo hopes to aggregate other medical apps on the platform and ultimately sell sponsored messages from pharmaceutical companies, health-care providers, and others.

I joined Kyalo and one of his colleagues, Jackie Cheruiyot, a leukemia survivor who has firsthand experience with the scarcity of Kenyan health services, as they hit the road to pitch the app to potential users. They faced skepticism as they made cold calls in Narok, two hours west of Nairobi. In Narok’s bustling downtown, with a mosque at its center, women picked over vegetables and potatoes while men hauled sacks of grain on carts or peddled small red sausages; a three-man team dug out a culvert to clear green water from a roadside ditch. At the Narok District Hospital, a government-run facility festooned with posters and stickers from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control, and other donor groups, Cheruiyot knocked on the door of the head nursing administrator, disarmingly singing out “Welcome!” But the administrator shooed us away with this reproach: “You must get authorization from the health ministry.” The idea of a startup company trying to participate in health care is still far too alien. “Government is the hardest nut to crack,” Kyalo said as we beat our retreat.

Other startups have emerged without iHub’s help. Changamka Microhealth sells health payment cards that can be charged up through M-Pesa. You buy a card, preloaded with 450 shillings, for 500 shillings—Changamka makes 50 shillings, or about 60 cents, on each—and then you make M-Pesa payments to add money until you’ve got enough for a given procedure. (There’s even a special card for pregnant women; a hospital childbirth costs about 4,000 shillings, or $50, a sum many cannot easily or safely save at home.) And Intellisoft Consulting builds electronic medical records platforms, which many clinics throughout Kenya employ. It provides this infrastructure using OpenMRS, the open-source platform initially developed by Indiana University researchers and the NGO Partners in Health, which continues to evolve with help from dozens of developers, many of them Kenyans. Such companies are developing a crucial local capacity to improve health care, says Paul Biondich, the Indiana University researcher. “We have to do things like iHub, help the local people get organized, and set up a way that the cash coming in to support health is increasingly available to these kinds of startup entities,” he says.


Larger Kenyan companies are starting to figure out how to do that—using the promising ideas and developing business models from them. On the same day Kyalo launched MedAfrica last November—with doctors’ phone numbers as a major selling point—Safaricom announced that it was launching its own doctor-calling service. In a nation with few doctors and no free 911 service for medical emergencies, residents can now at least speak to a doctor for about 25 cents per minute. The service already fields 500 calls per day, but while it’s helping, it also painfully illustrates the challenges facing its potential users. Nzioka Waita, Safaricom’s director of corporate responsibility, described a call that came through in January from a woman desperate for help because her husband wouldn’t wake up. During the course of the call, her mobile-phone credits ran out, though the doctor was able to call her back. Safaricom says it is in discussions with a partner willing to subsidize future emergency calls so they can’t be cut off.

Kenya tech hub: Tech-savvy graduates fill the offices of iHub (left), a startup incubator founded by Erik Hersman (right), one of the creators of the Ushahidi incident-reporting platform now in use around the world. Credit: Frederic Courbet/Getty Images

Safaricom is also working with partner companies to do for health care what it did for banking with M-Pesa. A system now being designed—initially for pregnant women in several rural districts—would let community health workers create an electronic medical record for each patient, update the records, and send health information and reminders to the patients’ phones. In many ways, the project would adapt technologies pioneered by groups like AMPATH and allow them to be rapidly scaled up.

The $2.3 million project is expected to roll out this spring. The idea is for community workers, armed with a phone and sheets of ID cards bearing bar codes, to issue a card to a woman and scan the code with the phone’s camera, registering the woman’s identity. The woman, if she has a phone, would then receive text messages offering health advice and reminders of upcoming appointments. On each return visit, new information, tied to the bar-code identifier, would be uploaded by SMS to a central database. Crucially, the system would build on existing mobile billing and banking platforms. Each transaction uses phone minutes, which are mostly prepaid in Kenya and could be subsidized by donors.

And in a nation where 75 percent of the population is not covered by any health insurance, Safaricom envisions enrolling people in insurance programs and letting them make payments via M-Pesa. About 50,000 laborers have recently started doing just that. Handling the financial side of health care with mobile phones, say Biondich and others, would make it possible to bring more people into the system and thus improve the nation’s health. Mobile payment also provides a potentially efficient way for donors to fund health care.

Nairobi’s Kenyatta National Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa, has a distinctly 1930s feel, with painted wooden doors and hand-painted signs. One day Ambrose Kwale, the hospital’s director of IT, showed me around. There was a new 25-bed isolation unit for multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis, and a grassy spot outdoors where several people who appeared to be in their 50s or 60s were sprawled, some curled in the fetal position. These were cancer patients. Many had traveled overnight, referrals in hand, for appointments with some of the few oncologists in East Africa. (One hospital IT initiative is to install a telemedicine facility to help patients at regional medical centers avoid the trip to Nairobi to see specialists.) A woman who appeared to be in her 30s, wearing a pink jacket and a flowered shawl, leaned against a concrete pillar, short of breath. When Kwale approached, she weakly handed him a piece of paper marked up in blue pen. She had traveled 50 kilometers to see a specialist for her breast cancer, and now she was alone, exhausted, and at the wrong place on the campus. A pale blue cataract blighted her left eye, and a look of fear and pain shadowed her face as she rested her head against the pillar. Kwale could only call for an orderly to help the woman find her way.

Mobile technologies offer great potential to help patients like her—to keep track of their care, provide reminders, and give them broader access to expertise. And experience is showing that local talent can create the technology.

The challenge lies in organizing this emerging talent so that it can tackle large-scale projects. Last year USAID, a major funder of health projects in Kenya and other developing countries, requested proposals for help creating a unified, Web-based national health information system that would be “host country owned.” The five-year, $32 million contract went to Abt Associates, a consultancy based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has done extensive work in global development projects. But although it has expertise, so does the new tech class back in the host country—which also has a long-term stake in the solution and no U.S. overhead. “If you talked about an RFP for $32 million at iHub, people would go nuts! You’d fund 500 startups for that,” CHAI’s Jackson Hungu says. “And this country’s public health delivery would be changed forever. I have no doubt about that.”

Source: http://www.technologyreview.com/communications/39673/?fb_ref=article

Posted in Kenya | Comments Off on Kenya’s Startup Boom

Kenya issues Tsunami alert

Posted by Administrator on April 11, 2012

Kenya has issued a Tsunami alert after massive quake hits Indonesia, Minister Esther Murugi has announced. Schools around the coast will be closed to avoid a stampede on ferries. Hospitals have also been alerted to be on standby. Updates will continue to be issued as developments arise.

Posted in Kenya | Comments Off on Kenya issues Tsunami alert

I was drugged by my Sudi boss, claims woman

Posted by Administrator on April 11, 2012

Jane Wanjiku kagimbi says she was assaulted by her employer In Saudi Arabia where she had gone to work as a house help on April 9, 2012. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI

Jane Wanjiku kagimbi says she was assaulted by her employer In Saudi Arabia where she had gone to work as a house help on April 9, 2012. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI

Another victim of human-trafficking, who was lured to Saudi Arabia with promises of a well-paying job, returned home early this week with tales of tribulations and suffering.

Ms Jane Wanjiku narrated to the Nation how her Saudi Arabian boss turned her into a slave by forcing her to work for long hours without a break and subjecting her to inhuman treatment.

Ms Wanjiku first heard of well-paying job opportunities in Saudi Arabia through a friend, who introduced her to agents in Nairobi. A deal was struck for Ms Wanjiku to take up a job as a caretaker for a disabled child.

Repay the expenses

Two weeks after leaving Nairobi for Saudi last December 28, she found the conditions unbearable but her boss rejected her plea to return home on grounds that she had to repay the expenses they had incurred on her.

“I wanted to come back because it was too much for me but they refused. I spoke to the agent and they took me to another home”, the 47-year-old told the Nation on Monday.

Although she thought the move would bring reprieve, it turned out to be a plunge from the frying pan to the fire.

She said her hopes crushed upon realisation that food was laced with drugs just like in her previous work place. Matters became even worse because she was forced to eat the food.

“They urged me to eat, saying it was important for my health but I realised the food was laced with drugs. I had no option and ate a little food,” the mother of four said.

She claimed her food was always served from a different tray which made her suspect a sinister motive.

She then sought the help of a local woman for interpretations of Arabic, which her employer’s family spoke and realised they intended to kill her.

“The woman told me they wanted to kill me because I was too inquisitive. They thought I would narrate my tribulations and that could possibly spoil their market,” Ms Wanjiku claimed.

It is for that reason that she believes her life is still in danger after unknown people allegedly trailed her on Sunday upon arrival back to Kenya.

But when contacted, Al-Kaki Enterprises & Travel manager Julius Kimemia (the agents recruiting the domestic workers) denied the allegations, saying she was flown back to the country purely on medical grounds.

“I talked to the woman yesterday (Sunday) when she was still at the airport and she said she was unwell. I don’t have any information regarding those claims, but we will look into them,” Mr Kimemia told the Nation on phone.

But even as Mr Kimemia insisted Ms Wanjiku was never assaulted, she revealed bruises and injuries on her body to indicate that she had been tortured.

Ms Wanjiku claimed to have become unconscious for several hours one day after being forced to eat food laced with drugs only to wake up with pain in her stomach. She said her health has deteriorated since.

But the worst experience for Ms Wanjiku was when she was locked up in a roof-less room without food for three days.

“That is when I contemplated committing suicide. I prayed to God for it was all I could do,” she said. She jumped through a small window into the next building from where police took her to hospital. It was while at the hospital that the host family coordinated her return journey.


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Kenyan’s drug trafficking trial postponed

Posted by Administrator on April 11, 2012

Judith (right) escorted by Customs personnel to a courtroom yesterday.

Judith (right) escorted by Customs personnel to a courtroom yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: The High Court here yesterday postponed the trial of a Kenyan  woman charged with trafficking in 3,747.63 grams of syabu as she would be  undergoing surgery at a hospital here.

Justice Dato’ Abdul Rahman Sebli deferred the trial of Judith Achieng Odoyo,  30, to June 27 to 29 and July 16 to 18, this year upon the request of her  assigned counsel Ram Singh.

When applying for postponement, Singh informed the court that Odoyo was due  to be admitted into the Likas Women’s and Children’s Hospital to undergo a  surgery.

“She has been diagnosed with fibroid and her operation is due tomorrow  (today),” Singh said, adding that the accused should be admitted before 12.30pm  to enable the hospital authority to prepare her for the surgery.

Deputy public prosecutor Mohd Radzi Shah Abdul Razak told the court that he  had no objection to the application to enable the accused to be admitted into  the hospital.

The court however issued an order for Singh to tender a letter from the  hospital to confirm the matter.

Singh duly tendered the letter confirming that the accused needed to be  admitted to the hospital as she had been planned for elective surgery (today) to  the court during its proceedings in the afternoon.

Odoyo from Kenya, allegedly trafficked the drug at the passenger examination  special unit at Terminal 1 of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA)  about 8.45am on September 1.

She is charged under Section 39B (1) (a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952  which provides for the mandatory death sentence by hanging upon conviction.

The prosecution would be calling 10 witnesses to testify against Odoyo during  the trial.

The accused has been remanded in custody ever since the date of her arrest  since drug trafficking is a non-bailable offence.

Source: http://www.theborneopost.com/2012/04/10/kenyans-drug-trafficking-trial-postponed/#ixzz1rjeikDjn

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Kenyans Almost Dead on Worst Roads Getting New Highways

Posted by Administrator on April 11, 2012

Exasperated by a half hour of gridlock in downtown Nairobi last month, a bus driver jumped the median and headed toward oncoming traffic. As cars, trucks and hawkers jostled for space, he raced ahead, almost colliding with a motorcycle courier, before pulling back into his lane.

It’s a frequent scene in the Kenyan capital, where commuters compete with trucks ferrying cargo between East Africa’s biggest port of Mombasa, on the Kenyan coast, and landlocked neighbors Uganda and Rwanda, all on a road that runs through the middle of Nairobi.

To end the jams, Kenya is building more roads than it has since independence half a century ago as the government forecasts the economic growth rate will double over the next two decades, to about 10 percent. At least 80 billion shillings ($970 million) is being spent over five years on more than 500 kilometers of new roads and on widening existing ones.

“The investment committed to roads around Nairobi in the past five years is in multiples of what was invested in Kenya’s history,” Transport Minister Amos Kimunya said in an interview.“The government believes that once you open up infrastructure other investment will follow.”

That may boost profits for the East African franchise ofCoca-Cola Co. (KO), which is spending $62 million increasing capacity in Kenya; Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc.’s local unit that produces and processes fruit from farms; and Unilever (UNA), whose Kenyan tea plantations turn out 30,000 tons a year.

Infrastructure Bonds

The government’s growing ability to borrow to pay for road and energy projects is fueling the country’s debt market, with almost $1.4 billion infrastructure bonds sold since the first such sale in 2009, said Razia Khan, head of African research for Standard Chartered Bank in London.

Kenya also is securing a $600 million loan, arranged byCitigroup Inc. (C), South Africa’s Standard Bank Group Ltd. (SBK) and London-based Standard Chartered Plc (STAN), to finance roadway, energy and irrigation projects in the fiscal year through June.

“The investment committed to roads around Nairobi in the past five years is in multiples of what was invested in Kenya’s history,” Transport Minister Amos Kimunya said in an interview. Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

“The investment committed to roads around Nairobi in the past five years is in multiples of what was invested in Kenya’s history,” Transport Minister Amos Kimunya said in an interview. Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

“One of the main problems holding Kenya from embarking on such an expansive road-building program in the past has been the issue of funding,” Marc Mercer, an Africa analyst with London-based Eurasia Group Ltd., said an e-mailed response to questions. “These projects are now materializing and improved transportation links will be a big plus for the economy.”

Kenya’s B+/B rating was affirmed by Standard & Poor’s in December, with a stable outlook. The central bank’s fight against inflation has pushed up yields: The yield on the five-year benchmark bond rose to 13.9 percent at an auction on August 24, the highest since at least May 2006, compared with 12.5 percent at the previous sale on June 22. Two-year borrowing costs climbed to 22.8 percent on Nov. 23, from 16.5 percent the month earlier, according to central bank data.

Lock in Now?

“Kenyan bonds are high-yielding due to government monetary policy,” said Olivier Vojetta, the London-based head of research at asset managers FM Capital Partners Ltd. “It makes sense to lock in now as high rates won’t persist indefinitely.”He said the new infrastructure bonds “may be of interest.”

A broadening base of taxpayers and greater efforts to tackle tax evasion have helped boost state revenue. Expenditure on highway, railway and power projects have almost doubled in the past three years, to 221 billion shillings in 2011-2012.

While Kenya is starting to show it can spend borrowed money effectively, in the past funds intended for infrastructure have sometimes been lost to corruption, Mercer said.

The World Bank de-barred two companies and a business owner in 2003 after an investigation in Kenya revealed a former World Bank employee and government official were paid kickbacks in a project funded by the Washington-based lender to lay down roads, according to a statement.

Tea and Flowers

Kenya is among the world’s 30-most graft-prone countries, alongside Zimbabwe and Paraguay, according to Transparency International’s latest corruption perception index.

The flagship road project is the 27 billion-shilling upgrade of a route that connects Nairobi to the industrial town of Thika and onward to Kenya’s tea and farming heartland. Kenya is the world’s biggest exporter of black tea and supplies one-third of the flowers sold in the European Union.

The freeway will be expanded to as many as 12 lanes from two. Rehabilitating the road network, which carries 80 percent of Kenya’s cargo and passenger traffic, may also curb the economic damage caused by road accidents, the country’s third-biggest killer after HIV/AIDS and malaria.

At 34.4 deaths per 100,000 people, Kenya’s traffic mortality rate is the 16th highest in the world. Countries including Afghanistan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have  higher rates, according to 2007 figures from the World Health  Organization.

Time and Money

Rob Holtrop, managing director of a 50-hectare (124-acre)calla lily farm near Limuru, 20 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, said a recently built bypass there saves him time and money.

His driver, who ferries 10 metric tons of flowers each day from that farm and three neighboring ones, now spends two hours, instead of six, plying the route from Limuru to Nairobi’s international airport. Even so, he hits the road by 4 a.m. to avoid getting stuck in morning rush hour.

“The improvement is 100 percent; it has really lowered our shipping costs,” Holtrop said in a phone interview.

Road expansion accelerated after President Mwai Kibaki, a former finance minister, was elected in 2002. He pledged to fix transportation bottlenecks, end power shortages and enact changes that have drawn private investment and interest from donors including the African Development Bank, the World Bank,China, Japan and the European Union.

Fewer Breakdowns

“It is difficult to be competitive if you cannot move your goods or raw materials around cheaply,” Bob Okello, a Nairobi-based spokesman for Coca-Cola, said in an e-mailed response to questions. Improvements to Kenya’s transport network over the past seven years reduced vehicle breakdowns by 5 percent and led to a 10 percent savings on fuel costs, he said.

Nairobi, Africa’s 12th-largest city with a population of 3 million, has grown from its founding in 1899 as a supply depot along the railway from Mombasa, on Kenya’s southern coast, to Kampala, the capital of neighboring Uganda.

Rapid urbanization spurred by migrants seeking jobs in a city that generates as much as 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product may push Nairobi’s population to 5 million by 2020, according to the World Bank. The current road network is only adequate for a city a 10th of its size, according to the United Nations’ Human Settlements Programme.

Improved transport links in and around Nairobi mean “we will be able to reach more of our customers and farmers,”Caesar Mwangi, managing director of Sasini Ltd. (STCL), Kenya’s largest publicly traded tea and coffee grower, said in an interview.

Matatu Drivers

Apart from the central business district, Nairobi has few working traffic lights and police officers direct vehicles at the busy junctions. The city’s mass transit system is comprised mainly of privately owned minibuses, known as matatus, whose drivers routinely flout traffic safety laws.

“Matatu drivers are to blame for most of the traffic jams in Nairobi. They cause problems with their carelessness, overlapping sometimes on the wrong side of the road, and always bumping into us,” George Thuo, a 50-year-old taxi driver whose cab is pockmarked by nicks and dents, said on March 29 as he waited at his regular downtown parking spot for customers. “We would be able to earn twice as much if Nairobi had better roads and there were no matatus slowing us down.”

The Thika freeway, being built by three Chinese engineering contractors, including Sinohydro Group Ltd. (601669), is running a year behind schedule and is expected to be completed in July.

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) expects infrastructure development to help Nairobi improve its ranking on the so-called IBM Global Commuter Pain Survey. The report, which measures the toll traffic takes on work, family and health, showed the city is the world’s fourth-worst for workplace commuting, after Mexico City, Shenzen and Beijing.

“In the next five to 10 years Nairobi will be a completely different city,” said Tony Mwai, general manager for IBM East Africa. “People will spend less time in their cars, and be doing a lot more productive activities.”

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-10/kenyans-almost-dead-on-worst-roads-getting-new-highways-freight.html

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Irish TV claims Kenyan woman who acused Irish priest of rape understood questioning

Posted by Administrator on April 11, 2012

Father Kevin Reynolds was accused of raping a woman in Kenya

Father Kevin Reynolds was accused of raping a woman in Kenya

Ireland’s public broadcaster RTE has rejected a claim that the woman at the centre of the Fr Kevin Reynolds controversy did not understand the questions she was being asked during the making of the programme.

A family member of Veneranda Mudi — the woman who claimed she had been raped and had a child by the priest in Kenya — said she did not understand what she was being asked.

However, RTE sources have rejected this outright, saying that expert translators were used at all stages, and each translation was verified a number of times.

They also said that there was “no doubt” among the investigative team that she fully understood what she was being asked.

A Mudi family source last night said the whole issue has “brought shame” on them.

They claimed she “misinterpreted” the questions which were being asked of her by the Prime Time Investigates team and did not fully realise their implications.

Last May, the Prime Time programme falsely accused Galway priest Fr Kevin Reynolds of fathering a child in Kenya with Veneranda 30 years ago.

Fr Reynolds strongly denied the allegation from the outset, but the programme was aired and Fr Reynolds temporarily stepped aside from ministry.

After a DNA test confirmed he was not the father, RTE apologised to the priest and accepted the allegations were baseless and untrue. Fr Reynolds was awarded undisclosed damages by the High Court and received an apology.

Last night a Mudi family member said the rumours that Veneranda’s daughter Sheila was fathered by a white man began when she was a baby because her skin tone was much lighter than her mother’s.

“There were rumours (locally) and that grew into something people believed,” he said last night.

“She didn’t know what she was saying, she wasn’t lying. She didn’t understand about the Irish priest. We’re sorry and we want everything to end.”

He said Veneranda is “not happy” with what has happened — but she also blames herself and her lack of education as she doesn’t speak English.

“She is also blaming herself for not going to school, she didn’t understand everything.

“To the Irish people and the priest, we’re very sorry for the whole thing,” he said, adding that they are “ashamed” by what has happened. “The priest is a very good guy and we are very sorry for the whole thing.”

But a well placed source said last night that Veneranda was interviewed by the RTE team a number of times and verified her story each time.

It was also translated and checked a number of times, they said.


RTE is due to respond next week to a report which was carried out by the BAI on the orders of Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte.

Yesterday the broadcaster said it was “disappointed” that the report was leaked “and prejudices the response of the programme-makers as named individuals”. “If fair regulatory procedures are to apply, RTÉ and the production team must be allowed to make submissions to the BAI in response to the report, within the process,” a statement said.

Last week RTE announced the managing director of RTE at the time the programme was aired, Ed Mulhall, is to retire, while Ken O’Shea resigned from his post as editor of current affairs and will be transferred to an assignment in television.

Executive producer Brian Pairceir and reporter Aoife Kavanagh are currently not involved in any on-air programming. RTE has also axed the award-winning series.

. “Things were poorly done,” the family member said, adding that it was a poor investigation. “They should be ashamed of themselves. I’d like to know the person who started this story.” An RTE spokesman last night said that they were precluded from commenting on the production of the programme until the BAI investigation was completed.

Source: http://www.independent.ie/national-news/rte-claim-priest-accuser-understood-questioning-3076810.html

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Peggoty MUTAI: a Kenyan researcher against worms

Posted by Administrator on April 11, 2012

We met Peggoty Mutai in Paris in March of 2012. She was one of 15 scientists whose research projects were selected by the “L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science” programme, earning them an International Fellowship. A PhD student in Chemistry, Peggoty Mutai plans to find new treatments for parasitic worms.

How did you become a scientist?

I grew up in Kenya, in a small town called Kericho. It was exciting running around. I was interested in nature. When I went to school, I was excited by science experiments. So I wanted to do something about chemistry. A high percentage of children in Kenya suffer from worms. Growing up, we were never tested. We grew up with them. Children cannot achieve their full potential this way. There are dewormings nowadays : all children from a school are given medicine against worms. This results in less abstention from school. But what happens when it stops working, when worms develop resistance ? In Kenya, many people are using traditional medicine with plants.

What is your research on?

We study the effect of these plants. To test them, we have been using so far an inefficient system, analyzing sheep feces. The focus of my work is on taking proteins (*) from worms and putting them in… yeast! Everything is done in the lab now. When we get good compounds, we can test them on the sheep. It is more efficient.

Are you collaborating with other scientists?

You cannot be good at everything, science is about a team collaborating towards a common goal.
Do you have a message for the women of Africa? I am a woman in science. Science has a lot to offer to women, opportunities. All women practice science at some point in their life, e.g. cooking is a science! Science is challenging -nothing is easy in life- but it is interesting. Women should not fear it or run away from it.

How long until you and your colleagues find a cure for worms?

It could take three or thirty years. That’s why it’s called research!

Source: http://education.starafrica.com/en/detail-news/view/peggoty-mutai-a-kenyan-researcher-again-227188.html

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