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I walked on the dark side of business and survived : The Standard

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“I shut my business down, not because it wasn’t working, but because I needed to save my son from a situation that was detrimental to his wellbeing,” starts Nzisa Waki.

The massage therapist describes this period as “one of the most painful times of my life. I felt I had failed as a businesswoman and a mother.”
Nzisa, 34, operated Hisia, a spa, salon and barbershop in Athi River for just over a year before she shut it down to focus on motherhood.
It would take another year for her to get back on her feet and revisit her dream of being a massage therapist.
She tells Hustle her story of rising, falling and rising again.
The wellness industry in Kenya is fairly young, why did you choose to go into such a niche market?
My initial industry of choice was interior design, which I studied in Malaysia in 2006. I didn’t finish the course though because I got pregnant and decided to come back home.
I changed my course to business administration at the Australia Studies Institute and then tried my hand at farming from 2010 to 2013.
How did you go from farming to wellness?
Even while farming, I was interested in healthy lifestyles, that’s why I did organic farming. I planted tomatoes, white onions, butternut and coloured peppers. We made about Sh200,000 to Sh300,000 a month. But I was a young mother and the business was time consuming because with small-scale farming, if you’re not physically on the ground, you make serious losses.
I wanted something that gave me more time with my son. Since I was interested in wellness, I thought a spa would be a great option for a career move. I took a massage and beauty course and opened my spa, Hisia, in 2016.
Why Athi River as a location?
I knew the area already, and Nairobi seemed saturated. There wasn’t really any high-end spa in the Machakos direction.
How much did you put into the business?
It cost Sh1 million to set it up and pay rent for a year. We were doing well for a new business, turning over Sh150,000 to Sh200,000 a month. It took a toll on me though, I was working Sunday to Sunday, hardly eating or sleeping.
What were your main challenges?
Our prices were higher than most other outfits around us because we wanted to offer better quality. We would get customers coming in and then refusing to pay because they hadn’t anticipated a bill that high. They’d tell me, ‘but it costs Sh500 down the road’.
I had to explain that we used superior products, offered specialised services and so that reflected in our prices.
Did you eventually get the clientele you wanted?
It was always 50/50 because Athi River has varied income brackets, but yes, we got some good repeat customers.
Our other challenge was the misconstrued perception of what a massage spa is and does. I actually got calls or texts from women in surrounding neighbourhoods accusing us of stealing their men. Some even came in to check out the place.
How did you handle this?
I knew our reputation would eventually speak for itself because we were above board.
I could have dealt with all these things, but what I couldn’t deal with was the visit I got from one of my son’s teachers who told me that my eight-year-old wasn’t doing well. His father and I were separated, and he’d been living with his father in Nairobi.
I would only see him over the weekends when his father brought him to Athi River. Even then, most of the time I was so busy I hardly spent time with him.
I learned from his teacher that my son was extremely unhappy with his living conditions. He had lost an extraordinary amount of weight and was beginning to fail his classes.
The most painful thing for me was that I hadn’t noticed any of this. After that visit from his teacher, I dropped everything and went to be with my son in Nairobi.
Did you have a plan?
No. I put the equipment in storage and moved in with my parents because without the spa, I wasn’t earning any money. For a year, I focused on nursing my son back to health, trying to heal what had broken in him.
You walked away from a business you had worked hard to build. Did you ever regret it?
No. The choice at the time was very clear: save my son or save my business. I chose my son. I did go into depression because I felt I had failed as a mother and a businesswoman.
How did you bounce back?
I think I’m still in the process of doing that. After the first year at my parents’, I went back to massage therapy, doing house calls. I only got 20 clients in 2018. 
And then in February this year, a friend introduced me to this site, Lynk, which connects customers to practitioners like massage therapists, beauticians, carpenters, tailors, you name it.
How it works is you apply to be listed on their site, and if they accept your application, any time a client in your locale asks for a service you offer, they connect you to that client.
I went from 20 home visits a year to at least three a week. On some days, I’ve had six clients back to back.
What are your charges?
I charge Sh3,000 per hour for a full body massage, Sh1,500 for a facial and Sh3,000 for reflexology.
Most clients ask for massages, but I really like to sell the idea of reflexology, particularly to those who don’t like massages. Reflexology does the same thing by using the pressure points in the feet.
So say, you have tension in your neck or head, we use the pressure points in the big toe to release that tension. If your issue is in your eyes, ears or nose, we use the little toe to fix that problem. The body is amazing like that.
How would you compare doing house calls to running a spa?
Right now, I prefer the house calls. I think that’s the best way for me to reorganise and strategise my way forward. It’s only now that I look back at what my life was like when I was running the spa that I realise how miserable I was.
I’d go home on some nights and cry myself to sleep and not even understand why. Today, I can be on my feet for hours on end and still love my job.
So, what next for you?
I’ll do this for a while. Perhaps eventually I’ll get back to the spa dream because it’s a dream for me still. But this time, I’ll know better, so I’ll do better, for my business and my son.

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Double-edged tax measures to grow EAC local industries

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By JAMES ANYANZWA
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PATTY MAGUBIRA

By PATTY MAGUBIRA
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East African finance ministers converged on tough taxation measures aimed at protecting local manufacturers from “unfair imports competition,” in their spending plans for the coming year, made public on Thursday.

Most of the tax measures, contained in the budget statements for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, were approved during the ministers’ pre-budget consultations in Arusha in May.

Higher taxation of imports is aimed at driving consumption of cheaper locally produced goods, spurring the growth of manufacturing and creating jobs that ultimately improve living standards.

Proponents of the proposed measures are in line with the EAC Industrialisation Plan that seeks to transform the region into a globally competitive, environment-friendly and sustainable industrial sector that is capable of significantly improving the living standards of the people by 2032.

“The recommendations aim at pushing the regional industrialisation policy, creating jobs and improving East Africans’ living standards,” said Philip Mpango, Tanzania’s Finance and Planning minister.

Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya are focusing on improving the competitiveness of local industries by protecting them from cheaper imports through taxation and other policy measures.

Despite the good intentions, experts have warned that these tax measures — which are also applicable to goods coming from EAC member states — could stand in the way of integration, as each country becomes inward-looking in a bid to build its industrial capacity.

Already, trade spats, especially between Kenya and Tanzania, have seen Dar es Salaam block Kenyan products from its market. The partners have also failed to agree on a reviewed common external tariff, so the finance ministers have used the contentious stay of application window to secure preferential tax treatment on various goods whose production they believe requires protection to grow.

Customs tax measures, which take effect from July 1, target key sectors such as horticulture, timber, metal and allied, pulp and paper, textiles and leather, agro-processing and diaper manufacturers.

In Tanzania, among the measures Dr Mpango announced is abolishing the 10 per cent Customs duty on raw materials for the production of baby diapers, while retaining   the 25 per cent duty on imports of the same to promote local production. He also abolished the 25 per cent Customs duty on tools used for adding value to gemstones and removed the 10 per cent tax on raw materials used in vegetable packaging for a period of one year.

To protect the horticulture sub-sector, the minister increased duty on imported horticultural products to 35 per cent from 25 per cent. 

Tanzania also scrapped the 20 per cent Customs duty on seeds packaging materials and aluminium alloys to improve the quality of seeds, encourage local production of cooking pans and create jobs.

The policy changes are expected to protect Tanzanian manufacturers, attract investors to the local production of packaging materials and promote exports of vegetables to shore up the country’s foreign reserves.

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Tanzania has also introduced a 25 per cent duty on imported paper and a further 10 per cent duty on plastic products used for making door and window frames. Raw materials, spare parts and machines for textile and leather products have been exempted from Customs duty.

In Kenya, Finance Minister Henry Rotich retained the ad valorem rate of import duty on iron and steel products to protect the country’s producers of metal and allied products from continued stiff competition posed by imported subsidised iron and steel products.

Mr Rotich is seeking to maintain an import duty of 25 per cent on paper and paper products for a period of one year to protect manufacturers of these products. CET on these products is fixed at 10 per cent, but Kenya last year sought a stay of application to impose a tariff of 25 per cent for a period of one year.

“On matters relating to Customs, I have proposed measures intended to make our products more competitive while at the same time protecting local industries from unfair competition,” said Mr Rotich.

Kenya has also reduced import duty on raw timber to 0 per cent from 10 per cent to ensure that manufacturers of furniture and other products have adequate supply of raw materials. Nairobi has also retained an ad valorem rate of import duty at 25 per cent on all imported timber products to protect the timber and furniture industry from a proliferation of cheap finished products and to enhance local production.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers reckons that the country’s industrial growth has stagnated at a GDP contribution of 10 per cent over the past 10 years, with a decline to 9.2 per cent in 2016.

“The growth and development of any country is dependent on the ability of its industries to compete regionally and internationally,” said Phyllis Wakiaga, the association’s chief executive. “Hence promoting the competitiveness of local industries should be prioritised.”

In Rwanda, Finance Minister Uzziel Ndagijimana has   reduced import duty on a range of raw materials used in industry to 0 per cent instead of 10 per cent or 25 per cent, and those used in manufacturing of textile garments and footwear to zero per cent instead of 10 per cent or 25 per cent

Dr Ndagijimana also maintained a 4 per cent duty per kilogramme of second-hand clothes, instead of $2.5 per kilogramme, and $5 per kilogramme for used shoes, instead of $0.4. He also retained import duty rate of 25 per cent for 70,000 tonnes of sugar instead of 100 per cent or $460 per tonne, whichever is higher.

Rwanda has also tried to increase the competitiveness of its industries through provision of basic infrastructure such as the on-going construction of Bugesera Industrial Park.

“We intend to increase the production in different sectors and enforce policies to create additional jobs,” said Dr Ndagijimana.

In Uganda, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija said promoting agro-processing will be the basis for the country’s industrialisation and job creation.

Mr Kasaija said the manufacturing sector can now meet domestic demand for basic products like cement, tiles, light steel and consumables such as sugar and soap, and that the next phase of manufacturing will be to produce goods for exports.

“This strategy is built on the rapid industrialisation of our economy linked to high productivity,” he said.



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Alcohol producers oppose 15pc duty increase

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Alcohol producers oppose 15pc duty increase

Treasury CS Henry Rotich said the higher excise was necessary in order to address the fall in excise revenue. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Alcoholic beverage makers have opposed the 15 percent increase in excise duty on wines and spirits in this year’s budget, saying it is detrimental to the industry’s growth and will hurt the fight against illicit brews in the country.

The Alcoholic Beverages Association of Kenya (ABAK) said in a statement that such arbitrary tax hikes leave legitimate players in the industry facing uncertainty in their investments and business planning.

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On top of the 15 percent hike, the excise is also due to be adjusted upwards in line with inflation at the beginning of the next fiscal year.

“The proposal by the CS also reverses the desired sense of predictability in taxation for the industry that came about with the introduction of the inflationary adjustment via the Excise Duty Act, 2015,” said Abak chairman Gordon Mutugi in a statement.

Treasury CS Henry Rotich said the higher excise was necessary in order to address the fall in excise revenue as a percentage of GDP from three percent in 2004 to two recent in the 2017/18 fiscal year.

The duty on a 750ml bottle of wine goes up by Sh18 to Sh136, while duty on a 750ml bottle of whisky goes up by Sh24 to Sh182.

He also put up the excise on cigarettes by 15 percent, while introducing a 10 percent duty on amounts staked on bets.



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Uhuru legacy projects get $4.3b despite slow progress

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By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
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The Kenya government’s pet projects under the Big Four Agenda — critical to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy — were allocated $4.3 billion from the $28 billion 2019/2020 budget.

In his speech in parliament this past week on Thursday, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said this year’s budget “lays a strong foundation for achieving the president’s Big Four agenda.” The allocation represents less than 14 per cent of the total budget.

The projects are supposed to ensure universal health coverage, affordable and decent housing, to increase the manufacturing contribution to the economy from 9.8 per cent to 15 per cent and guarantee food and nutrition security by 2022. However, the majority of these projects are behind schedule.

Universal health coverage got $906 million; manufacturing $40.8 million; affordable housing $183 million; and food and nutrition security $177 million.

Despite the increase in allocation, analysts say the amount substantially falls short of the resources required for successful implementation.

In a statement, Layla Liebetrau of the Route to Food Initiative project lead, said Mr Rotich’s budget was not responsive to the needs of Kenya’s smallholder farmers, who despite consistently producing over 70 per cent of its food, are worst affected by poverty.

The government introduced tax measures projected to generate an additional $360 million for the exchequer, but with far-reaching ramifications for poor Kenyans.

These include increasing corporate gains tax from five per cent to 12.5 per cent, expansion of the withholding tax scope targeting people like security guards and those offering cleaning and fumigation services, catering and sales promotion.

The government also once again imposed punitive sin taxes, such as excise duty on betting activities at the rate of 10 per cent of the amount staked and 15 per cent on cigarettes, wines and spirits.

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However, in efforts to ease the burden on manufacturers and enable the country to regain some competitiveness, Mr Rotich reduced the rate of value added tax withholding from six per cent to two per cent to help reduce the build-up of VAT refunds, which have badly affected cash flow in businesses.

“The large accumulation of VAT refunds has impacted negatively on the cash flow and liquidity of our manufacturers and the business community at large,” said the minister.

Other notable measures include the retention of Customs duty for metal products at 25 per cent to protect local companies; extending the 25 per cent duty on paper and paper board products for another year; reducing import duty on raw timber from 10 per cent to zero and retaining import duty for finished timber products at 25 per cent.

Small businesses and traders got an assurance that Treasury would settle verified pending bills of $97.3 million owed by the national government within a fortnight, that inspections of imports will only be done at the point of export and suppliers of goods and services will be paid within a maximum of 60 days.

It was clear that the government is keen to accelerate the implementation of the Big Four projects.

Being critical enablers of the Big Four, the Cabinet Secretary allocated a whopping $3.2 billion to infrastructure projects like roads, railway, ports and energy and $3.1 billion to security agencies.

A major challenge for Kenya will be raising the required funds given its ballooning recurrent expenditure, shortfalls in revenue collections, a huge deficit and widespread corruption.

Mr Rotich said the government will effect austerity measures including rooting out ghost workers, standardised fleet management and renegotiating office leasing contracts.

In the coming financial year, the government projects revenues to the tune of $20.4 billion and expenditures of $27.2 billion, leaving a deficit of $5.9 billion, which it anticipates to finance through external and domestic borrowing.



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