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Social enterprise secures funding to assemble bio-digesters

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Sistema Bio technology will enable farmers save money and increase yields/Courtesy

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16 – Social enterprise firm Sistema. Bio, a biogas company in Africa, has secured Sh1.2 billion to assemble bio-digester technology that will impact over 100,000 farmers in Kenya over the next three years.

The initiative follows an investment round to drive growth in Kenya which was led by international investors ENGIE RDE, EU Electrifi Fund, Alpha-Munid, Triodos-Hivos Fund, Dila Capital, Eco-Enterprises among other impact and commercial investors.

Sistema Bio Co-Founder and Chief Executive officer, Alex Eaton, says the technology will enable farmers save money and increase yields.

“Farmers can save a lot of money and through the use of the technology … they can also improve their soils which will eventually improve production,” he said.

“Part of the reason as to why we started in Kenya is that this is a very dynamic market and its quick to adopt innovation, but we plan to expand to other East African countries in the near future,” said the Co-Founder and Chief Executive officer Alex Eaton.

The bio-digester technology is expected to create employment opportunities for hundreds of Kenyans, while educating farmers on the use of organic fertilizers in their farms, directly supporting the global Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) and the government’s Big Four Agenda.

With the concerns of rising fuel costs and climate change customers are looking to green energy which reduces carbon emissions and promotes recycling.

Kenya aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030, in line with its commitment to the global SDGs.

In a country that is heavily reliant on agriculture, Kenya’s 2018 to 2022 action plan identifies the rise in global temperatures as a major threat to poverty reduction and sustainable development.

Farmer awareness by on the effects of global warming has driven an upsurge in demand for the kind of technology offered by Sistema.bio.

According to the World Bank, farmers perceive higher crop yields, reduced fuel consumption, and better overall economic performance with the use of bio-digesters.

 





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Kiunjuri’s direct beans sales proposal opposed

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Kiunjuri’s direct beans sales proposal opposed

Agriculture Cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Agriculture Cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has been faulted after expressing readiness to authorise coffee societies and individuals to sell directly.

Mr Kiunjuri had said he was willing to sign facilitation for direct sales so farmers can get the highest bidder for their produce.

“Come to me today, tomorrow…any day with evidence that you have a ready more rewarding market for your coffee and I will authorise you to go ahead and seal the deal,” he said.

But some stakeholders said the announcement was premature and risky because coffee theft is rife. “What we need first are legal reforms to entrench his announcement in law. It is this law that will create structures on how coffee delivered is accounted for and modalities for marketing and sealing sale deals.

“The CS might be unconsciously announcing that he is ready to give coffee thieves a licence to sell their loot,” said Bernard Kiguta, an Aberdare region small-scale coffee growers’ chairman. He said Mr Kiunjuri’s pronouncement could be used by rogue coffee society managers to act as brokers in direct market window opportunity.

“We should be told who is qualified to seek that direct market on behalf of coffee society…Who is qualified to seal the market deal on behalf of the farmer. Then who is supposed to offer guarantee that the deal to be authorised is the best possible in the market,” he said.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria has called for an independent coffee directorate to oversee the rejuvenation agenda “instead of littering the sector with so many hope-inducing declarations but devoid of practical strength.”



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More women in management no longer tokenism for firms

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More women in management no longer tokenism for firms

Countries are turning to legislation on gender equality as moral persuasion can no longer be relied upon. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Recently there was an interesting chat in a WhatsApp group of 32 young professionals. These are some good friends who were former classmates at Strathmore University. Dispersed across five countries, they are concentrated in the finance industry working in banking, audit, deal advisory, real estate, asset management, insurance, transfer pricing, development finance, energy investing and private equity.

Being peers, many topics fly in this group: careers, relationships, politics, science, religion, weddings, and of course memes.

On this day there was a topic of interest: Why are women overly under-represented on boards and in senior management?

For Kenyan firms, the situation is so appalling. Take one tier 1 bank that has 18 directors on its website and only two are women, for example. Not even the company secretary role, which many companies use for tokenism. While other tier 1 banks are not as glaring, it’s nothing close to party. This was a topic of common interest for discussion – for women and men alike.

A 2017 McKinsey study, “Delivering through diversity”, using data from more than 1,000 companies showed that those in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams had a 21 per cent likelihood of outperforming their fourth-quartile industry peers on profitability. Similarly, the most ethnically diverse executive teams were 33 per cent more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.

Having more women on boards and in management is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s an economic imperative for businesses keen to improve financial performance by embracing inclusion.

While the positive correlation from these industry studies may not necessarily imply causality, there are many channels through which an inclusive leadership team enhances performance: better decision making from diverse perspectives, improved employee satisfaction, retaining female talent, and enhanced company image.

For these young professionals, there is an urgent need for bold and practical steps to achieve gender diversity at the corporate level.

In the midst of the ideas and discussions, consensus emerged on two manager-led initiatives: flexible working practices and management-led sponsor initiatives.

Many companies are seeing more women at entry level but it becomes harder and harder to get into the C-suite because of family commitments. Frank referred to cases where women are denied promotions after coming out of maternity leave because “they were not there when all the money was being made.” This is not uncommon across many professional services firms.

For Ivy she considers it fortunate that her employer, an impact investment fund, has created flexible system to support working mothers, including the flexibility to work at home on occasions.

Instead of seeing more of such initiatives, some companies are adding layers of timesheets and digital sign-ins on top of demanding face-time, even for industries where face-time is least wanted.

While this is no one flexibility model that can work for all companies, there is no doubt that companies need to get creative around flexible working practices if they are to attract and retain top female talent.

Some common practices that companies can try out include flexitime (employees have set weekly hours but can customise their schedule), schedule control (focus is on the deliverable and employees determine their schedules) and teleworking (the flexibility to work remotely while using tech to stay in touch).

For companies to embrace flexibility, practical implementation requires a strategic approach and proper transition. Even more importantly is a threshold of willingness, courage and open-mindedness by the management team, given that the economic benefits of enabling inclusion are not in question. Beyond flexible work schedules, mentorship and sponsorship have proved effective tools for women’s advancement in male-dominated fields. Simply put, mentors offer guidance and advice while sponsors create visibility and opportunity. To see more women (and men too) advance in their careers, managers at all levels need to boldly take up the role of sponsors.

Take Anne, for example. She is a forex trader and corporate dealer. Within banks, this is a role mostly occupied by men and there are industry undertones that women – and especially young women like her – are not most suitable for these high-risk roles.

Her journey is, however, one of career sponsorship. She noted that early on on her job, her direct bosses (all men) were supportive and brought her to the trading table with them. They went beyond mentorship and created space for her in a male-dominated industry.

Sponsorship takes many forms. It could be a manager taking with them younger colleagues to high-level meetings, entrusting junior team members with client presentations, a manager offering access to career networks that would otherwise not be accessible, or giving personal recommendations for young professionals applying to graduate school.

Samira, however, points outs that young women need to watch out for predatory managers posing as sponsors yet they are only interested in being “sponsors”. Sponsorship needs to be kept professional.

The Kenyan business landscape is still far from achieving gender parity despite the potential benefits that could be unlocked. According to IMF global estimates, closing the gender gap could increase GDP by an average of 35 per cent. While most of these is due to increased labour force participation, up to 20 per cent of these gains could come from the effect of gender diversity on productivity.

Increasingly, countries are turning to legislation on gender equality as moral persuasion can no longer be relied upon.

A good example is France’s recent laws that include obligations for firms to publish pay gap indicators and to provide catch–up measures where inequality exists, with penalties for non-compliance.



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Alarm over bill barring raw coffee export

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By GERALD ANDAE
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A bill seeking to bar export of raw coffee has caused jitters, with some international buyers avoiding to sign further contracts with local suppliers for fear they might not get the produce.

An official at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange says some of the overseas buyers were shying away from new agreements for clean coffee because of uncertainties over the fate of the Crops Amendment Bill by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.

The Bill proposes that all coffee grown in Kenya undergo processing, production and packaging locally.

“Buyers are refusing to sign orders for clean (American green) coffee as they do not know what will happen in the future, with fears that they are likely to lose out on their orders,” said an official at NCE who sought anonymity so as to speak freely.

The proposed amendment to the Crops Act says the product may only be distributed, marketed or exported in its fully processed form.

If it sails through, it will lock out international buyers and large global coffee shops like Starbucks that buy a lot of semi-processed beans.

Kenya has some of the best coffees in the world bought by traders and coffee shops for blending to get certain flavours.

Stakeholders have argued that the country loses out on originality as its brand cannot be identified in the world market given that it is used to blend others.

The legislator seeks to amend the law so that all packages processed for export be clearly and conspicuously labelled “Made in Kenya.”

The country sells over 95 percent of its coffee to the world market as local demand has remained low over the years despite campaigns to raise consumption.

Over 80 percent of the coffee produced locally is sold through the auction, with just 10 shipped out directly to the world market.

A coffee task force formed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2016 has proposed that the direct coffee sales be increased to enable farmers earn more from their crop.

Kirinyaga County is set to open the first ever coffee shop in New York and commence selling Kenyan coffee directly to America.





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