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It will take up to 11 years for the local hotels and bars to recover to pre-Covid 19 levels, the Bar, Hotel and Liquor Traders Association (BAHLITA) now says.

This, as losses in the industry hit an upwards of Sh150 billion, as businesses continue to real from effects of the pandemic.

More than 250,000 jobs have been lost in the industry, a survey by the association indicates, with more than 15,000 establishment still closed since the pandemic hit the country in March 2020.

Speaking during an interview with the Star, BAHLITA secretary general Boniface Gachoka said majority hotels and bars are struggling with loans amid low returns from businesses, despite the slow re-opening of the economy.

“The losses we have incurred as of today cannot be recovered over one or two seasons. It will take longer,” Gachoka said.

Social distancing has cut operating capacity by almost 50 per cent, industry players say.

The festive season mainly Christmas and the New Year however saw hotels and entertainment spots make gains from high number of customers, with a number of them hoping this year will be better.

“It has been a tough year with the lock-downs and restricted operating hours but we still hanged in there.We are hoping 2022 will be better. We have cooperated with the Covid protocols are ready to have our premise used a s a vaccination centre,” said Gerald Lidwaji, manager at V1 Sports Bar and Grill in Lang'ata, Nairobi.

The removal of the nation-wide curfew in October last saw increased operating hours for bars and restaurants, with some having licenses to operate 24 hours.

“The festive season helped restore relations that we had spoiled including sending home of employees. Businesses have been able to recall some of them, clear rent arrears and pay suppliers. Majority are however still operating in losses,” Gachoka said.

There are over 40,000 bars in Nairobi alone.

Government data in collaboration with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance indicates the hospitality and tourism industry was the most hit with 3.1 million jobs affected in the first year of the pandemic.

This includes hotel employees, pubs and restaurants, tour operators, airlines, travel agents and their related suppliers and support services.

About 2.3 million employees were sent home on unpaid leave with most hotel employees on 50 per cent pay as earnings by businesses remained low.

The government was staring at a loss of up to Sh2.5 billion in catering levy alone in the financial year ending June 20.

Meanwhile, BAHLITA has called on the tourism ministry to release the Sh3 billion tourism sector government stimulus fund, aimed to help mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on businesses.

“The terms and conditions are still high, we are yet to fully acccess the funds,” Gachoka said.

Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC) last year had said hotels had started receiving the funds.

The payment is being extended to hoteliers in form of "soft loans" through TFC.

According to the corporation, successful applicants were receiving payments with loans being disbursed in Meru, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Kilifi, Mombasa, Kitui and Kisumu counties.

The funding is expected to facilitate the restructuring of business operations and help them cut key operation costs.

60 per cent of the funds were allocated to the coastal region which is the country's leading beach holiday destination with more than 400 star rated high-end hotels and establishments spreading from Diani to Lamu.

40 per cent was allocated to the other regions in the country.

"The disbursement process is ongoing and TFC is working together with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife and Ministry of lands to ensure  securitization is hastened,” TFC said.

BAHLITA notes that the sector expects to bring back more than 90,000 people who lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic.

“We are working with banks to support businesses come back which means job opportunities,” Gachoka said. - MARTIN MWITA, The Star

 

KAMPALA, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday received a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the country grapples with a surge in the number of cases.

Museveni, according to a State House statement, received the booster dose while at his home in Kiruhura district, western Uganda.

Museveni, aged 77 years, urged the public especially those above 50 years to go for a booster dose to protect themselves against adverse effects of COVID-19.

"We said that this group should get a booster dose. But also, the ones below 50 (years) but with problems like diabetes, blood pleasure, cancers, etc., those ones should get a booster dose," the president said shortly after his vaccination.

Museveni, quoting his doctors, said for the booster to work well, one can get a different type of vaccine from the initial two jabs they got.

As the country grapples with the Omicron variant, Museveni urged the public to go for vaccination, noting that people who have been vaccinated two times quickly overcome it.

Museveni on Dec. 31 fully reopened the country's economy in a staggered way, with schools starting on Jan. 10 and other sectors like entertainment which have been closed for about two years will reopen on Jan. 24.

Ministry of Health figures show the country has been registering over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily. Results of COVID-19 tests done on Jan. 1 confirm 1,423 new cases. The cumulative confirmed cases are 145,963 since the first case was registered in March 2020. - Xinhua

Senior white executives are accused of discriminating against BAME Kenyan-born staff

The entrance to the British Council building in Kisumu, Kenya
The British Council building in Kisumu, Kenya. The organisation is the UK government’s cultural arm abroad. Photograph: Images of Africa Photobank/Alamy
The British Council has launched an inquiry into allegations from black current and former staff members in Kenya who claim they were subjected to systemic racism.

Senior white executives at the organisation, which is the British government’s cultural arm abroad, have been accused of discriminating against BAME Kenyan-born staff, particularly as they were selected and assessed for redundancy. 

A letter that claims to represent seven current and former staff members sparked the inquiry in July when it was sent to the British Council as well as the Kenyan authorities.

It says: “The cases underline a repeated practice by white members of staff to constantly assign Kenyans as underperformers, inadequate, unskilled, unprofessional, and suspects as the organisation abuses its procedures and systems to validate its discriminative practice.”

Five of the seven accusers claim they were discriminated against during a redundancy process that they say favoured white colleagues. The allegations come amid cuts in central government funding for the British Council as well as a shortfall of income related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 
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The British Council, known as the UK government’s main instrument of soft power, launched an inquiry into the claims in September and says it takes racism claims seriously. It claims it is still waiting for all of the complainants to come forward with evidence and has queried some of the claims in the initial letter.

One of the complainants who was made redundant said he would not cooperate with the inquiry because it was too narrow in scope to include earlier allegations.

Apollo Edewa, 33, a former programme manager at the office in Nairobi for five years until February, said staff believed the organisation gave much greater weight to white people’s opinions compared with black people and now wants to tailor the inquiry to justify its prejudices.

He said: “The British Council says it will only investigate these allegations if we allow them to manage the complaints process and select the cases to be investigated. But many former and current employees believe that there is a racist culture in the organisation which goes back many years. White people’s opinions are given more weight than black people from Kenya.”

Many of the claims revolve around a recent redundancy programme implemented after a shortfall in income after government cuts to the aid budget.

Allegations outlined in the letter include:

  • A programme manager who worked at the British Council from August 2014 to 2019 who claimed they were put at risk of redundancy without adequate explanation.

  • Another complainant claimed they resigned as a senior official of the Kenyan office’s welfare association after a white executive frustrated efforts to channel staff concerns to the senior leadership team. “Staff have no confidence raising concerns through HR … for fear of being victimised,” the complainant said.

  • A manager for the professional skills centre in Kenya who claimed they were among a number of black employees who were unfairly targeted for redundancy.

The British Council was founded in 1934 to improve cultural relations and improve social mobility, It generates 85% of its own income, mainly through teaching and examinations, and receives some funding through a government bloc grant. 

It is facing substantial job cuts and office closures after income from English-language teaching and exams plummeted during the pandemic.

Regarding the complaints of racism in Kenya, a British Council spokesperson said that they received the letter in July and launched an inquiry in August but were still waiting for all of the complainants to identify themselves. They also pointed out that 98% of employees were locally appointed.

According to the British Council, an individual who recognised details of their case in the letter now says he did not give his consent to be included in the complaint.

The spokesperson said: “The British Council takes all allegations of discrimination, racism, bullying and harassment very seriously. We operate in over 100 countries across the world and our values of equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of everything we do.

“On receiving the anonymous letter, we immediately initiated an investigation. This investigation is ongoing, and we are keeping avenues of engagement open with the author of the letter. The author of the letter has not been willing to be interviewed and has not yet provided evidence in support of the allegations.” By , Guardian

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya's capital Nairobi. Kenyan passport holders cannot access 40 countries despite a massive vaccination campaign put up by Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

This has seen Kenyans remain locked out of dozens of destinations at a time nations are easing travel restrictions following increased Covid-19 vaccinations.

The Henley Passport Index, which regularly monitors the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006, made the revelations in its final report of 2021, showing how countries are still keen to protect their citizens from new variants of coronavirus.

“This year, Passport Index data paints a picture of a world in recovery, bolstered by growing access to vaccines and an inherent desire to move, meet and connect across the globe,” said the report.

Taiwan, Israel, Sweden, Vatican City, South Korea, Singapore, Poland, and Cambodia top the list of countries that have banned or placed restrictions on holders of Kenyan passports.

Others are Bangladesh, Chile, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Cameroon, which Henley & Partners lists as the only African country to place restrictions on Kenya. 

The countries that have so far removed Kenya passport holders from the list of Covid-19 ban include Ireland, Bulgaria, Canada, Hong Kong, Denmark and the UK. This has helped open up the Kenyan skies and increased activity in the aviation sector.

Kenya is a net importer and travel is a major requirement for its business executives who have to move to do due diligence and source raw materials and finished products for the East African market.

The report comes at a time Kenya has recorded a sharp increase in cases of Covid-19 infections in recent months, while the number of admissions in health facilities is also increasing.

The positivity rate — the proportion of tests coming back positive — climbed sharply by a double-digit from last month, raising concerns among health officials.

The rate has increased from a low of 0.5 percent in October to 24.4 percent as of Sunday as the government stepped up testing and vaccination.

By close of business yesterday, Kenya had vaccinated 10.1 million doses of the vaccine, with, 4.2 million people have been fully vaccinated up from 746,267 on August 14 while the number of those who have received the first jab has jumped to 5.8 million from two million over the same period.

The country has so far vaccinated 14.4 percent of its adult population, well ahead of its targets. To boost vaccinations, the Health ministry had ordered malls and other public establishments to lock out the unvaccinated.

As cases continue to soar with the emergence of the new Omicron variant, about 130 countries, including Kenya, have started implementing booster programmes, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). So far, 13.218 million booster doses have been administered.

The Kenyan passport also lost its strength in Africa, dropping from the 12th position in October to 32nd in the review.

The Passport Index shows Kenya ranked behind Seychelles, Somalia South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, Tunisia, Tanzania and Swaziland, among other African states.

A Kenyan can visit 30 countries without a visa and obtain the entry document on arrival in 33 countries while the visa is required in 133 countries.

Kenya rolled out new chip-embedded passports for its citizens in a move that targets rampant forgery and impersonation of holders. The new features are meant to make it impossible to forge or duplicate a Kenyan passport.

Roll-out of the e-passports with a 10-year validity period marked the beginning of the end of the ‘analogue’ passports that had been in use since Independence and has since joined 60 other countries that use e-passports.

Kenya whose economy grew by 9.9 percent in the third quarter has been counting on easing of containment measures to support its growth and lift the economy from the Covid-19 slowdown.

The restrictions are set to stop the party for the recovery of the hospitality industry, which posted the fastest growth in the third quarter growing by 24.8 percent compared to 63.4 percent contraction in the third quarter of 2020.The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics attributes the growth to the easing of Covid-19 containment measures, which lifted performance in the education, accommodation and food serving activities, transportation and storage, manufacturing and insurance activities that had been battered by the lockdowns.  By GERALD ANDAE, The East African

 

SUDAN is at a “dangerous turning point,” Abdalla Hamdok said yesterday as he announced his resignation as the country’s prime minister.

Mr Hamdok made his announcement just hours after two people were killed in mass protests against last October’s military coup.

In his speech, the prime minister said discussions were needed to agree on a new “national charter” and to “draw a road map” for a transfer to civilian rule.

“In view of the fragmentation of the political forces and conflicts between the [military and civilian] components of the transition … despite everything that has been done to reach a consensus … it has not happened,“ he said in a televised address.

Sudan is “crossing a dangerous turning point that threatens its whole survival,” he said, adding that he had “tried his best to stop the country from sliding towards disaster.”

His shock resignation came just two months after he was reinstated as prime minister, having been held under house arrest following the coup.

Mr Hamdok was accused of betraying the revolutionary movement after he signed an agreement with the military junta allowing it to hold on to power until planned elections in July 2023.

Protests have continued but have been met with violence by the authorities and the notorious Rapid Support Forces, formerly known as the Janjaweed.

Security forces were accused of mass rape and gang rape during a protest on December 19 last year before they shot four people dead at the end of the month.

The shooting of two men during yesterday’s protests in the city of Omdurman brought the total death toll since October to 56, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors.

News channel Al Hadath quoted an adviser to military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as saying that the armed forces would not allow anyone to plunge Sudan into chaos, labelling the protests a “physical, psychological and mental drain on the country.”

Protesters have said that 2022 will be “the year of the continuation of the resistance” as they push for an immediate transition to civilian rule.

The Sudanese Communist Party, which played a leading role in the popular movement that ousted former president Omar al-Bashir in 2019, called for the liberation of the people “from the grip of the bloody military regime and its domestic and foreign supporters.

“Victory for the revolution of the great Sudanese people and shame on the military system, the servants of imperialism,” the party said. Morning Star

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