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Horticulture producers from the North Rift Region have been urged to take advantage of the revamped cargo operations at the Eldoret International Airport (EIA).

Speaking during a horticulture industry stakeholders’ forum, Cabinet Secretaries Mithika Linturi (Agriculture) and Transport’s Kipchumba Murkomen said cargo operations at the airport have normalised after a 10-month hiatus.

CS Murkomen noted EIA is the second busiest airport when it comes to cargo after the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), handling over 12,000 tonnes of cargo annually.

“Unfortunately, most goods handled at the airport are imports, including dry goods such as garments, electronics and motor vehicle spare parts. EIA has potential, and we are working to ensure that we provide good infrastructure befitting an international airport,” said the Transport CS.

He said the ministry is ready to support the agriculture sector in ensuring their produce is transported in good time.

He said the horticulture sector provides about 200,000 jobs directly, with four million Kenyans depending on the flower industry alone, whereby the country accounts for 40 per cent of cut flowers exports to the European Union.

He regretted that some of the horticultural exporters in the North Rift have been transporting their produce by road to JKIA. With the planned expansion of EIA's runway, the cargo planes will be able to handle up to 100 tonnes of cargo from the current 55 tonnes.

“50 acres of land will be acquired as well as lighting rehabilitation, which is ongoing and a proper power backup system to provide efficiency and ensure that there is no blackout. We have also approved the development of transit shades and warehouses,” said Mr Murkomen.

The CS said the ministry will also invest in clean energy technologies at the airport.

He said the government would also support farmers by employing more extension officers.

CS Linturi for his part said investing in horticulture would help create more job opportunities for the youth and boost income for the farmers even as the country generates more revenues from the exports of the produce, including fruits vegetables and spices.

He said that plans are in place to begin the exportation of avocados to India and miraa (khat) to Israel in a bid to increase foreign exchange for the country.

“We have flagged off the first cargo plane of pineapples to Israel, opening up the market for such produce. We have also held talks with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and agreed that all Kenyan goods which are admissible in the European Union also access the Israeli market,” said Mr Linturi. He, however, noted that the country had failed to produce enough pineapples to fill the cargo planes to the Jewish state. - Lynn Kolongei, The Standard

The African Union announced Thursday the suspension with immediate effect of Gabon, where soldiers overthrew President Ali Bongo Ondimba on Wednesday.

The continental organization "strongly condemns the takeover of power by the military in the Republic of Gabon", announced the AU in a press release published on X (formerly Twitter).

The organization's Peace and Security Council "decides to immediately suspend Gabon's participation in all activities of the AU, its organs and institutions" , the press release continued.

The meeting was chaired by the Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, the Nigerian Bankole Adeoye, and the current holder of the rotating presidency of the council, the Burundian Willy Nyamitwe.

On Wednesday, the chairperson of the African Union commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, "strongly" condemned what he described as "the attempted coup" in the oil-rich central African country Gabon. which had been run for over 55 years by the Bongo family.

Putschist soldiers announced on Wednesday that they had "put an end to the regime in place" in Gabon and had placed President Ali Bongo Ondimba, in power for 14 years, under house arrest, just after the official announcement of his victory in the presidential election held on Saturday.

Moussa Faki Mahamat also called on the Gabonese army and security forces “to guarantee the physical integrity” of Ali Bongo Ondimba.  Africa News

Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA© Provided by The Guardian/Photo Courtesy

The move by the British home secretary Suella Braverman to impose visa restrictions on people from Dominica, Honduras, Namibia, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu has reflected again the tendency to employ a sledgehammer to crack a nut when managing immigration and border security.

In July, Braverman expressed concerns about the way Dominica and Vanuatu administer their citizenship by investment (CBI) schemes – so-called golden visas – citizenship in exchange for financial inputs in the host country. 

According to her, these two Commonwealth countries have been conferring citizenship on individuals recognised as security risks to the UK. Braverman failed to identify these dangerous people.

Her decision has been met with scepticism. Critics contend that the numbers involved in these countries are scarcely large enough to warrant such measures. The move appears to disproportionately target black and brown-majority nations, raising concerns again about the justice in Britain’s immigration policies.

Against a backdrop of anti-migrant sentiment, the step aligns with the UK government’s normalising of restrictive immigration policies, distracting from the cost-of-living crisis, public transport strikes, NHS issues and economic inequality. The focus on externalising immigration challenges ignores migration as an issue that requires a more thoughtful and comprehensive approach.

It also prompts a closer examination of citizenship by investment schemes. Transparency International, a global civil society organisation that campaigns against corruption, has previously highlighted problems in Europe, stating: “Golden passport and visa schemes have turned EU citizenship and residency rights into a luxury good: with enough money, anyone can buy in.

It adds: “This is a particularly attractive prospect for criminals and the corrupt – and numerous scandals have proven they are taking advantage. These EU golden passport and visa schemes are not about genuine investment or migration – but about serving corrupt interests.”

The problem is insidious in the Caribbean, which has become a magnet for members of super-rich elites from the US and Europe seeking to take advantage of vulnerable nations to satisfy their need to create more wealth at the expense of the climate crisis, human rights and equality.

Golden visas have gained traction in Caribbean islands, especially those heavily dependant on tourism and foreign direct investment.

Advocates argue that CBIs can stimulate economic growth, create jobs and benefit local economies and infrastructure. Attracting overseas investment can provide valuable sources of funding for public services and development, benefiting both citizen and immigrant, and countries can diversify beyond tourism and agriculture. But they come with their own set of challenges.

They often require property investment, which can bolster real estate markets but exacerbate wealth inequality, catapulting house prices beyond the reach of local people. Providing privileges to the wealthy deepens the divide between elites and locals. 

Citizenship scheme income helps to support hospitality, infrastructure, banking and youth development projects

This is especially true for countries belonging to the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States – Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Reports from the International Monetary Fund show CBIs contributed nearly 30% of GDP for Dominica and 25% for St Kitts and Nevis in 2022. Citizenship scheme income helps to support hospitality, infrastructure, banking and youth development projects. CBI revenues have been pivotal in aiding these countries during Covid.

The town of English Harbour in Antigua, one of the countries where the economy benefits from citizenship scheme income. Photograph: MichaelUtech/Getty Images
The town of English Harbour in Antigua, one of the countries where the economy benefits from citizenship scheme income. Photograph: MichaelUtech/Getty Images© Provided by The Guardian/Photo Courtesy

However, without robust background checks and enhanced due diligence, the risk of corruption, money laundering and illicit activities increases. The rush to attract foreign investments can make economies more vulnerable to external economic shocks and national security concerns.

A report last year by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project highlighted one of the best-known firms enabling these passport sales, Henley & Partners, whose chairman Christian Kälin has been dubbed the “Passport King”. The report illustrated the number of CBI applicants from countries including Russia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Armenia and Nigeria attempting to gain citizenship in Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis.

Golden visa holders are often subject to tax in the host country. Income, property and other taxes bring other revenue streams. Tax evaders have ingeniously employed CBIs to obscure financial misconduct. Essentially, these individuals exploit tax havens to evade their obligations, relying on the host’s cooperation to reduce discovery risk. A key complicating factor is the acquisition of foreign citizenship as a safeguard against detection, a strategy favoured by the wealthiest tax evaders.

CBIs wield a transformative influence, redefining tax evasion in two ways: by reducing detection, thereby curtailing potential penalties from high-tax jurisdictions, and disrupting the international framework of tax information exchange, diverting potential revenue. This allows countries offering golden visas a discreet influence over global tax information-sharing initiatives.

The privileges conferred by investment visas vary significantly from country to country and even within programmes in the same nation. Generally, golden visas are premised on a significant financial investment, but specific rights and limitations can differ. Some convey rights to work, start a business or give access to services such as healthcare and education. Caribbean nations need to strike a balance between attracting investment and safeguarding their interests

Some countries require a period of residency before granting voting rights, while others might not offer them at all to golden visa holders. This has led to controversy in the Caribbean where there have been allegations of using citizenship by investment for electoral manipulation.

The retired supervisor of elections in St Kitts and Nevis, Elvin Bailey, expressed concern that CBI holders were being allowed to vote. It has also been reported that a large number of Indian nationals, who are also Commonwealth citizens, and Chinese nationals, have been granted CBIs in St Kitts and Nevis that confer voting rights and ultimately allegiance to whichever administration dispenses these visas. Some were found to be involved in corruption and criminal activities.

Caribbean nations need to strike a balance between attracting investment and safeguarding their interests. In implementing robust procedures, including criminal background and funding source checks, they can ensure that those seeking these visas are genuinely contributing to society, and maintain the credibility of schemes.

Braverman’s approach to immigration raises questions about the UK’s commitment to equitable policies. Meanwhile, the Caribbean’s investment visa programmes offer economic opportunities but need to to address due diligence concerns related to inequality, alongside fraud, tax evasion and national security.

As the world grapples with issues of migration, corruption and governance, it becomes paramount for countries to wield more nuanced approaches to immigration, not the blunt force of sledgehammers.

• Kenneth Mohammed is a Caribbean analyst with a focus on corruption.  By Kenneth Mohammed, Guardian

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