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Technology

 

Farmers and entrepreneurs in agricultural and manufacturing sectors are set to benefit from the forthcoming trade expo covering agriculture segments in a bid to boost standards towards growth.

Dubbed ‘AgroFoodpack Exhibition’, the expo will cover segments on agro, dairy and poultry, grains and storage, food and flavors, biscuits, cakes, packaging and processing machines and plastics.

It seeks to create a pathway for technology innovators, producers, suppliers and buyers to exploit up-and-coming opportunities in one of the world’s most attractive business spots.

Slated for October 27th to 29th in Nairobi, the expo is also expected to showcase transformations in the agriculture sector making it less dependent on manual processes, a change hoped to boost export volumes.

Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry-Kajiado chapter CEO Japheth Ogutu while commenting on the forum, said most of our farmers realise losses because they don’t have ready market.

He said the exhibition will help create new markets for Kenya’s products beyond the UAE.

“We are also urging the international exhibitors to take advantage of the industrial parks that are being built by the government, and set up their production plants locally,” Ogutu said.

This he noted, pointing out Kenya among the fast-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a huge industrial boom in several sectors, especially within agriculture and manufacturing.

He further noted that the expo is an ideal platform for the chambers’ members to showcase the opportunities available for investors and exhibitors.

On his part, MXM expo organizer Mudasir Mohammed said food security is a major concern across the world, and production has been heavily affected by climate change that continues to have a negative impact on the harvest.

“I believe this forum will play a big role in trying to mitigate such effects, while leveraging on our goal to provide a platform for technology transfer, boosting inter-trade and enhancing the gateway opening between Kenya and other 20 countries from Europe and Asian nations,” Mohammed said.

“We need to ensure that there is value addition for the local farmers and the best way to achieve that is by collaborating with well-developed nations like the UAE that practice modern agriculture to increase food production.”

He further urged Kenyan exhibitors to ensure they create long-lasting partnerships with foreign counterparts through signing of MOUs that benefit both players.

An estimated 1,500 exhibitors from over six countries: Algeria, China, Egypt, Kenya, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, and UAE will participate in the event. - ALFRED ONYANGO, The Star

 

As majority of electric mobility companies concentrate in the city of Nairobi, a new shift of targeting Nyanza’s unexploited lake region market is gaining momentum. This is after Kenyan startup E-Safiri, on August 1, launched the first battery charging and swapping station in the lakeside region at Dunga Beach in Kisumu City.

The deal is a SUN-RUN partnership that also involves Glasgow Caledonian University, United Kingdom, Sustainable Transport Africa and KIRI EV Ltd, an electric vehicle and mobility start-up company.

Apart from charging and swapping batteries, the station will also offer floodlight to the place, help produce ice stones for cold storage of fish, charge phones, radios, lamps, laptops and torches, among other gadgets.

According to E-Safiri chief executive officer and founder Carol Ofafa, there is a huge unexploited e-mobility potential in the lake region that they are looking to tap into.

“We have been working on this project since 2020, and we have noted that most of the electric companies players are concentrated in urban cities like Nairobi, yet we know that 80 per cent of the population in Africa and Kenya live outside urban areas,” says Ms Ofafa.

“Therefore, us moving to rural, peri-urban areas like Dunga Beach and also satellite cities outside Nairobi like Kisumu is an advantage for us. This is because we are tapping or capturing into the market that was previously ignored within the emobility space and because there is also interest among residents.” 

Ms Ofafa spoke to Enterprise recently when their research partners from Glasgow Caledonia University visited the new charging and swapping hub.

She says before setting foot in Kisumu, they held several sessions with residents, including the Dunga Beach community, asking questions and educating them on the benefits of electric mobility, and that sparked the conversation and interest, leading to demo days.

The company, registered in June 2022 with co-founders Janet Gaithigia and Ruben De Girardier, has been doing pilot projects with Mckensey Africa, where they experiment with them on swapping and charging operations.

“We are not only focusing on projects like this one of Dunga Beach, but also we want to go into public charging and swapping infrastructure to ensure that we provide a network of charging and swapping stations that can support different electric mobility samples,” she says.

Due to the transformation of Kisumu City, public transport vehicles have been denied entry into the Central Business District (CBD) and to Dunga Beach, except motorbikes, personal cars, Tuktuks and bicycles as means of transport.

The charging hub will, therefore, present a ready market for those who will buy electric motorcycles and passengers or cargo Tuktuks as they save on the current high cost of fuel.

Before the rollout of the project, they also engaged the fishing community by asking them how renewable energy could transform their lives and others in the value chain.

“If you go early morning or late night in the lake for fishing or in the market, we will provide you with other services at the hub like lighting fishing lanterns, ice-making equipment for cold storage and also security lights,” she says.

Ms Ofafa says they are also soon looking at setting up two other such battery charging and swapping hubs in Homa Bay County.

To help the future buyers of electric passenger and cargo motorbikes, the company has partnered with KIRI EV Ltd to help in affordable acquisition and also offer technical support.

“Demand is there, and we are working on supply. We had ordered for motorcycles from China three months ago, but with the new Finance Act 2023, it delayed us a bit since we had to wait for its passing because some of the tax measures affected us. We expect 150 passenger motorbikes, 20 to 30 scooters and a number of three-wheeler ones,” says Arnold Omolo, an electrical engineer at KIRI EV Ltd.

He says once they come, they will be assembled and sent to traders and customers who have placed orders.

Omollo says they are working with Kenya Commercial Bank to finance buyers at affordable daily repayment of roughly Sh420 with a single-passenger motorbike retailing at about Sh220,000.

“When you look at Sh420, it might look a bit expensive until you compare rates of what competitors are charging and how much fuel-powered motorbikes are paying for, and you find that they are higher than us and this means the rider will be able to make more money at the end of the day,” says Omollo. A recharge and battery swapping at the hub cost Sh200 for each. The battery, when fully charged, can do around 65 to 80kms per day. Charging a half battery costs Sh100.

‘‘For a litre of petrol at Sh200, if your motorbike is very efficient, it can go at 35kms thus, electric motorcycle in the long run makes economic sense because it goes more kilometres,’’ he states.

Ms Ofafa welcomed the removal of import duty on charging infrastructure for EVs that is being done between now and January but said there is a need to extend the period.

“This will help ensure a high supply of EVs in the country and give companies like KIVI ER and others time to assemble, test the EVs and make necessary modifications, for instance, to suit different terrains of the country. There is, therefore, need to extend the window period,” she says.

The government removed the import duty of 16 per cent Value Added Tax on the importation and supply of electric bicycles, solar and lithium batteries and electric buses of tariff heading 87.02 in the recently passed Finance Act, 2023. Prof Emad Farrag, a researcher from Glasgow Caledonian University, says such projects can help communities become sustainable.

‘‘Sustainable communities mean they will be self-reliant and save energy through reducing carbon dioxide emission. It will not only help the community here in battery charging and swapping but also provide light, thus ensuring business activities continue even if there is main grid power blackout or where the power has not reached,’’ Prof Farrag says. - James Wanzala, The Standard

 

Kenya plans to roll out the first consignment of one million locally assembled smartphones in two months at a unit retail price of Ksh5,484 ($40), in a bid to foster digital access and inclusion.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo said the affordability of smart devices has been a major hindrance to digital inclusion, hence the need to produce the gadgets locally.

He said the low-cost smartphones are being assembled at the Konza Technopolis in Malili, Machakos County.

“Based on feasibility studies undertaken, we can locally assemble smartphones at a unit cost of about $40. We’ve partnered with the private sector to ensure in the next two months, we can roll out our first consignment of low-cost smartphones,” Owalo said during the official launch of the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) week at the Nairobi Safari Park on Wednesday.

“We are aware of the affordability crisis of smart devices as a potential hindrance to the ability of citizens to tap the full potential that this sector presents and we have actively engaged stakeholders in private and manufacturing to produce low-cost smartphones,” he added.

ICT declines to speak

The Business Daily has asked for access to the assembling plant to independently verify the operations and have access to prototypes, but the ICT officials are yet to grant the request.

The CS also declined to reveal the exact firms assembling the phones.

The CS also did not disclose the companies the government has partnered with. The only firms the state has direct control of are Telkom and Safaricom.

If the deal goes as planned, then the state will have found a way to rekindle hopes in the Konza City dream which has failed to attract enough investors to support its take-off.

In 2013, 14 firms expressed interest in the first stage of the Konza City project, dubbed the African Silicon Savannah, which was set to be carried out in four phases of five years each.

These firms included Safaricom and Wananchi Online- a Kenyan internet service provider.

Foreign companies were Chinese firm Huawei Technologies, Korean electronics giant Samsung and Telemac of the US among others.

Attempts to reach the Telecommunication Principal Secretary Prof Edward Kisiang’ani to respond to our questions on the firms behind the local assembly of smartphones failed.

In March 2022, Kenya inked a three-year deal dubbed the Economic Innovation Partnership Program with the Korean government to fast-track the actualisation of the Konza City dream.

Smartphones penetrations

Official data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) show that penetration of feature phones or non-smartphones is 68.1 percent as of the end of December 2022.

Smartphone penetration in the country stands at 60.2 per cent.

“The number of mobile subscriptions increased from 65.5 million reported last quarter to 65.7 million during the reference period, representing a penetration rate of 133.1 percent,” said CAK in the latest quarterly report.

Owalo said the low uptake of smartphones has hindered the uptake of other government and financial services.

The state also plans to accelerate digital inclusion through an initial 5,000km of the planned 100,000km of fibre optic cable by June this year, a project partially funded by the World Bank.

The CS said Ksh68.55 billion ($500m) from the World Bank is meant for digital inclusion for fibre connection across the country.

“We have received $500 million from the World Bank towards the digital transformation agenda, under the Kenya digital economy acceleration programme," said Owalo.

“We have a target of rolling out 5000km of optic fibre by June 30. We have on boarded contractors and reach out to other government agencies including the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Railways Corporation, Kenya Electricity Transmission Company and we’ll good to go," he added.

Under the infrastructure pillar of the country’s digital transformation agenda, the five-year plan to lay an additional 100,000km of the national fibre optic cable was first announced by President Ruto in October last year, a month after he assumed office.

Some 52 per cent of the proposed 100,000km of the optic cable will be laid by the government while the rest will be done by the private sector.

The project is aimed at hastening internet connectivity across the country, as well as making its access stable and reliable. - Business Daily

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