Friday, April 19, 2024

Kenya to ‘fast-track’ Lapsset projects to woo Ethiopia

Kenya and Ethiopia have agreed to fight insecurity, review tariffs and fast-track completion of infrastructure projects to facilitate seamless flow of cargo from Lamu to Ethiopia.

The two governments on Thursday held a meeting during which Nairobi assured Addis Ababa of a functional Port of Lamu, with a superstructure, cargo yard, operational equipment, port workshop, warehouses, office space, and accommodation facilities.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) will rework port tariffs as Ethiopia puts in place plans to start using the port the month.

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The tariffs are one of the conditions Ethiopia asked to be considered after Kenya assured them of security on the Lamu Port, South Sudan Ethiopia transport (Lapsset) corridor.

On the sidelines of the meeting with Ethiopian delegation, the two countries agreed to work on a diplomatic and other approaches aimed at facilitating the use of the port of Lamu by Ethiopia for the importation of fertilizer and position the corridor as a strategic trade hub for the region.

Lapsset Corridor Development Authority (LCDA) Chairman Ali Mbogo and chief executive Stephen Ikua assured traders of their security and free flow of cargo.

Kenya and Ethiopia have constituted a joint technical committee to address key issues derailing the commercialization of the Lapsset corridor.The two countries have committed to a collective action to enable the use of the Port of Lamu as the entry point for the importation of cargo destined for Ethiopia.

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The Lapsset Ethiopia –Kenya JTC convened in Addis Ababa concurrently with the 36th Session of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) on February 21-23, and made several resolutions, including upgrading Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo Road to bitumen standard and construction of Isiolo-Maralal-Lokichar road. 

(The East African)

Cash barrier to M-Pesa uptake in Ethiopia

Safaricom Ethiopia has identified cash dominance as a key barrier to growing its payments business represented using its M-Pesa platform.

The telco said the proliferation of cash, especially for small-value transactions was a challenge but an opportunity to digitize payments in the country as the operator also eyes the rollout of financial services.

“Banking penetration in urban areas is relatively high but 99 percent of small value transactions are in cash,” Kenya’s Safaricom Plc, which is the majority owner of the Ethiopian business, told investors of the subsidiary’s performance last month.

Safaricom Ethiopia launched the mobile money service on August 15, 2023, and had acquired 1.1 million customers at the end of the following month. Over the short period, the value of transactions reached Sh43.7 billion and the number of active merchants stood at 12,400. The telco earned revenues of Sh7.2 million from the mobile money platform.

According to a 2021 report by the World Bank on financial inclusion and digital payments, cash in Ethiopia is an overwhelmingly dominant payment method for the population.

“Almost all adults at 99 percent pay utility bills with cash, compared to 12 percent of people in Kenya and 59 percent in the region as a whole,” the report notes.

Safaricom is also expected to tackle lower volumes of transfers between urban and rural areas.

On the payments front, Safaricom will be seeking to take on a low penetration of financial services where only 11 percent of the population or one out of every 10 Ethiopians has accessed a loan from a financial institution.

According to the World Bank, the majority of Ethiopians have failed to open bank accounts, giving insufficient funds as the reason for staying unbanked, a suggestion, according to the multilateral lender, that the population believe that financial services are not for the poor.

In their place, Ethiopians rely on informal institutions to meet their financial needs. The World Bank report, for instance, shows that although 62 percent of Ethiopians reported saving money, only 26 percent saved formally at financial institutions while 38 percent saved with a person outside the family or at an informal savings club.

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Ethiopians are also more likely to borrow from family or friends or from a savings club than from a bank.

Safaricom’s M-Pesa will have to take on the challenges of growing payments and financial services to a comparable size to Kenya and other markets.

Safaricom commenced M-Pesa operations in Ethiopia last year with the operator expecting uptake to be driven first by consumer payments before scaling to merchant payments and financial services such as micro-credit.

The telco expects to leverage partnerships including integration with local banks, shopping outlets including supermarkets and international money transfer services. (Wardheer news)

Multinational collaborative research to improve climate-smart grain for Ethiopian farmers receives $4.9M grant

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) have received a USD 4.9 million grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build on previous advances in gene editing of tef for reduced height and lodging resistance in advanced, farmer preferred tef lines. 

The grant will support research to validate the improved semi dwarf tef in Ethiopia under greenhouse and multi location field conditions and generate lodging resistance traits in already improved breeding lines. In addition, new edits will be created in farmer-preferred varieties at EIAR where Ethiopian scientists will be trained on the development of cultivar-independent transformation and editing methodologies. 

“By harnessing the genome editing technology, it was possible to achieve semidwarf lodging resistant lines that breeders have been looking for decades,” said GetuDuguma(PhD), senior research scientist and principal investigator at the Danforth Center.

Tef is renowned for its adaptability to diverse growing conditions and drought tolerance, making it a promising candidate for a climate-resilient crop.

The challenge lies in the tall and weak stem causing the plants to fall over, a phenomenon known as “lodging” that is often affected by rain, wind, soil type, topography and the addition of nitrogen fertilizer. Lodging is a major impediment to modernizing tef production and inhibiting mechanized harvesting. The estimated annual production loss due to lodging amounts to 23-30 percent.

To address the issue of tef lodging, Getu and his collaborators deployed gene editing to generate semi dwarf tef lines that are 10-50 percent shorter than the original. These improved lines have demonstrated lodging resistance in the Danforth Center’s greenhouse and Field Research Site. 

“I believe that the outputs of this project will change the ‘ancient’ nature tef husbandry,” said DejeneGirma(PhD), the principal investigator of the project and director of Ag-Biotech Research at EIAR. “In addition, the generous grant from the foundation will provide EIAR the opportunity to train its researchers and develop gene editing capacity for this key food security crop and ultimately deliver lodging resistant tef lines to smallholder farmers.”

(news Wise)

Flying Swans’ Ethiopia project secures €11.7m backing

A new cold-chain logistics center called Cool Port Addis is being developed near Addis Ababato make it easier for suppliers to export fresh produce like avocados internationally, according to Flying Swans, a Dutch company specializing in refrigerated supply chains in East Africa.

Ethiopia recently received a EUR 11.7 million grant from the Netherlands to begin the first phase of developing the facility at Modjo Dry Port, 50 km southeast of Addis Ababa.

Once complete, suppliers will benefit from Modjo’s direct rail link to the Port of Djibouti to ship products to export markets.

The center is one of three similar consolidation hubs Flying Swans plans in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania to shift inland distribution from truck to more efficient rail.


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