Businesses watch closely as East Africa prepares budgets

Russell Padmore

Business correspondent, BBC News

The governments of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are making final adjustments to their budget plans, which will be unveiled next Thursday.

The East African states are expected to focus on reducing taxes to stimulate their economies.

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed economies in the region into freefall and the private sector is hoping governments will come up with measures to revive growth.

Businesses want a range of taxes cut, especially duties on imports of raw materials and petroleum products.

Uganda plans to suspend corporation tax payments for April to June, while taxes on manufacturing, horticulture and tourism will be deferred to September.

Kenya has reduced the pay-as-you-earn tax on wages and the East African Business Council is calling for this to be introduced in all countries in the region.

Businesses, both large and small, will be watching closely this weekend for any signs from finance ministers in East Africa of what they plan to unveil for their budgets.

Kenya bans single-use plastics from beaches and parks

Will Ross

Africa editor, BBC World Service

Tourists at Nairobi National Park
Getty Images
Kenya's national parks are a big draw for tourists

The Kenyan authorities have banned all single-use plastics, such as water bottles and straws, from national parks, beaches, forests and other protected areas.

The start of the ban coincides with World Environment Day and comes three years after Kenya announced one of the world's strictest bans on plastic bags.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Kenya hosted two million tourists a year.

The UN Environment Programme welcomed the ban saying it showed Kenya's commitment to addressing the global scourge of plastic pollution.

It estimates more than eight billion tonnes of plastic have been produced globally since the 1950s, and most of it has ended up in landfill or the natural environment.

Kenya sends coronavirus patients home

A worker walks outside the coronavirus isolation facility at the Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya
Isolation facilities are almost full and most patients are asymptomatic

Kenya's health ministry has said it will soon roll out home-based care for Covid-19 patients because the country's isolation facilities are almost full.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said they will first publish guidelines for home-based care before patients can be released to their families so as to free hospitals.

He urged Kenyans not to stigmatise patients who will be allowed to recover at home.

Kenya's capital, Nairobi, has two isolation facilities whose bed capacity is almost full.

The country on Thursday recorded 124 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 2,340 including 592 recoveries and 78 deaths.

The World Health Organization's guidelines for at-home care for coronavirus patients say patients are to be isolated in their own rooms and minimise interaction with other people.

Shared items and facilities are to be thoroughly disinfected and care givers are to wear protective gear.

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Kenya leader strips his deputy of powers

Ferdinand Omondi

BBC News, Nairobi

President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and his deputy William Ruto
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President Kenyatta (L) has previously accused William Ruto's supporters of undermining his agenda for the country

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has reorganised his government and stripped his deputy of power-sharing privileges.

The revised executive order has raised sharp debate in Kenya.

Some say it is routine and innocuous - that the presidency simply changing its name on paper to the Executive Office of the President.

But others are convinced it means President Kenyatta will no longer seek Deputy President William Ruto’s approval on important state affairs.

The deputy president may also lose direct funding to his office and power to appoint his staff. The head of public service has already alerted the finance ministry of the changes ahead of next week’s reading of the national budget.

Previously the pair - who first joined forces in 2012 as suspects at the International Criminal Court - consulted on key matters, including state appointments and government business in parliament.

But Mr Ruto has been in the shadows lately as President Kenyatta reorganises the ruling party and influential positions in parliament and the senate, as he seeks to stamp his legacy before leaving office at the end of his term in 2022.

Some analysts see these changes as President Kenyatta asserting his authority after voicing frustrations with the deputy president’s supporters in government, who he has accused of undermining his agenda for the country.

Already the ruling party has dismissed legislators perceived to be close to the deputy president from key roles in the house committees, replacing them with the president’s loyalists.

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Police officer to be charged with Covid-19 curfew murder

Two Kenyan police officers will be charged with murder after investigations by the country's police watchdog, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) said in a statement.

Duncan Ndiema Ndiwa is accused of shooting dead a 13-year-old boy Yassin Hussein Moyo who was on the balcony of his home in a suburb of the capital, Nairobi, according to the IPOA.

The shooting happened while the police were enforcing a curfew order in place to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Lotugh Angórita killed a teacher, Colleta Amondi Ouda, while responding to a report of a burglary in Siaya county, western Kenya.

The IPOA also named four other police officers who will be charged over an assault on a man in Garissa, in the east of the country.

On Wednesday, the watchdog body said that 15 people had been killed police and 31 injured since coronavirus measures were introduced on 25 March.

The IPOA said it had received 87 complaints from the public, including assaults resulting in serious injuries, robbery, inhuman treatment and sexual assault.

Human rights groups have often complained about police brutality and impunity for the officers involved.

Covid-19: Kenyan researchers identify virus strains

Rhoda Odhiambo

BBC Africa Health, Nairobi

A medical officer takes a sample for coronavirus at the laboratory of Kenya Medical Research Institute
Getty Images

Kenyan researchers have identified at least nine strains of Covid-19 circulating in the country in efforts to track mutations of the virus.

The nine strains are not any different from the ones circulating globally.

The team of scientists analysed 122 genomes collected from symptomatic and asymptomatic patients in the capital, Nairobi, and the coastal city of Mombasa.

"The analysis further suggests that infections detected and confirmed in March 2020 were largely from virus importation into the country, " read the report by Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

The samples were collected from cases detected in Kenya between 12 March and 25 May.

"This successful sequencing for the novel coronavirus SARS Cov-2 in Kenya is a significant milestone in the response to the pandemic in Kenya as this will strengthen surveillance for tracking mutations of the virus and aid in the tracing of the sources of community infections,” Prof Yeri Kombe, head of the institute, said in a statement.

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