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Liquid Telecom Facilitates EAC Operations amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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In the advent of COVID-19 crisis, Liquid Telecom has made it possible for the East Africa Community (EAC) member states to function and interact normally despite the coronavirus pandemic.

This effort is in response to a ‘Joint Ministerial COVID-19 Preparedness and Response’ meeting instructing EAC member states to suspend face-to-face meetings and switch to ‘Modern Technology’ as a result of the crisis.

The provision of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) across a closed wide area network also supports the EAC’s own dedicated Video Conferencing (VC).

“If ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, COVID-19 has forced us all to rethink our daily lives and how we work, and Africa is no exception. Supporting all of our customers and especially the East Africa Community at this critical time is a priority for Liquid Telecom. We have ensured the EAC maintains as close to normal operations with world-class digital services and collaboration software delivered across ‘Liquid Telecom’s East Africa Backbone’ a new eco-system for the Extended East African Communities offering enhanced connectivity. The resilience of our network means we are always able to serve a vital function, even during this crisis,” said Adil Youssefi, CEO Liquid Telecom East Africa Region.

By offering superior connectivity and digital solutions across Liquid Telecom’s East Africa backbone, the EAC, consisting of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, has been ‘digitally transformed’ with best-in-class connectivity and collaboration tools.

With Liquid Telecom’s enhanced connectivity combined with the latest digital tools, Members of parliament and EAC Ministries are maintaining uninterrupted close to normal operations during the virus pandemic while also delivering on its promise of regional integration.

Liquid Telecom had already established a Wide Area Network (WAN) in 2019 – in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda South Sudan and Tanzania, all member states are connected. Network traffic flows are increased via the shortest path between each state across Liquid Telecom’s high capacity fibre network. This includes connectivity to the main EAC data centre in Arusha, East African Institutions located in different partner states and its back up facility in Uganda linked directly to the  6 EAC Court of Justice located in different countries of EAC and relevant authorities like National Banks and capital market authorities in EAC.

“My deepest condolences to all those who have lost friends and family due to COVID-19. And my appreciation to the governments, emergency services and health care staff that are playing a critical role reducing the impact of the virus while also helping to save lives,” continued Adil Youssefi.

Commenting on the announcement Eng. Murenzi Daniel, Principal Information Technology Officer, East African Community said, “Business continuity is critical at the East African Community as member states continue to engage on regional matters. Even in the midst of COVID 19, key decisions still need to be made and Liquid Telecom has enabled us to stay on top of things. We have been able to hold several meetings virtually with our stakeholders, East African Legislative Assembly Committee meetings also plenary and parliamentary sessions have started online with quick response times from member states owing to Liquid Telecom’s collaboration tools. Communication among members has been seamless and we have experienced superior network performance all through. We are looking forward to continue using these tools provided for communication to enhance regional integration in both the short and long term.”

In addition to enhanced connectivity during the virus pandemic, Virtual Workplace by Liquid Telecom supports home and remote working with Microsoft Teams collaboration tool with video conferencing plus full online access to Office 365.

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Equity Suspends Dividends Payout

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Equity Center, Nairobi (May 26, 2020)…  The Board of Directors of Equity Group Holdings Plc, the largest bank on the Nairobi Securities Exchange by market capitalization has suspended its dividends payout.

The financial institution withdrew its recommendation of a Ksh. 9.5 billion dividend payout to its shareholders.

The withdrawal of the dividend payout speaks to the Board’s assessment of risk, post balance sheet date of December 31, 2019 and of the Group’s approach to prudent risk mitigation and management.

 The COVID-19 global health pandemic has led to a great lockdown which has induced a complex and multi-faceted global crisis of health, economic, and social challenges of an unprecedented magnitude.

The pandemic’s effects have created a significant drop in the global GDP, and a substantial loss of employment leading to an economic recession which economists are projecting will evolve into a global depression worse than the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

“The Equity Group Holdings Board took a conservative approach that recognizes the emerging unquantified risk of the pandemic and opted to preserve capital in the face of the prevailing uncertainty,” said Dr. James Mwangi, the Group CEO and Managing Director.

The global economic outlook has worsened considerably since the beginning of the year. The United Kingdom has entered a severe recession last experienced in the 17th Century, while the United States unemployment rate is expected to reach 25% by the end of 2020 with 39.6 million people already unemployed.

The most recent global growth projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have revised the global economic outlook to below the 2.9% achieved in 2019 from an initial projection of 3.3% to -3.0% (negative 3.0%) of GDP growth rate, which they feel is optimistic.

 Cautiously, the IMF also projects that if the pandemic fades in the second half of 2020 and if policy actions taken around the world are effective in preventing widespread bankruptcies, extended job losses, and system-wide financial strains, global growth could rebound to 5.8% in 2021.

 “A strong capital and liquidity position gives us the strength and capacity to cushion our business and accommodate and walk with our customers during these challenging times,” said Mwangi.

 Further, the Board encouraged the Bank’s customers to seek opportunities to innovate in the age of the pandemic, and to keep looking for growth possibilities even in this trying time in order to preserve cash and capital, and to not just survive the crisis but to be ready to thrive in the New Normal.

By withdrawing the recommendation for a dividend payout the Board is exercising financial prudence so as to conserve cash to enable the Group to respond appropriately to the unfolding crisis in terms of supporting its customers, and to be able to direct cash resources to potential opportunities that may arise as economies in which Equity Group Holdings operates begin to recover.

“If the economic crisis mutates into a financial crisis, Equity Group will be well placed to weather the challenge with a strong capital base, strong liquidity and an agile balance sheet that improves its leverage, and would allow the financial services group to shield and accommodate its customers throughout this period of uncertainty,“ said Dr. Mwangi.

He added, “However, should the crisis not play out as anticipated, the Board will explore various options and make suitable recommendations that will enhance shareholder value.”

 With this approach, the Group leadership and management can focus on strategically positioning the business, in order to protect and preserve its customer base through loan accommodations and rescheduling/restructuring to enable them to go through the prevailing turbulence while at the same time preserving cash to shore up the financial revival and growth of its customers’ businesses post the COVID-19 crisis.

The Board continues to evaluate the potential impact of the pandemic on the Group and to formulate and implement strategic plans to mitigate any effects, and will, in the usual manner ensure that it keeps the shareholders and other stakeholders informed.

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Safaricom’s Sanda Ojiambo to Head United Nations Agency

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By Agencies for Kenyaonlinenews.com
Nairobi, Kenya – 22nd May 2020… Sanda Ojiambo, Safaricom’s Head of Sustainable Business and Social Impact has been appointed as the Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.

The announcement was made by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. Sanda who will assume the role from June 17th will take over from Denmark’s Lise Kingo who has been with the UN Global Compact since 2015.

“Sanda brings 20 years of experience to lead the Global Compact in its next phase to mobilize a global movement of sustainable companies and stakeholders and bring the full weight of the private sector to achieve the SDGs”, Said António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General.

Sanda has served as Safaricom’s Head of Sustainable Business and Social Impact since 2010. Before that she was the Senior Manager of Safaricom and MPESA Foundations during which she led the implementation of several public-private partnership initiatives between Safaricom and UN organisations.

She holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy from University of Minnesota, USA, and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and International Development from McGill University, Canada.

Launched in July 2000, the United Nations Global Compact is a strategic policy and advocacy initiative calling for the alignment of business operations and strategies with ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and motivates companies to integrate the SDGs into their core operations and funding activities.

“Sanda has been instrumental in leading our Sustainable Business team that focuses on Sustainability, Shared Value, Corporate Social Investment and Technology for Development.

She has also played a major role in the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into our business operations,” said Peter Ndegwa, Safaricom CEO.
Safaricom are active members of the UN Global Compact and the only African Global Compact LEAD company. LEAD companies are identified for their high levels of engagement.

As a highly engaged participant of the UN Global Compact, Global Compact LEAD companies are uniquely positioned to inspire widespread uptake of sustainability solutions among businesses around the world. Other Global Compact LEAD companies include Unilever, Accenture and Nestle.

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Equity Invests in Techonology to Meet Customers Needs

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Equity has deepened its investment in technology and innovation to meet the emergent needs for its business clients.

This is in response to the financial institution’s dynamic customer desires and the changing business environment.

The move to implement a new and robust trade finance system is aimed at improving turn-around time and boost supply chain financing.

At its trial phase, it has seen a recorded increase in earnings through non funded income business revenue as well as registering growth in contingent liabilities for the past one year.

This new strategy will see a shift from focusing primarily on large corporate clients to including MSMEs and SMEs into the business mix. In line with this, Equity has enlarged its international outreach through collaborations with top global correspondent banks across the globe.

This will enable the bank to handle more trade finance transactions for large international commodity traders, global construction giants, blue chip corporate manufactures and MSMEs and SMEs.

Leveraging off the new technology paradigm, the lender has successfully kept a breast with the dynamic customer needs and the changing business environment.

The technology has enabled the digitization of services, real-time exchange of data and assets, faster processing and more efficient verification of compliance with customs and international trade regulations as well as improved transparency and tracking of trade assets.

SMEs and MSMEs are set to benefit from a wide range of solutions which includes the issuance of collateral-free, bid bonds, performance guarantees, advance payment guarantees, letters of credit, invoice discounting, and Local purchase order (LPO) which forms the core of Equity’s key offering.

These collateral-free services are readily available at any Equity branch in the country enabling MSMEs and SMEs to compete effectively against well-established businesses that previously dominated tendering processes within the country.

Small and medium-sized enterprises remain a pivotal economic growth engine for the country. As the outbreak continues to weight on the country’s growth outlook, SMEs are facing cash flow challenges like never before.

In Kenya, SMEs create 30 percent of the jobs annually and contribute 34 percent to Kenya’s GDP.

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