CS Matiang'i among prominent people who made a big difference this year

Education CS Fred Matiang'i during the release of 2016 KCPE exam results at Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in Nairobi on December 01 2016.The top candidate scored 436 marks out of a possible 500, compared to last year's 449. PHOTO DAVID NJAAGA/STANDARD}

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Okengo Matiang’i is, arguably, Kenya’s man of the year 2016.

Dr Matiangi’s star as a top achiever in the Jubilee administration started shining after he was moved from the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) ministry in November 2015 to the Education docket.

The man, who previously taught at Egerton University and University of Nairobi, took over the Education ministry at a time when cheating in examinations was being perfected with the help of technology.

His first assignment was to put in place a fresh team at the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec). The team helped him to secure the national examinations and boost confidence in the exam’s system. Although the Government is yet to fully seal the cheating loopholes, Matiang’i did what most of his predecessors were unable to do.

He took the unprecedented decision to ban visiting and prayer days for Form Four students at the end of third term as part of his measures to curb rampant exam cheating.


Matiang’i also stopped outsiders from visiting schools in third term to reduce unnecessary contact and disruptions.

He also made changes to the school calendar—making the second term a little longer than previously—irritating teachers and their unions.

However, these measures were not enforced without a fight. Some 110 schools were set ablaze across the country by students. The torching of the schools was partly blamed on his stringent measures that sent panic in schools.

By the time examinations were being done, the CS had become a nightmare for teachers who were used to working without supervision. He kept making unannounced visits to schools and head teachers who were not at their stations when he visited found themselves on the receiving end of his wrath.

But it is the release of national examinations results almost a month earlier than in the past that has earned him the most admiration.

The man has now trained his guns on school heads who are notorious for charging excess fees.

His greatest challenge, however, will be to sustain the momentum that he has created to be able to win the vicious war against examination cartels.

Matiang’i has held various research and programme implementation positions with local and international organisations.

He consulted previously for among others the World Bank,  Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations Development Programme.

He is a governance and programme implementation expert and the immediate former Country Director of the Kenya Parliamentary Support Programme.

Before joining the Government as Cabinet Secretary for ICT, he was the Eastern Africa regional Representative for the Centre for International Development, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, State University of New York.

Public sector - Ambassador Amina Mohamed
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has also stood out among top achievers in the public sector.

Kenya nominated her to the position of the next head of the African Union (AU) Commission and she has put up a spirited campaign to get elected.

The post became vacant after the expiry of the term of South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has been at the commission’s helm since 2012 and did not apply for a second term.

Ms Mohamed is no stranger to international diplomacy, having been in public service for over 29 years. She was once Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

The UN secretary-general then appointed her the body’s assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director at UN Environment Programme (Unep) in Nairobi.

Her greatest achievement was when she led Kenya in organising global conferences at a time when the country was facing a security headache.

She rode on last year’s success of hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which was addressed by US President Barack Obama, to push Kenya’s position in hosting the World Trade Organisation’s 14th ministerial conference and the 14th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conference, all in Nairobi. The conferences were a boon to the tourism industry which was hurting from travel advisories and negative publicity following a series of terrorist attacks.

Amina is also a former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs.

A trained lawyer, she has served in the public service since 1985. She has also served in the Ministries of Local Government, Foreign Affairs and Justice.

Corporate sector - Safaricom Chief executive Bob Collymore
Safaricom boss Bob Collymore is perhaps the most envied chief executive officer in Kenya in 2016 after his firm continued to post mouth-watering profits at a time when a good part of the corporate sector experienced flat growth.

Mr Collymore was named the 2016 International Business Leader of the Year at the 9th annual Africa Investors CEO Investment Summit in New York.

He was honoured alongside three other business leaders for their contribution to pushing investments in Africa and raising the profile of the continent as a viable international investment destination.

The award to Collymore celebrates Safaricom’s market innovations and transformational, socio-economic impact on all segments of society, making him one of the top achievers of 2016 in Kenya’s corporate scene.

He was also appointed to the Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development in 2016, an initiative that seeks to steer the global trade community into creating a sustainable future for the ventures.

The commission, which was co-founded by former United Nations Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch-Brown and Unilever chief executive Paul Polman, brings together international leaders from business, labour, financial institutions and civil society.

His appointment came in a year his firm made super-normal profits. Safaricom raked in Sh104 million in profits daily, widening it’s lead as East Africa’s most profitable company.

This saw the company get Sh38.1 billion in net profits for the year ending March 2016. Its customers also crossed the 26 million mark.

The firm, which has continued to invest heavily in infrastructure, said it will continue to focus on its customers in line with its strategic pillars.

To put its success in context, Collymore said Safaricom’s profits, if divided among all Kenyans, would see each one pocketing about Sh850.

This makes Safaricom the most profitable company in the region.

The listed telecom company defied a turbulent economic period that saw at least 18 companies on the securities exchange issue profit warnings to grow its profits by 19.5 per cent. It made Sh31.8 billion in a similar period the previous year.

Its shareholders will be the biggest beneficiaries of the profits after the mobile operator said it would dish out 80 per cent of the billions it made to them.

The company made Sh195.6 billion in revenue in the year under review from voice, M-Pesa, SMS, mobile data, fixed service and sales of handsets among others.

Its revenues are about a third of Kenya’s GDP and can be used to pay for the construction of half of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) or to build five Thika Super Highways.

Service revenue for the company increased by 13.8 per cent to Sh177.8 billion while voice revenue (revenue made from calls) grew by 3.9 per cent to Sh90.8 billion.

This made voice the revenue stream that posted the slowest growth in the Safaricom stable. But Collymore said the growth was still decent compared to what was happening in the voice market globally.

The firm earned Sh21.1 billion from mobile data, a growth of 42.7 per cent. The growth was driven by a double-digit increase in 30-day active mobile data customers.

Safaricom now has in excess of 14.1 million active mobile data customers. This translates to a 21.5 per cent growth.

At the close of its financial year, the firm had more than Sh30.4 billion in free cash flows, making it one of the most liquid companies on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

However, the company’s direct costs rose by 9.8 per cent from Sh56.7 billion to Sh62.3 billion.

The firm says the focus by the teams on the ground, plus a Sh32.1 billion investment in the network, has led to improved data speeds and voice network quality.

It appears that Safaricom will maintain this performance or even better it in the coming year after it posted Sh23.9 billion profits in its six months to September 2016.

Safaricom is now marketing the 4G network and it expects the new technology to contribute to growth of its customer base.

The telecom also scrapped M-Pesa and Lipa na M-Pesa fees for transactions below Sh100, apart from betting.
Also scrapped are charges for person-to-person transfers below a similar amount.

Parliament - Kiambu Town MP Jude Jomo
In Parliament, one man will go down this year as having upset Kenya’s banking industry through a private members Bill.

Companies and individual borrowers have Jude Jomo to thank for the law that has seen the cost of loans drop.

The 52-year-old first-time legislator, who claims he was offered bribes to drop his bill, was lucky to succeed where others before him had tried and failed.

President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Bill into law, catching banks flatfooted.

Jomo, an electrician by profession, said he learnt from the mistakes of his predecessors whose attempts to rein in sky-high interest rates flopped.

An attempt 16 years ago to control interest rates by then Gem MP Joe Donde failed when banks went to court and had the rates reversed on a technicality even after President Moi assented to the Bill.

Only last year, the parliamentary Budget and Appropriations Committee overruled an amendment to the Finance Bill 2015 that had been pushed through by Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo.

An alumnus of Kenya Polytechnic, now Technical University of Kenya, Jomo succeeded where Donde, a UK-educated economist and Mr Midiwo, an eloquent and veteran debater failed.

The Bill capped the rates at 4.5 per cent above the Central Bank rate. This cut the spreads that has seen banks rake in billions of shillings by charging as high as 24 per cent.

The Bill, also pegs the minimum interest rate payable on deposits held in interest earning account at 70 per cent of the CBR — meaning at current rates, depositors would earn an interest of 7.3 per cent on their cash.

The Banking (Amendment) Bill, 2015, now compels banks or a financial institution to set the maximum interest rate chargeable for a credit facility in Kenya at no more than four per cent above the base rate published by Central Bank of Kenya.

It also forces lenders to disclose to a borrower all the charges and terms relating to the loan before it is granted.

The new law dealt lenders a twin blow, by squeezing them from the two ends they normally generate income.

First, they have be stopped from charging high rates, but also the new legislation compels them to pay depositors better than what they were offering.

Consumers now can get loans at prices closer to what Savings and Credit Co-operative (Sacco) are giving. Most Saccos charge about 12 per cent.

The law also makes it criminal for bank executives to exceed the prescribed ceiling.