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The Times

The Times says the penalty for lying about where one arrived in the UK from

could be up to 10 years in jail or for avoiding quarantine, a £10,000 fine.

Tesla sends bitcoin to record high with $1.5bn investment

Elon Musk’s Tesla gave bitcoin its most significant corporate endorsement yet as it revealed that it had ploughed $1.5bn of its reserves into the cryptocurrency, adding another boost to its dizzying rise. Bitcoin climbed more than 10 per cent to a record high of $44,100, extending its 50 per cent surge so far this year, as Tesla also announced plans to accept payments in the cryptocurrency for its electric cars, albeit “initially on a limited basis”. The huge volatility and high costs of using bitcoin have severely limited its use for payments until now. But if Musk can overcome those limitations, it could enable Tesla to tap a wealthy market of bitcoin speculators who have become avid of fans of his outspoken Twitter support for cryptocurrencies. The carmaker said on Monday that its board of directors and audit committee had both signed off on the investment, which represented 11 per cent of the company’s cash, net of the $5.6bn of debt for which Tesla says it is directly liable. Most Tesla observers, though, said the bet on bitcoin looked more like a personal bet by its anti-establishment chief executive. – Financial Times.

7 nominated senators expelled from the Jubilee party over gross misconduct

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju

The Jubilee party has expelled 7 nominated senators after on grounds of disciplinary violations. In a statement issued on Monday, Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju said the National Management Committee (NMC) met on Monday and deliberated on a report filed by the party’s disciplinary committee. The senators had appeared before the committee last year and this year disciplinary violations as per article 13 of the party’s law. Those expelled include nominated Senators: Isaac Mwaura, Seneta Mary Yiane, Waqo Naomi Jilo, Omanga Millicent, Prengei Victor, Iman Dekow and Gona Christine Zawadi. “The NMC in exercising its mandate provided or under article 7 (2a) of the party’s constitution and relying on other enabling provisions of the party law has expelled the following senators, ” the statement read. The statement further noted that the expulsion was immediate but noted that the legislators still reserve their right to make an appeal. “The expulsions are with immediate effect and have been communicated to the Senate and the registrar of political parties,” Tuju said. In May last year, the senators were under fire after claims that they snubbed an invitation to a meeting at the State House without offering apologies. The meeting was attended by 20 senators including The Kenya African National Union (Kanu) party leader Gideon Moi. – nation.co.ke

Donald and Melania Trump’s marriage ‘is far better since his Twitter ban’

Donald and Melania Trump, pictured during the former president’s final morning in office, are both said to be far happier since he was banned from Twitter (Picture: AP) Donald and Melania Trump’s marriage has been given a shot in the arm by the former president’s Twitter ban, a close friend said. The ex-first lady is said to be delighted at the positive change in her husband since he was banned from the social media site in the wake of last month’s deadly US Capitol riots. Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller said: ‘The president has said he feels happier now than he’s been in some time. He’s said not being on social media, and not being subject to the hateful echo chamber that social media too frequently becomes, has actually been good. ‘That’s something the first lady has backed up as well. She has said she loves it, that he’s much happier, and that he’s enjoying himself much more.’ Miller told The Sunday Times that Trump was in a great mood during his final flight on Air Force One on January 20, and that he is enjoying life post-presidency. The Trumps have been hit by repeated claims Melania will file for divorce now that she is out of the spotlight, although family friends – including Miller – insist the couple’s marriage is solid.

The real estate industry is reinventing…

Though the economy has slowed down, Kenyans still have an appetite for investments.

For the last 11 years, Mwenda Thuranira has been running Myspace Properties, a real estate development and property management firm with a focus on the Coastal region and Nairobi. Since 2017, the business has had to deal with a dip in Kenya’s property market which market analysts attributed to the global economic crunch. Covid-19 has only worsened the situation. “Come the global pandemic, and the situation that we expected did not normalise as there has been low circulation of currency since majority of Kenyans are only spending on basic necessities,” explains Thuranira. To stay afloat, the business and reinvent to suit the new wave of change. For instance, in Bamburi, Mombasa, where they manage rental houses, some tenants could no longer afford to pay the Sh20,000 rent for the two-bedroom houses. “Rather than move out, our tenants expressed the willingness to move in together, therefore we had two families living together, splitting the rent,” says Thuranira. Also, real estate residential development investors were cautious about investing, adopting a wait-and-see attitude that is still prevailing. For Kenya’s property market to get back on track, Thuranira says, there is need to inject more foreign direct investments as the shilling has weakened. This, he adds, will deliver more jobs and fast track socio-economic development. To weather the prevailing hard economic times, Myspace Properties has chosen to listen to what investors want. For instance, in mid-2020 Kenyan investors were enquiring more about studio apartments within well-secured areas in Nairobi.

Mina Heights

“We went ahead and developed the Mina Heights studio apartments within Westlands and our first 20 units, going for Sh4.5 million, were all sold out during the open day.” Though the economy has slowed down, there is a market and an appetite for investments among young Kenyans. “This group is aged between 25 and 45 years and they do not want to try, they want to make it. They want to put their money in the right places to attract clientele,” he adds. This year, the company plans to go big within Nairobi by being more creative and more price-sensitive as cash has been hard to come by. “The appetite for more affordable studio apartments is high. With Covid-19, Kenyans have learnt that jobs and businesses are not sustainable sources of income, that investment in property is the way to go,” says Thuranira.

They are also betting on commercial developments such as petrol stations and supermarkets in strategic locations within the 47 counties. Fanaka Real Estate CEO, Moses Muriithi, says that when Covid-19 struck, the company was in the process of introducing their new strategy, which involved increasing their project launching to two per month due to increasing demand for housing. Thanks to the uncertainty brought about by the virus, they had to shelve the plan. “We were hit hard, and had to be innovative on how we ran our operations since chance of default from existing clients was high, besides, we had to be careful not to inhibit new business from potential clients,” says Muriithi. With this in mind, Fanaka had to review payment plans for cash, installment clients. “When push came to shove, we introduced a zero-deposit payment plan, extended some of our existing clients’ payment periods, reducing installment amounts,” he adds. There was also renewed focus on digital marketing, which meant allocating more resources towards the company’s online presence. The firm also upgraded its management and financial systems to allow clients to make payment and receive receipts anywhere at their convenience.

Studio apartments

Around mid-2020, Kenyan investors were enquiring more about studio apartments.

Shutterstock

The strategies have been paying off, for instance, thanks to the zero-deposit payment plan, discounted prices of up to 10 percent for cash buyers and extended instalment periods of up to 15 months, there have been more business opportunities for Fanaka within the pandemic period.

Investment earners

Real estate is among the highest return on investment earners, if not the highest in Kenya despite being illiquid. Land along Kangundo Road in the satellite towns of Kamulu, Joska and Malaa, for instance, has been appreciating in value at a rate of between 18 per cent and 22 per cent, depending on the location. “We are foreseeing an increase in the appreciation rate due to the ever-increasing demand from Nairobi dwellers to acquire parcels of land and set up homes in these satellite towns within Nairobi metropolitan areas of Ruiru and Kangundo Road,” Muriithi says. He advises investors to explore plots in the satellite towns along Kangundo Road due to their affordability and high appreciation rates and also in Ruiru due to the growing demand in the area fueled by the increasing middle-income earning population that wants to build homes around these areas.

Big plans

As for Optiven Real Estate, the year 2020 started with vigor, energy and great focus. Come March 2020 however, Covid-19 happened, putting a damper on the big plans they had. It was so bad, the company’s CEO, George Wachiuri, had to send all his staff home. “As a business owner and an entrepreneur, it was a period of thinking differently as salaries, rent, loans and other overheads were accruing,” he says. He had to make some drastic changes to accommodate the liquidity issues brought about by the virus. The first step he took was to negotiate loans advanced to Optiven with its financiers. Fortunately, Optiven managed to get a two years’ relief, meaning that the interest accruing on those loans will be re-introduced after the two-year period. He then went ahead and negotiated office rent, and was able to secure 20 percent relief for six months. The real estate firm also slashed down on its spending, while investing more on aggressive marketing on various social media platforms. With all the goodwill coming their way, Optiven had no choice but to extend the same to their customers, waiving six months’ instalments interest. With all staff working from home, the company trained them on how to use recent technologies to enable them do business virtually, hold staff meetings, do appraisals and even make plot bookings. “In the course of 2020, in spite of the gloomy outlook, our teams were highly motivated, we also got into more business partnerships with the media, more than we have ever had before,” Wachiuri says. The real estate company also used this period to launch a campaign called #GoingGreenNaOptiven that supports green and renewable energy.

“All our projects use solar street lighting, last year, we installed 700 street lights in our projects and have, so far, planted over 5, 000 trees besides digging several boreholes in our projects in different counties,” Wachiuri says. Despite the Covid-19 challenges, the business has remained strong enough to attain 70 percent of its 2020 targets. In 2021, Wachiuri plans to expand Optiven’s operations through the provision of affordable homes within Nairobi. “We still have 80 percent of those that live in Nairobi renting, we also want to push the go-green agenda to ensure that we provide green buildings that recycle water and waste.” The other investment plans they have is to develop affordable homes in line with the government housing agenda. The third one is investing in gated communities. As 2021 takes shape, Wachiuri advises aspiring investors to put their money in land within the Nairobi metropolis, and a 10km radius around all the 47 county headquarters. To ensure efficiency in the real estate sector, he calls on counties and the national government to automate the lands registry. “Kajiado County is in the forefront in supporting developers and the going green agenda, for instance, it is now possible in Kajiado to do all approvals online, be it for individuals and developer’s,” he says. There are various lessons that the business will carry along from 2020. “We learnt that investing in, and adoption of technology earlier on was the right thing to do and that we need to keep improving on technology adoption into our systems, we also learnt that there is a bigger need for Kenyans to own homes, and even better, affordable one. – nation.co.ke

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How did boy, 16, survive on landing gear of Nairobi to Netherlands plane; a 12-hour flight?

An airplane’s landing gear compartment

A 16-year-old boy suspected to be Kenyan is receiving treatment at a Netherlands hospital after subjecting himself to freezing conditions while stowing away on an aeroplane heading to Netherlands from London, United Kingdom on Thursday, February 4. The teenager clung on to the airplane’s landing gear for 250 miles (402 kilometers), The Evening Standard says. He was subjected to extreme cold conditions while 19,000 feet above the sea level. The boy was discovered when the aeroplane — a Turkish Airlines cargo flight — landed at the Maastricht Airport in Beek Town, Limburg Province in southeastern Netherlands. It took the Airbus A330 one hour to arrive in Beek from London Stansted. The stowaway was immediately taken to hospital and diagnosed with hypothermia, a medical emergency that occurs when one’s body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. A spokesman for airport told DutchNews.nl the teen “had tremendous luck to get through this”. According to a tweet from the Dutch Royal Marechaussee, a police branch of the Netherlands armed forces, the teenager is relatively well considering his ordeal.

The Evening Standard has identified the nationality of the teenager as Kenyan. The Dutch police said authorities would be investigating potential human trafficking links in connection with the stowaway, who was discovered in the space next to the aircraft landing gear. According to Dutch aviation publication, Lucktvaart Nieeus, the only cargo flight to land from London at Maastricht Airport in Limburg on Thursday was TK6305, a Turkish Airlines Airbus A330 Freighter. The day before, the aircraft had flown to London Stansted from Nairobi, Kenya, via Istanbul. A spokesperson for Stansted Airport said the plane originally departed from Nairobi in Kenya to Istanbul, then on to Stansted before heading to Maastricht. They added there was nothing to suggest the 16-year-old entered the plane at Stansted. The flight distance between Nairobi and Netherlands is 6,680 kilometers, and the flight time is at least 12 hours. – k24tv.co.ke

How Dubai is paying the price for letting in tourists

(CNN) — Take a passing glance at Dubai, and you may think life is back to normal. In recent weeks, the bustling city has been a sparkling attraction for tourists, especially from Europe, trying to escape the brutal winter and strict coronavirus lockdowns. But as tens of thousands of visitors flocked there during its peak year-end season, the virus inevitably caught up with the city despite precautions aimed at limiting its spread. Cases began to rise, nearly quadrupling since November. Even as Covid-19 gained a stronger foothold, the images out of Dubai — particularly from the Instagram feeds of influencers or celebrities — painted an image of a wide-open winter sun paradise. For those back home in countries such as the UK, where most people are being told they cannot travel abroad because of the risk to health, these pictures caused consternation, drawing criticism of those enjoying themselves. – CNN.

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