Cryptocurrency Booming Among Kenyan Farmers

KILIFI, KENYA – Cryptocurrencies make headlines for shaking up the financial world, but they are also gaining ground in less developed countries. In Kenya, an American economist, who introduced blockchain technology for low-income urban customers, has extended the cashless system to the countryside.

On a lush green farm in Kilifi on Kenya’s tropical Indian Ocean coast, 26-year-old farmer Emmanuel Kahindi is harvesting tomatoes and other vegetables. He is using Kenya’s cryptocurrency, Sarafu, to sell his vegetables, and to buy supplies without having to use any cash.

Sarafu helped me a lot, he said, especially because it makes me save my money, my Kenyan currency. He said he uses Sarafu to purchase things for the garden like seeds and fertilizer.

Sarafu coins work like vouchers that can be exchanged for goods or services of other users of the currency. Anyone with a Kenyan mobile phone line can enroll. Users are given 50 Sarafu for free. After that, they earn coins by selling a product or service to another user.

Sarafu is what’s known as a community inclusion currency, or CIC, allowing people to give or take credit without having to deposit Kenyan shillings or other currency in a bank.

It was created by Will Ruddick, an American economist through his Kenyan nonprofit, Grassroots Economics. He recently introduced it to rural areas like Kilifi.

“I think that’s where there is the most chronic lack of national currency. So, I think what’s happening, we’re filling a gap. People say look, the national ledger system, the national currency it is not available for us. We can’t measure our trade in this thing,” said Ruddick.

Kahindi moved with his harvest to a nearby restaurant in Kilifi. There he offers his vegetables for selling and gets Sarafu in a return. The owner is Giataari Mwang and he said he is happy with it.

“Sarafu is good because it allows us to get our farm produce straight from local neighborhood farms and put it on our plate and serve it to our customers and they are able to pay us with Sarafu,” he said.

Bitange Ndemo is a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi. He said such community-focused cryptocurrencies have a potential to expand beyond Kenya and in other parts of Africa.

He said that cryptocurrencies give communities an option to monetize resources in a way that they cannot do with cash, pointing at the cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a potential example.

“Nothing stops them from a cobalt coin based on the reserves they have in terms of cobalt. The country then can then raise sufficient resources to develop the country,” said Ndemo.

In Kenya, the coins will be based on the agriculture production across the nation and here in Kilifi.

For Emmanuel, it is time to relax after work. He is now seated in the restaurant and is using Sarafu to enjoy a well-deserved meal.

Source: Voice of America

Family of Ugandan Weightlifter Says He Contemplated Suicide After Olympic Disqualification

KAMPALA, UGANDA – Ugandan authorities have detained weightlifter Julius Sekitoleko after he disappeared last week from the Olympic Games in Japan. His case is odd, as Sekitoleko did not qualify for the Ugandan Olympic team, and no one can explain why he was flown to Tokyo.

Ugandan authorities say they will likely grant bail to the 20-year-old weightlifter after he spent four days in detention but that he still may face charges.

Sekitoleko was deported to Uganda last week, after he was arrested by police in Japan’s Mie Prefecture. Police went looking for him after he disappeared from the Ugandan Olympic team’s training camp in Izumisano, in Osaka, Japan.

Sekitoleko competes in the elite category of 56 and 57 kilograms and has previously represented Uganda in tournaments in Kenya, Morocco and Australia. He did not qualify for this year’s Olympics.

Charles Twiine, spokesperson for Uganda’s Criminal Investigations Department, told journalists Monday that an investigation was launched to determine why Sekitoleko was flown to Japan with his coach.

“What is visibly clear here, is that there’s a probable fraud of airlifting a person with full knowledge that he had not qualified. To go and participate well knowing he is not going to participate. Now the fundamental question is, was he part of the fraud as a conspirator and it’s the reason why we are having him,” Twiine said.

The athlete’s wife, Desire Nampeewo, who is five months pregnant, told VOA she hoped that the government would “rehabilitate” her husband. Nampeewo said she was surprised that officials want to charge him instead.

She said life has not been easy for the athlete as he he isn’t financially stable, his life has been a struggle, he sleeps on the floor and doesn’t have enough food suitable for an athlete. She said he really wanted to participate but lost his mind when he was told he didn’t qualify and started wandering unconsciously. She said he even wanted to kill himself.

Mark Namanya, a Ugandan sports analyst, says the athlete’s disappearance from the training camp is not a new thing. He argues that many athletes who represent Uganda at the highest level come from very deprived backgrounds and see tournaments as a way out.

“It’s an opportunity for them to start a new life. I was in Australia three years ago. Uganda sent, I think it’s biggest team to the Commonwealth Games and five athletes vanished. I can tell you with certainty that Sekitoleko’s case is neither the first nor the last,” Namanya said.

It is not clear what charges may be filed against Sekitoleko.

Investigating officers say they continue to record statements from the Olympic Committee and will wait for officials currently in Japan to return to explain why Sekitoleko was allowed to travel.

Source: Voice of America

Sierra Leone’s Parliament Votes to Abolish Capital Punishment

Sierra Leone is set to become the 23rd country on the African continent to abolish the death penalty.

Lawmakers in the West African nation voted unanimously Friday to outlaw capital punishment and replace it with life imprisonment or a minimum 30-year sentence for such crimes as murder or treason and grant judges additional discretion when handing down a sentence.

Sierra Leone has not executed anyone since 1998, when 24 soldiers were put to death by firing squad for taking part in a coup attempt the previous year. At the time the country was in the throes of a bloody civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002. But more than 80 people have been sent to death row since then.

President Julius Maada Bio is expected to sign the legislation into law.

More and more Africa countries have abolished the death penalty, which human rights groups consider a cruel remnant of centuries of brutal colonial rule. Malawi’s Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional in April, while Chad outlawed it in 2020.

16 people were executed across sub-Saharan Africa last year compared to 25 people in 2019, a drop of 36%, according Amnesty International, a human rights advocacy group.

Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Director, praised the vote by Sierra Leone’s lawmakers in a statement saying it is “a major victory for all those who tirelessly campaigned to consign this cruel punishment to history and a strengthening of the protection of the right to life.”

Daoud urged President Maada Bio to immediately sign the bill and that the “inhuman and degrading punishment,” she added, “has no place in our world.”

Source: Voice of America