Kenya parliament advances Finance Bill 2024 amid protests


Kenya Parliament Advances Finance Bill 2024 Amid Protests

Kenya’s parliament has advanced the Finance Bill 2024 despite widespread public protests. The bill, which introduces new taxes, faced significant opposition from citizens concerned about its economic impact.

In a recent vote, 204 MPs supported the bill while 115 opposed it, pushing the legislation to the committee stage and third reading.

If passed, the bill will proceed to President William Ruto for assent. It aims to generate KSh 346 billion through new taxes to help pay off national debt and fund development projects.

Introduced in May, the Finance Bill 2024 has been controversial due to its proposed tax hikes. Protests erupted nationwide, including in Nairobi and President Ruto’s hometown, Eldoret, with many young Kenyans leading demonstrations against the rising cost of living.

In response to the backlash, the government withdrew some contentious provisions, such as the 16% tax on bread and a 2.5% annual tax on vehicles. However, public opposition to the bill remains strong.

The protests have been largely peaceful and driven by social media campaigns, with hashtags like #OccupyParliament and #RejectFinanceBill2024 gaining traction. Young professionals, including doctors and lawyers, have joined the movement, highlighting widespread discontent.

Flutterwave and EFCC Set Up Cybercrime Research Centre

Nigerian fintech company Flutterwave has partnered with Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to establish a state-of-the-art Cybercrime Research Centre.

Located at the EFCC Academy, this new centre aims to bolster the fight against internet crime and enhance secure online transactions.

The partnership was formalized on June 14, 2024, with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in Abuja by EFCC Secretary Mohammadu Hammajoda and Flutterwave’s CEO Olugbenga Agboola.

The Cybercrime Research Centre will serve as a hub for advanced research, training, and capacity building, enhancing efforts to combat financial crimes.

Flutterwave Founder and CEO Olugbenga ‘GB’ Agboola emphasized the company’s commitment to secure, fraud-free transactions and praised the EFCC’s efforts to tackle internet fraud and financial crimes.

EFCC Executive Chairman Ola Olukoyede highlighted the importance of the partnership, stating that the new centre will significantly enhance their ability to prevent, detect, and prosecute financial crimes.

The centre will develop and implement advanced technologies to detect and prevent financial fraud and provide comprehensive training for law enforcement and industry professionals. It will offer high-end training and research opportunities to 500 youths, equipping them with vital skills for the digital economy.

South African Regulator Blocks StarTimes’ Licence Renewal

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has denied OnDigital Media’s licence renewal application. OnDigital Media operates StarSat, the South African arm of StarTimes Media.

In a letter to the company, Icasa ordered them to cease operations by September 18, 2024, without providing an explanation or details on how to obtain a new licence.

Despite the shutdown order, OnDigital Media’s CEO, Debbie Wu, assured customers and stakeholders that the company is not closing down. She stated that they are in discussions with Icasa to resolve the issue and promised that StarSat will continue operations for the foreseeable future.

Reports indicate that the company continues to sell StarSat decoders and has not informed its staff or parent company, StarTimes, about the situation. The licence renewal issues came to light in early June 2024.

Icasa claims they sent a warning letter in mid-March to notify subscribers, content providers, and investors about the potential shutdown.

The regulator may publish a notice on their website or in the Government Gazette to inform all affected parties about OnDigital Media’s winding up of broadcasting services. They have instructed the company to develop a plan to notify subscribers, content providers, and investors. Icasa also clarified that they cannot consider transfer or renewal applications for expired licenses.

StarTimes, a Chinese pay-TV service, owns 20% of OnDigital Media, the maximum foreign ownership allowed in a South African media business. If StarSat shuts down, it could impact competition in South Africa’s pay-TV market, where StarSat is one of the top three players alongside DStv and Openview.