News Round-up

EA Business Losing to Bribes
Businesses in East Africa are losing up to US$9.8mn every year in bribes paid to authorities at roadblocks, weighbridges and customs clearance points across the region as officials manning roadblocks are found to be the most corrupt, pocketing the biggest amounts of bribes from truck drivers, thus significantly increasing the cost of doing business in the region. The findings are contained in the Business Climate Index Survey 2008, by the East African Business Council, a lobby group for the private sector in the region. The survey, conducted between July and September 2008, covers the EAC member states.

Kenya’s Custom Voted the Slowest
Kenya’s Customs department is in spotlight for being the slowest in East Africa, even as business people accuse it of employing incompetent officials who treat clients “unfairly.” According to the Business Climate Index Survey 2008, 76 percent of business leaders in the region say that the country’s customs process is either slow or too slow compared with other EAC partners. 70 percent of all of Kenya’s clearing and forwarding agents, describe the situation as “severe”, attributing it to congestion (apparently at the Port of Mombassa).

Sharp Rise in Food Prices Hurts Kenya
Food prices have risen by 10 to 11 percent. Of the 42 crop items whose market prices are tracked by the Ministry of Agriculture, 24 had price rise, against 12, which had their prices go down in Nairobi. For the rest of the crop items, prices did not change between December 2008 and March 2009.

Globally, prices of most food items are falling and though Kenya removed import duty on food in February, local prices are yet to come down due to the lag between policy changes and the arrival of the imports. Among the foods whose prices went up were dry and green maize, finger millet, legumes, roots and tubers, fruits, popular vegetables, and flavoring foods. Others were Irish potatoes, cassava and sweet potatoes.