Friday, June 17, 2011

Your A to Z guide for Alcohol Drinking Laws (Mututho) in Kenya

It's Friday again. Young ladies leaving work early to pass by the salon for a touch up. Young men going through their bank balance, MPESA balance and wallet to confirm their capacity for damage. Married men leaving their calculators tucked deeply under their work files in the office; and everybody in between getting ready to party. As you plan to paint tonight red, here's an A to Z guide of how to stay on the right side of the law - especially in light of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2010 a.k.a. Mututho Law.

A - Alcohol

So that we know what we're dealing with, take a look at how the Act defines alcohol. It includes any alcoholic drink with at least 0.5% alcoholic content except for methylated spirit or denatured alcohol (which kinda provides a loophole because Kenyan's have been known to take alcohol unfit for human consumption). The Act regulates production, sale and consumption of alcohol.

UPDATE:Read recently that the law regarding proximity to schools has been relaxed

B - Bars that are illegal

Don't wanna get caught up in an illegal bar raid, then avoid bars that are closer than 300 metres from a primary or secondary school, or those that do not have clean and adequate toilets.

C - Clubbing

Night clubs are allowed to sell alcohol from 7:00 PM to 3:00 AM Monday to Friday. Clubs that want to sell from 5:00PM on weekdays and 2:00 PM on weekends need to also get a bar license. That means that your night ends at 3:00 AM, any minute after that you're on your own.

D - Drunk and Disorderly

If you're behaving drunk and disorderly,  violent, or quarrelsome, the bar can eject you by force. If charged and convicted in court for being drunk and disorderly in public you face a fine of Sh. 500

E - Excessive Consumption

If the bar owner thinks you're intoxicated, he can refuse to sell to you because it is an offence. Also if you encourage someone who is already intoxicated to consume alcohol this is also an offence.

F - Food with your Alcohol

Restaurants can sell alcohol to you at any time as long as you're consuming it together with food.

G - Government

Lots of people can enforce this Act including provincial administration (DOs, DCs, Chiefs), NACADA officers, policemen (by virtue of enforcing all laws) and even City Council Askari (if the Minister so recommends - don't think he has though)

H - Hours of Drinking

The safest times to be drinking are between 5:00PM and 8:30PM though depending on which license the alcohol seller has these hours can be extended. Places like the Armed Forces canteen (AFCO) are not even regulated by the act

I - Injunctions against the Law

There have been a couple of injunctions against implementation of the Act with the most recent filed by EABL just before Madaraka day. Contrary to some interpretations this injunction did not suspend the law but only sections of it - those dealing with warnings comprising 30% of the label. So if you're planning to use this injunction to defend yourself - watch out!

J - Jail Time and Fines

Fines start at around Sh. 500 for being drunk and disorderly to upto Sh.10,000,000 for selling spiked drinks. Longest jail term I've seen is three years.

K- Keeping it Local

The Act legalises chang'aa but with some qualifications: it must be hygienically bottled and it cannot be sold in quantities of less than 250ml. Other standards are supposed to be developed by NACADA so that chang'aa joins the ranks of waragi and konyagi

L - Licensing

Each district has a District Alcoholic Drinks Regulation Committee that is tasked with assigning licenses and make inspections.

M - Madeni za pombe

For those who like to drink on credit, you'd be happy to know that no debt is recoverable in respect of sale of alcohol unless it was in a hotel where the debtor was a lodger or restaurant where served together with a meal.

N - Nursing the Hangover

:) The Act makes no mention of this, but try boiled eggs, bananas, lots of water and fruit juice. Avoid fatty foods (no passing by Kenchic on your way home!), and caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, redbull, coke)

O - Open Drinks

Be careful not to accept a drink not opened in your presence or imbibe a drink that was left open and unattended. Several cases exist where beautiful women will drug unwitting male patrons in order to easily steal from them - they are supported many times by cab drivers so know your cabbie. Ladies have to be even more careful not to be drugged.

P - Police Powers

As usual our boys in blue will be on the prowl to shake down anyone unlucky enough to be on the wrong side of the law and where they refuse to, let them cool their heels in the slammer. Getting jailed on a Friday night is the worst possible night, as the earliest you can be taken to court is Monday morning.

Q - Quitting while Ahead

Know your limits, don't drink and drive and if you start drooping in the club it's time to go home.

R - Repeal of old laws

The old liquor licensing act and chang'aa prohibition act have been repealed but not every cop knows that.

S - Staying at Home

Since introduction of the law, this has become a popular way to have your drink without restriction. If you however think that you can also sell liquor from your house without restriction you'd be mistaken. As long as you're selling alcohol the Act regulates you.

T - Toys that Imitate Alcohol

Goes without saying that these are illegal, we can't let the young ones get hooked in through toys.

U - Underage Drinking

Age of drinking is 18 years, which is good because this is also the age of voting. You can vote, you can drink. Sell to someone under 18 and you face a Sh.150,000 fine or 1 year in jail.

V - Videos showing Alcohol Drinking and Social Success

This probably defines 90% of the local music videos. A guy goes to a club, gets a drink and soon after has a bunch of scantily dressed women gyrating to his beats and showing him love. Try and use this to promote a drink (or drinking - as in the case of a bar/club) and you can be in serious trouble.

W - Wines and Spirits.

A huge ignorance exists about what wines and spirits can/cannot do. First of all understand that these usually get off-licence licenses, which means that the alcohol is not consumed where it is bought (you take it home or somewhere else). Under this license, they can only sell alcohol between 5:00PM and 8:30PM

X - eXcessive Alcohol Consumption is Harmful to your Health

That's one of the warning messages that should be on your drink, the others are:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver cirrhosis;
  • Excessive alcohol consumption impairs your judgment; do not drive or operate machinery;
  • Not for sale to persons under the age of 18 years.
Y - YouTube, Twitter, Facebook

Think you can promote your drink (in contravention on the restrictions on advertising) on the internet or on social media? Think again. Act makes sure no one will try this by imposing a Sh.3,000,000 fine or 3 years in jail or both for anyone who tries this.

Z - Zero Percentage Alcohol Drinks

Remember you can also have fun with your family and/or friends even when drinking non-alcoholic drinks. Alvaro, Novida, Sodas, Red Bull, water, and even tea are all possible alternatives. Plus there are non-alcoholic wines that exist to ensure you continue looking sophisticated and posh with a wine glass (as opposed to a fanta orange bottle) :)

Have a happy Friday all, and if you're a young lady planning to go drinking this post is a good read!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Internet Banking in Kenya

I remember the first day my mom took me to the bank, it was back in the day - mid 90s and we lived in the country (euphemism for ushago). The only bank that was available was Post Bank. Now I can't remember too much about how it all used to work, but I remember this: once you opened an account you were given a small booklet, I think it was called a passbook. The booklet was a journal that contained a handwritten list of all the transactions made to your account.

Now those were the days before things like branchless banking, local area networks,  desktop banking modules, computers, or even queues existed in Kenyan banks, less so a rural based bank like post bank. Instead to withdraw money over the counter the procedure was something like this:
  1. After filling out on a form or the passbook (can't remember which) the amount you wanted to withdraw you would need to hand it over to the cashier. 
  2. To get to the cashier you would muscle your way through the multitude of other customers in the "banking hall" to the walled off counter behind which the cashier sat.
  3.  You would then use all manner of flailing arm gestures, monkey like hopping, squawking noises and locking eye-contact jedi techniques to get the attention of the cashier in order to take your passbook. Woe unto you if it was end month (in ushago this is from 5th to 10th of the new month) because that's when everybody had a reason to visit the bank.
  4. Once successful in handing over the passbook you'd allow yourself to melt back into the river of humanity as the cashier took your booklet to the back office to enter your transactions in the ledger and confirm your account.
  5. After a while if you had money in your account, you'd here your name shouted out "STARTUP KARANJA... STARTUP KARANJA... KUJA HAPA MBERE"
  6. You'd fight your way back to the front where the counter was to collect your Sh. 500 cash and your passbook.
  7. You'd then prance out like Michael Cera  beaming that the whole process had only taken two hours.

Well we live in different times now: from M-PESA integrated bank accounts to VISA electron cards that allow you to access your money across the globe to plush couches in banking halls where you are even served tea. The banking experience in Kenya has really changed for the better. One area where I feel we still fall short however is Internet Banking. 

Now I would have liked to do a more comprehensive post where I could examine each bank's internet banking offering but I figured your input would be even more valuable. So I will only list the banks I have had a personal experience with. Feel free to add your own.

  1. ABC Bank
I opened an ABC Bank AfriNet Internet Banking account sometime in mid '07 and used it upto mid '09. Now things might have changed since then but ABC were pretty ahead of the curve in providing this service. Checking the balance, debits and credits was what I used the service most for although it was claimed that you could also transfer funds between your accounts. However this had to be followed up with a physical authorization letter (which kinda beats the whole point). Besides the Sh.495 flat  monthly fee I paid, there were no other costs to operating this service. Security is pretty sucky as you are never requested to change your password and the communications are not encrypted nor is the site certified. 

I don't really know if I should include this here because I can't remember really getting any service with this offering. I opened the account in 2009 but all I can remember viewing when logged in was a weird chart for calculating loans. Can't say much more.

3. Standard Chartered Bank

This is more of a I-have-received-a-transfer-by-someone-who-was-using-the-service experience. This means two things: it works, and it allows you to do inter bank transfers. The service is called Straight2Bank.

4. Bank of Africa.

First problem, from the time I applied to when I finally got login credentials was a lifetime and a half. About three months to be exact. I figure I could have walked to the bank and back to the office about seven trillion times while waiting for them to open my internet banking account. With that unpleasantness out of the way, I can say the service though basic is pretty ok. The security is tonnes better than that of ABC, they use some dutch software called Bweb which at least is certified and encrypted. You can only check balances, deposits and withdrawals although these are not necessarily real-time and it can take up to a whole working day for new transactions to appear.

5. Co-operative Bank
Now truth be told, everything you've read before was just a prelude so that I could gripe about the Internet Banking service from Co-operative Bank dubbed CoopNet. Now, first a disclaimer - I have not actually used the service - but, what I've experienced about it so far convinces me I should not even bother trying to. In my defence I did give Coop Bank the opportunity to explain the account to me but they did not see it fit to respond (via email off course - hey it's internet banking they should be able to respond to email)

My major gripe is with the pricing. I mean my Post Bank experience was a headache to me the customer - but it must also have been a headache to the bank. Removing customers from the bank lobby helps them focus more on better financial products, saves them air-conditioning costs, janitorial costs, printing of paper forms cost, queue management costs etc. You'd think the bank would be beating down the path to make Internet Banking accessible to all its clients, but noooooo, not Coopbank.

To access CoopNet through a corporate account you need to fork out an obscene Sh.1,500 per month. Yes, that is one five zero zero. Think that's it, hold up wait for this one.... for every transaction (assumption is debit, credit, transfer etc) you need to pay Sh. 30. I wanted to use this service mainly to confirm M-PESA paybill payments into my account. I can get three or four payments per day - some as low as KSh. 200. I don't have to do the math for you, suffice it to say it would ludicrous to use CoopNet for this!

Thank you very much Coopbank (not!), but if it's a choice, passbook please!