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Kenya tea farmers pick leaders

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 12 – More than 150,000 shareholders of the 54 tea factories managed by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) across the country go to the polls on Tuesday to elect directors for their factory companies.

According to a schedule released by the factories’ Group Company Secretary John Kennedy Omanga, the shareholders, who are small scale tea farmers, will elect one-third of the directors who retire on rotation every year and are subject to the nomination process according to their respective Company Articles.

This represents two directors from each of the 54 factory companies. One other serving director is retiring having attained the mandatory age of 70 as specified in the Companies Act bringing the total number of seats being vied for to 109.

“About 30 of the candidates offering themselves for election are unopposed,” according to the schedule.

The elections come at a time when tea farmers have enjoyed record high earnings, with tea bonus payments rising by about 30 percent over the previous year.

There are more than 320 candidates vying for directorship, having met all the requirements set by their respective factory companies for participation in the elections.

Elections in all the 54 factory companies will be conducted through the weighted voting system of shares introduced in 2008. Voting will be by secret ballot.

Results of the eagerly awaited elections from the 250 polling stations will be announced on the same day at the respective electoral areas once tallying is completed. The full results are expected to be published on Thursday.

“The annual polls, which are held under a transparent, free and fair system, are an essential part of the corporate governance process at KTDA-managed factories that requires shareholders to elect their representatives who will be formally confirmed at the respective factory AGMs,” details the communiqué.

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It adds: “Under the weighted system of voting, shareholders elect directors based on the strength of their individual shares. This is the third year that factory directors’ elections are being held under this system.”

Small scale tea farmers have embraced the voting by shares system because it has enhanced transparency and efficiency in the electoral process. Farmers are able to vote within a short period of time because polling stations are conveniently located close to their buying centres and the results are announced at the polling stations and the final tally for the electoral area declared by the Returning Officer.

“General tranquillity is expected during the elections, now that shareholders have fully understood the rationale for electing directors based on the strength of the individual shareholders shares,” said Mr Omanga.

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