The Bank’s Heartburn

If you are a Kenyan you probably feel this, if not, just go to Nairobi’s CBD during weekdays and witness the rush and sense of doing everything with urgency. People here want to do a lot (including walking) in a short time. Impatience is of another level. Our public transport can help you decode the same. They overlap and can even create ways on top of water just to get to their destination. In a twist of events, one bank or should I say one bank branch, has blatantly refused to go with the speed needed in the Kenyan dynamic. This bank branch, located in Ruiru, a satellite town to Nairobi, still expedites it operations lackadaisically and with lethargy in this age of the Standard Gauge Railway.

With a much publicized SIM card that gets the bank into your phone, I decided to be one of those who carry the bank in their pockets. That’s a good feeling, isn’t it? On the counter of this brown and cream building, I was. Things are digital and according to their advertisements and promotional messages, getting the bank to my phone was supposed to happen in a very short period. I was ready to become a member. The process had two steps. I had to register and activate the line. All the instructions to do the same were clearly marked.

Acquiring and registering the SIM card took a relatively short period. True to their word, it was free. Next was activating the SIM card. The desk was empty. The attendant was activating something else, but clearly it was not SIM cards. “May be he/she is taking lunch,” I thought. I got my cool and decided to wait. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes and the guy was still not active. All this time, the queue was lengthening and getting restless. I managed to inquire from the registration desk and the response was that the missing guy had the veto powers to activate my line, nobody else. By the 20th minute, I was getting irritated and I decided to quit. In my dual SIM phone, I had a line that was purposely supposed to be the fine link between me and the bank but I could not use it, it was not active. Raging with fury, I walked out to meet my angry friend who I had promised to wait for a maximum of five minutes but here I am, late by almost half an hour. To calm him, I took him for a burger across the street. I lost the damn SIM card and the bank is still on the street, not in my pocket. To the bank managers, times are changing and if you want to maintain the billions you announce every quarter as profits, you have to ensure everybody goes home happy, not with heartburns.

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Is Kenya Agriculturally Handicapped?

Taking a closer look on the situation of agriculture in Kenya, I am filled with sadness. This beautiful country, a hotbed of resources, endowed with plenty of resources, but still unable to feed its people. But one thing is very clear, Kenyans are very hardworking or rather they do hard work. Agriculture is said to be the backbone of our economy. Kenyan flowers, tea and coffee are selling high in the international auction markets. On that note, all seems to be well. But it is not! Turn away from the top cream agricultural products and look at the agricultural sector that nourishes the lives of the peasant Kenyans. On staple food production sector, my worry is that we still remain a hungry nation.

With resource abundance in our country, Kenya should lead by example just like it does in athletics or even corruption. A hungry nation runs a risk of having a deflated economy. Dependence on financial aid and relief aid from the likes of USAID and AMREF to feed our brothers and sisters in the North is concrete proof that the potential in this country is yet to be utilized.

What would you say of the situation where almost every county has sent its MCAs for benchmarking in Israel? These “agricultural” trips would have been more meaningful had we sent the right players, those who really care about using the soil to feed the nation. Woe unto us who sent the people who use their positions to fill their bellies. Israel is challenged for every aspect; the small Jewish country is located in a desert, and surrounded by enemies making it to always be in constant war. Israel is a country where every able young man is a soldier. Despite all these reasons, Israel produces plenty to feed all its people and also export. Our brother in North of Africa, Egypt offers another challenge. Egyptian agricultural products are giving our country’s pride goodies in the market a run for their money. How can these two desert countries be so good in a sector they are so disadvantaged?

The answer to those questions falls back to policies and leadership, and before I forget, didn’t our greedy students, our emissary MCAs learn anything from Israel. I would have expected some change, at least in one county. At least one county that has proved to be on point on growing produce from the soil is Nairobi; houses are coming up everywhere, in masses, and taller every day.

You cannot keep doing the same things and expect different results. Our farmers toil hard in the villages really but can perform better if the government puts in place mechanisms for such. Yes, you heard me right, it is not much of their failure but the government’s decision to have a hungry nation. The failure to deliver fertilizer to farmers at the right time hurts the production capacity. The reliance on rain to grow our crops limits our potential to reach our optimum agricultural producing capacity. Egypt has only one river, which ironically owes its source to Kenya and are very good in the use of irrigation.

When the rains come, we get so much water that we are not sure of what to do with it. Instead of using the water to transform our farms, the trend has been to transform our vehicles and transport system. Every road becomes a water path way. If the government tapped into this free resource, and trapped it for a “rainy” day. Our farmers would prove their worth and the storage silos by National Cereals and Produce Board would not be enough to hold the amount they would produce.

Death of Kenyan Agriculture: Diagnosis

The Kenya Bureau of Statistics and the Treasury are some of the most interesting public organizations when it comes to giving numbers and statistics, often accompanied by no explanations. For instance, it has always been recorded that more than 24% of the GDP is attributed to agriculture. That is more than US$ 16 Billion or Ksh 1.6 trillion. They also say that 75% of the population is economically supported by agriculture. It therefore means that 75% of the working population in Kenya generated money enough to almost support our 2016/17 national budget. How true is this? If it were true, a Kenyan farmer would be the richest person in the community but as of now, the opposite is true. I am not sure our young generation wants to be farmers, it has all the bad reputation, mostly when it comes to pay, and this is why.

Kenya is a beautiful country with an almost perfect relationship with international bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. From 1988 to early 1990s, the World Bank and the government implemented the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) which killed among many others Agriculture with industrial efficiency. SAPs left everything to the arms of the private sector, including extension services. Subsidies to the agricultural sector also died with SAPs. With the introduction of SAPs, and adoption of international treaties, for instance, those created by the World Trade Organization, room for privatization and liberalization of agriculture was created. With trade liberalization, it meant that the agricultural value chain could be exploited by multinationals and industrial farmers. These are companies that produce in masses and sell cheaply. Where does this leave Makau, Kamau and Kiprotich who cannot afford such trade advantages? Our small scale farmers are then methodically edged out of business. Don’t look further, consider the horticulture subsector that is the most valuable in the export market. Small guys don’t export, it is the big boys who do and in most cases, they are not Kenyans. I can therefore say that, it is multinationals and other big companies who go home with money enough to run our economy. Education in Kenya is such that white collar jobs get preferential treatment and unnecessary glorification. If you peep into most of the schools and get the honor of speaking with some of the most notorious students discipline-wise, they get their bad behavior reshaped in the school farms. The picture presented here is that agriculture is a punishment and from there, no student wants association with a dirty and punishing career. Legally, I am focusing on the youth, how easy is it for them to get necessary licenses to operate sophisticated agricultural operations, for instance, exports, chicken hatcheries and others.

In conclusion, unless our government wakes up and goes beyond big numbers, Kenyan agriculture will remain in a comma for a long period, even when the market is there. The government needs to tell us what amount of the GDP trickled down to the farmers who make the majority. This way a clear picture will emerge but as of now, we are feeding monsters in the name of multinationals and international organizations.

What the Kenyan politician can learn from the Obama campaign in the 2017 election

If you are an aspiring politician or already in the race for a political seat I imagine you will carry out a traditional campaign based on giving money to the masses and hope that the people will show up to vote for you. Of course this has worked before but remember that Kenya has more of a youthful population that wants to be wooed with ideologies and money will not do. The Kenyan youth is estimated to be more than half of the population Youthful population in Kenya and this means that they are all on their mobile phones. While mobile phone penetration was at 73.8% as at 2014 (see below World Bank data), this means that attention spans have become shorter as people want information on the go.

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So, let’s go through Obama’s campaign and see what made it a great one. First, Obama had an appeal that was honest and genuine and had good public speaking skills. He was a great orator and never shied from the glare of the cameras. Secondly, his campaign slogans (below) were eye catching and easy to relate to. They gave hope and a sense of determination to the voters.

Thirdly, Obama’s campaign targeted the youth who were voting for the very first time. In seeking to woo them, his campaign used multi media tools such as social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)and Video (Youtube)

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HipHop musicians such a Young Jeezy, Big Boi (Outkast) and Nas rapped about Obama in their songs My President by Young Jeezy ft Nas

Obama resonated with the young because of his style and cool demeanour. He said the right things and embraced everyone. The women and children loved him, his nemesis were awed by his oratorical prowess and Africans received hope.

In the coming 2017 elections an aspiring politician will need to get rid of the following: A bad attitude towards the electorate (the masses cannot continue to tolerate insults); manifestos that are not worth the sheets they are written on; threats to other communities who do not vote for you; tribal affiliations (get an ideology-“tyranny of numbers” does not qualify); stealing of ballot papers (or even worse the boxes themselves!); Threatening those who question your tenure in office and corruption scandals.

You could start with a grass-roots campaign that wins the hearts of the people of “mashinani” and use multimedia tools to build a campaign that allows people to spread the message for you.

Wishing all Kenyan politicians with a sound ideology best of luck.

Thika SuperHighway-The Highway of dreams

Construction on the Nairobi-Thika Superhighway began in April 2009 at an estimated cost of Kshs 31 billion. The superhighway was considered a work of art and has brought with it an increase in population and land prices. Where before a quarter acre of land in Ruiru used to sell for Kshs 900,000 in 2008, in 2016 the same cost Kshs 2.5 million.

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Bicycle lane on Thika Superhighway

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Footbridge on Thika SuperHighway

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The footbridges have helped reduce the number of accidents by pedestrians on the roadDSC04913DSC04914

Companies have cashed in on the advertising craze on the superhighway.

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New homes and estates have been built as a result of opening up and expansion of space. IMG_6480

Traffic has increased on the road with residents having to leave their homes at 6 AM to be in the city centre by 8 AM.

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The road has spawned development of glitzy malls such as Thika Road Mall (TRM) and Garden City Mall which are frequented by the middle and upper middle classes with high disposable income. Other malls such as Two-Rivers located in Rossslyn which is expected to be even bigger, is nearing completion.

“Whoever fights…

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche