Monday, November 29, 2010

#Open Innovation Africa #Unconference at i-hub

Ihub organised the #OpenAfrica #Innovation Meetup/Unconference  on November 26, 2010 as a precursor to the Open Africa Innovation Summit 2010 which is currently running in Naivasha from today November 29 to December 1, 2010.
This meet up was meant to showcase some presentations which will feature in the conference and also as a chance to get any last minute new ideas. To my understanding the innovations (Such as M-Pesa) that have been happening in Africa (especially Kenya) have caught the attention of the big boys aka the corporate world such as Nokia and as such this corporations are looking at ways in which they can be able to spot innovations which are happening in the continent.

Hence the evening started with presentations from Victor of FrontlineSms ( and from Ufahari ( which provides a platform of showcasing new ideas.

Source* Ustream

Thereafter we had the Unconference. Which is basically a informal conference where participants cluster to areas where they discuss ideas focusing on the 4 key themes of the summit i.e.

  • Ecosystems for Innovation
  • Sustainability Models for Bottom of the Pyramid (Emerging Business Models)
  •  Mobile Services Revolution
  • Human Capital – Education for All
So I joined the discussion on Ecosystem for Innovation. Under this we discussed why it is difficult for innovations to be identified in an early stage. Some of the major problems is;
  • The lack of middle level resource persons who are able to track innovations from where they are found
  • Innovation hubs or centers to nature spirit of innovation
  • The Media does NOT recognize nor CULTIVATE the spirit of looking & rewarding innovators (Focuses MOSTLY on Politics)
  • Corporate giants are not involved in this ecosystem
There after, I attended a follow-up discussion at Sierra Lounge where we were joined by Jussi Hinkkanen Head of Government Affairs and Bussiness Environment in Africa for Nokia.
Jussi Hinkkanen
Open Africa Innovation Summit 2010

This summit is organized in cooperation by Nokia and infoDev, with the support of Capgemini. Open Africa Innovation Summit 2010 brings together 200 African thought leaders around four "Challenge streams" to identify which skills and services are needed for building innovative societies in Africa and how modern technologies can be used to accelerate the process.
  • Ecosystems for Innovation
  • Sustainability Models for Bottom of the Pyramid (Emerging Business Models)
  •  Mobile Services Revolution
  • Human Capital – Education for All
Innovate Africa
Useful Links

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Throwback

Half-Day Experts Round table Tit Bits (Agriculture)

The above meeting was called by HBf to address the following ;

‘Irrigation Agriculture in Kenya: Impact of the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) and Long-Term Prospects for Food Security in an Era of Climate Change’

Date: November 16, 2010
Venue: Intercontinental Hotel-Nairobi

Welcoming Remarks
The meeting was called to order at 0930hrs by Dr. Axel Harneit-Sievers who is the Regional Director of Heinrich Boll Stiftung.
In his welcoming remarks Dr. Axel noted Kenya has a problem with food security which can tackled from a policy perspective.
This is where Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBf) comes into the picture in an effort to enrich the discussion. Hence, HBf commissioned a study which was done by Kassim Were (lead Researcher) from Tegemeo Institut and had the participation of Alex Mwaniki from Ministry of Agriculture. This study was to inquire on the impact (if any) of the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) on Irrigation Agriculture in Kenya.
Kenya introduced ESP in 2009 and one of the things it was dealing with was providing support for Irrigation Projects. So this study provided a beautiful opportunity to look what has come out of it. Thus, the study looked at various schemes and the finding that were to be presented had gone through various rounds of reflection and HBf is looking forward to publish this study early next year.

Mr. Kassim Were the Moderator of the session oversaw the introductions which also included mention of organizations represented at the forum. Thereafter, he gave the floor to Francis Z. Karin

Study Findings
Irrigation Agriculture in Kenya: Impact of ESP and Long-term Prospects for Food Security in an Era of Climate Change-Findings
  • Study was conducted between September –October 2010
  • Other researchers involved were Kevin and Alex Mwaniki
  • Methodology used was review of available literature and field interviews

Some of the findings of this study are;
  • Kenya’s food security is very weak
  • Kenya land under irrigation is 1.8%
  • Kenya’s Irrigation potential is 1,900,000 Ha

The Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) was launched in 2009 with a 22 Billion budget. This budget is higher that 14.4 Billion budget allocated to Ministry of Water.
Irrigation Agriculture Phase I spent Kshs 2 Billion. This was allocated as follows;

Institution                                  Percentage
Ministry of Agriculture             12%
National Youth Service            16%
TARDA                                   32%
National Irrigation Board          40%

Challenges faced within Irrigation Sector
  • Archaic Irrigation Act-1966
  • Undefined location of Irrigation leading to turf wars
  • NIB-Management capacity, Political interference
  • Inadequate funding
  • Lack of Irrigation water
  • Marketing Problems
  • Poor access to credit, lack of capacity, participation by farmers
  • Poor land tenure and land use system

Francis Z. Karim did observe that it was not within their mandate to give recommendations BUT observations drawn from this study are;

Short-term                                                                    Long-term
Institutional capacity                                 Policy issues-Explore possibilities of PPPS-     Smallholder model
Appropriate Storage & dry facilities         Separation of Mandates
Timely disbursement of funds

Questions and Answer Session
This session was moderated by Kassim Were and some of the questions raised were;
  1. Outsource our irrigation
  2. Involve youth in irrigation projects
  3. There is a need to consider irrigation scheme in Bundalangi
  4. Sampled areas in ASAL’s
  5. The study restricted areas of irrigation. There is need to look at the potential of irrigation areas
  6. Mechanizing and bringing smallholder farmers into irrigation
  7. Basis of  calculating payback period on investment on irrigation (from study presentation)
  8. Separate factors affecting irrigation (external & internal)
  9. ESP was a short term cris management. Need to suggest long term solutions which should look into irrigation from a ‘business unusual’ perspective and also look into marketing final products of irrigation
  10. Marketing & poor harvesting issues should be handled

The lead researcher Francis responded briefly to some of these questions before we had a tea break.

 Panel Discussion
After tea break a panel discussion was held. The panel consisted of;
  • Francis Z. Karin, researcher
  • Kevin Onyango, Research Assistant
  • Representatives from mwea & Ahero Irrigation Schemes
  • Justus Monda, Vice-Chair, Kenya Small-Scale Cereals Growers
  • Ministry of Agriculture & water and Irrigation

The discussion mostly looked into the earlier queries raised.

Dr. Axel thanked those present for an engaging and extremely informative half day deliberations.

Polish Nights in Nairobi!

For those NOT in the know this year (2010) marks the 200th birthday anniversary of Chopin, a musical genius. Well, worry NOT neither did I know! but thanks to the polish Embassy in Kenya which collaborated with CHOPIN2010 Celebration Office to organise a concert right here in Nairobi.

So the evening of November 16 saw me in Alliance Auditorium to listen to Mr. Mateusz Kolakowski, a Polish jazz pianist and boy was he hot on the piano. Streaming some classical music from Chopin and doing some of his own compositions and others that bordered on Jazz. Call it fusion of Classical & Jazz. Awesome evening it was.

Here is a video of  Mr. Mateusz Kolakowski doing what he does best. Playing the piano. 
Now waiting for Mr. janusz Olejniczak performance in December.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

National Launch of Kenya’s OBI 2010 Results

The results of Open Budget Survey 2010 were released in Kenya by Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) on November 9, 2010 at Stanley Hotel. This is under the Budget Information Programme (BIP) of the Institute.

The Institute is a civic forum that seeks to promote pluralism of ideas through open, active and informed debate on public policy issues. The release of this key index on public participation in budget making exercise and eventual outcomes was a follow up on an earlier public stakeholder forum in the year organised before the budget was read. This forum was meant to allow public input for the 2010/11 Kenya Budget. This input was collated by IEA and eventually forwarded to the treasury for consideration.  

Back to the release. The event was graced by the Muthoni Wanyeki the IEA's board chair who doubled up as the chief guest (the one launching the publication in Kenya). Noticeably absent were officials from  the treasury.
Muthoni in her opening remarks noted the positive correlation that exists between open budget processes and budget transparency and accountability.

Thereafter highlights of the survey was done by John Mutua of IEA. In his presentation he noted that the Survey is the ONLY independent, comparative, regular measure of budget transparency and accountability around the world. This survey is produced every 2 years by independent experts who administer questionnaires to various stakeholders on their participation in Budget making exercise. The experts also look at the information that the government makes public at little cost for the public to be aware on how their tax payers money is spent.
The Benchmarks of this process were also highlighted.

Thereafter, Muthoni had some talking points where she observed that with the enactment of new constitution. She is hopeful that the Government can be able to scale up in terms of ranking given the institutions that are enshrined in our new law.
To download this results visit open budget index website

Monday, November 15, 2010

Global Human Development Report 2010 Launch

Kenya being the seat of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was among the countries that were launching the Global Human Development Report 2010 on November 4, 2010. The GHDR 2010 launch were taking place simultaneously around the world with the main launch  going down at the seat of United Nations (UN) in New York City (NYC). The main launch was graced by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen since this HDR was celebrating 20years since inception as an alternative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of annual growth.
Global Human Development Report 2010 cover
Kenya’s Launch was historic in a way because it was held in a University. This was the first launch of a United Nation’s Report at an institution of higher learning. This was after successful launch of a book (Delivering Aid Differently) by the lead Economist at World Bank, Kenya Mr. Wolfgang Fengler.

The following were some of the highlights that I picked at the launch;

The launch began at 1630hrs and the Master of Ceremony was the charismatic George Outa from the Prime Minister’s office, communication department. After the pleasantries from the University which was represented by Prof. Mbeche (Principal CHSS) at the launch, the programme kicked off.  

Mr. Aeneas C. Chuma, UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in Kenya and UNDP Resident Representative was first on the podium. Mr. Chuma an Economist with a specialty in Macro-Economics talked briefly about Human Development Reports in Kenya. He talked in passing about the introduction of new measures i.e. HDI & GDI and how such indices went beyond measuring the traditional measures of poverty.
He stressed that HDR seek to know how people can live life to fullest by inquiring on aspects such as education, employment and health.
He also pointed out that Africa’s main problems are week institutions and political instability.

Next the Video below was screened (mind you with some technicalities!)

Dr. Tegegnework Gettu who is UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa took the podium.
He pointed out Human Development Reports were Flagship projects of UNDP and this being the 20th anniversary it was time to celebrate, to reflect and also to be humble.
He also asked what have we learned aver the 20 years-Give people more choice and freedom

Prof Hose a consultant from head office but from Venezuela had been flown in just for the launch to explain to us about this report.
The Prof. took pride at being at the University and took us through the report. The cover we learnt were Worldwide Trends in the Human Development Index from 1970-2010.
The report also focuses on the evolution of HD over 40 years (which give different insights) especially on Human Development. It was also clear from the report HD has increased over time except for three nations (Zimbabwe, DR Congo being some of them)
Some of the new things in the report are 3 new indexes i.e. Inequality Adjusted Index, Gender Inequality Index and Multidimensional Poverty Index.
What we should think beyond 2010?
  1. Take contact seriously
  2. Think Principles first
  3. Shift global Policies & Governance
He concluded that People are the real wealth of nations.

Mr. Peter Kenneth who was guest of honour gave his prepared speech and afterwards officially launched the report

The vote of thanks was given by a representative from Sweden (SIDA). She did point out that the year 2000 report was the most radical i.e Human Rights and Development.

The launch came to a close at quarter to seven.


Francis, the Holy Jester

The Italian Cultural Institute in the framework of the Italian Language Week Worldwide 2010 organised the above theatre extravaganza i.e. 'Francis, the Holy Jester'.

Mario Pirovano Peforming
In town was Italian actor Mario Pirovano a 'jester' in his own right flown to Kenya (His first visit to Africa according to the information he gave us at the end of the play. A place he loved and wishes to come back) to a performance of his English translation of Francis The Holy Jester by Nobel laureate Dario Fo. Mind you the intellectual Property of translated works belongs to the translator-Something I learnt recently in an Intellectual Property Class at British Council. However, this is story for another day!

This play was performed at Phoenix Players at the Professional Centre and was show cased on October 27th and 29th 2010.  

This play lived to its billing i.e. a rare feat of story telling. It depicted the life of a 13th century Catholic monk and founder of Franciscan tradition, St. Francis. 

This story which was given by  Mario Pirovano recounts various events in the life of St Francis, in four scenes.

The first episode/scene was about the wolf that terrorised the people of Gubbio, and how St. Francis (who talked to birds and in this story talked to the wolf! was able to get it not to harm the people Gubbio Village).

The second scene was more or less about St. Francis preaching to the birds.

The third scene was where he travels to Rome to ask Pope Innocent III for permission to preach the gospel in the language of the people instead of Latin (which was unheard of in those days), and start a holy order (in which they should not hold property).
This scene begins with St. Francis going about his norma; business then he is invited to a wedding. He at first  refuses however after much insistence he accepts. It is at this wedding that he is asked to give a story to cheer up the occasion. It is at this point that he gives the story of the wedding at Cana. A friend of his, a priest, informs him in the middle of his story telling that he would be in trouble with the Holy Inquisition for preaching the gospel in a language other than Latin, thus he decides to go to Rome for an audience with the Pope so as to be permitted to preach the Gospel in the native dialect.

The fourth and final scene recounts the death of the saint, in his favourite abode, the Porziuncola being taken care by his Franciscan brothers.
Mario Pirovano
Verdict: This play is structured episodically, choosing four separate events from the life of St. Francis; often illustrating the hardship of life and the redemption Francis finds in his faith. It does NOT in anyway make a mockery of the Catholic faith
I found it to be thought-provoking and entertaining, it was an enjoyable feat of storytelling from Mario.

Mario Pirovano website

Talking of 'Niko na Safaricom here is T-Mobile Welcome Back

Now that everybody is speaking about 'Niko na Safaricom'. Perhaps here is a thing or two they could learn when they are making the next advert or the competitors (Zain) could spring something like this up their hats. A feel good Monday Blog Entry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kenya International Film Festival

KIFF 2010 Poster
The 5th Annual Kenya International Film Festival was in town as from Thursday 21st to Saturday 30th October 2010. Though there was not much publicity about it going by the number of people who attended the free screening. Perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that Nairobian’s simply do not love movies but are into soaps and reality TV! Perhaps Kenya International Film Festival (KIFF) should put some considerable advertising Chest for the next year’s festivals.

Despite this shortcoming, Kenya International Film Festival (KIFF) this year come up with the first Kenyan Film week screening films in various location concurrently i.e. Alliance Francaise, SilverBird cinemas and National museums plus my favorite was the theme nights introduced. So for the last part of October I was able to interact with Spaniards (esp. the Sinorita’s), Colombian’s, Polish and Japanese (though they didn't have any geisha’s or samurai’s). 
Too bad I missed the Russian Night cause of the heavy rains on Friday 22. and the screening of american films which were held in Village market.

Welcome Mr. Marshall (24/10/2010)
All the same I kicked my film festival on Sunday with the screening of a Spanish film Welcome Mr. Marshall a Spanish comedy film directed by Luis García Berlanga and considered one of the masterpieces of Spanish cinema. It tells the story of a small Spanish town, Villar Del Rio, which hears of the visit of American diplomats and begins preparations to impress the American visitors in the hopes of benefiting under the Marshall Plan which was used to reconstruct war ravaged Europe after end of World War II and was the idea of the then Secretary of State of US.
Welcome Mr. Marshall
A central theme of the film is the stereotypes held by both the Spanish and the Americans regarding the culture of the other. Hoping to demonstrate the side of Spanish culture with which the visiting American officials will be most accustomed, the citizens of Villar del Río (Soria) don unfamiliar Andalusian costumes, hire a renowned flamenco performer, and redecorate their town in Andalusian style. Later in the film, each of the central characters has a dream in which different aspects of stereotypical American culture and history are featured. One consists of a Western-like bar brawl, another arrival of a conquistador on New World shores and another is of the trial  of the city priest under Senator McCarthy trials cum Ku Klux Clan.
Source: IMDB review

 PS: I must thank Prof. Isabel Santaolalla (Roehampton University, London) who curated the Spanish films and got us to understand the context of this screenings.

Spanish Evening in Nairobi (25/10/2010)
The Spanish threw some bit of spin to this year’s festival by hosting a fusion concert at the National Museums of Kenya, Luis Leakey Auditorium. To say we were blown away will be an under statement. Jorge Pardo on the flute/saxophone playing on the Arabian key mind you, Isaac Turienzo on the piano and Armando Orbon on the guitar was the best live performance of the festival for me.
The three musketeers took us on a musical journey through the universe of flamenco (don’t ask me what this is. I just know it when I hear it!) from a classical and jazz perspective.
The Precise and Infinite poster
Other Spanish films at the Festival
Cinema Spain

Colombian Night in Nairobi (26/10/2010)
The Colombian night was good. We had a film from a young Colombian filmmaker screened. What I liked was the fact that it featured underlying issues of FARC guerilla.

Polish Night in Nairobi (27/10/2010)
During the Polish night two films were supposed to have been filmed. This is Polish Cuisine & Love in the Year of the Tiger. However, what was fascinating about Polish Night is the fact that they had the director of both films Jacek Bromski flown here just for this screening. Mr. Jacek Bromski also doubles up as the president of the Polish Filmmakers Association.
  • Polish Cuisine was a social drama film– a panorama of the fate of a few Polish families since the times of Joseph Stalin until the beginning of the 90s.
  • Love in the Year of the Tiger was scheduled for another day due to time reasons
  • Mirrors in Music a documentary by Ruby Maubert about our very own Kenyan opera singer and classical music presenter Elisabeth Njoroge. She had gone to the home town of classical music genius Chopin in Poland courtesy of Poland Embassy which will also be holding CHOPIN2010 celebrations here in Kenya
Jacek Bromski, also had a chance to speak to us after the screening of the films. He talked about some of his works, what influences his works and what he is up to.
Bottom line it was like a premier and best night of the festival.

Jacek Bromski filmography and Profile

Japanese Night in Nairobi (28/10/2010)
The Japanese screened Hidden blade a film about a Samurai.
What is most striking about Japanese films is the fact that they use old technology of showcasing their films on the screen
Hidden Blade
During the time of change of the mid-19th Century, Yaichiro is bid farewell by his fellow samurai friends Munezo and Samon as he leaves their clan's fiefdom on the northwest coast of Japan (Unasaka) to take an important position within the shogunate in far away Edo. Munezo has lived modestly with his mother and sister Shino after his father was forced into suicide after the failure of a bridge project. Kie, a farm girl serves them as a maid in their house. As time passes, Munezo's sister marries Samon, his mother dies, Kie is married into a merchant family, and he is required to learn western methods of warfare such as the use of artillery and firearms from an official sent from Edo. Learning that Kie is ill due to abuse, he rescues her from her husband's family. Although sharing mutual affection and respect, a marriage between Munezo and Kie is still impossible due to different castes, and when he, now a bachelor, is criticized for her serving in his house, Munezo sends her back to her father's farm. After being caught in a failed political intrigue, Yaichiro is sent home in disgrace and imprisoned in solitary confinement. After Yaichiro escapes, Munezo is ordered to prove his innocence from complicity by killing his old friend, and he seeks the help of his old teacher, the sword master Kansai Toda. Although Yaichiro had been the better swordsman when they studied together, Toda entrusted the secret of the "Hidden Blade" only to Munezo. Toda now teaches him a new technique to use as he prepares to face Yaichiro, who has taken hostages in a farm house.

Other Films Watched
The Holy Innocents
The Holy Innocents
Somewhere in the spanish country, in the 60s. Paco and his wife Régula are very poor. They work as tenant farmers for a very wealthy landowner. They have 3 children. One is backward. The others can not got to school because the master "needs" their work. When Regula's brother is fired from where he has worked for 61 years, he settles down at their little place... An attack against the archaism of the spanish country of the 60s.

Soul Boy
Soul Boy
Set in Kibera slum of Nairobi, the film depicts the story of a boy and a girl who set off together to save the soul of the boys father. This film is made by a Kenyan Hawa Essuman with the support of German director Tom Tykwer
More information on Soul Boy: Hawa Essuman and the Soul Boy Project

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