Monday, November 21, 2011

David Stopps Public Lecture Series Kenya

 Opening Remarks by the PS Trade
It is a pleasure to be here this morning. I appreciate the opportunity to take part in the official opening of this public lecture series aimed at equipping young people who are starting business in the creative sector with advanced business principles and skills. The Government recognizes the young peoples potential in identifying business/investments opportunities. We are told that talent creates its own opportunities, however at times it seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents too.

Small enterprises can be a seed bed for new ideas and a testing ground for new ways of working. They often lead to the way in new products and new services. The enterprises contribute significantly in creating self employment. Employment creation is a necessary component of economic recovery and performance, and small enterprises play an important role in this regard.

I want to pay tribute to the work and achievements of the British Council in the organisation of the lecture series which will certainly improve the young peoples potential in identifying business opportunities to generate income.

As you know, globalization, technological innovation, and increased reliance on outsourcing are exerting pressure for downsizing in private and public sector enterprises. This is rendering many people jobless and putting pressure for building new set of skills in the knowledge based economy.

I am aware of the challenges that the youth who have ventured in business face, including: Unfavorable policy environment, limited access to markets, limited access to finance, inadequate access to skills and technology, limited access to information, inadequate enterprise management skills, limited linkages with large enterprises among others.

To manage these challenges, we need to work together to come up with specific interventions that will ensure youth enterprises perform and graduate to medium and large enterprises.

At this juncture, let me talk on the catalytic role my Ministry plays in trade development, poverty reduction and wealth creation within the ambit of the Kenya Vision 2030. In this regard, the wholesale and retail trade has been identified as one of the key sectors in the economic development of Kenya as the sector is the link between production and consumption.

As you know, most of the employment in trade s found in the informal sector represented mainly in the Micro and Small Enterprises. My ministry's challenge, therefore, is to mainstream the informal sector by providing it with the support it currently lacks: secure business location, credit, training, and access to markets. The Ministry employs specific strategies to; improve the general business environment, strengthen the capacity of the informal enterprises operators, enhance the supply chain systems, enhance business management skills, and improve information access dissemination.

The ministry is in particular sensitizing the youth and the business community on the benefits arising from the integration of the East Africa Countries (EAC).

This will enhance the possibilities of achieving advantages of economies of scale and scope and use of resources and markets available-goods, services, skills, capital and related factors of production-in the enlarged single economic space. This would include any type of busiesses in another Member state whatever the structure of the business-family-owned or corporate.

The Ministry is in the process of establishing business solutions and information centers which are structured to be a one-stop shop for an integrated mix of business services for youth taking up self-employment within the MSE sector and other existing MSEs throughout the country thus catalyzing employment creation and economic growth in the rural ares. The centers will offer, among others, the service of; Information Systems on Markets, Investment and Technology, Identification of Potential Business opportunities and profiling, Business Skills and entrepreneurship Development, Development of incubation support for micro and small enterprises, access to financial services, Technology Research and Transfer, Development of Rural markets and Linkages and Provision of Busiess Service Facilities

These services will greatly enhance the livelihood of the youth and local communities as the centers that will contribute to the stimulation and growth of micro and small enterprises in these areas

The ministry is also enhancing the investment environment to attract financing and offer incentives in the needed fields e.g. technology and information and Communication Technology (ICT). By doing so this will encourage the competitiveness of SMEs, promote the establishment of support agencies including entrepreneurial centers, address the need to access training and education in, for example, entrepreneurial competence and business management, encourage financial institutions to provide appropriate and innovative financing instruments, promote innovation within the small enterprise sector.

I note with appreciation the Creative Enterprise Public Lecture series initiative will go a long way in changing the mindsets of our youth and transform them from a dependent to self-reliant individuals.

In conclusion, I once again thank the British Council profoundly for this initiative and we hope this will be cascaded to as many youth as possible and in different areas of creative arts entrepreneurship.

With these remarks, it is my pleasure to declare the Creative enterprise Public Lecture series officially open.

Thank you.

Friday, October 14, 2011

ICC Confirmation Hearings

The ICC confirmation hearings taking place in the month of September as usual got most of the country glued to The Hague. The national discourse was ICC confirmation hearings and this was made possible by the media. The main TV stations NTV, KTN, K24 Citizen TV and K24 disrupted the normal programme schedule to broadcast the ICC confirmation hearings. The newspapers were a splash with what or what did not happen at The Hague and the radio was also full of the confirmation hearings

This spotlight of Hague was there despite some calamities taking place in Nairobi (pipeline explosion) and accidents taking place in the country.

However, for me this time round I watched the debate unfold on social media sites twitter however, during the evening I was able to watch a few of the first bunch of confirmation hearings which involved MP’s Ruto, Kosgey and Journalist Sang.

The second bunch of confirmation hearing attracted my attention because the Finance Minister was going to testify as his own witness and I looked forward to see the ‘battle royal’ as it had been called in the media between the prosecutor L. M. Ocampo and the Finance Minister. In fact Gado the Daily Nation cartoonist had painted Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta in gloves ready to ‘engage’ the prosecutor!

I missed this ‘confrontation’ because an event popped up that I had to attend at the iHub. Nevertheless, I was able to see a read and see what happened in the news. It had been billed as a risky move by the Finance Minister but going by what I observed and comments made by persons is that the gamble by Finance Minister paid off.

Finance Ministers counsel was damn good. During the initial appearance there was backlash on twitter as to why the Finance Minister was engaging the services of foreigners yet in Kenya we have good lawyers. However, during the confirmation hearing I was able to see the smart move taken by the Finance Minister.

There was a huge contingent of media personalities composed of all the anchors of stations in Kenya (worthwhile to mention Jeff Koinange of K24 who even had an exclusive with the prosecutor!) who went to The Hague.

There were PR practitioners for Mr. Uhuru and bloggers among his contingent.

From the court perspective, the presiding judge was tough and fair as usual. The witness lawyer was also very good.

Back Home
The week the finance minister was on the doc I noticed some graffiti on some walls showing solidarity with the finance minister. So what is unique with this graffiti is that it has the Obama hope signature in it. It is worthwhile to note that though I do not know who was behind it. This is definitely done by young people. This I think goes to show that the Finance Minister has some fanatical following in some quarters.
Next to the Museum

In town at a matatu Station

In town at a matatu terminus
Suggested links (this might have a perspective that leans towards UK) (Humor video on O'campo 6)

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Lord Mayor of London and Smart Diplomacy

The Lord Mayor of London Alderman Michael Bear was in town and had a series of meetings and concerts running from September 9-10, 2011 in various locations. His visit to Kenya was not for pleasure and NOT exclusively for business but for both!

Smart Diplomacy
In what is currently dominating the Western world, soft power as opposed to hard power is now being practiced. Smart power is a theory that has been espoused recently where nations combine both hard and soft power. In the foreign policy magazine/website the multi-literalist has observed correctly that Europeans are good at using soft power and has attributed this to the European Union. Under the EU treaty EU member states come together and negotiate policies and decisions. So this it is believed has made Europeans better diplomats who appreciate the aspect of understanding other people’s culture and points of view.

The Lord Mayor Alderman appreciates culture and has a strategy for his mayoral year which he calls ‘cultural diplomacy’. He is using this strategy to support the city of London and its global agenda. Under this strategy he has partnered with Concordia Foundation.

Concerts all over the World
Concordia Foundation is expected to present concerts for the Lord Mayor in Britain and during his international visits some of which include Vietnam, China and Kenya.

I was invited to the concert at the BHC residence on Saturday September 10, 2011 and was delighted by the evening performances.
The evening had performances from our very own Moipei sisters, Rishabh & Akshay Sevak and Concordia Artists Satoko Fukuda, Couple Gareth McLearnon & Abigail Burrows and Jeremy Silver who was perfect on the piano. Gillian Humphreys founder and artist director of Concordia Foundation also gave a performance for the evening.

After the evening performance I had a rare chat with the Lord Mayor and we talked among many things his root with Kenya and football. The Lord Mayor was born in Kenya and is an Arsenal Fan. At the time of the meeting Arsenal was not at their best and the Lord Mayor was as is any other football fan sticking with his team ‘for the better or for the bad times’. I on the other hand am a Manchester United fan! Going by the Kenyan standards there are some ‘rivalry’ between Manchester United and Arsenal as opposed to Manchester United and Liverpool that exists in UK.

Duties of a Lord Mayor
So during my encounter with the Lord Mayor I came to learn a few things. One was the difference between the Mayor and the Lord Mayor. Most of us had gone there expecting to see the mayor.
In terms of duties the Lord Mayor made the differences of these two offices crystal clear. The Lord Mayor makes the money and the London mayor spends it!   

The office of the Lord Mayor is an elected post which one holds for one year. The Lord Mayor is head of City of London Corporation. Among his many duties he is expected to travel extensively in liaison with FCO (Foreign Commonwealth Office their Ministry of Foreign Affairs) hence he had a reception at BHC residence. 
From this travels he is expected to foster goodwill and boost British trade, particularly the markets and services of the city. The city of London has a vibrant capital markets and for those following the current impasse of the Euro (which UK is not a member) and debt crisis facing Greece and other periphery nations of the EU will understand that Germany and France have been playing a key role. 
The city of London is the financial power house of Europe (home of global capital) and most of the off shore banking in Switzerland is usually done from London.

The Lord Mayor and his Appeal
The Lord mayor Alderman Michael Bear has an appeal which is called ‘Bear Necessities’. His appeal is aimed at helping children in London access education and have greater life opportunities and at supporting international disaster relief.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Winds from Beijing

The Chinese community in Nairobi had a rare concert/Performance on September 8, 2011 at the University of Nairobi Taifa Hall.  The performance was aptly titled ‘The wind from Dunhuang’ and was performed under the auspices of Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which China in cooperates a culture aspect of engagement with Africa.
So under this auspices China has a Chinese Culture in Focus 2011 calendar of events in which it organizes exhibitions, performances, concerts, operas, kite flying and Chinese book fairs in countries where it has a presence in Africa. Some of these countries are Mauritius, Tanzania, Seychelles, Gabon, Burundi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Senegal, South Africa and Kenya.
The last two countries South Africa and Kenya experiencing a lot of contact and spotlight from Beijing now that Egypt the seat of FOCAC  is undergoing some turbulent times as a result of the Arab Spring/Uprising.
The Event
The event was set up at the Nairobi University grounds which houses the Confucius Institute and has been very cordial to China under Prof. Magoha’s tenure.
The performance was an evening event and by 7.30 the hall was half full of Chinese living in Kenya (Some of the with Jackets with the logo of Wu Yi a Chinese company constructing Thika road) and few students (some Chinese students) and other students at the University who out of curiosity wanted to see what was happening in the hall.
A table with red piece of cloth was set for the dignitaries at the front (Chinese ambassador to Kenya and other dignitaries accompanying the troupe on its tour of African countries).
The Performance
The performance started at 8pm and we were treated to some great performances on this evening. A dance: Raise your bridal veil kicked off the evening with Chinese drums playing in the background. Mind you the evening performances were done with a playback on the background. There after a female solo: A glass of good wine was performed by one of the MC’s.
We were also given a folk dance number from Tibet: The Love Song of Kangding and boy that dance was perfectly executed. This showcased the liveness and kind of shyness of Tibetan girls and later we were treated to a male group dance-the happy Tibetans (Political undertones?)
Showcasing the diversity of China we were treated to a play of Matouqin. A Mongol string musical instrument with two aptly titled performances; A thousand horses are galloping ahead and sing a spring song in pasture
Acrobatic Shows
Also on the menu from China was an acrobatic show which was good and a unique skill in Sichuan opera-Changing Faces which great.
Friends, Partners & Brothers
Just as we have a book by Elizabeth Gilbert with the philosophy of eat, pray and love. The philosophy or the mantra that Beijing is sending out to Africa was out there to be showcased.
The evening ended with these words ‘Friends Partner Brother’ in a banner. This is the message that Beijing is sending out to Africa.
Now I am looking forward to Embrace China-Performance and visit by Chinese Arts Troupe and Chinese Book Fair.
The Return of China to Africa
Dan Large’s book The Return of China to Africa is a worthwhile read to understand the China-Africa Geopolitics.

Exhibition: Recent Paintings by Michael Soi

The current exhibition at the French Cultural Centre running until the end of this month (September 2011) caught my eye first because of what it addressees (strip joints in Nairobi which are hardly talked about) and also because it contains some salient political undertones such as the issue of payment of taxes by our legislatures, the G7 alliance and the ‘nutty professor series’ which addresses the free primary education (FPE) scum.
Michael addresses international issues in sports such as the debate currently ongoing in France to have more white players playing for the Le Blue (the French National team). A rather bold piece if you look at the space where he is exhibiting (French space)!
Gor Mahia one of the teams which plays in the National Football league also features in the exhibition and so does Arsenal Football Club. Perhaps this is a reflection to the teams Soi supports.
The current works of Soi also address the current happening in the field of politics both in Kenya with a depiction of the G7 Alliance in the classical way Soi does it on canvas. Depicting politicians as with heads of cats and not wearing any trousers!
The geopolitics in Africa especially what is going on in Libya are addresses with a depiction of the 18th African heads of states session on Libya which watches as Gaddafi is hanged by outside forces (EU, NATO and USA).
The ICC process and court proceeding at the Hague have also been highlighted in canvas.

The ‘nutty professor series’ which highlights the professors heading the Ministry of Education in a whole new light you could possibly imagine is also on display. In fact this is the series that got me knowing about Soi. He had this series on display sometimes back at RaMoMa.
Strip Clubs
So this is the boldest piece of this exhibition and it showcases what happens in some joints in Nairobi when darkness falls. So as I understood it from a dialogue I had with Soi the ‘strip club series’ sheds light on the patrons who frequent this spaces 

Kuona Open Day
 I had an encounter with Michael in Naivasha during the Kuona Open day (as the exhibition clearly states he is a second generation artists from Kuona Art Gallery). This was like 2 weeks before he set up his exhibition at the French Cultural Centre (FCC).  He explained to me the thinking behind his works and also I came to know some of his collector’s esp. the ‘nutty professor series’.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Constitution Implementation Fathers

The US citizens have enormous respect for their founding fathers for the foresight and the vision they had when they founded their republic. One thing comes to mind when I read the history of US is the process of writing the declaration of independence. The base upon which US laws are based upon.

In Kenya we had a great Constitution Commission of Kenya which bequeathed us a new constitution and in their wisdom and foresight they created a Constitution Implementation Commission. The also went ahead to make sure that none of the commissioners in CCK would sit in this commission. At first I thought we would not find able bodied Kenyan’s to fit into these commissions.

Enter Charles Nyachae & his Commission
However, I was proved wrong. The constituted 8 member constitution commission has been a representation of the new Kenya. It has stood its ground on enactment of new legislations sometimes coming at odds with legislatures, hawk eyed on the time schedules spelt out in the constitution and vocal on the need to implement the letter and spirit of new law.

The commission chairman has moved out of his way to always stick out his head when key issues that are incidental to implementation of the new constitution are being addressed. Perhaps this may have rubbed those in authority in the wrong way. Given the fact that the commission are yet to be paid their dues six months on the line and despite this HUGE shortcoming from the government we came to learn of this fact a month ago when it was first reported in the blog-sphere.

The commission has placed its ‘eyes on the antelope’ as PLO Lumumba would put it despite the non payment of their dues. To add insult to injury a section of the government has been calling for the renegotiation of their pay perks downwards!

Chip of the old block?
It is worthwhile to note that most of us had not heard about Charles BUT were familiar with Simeon Nyachae the formers father who was a career civil servant in provincial administration before plunging into politics and becoming the King of Kisii land. He later served in cabinet in various positions and at one time rose to the position of Finance Minister during Moi administration. He later broke ranks with his mentor President Moi and joined the 2002 NARC and served in Kibaki’s first administration. Mr. S. Nyachae vied for the presidency under Ford People in 2007.

Gandalf the White?
I do NOT seek to judge the son Charles based on the father Mr. S. Nyachae because he has shown to us and the world that he is his own man.  
Mr Charles Nyachae, the chairman of the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution (CIC). Photo/Nation
Source: link
In fact we have come to recognise the chair of CIC by his trade mark white beard (which reminds me of Gandalf the white in the Lord of the Rings-The two towers). 

Southern Sudan. Free at last?

July is turning out to be a historic month in many fronts. Last weekend July 9, 2011 witnessed the birth of the republic of Southern Sudan. The previous day had seen the final flight of US space shuttle program. End of US monopoly in space? Well the jury is NOT yet out on this one.

Back at home (Kenya) there has been lots of discussion of what this ‘new’ neighbour (South Sudan) means to us! Kenya was the host of the negotiation for the peace process and is home to many Southern Sudan. Going by what I have been hearing we seem to be expecting too much from this young nation. Considering it said to have a huge oil wealth and lots of resources which are yet to be mined.

Resent Events
Kenya is among the first nations in the world to recognise Southern Sudan and there has been talk of Southern Sudan joining the East African Community.

It is too early to judge what role Kenya is playing in the new Salva Kiir’s administration in Juba. But going by sentiments witnessed on television, NTV (Nation Television) Kenya wants to reap the peace dividends.

Major TV broadcasters cancelled their schedules to broadcast live the happenings in Southern Sudan. In fact I had gone home early expecting to watch some bit of live TV and the usual county madness of Lolani Kalu on NTV only to realise NTV had cancelled it’s county screening and moved to juba

So we were able to watch the pre and post independence celebrations of the people of South Sudan where also Kenyan elites had gone to witness the birth of the new republic.
Political pundits were also on TV giving their views on how the unfolding events were going to impact Kenya.
The dallies were also not left behind and Kenyan political differences were put aback and the headlines focused on Southern Sudan with tag line lines ‘Southern Sudan, free at last’.

So 1960’s in the region
So all of a sudden we get a feel of what our folks felt like in 1960’s going by the celebrations emanating from South Sudan. If a global happiness index is to be conducted then Southern Sudan would top the world rankings.

The Future and Destiny of South Sudan
I am happy to see the Sudanese who have been able to fulfil ‘the right to self determination’ and thus they have become the newest member of global states (193 according to UN).
However, the hard part of nation building has began and they young nation will be confronted by key questions such as;
  • How to undertake Nation building (How this new state is going to carry out the delicate process of nation building).
  • How to handle the issue of Abiyei (oil rich region)
  • How to use the oil resources.
  • Its relation with Kenya. How the new administration in Juba views Kenya and how it interacts with Kenya.
Nobel Peace Prize
As the South try a hand in nation building it would be good for the Norwegian committee to realise they extraordinary feat and perhaps reward the parties that secured the peace in this unstable region. Perhaps, the Somali’s might have been watching the events as they unfolded and might be convinced otherwise!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Maestro Ricardo Muti in Town!

On the second weekend of July, 2011 Nairobi was treated to a rare treat of classical music when Chicago Orchestra conductor Ricardo Muti came to town for a concert and conducted Orchestra Cherubini in Uhuru Park.

New Grounds
This concert was a first of its kind in many aspects. It was the first time that Ravenna Festival's Roads of Friendship initiative was in sub-Sahara Africa having previously performed for a northern African country.
It was also a first time an orchestra which boost of over 400 pieces performed in Kenya if not in the region.

The other aspect that got me thinking during the concert was the location. Yes Uhuru park is either associated with political event (Ocampo 3 home coming party comes to mind!), Preachers who know to effectively how to use public space (who at times can be a pain in the neck with their end time gospel while asking for a quid) and lovers! Since I am based at Kilimo I am forced to pass by the hollowed grounds BUT I try to go round them less cupid whom I think might reside there may set a glimpse on me!

That said the concert showcased that indeed the grounds can be salvaged from this tag lines.

Breaking Traditions
This concert also broke other traditions which might NOT be seemingly be clear to the eye. In Kenya cultural activities are mostly a prerequisite of the French BUT the Italian staged a cultural coup at Uhuru Park!

This Festival, according to what I have read was set up by an array of many players starting with the Vice Presidents office (who graced the festival despite there being independence celebrations in Southern Sudan. Considering he was one of the mediators. This must have meant a lot to him), the Italian Embassy in Kenya, The Nuncio’s (Pope’s Representative in the country) office, Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (The Minister was conspicuously absent from this festival. The office ought to have someone younger-My opinion) and the Nairobi City Council (Finally our City fathers gather some mad love from me).

The Maestro also in his closing act incorporated our Kenyan singers as they belched out the last performance. This was the climax of the festival for me.

A Maestro’s Dream and Aspirations
In some of the introductions of the day the MC did throw quite some comparisons before the main act. One of this was the late Pavarotti. He compared and contrasted the two Italian misical figures and one thing that clearly presented itself during the performance is that Maestro Muti is soft spoken.

However, when he did speak he pointed out his vision of seeing a united and peaceful world. In fact this concert was dedicated to dwellers of the Nairobi slums.

Ravenna Festival's Roads of Friendship
This concert is part of Ravenna Festival which has an initiative Roads of Friendship, born in Sarajevo in 1997. 14 concerts in different cities of the world have been conducted to date with an eye for celebrating peace and invoking human solidarity through music.  

The 2011 Roads of Friendship Ravenna Festival was dedicated to funding educational scholarships for young people in Nairobi informal settlements (which have had success stories of transforming lives through Amani Onlus).

These scholarships are to be given to Italian missions operating in Kenya.  The concert also gave tribute to Italian missionaries who work in Kenya.

Here is a link to photo’s of the event from Quaint Photographers on Facebook.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kenyan Twitterati

Today (June 30, 2011) is World Social Media Day and there is no better way to celebrate it than to be in the social media! One of the social media that we all like hands down is Twitter and the Foreign Policy magazine recently run the The FP Twitterati 100. However, I was surprised no one featured in the list from our part of the world apart from president Paul Kagame @PaulKagame and a few others from African continent. That is NOT to say that Twitter is not King in Africa. In Kenya we do have Twitterati. So here is my #FF. This are tweeps you need to follow!
Twitter sign in page
Aly Satchu Khan (@alykhansatchu) – He has been described as the king of twitter in Kenya. Expect to get tweets on Geo-Politics, live feed of NSE etc. A cool guy he is.
Tom Mboya (@tommboya) – A governance specialist & also Deputy CEO, Inuka Kenya Trust

Bob Collymore (@bobcollymore ) – Safaricom’s CEO.  He may be credited getting CEO’s on twitter in Kenya.
Chris Kirubi (@CKirubi ) – Kenyan business man connected at the right places.
Mugo Kabati (@mugokibati) – CEO of Kenya Vision 2030 (Kenya’s blue print to achieve middle income status). Learning the ropes of using twitter.

Amb. Scott Gration (@USembassyKenya)– Kenya’s new ambassador to Kenya. Preceded by (@Amb4reform-Michael Ranneberger)
Rob Macaire(@UKinKenya)– Tweets from the British High Commission in Kenya. Also, blogs.
Aeneas C. Chuma (@AeneasChumaUN)– Head of UN in Kenya
Jacques Pitteloud (@JHPitteloud) – Swiss Ambassador to Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Somalia and The Seychelles. (Former Spy!)

Martha Karua (@Martha_W_Karua) – MP for Gichugu Constituency. Presidential Candidate for Kenya 2012.
Uhuru Kenyatta (@UKenyatta) – Kenya’s Finance Minister and deputy Prime Minister. From the sources I have he is the one behind the twitter handle.
Prof. Anyang Nyong’o (@AnyangNyongo) – Min. for Medical Services and ODM Sec. General. Recently joined twitter thanks to his youthful daughters @Zawadin and . Yet to develop the tweeting culture
Peter Kenneth (@Peter_Kenneth) –MP Gatanga constituency, Assistant Ministry of State of Planning, National Development and Vision 2030.
Yoweri K Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni) – President of Uganda
Jacob G. Zuma (@SAPresident) – Twitter handle for the president of South Africa

Dr. Willy Mutunga (@Wmutunga) – Kenyan Chief Justice (recently joined twitter)

Erik Hersman (@whiteafrican) –Co-founder of Ushahidi, iHub Nairobi and AfriGadget
Akira Chicks (@akirachixs) –A ladies tech group with innovations such as (@mfarm_ke)
Ory Okolloh (@kenyanpundit)–Google Policy Manager Africa, co-founder &, Afropolitan
Juliana Rotich (@afromusing) –Co-Founder of Ushahidi
Kaburo (@kaburo) –Tweets from head of Tandaa (ICT Board Kenya
Paul Kukubo (@pkukubo)– CEO, Kenya Information and Communication Technology Board
Mark Kaigwa (@mkaigwa) – Strategist, who works with brands, agencies & nonprofits to communicate to a new generation of Africans online
Nairobi Lab (@thenailab)– Incubation Laboratory focused on I.T. Based or I.T. Heavy SMEs.

Bankele (@bankelele)
Kenyan Poet (@Kenyanpoet) – Performance Poet, Published Writer,Arts blogger & tech enthusiast
Cold Tusker (@coldtusker)

News Personalities
Jeff Koinange (@koinangejeff  – Host of the Capital Talk on K24
Oliver Mathenge (@OliverMathenge) – Daily Nation reporter
Dennis Itumbi (@OleItumbi) – Kenyan
David McKenzie (@McKenzieCNN) – CNN correspondent in Africa
Charles Onyango-Obbo (@Cobbo3)–Executive Editor for Africa & Digital Media Division, Nation Media Group

John Githongo (@johngithongo) – Former anti-corruption Czar
Eric Wainaina (@EricWainaina) – Musician who deals with societal issues
Al Kags (@alkags) – An orginiser #Feb28
Buddha Blaze (@ItsBuddhaBlaze) – Connector to events

2012 Elections
The Kenyan elections are scheduled for August 2012 and with the incumbent not eligible for re-election. It means that come end of the election Kenya is poised to have a new president. Pundits are of the opinion that the man on the hill next year most probably will be a twitterati. So this has seen lots of politicians join twitter in Kenya in anticipation to woo the Kenyan’s on twitter. However, one at times does not know who is behind the twitter handle. So here are some of those that may be twitter accounts that come with the season
Team Uhuru (@TeamUhuru) – Teams managing Uhuru Kenyatta (Dep. PM) Presidential bid
Raila Odinga (@PMRailaOdinga) – Teams managing Raila Odinga (PM) Presidential bid

MP’s Budget Guide 2011/2012

The Government Financial Year 2010/11 comes to a close today June 30, 2011. Tomorrow, July 1, 2011 marks the beginning of the Financial Year 2011/12 and for those in Kenya know the Finance Minister recently read the budget for this year.

Here is a link to the MP’s Budget Guide 2011/12 prepared by the Institute of Economic affairs. Consider it  a useful resource in the new financial year. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

‘Boston Tea Party’ at the Kenyan Parliament

The Kenyan Parliamentarians are currently embattled in a war of words with the tax man on weather they ought to pay taxes on their allowances. The legislatures have ONLY been paying taxes on their basic salary and NOT paying taxes on their allowances. So as one would have it. Their basic pay or salary is minimal compared to the allowances they have given themselves.

New Beginnings
However, with the enactment of the new constitution Kenya is moving from business as usual to business unusual. The legislatures seem NOT to have read the section of the constitution or mistakenly though the section, that states ‘no one is exempt from paying taxes’ would NOT apply to them.

The legislatures were a taken by surprise when the Commissioner for domestic taxes wrote to Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) asking them to pay the taxes on their allowances backdated from August 27, 2010. Albert the date the new constitution was ratified.

Judiciary and Taxes
To add misery to their woes, the judiciary under the new chief justice Dr. Willy Mutunga has shown willingness to pay their taxes. Judges being constitutional office holders were not subjected to payment of tax in the old constitution.
However, when Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) wrote to the new Chief Justice (CJ) who was yet to finish a week at the helm asking for the judiciary to pay their taxes he obliged to their request. He went further and called the KRA asking the taxman to help the Judiciary carry out their request!
Imposition of Taxes
The MP’s on the other hand were busy showing cause why they ought NOT to pay taxes. Arguing on flimsy grounds such as ‘an employee should not have his salary reviewed downwards while in office’ other were the opinion that this cause was not effective ‘floating clause’ which ought to be effected in the next sitting (after 2012 elections).

When this did not do the job name calling was resulted with some MP’s thinking the commissioner for domestic taxes was ‘cheeky’ because he informed the media on his cause.

However, few MP’s have read the mood of the nation and are now coming full circle. Some have already paid their taxes (It has been reported the PM has done his duty in giving what belongs to Caesar unto Caesar and other MP’s are following suit).

It must be said there were a number of legislatures who were paying taxes on their allowances beginning with Johnston Muthama and later followed by the likes of Peter Kenneth. The speaker of the National Assembly had caused uproar to the citizens when he had remarked under the old constitution that the ‘legislatures were free to pay their taxes on their allowances if they felt reasonably philanthropic!’

So this marks another version of ‘Boston Tea Party’ only this time it is in the reverse!

My Bank, My Kiosk, My Social Friend!

A while back, Bankele blogged about the raise in number of Banks to the neighborhoods in ‘Your Bank, Your Neighbour’ where he observed rightly Banks have brought their services closer to the people.

Equity Bank Agents
This closeness to the customer seems to be taken further by Equity Bank. The Bank recently introduced agent banking where you can do some banking services in your local Kiosk under an Equity registered agent. To do this the bank gets commercial outlets to act as its Branches. This is a very innovative aspect the bank has undertaken since it will save the bank huge amounts in terms of establishing branches and this might lead to a slow down on its regional expansion.

Mobile Money
Also, the bank has been catching up on the M-Pesa (Mobile Money Transfer) services by launching on M-Kesho. Kenya has earned a place for itself by being the new Silicon Valley in terms of Mobile innovations. This has seen the setting up of i-Hub (A social gathering place for techies which has links to the big Tech companies such as Google, Microsoft and Nokia).

Equity Bank has always been in the look out for new and innovations and ways of doing business and has not been left out of the equation so to speak by foreign technology companies. The Bank partnered with Safaricom (The regional Mobile Telephone big player which has links with Vodafone) to bring into the market mobile Money transfer between the clients of Safaricom and Equity Bank.
It must be noted that Safaricom successfully incorporated M-Pesa (mobile money transfer) under Michael Joseph (first CEO of Safaricom who built the company from inception and left in 2010). It was back then a project which was being tried for viability by Vodafone funded by DFiD.

Social Media
Banks have been known to act conservatively (apart from the hedge fund practices in the western world which caused the global financial crisis). The banks in Africa have remained conservative in their practices. However, this seems to be changing because they are in the front line in defining 21 century banking.

Kenyan Banks (@barclays, @kcbgroup) have joined the social media site twitter mostly as a PR Public Relations exercise or to boost their CSR Corporate Social Responsibility. However, as banks continue to define their role on twitter I hope developers will see this and possibly come up with an application to be used by banks. T-Banking aka tweet banking where one can check their bank deposits would be a welcomed surprise!

During Pivot25 conference Equity Bank CEO intimated that they would be joining the social media. They also intend to start a blog! So come September I expect to be ‘friends with your bank’ and regularly comment on their blog.
Future of Equity Bank

Perhaps the bank is following its customers to the social media. Considering the mean age of its customers and going with the release of statistics by Opera which indicated Kenyan’s use of one the social media platform stands at 67%.
So come the next Annual General meeting they will account in their financial statements spending on a new ‘Social Media Account!’

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Expelleus Professors at the Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education seems to resemble the works found in the fantasy novel Harry Potter written by J. K. Rowling in some ways. The Ministry has been faced with revelations that Kshs 4.2 Billion was misallocated (call it fraud). These monies were under the Kenya Education Sector Support Program (KESSP) for construction projects. Monies allocated by donor agencies to support the free primary education that won the then elected NARC government in 2002 world praise for this endeavor.
The then NARC government had assumed power with a promise of free primary education which it honored. However, it had its own challenges in the beginning such as funding of infrastructure in schools and so the donor community stepped in to fill in these gaps.

So there have been acrimonies on who should take blame since from inception 2003-2008 the Minister for Education was Prof. George Saitoti (Currently he is Minister of State & Internal Security and acting Foreign affairs Minister). This post was taken over by Prof. Sam Ongeri to date. Also, the Permanent Secretary (Chief Accounting Officer at any Ministry) from inception 2003-2009 was Prof. Kagega Mutahi (Currently Local Government PS) and his post was taken by Prof. James ole Kiyiapi 

What raises questions to me is that despite the Ministry being headed by Professors who are expected by society to know it all. They seem not to know some simple facts such as when aspersions are cast against their Ministry the best thing is to ‘step aside’ and allow for investigations. Once the investigations are done then if they are not party to the investigation the allegations raised they will resume their positions. One would expect with the coming in of the new constitutional dispensation which has a chapter that deals with ethics then such things should be of the past
One has to wonder if there is a secret order (say, order of the phoenix) that is based at the Ministry whose work is to siphon monies meant for young children education.

Civil Servant Running for President
The other shocking thing that I have noticed is that a sitting civil servant has began campaigning for the office of the president while still in office. Going by the facebook pages of Prof. James Ole Kiyiapi (they are two. One even gives his big curriculum vitae) one would expect at least one to resign so as to concentrate on the other.

There is nothing wrong running for president but for civil servants to run for the high office goes against the public office ethics act and I have not seen anyone commenting on this! Perhaps there could be a lead with missing funds and the presidency run?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

In Love with Africa

Paa ya Paa are organizing an exhibition by the above name currently on going. I had a chance to attend the opening ceremony because of what I assist in co-editing.

Paa ya Paa is an exhibition space which is located on your way to Kiambu (off Kiambu road) on your way to Windsor. What makes this place so iconic is that it is the first exhibition gallery in town first situated in Nairobi town but taken to its current place due to exorbitant rents in the city.

The director is Elimo Njau is an accomplish artist in his own right having sketched the Muranga Anglican Cathedral in 1956 (During the Colonial times!) and having taught at Makerere University immediately after graduating there.
His work at the cathedral has been resembled to that in Sistine chapel in Rome which then equates him to Michelangelo

That said he is a very humble and down to earth man and the exhibition space has NOT been so lucky. It was reduced a time back by Fire which let the walls of the exhibition space so dynamic such that the phrase below was used; 

“If you want to create exhibition spaces as dynamic and exciting as the new galleries at Paa ya Paa, it could be a painful process.
For first you have to burn your house down”. - Frank Whalley (Columnist with Eastandard)

That said the exhibition at hand ‘In love with Africa’ had been influenced by young personalities Nuru Bahati and Boyd Oyier who organize events for the gallery and was staged to honour the 4th commandment. 
The exhibiting artist is a young Ugandan Artist Kayiira Mamartyn (Owentebbe) who has done some sketches most notable of founding Presidents Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya) and Julius Nyerere (Tanzania). Also on the gallery is a portrait of Yoweri Museveni (in his typical cow boy hat). In fact the Ugandan ambassador to Kenya was the special guest who opened the exhibition.
Exhibition Poster
About the exhibition space (Paa ya Paa), it is currently being innovated thanks to friends of paa ya paa. Some of this hail as far as South America, Coastal Rica and America (USA). Not to be let behind we have Kenyans, a Kikuyu businessman has sponsored the replacement of the current roof. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

20th European Film Festival in Kenya

I always look forward to the month of May for two things. One it happens to be the month I was born (I am a Taurus!) and two because of the European Film Festivals. The film screened by the organisers tend to show the historical past of Europe in this case WW II and how that has transformed the society there for the better or films that show what is currently plaguing the societies there i.e. immigration, racial integration, minorities etc
Festival Poster
This year did not disappoint. I had a chance of attending films from Finland (Mother of mine), Turkey (Summer Book), Germany (The International), France (The Round Up), Czech Republic (Grapes), Serbia (Motel Nana), Sweden (Balls) and  Poland (Love in the Year of the Tiger).

All this films had contexts which each of the countries participating in the festival (members of EU) wanted to show to the Nairobi (Kenyan) viewers about their home countries. It offered a chance for nationals of each of this E.U. countries living in Nairobi to interact between themselves and Kenyans.
As is expected the EU goes out to invites other non-EU member countries to participate in this festival i.e. Turkey which has been lobbying to join the community. Also, Russia has been participating in the form of a ‘crown of Russian ballet’ which marked its 5th year in this year.

However, a pleasant surprise package to this year’s film festival was an entry from Israel. The Israeli’s have been making incursions into Nairobi beginning with the first Israeli Film festival in 2010 which had some pretty good flicks.

Israeli nights in Nairobi
The Israeli invited a multi talented musician to woo the Nairobi base and sure he did because I have never seen/experienced a show like that which was done by Tal Kravitz.

This Israeli musician managed to tantalize us with his prowess to play instruments from all over the world and to boot he spoke in fluent Swahili! Where can you find this kind of concerts for free? Lucky we were to experience this though as you would expect I managed to pick a subtle political connotations.

Some of the instruments Kal played are Santour from Iran (yes Iran and he know their language!), Bag Pipes from Scotland (mind you he dressed to the occasion-The Scottish skirts!), Musical Saw from Russia (Yes a saw!) among a collection of other instruments which let us dumb folded in amazement.

The European Film Festival Programme

Budget 2011/12

The Kenyan budget for the financial year 2011/12 was read on June 8, 2011 and despite the controversies that preceded it. It was read as a budget statement as opposed to budget speech. This is after the minister ignored to present estimates of his budget 2 months before the budget as clearly spelt out in the new leviathan. The civil society went to court to block the budget on this but they were not successful. However, Members of Parliament asked for an interpretation from the chair (speaker) who ruled that the budget should be presented to the house as a budget statement.
Despite all this it is worthwhile noting that it is a first in many ways;
  • It is the first time that our budget has hit the trillion mark (1.155 trillion)
  • It is the first budget read after enactment of a new constitution
  • The budget was being read by an ICC suspect
  • This is the budget prior to a general election
The Budgets theme was ‘Building Resilience, dealing with emerging challenges-Additions to spending plans’.

Highlights of the Budget
The budget read by the finance Minister enumerated the key macro-economic indicators of the country for 2010. The country GDP growth rate stood at 5.6% in 2010 from 2.6% in 2009 and it is expected that the country will register a 5.3% (revision downwards) GDP growth rate in 2011. The population Growth rate for 2010 was 3.1% and is expected to be around the same figure in 2011. The inflation stood at 4.1% for 2010 however it is expected to rise significantly in 2011 to about 9.3%.

The explanation for a rise in GDP by almost 100% is attributed to strong performance in Agricultural sector which contributes about a quarter of the GDP and a positive showing in the industrial sector. This is in contrast in 2009 when the country was recovering from the Post Election Violence (PEV) and Agriculture registered negative growth.

The high inflation (approaching double digit) expected for 2011 is a result of high food and oil prices. In fact the monthly inflation figures released by KNBS are in the double digit. The Kenya shillings has been on an all time low against the dollar and fuel hikes have become common with prices changing on a weekly basis if NOT monthly. To add to this in the month of May motorist experienced fuel shortages when the government tried to enter into this market (Oil Market) which some say is run by cartels close to the high and mighty. 
As if this is not enough the country has had its fair share of unemployment. The exact figures are not yet made known BUT one thing is that it is a double digit figure. The budget tries to address this challenge and this being an election year the 500,000 jobs per year first sprung up in 2002 NARC manifesto continues to be used. The government is reviving it Kazi Kwa Vijana (KKV) project that will see young persons given paying internships to make them ‘employable’.

Fiscal Policy
The government resources for financial year 2011/12 spelt out show that the government is going to finance its budget from;
Revenue Sources 2011/12
The A-word (austerity) has featured in the government expenditure programme where it is rationalizing to contain expenditure growth. However, analyst are pointing out that 2012 being an election year. Kenya has a record of having expansionary expenditure and that growth has been shown to slow. However, it remains to be seen if the new constitution and on going reforms are going to put a hold on this track record.
The other problems are the high internal borrowing (11%). This might tend to exaggerate the inflation problem. However, I spotted in the dailies the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has been announcing 10 & 20years maturing treasury bonds to wipe of excess liquidity in the market.
The finance minister also pointed out on tax reforms (VAT reforms) this might erode the 65% component of budget based on tax revenue but have a positive impact in the medium and long term. A simplified tax system is in every ones best interest.

Sector Spending 2011/12

One of the key things that really got my eye is the proposed expenditure. As is the case the usual suspects still get their fair share however the government earned my points on allocating 5.6 Billion to the safety net. Under this it has set out Kshs 1 billion for older persons (people currently highly affected by high cost of living), Kshs 300M for Girl child and my favorite Kshs 845 M for Gunny bag grants for urban poor.
The gunny bags are going to be used in sack gardening in urban slums. These funds will scale up the Urban Food Security Program currently funded by European Commission and AFD in Urban areas of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.
The government has allocated to spend 6% of its spending on the irrigation. This has been warmly welcomed. The Agricultural Secretary Dr. Songa has noted this will go a long way in what the Ministry has been preaching, water harvesting.

Physical Infrastructure
The government is allocating a big chunk 23% same as that of Human Development on Infrastructure. It would be worth while to know who will be up-scaling/building the urban commuter railway.

Challenges Pointed
The government has been shown to have a big problem with its absorption capacity. Kwame Owino the CEO of IEA has pointed out that at the end of the financial year ministries tend to return monies to the ex-chequer (Treasury) due to low absorption capacity in line Ministries.

It is now emerging that 4.2 billion was misused or ended up to its unintended purposes in the Ministry of Education. This had long been flagged by donor agencies who partnered with government to achieve this noble goal of educating the young citizenry through the Free Primary Education (FPE).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Trans-Century at Mind Speak

May’s edition of Mind Speak saw Transcentury parade itself in this monthly forum (which I regularly attend) organised by Aly-Khan Satchu a Financial Analyst who runs rich management

This was coming head over heals of April forum that had President of Uganda H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as the Guest speaker. What is fascinating about this company is that it is a company founded by 29 prominent personalities. These personalities have been accused of either being too close to the center of power or have used their positions to acquire contracts or use privy info BUT they have defended themselves as people who have acquired their wealth genuinely and in a range of counties in the region.

To pitch for this company Transcentury were; Dr. Gachao Kiuna (CEO) and Yida Kemoli (Head of Finance and Corporate Strategy).

Background of Transcentury
The CEO Dr. Gachao gave us a brief history of this company. It was started by 29 people (all men) who used to meet informally in what in Kenya we call ‘chama’. They all agreed to each contribute Kshs 1 million. So they expect to have an initial capital of Kshs 29 million however they ended raising Kshs 24 Million.

Their initial investment was in South African Breweries which had entered the Kenyan Market in 1998 only to close in 2002 after four-year beer war with Kenya Breweries and failing to secure a 10% of market share.
These investors managed to recoup their investment from SAB due to the fact that SAB pulled of the market by a negotiated settlement with Kenya Breweries Ltd (now East African Breweries Ltd, EABL).

Having learned from this experience the 29 vowed never to go for anything less than controlling stake in a company (51% of the share capital).

Present Day Transcentury
The 29 investors formed Transcentury which is a Holding company with interests in;

  • Power Infrastructure: Manufacture of Electrical Cables, Conductors, Transformers and Switchgear. 
  • Transport Infrastructure: Operation of the Kenya-Uganda Railway Concession.
  • Specialized Engineering: Distribution of Mission-Critical Industrial Equipment and Construction of Electrical Installations.  
The company has pan-African interest in outlook i.e. it wishes to invest in the whole of Africa and that is why as I came to find out it was at the event because it wants to list on the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE).

The company has 5 divisions i.e. Power Infrastructure, Transport Infrastructure, Specialized Engineering, Consumer and Affiliated Holdings.

The company has raised some eye brows with its Transport Infrastructure division with people questioning the way it got into the concession of Rift Valley Railways (RVR) and the two guest speakers had a hard time convincing us. However, they had their side of the story.
The company seems to hedging on the railway considering it is has entered into partnership with a Brazil Railway company America Latina Logistics (ALL).

The other eye brow is that the company can’t seem to send away the ghosts of the 29 investors who as some would put it could raise the issue of ‘conflict of interest’ given that some of them are CEO’s of some of the divisions the company engages. To this the CEO pointed out that some of their major customers are you and me (ordinary folk) and NOT government parastatals.

The other observable omission in the company which was observed by Gina Din was that the company’s 29 investors are all men!

Going Forward
In the infrastructure sector given that most of the infrastructure building is done by Chinese Companies funded by China gov’t which has shown that it is willing to fund states improve their infrastructure. Does Transcentury know anything that we don’t? (A query raised by one of the participants).

Only time will tell however, should you want to know more about this company the CEO Dr. Gachao Kiuna asked the participants to visit any Dyer & Blair.

Presentation at Mindspeak (Pdf)