Friday, 31 July 2015

Here are the "goodies" that President Obama brought to Kenya

Taking a selfie with his sister Auma Obama at the Safaricom Indoor Arena.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
While we had extensive details about Obama's motorcade, we discovered
way late that he has a sister. Some are yet to discover her name is Dr. Auma,
however, we all know his car is christened "The Beast".
The United States President, Barack Obama,  made the first tour to Kenya by a sitting US President. During the trip,  there was a consistent theme in the media about Obama bringing “goodies”, though much focus was placed on his motorcade and other theatrics.

State House has released some details on the goodies that Obama brought. A good number of them are not the tangible goodies we may expect, such as new,  black roads,  or new,  gleaming railways. There’s however some aspect of that.

It is a mixed bag of goodies, some heavily skewed towards US interests, but a good number are to our interests. They especially focus on the space of human development that is often ignored in the pursuit of physical development in this region. Thus,  there is a theme in human rights,  and especially those of women and girls,  and an overall objective towards increasing the value and quality of people in Kenya,  and in Africa.

Some  of the agreements involve several African countries. While Obama only visited Kenya and Ethiopia,  the rest of Eastern and Southern Africa also did get something from the goody bag.

Friday, 24 July 2015

You can help 17 year old Linet achieve her vision. Here is how to

Since the age of 9, 17 year old Linet has been fighting to keep her eye sight.
She sits her KCSE  in 3 months, but first needs to undergo eye treatment in India.
You can  contribute to her KSh. 1 million medical fund through M-Pesa PayBill 573666

Linet Muthoni is 17 years old. She is a high school student and sits for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams at the end of this year.


Like every other 17 year old,  Linet is looking forward to a bright future where she can play her role in making Kenya a better country. She however needs your help to make her dreams come true, and for her to literally see her future.


You see, Linet has had a medical history of acute allergies in both her eyes.


The allergies have been so severe that she started wearing glasses at the tender age of 9 years. In a quest to lead cure these allergies, Linet has been to more than her fair share of doctors and hospitals.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The rise of the "influencer" and the death of the blog as we knew it

The so called "DP" emergency rechargeable light costs a mere Ksh. 700,
But is one of the best lights in the Kenyan market. 
We had a blackout last night. With the rains here, it was only a matter of time before the blackouts came for this particular area of Mombasa Road. We don't even bother with finding out what causes the blackouts - but in case you are interested, this one here was caused by a fallen concrete pole.

Wooden poles have the habit of rotting and falling over when it rains if they are not replaced in time. Concrete poles suffer from rotten installation, or from a fast changing Nairobi where roads and whole neighbourhoods are dug up for road and building construction.

But that's not why I am writing this story.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Press Release: Twitter introduces “While you were away” feature on your timeline

Nairobi, Kenya:  January 23nd, 2015: Twitter, has unveiled a new feature that will enable its users have a recap of what they may have missed while they were away.

With the “While you were away” feature, Twitter users will be able to see a recap of some the top Tweets they may probably have missed from the key accounts they follow while they were on the go.

To fill in some of those gaps, Twitter is surfacing a few of the best Tweets users probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise, determined by engagement and other factors. If a user checks in on Twitter now for a quick snapshot of what’s happening, they will see this recap more often; if they spend a lot of time on Twitter already, they will see it less.   

The goal of this feature is to help users keep up with their world, no matter how much time they spend on Twitter. Recaps, marked with a “While you were away” heading, will begin to appear for all Twitter for iOS users today, and on our Android app and twitter.com soon.

Recently, Twitter partnered with online reservation portal Eatout to promote the Nairobi Restaurant week by providing training to all restaurants participating in the festival which runs for ten days.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The bitter story of the downfall of Mumias Sugar company

A spoonful of sugar, but for who? (Image: Carol Wallis on Flickr)
Have you heard the bitter story of Mumias Sugar?

Regarded by many as Kenya's most successful sugar miller, Mumias Sugar Company was a disaster waiting to happen.

Many pointed out how Mumias Sugar Company was a fortress in the wreck that is Kenya's sugar industry, only unaware that it was just a matter of time. As the old wise men said, "Ukiona cha mwenzako cha nyolewa, tia chako maji".

The proverb means that if you see your neighbour's head getting shaved, your head will soon be undergoing the same - you'd therefore better wet your head for a smoother shave, otherwise you will be forced to undergo a painful, dry, shave.

But what ails Kenya's sugar industry?

The Kenya sugar industry is under legal siege. The typical Kenyan issue of coming up with laws to tackle a problem is evident here.

Many of Kenya's sugar factories are owned by the government, and have slowly declined under mismanagement and corruption. The appointing of political cronies and tribal management to such firms means that unqualified people are appointed to lead these firms. The same management can hardly resist dipping their fingers in the sugar jar, and end up slowly eating the factories to a level where they can't operate, or if they can operate, do so at very high costs.

Elsewhere, sugar industries in other places are owned by business people who take good care of them, only eating profits. To increase the profits, sugar factories in other countries are run at lower costs, and at a higher efficiency, that maximises on costs while also trying to keep their product as affordable as possible in a bid to fight off competitors.

This has eventually resulted in a situation where you could somehow convince a Portuguese speaking Brazilian to sell you sugar, in your mother-tongue-afflicted Engrish.

You then board the sugar on a ship, where it will spent 6 months in the high seas, and another month or so in the inefficient port of Mombasa. It then gets loaded onto a truck to Nairobi, in what is a proportionally costly.

On getting to Nairobi, Kenyans will still find your sugar cheaper than sugar from Kenya's sugar belt, just a few hours away from Nairobi.

When the bitter truth of this dawned on us, our hapless farmers cried foul, and our politicians reactively ground into gear. With everyone keen on keeping on eating, a familiar "win-win" solution was found. We would come up with a law banning or limiting the importation of sugar, to protect "our farmers" and tax payer factories.

Genius, right?

Wrong. In Kenya, laws are for the poor, the rich consider laws as merely a suggestion that they may choose to uphold or ignore.

As the inefficient cost of Kenya's sugar production went up and up, the difference in price of Kenyan produced sugar and that of imported sugar grew.  The chaps who drive dark tinted big cars figured that if they could somehow import sugar into the Kenyan market, and sold it at the Kenyan price, you could double your money faster than a prophet could by promising to act as a godly middleman.

Meanwhile, Alshabaab, all the way in Somalia, figured out that if they could import sugar and sell it in Kenya, they could easily fund their war on Kenyans. In Kenya, they found a ready market in businessmen who find sugar a fast means to riches.

The government agencies meant to uphold the ban on imported sugar were nowhere to be seen. They had taken shelter from the money that was raining on them as bribes. After all, if someone slaps you on the cheek, with a bribe, you offer them the other cheek....

It did not stop here. Those appointed to run our sugar factories found that they if they imported sugar and repackaged it as local sugar, they would need to stay up all night just counting all the money that came in.

Thus, a law to protect Kenya's sugar industry has only resulted to helpless Kenyans being forced to pay double what they should for sugar. The poor farmers who were to be protected by the laws are now owed billions by sugar factories. Kenyans are still being asked to fork billions to bail out these sugar factories, in readiness for their next, inevitable cycle of collapse.

Furthermore, Kenya, being part of  COMESA, is bound to allow neighbouring countries to sell their sugar in Kenya. However, Kenya has perpetually requested for the extension of the deadline, year in, year out, under the guise of putting our sugar industry in order.

A man finds himself in a dessert, with neither water, nor food, stranded with all his belongings. Luckily, the man is found by a helicopter, which could rescue him, but the man has to leave his belongings in the desert. The man argues that he can't leave his belongings since he will be left poor.  The helicopter leaves, and the man gets lost further in the desert. Another helicopter comes, and another, but the man is still not ready to abandon his belongings. This man is Kenya.

It's time Kenya's government left the sugar industry to private sugar companies, like West Sugar Company (Kabras), and allows other companies or individuals to take over the failing sugar factories. Laws protecting the sugar industry should also be done away with, alongside those that determine how and who can run a sugar factory.

The laws just but a flimsy hatch trying to stop a barraging flood of cheap sugar from everywhere else other than Kenya. The only beneficiaries are the crafty and powerful business men, who are eating on our behalf.

As if we have learned no lessons, the same mess is set to repeat itself in the maize industry, where the government is setting up flour milling industries to "protect consumers". Importation of maize is also banned to "protect farmers", and government owned National Cereals and Produce Board who is a major buyer of maize, is now to become a miller. De ja vu, you have heard something similar before, haven't you?

As is said, history is bound to repeat itself for those who fail to learn from it.