Thursday, May 28, 2009
This morning I was at Serena at 7.00 am to listen to perhaps one of the best economic orators I have ever listened to, the Group CEO of African Alliance, Tony de Castro.
What makes him such as interesting man to listen to is little tidbits of knowledge so humorously said that you can only concentrate through out the presentation. No fancy projectors with numbers and other impressive details, just him and the crowd, nice and easy.
So where are we, As African's in regards to the Global crisis? We have been affected no less, in the export market, commodities etc. But this creates space for us to rethink the way we do business, and make the best of this crisis (or in Obama speak not to waste a good crisis.)
2.5 trillion dollars is a lot of money to throw at the crisis, and as expected, stability checks in for the Americans. This does not mean the crisis is over. It’s like a shot of Morphine, whose effects only last a short while.
The underlying currents are still at play, and that is the greatest challenge.
We need to think Long term solutions. Think ahead. Think of tomorrow's generation.
One interesting example Tony had was this, as African parents, we understand the importance of a good education, even the most illiterate old fellow deep in the village knows that a good education is the way out of poverty.
But what happens after that: our Children get good degrees, either from abroad or top schools in the country, and then begin to hustle for a job, and end up finding jobs abroad and build other nations other than theirs. While in other markets, immediately after their first degree, a choice of jobs awaits, a mortgage plan (some that give 110% –to furnish a house, buy a car and begin life)
The latter creates a cycle that feeds itself, and this is what Africa needs to seriously study. Not necessarily one that offers a 110% mortgage scheme, but one that values every player within the cycle; From the Mortgage giver, to the construction company etc. This creates jobs and in turn creates sustainability, and the cycle grows on.
One other issue that ticked me was about our mindset: if tomorrow someone comes to you with this great idea of creating the largest housing company in Africa; it is African to laugh him off. And if he does go ahead and set it up, we say: he must be well connected. We need to get rid of this kind of thinking and move on. It is a lack of belief in our ability to succeed.
We need to think big, but mostly ensure our ideas degenerate into tangible projects.
We, Kenyans, are entrepreneurs by birth, it’s in our genes, we need to scale it up to another level, forget the government, forget the naysayer, look at the Big private sector players and think like them It’s takes a thought followed very closely by an action.
Google Nike for instance, the rest is history.
Let’s be brave enough to believe in ourselves
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Of course they do, silly!
But that’s my excuse for not buying a single pair of shoes while I was there. But I did get some leggy treatment. I bought a pair of grey leggings, the cold made me do that.
But this blog is not about shoes.
I went to Copenhagen for work. I am a business reporter and this time round I played the role of camera person as well, oh, the joys of working for TV. Ask a stranger to press the record button, count yourself down ,say take one, spell out your script, then wait for another stranger to record yet another piece to camera.
I managed, and packaged a 5 minute feature on the report of the Africa Commission, which runs on this weekend's East Africa Business Report on CNBC Africa
Just today I was reading a piece on the business daily written by Rwandan president Paul Kagame, titled ‘Africa must find its own road to prosperity. Question is: do we as a continent need foreign aid? The president says “no one should assume they know what is good for us better than we do so ourselves’
The Aid debate rages on, and I what I think is that aid is like a drug. Addictive. The more you have it, the more you want, and slowly priorities and the mindset take on a new thinking, and you begin to askask why work hard to achieve something when you can get it for free? Governments like the Congo have learnt to survive on gifts, better known as Dead Aid. Dambisa Moyo's book, Dead Aid stirred a cord in many of us who always wondered why “development partners” would rather give millions to feed the hungry other than spend less than half of that on sustainable development.
That’s one reason that made the African Commission of great interest to me, is that I was thinking; yet another development partner, setting up yet another commission to eradicate poverty in Africa.
But they got it right in a couple of ways. They engaged the Africans that are in the know. From young Africans through the African Youth panel, to Business leaders and the president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete all served as a resource to advice the Danes on the best way to maximize the impact of aid.
Let’s get to the basics, the SME sector is the backbone of the Sub Saharan economy, and empowering this sector, is in fact building the economy by creating jobs and offering sustainability, something the aid culture in Africa has lacked in the past.
With a guarantee fund from AFDB, SME’s will be able to access funds to start up or expand their businesses. This now means that after the funds are gone; these private business owners will confidently carry on, and cement their position as the building blocks of our economies.
Other initiatives of the African commission include provision of energy in partnership with AFDB, helping to improve Africa’s competitive edge, ensuring higher education and research is available to Africa’s Youth.
This 200 mill Kroner fund is focused primarily on Africa’s young, who make up more than 60 % of the population. Another tick from me, as African governments have forgotten that their young exist.
When all is said and done, we, as Africans need to chart the way forward for our economies my take is that yes, we do need development partners, but only those who are ready to work in the way we say is best.
Those that want it their way, should hit the highway..oh and in Nairobi, it’s really smooth now to the airport
Friday, May 8, 2009
Three days now, and I have not learnt a word of Danish, thy are interesting people the Danes, but they never get too close, and that's not a bad thing,really :-).
I am here for work, and when I got the invite from the African commission I was excited.
I had never been to a Shenghen country before and the history and architecture of Denmark is all that I knew from back in the day.
The first step was to find the embassy and get a visa in two days. It worked.
The Danish Foreign Ministry was our host so that was easy, though the Runda based embassy kept us for hours waiting for the visa appointment.
It wasn't first class treatment, but guess that's not important is it?
Even the aiport, security doubt you, or are trained to doubt you. I met some that spoke with a heavy Luhya accent.
usually it's funny, not this time though.
" can you please tell me your testination matam?"
" Denmark" I say
" where does the blane first lant?" he says
"The plane lands in Amsterdam and we get into a connecting flight to Copenhagen"
Then he turns to explain to some three girls who were all peeering into my passport,.
I lean close
" So you ask tose questions and pe keen on what the passencher is saying"
The security guy was training young girls at 8:OOpm, keeping us waiting forever to get through to the boarding lounge!
Anyway, that happened, but soon we ( other Jornalists- Henry Omondi from Nation & Robert Muchiri (formely BBC now freelance) were at the lounge waiting to take off.
Foward to Copenhagen.
The aiport security boys are GORGEOUS!!!!
We arrived at 8.00 am , and were met by Sigrid our chaperone while here, beautiful and the most patient person i have ever met.Even when we (especially Elias from Ethiopia) almost drive her nuts, she maintained her cool and carried on extra proffesionally.
There were 7 journalists from Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa, and I happened to be the only lady.
I must say I felt quite a bit spoilt.
As I was doubling up as camera person it was quite an experience, and every once in a while the guys would help me out with the tripod, (Thanks Guy, you are the sweetest!) Guy Oliver is the South African Journalist (British (too) , agnostic, cutey:-), and very very cool guy who I already miss as he left early this morning for Frankfurt.
We hit it off quite well with most of the guys. We talked quite alot, Guy and I, he is well read and so informed, makes the best company! we had interesting chats about the contradiction that life is, (oh and he uses such British words like yea, cognisant in clear spoken english etc).
He is also responsible for making me look at Christinity in a way I have tried to avoid.
Elias is the Editor in Chief of an Ethiopian magazine and he knows everything about everything, history, politics etc, when I grow up I want to be like him.( Apart from landing in Jail for asking too many questions, typical journalist!)
So we covered the press conference of the African Commission (will write that in another blog)and experienced Denmark, from Walking in the drizzle, (they walk too much these Danes)To the bicycles, to the jogging and taking walks with their little babies, to the sun setting at 9:30pm.
Today(Friday) was some Danish holiday, so we took a walk to the shopping area in langeline, famous for American soldier boys( and I missed to see them!!!!!)Shopped a little (just to proove that we are here:- ) expensive!!!,
We are sleeping early now, we leave at three am, it's freezing cold but i put the heater on in my room so am off (to my room;-) to find some warmth.
Oh and internet is free at the Business centre. ( Copenhagen Strand hotel, nice & simple)
Monday, May 4, 2009
Hello M-pesa, goodbye banking halls!!!
I remember my very first account was with Equity bank, I had done an ad and was getting a cheque of 25,000 bob, and my was i excited!
Kahara (old friend of mine)introduced me to Equity Building Society and for over one hour I stood with Mama Mboga's queueing to open my account with 500 bob.
Just thinking of how far financial innovation has come.
Now the Mama mboga's can take out a loan and wont have to put their veggies aside and take the queue to pay up.
Cutting edge solutions like these are changing the way we do business, SME's will not have to battle with taking a bike from deep in the village to a banking hall at the nearest town.
A step in the right direction, looking to see how Zap will measure up.
I must admit..I love to know what goes into a cocktail. Whenever I am out, I make a point to sit at the bar in a place that's known for super cocktails. My fave's Mercury at ABC, Havanna in Westie, Slims in Milimani and of course Tamambo.
Usually I ask for a cocktail that I have'nt had before, or I ask the bar man to select one for me, after which i try to guess what's in the cocktail, That's the sweetest part, and knowing you can always create a new cocktail is pretty exciting too.
Anyone who likes cocktails knows what goes into a bloody mary,But in case you dont:
2 tots smirnoff vodka
I can tomato juice
few drops of tabasco
few drops of soy sauce.
Mix well..and Happy National Bloody Mary Day (dont quote me on that though!)
How's that to start your Monday:-)