Friday, July 31, 2009

WHAT BIKINI'S & FIBER OPTICS HAVE IN COMMON



I live in Africa, Kenya, home to the most beautiful coastline in the world.

Mombasa.

Once in a while I take a break, go on holiday to the white sandy beaches of Mombasa, and usually, I pack my bikini’s, to enjoy the pleasures of sun, sand & sunscreen.
The past week though, was slightly different.

I went off to Mombasa without my swimsuit.

Thursday morning, I missed my 6.30 am flight to Mombasa.

Usually, when it comes to work, I am a stickler for time, and I don’t take anything less from my team. Sometimes though, it goes terribly wrong, Murphy’s Law, and this was one of those days.

The SEACOM fiber optic cable was finally landing and a number of journalists were taken down to Mombasa to experience first hand, the joys of fast internet.

And I missed my flight.

Flattery gets you everywhere!

Even though I had been told the next KQ 606 was full, I got a confirmation for the 10 o’clock flight, and when KTN’ s Larry Madowo joined me at the waiting Lounge, the anxiety I had took a quick exit, and we began to chat about everything, from his new 2’00pm show on financial markets, to his Nokia 5800 that made my old blackberry hang it’s head in shame, to college life and getting into business reporting, it was quite a great conversation.

Fast forward to landing in steamy Mombasa, meeting Solomon of Hill& Knowlton, and having a super Swahili Lunch at a real coastal restaurant near the fort Jesus Museum.
Larry & I had missed the morning Press briefing, yet we both had to prepare a news package before end of day (and I still think my report was better Larry;-)..Anyway, I couldn’t wait to go online and experience fiber.

I have one problem with the Internet, and that’s the first problem I needed to address. So, I went to CNN and clicked on “watch CNN Live”. It took 19 seconds to load the whole site as well as getting Live TV streaming in. usually it takes about 5 minutes…That was exciting!

I got to speak with Jean Pierre du leu of SEACOM, on the experience of laying fiber in Africa, and it was an exciting story, of coming from the days of Africa one, to actually completing a process that saw East & southern Africa feel the true fiber touch.

When doing my research during the week, I came across a sentence that stuck in mind: “ fiber of today is like the sea trading routes of the past, a sign of economic activity and a subsequent boom”. If we look back to how the developed countries grew, in different waves, the opening up of the trading routes was a major economic junction, and when the internet came in, another huge wave took over, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, what does fiber really mean to Africa?

It means access to real time information. That cut across all barriers: across markets, across time, across language, and across developed and developing countries.
It is countless opportunities. There is a strong entrepreneurial sentiment in Kenya today; every young person wants to start their own businesses. With faster & cheaper bandwidth, every young Kenyan keen on growing ICT wise must find out what businesses scored large when fiber landed in the developed countries, find opportunities and make the best out of them.

ICT is quickly moving towards convergence. One stop shops that offer flexibility and convenience to customers. Cost cutting is also becoming centre line to most companies,who opt to outsource, here's how strategies such as the Sameer Business Park serve as an indicator of what we are likely to see in the market.

Last mile providers such as ISP’s will grow in ways we are yet to fully understand. The demand for broadband is growing. You only need to look at what ISP's like Access Kenya lay fiber across town, and realise that they are looking right into the future.

I believe cheaper broadband we will see cyber cafĂ©’s turning into ISP’s.

I asked David Bunei of Cisco a couple of questions on fiber, and I got the best education ever about fiber optics during the journey between the SEACOM site and the Moi International Airport Mombasa.

I was on tweeter throughout the launch and I got several questions on when Fiber will reach Nairobi.

Depending on contractual agreements with satellite owners, ISP’s can advise their bandwidth providers to switch from satellite to fiber.

A couple of ISP’s and other Telco’s have already bought into SEACOM, with Safaricom currently being the biggest customer, so, we are likely to see that first & fast.

Terrestrial fiber optic cables are already being laid across East Africa and with EASSY launching in June 2010, and TEAMS making the final rounds, it’s an exciting time.

I know better than to expect magic within the ICT space, but it surely is an opportunity for growth.

Friday, July 17, 2009

JOURNEY FROM THE SERENGETI

It's Wildebeest migration season..I am not going this year..but here is my experience from last year's Migration:



I had watched it on TV for eons, the millions of wildebeest crossing over to the Maasai Mara after depleting the magnificent Serengeti of all its green grass. The untouched pastures of the Maasai Mara lures the gnu’s into making the champagne colored plains in the heart of the African Bush one of the most spectacular wildlife locations in the world, this time of year, and I was one of the many who came from all over the world to witness this great migration, thanks to being the director for our tourism programme, Destination Kenya.

The plane was scheduled to leave JKIA at 1100hrs, and we were uneasy, the airline had just received a big hit, a crush in Somalia, where Ali, an old friend of mine was co pilot also perished. So when we were told we had been placed into another plane, there was a collective sigh of relief.

1300hrs, we board the plane at Wilson Airport, the captains smooth voice tells us Keekorok will be the first stop, and in my mind I play out my scanty filming schedule, and rethink the skeleton scripts I wrote based on research only and all I could wish for was to be able to do a Recce before, in production speak this means going ahead and planning with the location in mind…but that has not been the case (or can’t make much cents sense at this point in time, so hell, my goose is cooked. Producing a documentary or film about a place you have never been to is not one of the easiest things on earth, but armed with my laptop, contacts, presenter and cameraman, and the hope of Msengeti, the lodge manager on the other side.

we board the plane and sit with Adam of sekenani camp, and for the half an hour we are in the plane I pick up bits and pieces of what’s going to make my great script for Destination Kenya. Nini( Presenter) and Kelly (Cameraman) are all heated up about deep sea diving, bungee jumping and other extreme sports, as my tummy coils at the thought of my free falling mid air, accidents happen, that’s my excuse, so I pretend am listening as I try to work out this whole Mara filming, and I keep my fingers crossed as I hope the two days we have there will pay off.

About half an hour later , we land at Keekorok airstrip , the team is excited, and I see Francis Msengeti, the new lodge manager of Sarova Mara. He just moved here from Shaba, which in my own experience translates as the land of the Gods. Msengeti comes off as a very serious fellow, and when I first met him with another team of journalists a few months earlier in Isiolo, his ‘do not mess’ looks put us in our place; Giggly journalists, as we had been referred to in the recent Adam magazine by the lithe Biko. Anyway, When Joan of Sarova told me he would be the one with us in the Mara, I knew we were in good hands.

The CNBC placard was waving by the time we touched down, and before long we were on our way to the lodge, coming face to face with a lion that lay in the middle of the road, and the job began, Nini miked up for a quick piece to camera, as Kelly began filming. A very encouraging start , and my mind was now racing with words and structure for my now shaping up script.





The Maasai welcome at the Sarova beats any 5 star I have I have experienced in the few countries I have been too, the ethnic touch of song and dance, coupled with the high jump and deep throaty sounds of the Maasai men at the entrance, the very essence of the Maasai Mara invites us into this lodge that will be our base for this excursion, Msengeti has made us feel very welcome already, and as we make our way into the beautiful tented camps, I wonder when I can bring my daughter here, or even if I would afford it, and am told when the season is low, with good planning practically any Kenyan can experience the splendor of the Mara, that’s plan number 1 when am done filming this thing….




After a sumptuous continental buffet, I sit with Msengeti to plan the two days we are here, and the schedule he has in his hand puts my heart to rest, will be tight, but really smooth.I am glad to see the lodge brimming with tourists. It is full house, I am told, bookings are tight too, and looks like this will be the trend for coming months. I flash back to January this year, when I went to do a post analysis of the post poll crisis on beach tourism, it was a dreadful revelation. White sands has closed one wing, had a handful of tourists who were leaving in a week…but here, only 8 months later, the Sarova Mara is operating at about 90%, and deep inside I smile…slowly things are happening in this industry that supports over 2 million people directly and indirectly.

5.30 pm…Sundowner CocktailWe meet at the reception to go count the sun down, it could be every girls secret fantasy, should that special someone propose as we enjoy a Manhattan cocktail…I am a hopeless romantic, soon it feels as if we are driving into the sunset, the bonfire and table for 2 makes for perfect filming, and my mind goes on hyper mode, links, PTC’s as we watch the sun go down…this sundowner is one of the most beautiful setups, and am glad am working, this is no place for a single woman!

It was beautiful and the rest fell into place, starting with waking at at 5.00 am the next morning for an early morning game drive, this time driving into the sunrise, experiencing the morning in a Maasai manyatta in sekenani , drinking warm milk right from the cow, and freezing as the Maasai morans stare down at me and Nini, asking questions about our hair, mascara, lip gloss, picture this 10 men staring at you for one hour flat, no it’s not flattering, it’s scary!James Ole Tira, walks with a funny limp and I always wanted to ask him why, and decided against , he was a lovely man, a Maasai chief as well as our guide for this trip, we set up his main interview with the backdrop of the hills, he told us stories about the Maasai and how they stick to their culture in fluent English, even if he has never been to school. Kisio, the driver, kept dropping little gems of information as we moved from one place to another during the game drive. And I quickly caught on the lingo, “ tuna tafuta wa juu” when looking for the leopard..or “ kichwa yuko wapi” when asking about the Lion.



I have been on several trips to National parks but I had never seen so many animals! From the 10 different species of the antelope, to the Zebra, wildebeest, elephant, and birds: I loved the lilac crested roller!It was smooth; the programme went better than I had dreamed of. From the tented camps…fishing, mini golf, bush dinner, Boma dinner, salt lick dinner, view deck dinner, pool side breakfast, garden breakfast , buffet lunch, and when we were done, we sipped our beer and listened to Komora & Krensa at the fire place in the bar…cracking jokes about sex , journalists & and hoteliers.

The wildebeest refused to cross the river. The Baks himself was there that weekend, and the ODM wildebeest said, bilaz. They live in the Serengeti, they hadn’t heard about the coalition. We camped for hours on end by the river, as the lead Zebra sniffed at the water and turned back, did you know that the whole pack of wildebeest is led by a zebra, Jah knows why, but that’s a fact!So we extended our stay by a day, thanks to Msengeti, but still the frigging animals stayed on the other side of the Mara River. But we got to experience the hot air balloon, filmed a lot especially the millions of wildebeest that refused to cross the river!



When I knew I had enough material for the prog, we gave up watching the river watchers, and settled for a game of poker by the pool at Sarova. Nini is too good at it, so is Kelly, we even managed to convince Msengeti to join us for a bit, and the thugs beat me at poker, thank heavens it wasn’t strip poker!



It was day three and our last evening at the Sarova Mara, and we wanted to have a good wrap, and we did! Let’s just say, it ended very well. It comprised many things, including staying up till 3.00 am watching Sin City, which in my books, is one of the best movies ever made, but it would have been so much better if I had a hand in mine…two is company.

Just a few of my favourites:

Maratimbo
sekenani
sarova hotels
Mara Safari Club fairmont
bundu adventures

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"NICK BEGGINGS"... MY TWO CENTS ON THE STATE OF AFRICAN AGRICULTURE



Back in the day when I was in a boarding primary school, at about ten years old, there were always children known for "begging". Many times they got shunned by the other kids. It was worse for those who were known for begging food. We coined a term called Nick Begging’s,and no one would ask you for food if you said that before you started eating. With time, and continuous shunning, many of them stopped begging.

That becomes the basis for my post today on the state of African Agriculture and the need for us to learn to be Proud.

In the early 80's several African countries were fully sufficient in terms of food security, and even exporting to other countries.

Kenya & Zimbabwe are countries that now, 2 decades later, are on the brink of a famished economy.

Where did we go wrong?

This afternoon I had an Interview with Dr Namamga Ngogi, the President of AGRA (Alliance for a green revolution) , snd it triggered my thoughts on why this continent with a rich and beautiful heritage remain s a beggar, who seems to be content with his situation.

I am extremely passionate about African Agriculture because I believe in the sustainability it offers. But how can we call ourselves an Agricultural economy when the very backbone of this country goes by one meal a day?

What happened to the "breadbasket" of the East African Region?

We ignored the very details that provide wealth.
We ignored the need to replenish the very soil that feeds us.
We ignored the essence of value addition
We ignored the fact that we needed to move on from Rudimentary to commercial Agriculture.

It is our Problem; we turned our continent to be a beggar.

A beggar does not choose. He cannot come to the decision table at his own terms; he eats the crumbs from under the table and say's "Thank you"

It is up to us to fix it.

The G8 summit "created time" to address the Global food crisis, and attempted to strike the intricate balance between food aid and investments into countries worst hit by the crisis, and maybe something positive may come out of these commitments.

The G8 leaders have been made to feel that it is only human to assist an ailing country, but I believe that Africa needs to begin being told "Nick Begging’s".
Ben Hecht, a winning writer once said " I know that a man who shows me his wealth is like the beggar who shows me his poverty; they are both looking for alms from me, the rich man for the alms of my envy, the poor man for the alms of my guilt.

The quote was not in reference to Africa, but I hope this quote makes you begin to question the state of affairs, as Africans wait in the aisles for falling crumbs.

The G8 will have to tackle the challenge of Food Aid Vs Investment into Agriculture. Aid may be necessary in short term. But we must also realise that wealthy countries do not owe it to us to feed us.

African leaders created talk shop, and we still live in it. Declaration after declaration after declaration, and Kenya is now giving 8% of its annual budget to a sector that contributes 25% of its GDP. Where are our priorities? Let's learn from Malawi, a country that got tired of begging and looked within itself to turn the sector around. The government committed itself to assisting the small scale farmers with inputs, fertilizer, education and a constant effort towards Agri- business.

Should the same be played out in Kenya, 70% of Kenya's 40 million people will receive a life line, I like to call that sustainability.

But there seems to be commitment issues spread out across Africa.

Africa, Where is our Pride?

Are our leaders too greedy to think about those that put them in power? Or do they not have the capacity to give the fishing rod to its electorate? Are our leaders beyond accountability?

We know the answers to these questions that shame the African continent every day. I hope, that our shame will bite at us until we are bold enough to say Enough is Enough.

I will not take you through what we, as a continent must do to get our act together, because we know what should be done.

But until pride becomes part of our DNA, we will forever live in Poverty, and as it has been said before; Poverty is a bag with a hole at the bottom.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

BASTILLE DAY & FLAT BATTERIES



Just the other week I got an invite form the French Embassy to attend Bastille day (14th of July).I had no idea what that was, so, in true tech fashion, I googled it: here.

I love the French, they have this accent that always gives me the giggles.
That's not a problem.

So when the Invite came, It was adressed to " Your's Truly and Partner".
That's a problem.

I had initially wanted to invite C.S two weeks ago when i got the invite call: but, can't, won't happen.
That's problem Number 1.

so Kent, my colleague, agreed to be my partner today.
That's problem number 2.

We left the office at 12.00 noon, and Kent refused to drive so I took it to drive my "partner" to this luncheon at the French Ambassador's residence in Kibera or Kabarnet road, whichever suits you better.
Kent, in his "manly" traits, asked me to put the head lights on as we drove down 8 floors.
That's Problem Number 3.

Anyway, we had a safe drive through nutty Nairobi traffic, but got there in good time. It was quite the party! Nairobi's Big Hitters were all there: DJ CK, Jeff Koinange, Eddy Njoroge, Kwame Ahadzi of Bank of Africa,and many more.

So, once we got through the ( clearing throat here) French Military guys at the gate, embassy officials led by the elegant Ambassador Ms Barbier were on cue to say hi to everyone coming in, In French.

Now Kent Ngibuini Njuru..Aka my partner, does not Speak French.
That's problem number 4.


So, as I said my hello's..in staggering French, (Great thing is, Kent thinks I speak better than Sarkozy) Kent is behind me, trying to repeat every word coming out of the French. Bonju bonju..cava, yes, cava... and I am in stitches. Shortly we are at the bar..and Kent asks me rather quietly " How do you respond to a French greeting?"

We had a great laugh, said hello to a couple of other guests, listened to Miss Barbier's short and sweet speech on "Fete Nationale" 'had a great lunch, Champagne, and made our way back to work.

At least that was the plan.

when we got to the car the lights were on..and the battery, soon we found out, flat. I have no jumper cables.

The 12 drivers I asked at the parking had no jumper cables, neither did the cops parked near the end of Kabarnet Road. A couple parked near us are about to leave, then the gentleman says
" You now, when you parked, and you were leaving, I saw your lights on, and I dont know why I did not tell you that"

...aaa..very helpful Thank you. He did not have jumper cables as well.

I managed. But my feet and black shoes at this time are a sweet dusty colour,I looked like I had been weeding the whole morning in Kiambu.

Anyway we got back to work, polished and smart,(or camouflaged)

Moral of the Story?

A partner is a partner. Kent is not it.
Leave the head lights on? Better buy a manual car that can be pushed & A jumper cable can save your sorry behind on the dusty Kabarnet road on the 14th of July.

Joyeuses fĂȘtes!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

BACK IN THE HAIR DAYS

This blog is inspired by Angela Angwenyi's Mohawk.

I couldn't find a recent picture of her on the net, but if you saw her MCeeing at the Kalasha Awards, she was spotting a rare mohawk that only the brave can pull..and yes, I broke my recent promise that I would never go to Black Diamond ever again..Never Say Never aye?

I Had a fab time last night with Lizz (my eternal partner in crime & life, and love) and K.A , who happens to be a good friend of Angela's at Black diamond.

So, Lizz is back on Makutano Junction and was going back on set this morning, she wondered wether she should have had her hair done into a Mohawk, of whatever kind. I have tried it once myself...but lets just say, I wasnt convinced that it looked good enough on me. It looks great on Ms Angweni, and Grace Msalame also spots a killer one as well ( as seen on TV) at least I get to use that line..hehehhe)

Anyway, Here's a fab Mohawk.




That chit chat with Lizz over free (Karaoke) cocktails, took me back eons ago when I ahd a curly kit in high school..(no laughs plese, I am sensitive)..back then curly kit was the in thing. I may have grown up in Kitale and took my first eldoret express bus to Naoribi in February of 1998..but I did wear a good curly kit, and Kakamega high is my witness, I looked good! ( No I wasnt in Kakamega high..but we liked the boys in that school..and they LOVED us:-)

My cousin Mike once had the "Ray Parker". (self titled hair do, taken after the musician)Your hair was bigger /longer, at the front and the back.then the rest was flatter out, it looked like the barbers power supply got cut off mid way through the shave..if you are a child of the 70's you know what I am talking about!:-)




It wasnt just a family thing, but My sis Jeptoo had a "Slope" when she first went to high school, and boy did it look cool..slope was a hair style that was short all over apart froma bit at the front, which you used hair spray or gel to let it jut out and stand firm at the front. Cleopatra, a girl I met in high school went a step farther and dyed it .( in fom one) The colour did not last long though, we were in a Catholic school, you can only get away with so much.

(no pics available...aaarghh!!!)

Back in the day there was the afro, That's making a comeback with a bang..I like! Nappy hair though is not my thing, I think it looks great on other women, just not on me.Valerie Kimani looked super in it here.




I like the shaggy hair, looks like chopped dreadlocks, or unkempt hair, sort of like what Valerie Kimani now spots & my other bestest friend Wairimu Ricci spots these days..and many other hot Kenyan women. Lauryn Hill, who also shares my birthday:-),made this cropped look a must have.




It's amazing how versatile Kenyan women are, and I cant stop loving y'all for being the most fabulous women ever! This one's for you!

Meanwhile, I am planning on spotting a Bob Rihanna style..am not bold enough to go exotic..after all I am a Business Reporter at the end of the day:-) ...That's where I hide.