Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kenya's tech start up ecosystem

This week I had the opportunity to moderate and MC  Pivot East Africa 2014. The yearly event seeks to receive amd award pitches from app developers,  both Web and mobile.

What an incredible event it was, a first for me. It was inspiring to see about 20 start ups across categories such as utilities,  enterprise, finance, social and entertainment share their ideas on how they want to make a difference given the opportunity they have seen in the market.

In between the pitches we had 'fireside chats' that Focused on issues facing the industry that's still in its infancy stage compared to other developed tech cities across the world with a comparative  look at Telaviv,  Berlin and of course Silicon Valley. 

One of the fireside chats I moderated focused on the hype vs substance debate across the tech start up ecosystem in Kenya, with topics ranging from sources of funding and the almost controversial role of NGO funding in the start up ecosystem and it was interesting to see experts attempt to draw the fine line between fluff and the benefits, if any, of hype.

The other fireside  chat I moderated was focused on trying to unravel the link between innovation, entrepreneurship and the economy in which former ICT permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo was a key panelist.  His passion shone through as he spoke with pride about how 'opportunity entrepreneurs' are the ones that will disrupt the markets, create apps that will be world beaters,  create jobs and as a trickle down, lift the economy.  I asked about the role of 'replicative entrepreneurs,': that's me and you and everyone whose done Dubai, Turkey imports and quails, yes, Quails. FYI, We have little impact on real economic growth. 

My take home this week was that we need to pay more attention to the tech ecosystem. There's some young people doing amazing things and all they require is a little encouragement, incubation, acceleration and investment whuch will give them the not only the confidence but the capacity to create world beaters.thing. 

I must say it was a proud moment for me as I was listening to the seasoned voices of tech guru's like Mathew Papakipos of Facebook and Jonathan Levi,  a serial entrepreneur and Angel investor from Silicon Valley listen to and praise the contenders,  aggreably surprised that the start up entrepreneurs were a lot better than expected.

I will tomorrow share some stories about specific apps that really got me goose bumpy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Of #hashtag activists

Dear Activists,

Perhaps I have never really understood how activism works, you see I am just a journalist.

It disturbs me each day when I recall how 276 girls were kidnapped in Nigeria, something that took the world about 3 weeks to notice.

Over lunch a few weeks ago I mentioned to a friend how I was at a complete loss following the overflow of "Hash tag activism" that even got the attention of #Flotus among many other leaders locally and internationally.

But several weeks later, only 50 girls gave been reunited with their families,  (I hope to God that it is true) leaving 226 still missing. The offial number communicated in 219 girls still missing, I don't know what happened to the 7.

Now the world has gone silent on #bringbackourgirls.

If this doesn't call for change of tack in the world of activism,  then you should hang your brand new boots because there's no *walking* on those twitter streets.

Once upon a time, Noise = Activism,  but the world has changed since then.

The same strategy Cleopatra used to win over Kings and Kingdoms isn't what Angela Merkel would use woo anyone anymore,
no one bathes in milk and honey anymore.

However, I agree that there are forms of activism, depending on sector, target market and agenda that twitter could do well in, saying calling for calm, or in the case of the Arab spring, connect and create a unified front for citizens.

We will not find the missing #Malaysianflight on those lean 140 word streets.

I believe I can safely say, and I hope you can agree with me; that Twitter hashtags will not #bringbackourgirls nor #FreePeterGreste.

In Kenya though, they will make your posterior trend,  worldwide. I digress,  like a true a Kenyan.

The New age activists will have to go back to the drawing board and find intriguing and fresh ways of creating social change in the Social Media world to reflect current trends, here at home and please do check across the pond as well.

Sigh.Just a few words from a #hashtagaddict

Yours in respect,

Terryanne Chebet.

PS: picture attached was forwarded to me via WhatsApp. If you created it I'd like to attribute it to you, please send a message. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

National Dialogue and it's babies


I'm sure your in-tray, your Excellency does not need an envelope from another anxious Kenyan.

But things are thick, and you probably feel the heat a lot more than we do. But I am getting anxious sir.

I had a conversation with a friend today and we spoke about Economic Sabotage and where that can lead us as a country. You see sir, I've been following the conversation about #KenyaRising keenly since 2006, when we first began to fully realise and define the growth the country had had since 2002, when President Kibaki came to power. There's a host of things that are feeding into a full blown economic sabotage, MRC, Alshabab have already done well in that regard.

2007 is a memory I wouldn't want to awake, for you, for me now for the millions of Kenyans who have tried to rise above the fateful bloody days. But it happened, and close on it's heels the global crisis happened. We were back to scratch as a country. We saw investors flee, but shortly after, you as in charge of Finance and the government at the time lured them back, one at a time. But now sir, you're quickly going back to ground zero.

Here's a glance of what we have gone through this and last week.

1. Saba Saba has been declared a mass action day- not by you. Should go to work on that day?
2. Satao was killed, Kenya seems to have lost the fight against poaching.
3. 50 people killed in Mpeketoni, general anxiety if the same will happen elsewhere.
4. Tourism is on it's sick bed.
5. Unemployment means more and more Kenyans have nothing to lose, and could take the streets.

Your CS of Treasury is on a road show abroad, enticing investors to buy our Eurobond. I can only imagine how their perceptions are being shaped this week.

Sir, perhaps you and Baba need to sit down and brew that cuppa tea for the sake of the country, even though I have mixed feelings about his recent libretto. Figure of speech, sirs.

As you and your team work on a plan out, we are hoping for a master plan, as the interest of all Kenyans is the peace and stability of our wonderful country; not just for us, but for the investments we badly need from the international markets that will take our country to the next leave, given your ambitious blue print.

Let not our ego's come in the way of ensuring that your people are safe and secure. Just a reminder of that election promise, sir.

Please do whatever you must, whatever will make you sleep well at night, for the sleep of millions of Kenyans depends on you.

Not that you didn't know that , your Excellency.

PS: We miss Boinet. I'm sure you feel the same.

Your's in respect.

Borrowed Budget? Thoughts on 2014/2015 Kenya National Budget

Thursday was one of the busiest days in any Business Journalist's calendar.

However Budget day, 2014, in today's form is no longer the secret it always was under the old constitution.

By April the estimates are out, and most accounting/audit firms and economists begin to do their analyses of how Government will spend it's monies.

For a government that has been criticised to live above its means, we were keen to find out how the Cabinet Secretary, Henry Rotich was planning to raise the 1.8 trillion shilling 2014/2015 budget.

Most economists agree however that we as a country are still within manageable debt levels as far as international standards are able to go by, therefore the question of whether we will borrow the money and the impact of this did not feature as much of a question.

These were the key issues I wanted to centre on:

1. Is this a growth focused budget?
2. Is the budget deficit a real problem, REALLY ?
3. Are we convinced that treasury will achieve it's targets?
4. Has the CS convinced us enough in how he plans to fund the budget?
5. How safe will the CS play in reflection of the current national emotions?
6. Is Jubilee working towards delivering it's election promises?

Henry Rotich played it safe. Extremely safe if you asked me.

Common consensus was that it was a Mwananchi budget,but my question was

"Was it a Mwananchi budget or a budget from a government that was too AFRAID to squeeze it's citizens even more?"

There was a sigh of relied when there was no mention of new sin taxes, which is usually the first culprit. However multinationals will now take a chunk of the heavy lifting with tightening around multinational transfer pricing.

(Definition of 'Sin Tax'
A state-sponsored tax that is added to products or services that are seen as vices, such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling. These type of taxes are levied by governments to discourage individuals from partaking in such activities without making the use of the products illegal. These taxes also provide a source of government revenue. - Investopedia.)

The winner, everyone agreed was the manufacturing sector. Later that evening I hosted the Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed at the Business centre and asked him these questions:

1. Industry has the capacity of creating millions of Jobs, apart from the industrial parks mentioned in the budget statement, there wasn’t much else in regards of creating growth opportunities in the sector
2. How do you suppose these industrial parks will work and what should Kenyans expect?
3. High costs of energy remains a key challenge to manufactuers, In his state of the Nation address the president talked about adding 500MW to the National grid, today there was mention of geothermal allocations, when can we begin to feel the impact of investments in energy?
4. An estimated 15 million Kenyans are today unemployed a large number of them are young people, what can we expect from your Ministry this fiscal year to play your role in creating opportunities for young people?
5. Customs bonds on Industrial sugars and wheat have now been removed, what exactly does this mean and should local players worry about that?
6. Imported steel products will now be taxed import duty raised to 25% as a means to protect our local steel factories, what is the immediate impact of this?

( I will post the interview herein)

This time round, I thought that the Capital Gains tax would be introduced. Kimunya tried. Githae tried.Let's just we cannot attempt to tax the wealthy and get away with it. Dead and buried for now.

Here's a look at the definition of Capital gains tax;

A type of tax levied on capital gains incurred by individuals and corporations. Capital gains are the profits that an investor realizes when he or she sells the capital asset for a price that is higher than the purchase price. (Think stocks, for instance)

There was also no mention of VAT or any new taxes introduced despite a general argument that it would be the easiest way to plug the budget deficit.

My analysts in studio agreed it was a budget with little excitement, nothing daring or innovative therein.

Going forward, analysts argue that innovation in taxation is badly needed, and that the tax base can be so much further widened without necessarily squeezing Kenyans even further.

As you chew sugar cane over the 'Mwananchi Budget' remember the CS spoke of reviewing the Tax Regime. So, it's perhaps all about timing.

Watch out for these going forward:

Excise Duty Bill
Review of Income tax act

Highly likely that these will be an avenue to sneak in new taxes. maybe, maybe not. You know what they say about predictions!

Dear Yummy Mummies, let's cook with our kids

Last time I wrote about the issues a working mother faces, It was picked up by a blog and taken way out of context.

It went from being something I was feeling terrible about to "She thinks she is the only one who feels this?"

It pained me to read some really hatefull comments, and have since learnt not to go through with it, but I still strongly believe most working mothers go through exactly what I blogged about last time, and it eases the burden to share what we are going through as mothers.

Anyway, motherhood is a calling, (take that!) no matter what our jobs are, and I know that every working mother wants to have the best relationship with her children, and be the best mother she can be.

This year I decided to start cooking and doing DIY crafts with my daughter as one of the ways in which we can truly bond and for me to create a better relationship with her. I have learned with time and hindsight that mothers have the greatest influence on their children, and I want to be the kind of mother my daughter will always thank God for, love and bless as she grows up.

These thoughts began as I recalled growing up back home in Kitale.

The best memories I have with my mum are around making Mandazi's, planting, weeding beans and peas on our little shamba or weeding flowers as a family.

I recall how on Saturday afternoons we would sit under a tree and mum would oil our hair with 'School Girl" liquid paraffin oil and plait us 'matuta line'.

Other memories include selecting and chopping down a Christmas tree as we had cypress trees at home. We were village kids so no lights and other fancy stuff, but just the act of doing it together is what reminds me of what glued us together as a family, and eventually became the building blocks of a good relationship between our parents and us children.

In the world we live in today, we sometimes are not able to do all the fun things we did with our parents but we can surely re-create them.

These days I try to spend evenings with my daughter making whipped body butters, where we experiment with Shea, Coconut oil and different essential oils. She has now learned to whip and enjoys being able to use the body butter she has made to oil herself. Beyond that it has introduced a new bonding session in our home. We find recipes online for simple foods that she can help me with prepping, among other new ideas such as a movie night once in a while as a family. (yeah just us)

Anyway, I came across this book and wanted to share it with those yummy mummies who want to experience love in the kitchen with our young ones. It's available in most bookstores as I had seen it a couple times before I got it, and your kiddies will absolutely fall in love with the simple to make yet amazing foods.I am now looking for an African foods cook book so we can explore different recipes from around our beautiful country and continent.

Mad love to all you Yummy Mummies!

PS: I still enjoy a glass of wine at my favourite rooftop spot.

Friday, June 13, 2014

This post is not about Vera

I would have sworn the light skin debate belongs in 1983.

Dead and buried together with culottes and Kenya Uniform long and wrinkled skirts or Irene Lipstick, a cheap favorite way back when it was fashionable to wear lipstick only on the lower lip.
Make that a lipstick that was green and turned red on application.

I would have safely assumed that skin lightening is dead. Buried 6 feet under together with words like Cutex, 'don't touch my toes' or tinga tinga, which was village speak for 'Tractor'.

The #bleachedbeauty tirade of tweets and blogs recently perked a desire to rethink values. The good old values that taught us how to be girls, ladies then women.

When the debate was at its peak, I sent out a tweet that said "change your values,not the color of your skin".

If you think this blog is about Vera Sidika exit stage left.

But since I have already mentioned her, I will let you know like her spunk.

It takes a gutsy woman to be confident in the fact that she is not answerable to anyone but herself. She took street cred to a new level and caused Kenyans to rave and rant about her. Making me a statistic too.

The unfortunate thing about the lady whose posterior reminds me of my grandmother's cooking pots is that the image she has created of herself blocks us all from seeing beneath the lightened veneer. Pun intended. I digress.

As a young girl, I wanted to be like the women on Ebony magazine.

They were beautiful. They were successful. They had beautiful men for husbands and eye candy for boyfriends. They were American, and I was the scrawny girl from Kitale still struggling to balance on 2 inch high heels after years of wearing rubber shoes from Bata Kenya.

You see, the pressure to look and be like Janet Jackson or Jada Pinket was an internal war I fought with my heart and brain.

I closely watched Aaliyah and purchased tank tops to show off my dashboard like flat tummy.

I shopped at Mtindwa with my cousin June armed with a mental image of the clothes that were on the Channel O divas . Girl group SWV was a huge influence back then in how we dressed and talked.

I also wanted to be Kelly Rowland of Destiny Child.

I began to tweeze my eyebrows, the first experience left me with tears and a swollen brow. But I was patient, kept at it and even bought my own tweezers.

Voila! One say, as I walked down the road from South C water training college I came across Ponds.

Let me educate the younglings.

Back then, every colored face powder was called ponds. There was Luron, which was my first brand and then Island Beauty which was slightly costlier. I now realise both brands still exist but have redesigned their look and feel to something sexier. Luron took me a step closer to JLO's flawless skin. In close chase we discovered lipgloss, eyeshadow and mascara which were stocked by the Ebrahims store on Moi Avenue. We were upwardly mobile baby!

With time, we realized that the fairer you were the better you ranked on the boys priority hit list.Then skin color became a discussion. It was clear the boys preferred the lighter skinned maidens.

With that the ladies learnt that in the beauty stores, there was anything for everything (you know, like 'there's an app for that'). There was Cleartone, and some preferred the more efficient 'Mediven' an over the counter cream that was supposed to treat eczema and psoriasis.

Girls did that. My mother would have however killed me if I tried to, so I watched from a healthy distance while she made yucky mixes of sour milk, honey and maize meal for us to apply on our pimply adolescent faces.

So, listening to Kenyans vilify Vera created mixed feelings for me. I do not in any wsy support skin lightening but on one hand I remembered the journey every woman goes through as she seeks to find herself.

That journey comes with boys, menses, pimples, light skin and self esteem. Or lack of thereof.

The discussion therefore that we should be having now is, who will ensure that our children are comfortable in their own skin in this day and age where there's an app for everything?

Who will step into the shoes of our mothers and bring up daughters who will brave the journey of womanhood without wanting to be divas and socialites when they grow up, instead of actuarial scientists and entrepreneurs?

Fact, we wanted to be teachers when we were growing up. Today they want to be video vixens. (I'm still dealing with my 8 year old Imani who still wants to be a clown when she grows up.)

We live in times that requires girls to know that beauty is what happens beneath their skin.

We need to redefine our scope for beauty and assert that our black is beautiful.

It's now up to us to change our value system and not the color of our skin.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Shaping conversations about Financial Freedom

I attended a rather interesting launch by Old Mutual Kenya last evening. What they are trying to do is something I believe can evolve into a movement and not the constant usual annoying one sided conversations done by insurance sales people.

You see, today, I hardly pick up the calls of several insurance people because a majority of insurance sales people are trained to be long winded and annoying. But, whichever way we look at it, insurance is an almost sure route towards financial freedom.

What Old Mututal kenya is trying to do is to change the conversations around why it is important for us as parents and young adults to begin to secure our financial freedom.

I was asked to speak for a quick minute, and here are the thoughts I shared.

"Conversations about Finance, Economy and money in Kenya and many places across the world are generally carried out by Men.

Yet across a huge number of Kenyan households it is the women who control the purse strings, working day and night to ensure her family does not sleep hungry.

What a paradox.

I want to be part of the generation that wants to take Kitchen finance to the next level. Where women are not only empowered to have financial freedom and the financial security of their families, but to be bold enough to want to invest; to be bold enough to want to be wealthy.

I look forward to engaging with women in a society that is ready to think beyond bread and butter, one step at a time.

I host a TV magazine show called The Business centre, and despite it being a business news show, We have deliberately taken a strong stance towards Entrepreneurship with TV features such as 'What it takes' which shows anything from 'what it takes to run a matatu business' How to import a car to sell' among other features that will not only inform but provoke our audience to begin to think entreprise and start to move away from the mentality that one must be employed to make it.

This ropes in entirely with my passion for changing our society's financial discipline. I believe that a change of mindset is what we need to secure our future, to explore investment possibilities, adapt financial planning and discipline and deliberately plan to create wealth.

I am Terryanne Chebet and I want to #dogreatthings