Friday, June 19, 2009

Eating the Bull by the Tail won’t reduce traffic, Mr Kisia

I watched the news Thursday in dismay as the new town Clerk went on to give his roadmap to making Nairobi stand and be counted among the top cities in the world. A grand plan I must admit, and the ‘sky-is-the-limit’ attitude is certainly welcome. However, when it came to that bit that affects most of us Nairobi residents almost directly, the city’s congestion, I’m perturbed by what Mr. Kisia pulled out of his hat. The NCC is considering raising the packing fees in the city by 350% to Ksh.500.00. We have not even finished recovering from the move to increase the fee by 2 fold by the same council from Ksh.70.00, having received their blessing from the Minister of Local Govt, whose logic was that if one can afford to drive, then 140 bob is pocket change.

This is the typical kind of reason that worries me about our leaders. It is a typical case of eating the bull from the tail. Instead of dealing with the real problem of the traffic congestion which is insufficient infrastructure, we are busy punishing residents who have worked hard to purchase vehicles so as to improve efficiency and convenience that the public means seems to fall short of time and over again.

Many Nairobian vehicle owners are actually driving either because they work late or because their nature of business requires them to move around quite a bit, including to areas that are not pried by matatus, or that are a real hassle to reach in good time using public means. What our leaders need to realize is that for a majority of city car owners, they do not drive for luxury sake, but because they really need to, simply because the local government is not providing sufficient alternatives to their owing vehicles.

I understand that the town clerk wants to emulate other governments in countries like Japan that have made it exorbitant to own a car, or even to drive one into the city centres. What you seem not to realize is that these countries have provided awesome alternatives to these commuters (tram services) thus making it almost unnecessary to own a car. In countries like Holland, the local government have made it so much easier to ride bicycles in the cities, that cars are only used over the weekend for a large percentage of the population. Look again here at home, the only alternative is matatus. For the eastlands residents, you are welcomed into the CBD with a 15-25 minute walk from Muthurwa to your office. Total inconvenience. So, for someone from this area who has decided to acquire a vehicle to deal with this problem, well, the council has to punish you for using your hard earned money to acquire that second hand piece of machinery.

I think we need to get our priorities in order. Mr. Kisia, some of the plans you proposed to make Nairobi the place to be are mostly admirable. But punishing poor residents who are simply trying to eke out a living faster and efficiently (while at the same time producing more and therefore giving more to the country through more tax), simply because the government has not made travelling efficient for the majority of the city commuters is totally out of line. Do you realize this also affects drivers in places not necessary congested such as Nairobi West? You need to deal with the real problem. Get more roads out there. Remove the messy roundabouts. Increase the lanes. Have more packing slots/complexes in the city. Get the train systems working (thank God they were budgeted for). Then, and only then, can you increase the packing fee to 500 bob.

Otherwise, I will simply ask to take up your free packing space at City Hall, so that you can take up mine in the streets and pay for it. I believe that way, my sentiments will sink in a little bit.

Friday, May 29, 2009

United's bad hair day

I happen to be one of those fellows who during our puberty we idolized people like Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Ole Gunnar and a myriad of other football stars who had one thing in common. They played for the one ultimate club, Man Utd. I fell in love with United's way of playing football about 12 years, when again, as I already mentioned, I was a budding teenager.

More than a decade later, I still pledge my allegiance to the Devil team. The current United squad is admirable by any standard, with the likes of CR, Rooney, Vidic (Guardiola wants that guy!), Rio etc being outstanding and having stood up to be counted on occasions I can barely count. This particular season, United, though not at its best, has produced results that have left other clubs in the English Premier League looking like minnows. Their UEFA champion League performances have been something to decipher, with mouth water football having kept them lossless for 25 games, since 2007.

Did I mention Champions League. Yes, I did. United, relentless in this campaign and out to defend the title they won in 2008, they fought their way to the finals in the eternal city, including a footballing lesson to the London boohoo boys, Arsenal in the semis. Their final huddle was now to win in Rome, and enter the history books as the only team to retain the coveted trophy. Their only Kisiki, Barcelona, Spain's newly crowned champions.

I was looking forward to a scintillating final between the two sides. Was I in for a shock.

When Ferguson, United's ultimate and glorified gaffer fielded his team, I was a little disappointed. Barca has their regular full backs suspended, and had some wonnabes to replace them. Instead of Ferguson selecting a strong team to exploit these weaknesses, he put out CR as the only attacker, while Rooney and Park were the flankers in the midfield. In the middle was Giggs, Anderson and Carrick. I knew that was it, it was going to be a really tough game for United. Fergie had put emphasis in the middle of the field (actually, not quite), while Barca is known to run a midfield that will bidazzle any player to his knees.

All in all, it was a poor show for united, as they went on to lose 2-0 to the Barca men who really did dominate the midfield, with United not really knowing to do with the ball whenever they had it. I believe that's an invaluable lesson for the now second best team in the world. Exploit the weaknesses of the opponent, especially if you are well placed to do so.

Tactics were all wrong. Playing a game of counter attack, against the usual open game that United keep playing was a mistake. Because Barca played a defensive game, at least by their standards, and once the got their first goal in the 10th minute, they were held pretty and had their offensive arsenal run united rugged, while the midfielders and defenders were very alert and scuffled any united threat.

I'm a staunch supporter, but Fergie, yenyewe, you need to be a little more tactful against attacking teams next time. You'd rather just defend completely with 10 players behind the ball, than opt for some trial team not sure how to play.

And that, my friend, I call eating humble pie.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Future is Mobile banking?

Currently, there's a conference ongoing at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies on M-Banking. While it has not been completed, one thing is very clear. M-Banking is here, and is here to stay. Banks may claim that the figures currently being shifted about in mobile phones, using the now popular MPESA (from Safaricom), and the not-so-known ZAP (from Zain), are not big enough to cause an upset, but one thing is most imminent. Mobile Banking is taking over sooner than later. A large majority of Kenyans are not banked nor insured. The cost of banking is not low. The cost, on the other hand, of pushing and receiving money using MPESA is affordable, if not negligible. Therefore, to a large percentage of Kenyans, this is certainly the way of the future.

We are currently experiencing a lot of problems with banks, because most of them are not providing for internet banking. This means that even for the high class that they are priding themselves of holding onto steady, should MPESA provide a way of making transfers over the internet in order to perform E-Commerce, then this group of people will also shift base.

I think our banks must now take up the cue and start providing services to the average Kenyan in the mashinani. Otherwise they should all brace themselves for an interesting tussle with MPESA (even though Mr. Joseph, CEO, claims that they are not in the same competition bracket) as more and more people seek convinient banking.

The Kenyan Dream

After reading the famous 1963 speech on the one Martin Luther King Jr, I was left thinking seriously about our situation in Kenya. Martin mentions many things, but among them, the fact that even after America claims to be independent, there are still many injustices being done to the Negros. That Negros are poor and uneducated in a country that is nt devoid of wealth and education systems, especially for the whites.

We as Kenyans, 46 years after independence are as enslaved as never before. To some large extent, we are worse than in days yonder, before the Colonialists came over. We have not learned to live as brothers and sisters, we allow ourselves to fight our neighbors because he is not of my tribe; we allow some monastic and nonsensical politician to incite us against our own very friends. Why, because they are not like us, thus they are the cause of our problems. And stupidly enough, we follow.

I have a dream to see a Kenya where Luo and Kikuyu join hands to learn from each other, the Luo business sublime business skills from the Kikuyu, and the Kikuyu sheer genius in class like the Luo (I know, there's some stereotype there, but you get the point). The Kalenjin to embrace the Kamba, and Maasai to respect the Mijikenda, the Luhyia to take delight in the success of the Meru, and the Meru to rejoice when the Kisiiland blossoms in productivity. We need each other.

I have a dream that we shall use our diversity in culture as a strong point instead of using it to create crevices amongst ourselves. I have a dream that ideals will drive us to vote for our leaders, not the tribe he is from. I have a dream that we shall unite to shun evils like police harassment and bribe solicitation, political tribalism, brainwashing, poor payment, under-performing public laborers, exploitative employers, corrupt dealers, broken down administrative structures, ridiculously awkward policies. All with one voice, and only one voice can we defeat these. United we stand, divided, we must be ready to embrace many scores of misery. and not complain about it.

I have a dream that Kenya will be a grand land, because it is a land of grand people.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finally...the men women want.

The Bad Boy
He may not have a pot to p*ss in or a window to throw it out, but, if he’s a thug or some other type of bad boy, women will want him. BAD. They’ll wanna fight other women for him. They’ll wanna be his baby mama. They’ll wanna be the one that he settles for. Guess what? This dude’s not gonna settle! He loves the attention and he’ll play a woman as long as she lets him. And if you leave him? So what. There’s another woman waiting around the corner to take your place. Turns out he’s been seeing her on the side anyway.

The Brainiac
Women are turned on by a certain part of a man where the bigger, the better. I’m talking about his brain, of course! We love a man who can challenge our intellect and enlighten us on a few subjects, whether it be politics, mechanical engineering, or whatever subject matter we’re lacking knowledge in. It’s sexy when a man can hold a stimulating conversation and actually look us in the eye. It doesn’t hurt when he can answer a few questions while playing Trivial Pursuit, either.

The Charmer
Charisma is extremely important. Nobody wants to end up with someone who will bore them out of their skull. It’s important to us that our man is appreciated by our friends and loved ones. He should have the wit and charm to hold folks in awe for hours on end. We want to hear them say “What a great guy! I like him. When is he coming around again?”

The Knight in Shining Armor
Let’s face it, women don’t like wimps. We want a man to protect us from danger, defend our honor, and carry our heavy groceries (not necessarily in that order). We want a strong man in our corner. Not that we’ll test him, but we basically want him to be able to kick someone’s butt if it comes down to that.

The Perfect Man
Does he exist? Some seem to have found him. This is the guy who fits a good chunk of the checklist items of what we want in a man. Handsome? Check. Got a job? Check. Watches chick flicks without complaining? Check. He may have some little quirks that we think are cute, but overall he’s all that, and then some. Sometimes he’s right in front of us and we don’t even realize it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Google Search on SMS in Kenya

Google Kenya has recently launched an SMS based seratch facility for users especially in Kenya. The main idea is to send your search phase to GOOG (4664) and await the response. The catch is that the internet giant company is making use of its local partner (Mobile Planet)'s foothold on the SMS and mobile application business of the Kenyan (and East African) market for the service.

Of course, being the Google admirer that I am, I went ahead and tried the service. These were the results. First, an acknowledgement text that my request has been received and that the response will be quick in following. I had to wait for another 20 mins before the 'results' came back in. My take...? Pretty disappointing. The results were nowhere near what I was seeking. As a matter of fact it gave me some location in Russia as opposed to a software company I was hoping it would give me info about.

I agree that in sub saharan Africa SMS based applications have a big potential, but on this one, Googlers need to up the game, otherwise I believe we have better local service providers for data on SMS.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kenya does it again

Did you know that a Kenyan site, was acknowledged as being one of the top 50 sites in the world by Time Magazine for 2008?

The site features many African ideas and how Africans are proving themselves innovative and getting themselves out of difficult situations. Some of the ideas are simply breathtaking and could be helpful to most of us.

The main guy, Erik, has been featuring in the Kenyan IT field for a long time and has come alive in the few camps organized to being together techies in Nairobi, mostly Barcamp. The last year's I managed to meet and chat him up. A pleasant fella.

He got together with some other Kenyans and did this site. A hapless feather on top of our hats, yet again, especially after our Rugby Sevens team kicked New Zealand's ass yet again over the week.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kenyans: Could we actually be sick?

I'm an amazed fellow. Why is it that while we are known to be people who riot and cozz over trampled electoral rights (pretty low down in the pecking order) we are not rising to the occasion when it is most needed? We are living in a time when all we see on TV are scandals, scandals and more scandals that come in all the colors of the rainbow...especially Indigo.

Most importantly, these scandals are affecting us directly (we have established already that irrespective of who won the election, they are all birds of the same feather thus it'd have made no difference) name it, fuel, maize, drugs etc. Why is it that we are letting these people go scot free? Why are there no groups of people demonstrating on the streets are they did when it 'really did not matter'? Who told us that people in power cannot be brought down on their knees to respect the rule of law and the demands of the electorate while still in office and that we have to wait until election time to eject them (while sadly we still bring them back)?

Could it be that we are actually sick, that we have had our economic, moral and political nerves eaten up so much that when these guys bite the tenderest spots we do not have the nerve to respond? Could we be so weak that we cannot help but watch helpless as out beautiful beautiful country is being messed up by some senseless morons with total disregard to morality?

If indeed we are, then let's first admit it, get a proper diagnosis and then a cure to our society in order to attain the development and prosperity that we so badly need. But it has got to start with you and me, not the Americans, the Saudis or the Ugandans (I hear there's a massive oil discovery in Kabakaland).