Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Liverpool Scores

Few things in this world make my heart swell with pride. Call me a cynic but I can actually count them in one hand, they include and are limited to: Liverpool (a.k.a. the Underdogs) scoring, my mother's ugali and nyama stew and last but not least, our new improving roads. This weekend though, I added a new item to this short list, "A Voice for Change".

Its very rare to see a young Kenyan be recognised for promoting positive change especially in the business world in our country. We are recognised for the Jerk dance (is that even ours by the way), for demonstrating against the youth fund ("Kenyan youth demonstrate against unfair distribution of the youth fund") and of course tenacity to follow ("Kenyan youth are driven by western influence"). I'm not hating here but its true, not many have been recognised for being a voice for positive change. That is why the article in the saturday magazine "A voice for Change" was a tear jerker for me.

We have reached a point in our country where we need a few heroes. A few Supermen and Superwomen that are Kenyan. We need more young symbols of positive change where it matters in the country. Right now so many Kenyans are going astray because of lack of jobs, lack of income, lack of direction and, as much as we can blame our government until something changes, all that we will have is our right to blame. Jobs will remain scarce and crime rates high. So every symbol that is a voice for change by our Kenyan youth for our country should be applauded. This is why when I read the article on Annabell and her initiative to help small businesses grow, irrespective of assistance or no assistance, I was filled with pride. We need that ..Annabell, this is me clapping.

For more information on Annabell's company and the affordable services they provide for businesses like yours and mine, visit their site at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nobody knows the trouble I've been through...Nobody knows my sorrows

An entrepreneurs life is a dog's life ... literally. But that's not even the worst thing about it, the worst thing about it is entrepreneurs love it, they are addicted to it. They love the risks, they love the challenge, they love the total control, they love every damn thing about it and that my friend is the worst thing about it.

I met an entrepreneur the other day - the real thing, not those cowboys who try to pass as one. This entrepreneur was an innovator, a calculative risk taker, a salt of the earth downright talented business mover who knew he was good at what he did because he loved it. I have to admit it was a beautiful thing to see. It inspired me, motivated me, propelled me to try and reach greater heights.

You might ask, why so much philosophy over what i consider a dog's life...literally. Well the thing about entrepreneurship is that its not for everyone. But for those who it is for, for those who answer the driving need in their hearts when they hear the call, it is the best possible thing you will ever see. For those it is for, entrepreneurship is about living life their way, its about making an impact, its about fulfilling dreams, its about living it the way they always wanted to.

If you hear the call within you don't fight it, it's who you are and when you take that plunge there will be no turning back. Because you will be in for the roller-coaster ride of your life and love every moment of it.

If you want to take the plunge but like all responsible business people need more information register for AFRI Business Development Workshop on Starting and Running a Profitable business at the British Council.

For more information on it contact Annabell or Ivy at AFRI Business Development
T: (254) 20 2515001 M: (254) 726 057212

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The day I became a criminal

Just having arrived back in Nairobi from following up a business deal in a neighbouring country I was feeling pretty good about my business. It was 2004, I was a third-year student student and SoftLaw had just started taking off. We finally had more than just cobwebs in our bank account and were learning how to roll with the big boys.

I guess it was because of this positive vibe that while engaging in conversation with one of my classmates I happened to mention that I was now an "international businessman". My statement was met with a sneer, she looked at me from toe to head lingering on my well-worn leather shoes. "So why do you still have dusty shoes?" she quipped.

The statement, intended to knock me down my perch, was delivered with pin-point accuracy. I did my best to laugh it off, but deep down I knew she was right, I knew I had to get a car to prove myself. As absurd as it may seem to a non-Kenyan, a motor-vehicle regardless of its state, is the ultimate status symbol.

It took almost a year after that dusty shoes quip, but I eventually got my car. And I did so with about three months to spare before the end of my stay in campus. The car was painstakingly chosen and customised with tinted windows and the obligatory 1200 watt sound system to deter anyone from thinking I'd borrowed it from my dad. With my excitement at leaving the dusty shoes club I had no idea that I had just become a member of a much worse club, the criminal's club.

Now before you call the cops on me, allow me to explain. Although most drivers in Kenya would balk at being called a criminal, the reality is that they most likely are. A criminal is someone who has committed a crime and when it comes to traffic offences, I doubt there is a single Kenyan driver who is innocent.

How many times have you gone down a one-way lane, driven through a red light, crossed lanes in the roundabout, failed to carry a fire-extinguisher in your car, driven without insurance? These are the common ones, but some you might not know about: driving a car without a speedometer, or filling petrol while the engine is running, or driving with part of the body protruding from the car.

Here is one traffic rule which I'm sure everyone has broken:
No person shall drive any vehicle into a roundabout unless, at the time of entry of the vehicle into the roundabout, it is reasonable to suppose that the vehicle will not be forced to stop in the roundabout by reason of traffic already therein.
Are you curious to gauge how much of a criminal you are? Take a look at the Traffic Act here

The worst part is that when most of us get caught we go ahead and commit an even bigger offence. However because of the fear of self-incrimination, I'll leave out any personal anecdotes.

Today I'm working hard to turn away from a life of crime. I've gone full circle and my shoes are dusty once more. You should take time today to appreciate all Kenyans who have chosen the dusty shoes way.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Muta Do?

Working as a consultant for Strathmore University's faculty of information technology I was tasked with examining diploma students' programming projects. We had a pretty standard marking scheme; check whether the program can interact with a database - add, update, and delete records from the database; check if the program validates user input - does it allow you to enter text in a field which should only have numbers; etc.

For a student to pass, technically all they required to do was ensure they met these criteria. Despite this many students were marked down for petty errors which had little to do with the functionality of the program. Some of my fellow examiners took a perverse pleasure in 'crashing' the examinees software and reducing them into tears, even when these examinees were their students who they had been in charge of for over three months. "This is not working, that is not running, it doesn't function". They complained and complained, crashing software, terrifying the student, and as I now realise, releasing the pent up frustrations that being a Kenyan necessarily builds up.

Kenyans are said to love complaining, and perhaps this is what this blog post is going to do - complain. The problem of course is not that we complain, but that just like the examiners marking down their students, our complaining has no positive effect. It's negative and doesn't appreciate the role that we play in the things that we complain about.

I'm going to try today and appreciate the role that I play in those things that make me so angry about my country. Everyday together with millions of other Kenyans we do bad things confident in the fact that we shall suffer no consequences. It is because we have realized after all hakuna kitu muta do!
im·pu·ni·ty \im-ˈpyü-nə-tē\
exemption or freedom from punishment, harm, or loss
I'm approaching the traffic lights at the junction. The light has already turned red but two cars before me have made it through. If I step on the pedal harder, I'll also be able to make it to the intersection before the car with the right of way gets there. I miscalculate and she has to brake hard to avoid hitting the left side of my car. I make a face but avoid eye contact with the irate other driver and squeeze my car through the space, thinking uta do?

It's three o'clock, I'm sitting at the reception desk bored to death; my facebook page hasn't had any new updates for the past fifteen minutes. I take out my mobile phone and start to send text jokes I've copied from the net to my friends. Two visitors walk into the office and approach my desk. I don't look up from my phone as I laugh from one response. Five minutes pass by and the visitors impatiently tap the desk to get my attention. I raise my palm to motion that they should wait, I need to reply to this really funny text, I'm ROFLMAO. 15 minutes gone, and one of the visitors walks out while the other sighs in exasperation. "Arghh, si they relax" I'm thinking, anyway muta do?

I pull up into the driveway of my Westland's apartment, I park the Prado behind my C-Class Mercedes taking a moment to admire its German curves. Whistling, I step down from the SUV Toyota and walk to the house, briefcase in hand, happy that it's Friday. Moses, the day watchman, runs after me "Boss, watu wa stima..." "Whaaat!" I don't let him finish the sentence shouting "I hope hawajakata!" "Boss..." he continues "ile bill nilikupa last week ilionesha kuna deni ya miezi saba, walisema kuna pressure huko ofisi, walikataa kuchukua kitu kidogo kama last time". Without hesitation I tell him to fix a wire where the fuse has been removed, after all they don't expect me to spend the weekend in darkness, wata do?

Alex steps in my office for the fourth time this afternoon, "can I see you sir". "Not now Alex", I stop him without looking up from the magazine I'm going through, "I told you I'm busy". "Sorry sir" he apologizes "but you promise you'll see me today" "Yes, yes, yes" I dismiss him with a wave of my hand. I really need to find some nice gold earrings to buy for Irene from this jewelry magazine. It's our second date and I want to impress her. I hope Alex is still not planning to bug me about his salary, he knows very well the business is not doing well, and if he's survived for three months, a few more days shouldn't hurt him ata do?

I'm awake by 10:00 am but I feel like breakfast in bed today. I press the intercom and Jane, the head housekeeper is instantly on the other line "Mtukufu, habari ya asubuhi" she's saying "Mzuri, mzuri Jane, leta chai kama kawaida". In less time than it takes for me to reach over and start reading the Dailies placed on the cabinet next to my bed, five caterers wheel in my breakfast. Together with a steaming pot of tea, there are two slices of buttered toast, freshly baked sweet potatoes with Parmesan cheese, two bananas imported from Florida, finely sliced mutura and a flask of goat head soup. One of the Dailies is talking about how some advisory board is going to tell me who I need to pick. Upumbafu! No one is going to tell me how to do my job. I reach over to the intercom again and shout some instructions. It takes some time because of the half chewed sweet-potato and mutura in my mouth but the message goes through. The reaction is swift after the media learn my decision. Watching the tumundus on TV trying to analyse how 'wrong' my decision is I laugh into the TV, muta do?