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Cheers and Jeers for M-PESA

What a juggernaut this Safaricom has become that I find myself unable to get myself excited to blog about anything else but Safaricom. I'll keep this short though: First the cheers. Anyone with a new Safaricom sim card would have noticed two additional menus under the M-PESA section: 'Buy Goods' and 'ATM Withdrawal'. Very exciting stuff, I can already see myself buying groceries at Tusky's with my phone and withdrawing cash from my M-PESA account at the ATM (24 hour availability of cash, the last frontier for M-PESA withdrawals!) Now the Jeers There is a service known as 'Pay Bill' that has been on the M-PESA section for a long time but is grossly under-exploited. The Pay Bill service is the key to e-commerce in Kenya and can operate similar to PayPal, but Safaricom are being a real pain in the a** in opening this service to merchants. I applied for this back in April and was asked for nearly 10 documents (company certificate of incorporation, pin do

Safaricom Bank

As one of the new owners of Safaricom (granted that I get at least some 100 shares after the massively oversubscribed IPO) I take a keen interest in its (Safaricom's) financial future. I'll try not to repeat what has probably been written, blogged, sms'ed, posted etc. a thousand times over in other fora and instead give my own two sumunis on what I believe lies in wait for this behemoth. I'll warn you first that most of what I write here is speculative and should not form the basis of your investment decisions. In my last post I mentioned I would talk about how Safaricom is transforming itself into a financial company. It seems that now everyone else is sitting up and taking notice. For anyone who followed the release of S'coms spectacular financial results released a couple of days ago you would have noted how their trumpted their M-PESA product yet at the same time tried to assuage banks that they were not in competition with them. Give me a break! Now that I

Selling stuff online to Kenyans

You might not know this but my love of entrepreneurship is fuelled majorly by my love of computer programming. My first exposure to computers was in 1988 when I played shuffleboard on an Atari. Having been raised in the boondocks I was utterly spellbound with the concept of a video game. In 'shags' we hardly ever got toys from the shops; instead we would create our own toys using locally available material. For toy cars we twisted and shaped wire coat hangers and cut out rubber tires from old (and sometimes mom's new) bathroom slippers. For planes, we stuck a stalk of grass through a dried maize leaf and made our 'propellers' rotate by holding them out in front and running into the wind (incidentally this was my all-time favourite). For marbles we hunted for used and discarded bottle-tops (beer bottle-tops were coveted). In fact we had so many toys that our game time never felt inadequate. That was until I discovered video games. Hard as I thought I didn't see

A solution for hawkers in Nairobi

Congratulations to the new Nairobi mayor and deputy mayor whoever they are. Let's hope they make something of their office over the next two or so years. However unless there is a radical overhaul of the Local Government Act , the man(woman) with the power to change the face of Nairobi remains the Town Clerk, currently one John Gakuo. Today I have some unsolicited advice for Mr. Gakuo. I'm sure he is quite excited about the new Muthurwa market for hawkers recently setup by the Government at a cost of Sh. 1 billion plus ($14.3M). But I doubt that the market will achieve its primary goal, removing hawkers from the street. There are many reasons for this: Hawkers go where the market goes, and many buyers who give life to the street hawkers will not go to Muthurwa market Muthurwa market with its limited spaces is already grossly insufficient for the swelling numbers of hawkers The KSh. 100 daily entrance fee will appear prohibitively high for some hawkers vis-a-vis the expected f

Genius Heal Kenya Initiative

Yesterday was a proud day for me. Our business incubator Genius Executive Centre launched the Genius Heal Kenya Initiative. This initiative's main objective is to assist families displaced by the Kenyan crisis through prayer and material donation (foodstuffs, clothes, blankets, toys etc.). With over seventy entrepreneurs as members of the Centre we are confident that this initiative shall make a real and positive difference in the lives of fellow Kenyans. We have partnered with the Karen branch of the Red Cross to distribute the donations to the displaced families. Any contribution you can make towards this initiative is welcome.

Because I love Kenya...

Because I love Kenya, because I love Kenyans and all its peoples, because I love peace, because I believe in dialogue, democracy, fairness, and justice, I am setting up a new blog http://amanikenya.blogspot.com as a platform for practical and peaceful solutions to our situation. A blog to capture the goodness and neighbourliness of Kenyans even in these times of turmoil. A blog that champions the cause of only one party - the party of the Kenyan people. This is a blog about restoring peace, harmony and unity in Kenya during these times of unrest. While there are other important issues in Kenya arising from the December elections of 2007, peace remains the most important, most urgent, and most universal issue to all Kenyans. Let us reject tribalism, hatred, bigotry, intolerance, intransigence, and incitement. Let us embrace peace, dialogue, unity, prayer, compromise, and neighbourliness. I know I cannot make this initiative a success on my own and I appeal to all who share my cause

Is Compromise a Four Letter Word?

It saddens me that my absence from blogging has not been broken by innovation or entrepreneurship - those things that I love so much to write about. But today I am forced to I write about something I love even more, and that is my country Kenya. On December 26th 2007 I broke my vacation upcountry and drove two hundred kilometres in order to get to my polling station early the next morning to cast my vote. My enthusiasm to exercise my civic duty ensured that by 7:30 am on voting day I was done and was only to wait for the results. Confident that my subscription to SMS election updates would keep me adequately informed of the results and with my phone on roaming I accepted an invitation to spend one week abroad at a friend's house. My vacation has since turned into an unplanned exile from my country as I watch in disbelief as Kenya disintegrates at an alarming pace. I cannot stand by and watch as my beautiful Kenya is destroyed by the pride of two men. Kenya is bigger than both ac

Internet Charity and Miraa - Day Two

Continued from Day One I do not consider myself a 'frequent flyer' but I do put pile up more road/air time than most of my colleagues. However I still have not managed to get over the "where the heck am I?" feeling when I wake up the next morning in a strange bed. It was no different that Wednesday morning, and my sore jaws did little to help with my morning disorientation. After a full English breakfast, we headed out to Laare to rendezvous with Eric who was at the centre already. Dru took the wheel and I fished out my digicam hoping to get that Pulitzer winning shot but in the end settling for Meru mementos. It was good that I had struggled but familiarized myself with the road the previous night because I started suspecting that we were on the wrong route. I figured Dru must have missed a turning somewhere when I saw a sign for Meru National Park. A quick call to Eric confirmed my suspicions and we quickly turned back to join the right turning. (bless the mobile p

Bambanet Application a Headache

Unfortunately I have to take back my laud of the new Internet connection product from Safaricom. Two weeks after my application and I am yet to get my Bambanet connection. Safaricom have really let me down on this one after promising that it would take a maximum of 48 hours. Hopefully I will have it by Wednesday as they've promised, let's wait and see.

Graduation and Growing Up

Most students think that graduation day is their day; the fruitful culmination of several months or years of study. In reality graduation is for the parents and guardians whose hopes and dreams are carried by their children. Graduation is the proof that their emotional and financial investment in their children's education has not been in vain. It's no surprise that "parents" always outnumber the graduands by 5 to 1 at any graduation ceremony. Yesterday was a special day for me as I attended such a graduation. But I was not the one graduating, and nope, there is no Harry Jnr yet. Yesterday I was privileged to be the chief guest at Mwangaza College in Nakuru on the occasion of their 13th graduation ceremony. I was invited to the graduation by Br. Brendan Foley, the current administrator of the college and my former high school headmaster. As chief guest I had to give an inspiring speech to the graduands. I was invited six weeks in advance so I had enough time to prep

Safaricom throws down the gauntlet

What a wonderful new service from Safaricom. If you have been hesitating getting your rural internet cafe set up, then you have no more excuses. Safaricom has launched a flat-fee (up to a point) internet connection product that is very affordable. The service branded as Bambanet costs KShs. 1,999 (USD 30) per month and needs you to buy a USB modem for KShs. 5,999 (USD 90). For this you get to download 700 MB per month and for anything over that it will cost you K.Shs. 10 (USD 0.16) per MB. I can positively confirm that this offer is by far the best internet product in Kenya at the moment: 1. It's relatively very cheap. 2. It's easy and cheap to setup 3. It's available almost everywhere in Kenya. Way to go Safaricom, let's see if your competition down on Mombasa Road takes up the cue.

Internet, Charity, and Miraa - Day One

Back in July my good pal Eric Mibuari, an MIT alumni, invited me to help him set up internet access at a computer centre he founded in Laare, Meru . The idea was to use my internet in the village model which I had already deployed in two other places. I jumped at the idea, not only is Eric a fun guy, but I had never been to Meru and I needed a holiday from Forex trading. So together with another of my pals, Dru, we piled into a 4WD and headed off towards Meru. Now, I have never been to Meru so I didn't really know what to expect. I borrowed the 4WD from a friend suspecting I'd be in trouble without it but I was pleasantly surprised to find well paved roads most of the way. There was another reason I borrowed the 4WD, it was because it had enough storage room. The previous week Nakumatt (Kenya's leading retailer) had announced the opening of its Meru branch and I had my eye on a big-screen TV that was going to be on a special half price offer. I was sure of getting it a

Still here...

Thanks to all readers of this blog who keep coming back even though I haven't posted stuff for quite a while. I'm keeping this one short but check back soon for my adventures over the past three months.

Business Plan Competions

There are several business plan competitions in progress where one stands to win funding for their idea and training. I have links to some of them but if you have any others please feel welcome to post them. 1. Ministry of Youth Affairs Chora Bizna - http://www.believe-begin-become.com/Kenya/index.asp whose deadline is end of May 2007 2. IFCs BiD Challenge Kenya SME business plan competition - http://www.bidnetwork.org/

Acclaimed Author David Fick speaks with Benin Mwangi

I enjoyed reading Benin Mwangi's interview of David S. Fick, an American Entrepreneur who writes about the opportunities in Africa for entrepreneurship. The interview reveals David's insight into entrepreneurship in Africa: opportunities, success stories, and challenges. Here is an excerpt from the interview: What inspired you to become an author and begin writing about Africa’s entrepreneurs? My wife and I were guests of the people of Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia for two weeks in August 2000. We found ourselves impressed by the beauty of Africa and the hospitality of its people. The Ethiopia of 2000 reminded me of South Korea as it was in 1962 and 1963 when I had the pleasure of serving in Korea as a lieutenant with the U.S. Army’s Transportation Corps. Our suppliers were from the private sector in South Korea, and it was the local entrepreneurs who became the engines of growth for the future development of South Korea. Having graduated from the Wharton School at the Un

Career opportunities at Legal Publishing House

From http://www.kenyalaw.org/careers/ The National Council for Law Reporting (NCLR) is a corporate body established by the National Council for Law Reporting Act, 1994 and given the exclusive mandate of the "publication of the reports to be known as Kenya Law Reports which shall contain judgments, rulings and opinions of Superior Courts of record and also undertake such other publications as in the opinion of the Council are reasonably related to or connected with the preparation and publication of the Kenya Law Reports" (section 3) The NCLR is looking for a highly organised and self motivated professionals to fill the following positions: Law Reporter (1 Position) (Deadline : 22 June 2007) Assistant Law Reporter (2 Positions) (Deadline : 22 June 2007) Systems Administrator (1 Position) (Deadline : 22 June 2007) Web Developer (2 Positions) (Deadline : 22 June 2007) Proofreader (2 Positions) (Deadline : 22 June 2007) Publishing As

The Journey of an Afropreneur

Over the weekend I discovered quite by chance a wonderful blog by Quadimoso called Coding south of the sahara. Quadimoso is a Kenyan entrepreneur (refers to himself as an Afropreneur which must be a portmanteau of "African" and "Entrepreneur") who has transitioned from techie to contractor to entrepreneur. He has a wonderful series called Journey of an Afropreneur where he chronicles his dreams, challenges , failures and successes. It's great reading for anyone with an IT background interested in becoming an entrepreneur.

ICT pros, leaving in a Matrix

Ever watched the Matrix ? In the movie's reality: Neo, Morpheus, Trinity and the rest of the ship's crew are escaped "energy" slaves who don drab gray attire, have cropped hair, a row of tubular openings along their spines and have limited physical ability. When they enter the Matrix, a simulated reality, they become these superhuman, messiahs with a tendency for haute couture (leather, sung-glasses, hairstyles et al). It's attributed to something Morpheus refers to as a "digital projection of what one thinks of their self". Amazing how different what one perceives of himself is with the actual reality. Last week I participated in an ICT & Media workshop organised by Afroline Media Services. I shared the resource panel with among others: Les Baillie, CFO - Safaricom , Kevit Desai, Chairman - IEEE and Churchill Otieno, Editor - Nationmedia.com. I was there to speak about how rural internet could benefit the dissemination and collection of informati

Hello my name is Harry and I'm a clickaholic

My Dad is an engineer and he has always been an early adopter of technology. Back in 1995 when Shem Ochuodho's ARCC was the only ISP in Kenya we had a dial-up connection from our house in Njoro (a rural area 200km from Nairobi). We were just one of three people in the entire Nakuru district who had internet access and this meant that we used to get several "clients" from the nearby Egerton University who needed to send and receive emails abroad. My own time on the Internet though was limited; sadly every connection to the internet required a dial-up to ARCCs servers which were in Nairobi (a trunk call) which was relatively expensive. The few times I got to send or read an email though I do remember using a very "dos-like" interface where the mouse had no function. Fast forward to the year 2000. Several ISPs had come up leading to a mushrooming of cyber cafes. My dad had since stopped subscribing to the dial-up service but was in need of an affordable way to sen