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Friday, December 21, 2007

The example Kenya can set for South Africa and the rest of the continent

IN AFRICA, a hard-fought but fair election in a pivotal country is an example-setting event. No, this is not South Africa, where the election of Jacob Zuma as president of the ruling African National Congress on December 18th dealt a shattering blow to his rival, Thabo Mbeki. Although this puts Mr Zuma in a strong position to lead South Africa when Mr Mbeki's second term as president ends in April 2009, his succession is far from certain (see article). In Kenya on December 27th, however, power may very well change hands after the tightest electoral contest in the country's history.
Kenya may not be as sexy as South Africa, but as a haven of stability and prosperity in eastern Africa the quality of its democracy matters. Its northern and western neighbours—Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Somalia—suffer in various degrees from war, tribal conflict, government repression, separatism and all that follows. From the countries of the war-ravaged Great Lakes region, such as Congo and Rwanda, Nairobi appears an oasis of calm. But this success is relative. Kenya itself has long been beset by bad governance, corruption and tribalism. Despite receiving billions of dollars of aid, most of its 35m people remain poor. True, few countries have had to contend with the ethnic complexity of Kenya, which has more than 40 recognised tribes. Nor does erratic weather help a largely rural economy. But the main culprit is a system of politics in which a ruling class has hogged most of the cake for itself.
That is why the unusual sharpness of this election campaign is so encouraging (see article). Mwai Kibaki, the 76-year-old president seeking a second term, has presided over economic growth of about 6% this year. Having tolerated greater political and press freedom than his kleptocratic predecessor, Daniel arap Moi, he promises to extend free schooling and fix a decrepit infrastructure. But he has failed to attack corruption in high places with any vigour; indeed, he has let some of the worst crooks stay in government.
His leading opponent, Raila Odinga, who is 14 years younger, is a more energetic figure who now disavows his past socialism and East German education while still appealing to the poor and to some of the marginal tribes, particularly his own Luo in the west and the country's Muslims in the east. Mr Kibaki, by contrast, has long been at the heart of the Kenyan business establishment which his own Kikuyu tribe, the country's largest and richest, dominates. Although polls give Mr Odinga the edge, the president's media machine may help him catch up by the vote on December 27th. Both candidates have flaws: Mr Kibaki's departure is overdue, but the more energetic Mr Odinga's campaign carries a divisive flavour.

Whoever wins, what matters next is that the result should be accepted by the loser and Kenyans should be seen to endorse the principle of peaceful competition. Most of Africa has left behind the era of the one-party state, but its people have yet to be fully persuaded that multi-party politics need not be chaotic. South Africa's ruling party seems unhappy to have submitted itself to an internal contest that has humiliated President Mbeki, who himself seems loth to badger neighbouring Zimbabwe's dictatorial Robert Mugabe into holding fair elections. But if a country as complex and poor as Kenya can hold genuine elections without civil strife, then any country in Africa can. This is its chance to set an example.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Lack of Credibility in the 2007 East Africa’s Most Respected Company Awards.

Over 350 business executives took part in a survey to award one of their own as East Africa’s most respected company. Under the theme “Strength in numbers” organizers of the annual event analyzed collective opinions of chief executives (CEOs) on topical issues influencing the business environment under which they operate. Companies attracting the strongest respect have been those that continue to perform well financially, while maintaining a steady growth and increase in market share attributed to strong executive leadership.

This year’s survey sought views from CEO’s on whether the proposed East African integration was right for the region as well as the role the private sector needed to play in achieving regional success. The nature of response indicates that the CEOs view regional integration as a key pillar in attaining greater development. Working together within a system, overcoming political differences and consolidating advantages a wider market presents would make the region more competitive at the global marketplace.

Winners were unveiled at the Kilimanjaro Kempinski Hotel in Dar es salaam, Tanzania, on November 24 where Kenya’s leading Mobile Phone Service provider Safaricom was voted East Africa’s most respected company and Kenya’s top company in the country’s category. The win comes in the wake of a seamless network the company jointly developed with MTN Uganda, Vodacom Tanzania and Vodacom Rwanda that enables regional roaming at local rates. In 2006 Safaricom registered a pretax profit of $200 million, the highest ever in Sub-Saharan Africa to date. Two other winners in the country’s category included Tanzania Breweries and MTN Uganda (in Tanzania and Uganda respectively).

Last year’s overall winner Kenya Airways scooped the services sector award with Nakumatt Supermarkets and Aga Khan Hospitals coming in second and third respectively. East African Breweries won the manufacturers title, Barclays bank Tanzania (financial services), Serena Group (Hotels and Tourism), Homegrown (Agriculture category). In the telecoms and ICT category, Celtel Tanzania emerged winners.

While it is worth noting that most companies that scooped various awards play significant roles in regional business, one is left to wonder whether the adage “customer is king” would have yielded the same result. An example of an erroneously awarded company is Kenya Airways, which has of late been in the press for all the wrong reasons. Over the past 6 months passenger complaints have been doing rounds in the media attributed to poor service by the company. Even with new ‘state-of-the-art’ planes, issues have been raised concerning dirty and clogged washrooms, absence of in-flight entertainment (even in long haul flights), unexplained flight cancellations and delays, lost and/or damaged luggage without any recourse from the company. The most common complaint across the board was overbooking which meant that some passengers had to forego their travel because their seats had been “overbooked”.

Asking CEO’s to award one of their own is a good thing but we should put in mind that it is the common consumer who is in a better position to give a more accurate account regarding services from the so called top companies. Since CEO’s are considered wealthy and respectable, they most likely receive special form of treatment when it comes to service delivery from companies such as Kenya Airways. Naturally they will vote for it, but what about the passenger who is forced to make do with sub-standard services?

One of the workers at the company reckons that the win came as a shock. Company staff did not expect Kenya Airways to be mentioned among the list of winners let alone be nominated for the award. He however attributed recent complaints that have dodged the airline to lack of enough planes to service its current and other emerging routes. To put this into perspective, the plane that recently crashed in Cameroon is yet to be replaced but the airline still maintains the Doula- Nairobi route. Limitation in the number of planes has resulted in chains of delay making Kenya Airways to operate like a matatu (shared public taxis found in Nairobi), by running round the clock without any significant service or proper customer care regardless of the consequences.

Future organizers of such awards should aim at achieving credibility by combining views from both the corporate world and the common consumer.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Is Africa Chocking on its own development?

Majority of African countries have reported increased economic growth rates over the past year signalling a wave of new foreign direct investments on the continent. This is good news given that increased returns from such investments will fuel Africa’s quest for development. However, this has had some negative connotations because benefits of such growth are not visible in major cities across Africa. A case in point is the Kenyan capital city, Nairobi, which has seen its population increase by 6% per annum to 3 million and is projected to hit 4 million within the next 3 years, according to a recent UN Habitat conference held in Monterrey, Mexico in 2007. Being a regional headquarter to several international companies and organizations, Nairobi is one of the most influential cities in Africa. In 2007 alone, major international companies like Google Inc. and Coca-Cola relocated their Africa headquarters to Nairobi, which also plays host to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and UN-Habitat.

Development trends of major African cities have been fuelled mostly by centralisation of important ingredients that spur economic growth. Most resources are revolving around capital cities, which report tremendous growth each financial year at the expense of the rest of the economy. Economic growth is not uniform since such centralisation has had the effect of reversing progress made in terms of economic growth given that everyone is running to the city for opportunities at the cost of the city’s infrastructure, which can hardly support the increased activity. This has turned Nairobi city into a pocket to mouth economy because any monetary gains made in the past are being used to repair damage caused by increased strain of the same resources.

A recent World Bank report estimates that over 5,000 vehicles are registered to Kenyan roads every month, against a back drop of an already over used, narrow and dilapidated road network. Another problem this trend presents is the importation of second hand vehicles which are deregistered from their home countries due to high fuel consumption, old age and high carbon emission into the atmosphere. The result has been increased wastage of time due to preventable traffic jams, environmental damage and an advent of respiratory diseases. With very low earning power, a majority of the city residents cannot afford treatment. Resources that could have been used to develop other regions to create uniform economic growth for the country are being diverted to revert problems of preventable respiratory diseases, damaged roads, increased crime, drug and alcohol abuse among other preventable issues.

Given the above recount, one way of ensuring that growth rates reported reflect the situation on the ground is to decentralise management of the economy in such a way as to create more economic opportunities at the grassroots level thus minimising rural to urban migration. Moving or replicating key economic growth boosters such as roads, information and telecommunication technology (ICT) and government administration from the capital city will present better prospects for growth. Unfortunately, devolution of resources and government is an emotive political issue especially in Africa where there are unfounded fears that different cultural affiliations may create chaos, anarchy or even war; as is the case in Kenya, which is preparing for elections in December 2007 where presidential aspirants are using devolution as a basis for the next government. Devolving government administration and economic centres to areas that desperately need growth would serve to develop these areas thus improve the overall picture of success.

A classic example of a successful devolved approach to resource planning at local level is Norway, which reported the highest quality of life worldwide according to the 2006 Human Development Index (HDI), published annually by the UN, and ranks nations based on their citizens' quality of life rather than traditional economic figures. Norway has managed to successfully devolve its resources and legislation enabling it to report an all-inclusive economic growth year after year. If this has succeeded in the developed world, Africa should not be an exception.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tanzania on a mission to wipe out Kenya’s flamingoes

By Ken Opala Daily Nation

Kenya’s multi-billion shillings tourism industry faces major test as Tanzanian authorities plan a soda ash project that could eliminate the flamingos in the region.

The plans have sent world conservationists into a spin.

A number of them attending a key international environment meeting here in the Norwegian coastal city of Trondheim are busy lobbying global action against the project that seeks to mine soda (used in the making of glass) from Lake Natron, considered the cradle of a type of flamingo that is endangered.

This writer was able to see a number of petitions signed by conservationist seeking to block the project on grounds that, if implemented, it will kill “the world’s greatest ornithological spectacle”, even as it damages livelihoods that are intricately linked to the Rift Valley tourism industry.

Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, the head of Birdlife Africa Partnership Secretariat, says his organisation has listed the services of two lawyers (a Kenyan and Tanzanian) to look at the possibility of moving to the East African Court of Justice sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, to block the envisaged project.

“We are meeting this Friday to look at that possibility,” he told this writer by the sides of the UN/Norway Government Trondheim Conference.

“We have already contacted our lawyers in both the countries.”

Dr Thompson was one of the speakers at the conference.

Others from Kenya included Unep’s Bakary Kante, Walter Jami Lusigi (a senior adviser to the World Bank in Washington), and Lucy Mulenkei (a minority rights activist)

In one of the petitions, the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST) and the Birdlife Africa Partnership, say Lake Natron Resources Ltd, a company jointly owned by the Tanzania Government and TATA Chemicals Ltd. of Mumbai, India is proposing the development of a soda-ash facility at Lake Natron.

According to the conservationists, this development could “bring about changes in the lake’s chemical composition, affecting the cyanobacteria on which the flamingos feed”.

BirdLife Africa argues that all the three million Lesser Flamingos in the region, from Djibouti down through Tanzania to Malawi, were hatched at Lake Natron

“New roads and railways, and an influx of settlers into an otherwise pristine area (with a low population of Maasai pastoralists), will cause substantial disturbance. Following the people will be scavenging birds such as Marabou Storks, associated with mass desertion of flamingo nests elsewhere.”

The salty Lake Natron is close to the Kenyan border and is very shallow, just three metres deep, although this depth varies from one end to the other.

Its bed is covered by the salt crust that runs through Kenya’s Lake Magadi, in the north.

Magadi is the world’s largest soda ash mine, and is just kilometres from Lake Natron.

“It is likely that the proposed plant would lead to a collapse of the lesser flamingo population in East Africa,” says Dr Thompson.

The Nation has gathered that the Tanzanian National Environment Management Council (NEMC) planned to meet to discuss the project’s likely harm to both the environment and the livelihoods of the local people.

A UN official attending the Trondheim conference confirmed he planned to visit the area of conflict soon.

Flamingos are a major tourism attraction in Kenya. Thousands of tourists visit the Rift Valley lakes of Naivasha, Nakuru and Bogoria to view the pink spectacle of these migratory birds.

Lake Nakuru alone generates some $15 million (about Sh1.05 billion) annually.

Yet the birds have faced constant threat from pollution, but the latest threat could be one of their biggest dangers of all, say conservationists.

The flamingos are attracted to the lake because it offers a reliable food supply and freshwater, even as it acts as a protection against most predators, conservationists argue.

According to documents by BirdLife Africa, the lesser flamingo stands between four and five feet high but is the smallest of the six flamingo species.

It has long pink legs and a long neck. Its large body is rose-pink, the colour coming from pigments in its main food. The birds eat by holding their bills upside down in the water.

They are found throughout Africa south of the Sahara, and from the Arabian Peninsula to Pakistan. They occasionally migrate to areas bordering the Mediterranean.

According to estimates, there are about 3.25 m lesser flamingos in the world of which around three-quarters, about 2.5 million, are found in East Africa.

“Lesser Flamingos are extremely sensitive to environmental disturbance, particularly when breeding. They easily abandon colonies,” says Dr Thompson.

Flamingos live until they are about 40 years old but only breed every five or six years. Non-breeding birds do not return to breeding sites until they are ready to breed again.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Thoughtless James Watson was Seeking cheap publicity over Stupid Africa comment

Partly edited from“The African Executive”

As thoughtless as it sounds, James Watson knew only too well that being controversial would get all the media publicty ever thought of (cheaply); the Nobel prize not withstanding. Watson found a perfect opportunity to retire by claiming that black people less intelligent than white people and that it's delusional to assume "equal powers of reason" are shared across racial groups. The Nobel Prize laureate and DNA expert has drawn widespread condemnation for saying that Western policies towards African countries are wrongly based on an assumption that black people are as clever as their white counterparts when "testing" suggests the contrary. Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that there is a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

Although Africans have contributed to this perception by begging for foreign aid from Western countries despite the continent's unequalled natural resource endowment, powerful African physic, abundant numbers and enviable climate, Dr Watson's assertion is meant to perpetuate the idea of western superiority. This is the same mindset that saw Africans enslaved in a barbaric manner (because ancient tradition of slavery recognized people as human, but whites turned Africans into wild-animals), colonized and gave rise to the apartheid regime in South Africa. It is the same reason that has made the West to perpetuate a matron role of babysitting Africa from cradle to grave.

IQ, in Watson's perception refers to understanding Western education and being able to embrace Western policies and culture- but who said that Western civilization is the yardstick for human progress? Watson has intentionally set a trap for Africans to not only make fools of themselves as they try to prove their worth, but also to waste their time. Today, they tell us to prove ourselves intelligent by passing western fashioned IQ and Technology invention tests. They harp on negative reporting as evidenced in their propped up portrayal of Africa as a place with children whose ribs are protruding; stomachs bloated and fly infested. Does the entire Africa, with over 900 million people fit this gloomy description?

The Irish were once thought of in the same terms black people are today. The Romans also thought the Germans were inferior barbarians. They have proved the contrary. Don't the Chinese also see themselves as the master race? Black people must ask themselves why they should believe this nonsense. They ought to chart how they can claim their stake on the globe just like the Southeast Asians did. No amount of whining will change global perceptions as long as our people go on to live in squalor and depend on Western handouts and ideas. A victim mentality precludes accountability and responsibility and sustains dependency. The onus is on us! The Irish, the Asians and the Arabs took charge of their destiny and waited for no acknowledgements. We have our job cut out for us.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Will Money Solve Africa's Development Problems?

The debate about Africa's development is ON and experts are pointing to all sorts of direction regarding the way forward for the continent. In this context, world renowned John Templeton Foundation published 8 essays in a series of conversations that sought to answer the question: Will Money Solve Africa’s Development Problems? The publication featured leading scientists and scholars in which Four essayists negate; two affirm while the rest express doubt.

Below are excerpts on from the publication:

YES..... If it is invested in enhancing African capabilities to integrate the continent into global networks of knowledge and creating prosperity and stability. This will mean confronting and overcoming a triple failure: corruption and abuse of power by African governments, predatory practices by extractive industries, and the waste of resources by an uncoordinated and ineffective aid system." “Ashraf Ghani, Chairman Institute for State Effectiveness.”.

NO..... Not as long as there are issues such as prolonged violent conflict, bad governance, excessive external interference, and lack of an autonomous policy space. Alone, money cannot solve Africa’s development problems. Proof, if any was needed, is the fact that many of Africa’s natural resource-rich countries score very low on human development indicators "Dr. Donald Kaberuka, President- African Development Bank.”

Only If..... African entrepreneurs are the key to solving Africa’s development problems. It is they who can drive their continent’s economic growth and it is they who can make their governments better. If money is invested engaging the organic and transformative potential of local entrepreneurs, Africa will flourish. If money is poured into government bureaucracies – which hold back these entrepreneurs – Africa will continue to languish. “ Iqbal Z. Quadir founder GrameenPhone - Bangladesh”

No Way..... The problem in Africa has never been lack of money, but rather the inability to exploit the African mind. Picture a banana farmer in a rural African village with a leaking roof that would cost $100 to fix. If one purchased $100 worth of his bananas, the farmer would have the power and choice to determine whether the leaking roof is his top spending priority. On the other hand, if he is given $100 as a grant or loan to fix the roof, his choice would be limited to what the owner of the big money views as a priority. Out of 960 million Africans in 53 states, there are innovators and entrepreneurs who, if rewarded by the market, will address the challenges facing the continent. “ James Shikwati, founder and Director, Inter Region Economic Network”

No..... By now we should have learned. Donor nations have spent billions of dollars for development schemes in post-colonial Africa, yet there is little to show for this beyond dependency and corruption. Yet current policy and sentiment seem to advocate more of the same. Pop music and movie stars join celebrity academics in trying to shame wealthy nations into committing ever-expanding funds to address African poverty and ill health. This grand scheme mentality has remained immune from the feedback that failed programs ought to have provided. As for the intended beneficiaries, we find a psychological colonialism that has brainwashed the poor into believing the solutions to their problems are to be found in the technical know-how and largesse of wealthy countries. “ Edward Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard’s Center for Population and Development Studies.”

NO..... Clearly, money alone does not solve problems. What is needed instead are business, social, and political entrepreneurs who take responsibility for, say, making sure medicines reach victims, rather than more grandiose slogans about comprehensive administrative solutions that only serve as publicity vehicles for raising yet more money for ineffectual aid bureaucracies. Entrepreneurs would be accountable for results, in contrast to the aid bureaucrats and rich country politicians who make promises that nobody holds them accountable for keeping. “ William Easterly is professor of economics at New York University.”

YES..... But there is another way of solving this problem and it is being illuminated by, of all people, some of the poorest parents on earth. These parents are abandoning public schools en masse to send their children to budget private schools that charge low fees of a few dollars per month, affordable even to families living on poverty-line wages. In the shantytowns of Lagos, Nigeria, for instance, or the poor rural areas surrounding Accra, Ghana, or in Africa's largest slum, Kibera, Kenya, the majority of schoolchildren – up to 75% – are enrolled in private schools. “ Professor James Tooley is president, The Education Fund, Orient Global.”

I Thought So…..The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, called me to his office to assist him to build private sector capacity and improve export competitiveness. I informed him that it would not be possible for the amount of money and time he budgeted to do my job and train Rwandans at the same time. He told me the story of when he had finally accumulated enough money to provide back pay for his troops who were fighting to end the genocide. He asked them if he could use the money, instead, to purchase helicopters to help end the war sooner. Not a single soldier objected.“Michael Fairbanks is the co-founder of OTF Group, and the SEVEN FUND, which provides grants for enterprise solutions to poverty.”

Read the rest of the Essays by visiting John Templeton Foundation Website.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Is the Kenyan Finance Minister in the middle of a Dirty Economic Game????

The Kenyan finance minister is showing great signs of underhand economic mischief specifically because of an impending major IPO (Initial Public Offer) of Safaricom, a mobile phone service. Apparently, he is so determined to get into the books of history as the man who pulled off a deal worth over 34 Billion Kenya Shillings. With the country's elections just weeks away you may be forgiven for assuming that this is just a ploy to get money to fund the elections given that the incumbent is faring not so well in recent opinion polls that put him at 37% against his major challenger who gannered 53%. May be best way would be for the government to wait until after the elections before proceeding with the IPO. Forcing such issues at a time like this when the country is preparing for elections is taking Africa back to the old days when leaders did not respect the rule of law. They ruled with impunity stashing billions of taxpayers money in foreign accounts without regard of the people they lead. Mr Minister do not shame your country by playing dirty tricks with investments you hold in trust for the people. Kenya has shown great growth in the past 5 years so let it not be in vain.

Below is an article carried in The Business Daily voicing the same concern.

"The controversy surrounding the pending and much awaited Safaricom initial public offering goes to show the immediate need of the government to get out of private business. Although the government legally owns Safaricom, through Telkom Kenya, and has the right to sell the shares to the public, one must wonder about the timing.

On the one hand, the government argues that it needs the Sh34billion generated through the sale of the IPO to finance government initiatives, while on the other hand the Opposition, specifically ODM, fears that the government wants to use the proceeds to fund its political campaign.

This explains why certain ODM officials have taken legal action to prevent the IPO from seeing the light of day under the Kibaki government. History has proven that government is an inept and inefficient entrepreneur. It is better for private forces, driven purely by profit motivation, to undertake economic enterprises. Based on this point, it makes sense for the government to privatise Safaricom. But as we all know, Kenya is a country marked by shady deals, malfeasance, and gross government corruption, thus, the public must question the government’s eagerness to privatise as soon as possible.

We must question why Finance minister Amos Kimunya does not want the biggest IPO deal to be subjected to the Privatization Act passed in 2005. Although the government can easily quote the law and resort to claims of public interest, Kenyans must not be hoodwinked into believing that the deal is without dubious government interest.

Considering that the IPO process is complicated, translucent and not open to public scrutiny, it is possible to manipulate the underwriting process in favour of the government and politicians determined to win the coming election. It is not heretical to wonder why the biggest IPO in Kenyan history coincides with the General Election. I can understand the bragging rights that the current government stands to gain if it succeeds in executing one of the biggest IPOs in Africa. I also appreciate the global significance and the positive economic impact that this IPO will create for Kenya.

However, we are better off waiting until the General Election is over.

More importantly, we must make sure that the IPO is subject to law that informs business practices in the land — in this case the Privatization Act — in order to eliminate unethical scheming that might cast the financial market in bad light. Some at Treasury department contend that if the IPO is not implemented as soon as possible the country risks inflation."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

5th Carnival of African Enterprising [part 2]

In the last part of The Carnival of African Enterprising we present more views from bloggers about Africa in the 21st Century.

Speaking on “AfricanPath”, Jeffery Kimathi marketing manager of “an African fashion” company based in New York-USA, advices Africans to follow his business model that allows customers to subtly and stylishly speak messages that showcase the vibrancy and diversity of the African continent. Kimathi believes that Africa has the capacity to solve its own problems because no one understands the continent better than Africa itself. It’s all about passion and hard work; there is no elevator to success and Africa has to take the stairway just like everyone else. He advises Africans to strive to earn respect for their resourcefulness, ideas, and creativity. According to him Africa should endeavor to contribute to the modern world culture. “This is why Italian handcrafted garments go for thousands of dollars each and yet similar quality handcrafted African goods usually go for much less,” he says

“Joshua Wanyama” believes that any business is only as valid as its value in the eyes of a consumer. This also holds true for African businesses. He advises Africa to aim at creating a prominent global brand by strategically building a position within the mind of the consumer (world) and steadily defending that position. If a company offers Internet connectivity in Cairo, Egypt it can do the same in Bujumbura, Burundi as long as a market exists. For it to develop a strong position within the marketplace, it has to develop a strong brand. The name this company occupies in the Egyptian marketplace has to be the same as the one occupied in a Burundian’s mind or a Togolese for that matter. Branding then presents a strong foundation on which Africa can build its market share in a vibrant global economy. “Wanyama” believes that a Pan-African company will also need to have a home country, for example, Coca Cola (an American soft drink company) is a global brand with 80% of its annual sales coming from foreign markets, it will be ill advised to disown its American heritage.

According to “Benin Mwangi” Africans should re-orient their thinking, step out of the past and see markets as what they are - big and underserved. Benin proposes a public-private approach as one way to take Africa into the 21st Century. If an African government intends to invest in wiring classrooms and has both the scale and technical savvy to pull it off, that’s great. However, if the private sector has the muscle to do it much better, then the government should support the sector by allowing such investments but still play its role as a facilitator.

“David” advises African businesses to adopt better business strategies so as to attract more investors. He reckons that Africa should carefully strengthen all aspects of business that investors look for to ensure that the opportunities Africa present achieve results. For a successful business, he advises Africans to put more strength in what investors look for when evaluating opportunities which include; the people who manage the company, concept value, price of the deal, deal structure and the exit strategy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Carnival of African Enterprising [Part 1]

This is the first part of the 5th Carnival of African Enterprising presenting views of bloggers based on the theme Positioning Africa in the 21st Century. This edition was first published in The African Executive on 10th October 2007. The second part will be presented on the 17th of October 2007.

According to Timothy Kioko, Positioning is the aggregate perception that people (target market) have of a particular continent (product) in relation to competitors in the same category. A country like India is positioned as a business outsourcing hub; China on the other hand, is growing super fast as a major force in the international trade arena and is in the process of positioning itself as a major trading partner in Africa. Saying that Africa is already positioned as the highest recipient of foreign aid, he advises the continent to re-position itself as a business hub by embracing democracy, efficiency, respect of property rights and encourage innovation. Africa should not sleep as the other regions take over the world!

Kenyanomics holds that adopting sound economic policies that encourage economic freedom will lead to economic prosperity. He adds that obsession with poverty eradication is a major threat to economic freedom in developing nations as it increases central planning and crowds out individual effort. Kimani argues that the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) only serve to widen avenues of corruption and increased budget imbalances, both of which have crippled Third World economies for decades.

Randy Nichols believes that developing a market based education system that encourages careers in business will boost the continent in its bid to position itself as a source of international labor. Experiential knowledge gained from such labor exports will form an integral part in Africa’s development. He advises Africa to embrace any opportunity to get training in fields that will see its marketability soar to greater heights.

According to Gustav S going to university does not mean that one is highly educated. Many Africans believe that the only way to achieve goals in life is to go to school, learn a profession and then get employment. Becoming a professional, going to the University or taking required steps to land your desired job are important but it is just the beginning of one’s way to success. He urges Africans to develop Discipline, Self Control, Consistency, Perseverance and Faith in order to move forward as a continent.

Finally, G. Kofi Annan says that the continent needs to develop its own film and broadcasting industries with focus on local content. By producing local themed movies in the “right way” we can better present African in the international media. In his opinion, one of the ways that will change the process of making African films for Western audiences is to tie the African film industry to the strong African-American film community. While the film industry at large struggles to make a return on the production costs, with blockbusters not making the numbers they used to, the African-American film community has a great opportunity to align with the African film community and continue to grow professionally and financially. But creativity and authenticity is the real key.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The passing of an African Statesman - Dr. Charles S. Brown [Aug 5, 1947-Sep 29, 2007]

I dedicate this post to my brother and friend, Benin Mwangi whose father Dr. Charles S. Brown passed away on 29th September 2007. Benin may the lord see you safely through this moment of grief. You have inspired many. It's now evident where all your passion and love for Africa came from. God bless.

Adopted from Benin

Born on August 5th 1947, Dr. Charles S. Brown grew up at a pivotal time for Black America. As a young student at Morehouse College he was able to witness and be a part of America’s civil rights movement. After reading books written by Dr. W.E.B. Dubois and Kwame Nkrumah Dr. Brown began to become exposed to a wider perspective. Afterwards, he gradually gained an appreciation for African history. Over time this appreciation would continue to grow and less than ten years after obtaining his PhD in physics he began to research ancient African civilizations. His study was so intense that over a three year time span, he became an authority on the subject.

For Dr. Brown, learning about ancient African civilizations meant more than just being able to quote a few abstract facts, he believed that if he could help African American youth become aware of their true heritage it would be easier for them to dream big. Integrating scientific finds on these ancient civilizations into mathematics or physics curricula for his university classes would later become one of Dr. Brown’s most recognizable hallmarks.

But the event that would later shape his outlook on modern Africa continent took place when he attended the First Edward Bouchet International Conference on Physics and Technology on June 11, 1988 in Trieste, Italy. The Edward Bouchet Institute is today called the Edward Bouchet Abdus Salaam Institute. One of its aims is to foster scientific and technical collaborations between African and American scientists and engineers. Prof Charles S .Brown’s first trip to the African continent occurred in 1990 when he attended the second Edward Bouchet Institute Conference in Ghana. It is through the Edward Bouchet Institute that Professor Brown met the internationally renowned Professor Francis K. Allotey. In the fall of 1991, Prof. F. K. A. Allotey of Ghana visited with Prof. Charles S. Brown, who at that time was the Chairman of the Physics Department at Clark Atlanta University (CAU). The collaboration between Prof. Allotey, Prof. A. E. Bak, and Prof. C. S. Brown resulted in two published papers.

Prof. Allotey, four years later arranged the visit of Prof. Charles S. Brown to Cape Coast, Ghana, where he worked as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar (December 1995 – May 1996) and an ICTP Visiting Scholar (June 1996 – December 1996). Prof. Brown helped to develop the University’s graduate curriculum, served as a research advisor for a physics doctoral candidate, and collaborated on a research paper with Prof. S. Y. Mensah, Chairman of the Physics Department and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University. The work that Prof. Brown did in Ghana did not go unnoticed; in fact it was instrumental in his enstoolment as a traditional ruler in the Assin Manso district of Ghana.

To elders and other traditional rulers in this district Prof. Brown was known as Nana Kwodo Amoah I. It is a role that he took very seriously, even until his passing.

I love you Dad. I know you are in a better place. Benin Mwangi

Friday, September 28, 2007

Blogging Africa into the 21st Century

Discussion on Africa’s development is taking a new dimension. Bloggers have joined this debate and are employing new ways to initiate dialogue about Africa’s development round the world. The latest craze that seeks to use technology to push Africa into the 21st Century is the Carnival of Africa Enterprising. This is basically a traveling web magazine or blog that discusses business in Africa. Centered around a concept mooted by Blog Carnival, it spurs dialogue amongst African bloggers and other leading thinkers; and provides a forum for web publishers (such as bloggers) to discuss common topical and development oriented issues.

There are many variations, but typically, someone who wants to organize a carnival posts details of the theme or topic to their blog, and asks readers to submit relevant articles for inclusion in an upcoming edition. Based on this model, interested participants submit content (mostly links) to a carnival manager who then publishes them in an easy to read format. Writers who submit their articles to carnivals are rewarded with traffic if the host decides to link to their original article or give a positive review to the submitted content.

Blog carnivals are a great way for web publishers to recognize each other's efforts, organize articles around important topics, and improve the overall level of conversation through the internet (specifically in the blogosphere). Carnivals come in edited "editions" as in magazines or journals. The fact that carnivals are edited (and usually annotated) collections of links lets them serve as "magazines" within the blogosphere. Carnival hosts can earn their readership by providing high quality collections.

Since blog carnivals include lots of posts on specific topics, they also serve as a place to connect with experts (or at least highly opinionated!) and those who are interested in that field.

Many carnivals have a principal organizer, who lines up guest bloggers to host each edition. The carnival therefore travels and appears on a different blog each time. The Carnival of African Enterprising, which is hosted on Blog Carnival but managed by ambitious youth interested in shaping the future of Africa, is only four editions old. Nevertheless, based on topics discussed so far, it’s among top Blog Carnivals that really seek to answer to Africa’s call to development. Some of its past editions have discussed:

1. Doing business in Africa (1st edition - hosted on African Path June 6th 2007)
2. Foreign aid, trade, business and entrepreneurship with focus on the African continent. (2nd edition- hosted on African Loft July 6th 2007
3. African business and economy (3rd edition hosted on White African August 5th 2007)
4. African business and economy (4th Edition hosted on nubian cheetah September 12th 2007)

The African Executive will host the 5th Carnival of African Enterprising from the 10th of October 2007. The topic of discussion will be: “Positioning Africa in the 21st Century.” Drawing from success stories from the West and emerging Eastern economies, the October carnival will analyze the cause of Africa’s stagnation; explore ways to steer the continent to development and chart a way forward to positioning Africa on the global agenda in the 21st century. This special edition of the carnival will also be featured in the annual Africa Resource Bank meeting, which will be held in Tanzania from the 11th to 14th November 2007.

It is only a matter of time before we find out if we can successfully use the blogosphere to front the African Agenda.

(For anyone who is interested in airing their views about Africa in the 21st Century via the 5th edition of the Carnival of African Enterprising please submit your articles HERE.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Battle emerges at KPLC over bonuses for foreign managers

Source: “Business Daily”

Fifteen months ago, after a decade of struggling to get Kenyan CEOs fix Kenya Power & Lighting Company, the Government and the World Bank gave up and hired three expatriates from Canada to do the job.

The deal was simple and measurable. The Canadian managers, seconded from Manitoba Hydro International, had six targets to meet in exchange for a Sh30 million annual performance bonus.

This was in addition to the management fee that the Government and the World Bank have declined to make public despite KPLC being both publicly listed and owned by the taxpayers.

Of the six targets, the most pressing was cutting the volume of annual electricity losses — estimated to be worth between Sh2 billion to Sh5 billion— to 15 per cent of all power sold.

Other targets included connecting 120,000 new customers to the national grid annually, which has so far been achieved; reducing power outages from 11,735 incidents per month to 3,000, reducing the number of days the company is owed money from an average of 90 to 60 days, reducing the customer response time to breakdowns to one hour and generally improve customer service and corporate governance.

A consortium of donors led by the World Bank lent Kenya Sh10 billion in an extensive loan that financed the costs of the Canadian firm and meeting all these targets.

One year down the line — and halfway through the contract — the Government is embroiled in a major disagreement with the expatriate managers over how much of the performance bonus should be paid out.

The expatriates say they have met the targets and are entitled to the entire Sh30 million inducement. But the Government insists that the foreign managers have not lived up to expectations and only deserve a bonus of up to Sh20 million.

Board members friendly to the Government who spoke to Business Daily say that the foreign managers have not met all the targets, particularly reducing system losses and power outages.

Energy ministry permanent secretary Patrick Nyoike said on September 3 that system losses currently stand at 19.2 per cent against a target of 17 per cent. Though he sits on the KPLC board, he did not respond to requests for an interview for this article.

KPLC general manager Don Priestman, who heads the expatriate team, could not provide a specific number for outages, but he claimed they have “fallen dramatically.”

A difference of Sh10 million may appear small among partners in a Sh10 billion turnaround plan, but this squabble underscores a major shift in the relationship between a foreign government and an international contractor.

If the contractor accepts a Sh20 million bonus, it implies they have not fully met the job targets and may give those in government who are pressing for the termination of the contract ended before it fully matures a chance to make their point.

Sources who declined to be named revealed that the political mood at the Ministry of Energy favours an end to the management contract at KPLC.

Among KPLC’s management ranks, the presence of the foreign managers has been a major lightning rod of internal corporate politics with some claiming that part of the gains that the company has made was the result of a strategy that was crafted before the foreign managers arrived.

The dispute also highlights a tenuous relationship that exists in the World Bank model of providing development aid where it is both involved in writing the cheques, husbanding a client’s strategy and sometimes controlling the methods of execution.

The World Bank, which is the key financier of the turn around deal, is also digging in for a fight, insisting that the bonus payment should not pose a problem.

“Payment of bonus/or penalties is based on whether the agreed targets were achieved or not,” the World Bank said in a statement. “In this case the baseline figures were agreed upon and performance of Manitoba Hydro over the last year is known. Therefore computation of the bonus should not be an issue.”

The management contractor is already threatening to quit the job nine months into their contract “insisting he has done an excellent job” and full bonus payment should be made.

Mr Priestman, however refused to discuss the issue, saying its premature to comment as negations over the payment are on going.

“The matter is being discussed at the board level, but our measure of performance is excellent since KPLC is in better shape than it was earlier,” Mr Priestman said the on telephone.

A clear sign that the Manitoba Hydro management team is not prepared to cede ground in their quest to get the full bonus payment.

Manitoba Hydro’s brief was to upgrade the transmission system to make it more efficient and cut back losses. This was to be done through a $153 million (Sh10 billion) Distribution System Reinforcement and Upgrade component of the Energy Sector Recovery Project.

Though the Manitoba team has managed to beat the connection target, the level of outages and those of system losses have put them at logger heads with government friendly board members, who reckon that they are way off the targets.

The ghost of transmission losses that has continued to dog KPLC over the past decade appears to have remained almost stagnant since July last year, official figures show.

In June 2006, the losses stood at 19.6 per cent and the Canadian team was meant to bring it down to 16 per cent by the end of June 2008.

This has translated into losses running into billions of shillings as the power firm shoulders any losses above the 15 per cent mark.

The company has attributed the growing leakages to two main factors. First, there is the KPLC’s ageing power transmission grid, which stems from the long periods of under investment in the transmission system. Then there is power theft that comes in the form of illegal connections to the national power grid.

Mr Priestman added a new twist to the scenario, saying that the rapid power expansion project that KPLC has pursued over the past year has exposed it to additional power losses.

“While we have reduced losses from the old transmission, we are facing additional losses from the expanded transmission system,” said Mr Priestman.

The power firm has embarked on a programme to upgrade 23, 000 kilometres of the distribution network at a cost of Sh10.7 billion.

Industry observers, however, reckon that the upgrade project has been slowed down by stringent procurement rules guiding state firms.

In recent years, theft and vandalism of transmission lines and transformers has rising buoyed by high prices for the equipment in the black market. Debate on system losses comes at a time when the country is staring at an energy crisis as the power reserve limit-the difference between demand and supply for power-has sunk to record levels.

Last week, KenGen—the principal supplier of electricity to KPLC—disclosed that a growing demand for electricity had pushed the reserve limit to 11 per cent of operational capacity, against an optimum level of 15 per cent set by the electricity regulator to prevent unforeseen shortages.

The country’s effective capacity stands at 1, 143 megawatts compared to peak demand of 1, 010 megawatts, leaving the country with a reserve of 133 megawatts compared the required reserve of 172 megawatts.

KenGen, which produces 80 per cent of the total electricity generated in the country, is this week expected to kick off the search for a financial adviser on how to structure a Sh30 billion bond to fast track the construction of mega power plants.

On power outages, a source at the ministry of energy said KPLC was yet to move within the set targets.

This could not be independently verified as KPLC could not provide the latest data on the level of outages. “I don’t have the figures with me here but they have dramatically come down,” Mr Priestman said.

The issue of targets is the latest in a series of disagreements between the Manitoba team and the Government, sending the relationship between the two partners to record lows.

Besides the targets, the Manitoba management team and the government were on the collision path on who should be the mover of the rural electrification programme.

The KPLC management reckons that the rural electrification drive is not a core part of their mandate at the power firm and that their active participation in the drive would jeopardize their quest to meet their core target.

A move that saw the World Bank enter the fray in support of the Manitoba team.

This saw the Government hurriedly set up the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) to drive the rural electrification project to the chagrin of the World Bank, who argued caution in managing the transition phase.

“In particular, there has to be careful management of the procurement of materials and organization of human resources so that implementation of the extensive rural electrification program does not jeopardize achievement of the agreed targets under the original KPLC management contract with Manitoba Hydro,” said the bank.

Already, Mr Zachary Ayieko, the immediate former managing director at KPLC and whose relationship with the Manitoba team was said to be frosty, is the chief executive at REA.

The Manitoba Hydro management team includes Shahid Muhammad, the deputy general manager in charge of Distribution and Customer Services, and Mack Kast, the deputy general manager in charge of Finance and Corporate services.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Submit your articles for The 5th Carnival of African Enterprising to be hosted right here in October

The 5th Carnival of African Enterprising will be hosted right here and in the prestigious “African Executive Magazine”. This edition will also be featured in the annual Africa Resource Bank meeting where Branded will present all views expressed by The Carnival participants.

The Carnival Topic "Positioning Africa in the 21st Century" is sponsored by The “Africa Resource Bank Meeting” which will be held in Tanzania from the 11th to 14th November 2007.

(All interested bloggers who may wish to attend The “Africa Resource Bank Meeting” meeting in Tanzania are welcome to register “HERE”.

The objective of the theme is to Explore the reason behind the success of the West and Emerging Eastern Economies and how they can be applied in Africa.

All intrested Bloggers are requested to submit their content/Articles along any of the following topics or any other topic that you may find relevant to Africa in the 21st Century:

1. Effects of colonization on Africa's Economic Development
2. Who invented Africa and how can Africans gain from it?
3. The role of Aid and the future of Africa
4. Migration and the brain drain debate
5. Global warming and the future of trade in Africa.
6. Business and Entrepreneureship culture - Lessons from the East
7. Leveraging on China's thirst for raw materials to develop Africa
8. Economic Intergration in Africa
9. Tax harmonization in Africa
10. Alcohol policies in Africa
11. Reviewing the education system to meet the needs of Africa
12. Promoting the African Voice.

Submit your articles today.

Monday, September 10, 2007

“Cold Blooded Execution” of 13 Kenyans by Tanzanian Government puts the proposed East African Federation to Test.

Kenyan citizens living in Tanzania are now under close scrutiny and suspicion from police and members of the public following a spate of crimes allegedly committed by Kenyans. The suspicion is so deeply rooted that vehicles bearing Kenyan registration plates are not only stopped at every police roadblock but plain-clothes policemen also trail them. According to Tanzanian police, suspected Kenya criminals have gotten away with at least 5 major bank robberies over the last 6 months alone. This was not to be last week when a record 14 suspected criminals were shot at close range 13 of whom were Kenyans.

All Mystery surrounding the killings in the northern Tanzanian town of Moshi, put to test the fate of the proposed East African Federation. What the Tanzanian police called “a botched criminal attempt” took a diplomatic twist with the Tanzanian government warning, “Kenyan criminals could jeopardize the process towards regional integration”. While Tanzanian police maintain that the suspects were planning to stage a major bank robbery and rescue other Kenyan suspects held at the Karanga prison, detectives investigating the circumstances under which the 13 Kenyans were killed say that they were all killed at close range and it was not clear to conclude that they were actually planning to rob the said bank thus raising more questions as to the real reasons behind execution. Further investigation revealed that the 12 men and one woman had bullet wounds on their chests and heads. Of note is that some of those killed had past criminal records in Kenya.

Tanzania is on record because of its insistence for a stepwise approach to integration with the rest of the region rooting for a speedy integration process. Just last month after the 6th ordinary session of the EAC Heads Of State meeting, Tanzania was categorical that integration would flop due to among other reasons: Tribalism in Kenya and Uganda, an infiltration of crime and competition mainly from Kenya. With this in mind, last week’s execution seemed to put the final death nail to the proposed EAC federation unless Kenya and the rest of the region cleaned house to allay fears raised by Tanzania about the integration process. Tanzania’s minister for Internal Security, Mr Bakari Mwapachu, highlighted this when he said, “we are concerned about the rising criminal activities involving Kenyans………they are carrying weapons here as if we are at war. This will make us rethink the East African Community idea, because our citizens are now living in fear”.

According to the Kilimanjaro Police commander Mr Lucas Ngohboko, the 13 Kenyans killed last week had boarded 3 vehicles which the police had been trailing for a while. This raises questions because only one out of the three vehicles was spotted at the execution scene covered with blood from 14 dead bodies all shot at close range. Two other vehicles with six occupants apparently drove off. Just how would 14 fully-grown individuals comfortably fit in a small Suzuki Vitara designed to carry no more than 7 guys? Did the police give up on the other two vehicles?
The police added that the gang had harbored a house 6 Kilometers from Moshi where their plan was hatched. This too appeared not strong enough, so they added yet another explanation that they had noticed suspicious looking individuals whom they had been trailing for a while but when ordered to surrender, opened fire so naturally the police returned fire killing all of them.

The last reasons creates a rather suspect scenario, picture this: 3 vehicles but only one bullet ridden Suzuki Vitara found while the rest disappear in thin air with 6 occupants on board without a trace. 14 fully armed individuals squeezing into such a small vehicle when they had 3 at their disposal driving in the outskirts of Tanzania planning a robbery and a rescue mission from a prison. A FIERCE GUN battle that leaves all the 14 suspects dead from bullet sustained wounds and not a single police gets a scratch from the battle????
Media frenzy awash with congratulatory messages to the police by Tanzanians as 13 Kenyans are declared dead while a fire spiting Tanzanian minister of security issues warnings that such crime will make his people rethink the proposed East African Federation because they are now living in fear out of crime perpetrated by Kenyans.

We may argue that the suspects should have had their day in court because it is clear that police had overpowered them, but we should not entirely blame Tanzania for the incidence; of course anyone who take advantage of free movement of people and goods within the region to cause crime ought to be dealt with severely. This is especially true of some bad elements from Kenya who willingly go out of their way to reap where they have not sown. As the region progresses towards a more unified federation, we ought to learn from the past. Crime, suspicion and how we deal with either will only but halt all the gains yet to be reaped from one large East African Community

Looking at all the mystery surrounding the executions, do you think that the whole incidence was stage managed to give Tanzania more reasons to delay East African Community future plans?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Leaked: Report alleges Kenya's Former President looted billions

Republished from Kenya Imagine
Friday 31st August 2007

Former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi declared that he would back incumbent Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki for a second term in the upcoming Kenyan General Elections later in the year. The news of the union of souls has been met with responses coming in at acres of newsprint and millions of gigabytes dedicated to suggesting various motives and calculations that would bring the two erstwhile foes together. It is with interest therefore that we read in today's Guardian of the findings of a leaked report commissioned by the government of Kenya into corruption and the Moi family.

The article published here in today's Guardian under the title The Looting of Kenya - The breathtaking extent of corruption perpetrated by the family of the former Kenyan leader Daniel Arap Moi was exposed last night in a secret report that laid bare a web of shell companies, secret trusts and frontmen that his entourage used to funnel hundreds of millions of pounds into nearly 30 countries including Britain.
The 110-page report by the international risk consultancy Kroll, seen by the Guardian, alleges that relatives and associates of Mr Moi siphoned off more than £1bn of government money. If true, it would put the Mois on a par with Africa's other great kleptocrats, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and Nigeria's Sani Abacha.

The assets accumulated included multimillion pound properties in London, New York and South Africa, as well as a 10,000-hectare ranch in Australia and bank accounts containing hundreds of millions of pounds."

It is now clear that the report, submitted to the government in 2004 has been kept under wraps against the spirit of the passionate declarations of 2002.

The Guardian's Nairobi correspondent Xan Rice claims to have seen a leaked copy of this report which makes serious allegations of corruption by relatives and associates of the former president.

According to the article some of the claims made out in the report include:

* More than £1billion pounds was moved out of Kenya

* The former President's sons - Philip and Gideon - are reported to be worth £384m and £550m respectively;

* His associates were said to have acted in collusion with Italian drug barons and been involved in printing counterfeit money;

While it is true that the report which was prepared by Kroll Associates is not a decision of a court, and therefore binding, it is odd that the government, elected on an anti-corruption platform and pledging to make a clean break with the past has not previously published the report. Alfred Mutua, the Government spokesman, in response to the charge, declares that the government found the report incomplete and therefore could not release it to the public.

But now the questions, and there are many. How much did the government pay for this ‘incomplete and inaccurate' report? Are the report and the shadow it casts over the former President the motivation for this week's power pact? Is this the proverbial pound of flesh? Does the burial of the report mean that the sins of the Moi era are dead and buried? Forever?

The report was exposed due to the efforts of Wikileak , a safe haven for whistleblowers and other persons of conscience working to end corruption.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tanzania will not be bulldozzed by pundits into quiting SADC for COMESA

I recieved some serious bashing from N.Chiume, currently based New York because of my previous post(Tanzania diminishes chances of regional intergration), that he called a smokescreen that lays blame on the shoulders of Tanzania when it comes to EAC intergration. He raised some very pertinent issues that will deepen anyone's understanding about Tanzania and it's association with South Africa and SADC. Chiume is of the opinion that Kenya(ns) are out to deliberately soil Tanzania's name by publishing malicious articles through the media. He pointed out one case about KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) which he calls "Gorvernment owned media" that claimed Tanzanians had overwhelimingly rejected the proposed East African Federation. Below is what Chiume had to say in verbatim.

"I'm glad to be here. First, let me apologise for any distress that I may have caused you by certain choices of my words. It just shows the level of frustration people like myself feel whenever we read an article that carelessly misrepresents the facts with a pretext of "open[ing] up the issue for debate". It just makes it hard to have a constructive debate, that indeed we should all have, if we don't address the untruths from the offset.

Case in point, there was an article last week in Kenya Broadcasting Corp (KBC) website(which if I'm not mistaken, is still a Government owned media institution), twisting the results of the poll in Tanzania asking wether we should fast-track EAC or not. KBC reported that the overwhealing results against such a move meant "Tanzanians say no to EA federation". It went further claiming that Tanzanians "have rejected the plan for the East African political federation" while we all know that the referendum on this subject is still in the offing. Perhaps you can help me understand the motives a Government institution like KBC have in publishing such a misleading article?

Fact is, Tanzania has shown tremendous commitment to EAC, from hosting the HQ in Arusha, to building institutions like EAC Judiciary and Legislature, to negotiating and implementing the Custom Union despite the fact that its also a SADC member. Your claim that Tanzania's membership in SADC makes her "stand on EAC issues..always opposite the rest of the [EAC] members" are therefore absolutely baseless.

Asking Tanzania not to have "strong ties" with southern Africa is similar to asking Europe not to have strong ties with America! Tanzania is a founding member of SADC, and of SADCC, its predecessor. Our history, our engagement and our attachment to southern Africa since the days of Frontline States and prior to that cannot be lightly severed.

Therefore, there is nothing sinister that "raises questions" about Tanzania's friendship with South Africa - anybody who knows her history will appreciate it. If you can make an argument like that, then I could equally claim that Kenya's one foot in COMESA and another in EAC "raises questions" in the eyes of non-EAC members of COMESA, such as Zambia, Sudan or Eqypt because it shows Kenya's not commitment to COMESA! In that case, Kenya could equally be described as "an undecided country" that "is unstable in all its ways".

What is universally recognized is that as SADC moves towards becoming a trade bloc with custom union, then a common market etc (as opposed to a grouping for coordinating common economic projects); and as COMESA moves from a free-trade area to custom Union etc, countries like Tanzania - and so many others including Kenya and Uganda, will have to make the tough decision on how they can continue membership in increasingly conflicting organizations.

I'm saying this because one of the biggest misconception that individulss like yourself perpetuate is that somehow it will be hunky dory if and when all EAC members belonged in COMESA! It is as if no conflict will emerge out of EAC custom union with those of a future COMESA custom union.

Competition from Kenya isn't "mere BIG words". It does pose serious threat to the future of manufacturing in TZ. And its not true that these concerns have never been brought to the table by TZ. Case in point, the successful agreement in delaying implementing certain taxes within the EAC custom union to give manufactures in TZ some time to adjust to the new trade environment.

As we progress into common market, single currency and a political federation, these concerns are clearly being accelerated and reflected in the results of the fast-tracking poll in Tanzania. There is too much of selling of the positives of intergration and little in terms of addressing the adverse effects of it. For instance, Tanzania could well be forced with the reality of ceading the dominance of manufacturing to Kenya but that will only be okay of she is able to identify and begin to focus right now in alternative sectors that will bring them competitive advantage in the future, for example, in service economy. Hence, we will require economic programs to subsdize the manufacturing that will decline and to build up the service economy. The people in TZ are pressuring their Govt for answers to such issues, and are observing the gradual benefits that come with intergration before they can make a judgment that full EAC intergration will truly be benefitial to their daily livelihoods, not simply empty promises. The aim is not to ignore globalization but to ensure it really works for them.

The issue of belonging to multiple regional groupings is not uniquely Tanzanian. How come you never raised the conundrum that Kenya will face with the anticipated COMESA Custom Union while its already a member of EAC Custom Union?

Its quite absurd to imply Tanzania doesn't belong in Southern Africa (hence not a natural member of SADC) while at the same time urging it to join COMESA, a grouping with southern African countries further south of Tanzania like Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe! The next thing you will claim will probably be that Swaziland belongs in COMESA more than it does in SADC!

Tanzania happens to have strong links with southern Africa, as much as it has with Eastern Africa. To ask her to abandon its long standing relationships in favor of EAC only is just idiotic to say the least. We want to do business with as much neighbours as possible and South Africa has been a positive economic force in Tanzania, challenging the dominance of Kenya in the country. It appears that these constant concerns about Tanzania belonging in SADC are a manifestation of Kenya's nervousness towards South Africa coming to compete in its backyard through Tanzania.

Tanzanians will not be bulldozzed by pundits like yourself. The people of Tanzania have a right to know precisely how they will benefit from EAC Federation and its economic integration. The issues of job loss, land grabbing, political stability etc are very relevant to them. They have refused fast-tracking the Federation because the idea is unrealistic (in terms of implementing it within 5 years) but not because they are not in favor of the Federation. Most Tanzanians see it as something achiaveble by year 2020.

The debate we need is not why Tanzanians are ambivalent about EAC, but what can be done to address their concerns. Economic and targeted programs should be suggested to help countries like Tanzania whose economy will be negatively impacted, at least in the short-term. Such things will help to calm the jitters towards a noble idea of economic and political integration."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tanzania diminishes chances of regional integration

On 20/08/2007, after the 6th ordinary session of the EAC Heads of State, I waited with bated breath for the announcement of a fully integrated East African Economic Union, a union redeemed from the fear and suspicion that previosuly led to breakup.
To my dismay, the same structural failings and issues that necessitated the first collapse still exist. During the first collapse it was easy to blame ideological differences between Tanzania and the rest of the East African Community since the latter was socialist while the former shared capitalistic ideologies. This aside, the real reasons as time came to reveal was the fear that Kenya dominated the rest of the community.

Following the collapse of the EAC and prior to the recent haphazard re-integration, arose the Common Markets for East and Southern Africa (COMESA ) the only remaining workable regional organisation that Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania had in common. This was until Tanzania opted out again to join South African Development Cooperation (SADC) , allying itself to what is clearly a grouping for Southern African countries.

This move, perhaps inoccuous has had varied ramifications. Within the past three years projects that would span the whole of East Africa have been marred with confusion due to differences between the states. For example Kenya had to opt out of Eassy project (East Africa Sub Marine System) a cables project that would have considerably lowered the cost of fibre communication in the region. Word was that South Africa was employing underhand tactics as far as ownership of the cables project was concerned, which developments caused Kenya to initiate a parallel project; TEAMS (The East Africa Marine System) to replace Eassy. As a member of SADC, Tanzania occupies an unenviable position in this regard, especially as although she is seen as siding with South Africa in SADC, she has not the clout that would make a difference in the southern group at all.

The meeting lasted several hours, and after what must have been intense haggling, the leaders emerged to announce failure to secure a smooth predictable transition to regional integration. However, of all the countries; Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, it is Tanzania that had the greatest objections to the speedy integration of the region. One major extenuation given was that Kenya would dominate the resultant economy. As a face-saving gesture, Tanzania agreed ,though apprehensively, to a Common Market, Union and currency by the year 2012. During this meeting, the rest of the East African states were categorical that they wanted a more expeditious integration of the different economies while Tanzania opted for a step-wise approach. This is understandable and has indeed been a constant refrain of many East Africans. Still many wonder, given her doubts ,is it Tanzania or is the thought of a formidable East African Region unworkable?

When Tanzania first ditched COMESA for SADC it gave what were seen as valid reasons as to why it made the move. Fast tracking to the present time and the very same country still has issues with the East African Community with the majority of its concerns relating to economic and political competition(again).

Granted, Kenya still dominates the region's economy and has been able to maintain this even in the absence of East African Federation. But it is not true to say that Kenya would benefit the most from the union. The uniform trade platform that would have been created to replace the current regime, would have boosted trade and promoted business and new jobs across the region.

Like in any union, there are teething problems and the peculiar concerns of individual members to address. Still, if as is becoming clear 4 out of 5 would be members of an East Africa federation are willing to go ahead with an economic union, why be precluded by Tanzania whose priorities are clearly obscured?

Monday, August 20, 2007

A new way for small businesses to build their online profiles

I consider blogging as one of my top ten strategies that can assist small businesses to grow without necessarily incurring huge marketing and advertising costs. The fact that most blogging platforms offer free services for as long as you adhere to the rules and regulations should be embraced to assist small businesses especially in Africa where the cost of such services are higher than what most small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can afford.

For instance compared to conventional websites, blogging would cost you almost nothing except the time you take to publish. When we equate time to money, building a business blog would cost you roughly half or less the amount it would take to build an online product portfolio.

Businesses that can successfully embrace the power of blogging include the Jua kali (informal small scale merchants) that are based in Kenya who create a wide portfolio of products using recycled materials and yet outdo the big players. In a typical day, a Jua kali factory is capable of creating products worth millions of dollars. Unfortunately not all products are able to sell because of what I consider artificial market restrictions. Smart as they are, Jua kali vendors are not able to make significant sales as they lack proper marketing mechanisms.

In one business support session I met Mr.Mbai a Kenyan Jua kali entrepreneur who has never stepped into any school of carpentry but can work wood better than wood peckers.. In a month, Mr. Mbai’s workshop churns out products that he sometimes cannot sale. Most of the time his products fetch a break-even price therefore leaving no room for growth. Asked why, he explained that his business depended mostly on sales made by self-appointed agents who he reckons gave raw deals. Goodwill and customer referral also played a key role in determining his sales.

With advice from BT International a corporate branding company that is working with SMEs to improve their market penetration using affordable branding strategies, Mr. Mbai was able to single out lack of product information by potential clients as an important factor that lead to low sales. He also learnt that he could not make just any products hoping and wishing that they would sell. To be able to respond profitably to the specific needs, he needed solid facts about his target market.
Immediately after learning about this conventional business issues, Mr. Mbai was quick to point out that his business was not as big and therefore could not raise enough capital to meet the requirements that had been advised. This was not an issue as far as BT International was concerned. Firstly the easiest and most affordable way to let the world know about his products was to build a customised website that detailed his product with all the prices and how to access them. It is easier said than done because Mr. Mbai neither has the knowledge nor the time to work out a customised website. To make the matter worse, he cannot afford to procure such services, as they would significantly raise his operating costs.

For Mr. Mbai, what was wishful thinking is already bearing fruit and costs him as little as 10 US Dollars a month to access professionally managed online portfolio. He started small, but now his business blog is on its second phase before finally turning into a customised corporate website. The phased approach was used to make the service more as affordable to this kind of business. All sorts of comments that were posted on Mr. Mbai’s professional online product portfolio helped him re-engineer his business complete with a brand name and specific sub brand names for the different products that he churns out every month. Now the sky is the limit.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Do Africans ever learn? - Lessons from 10, 000 nameless black men.

I found this topic written by James Shikwati, Director Inter Region Economic Network very interesting. It gives a rather interesting perspective of the Africa stemming from way back in the late 1800s through to the present times. What lessons has the continent learnt from experiences such as slave trade among others.

"Way back in the late 1800s, George Mortimer Pullman targeted released slaves from the south of US to work as porters for his “restaurants on wheels” business.

His Pullman Rail Company had hired 20,224 African Americans personnel by the 1920s to serve as what is equivalent to modern day air hostess. A movie entitled “10,000 Black Men Called George” dramatises the tribulations of African Americans who were humiliated as porters but viewed as heroes by fellow black community members.

All the porters were referred to as “George,” after the founder of the company and were supposed to “loose” their real names while at work.

The name “George” was supposedly meant to make it easier for white customers to identify a porter and thereby receive services.
Philip Randolph (hero of American Civil Rights Movement) stepped in to improve the civil and economic rights of these workers through an organisation called the ‘Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters’.

The struggle for emancipation in the Pullman company had two faces to it, the generation that had experienced slavery viewed George Pullman as a saviour and did not find the porter job degrading (after all they were being paid albeit poorly), but a younger generation felt agitated and wanted change; they wanted to be called by their real names! (Continues below)

Top posts this month:
1. South Africa Violence: Why is Brother Fighting Brother?
2. Africa Day is not Socialism Day!
3. Keen on business, China is yet to flex its formidable military muscle in Africa
4. Top secrets: Gaddafi plotted to bomb Kenya
5. Democracy, reforms can end fear of instability
6. Kenya tea loses its flavor in Pakistan

Are the Xenophobic attacks in South Africa Justified?
(Give you view on the violence in South Africa in the poll at the top of this page)
Take time and read ‘The End of Poverty: How we can make it happen in our life time’ by Jeffrey Sachs; ‘The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and what can be done about it’ by Paul Collier; and ‘The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill So Little Good’ by William Easterly.

Let me add one last title, ‘The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation – State’ by Basil Davidson! How many black men called George do you meet in these books?

I find 960 million black people called George! The main characteristics of the African Georges in these books are that they are poor, do not think, do not operate on the plane of asking “what is better and what is worse.” In other words, Africans merely operate on a “hit and miss” trajectory.

The authors of these books attempt to solve the puzzle of poverty in Africa. Jeffrey Sachs argues that a $75 billion per year of Western Aid to Africa can help fix poverty problems.

Paul Collier on the other hand, while sharing Prof Sachs view that the West can help fix Africa, argues that the younger population in Africa is responsible for conflicts on the continent (forget who funds, supplies arms and why conflicts are mostly in mineral rich zones of the continent!). William Easterly’s view is that the Western Aid cannot fix Africa, but he implicitly indicates it could if reformed!

Basil Davidson is not in the class of the above three, he tackles mostly the issue of tribalism as the biggest burden in Africa… to answer him, one could read Lutz Van Dijk’s book ‘A History of Africa’ which argues that we have only three tribes in Africa (Bantu, Nilotes and Cushites), all else are clans or “houses”! (enyumba ya mumbi!)

Do I hear you? Yes, under present circumstances, the international World is not ready to listen to our real names, we are poor! Two, the African intellectual is torn between the awe and esteem he is held with at home, and the derogatory emptiness the international community perceives his output.

Where is his voice in this debate about development in Africa? Three, those who witnessed the salvation from “African barbarism” cannot fathom a World without thinking and instructions from the West. Africans need a Philip Randolph!"

Thursday, August 2, 2007

United States of Africa: Libya is in Africa but not African

Joseph Mihangwa a Social Scientist based in Shinyanga, Tanzania sees illmotive in Gadaffi's call to start a United States of Africa. In an article published in The African Executive magazine, the writer paints a rather grim picture of the real reason behind formation of a Union Government of Africa and why Libya is at the forefront of its formation. The writer views the recent impasse that plagued African heads of state in Accra in their bid to form the United States of Africa as a replay of the July 1964 Cairo history.

In the recent Accra Summit, nine countries from Northern Africa came to the meeting armed with a charter that fronted the forming of a one- government Africa. Led by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, they demanded the immediate formation of the United States of Africa. They said that 40 years of independence had proved African leaders to be greedy, selfish and self-proclaimed gods over their countries. This, they said, had smothered Kwame Nkrumah’s dream of a united Africa.

The 1964 Cairo impasse emanated from a sharp difference between the late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana over modalities that would lead to Africa’s unity. Nkrumah, like Gaddafi, wanted a one-government Africa to be formed right away and branded gradualist proponents as colonial puppets that were not out to offer any good to Africa.

Nyerere stuck to the gradualist approach. He argued that this would create room for African countries to study, understand and bond with each other before amalgamating. The disagreement, which almost went personal saw Nyerere’s camp win at the end of the summit. However, 45 years down the line, African countries are still wandering in the wilderness in their bid to enter Canaan.

In the recent Accra summit, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania lashed out at Gaddafi’s camp over the same grounds that Nyerere differed with Nkrumah 23 years ago in Cairo. Out of 41 nations that spoke during the forum, 28 sided with Kikwete. Kikwete thus hit Gaddafi with the same club that Nyerere used to hit Nkrumah.

I hold nothing personal against Gaddafi. I however differ with the manner in which he advanced his agenda. Who sent the nine countries to present the one-government Africa charter? Did the AU Secretariat have prior knowledge? Why were the nine countries basically Arab? Who is Gaddafi in the AU? Is Northern Africa Africa’s spokesman?

I am no racist, but it is true that Arabs of North Africa relate with Africans the same way the Boers relate with Africans in South Africa. That is why their allegiance with the AU is suspect. They can’t serve the AU and Arab League at the same time because blood is thicker than water.

The Arabs invaded and captured Northern Africa around 639 BC. To date, they dominate Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Before the invasion, North Africa was full of black Africans. The pyramids in Egypt were built by black Africans. Africa’s history is full of Arabs and Europeans enslaving, exploiting and humiliating the Africans. This suffering has made Africans to seek their identity.

Pan Africanism was begun by descendants of black Americans who were sold as slaves around the 16th century. The bitterness of slavery cemented them with their fellow blacks all over the world. Pan africanism found consummation in the 1945 Manchester Pan Africa Congress that declared that all Africans unite. This unity is akin to Pan Arabian unity and Arab nationalism that recently carried a charter to the Accra meeting.

African Arabs never regard themselves as Africans but rather as Arabs living in Africa. If they don’t change this perspective, Africa will never unite. This stand is evident in the late Gamel Abdel Nasser’s sentiments in Philosophy of the Revolution that “we live in Africa but we are not Africans.”

In the Accra Powers Conference, (1958), out of the eight independent nations that attended; Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan and Egypt, only Ethiopia, Ghana and Liberia defended pan africanism. The rest favored the Arab league, a stand they have not changed to date. These are some of the countries that were touting a one-government Africa.

The Arab league is out to front the Arab agenda through the AU over black Africans. The same Gaddafi who fronted for a united Africa in Accra, has been on the front line destabilizing Mali, Chad and Niger with a view of bagging them into the Arab League. Gaddafi armed Dictator Idi Amin of Uganda against Tanzania arguing that he was aiding a Muslim nation against a non Muslim one. In Darfur and Mauritania, African ‘Arab’rulers are chasing black Africans away from their own land and bringing Arabs to take their place. Secret slavery is happening in Mauritania. Just recently, General Hassan of Sudan told the military: “we neither want to see these slaves (blacks) in Sudan nor need them. What we need is their land.”

If this is not neocolonialism, what is it? With such sentiments, how can we have a united Africa? President Kikwete was right in deflating Gaddafi’s agenda. Africans should be wary of hidden maneuvers out to prey on their resources and sovereignty in the name of unity.