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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?