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Monday, June 30, 2008

Corrupt Deals by Rogue Finance Minister Threatens Kenya’s Young Grand Coalition Government

The creation of a grand coalition government marked the beginning of a very sensitive period of national healing and reconciliation for Kenyans. The coalition is yet to firmly set its foot on the ground but grand corruption threatens its very stability. This is the third time the Kenyan Finance minister is making international headlines by committing the country to questionable deals that are “too sweet to be passed on”.

Safaricom IPO
In the run up to the general elections in December last year, many questions were raised regarding the manner in which Mr. Amos Kimunya, Kenya’s finance minister, was rushing the listing of Safaricom through an initial public offer (IPO) to raise Kshs. 5O Billion. Mr. Kimunya may have had good intentions but the timing and the manner in which he was “pushing the deal” were very inappropriate. Asked why such a rush to offload government assets held in trust for the Kenyan people - a few days to the general elections, he answered “…people should keep off the NSE as it was not a fish market”. The issues clouding the IPO are yet to be fully resolved, but it was held anyway and Mr. Kimunya is still at the helm the finance ministry.

Kenya - DelaRue Saga

Less than a month into the first quarter of the 2008/9 financial year, other concerns have emerged regarding the introduction of new generation bank notes. According the Chairman of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Dr. Bonny Khalwale, the finance minister unilaterally cancelled the tender that would have saved the country three times the cost of printing money. Again Mr. Kimunya toyed with the idea of buying a stake in DelaRue the money printing firm so that “he could save the country some money”. Had it not been for leaks surrounding this deal, he would have committed the country into buying a stake in DelaRue unilaterally. Apparently Mr. Kimunya changed the terms of engagement with DelaRue, went ahead to lie to parliament and the people of Kenya about the matters arising out of the DelaRue saga until when the press highlighted issue. He went on the defensive and called the press reports "rumors"....Continues Below


1. Aides to Rogue Kenyan Finance Minister in Shady deal Paraded in Shame (List Includes Kenya’s Central Bank Governor)

2. Corrupt Deals by Rogue Finance Minister Threatens Kenya’s Young Grand Coalition Government

3. Britain, Tony Blair and Mugabe are to blame for Zimbabwe’s woes.
4. How to get rid of Robert Mugabe

Secret Sale of the Grand Regency Hotel
Earlier in the month the same minister lied to parliament about ownership of the grand regency hotel. He claimed that the Government of Kenya was still the rightful owner of hotel (on behalf of the Kenyan People). This was until Lands Minister James Orengo broke the news that the Hotel had already been sold to some unknown individuals. The clearance of the sale was done by the lands ministry through some other equally rogue officials involved in the deal. In a press conference, the minister owned up that indeed the hotel had been sold to the Libyan government at a cost of Kshs. 2.9 billion. Many say that the Hotel was greatly undervalued. According to Senior Counsel Mutula Kilonzo, the hotel could have fetched more than Kshs. 2.9 billion. In 1994, Mutula says, he was part of a team of lawyers who oversaw the exchange of the hotel ownership at a cost of Kshs. 4 billion. 14 years later, Mr. Kimunya has pushed the cost of the Hotel down to Kshs. 2.9 billion. Other “unconfirmed” press reports indicate that Libya actually paid 4.5 Billion for the current hotel sale but the finance minister can only disclose the whereabouts of just Kshs. 2.9 Billion. The difference, Kshs.1.6 Billion still lies somewhere in the equation. There was no public tendering for the sale, the valuation (if it was ever carried out) was rushed and indeed very wrong, the finance minister acted unilaterally yet again.

One bad potato can quickly spoil the rest of the sack if not separated. With new mandates, it was expected that the coalition would direct Kenyans away from past ills of grand corruption which have cost the country its very development. Kenya’s economy should be ranking close or past Singapore’s since the two countries were growing at almost the same rate some 40 years ago. Rogue elements in past governments who ruled with absolute impunity have trapped the country in never ending debt cycle. Poverty is at an all time high. Kenyans cannot afford basic needs due to spiraling inflation. All this was caused by thoughtless unilateral acts by individuals entrusted with managing public property but instead chose to engage in “too sweet to be passed on” kind of deals, such as the Grand Regency Hotel sale. At this age and time, the country cannot afford to waste any more development years through grand corruption.

If allegations against Mr. Amos Kimunya are true, he should not just resign; he should be arraigned in court for gambling with the country’s economy. He is taking Kenyans for fools. He lied to parliament, he lied to Kenyans and he is still at the helm of the finance ministry. He unilaterally controls the printing of a country’s currency, grand spending and selling of countries assets that the government holds in trust for the Kenyan people. Government assets are not personal property. The credibility of Kenya’s grand coalition lies in how it will handle this particular case.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

How to get rid of Robert Mugabe

The Economist (Print Edition)

IT IS hard to believe that the horrors inflicted by Zimbabwe’s ruler on his own people could get worse. But even in the past week they have. The burning to death of a six-year-old boy because his father is an opposition politician, and the butchering of the young wife of the capital’s new opposition mayor, are part of a growing wave of violence that has persuaded Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, to withdraw from the presidential run-off that was due on June 27th. He rightly felt that, by standing in the election, he was risking the lives of too many thousands of his supporters.

Yet Robert Mugabe’s crimes are finally coming home to roost. He will claim to be re-elected president, by default. But he has lost one of the big things that have kept him in power to date: the grudging support of Africa. His brutality and fraudulence have become so plain for all to see that neighbours who once defended him are changing their tune. Just as he is poised to declare himself the winner, almost the entire continent—not to mention the rest of the world—has come to believe that he cannot be allowed to stay in office (see article).

He is, as a result, weaker; but he and his thugs are determined to hang on. He has the tyrant’s delusion that “only God”, as he puts it, can displace him. So Western and African countries, especially Zimbabwe’s neighbours, must act in concert to get rid of the ogre that has shamed an entire continent.

How to finish him off
The first and easiest act is to refuse to recognise any administration led by Mr Mugabe. The European Union, the United States and much of the rich world will ostracise him. Now is the time for Africa, especially the influential regional club of 14 countries known as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to follow suit. A swelling chorus of other African leaders has condemned the election as unfair. Even South Africa, whose spineless president, Thabo Mbeki, is still refusing to criticise Mr Mugabe outright, has begun to turn against him. Its likely next president, Jacob Zuma, is increasingly exasperated. Its trade unions have called for a blockade of Zimbabwe, symbolic at first but perhaps a harbinger of pressure to come. Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s beacon of decency, in London this week to celebrate his 90th birthday, spoke out against the “tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe”.

South Africa remains the key. Its leaders have long had the power to bring Mr Mugabe to his knees, just as their white predecessors squeezed the life out of Rhodesia’s white-supremacist leader, Ian Smith, three decades ago, letting Mr Mugabe take over when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. Mr Mbeki will argue that economic strangulation would hurt the hapless Zimbabwean masses more than the pampered elite around Mr Mugabe. In the short run, he is right. Humanitarian aid must continue to flow into Zimbabwe, though Mr Mugabe has made it hard—often impossible—for charitable outfits to ensure that their largesse goes directly to the right poor people. But South Africa, along with other countries in the SADC, should certainly join in imposing the targeted sanctions already enforced by the EU, the Americans and other governments against Mr Mugabe and 130-odd of his closest comrades, who are banned from visiting the penalising countries and have had their assets there frozen. Depriving Mr Mugabe’s cronies of trips to a decent country that works could have a salutary effect.

The African Union (AU), which embraces all 53 of Africa’s countries, should also be far more robustly involved. Unlike the SADC, which is often paralysed by its search for consensus, the AU’s rules provide for decisions, specifically including the imposition of sanctions on errant members, to be taken by a two-thirds majority. The union is holding its annual summit next week, in Egypt. It should call on its members not to recognise Mr Mugabe as president or his party as the government.

The United Nations, too, must be ready to help. South Africa has been disgracefully blocking discussion of Zimbabwe in the 15-strong Security Council, of which it is a current member (see article). But this week it was shamed into signing a unanimous statement deploring the Zimbabwean government’s violence. There have been calls for the UN to send peacekeepers and to oversee fresh elections: a nice idea that will not come to pass any time soon. At present, no such resolution in the Security Council would get the necessary support, especially from Russia and China (not to mention South Africa). Moreover, while the loss of life in such blighted places as Sudan’s Darfur province and Somalia is still many times higher than in Zimbabwe, the UN has proved unable to send anything like an adequate force to those places; getting the Security Council, and in particular China, to take action over Darfur was like pulling teeth. Yet there is every reason to start campaigning for the UN to take up the cause of Zimbabwe too. It should certainly help to manage a fresh election.

Why not send in the troops?

Some romantic spirits ask why Mr Mugabe cannot be ousted by force—by Western powers, if not the UN. It would be glorious if he were removed by any method at all. But it remains unthinkable for such an action to be taken without the co-operation—logistical, among other things—of the region’s leaders. Persuading them to collaborate in isolating Mr Mugabe is hard enough. Deploying an international force should not be ruled out in the future, especially if the violence spreads. But other methods, with Africans to the fore, must be tried first.

In any event, the rich world should spell out a generous and co-ordinated recovery plan to be acted on as soon as Mr Mugabe has gone and proper elections held that would presumably bring Mr Tsvangirai to power. Zimbabwe needs at least $10 billion to put it on the path to recovery. Yet it is a resource-rich country with a core of well-educated people, millions of whom have fled abroad and must be wooed back home. Mr Mugabe may cling to power for a while, but his grip is weaker. Zimbabwe needs help from the West. But most of all it needs its African neighbours to tell the tyrant unambiguously to go—and to snuff him out if he refuses. It can be done.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Britain, Tony Blair and Mugabe are to blame for Zimbabwe’s woes.

Polls have already opened in the presidential rerun in Zimbabwe, and Mugabe is headed for sure “landslide win” – he has no opponent. Many will vote for Mugabe not because they adore his leadership but rather because of what he has led them to believe; the west is out to turn Zimbabwe into another failed state like Iraq and Somalia through western puppets like one Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). They will vote for him because they have no other option – many Zimbabweans have known only one leader since independence. They will vote and do as he says because he is the only person fit to rule Zimbabwe. He is a war veteran with “unmatched qualities” anywhere in Zimbabwe. To call Zimbabwe "a failed State" is an understatement since the situation has spiraled out of control mainly because the world failed to act in time to stop Mugabe and his cronies from going too far. No words can exhaustively describe what Robert Mugabe has done to Zimbabwe. He has killed, maimed and raped his country. But what turned Mugabe into such a vicious dictator?

When Mugabe first ascended into power in 1980, he was the most popular president the world had ever witnessed. He exuded charm akin to the Democratic nominee Barrack Obama when he clinched the US Democratic primaries. Zimbabwe’s economy at the time was an envy of many countries due to its rapid growth. The country had great hope that no other developing country could march. ZANU-PF party was immensely popular, had no opponents (he destroyed them) until the 1990's when calls for democratizing Zimbabwe became so loud mainly from the commonwealth states.

To Mugabe, Democracy meant "Going back to colonial rule" - an ideology he did not subscribe to. It did not matter much until a few years later when Mugabe took a suicidal turn - he forcefully repossessed land from white Zimbabwean farmers (mainly from Britain) for redistribution to "black Africans". Britain could have let Mugabe rule for as long as he wanted had he not "robed" what they had fought so had to achieve during the colonial times. This “unpopular” decision gave birth to another equally “unpopular” movement (according to Mugabe) - MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) led by Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe was not ready to allow "external pressure" to undermine the freedom and sovereignty he had helped Zimbabwe achieve from Britain. He will go to war if this ever happens.

Given the impressive economic growth of Zimbabwe during the 1980s, Mugabe didn’t care whether or not Britain supported him. He failed to reckon the power behind the commonwealth (read Britain). None of the members could go against the wishes of her majesty the Queen (Who is advised by the British Premier). How dare he takes land that is not his and hands it over to his friends?
This situation has put Mugabe between a rock and a hard place; there are growing calls for his ouster, which makes him even more determined to hold on to power - all African leaders are forcing him into "quite diplomatic" talks with the opposition. The UN, SADC and AU have all failed to stop him. He won’t let them.

In his time as British Premier, Tony Blair carefully crafted a western media circus that would later turn Mugabe into a villain. During the 1980's, Mugabe was a media darling. Zimbabwe was a true story that described the struggle Africa underwent at the mercies of the colonial regime. Mugabe was a hero of sorts – and he remained so for “far too long” without realizing that his country needed another hero(in) not him. Britain was ready to help in effecting this change. Then came Morgan Tsvangirai who Mugabe literally beat senseless in more than one occasion, not because he hated him so much, but because he was sleeping with the enemy at Uncle Bob's expense. He is one of the western puppets that Mugabe has sworn to destroy at all costs – he is succeeding because the world has let him.

Whoever thinks Mugabe is not aware of the consequences of his actions against innocent Zimbabweans must be very mistaken. Robert Mugabe knows exactly what he is doing. He knows that the present circumstances cannot allow him to be “a common man”. A common man is vulnerable to many unpleasant situations such as 80 per cent unemployment and the world’s highest inflation rate. He has to be president, because the justice system will send him to join former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein wherever he may be. He has killed many people and denied many their human rights. He has starved innocent women and children. To make the matters worse, Robert Mugabe has single handedly managed to destroy his country's economy turning many into economic refugees. He knows only too well that immediately he cedes power, the International Criminal Court will come calling to hang yet another dictator that the world does not need. It’s a fight for his life.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hail Mugabe, long live Bob, you are a true African hero


Hearing it being told, Zimbabwe’s Big Man Robert Mugabe is an insane old man who should be locked up in a mental asylum, not running a country.

Writers, like this columnist, have been challenged to acknowledge the “good side” of Mugabe. So we did.

Recently I watched a documentary of the DR Congo’s thieving former dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. The programme revealed that Mobutu liked to hit on his ministers’ and ambassadors’ wives, and would take them off to his room as they watched.

Mugabe started dating his present wife, Grace, who is 40 years his junior, when she was a secretary at State House, and his wife Sally was ailing. Grace Marufu, as she was then known, was married to Flight Lt Patrick Guririza.

When Mugabe decided to take Grace as his, he didn’t do as Uganda’s former dictator (and friend of Mobutu) Field Marshal Idi Amin did when he set eyes upon the beautiful Sarah Kyolaba. Idi was immediately smitten, but like a good general, he first inquired about the competition.

He was told Sarah had a boyfriend, a fashionable musician of the time. Idi sent his boys round to the fellow’s house a few nights later, and he was never seen again, leaving him to take Sarah as his youngest (she reportedly also became his favourite) wife without any rival lurking in the shadows.

Compared to Mobutu who grabbed many people’s wives, Mugabe stole only one. And compared to Amin, he didn’t kill Flt-Lt Guririza. He exiled him to China as a diplomat. So in those two regards, Mugabe is far better than Amin and Mobutu.

Now, for those who are too young to remember, in 1980 a young sergeant in the Liberian army called Samuel Doe seized power in a coup. He was, like many African military dictators of his time, an appalling ruler. Rebellion broke out in his country. One of the rebel leaders was another strange man, Prince Johnson.

As Doe’s forces succumbed to the rebels, the man was still hanging around in the presidential palace. The story goes that, sensing danger, Doe hurriedly arranged a helicopter for a last-minute escape. However, the presidential guard, realising that he was leaving them to be killed for his sins, detained him and said they were not going to be left to “die alone”.

So it was that in September 1990, the rebels captured Doe. They stripped him naked, tied his hands behind his back, and begun torturing him. In a video that was widely circulated at the time, and that didn’t do the image of Africa much good, Prince Johnson is shown ordering his men to chop off a bloodied Doe’s ear and stuff it in his mouth.

Having killed Doe, the rebels fought over his intimate bits, heart and liver which they ate raw in the belief that all his powers would be transferred to them.

Now, compare that to how Mugabe has treated opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. In the first round of the elections, Mugabe’s supporters and police beat up and intimidated the opposition and mugged them of some of their votes.

Still, they had sufficient decency left. They didn’t steal enough to deny Tsvangirai victory. They only rigged it to prevent him getting the more than 50 per cent required by law.

A few weeks earlier, Zanu-PF goons had set upon Tsvangirai and beaten him senseless, leaving him with huge gashes on the head, closed eyes, and a major limp. Still, he lived to win the first round. If it had been Liberia, Tsvangirai would have had his ears cut off, killed, and then the remnants eaten.

You have to give Mugabe his due.

You might say it’s partly because of sanctions against him, but unlike other presidents, Mugabe spends a lot of his time in Zimbabwe. In that way he’s definitely better than Cameroon’s strongman Paul Biya.

In the last few years, Biya has lived mostly in France although he remains president. He returns to Cameroon for brief periods (perhaps to collect money from the Central Bank). But for sure, whenever elections are up, he comes, rigs the poll, and goes back to France.

There are those who say that, in the process, Biya has become the first truly hi-tech African president — he rules by remote control. Without the options of Biya, Mugabe has built his palaces in the outskirts of Harare, not on the Riviera.

Finally, there is Mugabe’s friend, former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who has lived in exile in Zimbabwe since he was deposed nearly 18 years ago. It’s estimated Mengistu killed at least 1.5 million people during his cruel rule.

On the other hand, when he was faced by the Matabeleland-based rebellion against his rule between 1982 and 1983, Mugabe unleashed the notorious Fifth Brigade to quash it. More than 20,000 people were killed.

It might well be that Mugabe harbours Mengistu to remind himself that he is “not as bad”. His regime killed “only” 20,000 people, as opposed to the former Ethiopian hard man who dispatched 1.5 million.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

BarCamp Nairobi 08 Beat them All

The Kenyan edition of the BarCamp geek conference series was held last Saturday in Nairobi. The event was successful by all standards. Geeks, bloggers and Tech lovers converged in Nairobi to share their various experiences. For those who missed, here are some photos.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Time to End Mu-Garbage tyranny in Zimbabwe

By James Bone, Francis Elliott and Jonathan Clayton
Times online

With just a week to go before Zimbabwe’s run-off elections – and with the body count growing – President Mugabe has been warned that he could be hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the atrocities inflicted on his opponents.

A key Western diplomat, speaking yesterday on condition of anonymity, said: “He needs to know he is moments away from an ICC indictment.”

Twelve bodies of activists, most of them showing signs of torture, were found across Zimbabwe yesterday.

In New York, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, convened a crisis meeting at the United Nations. She said: “By its actions, the Mugabe regime has given up any pretence that the June 27 elections will be allowed to proceed in a free and fair manner. We have reached the point where stronger international action is needed.”

Also yesterday, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, was denied a passport, and his deputy, Tendai Biti, was charged with subversion and election rigging – offences that carry the death penalty.

African leaders began to desert Mr Mugabe. A day after President Mbeki of South Africa failed to make any headway in face-to-face talks with President Mugabe, neighbouring states delivered their strongest condemnation yet.

Bernard Membe, the Tanzanian Foreign Minister, said: “There is every sign that these elections will never be free or fair.” He said that he and the foreign ministers of Swaziland and Angola – the peace and security troika from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – would write to their presidents to “do something urgently” to save Zimbabwe.

A senior SADC diplomatic source said: “The last allies he has in the world – SADC – are now saying they have had enough and this disgrace cannot go on. His obduracy has united them against him. They are trying to make him realise that a poll victory is no victory.”

South Africa, which has advocated “quiet diplomacy”, snubbed Dr Rice’s efforts. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Foreign Minister, skipped the UN meeting on Zimbabwe but attended a separate meeting with Dr Rice on sexual violence. They met briefly. Dr Rice said that she and Ms Zuma wanted the same thing for Zimbabwe.

Any attempt to bring Mr Mugabe before the court in The Hague faces formidable obstacles. The ICC has charged 11 Africans – two from Sudan, four from Uganda, one from the Central African Republic and four from the Democratic Republic of the Congo – but it does not have jurisdiction over Zimbabwe. It would have to be referred to the court by the 15-nation UN Security Council.

The Security Council is so split that the US, holding the presidency this month, is having trouble even holding a briefing on the violence. US diplomats may have to force a procedural vote to get Zimbabwe on to the agenda because of resistance from council members such as South Africa, Russia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Libya.

The US does not itself recognise the ICC, although it allowed the council to refer the Darfur crisis to the court. An official told The Times that the Bush Administration would be reluctant to accept another “carve-out” to the ICC by referring Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean authorities are outraged by any suggestion that Mr Mugabe might face an international court. Florence Ziyambi, the prosecutor, cited the threat of international prosecution as one of the grounds for charging Mr Biti. “They are alleging that the President is a criminal since they want to take him to The Hague,” she told the court. Whatever happens on the 27th, Mu-Garbage must be stopped.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Mediocrity of African Leadership

By Richard Dowden (TIME)
Africa's colonial history has left its rulers shy of external scrutiny, so an international gathering of political and business leaders in Cape Town from June 4-6 seemed to promise little more than platitudes. The annual meetings of the World Economic Forum for Africa have often conveyed the impression that Africa's only problem is its image. Rebrand the continent as a success, the message goes, and all will be well. But this year the rising cost of food, Africa's energy deficiency and its projected failure to meet the Millennium Development Goals forced a deeper conclusion: Africa has a serious leadership deficiency. A new wave of ambitious, critical and perhaps more open politicians are clamoring for change.

The shift in tone was clear from the opening session, which featured a clutch of politicians more used to public deference. Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and John Kuffour of Ghana are close to stepping down, and their power is waning. They were joined on the podium by Raila Odinga, who has fought the political establishment from birth, and in March was appointed Prime Minister of Kenya following a disputed election. Odinga laid into his fellow leaders for keeping quiet about another disputed election earlier this year — for Zimbabwe's presidency. Robert Mugabe, the incumbent widely believed to have been defeated, has not yet released the results.
Odinga also blamed the continent's ethnic conflicts on the "mediocrity of African leadership." Even the mild-mannered President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, struck a sharp note, hitting out at the practice, still widespread among African men, of taking multiple wives and siring hordes of children. Jacob Zuma, tipped to be the next President of South Africa, listened calmly. He boasts four wives and at least 18 children.
For some participants, the focus on Africa's — and their own — failings was distinctly uncomfortable. Malawi's President, Bingu wa Mutharika, urged African leaders to learn to share power with political opponents — notwithstanding the fact that he recently arrested six opposition party members. Mbeki, a focus for criticism about the failure to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe, blandly insisted that most of Africa was "evolving well."
Hopes that Zuma might provide stronger leadership on pivotal issues for the continent were not boosted by his performance at the conference. He called food prices "a time bomb" that governments could do little about — a limp response when 30 million Africans face hardship if more food is not grown and sold at affordable prices.
But the crisis also brings with it an opportunity — for Africa to grow and sell more food for domestic consumption and export. Namanga Ngongi, president of the Nairobi-based Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, told delegates that Africa could follow Asia's example and achieve a dramatic increase in agricultural output. That's true, but only 4% of national budgets are currently spent on agriculture, and investment is hampered by precolonial land rights that still prevail in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile the cost of fertilizer has risen even more dramatically than the cost of fuel, leaving farmers facing a triple whammy: oil- and food-price rises, plus a lack of credit. Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian businessman and Africa's richest man, said small farmers are not supported by governments. "Farmers would have to grow gold" to make a profit, he commented.
Nobody disagreed. There's wide recognition that more investment, fertilizer, better strains of seeds and better storage and transport are all essential to Africa's subsistence farmers. Yet in Africa, there's a perennial gap between knowing what needs to be done and doing it. China's venture into Africa has raised interest in business opportunities there. But many prospective investors are still put off by poor infrastructure. Several African countries, including South Africa, endure daily power cuts because of inadequate generating capacity.
Governments have let such problems persist. Africa's burgeoning middle class may prove less patient. At the Cape Town meeting, members of this class expressed a common vision of what needs to be done — and a sense of urgency, too. In the past, entrepreneurs and other professionals largely avoided politics. Now they are increasingly influencing policy and demanding better leadership. Their impact, and their importance to Africa’s future, hasn’t gone unnoticed. A European delegate with substantial African interests was asked which African investments he'd recommend. He replied: "Anything that supports the new middle class."

Richard Dowden is director of the Royal African Society. His book, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, will be published in September

Friday, June 13, 2008

Safaricom Shares: To go Short or Long Term? The Right Way Revealed

By Mohamed Shabir (Emerging Africa Capital)

To say either one of them is the best solution is definitely being biased. This is because every individual is unique. The decision on which way to go really depends on an individual’s investment personality and risk profile.

There are risks in both long term and short term trading. The latter exposing an investor to greater risk. Generally, volatility and risk diminish over time. The longer you hold on to your investment, the higher the probability of you earning a profit.

With short term trading, you have to speculate which shares are going to be most volatile. In this case you see profits immediately but if you speculate on the wrong stock, you might end up losing part of your investment capital. If the company you are vested in is fundamentally strong with a strong upside potential, you will lose out on big potential gains if you were to cash out too early.

When thinking about long term investment you can take advantage of dividends payout. Many stocks can pay out dividends to their shareholders month after month. This could produce a monthly income for you.

With long term investing, although there is a higher probability of earning a profit, you would need to be particularly patience. Many times, it takes over a year to earn a significant gain.

You do not have to do much with a long term investment. Long term investors are proactive while short term traders are reactive. A long term investment plan requires much less time to set up, manage and evaluate than any other form of investing.

With short term investments you would see more instant returns. In this case, however, you require quick action on information as this is one variable that changes a stock’s price in the short term. If you read into information fast enough, profits would usually not be far behind.

One of the advantages of short term investing is the compound effect. If you need your investment to grow, reinvest what you make in the short term and reap even greater returns in the long term (if you maintain your good speculative run).

Most importantly, when considering short term investing, you need to realize that you will be paying more commissions and hence to make actual gains, your sell and buy prices must reflect profits even on deduction of commissions.

Both short term and long term trading depend on how you trade. The things to consider in deciding which way to go include;

1. What system fits with your personality, are you a risk taker or are you risk averse.
2. What is your level of knowledge on the market?

These questions, once answered will reveal ‘the right way’ for you. Invest, long term or short term. It’s your call.

(Mohamed Shabir is a Financial Adviser with Emerging Africa Capital)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Michael Joseph of Safaricom highlights the promise—and peril—of doing business in Africa

The Economist (print edition)

THIS is a vexing time for those looking to invest in Africa. There are prophets of doom, who predict that population growth and climate change will condemn Africa's cities and dry countryside to crisis and collapse. But there are also optimists, such as Michael Joseph, the head of Safaricom, a Kenyan mobile-phone operator. His is a remarkable African success story.

When Mr Joseph arrived at Safaricom in 2000, the company had 20,000 customers. It was controlled (as it still is today) by Vodafone, a giant British group that is one of the world's largest mobile operators. Vodafone's bosses reckoned that the Kenyan market would top out at 400,000 customers. Yet Safaricom alone now has 10.5m. It is the most profitable business in eastern and central Africa, earning profits of $223.7m in the financial year to the end of March, up 16% on the previous year. Despite a political crisis in January in which over 1,200 Kenyans died and 300,000 were displaced, the firm is expected to report even better results this year. And a public offering of 25% of the firm—a stake that belongs to the government—is expected to raise at least $800m, much of it from retail investors who queued up to buy the firm's shares, which will begin trading on June 9th.

Mr Joseph arrived in Kenya in 2000 having spent a freezing winter in Hungary, where he had set up that country's third mobile-phone network. He quickly decided to go after “pay as you go” customers, who pay for mobile airtime in advance, and therefore do not pose a credit risk to the operator, though they spend much less than wealthier (and less numerous) contract customers. He introduced billing by the second—a big deal for those earning just pennies a month. And he revamped the firm's brand, reasoning that the poorest customers are the most price-sensitive, and that a strong brand can help keep them loyal.

Keeping the Safaricom name inherited from Telkom, the state fixed-line monopoly, Mr Joseph and a local advertising firm set out to create an “emotional connection” between Kenyans and Safaricom. He took an “old school” approach, playing on the company's status when it had been established a decade earlier as a symbol of national pride—as the first mobile operators were in many countries at the time. These days only Kenya's national beer, Tusker, with its elephant label, can match Safaricom for national appeal. A typically shameless television advertisement shows Masai herdsmen gathering cattle before a dusky Rift Valley sunset to the backing of the English hymn “I Vow to Thee, My Country”. Some think Safaricom offers a lesson to mobile operators in Europe and the Middle East: take advantage of your affiliation with a multinational brand when it comes to technological know-how and buying equipment, but keep quiet about it to your customers, and dress up your network in national colours.

Mr Joseph was picked for the Kenyan job because he lacked the finishing-school polish required to be a European boss. In some ways it was a homecoming. A self-described “Bolshevik character” in his South African youth, he fled the country in the 1980s when the strictures of apartheid tightened. He had made his name there as a “network man”, upgrading the coal railway through East Transvaal and setting up electric pylons in the Drakensberg mountains. He pitched up in America just as the mobile-phone revolution was about to start. He then worked on bids to set up networks in Spain, Greece, South Korea and Brazil. His proudest engineering moment was building Argentina's first mobile network, “the fastest-built in the world,” he says.

But his most enduring achievement is likely to be M-PESA, a pioneering service that enables Safaricom's customers to send money to each other by text message. Cheaper and faster than ordinary money transfers, it now moves $1.5m a day across Kenya, in mostly tiny transactions, and is being rolled out in India, Tanzania, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Mr Joseph brazenly calls it the mobile-phone industry's greatest ever innovation. That is an exaggeration—but not a very big one. Mobile banking could be the next stage of mobile-driven economic transformation.
Dial T for trade

Some have criticised Mr Joseph and Safaricom for failing to reveal the owners of a mysterious 5% stake in the company, built into the original deal, which probably enriched people close to the previous government. But by the turbid standards of corporate Africa, the company is clean. Can Safaricom's fairy-tale be matched in other industries? Mr Joseph is bullish. He refused to buckle under immense pressure from Kenyan intelligence to ban text-messaging during the riots and never lost hope during Kenya's political crisis, though he admits the country may have been only two weeks away from collapse. It would be folly, he insists, to bet against a continent as rich and resilient as Africa.

Mr Joseph wants M-PESA to offer new services, such as mortgage payments. He also wants to plough funds into expanding internet access in Kenya using high-speed “third-generation” mobile networks. At 62, Mr Joseph reckons he has three more years left at Safaricom before retiring, perhaps to the house he keeps in northern Kenya, circled by rhino and leopards. Until then he must fend off competition. Not from Celtel, Kenya's second provider, which seems content to earn dividends in Safaricom's shadow, but from France Telecom, which recently bought 51% of Telkom, the state fixed-line monopoly, and Econet, a new Indian-owned network.

Mr Joseph is not shy in weighing in on the perennial question of aid versus trade. The ability to get a phone line without an address or credit for less than $1, he says, “has been hugely more efficient than aid”. Since 70% of the economy is informal and government services are ragged, there is probably some truth in his claim that Safaricom has done more to help Kenya than decades of aid. At the very least, it offers a powerful lesson for would-be investors in Africa: it can pay to bet on the poor.

Friday, June 6, 2008

In the wake of Barack Obama

By The Jamaica Gleaner
It is hard to overstate the historic significance of the just-concluded Democratic Party primaries in the United States to select the party's standard-bearer in the presidential election, and the ultimate triumph of Senator Barack Obama.

Mr Obama is what Americans call an African American, although he is the progeny of a white American mother and a black father from Kenya. He will be the first black man to lead the presidential ticket of a major American party and the first from a 'minority' with a realistic chance of occupying the White House.

Senator Obama's triumph is all the more significant in the context of race in the United States, with its many unresolved issues. For despite his oft-repeated eschewal of red states and blue states and of white America and black America, it remains true that all US citizens do not see themselves through the same prism that produces the 'united states' , expounded by the candidate. If there is an under class in America, it is black people.

For all of America's flaws, the improbability of Mr Obama's candidacy gives weight to his claim that it is a story which could only have been written in the US. While it is nearly a century-and-half since the end of slavery, it is not yet 50 years since the death of Jim Crow laws in the South, the end of segregation or universal suffrage in America. The civil rights movement was at its height prior to Mr Obama's birth. (Continues below)

Top posts in May 2008:
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)

It is not, however, only Mr Obama who has created history. Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of the former President, Bill Clinton, might well have been the Democratic Party's nominee in what was an exceedingly close and hard-fought contest. In that event, she would have had a real shot of being America's first female president.

She will remain a powerful figure in the Democratic Party, and in US politics in general, the anti-Clinton sentiment in large segments of the US establishment notwithstanding.

The issue now is what kind of presidency to expect of Mr Obama should he beat John McCain, the Republican Party nominee, this November. Black people in the African diaspora countries, who are heavily emotionally invested in Mr Obama, as well as people elsewhere in the developing world, have great hopes for Mr Obama. Perhaps, after the thumping swagger of the past seven-and-half years of the Bush reign, any change is welcomed.

Senator Obama has said many things that people who perceive themselves underdogs in the face of power like to hear, like a return to multilateralism and the retreat of the 'ugly American' who thumbed his nose at the world on the march to Baghdad.

Yet, it would be wrong for those among us, and elsewhere, who have been captivated by Mr Obama's charisma and eloquence to assume that, should he reach the White House, he will be anything other than president of the US. The signs are already there - the subtle contextualising of previous foreign policy pronouncements and his firm, if not hawkishly pro-Israeli speech this week.

We, in the Caribbean, too, have cause for concern. Not long ago, on the issue of NAFTA, Senators Clinton and Obama were vying for who could be more protectionist. That's not in our best interest.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mr. Obama, the new John F. Kennedy, inspires hope and change that the world desperately needs

Mr. Obama, the new John F. Kennedy, inspires hope and change that the world desperately needs. He will reach the White House, not only because of his youth and background but also because he promises a radical departure from the rogue Bush administration.

This election was of crucial importance for democracy and a major historical moment. It came about against all the odds. What is most exciting is how Obama has been able to mobilize younger voters. This is one of the most important aspects. He can always be proud of that.
Go Go Obama. We are behind you...Business In Focus.