Move Over, 2008

January 1, 2009

We finally bid farewell to a year that will be mostly memorable for the bad things that happened than the good.
This is the year that saw Kenya nearly disintegrate into chaos after a botched presidential election. Power hungry politicians ignited mayhem using the tribal card, effectively dividing so as to rule. Even institutions presumably on morally higher ground like the church lost their standing by aligning themselves with the feuding sides. Luckily, people-power prevailed and with the help of eminent sons of Africa, headed by Kofi Annan, peace prevailed. Stability returned in March with the signing of an agreement between Raila and Kibaki. Unfortunately, we are yet to return to normalcy–IDPs continue to languish in makeshift camps yet it’s business as usual for politicians.
Mwananchi’s troubles were not to end there. There was a commodity boom that saw the astronomical rise in general food prices. Inflation rose to 31 per cent. Unga price tripled.
On the global front, the world witnessed a major economic downturn reminiscent of the Great Depression of the 1930s. This was brought on by unrestricted freemarket capitalism. Against better judgment, financial institutions opened credit floodgates to every tom, dick and harry — without proper vetting. The inevitable result of all that greed was a major credit crunch… and the depression now unfolding. The effects of this are yet largely unknown in this continent that is largely a backwater. (Ironically, its exclusion from the global economy might save Africa this time).
2008 was however not all gloom.
Kenya celebrated it’s best performance yet at the Olympic games.
Our collective pride also got a boost when America voted Obama, whose father was kenyan, as it’s next president.
Quite an unforgetable year it was!

Posted by Wordmobi

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Trippin’

December 30, 2008

So the Palins have added a brand new member to their clan! News just out report that Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol, gave birth to a 3.3kg, bouncing baby boy, aptly named — Tripp. That’s right, Tripp!
Wouldn’t you agree that tripping is what she did when she chose a high school dropout with a drug dealing mum for a baby daddy? Knowing what we know of hockey grandma Sarah, the newborn must have quite an impressive pedigree. Indeed!

Posted by Wordmobi

Of foreclosures…

December 17, 2008

A man died and left the house to his only son. Twenty-four hours later, the bank foreclosed on the house.
“Well,” noted the son, “Dad did say that the house would be mine one day.”

Posted by Wordmobi

The first half of 2008 has seen worldwide food prices rise by percentages not seen in the last half a century. Anectodal claims relate that at one point the price of rice rose 25% in the span of two hours in the same market on the same day! A combination of factors have led to this scenario. Top of the list is the rising cost of fuel which underpins all kinds of production. Other culprits are almost all closely related to this one factor. These include the even more dramatic rise of fertilizer prices and other farm inputs.

While noting that the scarcity of traditional fuel is mostly to blame, it’s ironical that the noble search for an alternative energy source – biofuels – should prove so detrimental to poor folks’ survival as tonnes of grains go towards manufacture of biofuels at the expense of food. It’s a dilemma.

Other factors often cited as cause of food insecurity are rapid urbanization and erratic weather. But i digress. The protectionism of domestic markets by the rich countries are just as much to blame. Subsidies and unfavourable market practices discourage farming in poor countries. So does lack of credit access. Creation of sustainable agriculture in Africa depends on revision of policies in the Northern hemisphere.

It is against this backdrop that FAO held its 25th regional conference for Africa in Nairobi this past week. But like most other UN conventions, this talkshop will probably yield only talk and no action. The ultimate responsibility squarely lies with leaders who have to find ways to feed their populations or risk revolutions. A hungry man is an angry man. When opening the conference, Kenya’s agriculture minister mentioned that 46% of Africans are hungry! That’s a hell lot of angry people! A good number of countries, including Kenya, have already witnessed riots stemming from the sharp increase in food prices. Similar and sometimes worse riots have taken place elsewhere in the world; from neighboring Somalia to far off lands like Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivore, Cameroon, Egypt, Haiti, Senegal, Uzbekistan… and counting. So while the bourgeoisie stay cushioned from the harsh realities (and suggest “let them eat cake” like Marie Antoinette of France did over two centuries ago when her subjects demonstrated for lack of bread) they should know that they’ve been put on notice.

It’s regretable that Africa has moved from being a net exporter of food in the 1980s to unhealthily relying on food imports now. Part of the solution now is to invest more in agriculture. Most African countries allocate not more than a paltry 4% of their annual budgets to agriculture, putting it way behind healthcare and education. A lot more investment needs to be done in modern technologies, including but not limited to GM. Improvement in infrastructure is also paramount.

It is a fact that we are not about to see reversal in the price trends for the next few years. No amount of handouts will help us this time round. Long term measures are what we need. Unless our leaders realise this and act accordingly, they face the same fate as Marie Antoinette – the guillotine.

New mobile technologies are unexpectedly turning out to be what the doctor recommended to tackle the digital divide. An increasing number of ‘entry level’ phone users are slowly embracing the convinience of the web on their phones. Cybercafes will soon be obsolete as more people (not necessarily tech savvy) learn to maximise the use of their phones.

Majority of Kenyans with internet access use the frustratingly slow narrowband services as their main route. The promised fibreoptic cable project has failed to take off due to political powerplays among the regional countries. Now its completion date has been pushed forward-again- to next year, a shame for people who are playing catch-up with the rest of the world.

Luckily, mobile technologies have come to our rescue. The Kenyan mobile phone network provider, Safaricom has recently introduced 3G technology in the form of the W-CDMA protocol. Early adopters will be able to use their 3G enabled handsets as fast modem bearers to connect their laptops to corporate networks, which is the main business case for 3G as it allows data transfer at  impressive speeds (7.2Mbps). 3G Smartphones are also coming with their own decent browsers supported by fairly stable operating systems. Symbian Operating System is the most popular and is featured mostly on Nokia and Sonyericsson handsets. It’s distant second competition, Windows Mobile is more common on American made handhelds but it’s stifled by it’s closed nature. Contrarywise, Symbian OS is opensource.

Kenya now becomes the second country in the region to provide 3G (why, oh why!). Safaricom launched its trial 3G in Nairobi last year. It became fully operational only last month. Rollout to other regions out of Nairobi is expected in the course of this month. Its likely to have a big impact on business as 3G allows for improved digital multimedia experience with broadband mobile communications able to carry voice, video graphics and other information. 

As the internet becomes the primary source of communication, information and entertainment, more and more people are going to become interested in surfing ‘on the go’. New internet trends like Web 2.0 already work perfectly on mobile gadgets. Users can bookmark widgets and customise RSS feeds on their handsets. IM and Social networking is seamless on 3G enabled phones. As more Web 2.0 services such as Wikis and ‘Twittering’ get mainstream, penetration of web via handsets increases. It’s increasingly common to see status updates on facebook profiles done from mobile phones. Soon, no one will need a PC except as a peripheral device for use only occassionally. This is not just a Kenyan trend, it’s worldwide.

Meanwhile, developers are busy churning out more applications both for productivity and fun.

With 3.3 billion people projected to have mobile phones worldwide (that is web-ready, by extension) by 2010, this is perhaps the area the next web giants should be looking at. The mobile web conqueror will be the next Google. No doubt.

Yes We Can!

June 4, 2008

This is undoubtedly the dawn of the new world order. A great moment. The entire world has felt the vibe. The Americans (and the world at large) wanted a leader with new ideas for the unique challenges we are facing. With Barrack as leader of the free world, we are all in safe hands. It’s there in his character.

It’s a pity Hillary Clinton does not want to gracefully surrender and help mend the rift created by the bitter rivalry she has had with Obama. Without a doubt, it’s understandably difficult to come to terms with her loss. She started the race as the clear frontrunner. The nomination was hers to lose. She had the immense machinery and network support mostly inherited from her much loved former president husband. But none of that could stop an idea whose time had come. She’s lost clean and square. It’s time to move over and give Barrack Obama space to start aiming his barbs at McCain.

With the Democratic nomination all but his, Barrack will hopefully choose a running mate with whom they can work well together, taking into account the tricky balancing of demographics. A large percentage of misguided blue collar whites do not feel his appeal. He could work out a sum that’ll take that into account. A running mate with wider acceptance among the older white folk might work like magic. There is a time when picking Hillary would have made them the perfect team… but they they went too far downhill. They are at a point of no return. They can’t work together.

But now as we celebrate having one of ‘our own’ as leader of the free world, let us take this moment to evaluate where we normally get it wrong. We know that if Barrack had grown up in Kenya, he probaby wouldn’t have made it very far (although we could have hailed his ‘potential’). We ought to recognize talent and reward it accordingly. Merit should reign if we ever wish to come out of the doldrums we are in. We in Africa should start evaluating who we elect as our leaders… As the Obama experience rekindles the American Dream, let it give the rest of us a lesson about HOPE.

Thanks for that vital lesson wuod Alego Kogelo!

Evolution: The next level

October 30, 2007

This is the most enlightened generation, oh that’s what we like to think. But so has every generation before us – at their time… until time proves otherwise, as it often does. With this wisdom in sight, I take this opportunity to project what the future might probably be like. To begin with, convention is set to be the worst casualty.

A century ago Darwin brought it to our attention that we were evolving through a slow process he called ‘natural selection’. That was before we started interfering with ‘natural’ in the phrase and we replaced it with ‘gene’ selection… or shall we more aptly say we now have ‘artificial selection’. Let me explain…

Picture this; It’s sometime in the future and the human animal has stretched himself to his ultimate potential. We all know there’s only so much we can do in the physical realm. It’s not unimaginable that there will come a time records won’t be broken any longer. Atleast not in the way we have always known them to. Achievements in all spheres will become stagnant, except knowledge – and that only because we gain more by building the new upon the old that’s already known. I am refering mostly to physical endeavours. We have seen what has been done in farming to improve yields. Genetic interfering. I take my cue from there. Humans will soon become too impatient to wait for natural selection to improve their lot. The evidence is everywhere.  Remember the Marion Jones drug saga a few weeks ago? And those about to throw stones, are you forgeting that when you use Viagra it amounts to the same crime? Aren’t y’all trying to enhance performance – artificially!

Like trading in the futures market, people will soon be lining up to have genetic engineers wire their unborn babies with prefered aptitute – to be doctors, engineers, lawyers or artists – depending on what they think will be the most profitable profession for their kids.

Since most of us are already consuming genetically engineered foodstuff, it’s only logical to say that a new generation is emerging. I might not quote any research but I dare say kids are growing up noticably different from them days. What with new conditions like ADD and stuff like that. Why and where do these come from? Couldn’t this be termed evolution? Only this time it has human interference written all over it. The first few homo erectus were probably frowned upon by the homo habilies for walking up straight instead of using all fours – and said to have Two-Limb-Disorder perhaps!

Can you believe that only recently we were never allowed to use calculators in exams? The mere suggestion that they will soon be allowed would have been laughed off. But what do we see now? It is because of that that I have the audacity to proclaim that in the near future, hold tight for the designer babies, drug enhanced olympic games …and sex with machines! Or is it here already? No kidding, just check this out – a true story of a guy who had sex with a bicycle! <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/26/nsex126.xml>

bicycle luv

Curious kid

October 30, 2007

Posted by ShoZu

Mombasa Raha

September 6, 2007

I’m officially three months old in Mombasa! That qualifies me to give a fairly well informed opinion of the place.

My verdict: GREAT! My reasons?

Firstly, there’s the (sometimes bothersome but generally) lovable laid back character of the people. Unlike Nairobians, Coastal residents act like they have all the time in the world. Talk of savouring “the moment”. No one ever seems to be in a hurry. What’s more, they are a lot less cranky and a lot friendlier.

Loving food like I do, I can’t wish for a better place to live in. Locals here, the swahili, long perfected their cooking into a fine art. Forget the blunt boiled white rice we’ve grown used to… here nothing heads for the palate or anywhere near its precincts – or is considered decent enough to go in there without the permission of an assortment of well picked and perfectly marched spices. It’s no coincidence considering the proximity of spicy island, Zanzibar. The last time I checked, I weighed 57kgs(three weeks ago). I am now on a spirited campaign to add 5 more kgs by the end of the year. That doesn’t sound far fetched here. It would be a shame if the mahamri, biriani, pilau and kuku wa nazi would let me down.

Then there’s the music. Taarab rules the airwaves here. For the uninitiated, taarab is a form of poetry that is sang instead of being narrated. The ‘mashairi’ (poems) are made to float on harmonious accompanying drum-beats and flutes. The narrations, like rap, are not sanitized or disguised, but merely hidden behind facades of similes, parables, old sayings all in conc. swahili. Most are about dissing imaginary foes(or so I hope because some are grossly insulting). Overall, extremely enjoyable.

Coastal weather is warm, nay hot and humid. All the time.

Of course the other thing I love is the beach. Living in Mombasa is like being on holiday, all the time(don’t be envious!).

At the workplace, we have a googleplex-like atmosphere (complete with free gourmet meals and gym if you are stationed in our training institute, KRATI…;)) dress code is relaxed for all staff unlike Nairobi where you have to observe and maintain official business-wear always. ACs are installed everywhere. All offices have cold/hot water dispensers. Our staff quarters are among the best regionally and rapport with the right people will get you free transportation to the workplace everyday.

However, like all else, Mombasa has its downside. My pet peeve is the constant humidity. Can you imagine sweating as you come from the bathroom? Fortunately something can be done about it, atleast indoors – installing the ACs. Another grouch I have is the slightly saline taste of our tap water.

All in all, I love it here. Despite its ancient look and the dilapidated buildings, it’s a charming city overall. And like they say, “kuingia ni harusi, kutoka ni matanga”. Am getting hooked… who’s gonna rescue me?

What would be your verdict?