Illicit brew

The US tried to outlaw booze for a while and the resulting criminal underworld that thrived due to its underworld trade nearly brought cities like Chicago to its knees neck deep in gang wars led by the likes of Al Capone.

Its rather daft to ban a popular drug/drink or substance that has desirable effects when consumed. Especially when these desirable effects include ignoring how badly the incumbent government is screwing you over. A short history of how we got to the state we are in in Kenya can be found here.

As I write this there are over 130 people admitted at hospitals around central Kenya and a whopping 60 + DEAD after consuming laced unregulated alcohol. I refuse to use the word illicit because it seems to legitimize expensive poison and demonize the cheap variety.

Kenya and in particular Central Kenya is not surprised by scenes of  relatively young men staggering around in drunken stupors in the middle of the day. There have even been protests by the women with complaints that they are not getting satisfied conjugally. This means that both the Husbands and the Mpango wa Kandos are all too drunk to deliver the goods. This is actually very worrying and should not be tolerated.  Kazi kwa vijana indeed.

Accompanying the staggering men are instances where the brewing was hastened or the concoctions added did not balance out very well and unfortunately some of our brothers(Invariably its males) bite the dust or go blind. At most its about 2 or 3 guys in isolated cases and we communally shake our heads, wag our fingers and take another sip of our beers as we change the channel.

This has however become too real and too serious for life. My campus class was composed of some 30 guy and guyettes. So a full 2 classes of peeps are no more in pursuit of happiness.

Mututho will of-course gloat in the aftermath asking for more money to annoy us with ineffective messages of un-cool teenagers trying to sell the anti-booze message.

In my opinion the indulgence is not the problem. Its the regulation and the buggers who sit between the law makers and the law abiders, the Police. Anyone who has sat at a local bar knows the drill. At a particular hour just like clockwork, the police will come by and collect protection money from the bar owner. Swanky joints I am told send directly to the OCS if they have all their documents in order.

Smaller seedier joints have to deal with the guys on patrol. Whether you are cooking Busaa, methanol, ethanol or a witches brew so long as you pay up and keep your head down, no cop gives a f***. And I place this squarely at the Executive’s feet. The laws are there and the courts work fine. Zero enforcement of the law on the ground when it doesn’t involve extracting money from the public.

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Kenya’s New Mobile Networks:The case for MVNOs

The buzz over the past few weeks in the telco sector has been the news that we will now have three new networks operating in the mobile scene offering voice, data and Value Added Services riding on existing infrastructure.

Competition is always welcome in any industry and cant wait to sample their services. It is interesting that two of the 3 new entrants have a financial background showing that the M-Pesa hype has hit home with players salivating after it. One is Equity Bank Group through a proxy, Finserve Africa Ltd. The other license holder is Mobile Pay Ltd who operate Tangaza Pesa, a money transfer service. Mode comes in third dealing in Value added services for the mobile sector.

All of these networks apparently will run on Airtel Kenya’s unused capacity which makes me wonder exactly how much of their spectrum sits idly while people complain of congestion on Safaricom. Orange have been whining that CCK denied them the license to offer the MVNOs its spectrum. Quite frankly I would have refused too seeing as they seem hell bent on sitting on resources.

James Mwangi, Chief Executive Officer and Mana...

James Mwangi, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Equity Bank, Kenya, panelist, “Igniting Innovation in Financial Access: Public & Private Approaches for Greater Access by 2020″ (Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection)

From a financial and business viewpoint, this is a sweet deal for Airtel. Have your expensive spectrum utilized, get some money in the bank. For the likes of Finserve Africa, Mode and Mobile Pay things couldn’t look rosier. They are having entry to an already ripe market (some would argue already plateauing) for peanuts as compared to the likes of Safaricom and the fights, struggles that Yu had to go through to start operating.

Setting up Base stations, cabling, software, human resources, license fees and all sorts of other costs leaves mobile operations to the big boys with deep pockets. The new entrants will have to spend especially in marketing but no worries about hardware land issues and spectrum drama. One institution to watch is Finserve Africa simply because it has access to deep pockets with a grudge. A short walk down memory lane will have us see that the much hyped M-Shwari used to be called M-Kesho when the account used to sit with Equity Bank. I know not why they fell out but the resultant loss of footing in the mobile money landscape is something Equity will definitely want to resolve asap.

And now for some free advice from me to Equity Bank. This is a game of attrition. A case of replacing the incumbent. In this regard you want to do precisely the opposite of what they are doing. When it comes to the primary interface with the customer, the phone is king. This is where you want your SIM card to be an option. Do not sell or promote single SIM devices at any cost. Exclusively flog dual SIM or triple SIM devices if and when the show up. The idea is to find space next to Safaricom in users lives. Do not seek to replace because you will fail miserably like Orange, Airtel and Yu. Once you sit next to Safaricom, Make everything cheaper and extremely tightly integrated with Equity bank accounts. All Equity customers are likely to get a SIM card just to see what this new fangled thing is from their favourite bank.

Now to slowly convert followers, offer everything cheaper than Safaricom. Whether its Data, SMS, Money Transfer etc. Then be more flexible than Safaricom in terms of modifying the product to fit your customers. Also being a bank, finally sort out this international payments thing with the CBK to make Paypal and related transactions seamless. Be the defacto payment method for online commerce tied to the mobile phone and you will have all the techies singing your name.

Attack Safaricom on fronts tat they would rather not fight in like opening the mobile money API to the internet for e-commerce.

This remains to be an eventful year and I cant wait to find a way to jump into it.

 

 

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Why the new IDs have nothing to do with security

As is becoming rather regular with our government, roadside or podium side declarations are the order of the day with no clear or predictable policy direction. The latest one is the decision to issue everyone with a new ID card.

Every one is to get a new fangled ID with your full biometric features along with NHIF,NSSF,PIN no. and possibly your MPESA no.

Ofcourse the last bit is less emphasized and the need to get on top of the security situation is the most publicized trait. This is all well and good but they plan on using the birth certificate to prove citizenship or as the base document to prove your claim as a son/daughter of the soil. The same document used for the old IDs. Not too sure what is supposed to change.

English: Kenyan passport

English: Kenyan passport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now kids as old as 12yrs of age will be given IDs. I still don’t know why this is necessary but I trust there are very smart bureaucrats and this requirement is somehow security related.

Either way I doubt the drive to get new fangled IDs with supposed full proof Biometric details is based on security threats. Alshabab do not need IDs to throw grenades. And as far as I can tell they have my face and fingerprints already. Infact since I lost my ID and had to get a replacement, they have a another full set. I have full faith in the record keeping abilities of the authorities and am sure they have even Mzee Kenyattas prints, along with all the other Random Mau Mau guys who got booked by the British.

So the story that they need to beef up their bio-metric records is hogwash unless they want to start collecting DNA samples. So whats the point you ask? Well as I always say, follow the money. Having your bio-metrics tied to your NHIF, KRA etc makes it damn easy to push new taxes on you and to milk you properly in the event that you have somehow been forgetting to fill your income tax forms. Of course they can tie your ID to all these systems already but we all know how lazy our dear government is. They would rather create a whole new system as opposed to trying to make the existing ones talk. Like the President wanting us to report directly to him whenever we see corruption. Report to the President not the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission. You cant make this stuff up.

So Serikali wants to track you properly or rather track your transactions properly. more control of your accounts= more revenue for KRA = more money to buy jets to bomb the Alshabab = increased brownie points with the public = reelection for incumbent = more looting by political types = more taxes to close the deficit. Get where am going with this?

Am rather sad though that my new shiny ID is going to have such a short life. I wonder who gets these contracts for printing IDs. I never see any advertisements.

Do you?

 

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House of Cards

house_of_cards2

You gotta love Frank Underwood. Or hate him intensely. There are no middle grounds when it comes to emotions on how you feel about him. He lies, manipulates, murders and destroys people with such regularity that you wonder what exactly is wrong with everyone around him that they do not recognize his conniving ways.

I suppose the main reason nobody sees beyond the facade is his manner of speaking. He will say he supports your initiative with the most colourful words while working around the clock to sabotage you. It is rather hilarious when you realize that this is more or less how most politicians operate. There is never a fair exchange of anything be it deals, money or support.

What was more fascinating for me however was his relationship with Claire, his wife. They have the weirdest, most fulfilling relationship ever. As they admit to anyone who asks, they tell each other everything. No lies, no manipulation.  And this they don’t lie about. Over and over again we are shown their full exposure to each other especially of Frank to his wife. He tells her of the affair he is having (Though this tends to invalidate the affair bit) with Zoe Barnes including sordid details of their conversations.

Frank Underwood

It keeps things very simple for the life between them and is amusing in its lack of theatrics and posturing. They have their arguments but usually resolved in a manner that at times seems way too formal and mature. Maybe its the nature of the characters or the realization that there is much bigger fish to fry out there.

Its a sordid tale with many falling by the wayside as collateral damage in Frank’s quest or power and revenge. I gotta admit its chock full of lessons in people management, use of leverage and the importance of being on the same boat and singing the same tune with our significant other.

I liked the mode of storytelling especially the employ of the technique of breaking the fourth wall. This is where Frank looks directly at the camera and addresses the audience directly. It helps in explaining some of the plot lines especially when he does something that doesn’t make sense. Also sharing in his psychopathy helps in making him seem human.

Netflix as scored a major win here especially by releasing the whole season a once and leting people watch at their own pace. It took me about 3 weeks to do the 2 seasons and I like it that way.

All in all this is a most recommended series that should be watched by the non-conservative.

 

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What Drives The Economy

I have always found the phrase economic growth to be rather nebulous and damn near impossible to accurately measure. Matters are made worse when every country’s stats body makes up its own formulae for calculating GDP, GNI and all sorts of other metrics that measure everything but ignore empty plates in the slums.

All this will ofcourse not prevent me from contributing my expert opinion on economic matters.

I think economics should be simplified for easy consumption by the public instead of making it sound like advanced space science.

At the core of it i suppose the economy is driven by exchange of goods and services. The more fluid the exchange and the bigger the catalog of goods and services that can be exchanged the healthier the economy gets and the bigger it grows.

An example is often given of a classroom experiment conducted by a trainer. He gave one student a dollar and asked him to buy something from one of his classmates. What he bought was just something trivial like a pen or a piece of string and as the exchanges dominoed around the room, there was a lot of interaction between  the buyers and sellers with haggling and negotiations. All surrounding one dollar worth of exchange currency. The result was that there was a lot of emotional fulfillment from the exercise and though there was no real net change of status of the participants materially or financially, there was benefit in terms of the experience and social lubrication that trade offered.

I thus tend to think the economy is less about how much money is flowing and rather how fast or how easy it is to transfer money or facilitate exchange of goods and services.

This is where the beauty of Mpesa and e-commerce companies that lubricate such transactions and enable citizens to buy and sell goods and services faster than they have done before. I have personally benefited from local classifieds here where all sorts of products are listed by regular people. Its almost like a flea market or garage sale of sorts only that its all run virtually. All this smoothens the transaction process and enhances social interactions not to mention that bargains are to be had as well.

Of course brick and mortar businesses(In this part of the world its more cement and iron sheets) benefit from the same liberation offered by the advanced technology

In this light then its rather strange that our govt keeps systems that are a nightmare for individuals and small businesses to navigate government business or take care of things such as taxes and claims. The only bodies that are able to do this comfortably are deep pocketed multinationals and even then comes at a great cost to them.

Well to their credit government bodies have started getting more open to possibilities of sharing data and reducing the bureaucracy involved with business registration and general transactions involved with the authorities. More needs to be done though.

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Airtel Kenya

I don’t understand some companies.

I imagine that the primary motivation for a commercial company is profit. For a mass market company that profit lies with the consumers. Keeping our consumers happy is thus a reasonable way of getting more money = happy shareholders. Keeping them infuriated is not a good plan.

Back when they were still Celtel or Zain, I got myself a postpaid line since I ad an online gig that needed near constant internet. Back then accessing net was either at a cyber(expensive and movement restricting) or getting a mobile connection(still expensive and slow but doable)

I used to pay what I pay now for my Zuku connection so I expected proper services. It was fine technically for the most part considering the times and the options available.  At some point they decided to ‘revamp’ the postpaid offering. The resulting interaction led to my breaking of he contract.

The deal we had was this. I pay 4,000/- a month and get unlimited internet and 1000/- for voice /SMS usage. Pretty ok and I had no desire to leave this arrangement. The new plan was more or less the same but voice was cheaper so of course I signed on. Once the new postpaid plan was launched they decided that I no longer needed unlimited internet and started billing per MB. All without as much as sending an SMS or email about it. Come the end of the month I am presented with a bill for 45,000/- bob. The ensuing correspondence between us was basically threats about me signing a contract and needing to pay and nonsense about my phone being off when they tried to reach me.

 I just threw away the line and let them keep the deposit.

Recently I came upon Airtel airtime vouchers that was unused for a past project. The vouchers had since expired and thus unusable.

I have had similar predicaments with both Orange and Safaricom and the matter was dealt with swiftly usually by extending the expiry of the cards and rendering them active again. As explained by @tommakau here it is not a prudent policy for telcos to extend the lifespan of  their consumable products but simply refusing to enable consumers to use legitimately purchased resources is just ridiculous.

Calls to the customer care were unfruitful, Twitter responses were the standard ‘ give us your no. and we get back to you’ (They haven’t.), visits to the Customer centers result in a blank look and my cards being slid across the table back to me. Basically the message is ‘ You shouldn’t have let them expire in the first place.’ For the most part they have no idea what to do with them. Replacing or sorting you out is seemingly not amongst their options.

I now have 3,000/- bob worth of Airtel airtime and the best I can do with it is use them as table wedges or kindling for fire.

 

 

 

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Orange Kenya: Most Infuriating Sleeping Giant

So today I woke up to this from the folks over a @orange_kenya

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Which is a follow up to a full page ad from yesterday where they prove to be the cheaper option for making calls either way you slice it.

Have been an Orange customer since they started operations and I am particularly a sucker for their brand and marketing. Whoever manages this is pretty good at their job. The marketing is however miles away from the actual service that you recieve. I have for instance been complaining about the notification of the end of an unlimited internet subscription cycle. Currently at the end of the month data just starts using your airtime. An SMS a day before this happens would enable me to promptly subscribe again for the next month. But now I am left with no Airtime, no data and feeling annoyed.

Either way Orange are a giant that has been sitting in its own pee for a long time and at least I think they are now starting to think of taking on the new giant whom they allowed to grow up.

I have always advocated for the underdogs to accept their place and work with it instead of calling themselves leading anything. Safaricom is the mother and father of the telco industry as it stands. Market dual SIM phones like your life depends on it, because it does. Orange should infact be only selling Dual SIM versions of all the popular hardware. And sell them at cost. Then market your network as cheap for calls and data. Dont ask anyone to dump Safaricom because they wont. My Safaricom line has never left my side and remains my main line. I however make most of my calls and data and text from my Orange line for purely economic reasons.

Invite users to try out your ecosystem without destabilizing their routine. Cannibalize Safaricom’s market slowly and eventually profits will come.

The way out is not in price wars as Airtel has realized. Be the side chick and even though you may never manage to replace the wife, you will get most of the money. Which is the whole point anyway. Dont seek to replace Safaricoms SIM, fight for space next to it. There is a reason Safaricom never sells any Twin SIM handset. Its a mortal threat and they know it.

I thought Yu were going to go this route but they just joined the Line and are now angling for an exit.

Orang has another Troika in its arsenal but is content with leaving it as a dumb data pipe. The CDMA network that the predecessor Telkom Kenya worked so hard to build is basically now Modemland. Launch a slew of Smartphones that run on CDMA and sell them for cheap. Make data on this network cheaper than on GSM because I believe technically this is the case. Now you know that anyone who buys this handset is not going anywhere and the tech assures this.

Why they are not negotiating with AT&T for their old iphone 4 s that run on CDMA to resell locally for super cheap is puzzling. Here they have a network hat is  mostly idle that assures lock in and revenue and they do nothing to monetize it.

Meanwhile lets see how much money Safaricom makes this quarter.

 

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Apple Ecosystem

Apple gets a lot of flack for being seen as the epitome of wealthy consumerist culture.  I suppose being at the top attracts al the haters on the planet. I used to be in that bandwagon and regularly gagged when I heard the prices of their computers, laptops, and phones. Used to wonder what kinda morons would spend their money on a brand name when you could get a machine with higher specs for a fraction of the price.

I was soon to eat my words when I got myself a Macbook Pro. The build quality, stability and support from the mothership was amazing. It helps when there are limited versions of a product from a company thus allowing a critical mass of users for them to be able to iron out any flaws. It also allows for a better design.

Anyhoo, last week my harddrive finally died after warning me for many months. I tried doing what Apple suggests and walked into one of their resellers or service centers and asked them what a replacement would cost. The figures quoted were beyond ridiculous. They even wanted to charge me for installing the OS. A whole 6,000 bob.  Please note that every Macbook comes with OSX and so it follows if I show up with a macbook, then at some point OSX was installed on it. To charge me to return it to that state is rather ridiculous and actually illustrates why people see Apple as a money hungry beast.

I decided to just buy a harddisk of the shelf and I managed to get a 1TB disk from Bestell in town and bought the T3 screwdriver set long Luthuli Avenue and replaced the harddisk myself using the iFixit guides.

Am not rich so paying some guy to pop a DVD into my drive and clicking Next didn’t sound like a plan. Attempts at cloning my drive were fruitless as the thing was barely spinning up.

I was frustrated and just went home, connected to ethernet and switched it on. Didn’t know what to expect but after a minute or two it asked me if I want to start internet recovery. I had few options and so said yes. Long story short, it downloaded a bunch of files and installed  a recovery partition after which I was asked if want to install OSX Mountain Lion. It downloaded the files and installed with very little intervention from me.

I doubt there are any other software platforms that offer such a service from a fresh harddisk with no software on it. Ofcourse this means that there is some rudimentary or maybe not so rudimentary OS that runs above whatever is running on the harddisk and that connect to the internet and send or receive whatever it wants. This is clearly a nightmare to security conscious people but this is a non issue for me. I am not running a govt agency from my laptop, yet.

I am liking this also throwing in the free software upgrades and maturing ecosystem I am slowly getting sucked into the Apple Universe. I hate the locked up nature though and this may be what will prevent me from getting an iPhone. Its too limiting and they have no twin SIM configurations. Thats a deal breaker.

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2013 Conclusion: Arusha

2013 has been or rather was a good year for me. Ticked off a couple of items on my bucket list and added others and proceeded to tick them off.

Fiiiiinaly graduated from campus, Attended the World Youth Day in Brazil, became the subject of a documentary still in production, got a good job and witnessed many happy moments with friends and family.

So me and the sister decided to ‘jump’ the year ‘Overseas’ . . ok fine over land next door in Arusha. Its a rather short trip over land and the border crossings are not fussy at all. I think we spent all of 15 mins getting cleared inclusive of our car. I suspect though that my sister was well armed with all requisite documents.  I was happy to clutch my beer can.

We were however looking suspicious or maybe its a Kenyan number plate thing but we were stopped several times by Tanzanian cops who were very interested in the Drivers license and Comesa Insurance. If these two are in order most would let you pass but there are always the stubborn types who simply want a bribe. they will angle for silly things like the fire extinguisher type and the log book etc. Not wanting to get acquinted with the legal system of the Swahili speakers we gave a token, and we were waved away with very broad smiles. They however take bribes rather awkwardly as though they don’t know what to do during the process. twas hilarious.

Did not encounter a single pothole on the Tanzania side and all road markings were intact and more or less made sense with busstops clearly marked and plenty of road signs to guide drivers. Traffic lights are mostly obeyed however their equivalent of yellow lines are totally ignored and guys overtake anywhere. Their police have shiny new speedguns which they use with relish like our cops and Alcoblow. Its however pleasurable driving with breathtaking scenery in along the plains especially about 20km past Arusha which seems predominantly Maasai populated.

We stayed at Pamoja Expedition Lodge a small bed n breakfast on the outskirts of Arusha with very nice facilities and nice whether you want peace and quiet or want to paint the town red, the staff will accommodate you either way.

Booze and food is cheap in Arusha though depending on where you are buying but in most stores, stuff is cheaper than in .ke

Arusha, located next to the Kilimanjaro, is on...

Arusha, located next to the Kilimanjaro, is one of three cities in Tanzania that provides continuous water supply. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would like to tour more of Tanzania especially the less talked about southern areas. I am sure there are gems down there that are not frequented by many.

My new year resolution is to find a way of crossing over into Malawi.

 

 

 

 

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The Flat World

I must admit I keep finding new depths of my ignorance every time I look into a matter I thought I was an expert on.

For the longest time I presumed Galileo was the proponent of a spherical earth and that the catholic church was being frigid and refusing sense and subsequently placed him in house arrest for blasphemy. It turns out that at the time, a spherical earth was as obvious as it is today. ok maybe not they didn’t have satellites back then.

But the point is Aristotle and the other old greek mental badasses knew all this and in fact fellows like Eratosthenes had calculated the radius pretty accurately. Note these are guys whose best computer is an Abacus. The conflict was actually about whether the Earth revolved around the sun or vice versa.  If you don’t know the answer to this you are what is wrong with the world.

Running into his blog  http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/ just threw even more of my assumptions into disarray. But then again they were not assumptions. Its what we have been taught since pre-school. However weird some of the stories in the bible sounded strange in the context of the Middle East and present day Israel we simply shrugged and swallowed it.  I mean we were kids any way with more pressing matters like where to get the shiniest marbles to play with.

Egyptian V

Egyptian V (Photo credit: yamaha_gangsta)

 

Reading conventional Eqyptian history or consuming popular media that claims to document Ancient Egyptian culture, tradition and peoples would lead you to think Ancient Egyptians were basically white with a bunch of black slaves. It would also appear that the Egyptian culture borrowed from e roman and the greek. The opposite is what happened. The dualistic nature of most religious systems including the popular motifs of a virgin birth, a divine son, resurrection etc are all Egyptian in Origin. And the Egyptians probably assimilated it from an older more sophisticated society from deeper in the continent.

Human life is thought to have started off somewhere in the region of L. Turkana, Kenya. The Petrified forests in the area are evidence that the area was once a lot more lush than the barren landscape that is existent now. The story of Eden is thus more likely to have been set in Africa rather than the Middle eastern junction of the Tigris and the Euphrates.

 

Egyptian Domesticated Animals

Egyptian Domesticated Animals (Photo credit: Believe Creative)

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