My take on the Israeli occupation

At the risk of getting permanently banned from Israel I will write about them and the Palestinians.

It is one of the most puzzling ‘conflicts’ of our time. watching the mainstream news networks you would think Hamas have tanks and rockets and could also possibly launch nuclear warheads at Tel Aviv. This is until you look at a map showing where the West bank and Gaza are. To think that Palestine basically occupied what is now normally called Israel just makes the jaw drop further.

I suggest you don’t listen to Benjamin Netanyahu talking about Israel’s right to exist as though they can pull a contract between the state and the neanderthals selling them the land.

There are no excuses for blowing people up in their own homes. That they have tossed a couple of rockets , which were intercepted, doesn’t mean that they deserve to have their homes destroyed.

Its quite frankly an occupational force in Palestine.

What I find rather puzzling is not what I see on the news but what I don’t see. Arab countries are very serious when it comes to protecting their values, traditions and greatest of all their religion. They had started off beautifully with the Arab league which seems to have collapsed for the most part. I suppose basing organizations on an ethnic basis is bound to fail. The UAE, Qatar, Yemen and the rest of the rich Arab nations are not doing much for Gaza or the West Bank. I am not talking military action but at-least publicly denounce these murders and maybe formally pressure the US to push Israel to back down.

The entire planet just seems content to watch in shock as the Israelis pound the Palestinians with no country willing to do anything about it. Just lots of sombre press conferences with a lot of baseless and empty rhetoric. This is puzzling to me. Its almost like there is a global voyeuristic movement that enjoys watching Arabs being killed. Please not that they are blown up in their houses not on some kind of war-front.

Another thing that is puzzling is how Hamas get missiles into their territory in the first place. The land they occupy is pitifully tiny, bordered by the sea and Israel on the rest of the side. I fail to see how you can sneak in anything of note with such a blockade still in active operation.

Strange doesn’t even begin to describe the kind of paranoia that surfaces when Israelis are questioned on their actions against the Palestinians. The universal act is that they are protecting the motherland or that they are the actual victims as they monitor their nuclear warheads.

Its rather ridiculous if you think about it. Granted I understand the maxim that the strong rule over the weak. it is however a foregone conclusion that our species prides itself in the idea that we are distinguished from the lesser forms of life by our nature of being humane and thus call ourselves Humans. This is totally ignoring that Dogs show more humanity than us and have no need for titles but I digress.

I have automatic contempt for anyone that attempts to display that they are superior to others because this is often a power play. The powerful do not need to prove their power. It will be evident. As Margaret Thatcher once said, ” If you have to tell people you have power, you don’t. ”

In Palestine, The Israelis have the power. They don’t say it and nobody admits it but everyone knows it.  Most of us complain about the unfair situation but do next to nothing about it.

This evening we drove by a lady with a stalled Vitz on Valley Road. She was surrounded by about 4 men possibly attempting to take advantage of her predicament. We drove away talking about it. Couldn’t help draw a parallel to the worlds reaction to what is happening in Gaza

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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