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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Orange Kenya: Most Infuriating Sleeping Giant

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

Embedded image permalink

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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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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Safaricom 3G underperforming

I intend to keep my interactions with Safaricom to a minimum because contrary to their impressive PR machine they are not affordable at all. I kinda like keeping money in my wallet where possible and Safaricom tends not to like that. Not that I have a problem with their profits or anything. I think anyone who is smart enough should make as much money from the market as is sensible. They also have the best Customer Service this side of the continent. That helps.

I am usually on orange for data and voice and mostly on Safaricom for MPesa.

Early last week, I got sent to Kwale by the office and knowing that the only hope of getting broadband here is through Safaricom, I promptly bought 1GB of data and prepared to instagram the sh** out of some palm trees. The experience I go was far from broadband and could only be described as EDGE on Heroin. I could barely do anything despite the network icon indicating I was on HSDPA+.

Side Bar::

When looking for todays weather forecast, came across this:

http://www.meteo.go.ke/pws/wx/web.mpg

Can’t make this stuff up.

End of Side Bar::

Now for Safaricom to have such issues makes a mockery of the premiums they charge.

Thinking this was an extension of the Pwani-sio-Kenya vibe i tried it out when I went upcountry to Nyeri. The performance was better but more sluggish than expected. I discovered this morning that my case was not isolated and as of yet no word from the affable CEO to anyone from the rank and file. This may not register on the QoS dashboard of the line managers but I think a sizable no. of subscribers is affected.

Not a problem anymore for me though when in the city  since I am on Orange on the go and Wifi at work and home.

 

 

 

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Securing your Smartphone : Antitheft Software

Smartphones have become a vital part of modern life at least to most urban dwellers of my age. I still meet people my age who can easily afford a smartphone but still operate rudimentary devices and I can’t help but be puzzled.

With the ever increasing computing power in our pockets, a lot of our lives is managed through the touchscreen be it managing finances, love lives, business or pleasure most of us turn to the palm sized bricks in our pockets.

Losing your smartphone thus becomes a micro nightmare especially if you saved a tiny fortune to keep up with the trends. Kenya Orient insurance have recently launched a mobile insurance product that is rather discriminative in terms of the gadgets they consider qualify for insurance cover. All I know is my Chinese android gadget is not swanky enough to merit insurance. Their loss either way.

So I recently got mugged and lost my phone (A Tecno N7) that was more infamous for its humongous size than for its tacky brand. I must say for its price point it more than delivered on it promise and I pretty much managed my life through it be it todo lists, maintaining social contacts, and planning work. The google navigation also saved our skin several times when making road trips.

On advice from a good friend,  I had installed avast! mobile security suite that includes backup, antitheft, antivirus etc. I was rather sceptical about the abilities of the antitheft module but I have now swallowed my words. I installed it as a system application and obfuscated it by giving it some generic name so that it doesn’t raise alarm amongst the bandit fraternity.

I was headed for Kericho the following day and so did not even report to the police or even attempt to lock or wipe remotely. A week later after a trans rift valley road trip, I settled down to see how useless or useful the avast! app was. There was no response for a few days and I assumed that the damn thing was already uninstalled. This morning however I logged on to the avast account dashboard and there it was. The bloidy pilferer in glorious GPS.

Gotta hand it to him though he aint daft. Whoever he sold it to is in Morogoro, Tanzania. Crossing borders makes it that much harder for the authorities to nail the bastard. If he was still in Kenya I would have his name by now and would be pestering the cops to nail the guy seeing as I would have his current position and no. and interactions.

Culprit's GPS positions

 

Apparently the root app is not so easy to get rid off however many times you factory reset. And it will not budge if you don’t know the PIN, which I only know. . muhahaha.

So now my interest was piqued. I promptly asked to receive all call and SMS activity sent to my line.  and they started trickling in. If this is anything to go by, then being a smartphone thug is becoming more and more dangerous.

Le Bagga

 

For now this is pure entertainment and the thought that the guy is having his airtime drain inexplicably is hilarious from all the way over here.

For now lemme watch.

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Costs: Assumed and Actual

Save for people living in the DRC I think most of humanity is in problems of their own creation. We have all the technology to feed, clothe and educate everyone down to the last dusty kid in Somalia but we don’t. We don’t even have to go far to see the precipitation of this. Turkana has been ignored since before independence with ignorant politicos seeing zero benefit in investing in the region or trying to up their living standards. Now we know they have more water and oil the the rest of us.

The cost of ignoring the area is the resentment that has built up over the years. The only reason they do not proclaim Turkana si Kenya is because they are too hungry to make such political statements. Maslows Hierarchy. Food first, politics later.

We are notorious at misjudging what true costs are and what we assume are costs but aren’t really. This came to roost a couple of weekends ago when i was hell bent on attending like 5 different events on the same evening. All involved close friends or relatives and I could just see how I would make technical appearances at 4 of them and part the rest of the night away at the last place.

Of Course the problem with technical appearances is that everybody present recognizes the temporary forced nature of your stopover. I doubt anybody wants people at their party that feel they were forced to come and that they have better places to be. Its rarely worth it. Its better to just leave an apology that you can’t make it and go wherever you wanted to go anyway.

Anyhoo, my plan sorta worked though with hefty costs on my part. In the rushes involved some involving passing through Westlands Electric Avenue, there was car prangin, lotsa wasted time and foul moods allover the place. A Lot of money (according to my thin wallet) was wasted in an attempt to have maximum fun.

It is rather hilarious how we sometimes do not follow our own advice. I have always been against bar, club or party hopping. Most of the time is spent on the road, looking for parking or sorting bills so as to move to the next venue. Stick to one joint, have fun with friends and when the time comes call it a night.

The cost that I assumed was that I would miss out on parties were my good friends were having a blast. You could say this was a social cost. The actual cost was fuel burnt, time wasted, car slightly damaged and not enough meaningful time at either party to bond or interact. There will always be more places you are needed than you can go to.

The same skewed judgement is applicable in our lives with assumptions as to the true costs of decisions not being accurate.

A friend once told me the difference between a CEO of a company and the sweeper in the same company is the quality of the decisions made. Its about knowing what an actual cost is and to be able to quantify it and act. Most of the costs we incur are unnecessary, be it sustaining habits, propping up excuses or refusing to move on from acidic friendships, relationships, business or relations.

Recognizing costs is as important as acting to counteract it.

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Laughing at the struggling populace

Watching the news over the past year or so has been a generally unpleasant affair with al the antics that politicians and hangers on are up to. Be it murder, infidelity, grand corruption and a slew of depressing stories emanating from hospitals and police cells, there is little to be happy about.

Of all these “breaking news stories” the worst involve supposedly humorous news bits featuring suffering citizens that are painted as ignorant beyond help. Case in point is one Jane Anyango a mother of 6 that lives on the expansive Kano plains to the west of Kenya.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm8t1K8Hr18

Jane has had her house flooded with such regularity every year that as soon as River Nyando bursts its banks Citizen TV immediately seek her out to hear how many chickens she has lost this time and whether she can trace her children.

Her footage asking for the government’s help has become the fodder for humor segments  for the better part of the year. Former President Kibaki regularly dismissed poor people asking for help throwing the request back at them asking them what they would help the govenment with.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9X040OiQh4

Coming from the highest office in the land, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that small business owners are treated like a crap heap outside state house. Just avoid it and try push it further down the road for the next government to deal with. Lets not even get started on IDPs who are still in tattered tents while the presidential motorcade could buy more land than is needed.

The despise is evident especially considering government policies and actions that have never been pro-poor. No notable subsidies with former Minister Njeru Githae suggesting that starving guys can easily eat rats. He did not say whether he and his family would be joining the rat fest though.

Its rather baffling where this attitude came from what with our super hyped ubuntu philosophy and what not. Some of it is still intact but I suppose we took to capitalism too hard too fast.  The new tax law recently passed also decided VAT is back on just about everything.

I don’t like it because nobody likes taxes but I don’t necessarily oppose it. My problem is with how my taxes are spent. Ideally the populace should have significant input into deciding how taxes are spent aside from participation of parliament which seems to have degenerated to an insipid club of crass talking overpaid goons and goonettes.

The gap that is going to be increased by this new law between the rich and the poor is only going to be made worse.

We need more cheerful news.

 

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Miley Cyrus:WTF??

If you think that what social media is talking about the most is earth shattering stuff I am afraid you need to log off right now. Most of the content in social media involves supposedly cute cats and assorted cute things right next to females showing off their behinds. Distributing this content has built multi billion dollar corporations that have more money than the US government and are richer than Kenya.

Miley Cyrus is a former child star bred in the Disney universe of cute princesses and catchy songs. She had all the makings of brilliant success in the path of Beyonce where her maturing sexuality could have translated to millions of dollars if manicured properly. She instead decided to go the britney spears way and destroy every little girls heart and pulverise her role model status. That is unless your role model is a tongue hanging, crass talking undressed crazy acting person.

Her performance in the VMAs this week left me with grimace the entire period. I couldn’t believe the cute girl shaved her hair, put on the atrocious outfit and attempted to twerk. I mean has she seen her competition? Even the dancers next to her were light years ahead of her in the voluptuousness scale.

Some suggest that it is a diabolical plot by her handlers to shatter the psyche of her fans in a grand plot to show young girls everywhere that they will amount to nothing. I think it only goes to help the jealous girls justify why they hated on her in the first place. Generally, women don’t like women.

Others suggest that this is her way of breaking into the bad girl persona like Rihanna that has made her into an idol for her fans. This is actually more plausible though I wonder why it had to be so crass to get this effect. Another school of thought actually turns this into a racist issue. I kid you not. Something to do with being surrounded by voluptuous black women with bears strapped to their back. I wonder how these guys come up with these things. Then again you should see the analysis that olympics opening ceremonies go through. It just fires up your conspiracy theories mostly because half the time you don’t understand wtf is going on.

Anyhoo that was a very uncomfortable performance for me and I tend to be more of the liberal type. She will probably sell more records now though.

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