For women living in emerging market economies,their biggest potentials are in partnerships and collaborations that align with their values.There is a power in coming together to achieve a common goal and not just for the group but at an individual level where someone feels part of something bigger than themselves.
Collaboration allows us to put our best efforts at achieving the common good and emphasises the role of interdependence rather than the one of independence.It creates a sense of being part of the wider family of humanity and of having responsibility as well as control over our environments.
At a time when individuality and greed had overtaken other values,the pandemic has been a reminder that our actions as individuals have a far wider impact than we thought.It has taught us that is most things we achieve more when we come together rather than when we work apart .
As women we all know the power of networks and women are especially great at creating informal networks.In Kenya we have the women only chamas or merry go rounds where women contribute a certain amount of money a month and it goes to a different member each month till the circle has been completed .I have been a member of such a chama for more than 20 years now ,we are 11 of us and through it we have been able to purchase land,stocks,invest in the money market as well as fundraise among ourselves when a member was in need.
At the moment,we are working on transferring individual titles to members from a parcel of land we had bought about 10 years ago.We would probably not have been able to buy land then individually but our collaborative efforts set off a series of events where each member is now the proud owner of a piece of land which they can develop or sell off.
In many other developed countries this would not be a big deal,for us as Kenyan women it means a lot because only 1% of all tiles are held by women.Our story is not any different from that of the small grocery owner who is in a merry go round where members buy household utensils ,furniture or catering equipment for each other.The common theme that runs through most ventures where women are involved is the power and the impact that comes when women collaborate on a project. By focusing on the common good of their members,every woman gets to win and hopefully more women see this and work on seeking collaborations among themselves.
As the founder of Mezani Women Empowerment Program,I am seeking partnerships and collaborations with individuals and corporates whose values align with ours.Our values are to make women change makers in their areas of influence.
For far too long we have seen women left behind,especially in the economic activities in their countries either because they lack the knowledge,expertise or the finances .Women have lacked access to opportunities that come very easily to men because they did not know where to look,lack the knowledge or the skills to make use of those opportunities.
This week on LinkedIn,I shared that if women are to become truly great in their areas of influence we must be ready to be unorthodox,to be different.This is me daring to be different by reaching out to see of there are individuals or corporations we could collaborate with in the areas where women are underrepresented.We would like to increase awareness of the role of women in emerging market economies,bring awareness on financial programs aimed at women,increase the representation of women at government and corporate level as well as mentor the next generation of women.
Before there was Uber ,there was Zipcar a car sharing service that was founded by two women Robin Chase and Antje Danielson.Started in Boston,the idea was to provide cars on demand to Zipcar Club members which are then billed for hourly and per mileage.Kind of like having your own car but for which you dont have to worry about parking,maintenance or insurance .The company has grown to become one of the largest car sharing companies globally.
Zipcar is just one example of the many platforms that are now making use of the sharing economy business model and changing the way we travel,live and work.
The sharing economy provides startups with low entry barriers and this is especially good news for women who traditionally have been underrepresented when it comes to business ownership.Advancements in technology have worked to make possible the emergence of the sharing economy business model and are providing women in emerging market economies with opportunities to participate in the labour market through the running of their own businesses as well as to provide employment to other women.There are women who own the cars they use to work with Uber and have done so well they have gone ahead to get more cars and provided work opportunities to others.
Women in emerging market economies are under represented in the formal labour market and platforms like Uber,Airbnb,Little Cab, are making it easier for women to start businesses and earn from them.Platforms like these offer women flexible schedules with which they can work allowing them time to schedule other activities within their day that traditionally kept them away from economic opportunities.
We have been forced by the current pandemic to rethink the way we do business and the sharing economy models offers a great way for emerging market economies to relook at how they can bring in as much of their adult population into productive work.A majority of these remain women and we now have the opportunity to include them in our country’s economic progress.
Julia Gillard was the first female Prime Minister of Australia from 2010-2013 and she is famous for championing women leadership and inclusivity.Her quote on the sharing economy is something emerging economy leaders,developers and business leaders should look at when planning how they can transform their economies,change their business models or whom they can work with .In a report by the International Finance Corporation which is part of the World Bank Group Driving Towards Equality:Women,Ride-Hailing and the Sharing Economy among the top 3 reasons women gave for why they joined what has been predominantly a male dominated cab hailing industry were :
The flexibility it offered for them to work when they wanted while also being able to run other businesses.
It reduced the barrier for women to enter an industry that has been male dominated.
Some women were using money earned from their ride hailing work to support other entrepreneurial activities.
What can be done ?
Women in emerging market economies are less likely to have bank accounts,own smartphones and therefore lack internet access.These have been barriers the barriers that have prevented women from taking advantage of the platforms that use the shared economy model.But things are changing and in a good way,especially in Kenya.
Safaricom recently launched a program called the Lipa Mdogo mdogo program that allows Kenyans to buy a smart phone on loan and pay for it in installments.Kenya enjoys a pretty good coverage ,3G is available in most urban areas, we have just over 800,000 women of a total population of over 12 million women of working age in formal employment,here is an opportunity for more women to be brought into the economic activities in the country.
Most of the over 11 million women not in formal employment are working in sectors where they get just minimal pay,enough to just put food on the table for the day,menial work or they are engaged in unpaid for work.
The telco company can partner with developers to create platforms that are breaking down the barriers to economic opportunities and giving women more economic independence.By pairing its Lipa Mdogo mdogo digital inclusion initiative with developers keen on closing the gender gap by bringing more women into the labor market it will also be creating more users for its mobile money transfer services.
Opportunities exist for Kenyan developers to develop platforms in new industries, creating more opportunities for women to become more financially independent.At a time when so many employees have lost their jobs especially in the service sector where women are a majority,this is an opportunity for us to create platforms on which we can make use of the latent human capital that is idle at this time.
For developers who already have platforms in place,ensuring that these platforms have peer support programs for women , professional development programs and where possible negotiate for them to have tailored financial, insurance and medical benefits would go along way in getting more users for their applications.
We could change the meaning of work for many women and I challenge women developers especially to come up with ways that can harness the huge potential of their sisters,many of whom are looking for ways to become more economically independent.
Women are a staggering 50% of the populaiton in most emerging market economies,opportunities for employment still remain scarce and those that are there do not offer flexible working hours or good pay.The shared economy that has been brought about by technological advances is an opportunity to correct the skewed labour market that often favours men while providing flexible work hours.
The sharing economy is changing our definition of work,it is empowering people and ensuring previously marginalized groups have access to markets and opportunities that were previously unavailable to them.Let’s make use of it and help drive our economies into one where women are a part of these opportunities , where both men and women can thrive equally.
“For our journey is not complete until our wives,our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.”
Women in Kenya are 50% of the population, this demographic percentage is reflective of many emerging and developing markets.Yet even with these numbers that equal men,women still continue to lack representation in critical decision making roles as well as in economic activities.In most emerging and developing markets a larger proportion of women are involved in economic activities in the informal sector.Take my country Kenya for example,in a 2016 study by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics,there were 880,000 women in formal employment compared to 1.68 million men.Kenya’s population growth which has grown by about 1 million each year was estimated to be about 46.5 million, going by previous trends we can estimate about 30% of the population was female and between the age of 24-65 and was involved in an aspect of economic activity.This translates to about 13 million women with a paltry 880,000 in formal employment ,leaving 12.2 million of them in the informal sector .A similar 2017 KNBS study reveals that “women provide 80 percent of Kenya’s farm labor and manage 40 percent of the country’s smallholder farms, yet they own only roughly 1 percent of agricultural land and receive just 10 percent of available credit.”1
Women were found to be under represented at legislative,administration and judicial levels.For a country poised at becoming one of the key players in the economic revival of the African continent and that has been hailed as having one of the most progressive constitutions ,women still find themselves getting the short end of the stick.Devolution has brought governance closer to the people and economic growth which has been at 5.7% in the last five years, has placed Kenya as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.Still women continue to be disadvantaged and left out of economic activities and key decision making processes.On 27th February 2019 there was a quorum hitch that prevented the passing of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2018 also referred to as the Gender Bill.It sought to legislate the 2010 Kenyan Constitution requirement that no gender should hold more than two-third of elective posts.It comes as no surprise that there are more men than women holding elective posts in Kenya and out of the 1,883 elected seats in the 2017 election,women hold just 172 seats a mere 23%.
The State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender
CONSTITUTION OF KENYA 2010,ARTICLE 27(8)
This exclusion of women is to be found in the informal sector as the traditional roles assigned to them restrict them to roles outside key economic and governance roles.With lack of a state funded child care services,women in Kenya rely on the services of hired help and some who cannot afford hired help find themselves giving up pursuit of further education or careers to be the primary caregivers to their children in their formative years.Most hiring managers do not look favourably on career gaps and these women find themselves shunted to the informal sector as they try to set up and run businesses with no financial assistance or business skills.These businesses may or may not do well,yet these exist a great opportunity for emerging market economy policy makers to develop programmes that would harness the potential of their female citizens to enable them become business owners,employers and employees as well as consumers.
This failure to tap the potential of women is prevalent in emerging markets and has gained global attention.On the 25th of September 2015,Heads of State and Government at a special UN summit adopted the Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” .Included in the 17 Sustainable Economic Goals (SDG’s) were 2 whose inclusion would help empower women in the economy and close the gender gap.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
When women in emerging market economies like Kenya are supported to reach their full potential by taking part in economic activities through business ownership and policies that support more of them to return to work a country benefits by having stronger families,communities and better social cohesion.No economy will make much progress if it continues ignoring the potential of half of its population.Women just like men are consumers,potential employees and entrepreneurs and their contribution to the growth of the emerging market economies is important.
How to make it happen.
1.More women in leadership
Through promoting more representation of women in leadership positions,companies and governments increase the diversity of perspectives and increase their odds of making better decisions.Women need to be part of the voices being heard both in government and in the private sector,they come with different views and perspectives from their experiences as women and add to the rich basket of ideas needed to make decisions that affect not just the general population but women and girls in particular.
By making their voices heard, we allow key decision makers to make use of their input and craft and more effective better policies.
The promotion of more women to leadership position also offers them the opportunity to be mentors for their peers as well as for the next generation of women leaders.This creation of networks of women in leadership positions also allows for exchange of ideas ,guidance and support to fellow women.
2.Recognition of the role of women in economic growth.
A week ago the first woman in Africa to become certified as a Captain of the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft Irene Koki Mutung’i had a twitter series in celebration of women in the Kenyan aviation industry .These women were captains,engineers or First Officers and some were raising families and pursuing their hobbies while holding these very demanding jobs.Kenya has a celebration of women in different fields through the Nation Media Group’s “Top 40 under 40” that celebrated women under the age of 40 in their different spheres of influence,be it in their careers or in entrepreneurship.
When more women and girls see the stories of such successful women then they dare to dream to pursue their dreams and to be the best in whatever areas of influence they hold in society .We also allow girls to confront gender stereotypes especially in STEM career fields traditionally dominated by men and show them they have a role to play in the economic growth of their countries.
3.Supporting women in businesses
Through initiatives that allow more women owned businesses to get funding to scale up their businesses or equipping those who want to run successful businesses with skills,we allow more women to venture into entrepreneurship and grow their enterprises.
With more successfully businesses , we would increase the number of people in formal employment,reduce the high numbers of unemployment ,increase the tax base and create consumer societies that have been the success of developed markets.
Women empowerment programs.
Venturing into business can be a challenging and daunting task and supporting those who choose to start their own businesses with the skills and the mentorship they need to grow helps them navigate around the obstacles that come with setting up a business that will be successful.
It is the reason I created the Mezani Program that seeks to support women who choose to walk down this path of entrepreneurship.The programs mission is to empower women to succeed in business through training and mentorship programs.The program is aligned to 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals that seek to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls (goal 5) and promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all(goal 8).
It also seeks to encourage employers to have more work friendly policies in place to allow more women to return to work through providing child care services at the workplace .We also seek to equip women en who have been out of the workforce for some time with the skills necessary for them to re enter the workforce.
This cannot be done by just people in the public sector or those in the private sector,it needs to be a collaborative effort that seeks to include half of the population in emerging market economies and making them not just participants of economic activities but critical players in key decision making roles in both business and government.
Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue, but also a critical economic challenge. The global economy cannot operate at its full potential with constraints holding back a significant proportion of the world’s population. MGI estimates that fully closing the global gap between men and women on labor-force participation, hours worked, and the sector mix of employment could boost annual GDP by 26 percent over business-asusual forecasts for 2025. This maximum potential is equivalent to 2.2 percentage points of incremental global GDP growth per year. In 2025 alone, up to $28 trillion—an amount roughly equivalent to the size of today’s US and Chinese economies combined—could be added to global GDP.
The agenda to empower women is not just a feminist agenda,it is an agenda for both genders.The participation of women is critical if emerging market economies are to achieve their full economic potential .
1.Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (Women and Men in Kenya Facts and Figures 2017).
One of the things I had to overcome while planning for this launch was the fear of starting and that is the fear anyone setting out to live a bigger better bolder life will have to have to do.How do you overcome fear BY STARTING,TAKING THAT FIRST STEP.
That is why I am launching this program ,because I have been there and I know how it feels o be afraid of your own amazing abilities because you think you are not enough.And more women than men are crippled by this fear and resort to playing small .
If you are a stay-at-home mum,lost your job or want to start something but are paralyzed by fear,attend the class,I have been there and let’s walk together.
You may be asking how the classes will run and here is how.
Time slots(Mon-Saturday):6am -7.30 am |10am-11.30am |10am -11.30am|5pm-6.30pm
2020 will go down in human history as the year humanity got thrown into the jungle with no map and asked to find its way out.The pandemic and the conditions it has created feel like we are in a jungle with no navigation tools , we are just hacking,chopping and slashing our way through thick foliage and hopefully we find our way not back to what we called home but to a new habitat.
Our new normal is something none of us can completely envision right now,but was is evident is we cannot go back to where we have come from.We have to change and change will require us to develop a new mindset,a new agility to making decisions moment by moment.
The pandemic has been both a health and economic shock because as the virus ravaged countries,supply chains of good and services were disrupted.There have been reports of flight of capital from African markets like the Nairobi stock exchange which every month seems to be reporting foreign investors exiting the local marketing in favour of more secure fixed income assets like government bonds.Thousands have lost their jobs and are aligning themselves to what everyday seems like a new way of doing things.
Leaders both in government and business are struggling to cope with the effects of the pandemic.Unfortunately pandemics ,even the Spanish flu which infected at least half a billion people and resulted in about 50,000,000 deaths ,caught people flat footed and yet humanity survived .Humanity survived and we gained a better understanding of how viruses spread,and healthcare became more organized and governments embraced the concept of healthcare for all.
Four years ago at the University of Maryland,then IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde gave a speech on the role of emerging markets in the global economy ,she said,”As a group, emerging and developing economies now account for almost 60 percent of global GDP, up from just under half only a decade ago.1 They contributed more than 80 percent of global growth since the 2008 financial crisis, helping to save many jobs in advanced economies, too. And they have been the main driver behind the significant reduction in global poverty.2
Emerging markets provide great opportunities for investors as well as companies from more developed markets to invest in and grow and their importance in the global economy cannot be emphasized enough.In tackling the spread of the virus,leaders in these countries need to be keenly aware of their importance in the global economy, opportunity in this crisis and to ensure they manage it well.
What happens in emerging market economies cannot be divorced from what is happening in the more developed countries in the West as what happens in one economic bloc affects the other.Whichever way emerging markets and their trading partners in the West choose to respond to the pandemic it will be felt in their economies .Government leaders in the emerging markets may hold the key to reviving their economies as well as global trade if they are able to use the crisis as an opportunity to focus on a few key areas.
How do they do that ?
1.Supporting the SME sector.
Leaders need to create the right environments for economic activity to thrive while taking into consideration the need to mitigate health risks.Government leaders need to involve the private sector to create better responses to the Covid-19 crisis.We have experienced job losses,companies closing down and relocations from urban centres to the rural areas by very skilled individuals.
Governments should be asking themselves how they can use the high number of human capital that is idle to good use by creating policies as well as funding that encourages as well as support the growth of the small and medium sized businesses which are key to the growth of emerging market economies.The SME sector is key to solving issues like high unemployment rates and increasing government revenue if handled well.
2.Seeking Public support
The crisis presents an opportunity for governments to seek the public’s goodwill to combat the spread of the virus so as to ensure economic activity continues.To do this,governments have to change the way they communicate by tailoring their messages to convey the idea as well as the fact that citizens are key to a country resuming to a “new normal”.
On Twitter,I was asking my government to change its messaging on the virus through more community mobilization as well as providing context to the numbers it gives in its daily pressers.Providing context to the new infections and rise in numbers allows people to understand how the virus affects their daily lives and the effect it has on the economy.So far we have just been hearing the message of stay home,wash your hands and maintain social distance without any context been given to these pronouncements.
Community leaders,village elders,leaders of neighbourhood associations,these are the people who can help create behavioural change that can help contain the spread.They can mobilize a better response to the pandemic.#COVID19KE
With global supply chains affected ,the current crisis is an opportunity for African countires to seek more trade with each other.I wrote about it in a previous post on the need for more intra-African trade as a way for countries to diversify their sources of revenue.More intra African trade means more people being involved in economic activities which means more jobs and more people being kept above the poverty line.
When people are able to put food on their table then they are healthier,insecurity decreases and governments get more revenue which they are able to put back into development projects.
4.Focusing on Healthcare delivery
The current pandemic has added to the already existing burdens of chronic diseases,infectious diseases and malnutrition emerging and developing markets have been dealing with and is exposing and exacerbating the institutional voids that exist in the health systems in those economies .
Countries identified as emerging market economies have also seen a shift within and across their borders.Their populations are younger and have become more diverse as immigrants in search of opportunities move to these countries.This brings with it the need for the expansion of both public and private health care systems and services to meet the needs of these changing populations .
As governments debate on how best to tackle the issue of Covid-19 in their health sectors,they should also be looking at the crisis as an opportunity to not only expand and improve their health care systems but to ensure distribution of these services is in a manner that protects both families and communities from financial ruin.
By making their countries safe economic zones , leaders in the emerging markets will emerge from this crisis faster and better off ,with more jobs created,less lives lost and a stronger sense of the critical role we play in global trade.
“True beauty of modern day cities lies not in the tall skyscrapers,tech innovations ,it is the human genius that lives,works and walks the streets of those cities that is the true genius.”
Nairobi Metropolitan Services Director-General Mohamed Ali marked 100 years in office on Sunday.Since he assumed office we have seen paving of roads and sidewalks,collection of garbage and water supply restored to city estates that have had to do with dry taps for months.These new developments are a welcome change for residents who have watched as Nairobi sunk under mounds of garbage,insecurity and general disregard for the rule of law .
With the changes going on we might see a Nairobi that is more pedestrian friendly with more space being given for residents to enjoy walking around the city rather than it being given over to parking spaces and motorbike riders who have run amok with their disregard of traffic laws.
Nairobi,like most capital cities in emerging market economies, has seen its skyline change while everything else in terms of how it runs has remained the same. The lay out of the city has not changed and it seems we have squeezed more people and buildings( some of them built haphazardly) into the 696 km2 the city occupies .According to the Kenya 2019 census Nairobi was home to more than 4.3 million residents, 99 years ago Nairobi’s population was just 24,000.Over the years the city has grown to extend outside it traditional boundaries and currently a lot of people who work or conduct business in the city live outside these boundaries,some even commute from neighbouring counties.With the creation of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area which covers 32,000km2 Nairobi is now host to more than 9 million people .
This new demarcation of the area now referred to as Nairobi Metropolitan area comes with many challenges due to these increased numbers.Many of these challenges bedevilling the city are not new and older cities like London,New York have grappled with them at one point or another in their history.Issues like housing,provision of urban amenities,green spaces in the city,improvement of infrastructure,insecurity are all challenges these cities faced .We should look at how other cities have reinvented themselves over time it and take lessons on how to create a better functioning city for all of us.
It is estimated that at least 1 million people make their way into the city daily,this is in addition to more than 300,000 vehicles making their way into the city .With these high numbers of both vehicles and motorbikes coming in the city ,Nairobi has earned the label of being one of of the most congested and polluted cities in the region.Walking in the city is like navigating a minefield as you avoid bumping into other pedestrians , avoiding cars , motorbike riders who do not follow traffic rules and muggers.All this,while also trying to avoid choking from the fumes of stalled traffic.The confused mess as you try making your way through the capital city is both mentally and physically exhausting and leaves one with no time to really enjoy Nairobi.
Cities are to be enjoyed and you enjoy cities by walking through them.Nairobi gives you no room to enjoy it.
In trying to remake Nairobi I hope the Metropolitan Services team would make use of data to solve some of the problems bedeviling the city. Making sense of data already available or finding ways to collect data that would make planning of the city and the accompanying demand for certain services would ensure we have a smarter,safer,more efficient city we can all be proud of.
We could learn from a few cities and I will highlight just a few to show how they have managed to make use of technology to make their city operations more efficient.
RIO DE JANEIRO
This seaside city in Brazil synonymous with Bossa Nova music is home to an estimated 6.3 million people.The city authorities used data generated through the navigation application Waze to track and manage traffic .It is estimated that cities lose about 10% of their GDP to traffic jams and Rio is reported to have saved millions of dollars through better management of traffic.
Nairobi contributes 21.7% to the national GDP ,it is estimated cities lose ten percent of their GDP through traffic snarl ups.How much could we do and achieve as a capital if we put the lost money and man-hours to better use ?
At the moment Google maps is the best way to avoid traffic jams in the city and most people whether they are Uber or Little Cab drivers or individuals driving into any part of town,Google Maps has come in handy when navigating city roads .
Imagine how much better of a better job the the traffic department would do if it could make use of real time data in availing of traffic officers and in directing traffic.
A few years back,Safaricom the mobile phone company in partnership with public tranpsort operators had the 1963 card which was to introduce a cashless payment method in to the transport sector in the city.The initiative failed.At a time when cashless payments have become more the norm than the exception in the wake of the current pandemic,this is an initiative that could be reintroduced .
It would help transport operators manage their cash flows better and ensure less cash loss through bribes given along the routes to cartels and traffic officers.With more cash coming in these operators would be better able to ensure their vehicles were safer,cleaner and that heir staff were better remunerated.
With the government expected to launch the Nairobi Bus Rapid Transit System some time in the future a cashless payment method would ensure that money generated by this service would be collected and reinvested in the improvement of services to Nairobi residents.
In 2013,His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the Dubai Smart City Project in 2013.The vision of the Smart city project is to turn Dubai into the happiest city on earth.
Seeing the way the city has transformed itself from a small fishing village almost 5 centuries ago,into one of a glittering oil city that relies on high technology is fascinating and inspiring.It has become one of the most watched cities in terms of sustainability and innovations around urban living.
Already Dubai has been leading on the sustianability path with 98% of its portable water coming from its desalination plants.It has also turned acres of desert into a city filled with green spaces.It is employing the use of emerging technology like Artificial Intelligence,block chain to recreate everyday experiences for its residents and visitors.
Closer home,there are a few projects we can get lessons from.
Kibera occupies 2.5 square kilometres and according to the 2019 Kenyan census is home to 185,777 residents.At time figures have even gone upto more than 1 million people depending on whom you are talking to.
Up until am few years ago this area of Nairobi though close to the capital remained a blank space and unavailable on any public domain.That is until the Map Kibera project came along.The founders of the project wanted to change the information dynamics in this informal settlement and to help e residents use localized information to influence policy and development.
Mapping Kibera has influenced copy cats projects globally but not in the city in which it was birthed.
The digital map of Kibera focuses on health,sanitation,education and security and allows the residents of Kibera to access and make use of this information.With this it is hoped the residents can make informed choices on how they choose their representatives as well as push for policy change in how the government deploys services in this informal sector.
Garden City Mall,Thika Road
Of the numerous malls that have come up in Nairobi,the one at Garden City remains a favourite.This mixed use development has sustainability at its score and its rooftop carpark one of the largest in Africa is solar panelled and has a 3 acre central park where on weekends you will find children running around,or with residents and visitors enjoying the space .
The city has a mall which is home to over 100 stores ,banks and a cinema.It also has apartments,town houses,a business park and in its plan is provision for a hospital and hotel.It is a complete city on a micro level.
Imagine mapping Nairobi and using this data to influence decisions on service delivery by government to residents especially in the areas where they are sorely lacking ?
Nairobi is already home to one of Africa’s most innovative companies Safaricom which came up with the phone to phone mobile transfer service Mpesa and using tech to solve some of the challenges bedevilling the capital shouldn’t be a tall hurdle.
Over the years we have watched trees that have stood for years being cut down to make way for paved footpaths while the city residents were scorched by the noon day sun.We could do with more trees around and within the capital not only to help purify the toxic fumes from the motorized vehicles coming into the CBD but it would help stem the rise in respiratory diseases among children in the capital if we made the air cleaner by planting more trees and having more green spaces.
We could in addition hasten the rapid bus transit services so that residents could be assured of a reliable bus service into the city.This way we would have fewer motorized vehicles coming into town which would reduce the air pollution that is almost obliterating Nairobi’s skyline in the early morning.
A Nairobi that was run better would be a boon not only to the central government in terms of increased taxes but would also fill the coffers of the city officials.We would attract talent from across the continent and the globe if we had a better run capital that ensured a decent living for all its residents.
The Nairobi Metropolitan Services could foster goodwill for more of the projects it is undertaking by making residents part of the decision making when it comes to funding of city projects by asking them to identify their needs ..It can allow residents to reimagine the city they would like to be living in 5,10,20 years from now and viewing the city not just as a place to work.
Nairobi is home to millions of residents some of whom toil daily in the capital .Their taxes fund the running of this city.We should make these taxes work for them by ensuring Nairobi is run more efficiently and that it becomes a smarter,more sustainable Metropolis.
The true beauty of Nairobi lies not in its tall skyscrapers or paved walkways,its true genius lies in the human capital that walks,drives,works and lives in this city,that is the true genius of any city. We have to make this city a place for that human genius.We have to work at building a smarter,greener ,more efficient ,less corrupt Nairobi City.
Let’s make Nairobi a happy place for all of us who call it home.
Still round the corner,there may wait,a new road or a secret gate.
We love travelling the country and are call on any restaurants,cafes, hotels,game reserves,Airbnb’s with exciting offers during this period to get in touch with us.We are looking for offers especially that target families who would like to travel with their children for a weekend away from the city and with some exciting activities thrown in for the kids.We are a registered company and want to work with industry players to ensure no one loses their business or job. Let’s keep as many Kenyans as possible working .
Get in touch with using the form below with what you are offering and lets keep Kenya moving and Kenyans working !
Who would have thought that the world could be such a lonely place?Who would have thought we would feel so alone,so disconnected from life as we knew it ?
Who would have thought have thought at a time when the world was so connected thanks to technology, we would still feel so alone.
At the beginning of the lockdown when most companies sent their staff home,we were expecting an exciting novel period ,for some other people extroverts mostly it was going to be a trying period without the usual chat at the water dispenser or during coffee break with colleagues .How were we going to cope ?
Most people thought , well,it was going to be a few weeks of staying home and we would be back at our desks.After all futurists had been talking of a work from home phenomenon and thanks to home wifi connections we would manage splendidly well or so we though.Not having to battle with morning traffic, wearing jogging pants and a tee shirt all day,every day except maybe when you had to have a call with someone really important then you could be very well dressed but only from the waist up.We could walk to the kitchen for a quick snack as you mulled over the last request for extension on a project you are working on with colleagues ?
Life was going to be just GREAT!Months in to the lock down,it doesn’t feel or even look quite as rosy as we imagined it.
We have been inundated with requests for meetings,which if you have young children are sometimes interrupted with calls for help with classwork .We seem to be juggling so many balls in the air that it sometimes seems like we are on double duty with both work and family responsibilities.Suddenly the daily commute doesn’t look so bad,interruptions by the colleague who is too fond of passing by your desk and interrupting you would be a welcome relief.Anything to be back to our desks ,maybe with a few changes.
Working from home was such a new concept we had media houses doing interviews on the best ways to be most productive while working from the comfort of your house.Zoom the video conferencing application that was founded in 2011 has seen a tremendous growth in the number of users with April 2020 seeing a record 300 million daily meeting paricipants.It is not the only application however and other apps Google meets and Skype have seen a rise in the number of users but Zoom has remained the most popular by far despite concerns of user data privacy .There have been millions of articles written on the subject and as of today typing in “work from home “on google search brings up 580,000,000 in 0.47 seconds.
While the media has aired clips of how we could work from home,how technology was helping workers stay on the payroll,no one has discussed the long term effects of living and working in the electronic cottages the covid-19 virus has forced us into.No one has talked about the effects on creativity or the effects on team spirit.
Technology has allowed people to continue working from the comfort of their homes ,for students to keep up with their lessons as well as for families to keep in touch and enabled online shopping even for groceries that are delivered straight to your doorstep.
Cyber foreseers have been talking of how the future of work is being changed by technology but by doing so they are not giving us the whole picture .They are no going to the heart of the matter which is why we work and the true nature of human beings.The biggest change and the biggest effect of the lock down in many countries has been in the way people work .We are now operating in an environment where we do not have to show up at the office inorder to be termed as productive.
At the core human beings remain social creatures,there is no better proof of these than in the rapid urbanization since 1950 and the increasing number of people who continue flocking to urban centres.Cities have been the birthplaces of humanities biggest ideas as the high number of interactions one experiences in cities have been the perfect fertile ground for seeds of modern innovations,creativity and entrepreneurship.
Cities provide opportunities that living in the countryside where you produced your own milk,grew your own vegetables and built your own house would not give you access to .Cities offer more jobs,social interactions,economic opportunities and leisure activities and they continue attracting people in droves.The high numbers of employment or entrepreneurial opportunities available in cities have enhanced the value of human interaction and this is what has given birth to the ideas and creative genius that drives the commerce in cities.
Technology at the moment is allowing us to continue working from our homes, but it is not going to change our need for social interaction or why we just have to socialize. Human civilization has progressed for as long as humans has been in existence as a result of humans interacting with each other.Some people are already missing their daily commutes to work,their colleagues and children are begging to be allowed back in school .We were not designed to survive for long without face to face interaction or else we will shrivel and die from boredom and inactivity .Psychologists have studied the effects of social isolation on the brain and it has been seen to lead to depression and other mood disorders.Already we have seen warnings of an increase in the number of people reporting distress as a direct result of the physical isolation imposed by the virus as well as due to job loss and anxiety over a future that seems uncertain.Even the novelty of being able to whip up amazing four course dinners is wearing off.
Civilization is measured by the duration and quality of life of its citizens and cities offer the prerequisite requirements for the development of civilization .The interaction of human beings is what has driven historical change and continues to drive change today,even the technological one.Civilization is about cities and what happens when you bring people from diverse cultural,economic,social and educational backgrounds together.What happens when you take away or force people to stay away from the very activities and interactions that fuels their creativity ?
The same interactions that happen in cities,happen at workplaces when different people who would otherwise not have met,end up in an organization or company working towards a common cause or goal.They create social circles around them,support system and these people become like a second family.The interactions at the workplace create room for collaboration and new ideas. The innovations that we enjoy today have been made possible because they were the result of ideas that were a direct result from interaction with people and their physical environments.
Just look at some of the worlds leading cities or companies,what fuels the growth of cities like New York,London,Beijing or San Jose where Silicon Valley is ?What has driven tech giants like Google,Twitter,Apple or makes the New York or London Stock markets what they are ? It is the human genius that works there,the human activity that take place there.This genius is the result of the interaction with colleagues or our neighbours or someone we meet at the coffee shop who shares something with us and sets of ideas on new products or services(we actually become smarter by hanging around other smart people).
Creativity cannot be divorced from commerce and cities that are the most densely populated are also very successful as that is where economic activity thrives-in density.The economic activity has seen the residents of cities enjoy better amenities,higher salaries,better health and better job opportunities.This is because cities offer the best opportunities for jobs,these jobs are a source of revenue for governments and ideally governments spend quite a significant amount of tax paid to maintain cities they way they are.
Separating human beings and having them work in the bubbles of their “electronic cottages” is boring and kills creativity.Yes,it is possible to do our jobs and to do them very well from home but it is not possible to come up with anything new cooped up in our houses.
For new ideas we need other people,our colleagues to bounce ideas off,share insights with and this blending of ideas allows for even better ideas to be born .We need interaction with your physical environment and this is why you drive from your house to your office is important , along the way you might see something or have a conversation with a friend at a restaurant that will see you come up with an idea for a business ,product or service.
In charting the way forward for their companies,CEO’s and Human Resource Officers will need to be aware of the constraints that come with working from home for long periods of time,even with the benefit of video conferencing tools.
What is the effect on team spirit when you have people scattered all over the suburbs ?
What is the effect on team spirit and cohesion when we have no face to face interactions with people we are working towards a common goal with ?
What is the effect on the levels of job satisfaction when one has to work for long periods of time by themselves ?
What will be the long term effect on the business in terms of lack of new ideas that has been brought about by the prolonged isolation periods ?
The work from home opportunity the lock down has given us for this point in time may be sufficient for now but it cannot be a permanent solution or the future of work.What we could explore are ways to make workplaces more conducive to productivity while taking into mind the effects of high pressure jobs on creativity and mental health.Is it possible to create healthier and more sustainable work environments now and in the future ?
We are seeing companies already redesigning their office spaces to make them healthier spaces in light of the growing concerns over the spreading of the virus at workplaces.We need each other,humanity’s progress is dependent on the progress of ideas and collaboration with others at work.These ideas are only present when we gather together in our workplaces,cafes,restaurants and other social places.
What is the future of work ?
The future of work is not going to be working from home,it is in creating safer,healthier workplaces .
Initially founded as a rail depot for the Ugandan railway it became Kenya’s capital in 1906 after Mombasa fell from its perch .Its attraction was the climate and its location which allowed easy access to other areas in the colony.
Nairobi became a city in 1954 and later independent Kenya’s capital city .It is described as one of the most vibrant and fastest growing cities on the continent.
It has grown from a rail depot to a city whose skyline has come to be defined by its sky scrapers , technological innovations and cultural diversity.
Eateries now dot most of the central business district ,human traffic has increased and Nairobi is bursting at the seams.
The city which is home to more than 4.8 Mullion people is now part of the larger Nairobi Metropolitan Area that hosts more than 7 million people.
As one of Africa’s fasest growing cities,there are challenges that come with this growth.We currently cannot meet all the needs of these urbane population that lives,works and plays in this city especially in terms of water supply,proper housing and provision of urban amenities.
Water shortages are legendary,potholes on public roads have become the norm and though its road network has and continues to be improved,its famous traffic gridlocks just seem to be getting worse.
If you walked in the city before the pandemic,Nairobi streets were teeming with people , cars, hawkers and their customers lined city sidewalks .People running businesses in the city centre would have a hawker outside their doorways,reluctant to move and the county revenue officers still expect this legitimate business owners to pay their rates.Probably the reason why the suburbs of Nairobi are dotted with malls because it became impossible to walk in the central business district.Some businesses chose to close down and moved to other areas less congested areas.
If you walk in Nairobi today,you will notice a rise in eateries to cater for the ever increasing numbers who continue working and doing business in the city.In a few years we have see certain areas of the cities becoming synonymous with the provision of certain goods/services.
While it remains both Kenya’s commercial capital as well as its political centre,the running of Nairobi should be done devoid of any political intrigues.Politics tends to impede rather than enable the economic growth of any city .
Services in the city are now being run by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services headed by the Director – General ,Mohammed Abdalla .This is after the Nairobi County functions which were headed by a Governor were handed over to the national government
As an emerging market economy,Nairobi holds the key to unlocking exciting new opportunities for the country if developed well.
The world over,cities like New York,London,Paris,Tokyo have become what they are by being centres where creative genius flows together with commerce.
To turn Nairobi into a globally competitive metropolis,we need to allow the creative genius that makes Nairobi what it is flow.This genius that makes Nairobi a thriving metropolis is its people.
These people in Nairobi as in any city are looking to make a decent living and for a higher quality of life that living in a city offers.They are looking for decent and affordable housing,great public and private schools,grea transit system among other things that make for a great urban experience.
Cities are mainly driven by consumption and not production and reason why amenities mean a great deal to urban dwellers.We need to make Nairobi a city where a high quality of life is available to all who live there.
The Covid-19 is an opportunity to think about how we can reimagine Nairobi,it should not be wasted.The virus has affected how we gather ,congregate , socialize,work and this is an opportunity to reimagine Nairobi as the capital of an emerging market economy on the continent .
With this in mind,we need to relook how we build,transport services in the city,revenue generation and how to make private businesses and Nairobi residents part of the project of reimagining their city .
How can city residents be made part of mapping out Nairobi’s future and make it a healthier,more efficient and sustainable metropolis.
Reimagining Nairobi as global city will allow us to create it as place that allows for exchange of ideas ,a place where collaboration can take place.Ideas come when people congregate and gather and investing in Nairobi and making it a city that offers a great quality of life will ensure a great number of people from diverse backgrounds will keep coming to the city Nairobi.Dubai is a great example of a city that understands quality of life ,it has invested in its infrastructure that makes it attract human capital from all corners of the globe.
19th century Impressionists gave us lasting images of cityscapes with their paintings of Paris of their time,a city came to represent a place of tall buildings,new infrastructure and well dressed people . Nairobi can be that,not the current place where traffic gridlocks , muggings ,hawkers huddled on sidewalks are the order of the day.
Already ,Nairobi is a place of cultural diversity and this diversity which is in its human capital gives it its greatests advantage.It can become the African capital where different cultures learn from each other and create something new.A place where ideas meet and new things are created from the blending of different cultural ideas.Rio in Brazil , a city that gave us the Bossa Nova music is a great example .A musically distinct sound which originated here as a result of the blending of African and Brazilian traditions ,a sound so light and airy it could be played in Rio’s apartment buildings.Cities are easily identifiable by the high rise residential buildings we call apartments that allow for building of multiple dwelling units in very limited space.
Nairobi’s land space has been rapidly shrinking over the years and in their quest to satisfy the thirst for housing ,developer and city authorities had become unscrupulous and were not doing thorough checks on new residential buildings coming up.As a result we have had a number of incidents where lives have been lost due to poor workmanship and lack of the enforcement of safety regulations.The new management in charge of the city should now enforce the law and make sure Nairobians are safe in the homes they inhabit.
Nairobi’s art and cultural scene is small yet vibrant and we should not lose sight of the fact that art and culture are about representation and that representation is about vision.Cities are built on visions of making the impossible possible and Nairobi can be that centre of art and cultural vision on the continent.
A city’s diversity allows for individuals and cultures to borrow ideas from each other and adapt them to the different social classes existent in cities creating something new like new identities.People in cities like Nairobi socialize and gather around common interests,sports,the arts or cultural events making these the ideal breeding grounds for novel ideas because of this,the blending of cultures.
Some other attributes make Nairobi truly unique are its great climate which is warm and temperate,the coldest months are June/July when temperatures fall to 9 °C (48 °F).Nairobi is also the only capital city in the world with a protected National Park that hosts a variety of wild animals and birds
These unique attributes that favor the city should be celebrated and preserved in order to continue making this city attractive to people in the country as well as globally.These and other public amenities which should be added to the city will help enhance the quality of life for its residents.
We could do with more and wider sidewalks in the city.A city is defined by it public spaces and sidewalks give people the opportunity to enjoy a city.The more the human traffic cities attract as opposed to motor traffic the more economic activities flourish and opportunities created as people find specialized niches to fill and play off the density that large cities like Nairobi offer.
More economic activities in Nairobi would mean more revenue coming into its coffers which translates to more investment in development and more robust economic activities taking place .This allows for investment in the city’s public schools,hospitals,public transport and other amenities which continent making the city attractive due to the quality of life that can be found here.
Efforts have been made in the past to move public transport out of the city and they have been met with resistance by different stakeholders who feel threatened by these changes. Yet so much is to be gained if we were not afraid of change . We should view change as progress and people in Nairobi should be given an opportunity to participate in reimagining the kind of city they would like to live in.
Reimagining Nairobi will create opportunities for the more than 4.8 million who call it home ,employment opportunities for its young people,improvements in its different neighbourhoods,benefits and more profit for local businesses and a chance to live in a city that is clean,with great public transport,proper schools,well staffed and equipped hospitals ,a place that is truly home.
I am taking a course on Entrepreneurship and Health on Harvard Online that has piqued my interest again in the area of maternal health.
As I result it offered a segue into writing,and writing about matenral health.
You can find the blog here,mainly it will be advocacy and information sharing in the areas of maternal health and hopefully w can decrease the numbers to where we have Zero maternal deaths not just in Kenya but in Africa as a whole.
Legend has it that King Arthur and his knights congregated around a table that was circular.Seating himself and his knights this way ensured there was no head hence no squabbles .Everyone, King Arthur included enjoyed equal status,everyone’s voice counted .This very democratic way of decision making probably might explain their epic exploits.
Mezani,in Swahili a language born on the East African coast around the 18th century means”at the table”.There have been many books,many talks given on women having to “lean in”,how can they lean in when they are not first allowed a seat at the table ?
One of the first challenges we shall have to overcome in creating more gender equality is to change the tables around which we make key decisions,be it in government,in our homes,in the corporate world as well as mentally.
In the developing world,women are still not allowed to seat at most “tables” and if they are,then the seating is in such a manner that women’s voices are not heard or its the men deciding what they think the women want.
At Mezani Women,we are advocating for round tables where women are not just allowed a seat,but that their voices are heard and their input taken as just as important as the men.
Achieving gender equality is not just a women issue,it should be a men’s issue as well,because improving the lives of women and enhancing property right,access to land,natural resources is good not just for women but for families,communities,countries and the world.
For leaders in developing countries and emerging market economies,creating a space for women’s voices to be heard should be made deliberately by the men who occupy a majority of the decision making positions even in areas where women’s lives are affected the most.Leaders in these countries should create bigger tables,round tables where the voices of half of their population can be heard.
Creating space for women’s voices to be heard is not just fashionable politics,it is a good economic decision.Improving the livelihoods and poverty status of women is good for families,communities,society and countries.
Many things have been said and written about Kenya Airways and one of the ones that are spoken of in hushed tones is its current share price which at the close of business today was at Kes 3.40.The national airline whose vision is to be “The Pride of Africa” has been blurred by the fact that it has been bleeding cash in the billions.
The national airline flies to more than 50 destinations and has almost 4000 people on its payroll with what amounts to thousands who run travel agencies relying on the national carrier to bring in travellers to our scenic parks and game reserves.Kenya being an emerging market economy has been a magnet for foreign investors and the national carrier has been bringing some of them to the capital city Nairobi as they scout for investment opportunities.
A major contributor to our sacking had to do with our acquisition of aeroplanes at reasonable prices, which may not have pleased some powerful vested interests.
Among the many issues his team was addressing to prepare KQ for privatisation was the bureaucratic delays due to state ownership that resulted in loss of opportunities.Historically governments have never been good at making money from business,their strength lies in creating the environment that makes running and conducting of businesses easier.And for any state owned enterprises,they make money only when there is minimal governmentinterferance.In his article Joe Nyagah seems to say government interference may be to blame for what went wrong with the privatisation plans at the airline.
This time around, KQ might be second time lucky as it once again reverts to being state owned.
One of the things the Kenyan government has done in preparation for nationalisation is the publishing of the National Aviation Management Bill (June 2020) which establishes the Kenya Aviation Corporation.The functions of the Aviation Corporation shall include the operation of the entities known as Kenya Airways ,Kenya Airports Authority and the Aviation Investment Corporation .The Aviation Corporation among whose function is managing and overseeing the operations of Kenya Airways shall have a board chaired by a person appointed by the President and among the members of the board will be the CEO and Managing Directors of Kenya Airways .
With the setting up of this corporation we hope the national carrier has put to rest it’s stormy past.
The current head of the Kenya Airways Board is Michael Joseph he comes with a wealth of experience from the corporate world having run the giant telco company Safaricom as CEO from its inception in 2000 till his retirement in 2008 when the late Bob Collymore took over.He went to Vodafone working as the head of Mobile Money.He came back to Safaricom as acting CEO after the untimely demise of Mr Collymore,then leaving when Peter Ndegwa was appointed as CEO. MJ as he is fondly known is now Safaricom’s Chairman of the board after the retirement of Mr Nicholas Nganga’.
Nothing is quite as good as a new beginning , this time Kenya AIrways has the opportunity to again live up to its vision as the Pride of Africa in the way it will be managed and run.Even with the small matter of being state owned,KQ can turn its fortunes and become one of the most profitable state owned enterprises we have had.It has a good chairman heading its board and hopefully the state gives him and the management team the support and they need to ensure the national carrier gets back on it’s feet.
Lessons from other transport companies
Emirates Airline is state owned and is a subsidiary of the Emirates Group which is part of the Dubai government Investment Corporation Of Dubai.The Group has posted a record 32 years of profit making and when they announced in their Annual Report in May of this year ,the profits for 2019-2020 were up by 21% to US$ 456 million.
Dubai is a major international transit hub ,and at a time when KQ was recording losses in the millions of shillings,Emirates was launching new passenger routes and buying new aircraft.The state owned airline which has been ranked among the best in the world is renown for its high quality of services and professionalism as well as the world class standards at its Dubai International Airport that have earned it a four star rating.
Nairobi is often talked about as having the potential of being East and Central Africa’s transport hub but our national carrier is quickly get eclipsed by Ethiopian Airlines which is state owned as well.We have watched as Kenya Airways the 4th largest airline on the continent has been mismanaged while state owned airlines in Ethiopia and relatively new kid on the block Rwanda enter the highly competitive aviation sector.
Ethiopian airlines which is the largest carrier on the continent has remained free of government interference and save for 4 major accidents has consistently turned in a profit.With a fleet size of 125 planes and flying to more passenger and cargo destinations,we have watched with envy as passengers ,even Kenyans pick the Ethiopian national carrier over Kenya Airways as it has cheaper tickets .
Another majority state owned enterprise is the Hong Kong MTR Corporation Limited which runs Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway.Founded 47 years ago,MTR is now a major investor in rail transport across different parts of the world.Even with the unrests that rocked Hong Kong from June of last ear it still managed a 1.1% rise in profit.
Rail transport might be different from the aviation sector ,yet that a majority state owned enterprise has been so well managed it turns in profit is admirable.
MTR is a model on how diversification of income streams is possible and how having a long term view of the sector you are in,hiring the right people and supporting them as they carry out their mandate can have governments smiling all the way to the bank.The corporation has invested much of its running to experts and manages property as well using the model “rail plus property’ .It owns shopping malls and mixed use developments as it enjoys property development rights at stations or depots along its routes.
This model has made MTR a case study on sustainability through its integration of rail transport with urban development.
The Future ahead…
I wish nothing but the best of luck to Michael Joseph and his management team at KQ .If we can ensure that the so called vested interests that have been blamed for the national carriers poor performance can be kept out of its running,then we can expect nothing but clear skies ahead.
Even as KQ lays off a majority of its staff to reduce operational costs,whatever team remains needs to be the right team that will buy into the vision of reclaiming the pride of Africa’s lost glory.A company is only as good as its human capital,that is its most important asset and hopefully the management at KQ sees that and ensures the staff relations are improved on continuously.
The Kenya Airport Authority which in the published National Aviation Management Bill is incharge of operating and maintaining of the country’s airports and aerodromes should find additional ways in which they can develop the properties they now own and turn them into profitable ventures..
As a major transit hub,Nairobi has the potential of becoming the gateway to the rest of the Est and Central African region and nationalization of Kenya airways is the window of opportunity. that fate has thrown our way.Kenya Airways has the capacity, human capital and goodwill from Kenyans to turn its fortunes around. It’s past is full of lessons,other countries have shown us it can be done,let take these lessons and examples relaunch,rebrand and reclaim our “pride of africa” tag.
Today at 3am ,I was awake ,listening to a webinar by John Marty with Kristin Gallucci,Bobby Umar and Joel Hansen and was on personal branding .I am in Kenya and we are about 11 hours ahead of the Pacific Standard Time but I thought that I really need to hear what they had to say on personal branding.
I am glad I did because there are a few takeaways I took from these and the first one that I was interested in was the gender balance of the panel,there were 3 men and one lady on the team.On my LinkedIn feed its not any different and I seem to see more content from men than women.
One of the first things Kristin who is a Tedx Speaker shared is the impostor syndrome and I could identify with what she said about the #impostorsyndrome as well as having seen it with other women as well this overwhelming feeling of inadequacy that makes women play small or downplay their gifts and talents.
The result is that one is constantly battling with self doubt and this prevents one from thriving and making an impact in their areas of influence.One will pass up opportunities because they think they are not good enough or hold back because they think someone else would do it better.
There is no magic pill that will take away the impostor syndrome,the best way to fight the feelings of inadequacy starts in the mind.Our minds are great at acquiring knowledge but they make terrible slave masters.If we let the thoughts of self doubt overshadow our sense of purpose , passion for life that comes from the heart then we will always feel inadequate.
We are here to make a difference in the world with our gifts,knowledge,skills.No one else in the world will ever be like you,there will never be another you.Stand up and seize the opportunity when it comes .Apply for that job,go back to school,dare to challenge yourself ad see how you thrive.
I would like to see more content from #womenthoughtleaders on my timeline as I believe women have such an important part to play in reshaping conversations around economics,governance,health.In sharing their thoughts,women encourage other women to tell their stories,which is why I started creating content on my blog and on #LinkedIn as well.
My hope is that we can create a tribe of #fearless #womenthoughtleaders on the continent.
If you are on #LinkedIn and are a women,why dont you share your thoughts on this .
Technology in Africa is what the textile mills were to Europe during the Industrial revolution in the mid 18th to mid 19th century.The textile mills which initially were powered by water then later steam propelled Europe into the industrial revolution and created consumer society that fuelled the growth of industries that served the needs of growing number of consumers.The wealth and jobs created by the revolution increased the duration and quality of life for citizens and later the North American continent where it was exported and improved on.Today the result of this revolution is called civilization and it is what countries like China want to mimic as it brought advancements in science and medicine,gave birth to consumer societies which favored the production and purchase of consumer goods that played a central economic role without which the industrial revolution would have been unimaginable.
Today ,in place of the industrial mill, we have mobile technology.In Africa mobile penetration in countries like South Africa,Nigeria,Kenya which are leading economies on the continent is above 75% and of these more than 30% of the people who have mobile phones have a smartphone and this is according to a 2017 Pew Research .
In my country Kenya,mobile technology picked up like a storm since it was launched in the late 1990’s and today almost every Kenyan,who by the last census carried out last year numbered 47 million has a phone.Ownership of smartphones remains low,at 30 % which could be why technology giant Safaricom in partnership with Google launched their program labelled Lipa Mdogo mdogo which is a payment plan aimed at wage earners that allows them to own low cost 4G smartphones through manageable daily installments.Most towns in the country are covered by 2G and 3G network with 4G being rolled out as well,Kenya has some of the fastest and most stable internet speeds as a result.
Countries with higher mobile phone penetration usage have been found to have more successful economies and in Africa emerging market economies of South Africa,Kenya and Nigeria enjoy vibrant economies with high mobile technology usage.
Kenya leads in mobile technology innovation especially in the area of mobile payments which have made it easier to conduct business not just for business owners but for customers as well .This innovation has seen quite a number of technology based startups being launched and most of these innovations support the growing numbers of small and medium sized businesses .
With a large number of women working in the informal sector or in the small industry sector,mobile payments and use of smartphones has allowed these business owners to reach customers outside of their geographical area.As someone who ran a branded gift business ,I had the opportunity to severally make gifts,advertise them online and courier them to people whom I never even met and getting paid for it.Many women are doing this and receiving payments for goods delivered or services rendered.
Technology can be the leverage to pushing Africa into becoming a consumer based economy which creates job opportunities for its workers , profit for business owners and GDP growth for countries on the continent.
While some African countries have been looking to China for ideas on how to grow their economies,we need to be looking at the people and the resources we have and seeing how we can use technology not just to trade with our Western trade partners but with each other.Every Country in Africa has something that another country on the continent needs and technology is giving us the opportunity to trade more with each other.
One of the best resources we have as a continent and an often overlooked is the role of women in the African Economic revolution that will be coming in a few years.This half of our population that often goes unnoticed has the potential with the use of technology to push us out of the donor dependency syndrome.
Women & Technology are the tools to drive Africa’s economic revolution…
As mobile phone technology across emerging market economies spreads,its usage has become not only cheaper but has lowered the cost of owning a smartphones and allowed more people,especially women to own them.
When I launched Mezani Program it was with this in mind as its only a paltry 880,000 of the number of the 12.2 million Kenyan women between the ages of 24 and 64 years who are in formal employment.The rest earn daily wages or are involved in some form of agricultural activity.What would happen to an economy like Kenya if these 12 million women were given the opportunity,skills and support they needed to start their small businesses.We might just have a revolution,like the one started by Jack Ma with his TaoBao villages.This expansion of ecommerce into villages has seen the transaction value of China exceed that of more developed economies like France,United Kingdom and the USA.
With Taobao,entire villages reorganized their economies around ecommerce.Thanks to the internet it has revolutionized how people work,shop and do business.
Imagine reorganizing how we do business and having just a million women running a business from their phones and each employing at least 3 other people,we would have 3 million more women getting to feed their families,pay healthcare and send their children to school.
We can support these women by helping them formalize their businesses and this starts with giving them the necessary skills and networks that would help them do this.For every woman that starts a successful small business,there will be another whose business fails.By increasing the success rate of women owned businesses we create more job opportunities and an increased workforce is beneficial to a country’s GDP growth .
Supporting more women owned businesses and a return to work formula for women who have been pushed out of the labor force also allows them the opportunity to build on their human capital and build a life of their own making.It has been shown that a woman with at least a high school diploma is likely to wait longer to have children and she will have fewer children.For a country like Kenya with high maternal mortality and teen pregnancy rates,it will help address the issues surrounding the reproductive health and rights of women.A better educated woman with a relatively well paying job is more knowledgeable and has more access to contraceptives .She is also more likely to have healthier children,who live past the age of 5 years .
We cannot continue to look at the issue of women as just a gender issue,it is also an economic issue and affects all aspects of a society.The more we overlook the potential human capital that is missing out from the workforce because of a lack of policies and programs that support women empowerment,we do a disservice to ourselves as a continent.
We need to see more deliberate tackling of issues surrounding women and girls on the continent and make them part of the story of economic revolution.Instead of looking towards industrialization as China has done,we should looking for ways to use technology to democratize the business space and allow more women to get access to business opportunities and be part of the continents economic revolution.