KENYAN SHILLING:Why I am worried,really worried.

The 22nd of September is World Rhino Day,it is in commemoration of this animal facing increasing threat from humans because of its horn or rather what it is believed its horn can  do.Some people believe that the horn has medicinal properties ,what they forget is that its horn is madeup of the same stuff as our nails-Keratin.

But as the conservation world honored these endangered species,another kind of “species” is facing threats of a different kind.

The Kenyan shilling was on a free fall against the dollar and at the close of business today  it missed the 100 shilling mark against the dollar by 80 cents.

Not many people are keenly following the battering our economy is taking from market forces as we are either glued to the confirmation hearings at the ICC,fixated on the never-ending soap operas or keenly following the English football teams.

We are also still  recovering from the tragic events at the Sinai slums where so far 100 lives were lost,and a 100 more are still admitted in hospital recovering from extensive burns.Read the story here.

What is on offer on Kenyan TV today has numbed us to what is happening outside in the real world.In the midst of all the TV shows we seem to be blissfully unaware we are staring at en election barely a year from now.And with the volatile climate that characterises Kenyan politics,only one no,several things will suffer.First will be the economy,then the Kenyan household budgets and the final election outcome will be as a result of several guiding factors other than the economy which at the moment should be in the HDU (High Dependency Unit)of a major private hospital.

We aren’t talking about what is happening on the economic front and a clear sign of our ignorance in matters economic is the way our business news on prime time tv is structured.

Business news is barely given 15 minutes of tv time,politics,tragedies,political sideshows are always headline news in all major news channels.They take up a chunk of the one hour most media houses devote to their prime time news.

Secondly business news is always presented using terms that make no sense to the ordinary Kenyan who is more worried about the price of a litre of fuel than  if the market was “bearish”.Either the news editors think we are ignorant and are not bothered to enlighten us  or maybe they enjoy listening to themselves.

After the President signed the Price Control Bill that is meant to cushion Kenyans against unreasonable pricing of essential commodities  like maize and wheat flour,cooking oil,sugar,rice and fuel we received a rude awakening.A few hours after signing of the bill Kenyans woke up to a rude shock-milk,bread and sugar prices were increased by the dairy companies and millers.

The hydro power distribution company Kenya power also added its weight on the already overburdened Kenyan household by saying that it would be increasing the fuel levy on its monthly electricity bills…again.

Almost half of the Kenyan population either lives on the poverty line or is teetering on the edge of absolute poverty.When the prices of basic commodities like maize flour and paraffin  are increased you are condemning these people to a life of hell.

Our unemployment rate,which no politician ever talks about, stands at about 40% as of 2008,now in 2011 it must be higher.What will happen when manufacturers and other related companies close shop citing difficult economic conditions,rising cost of power and an unfavourable political climate?Already some companies are seeing red over the unpredictable economic climate,just ask Eveready the dry cell battery manufacturers and the flower companies that have moved to Ethiopia.

Companies are having to dig deeper into their pockets to cover payroll cost and other overheads as well as try to stay afloat in the competitive  market.If the trend continues and the shilling continues sliding downwards some will have to choose between letting go of some of their employees or folding up altogether.

And when these employees lose their jobs,crime and insecurity will increase because somehow these men and women with families will have to feed their chidren.Some will join the marauding gangs of carjackers and robbers that give the Kenyan police sleepless nights.

Crime and insecurity remain the dragons our law enforcement officers have been unable to slay.

As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow the Kenyan shilling is going to hit the 100 shilling mark sooner than you can say ICC.Fuel prices will be adjusted upwards,fare on public transport will go up again,  manufacturers will cite rising operations costs and hike the price of basic goods,our power bills will go up and more Kenyans will join the millions already classified as poor.

It is a circle.

I know  paint a gloomy picture but things do not look to rosy or sunny either from where I am sited.

TIME TO END THE KENYAN “SUICIDE WATCH”

A lot of things have happened since  I did my last post on why Kenyans are on a suicide mission.

Over a hundred people now have died as a result of the Sinai fire when some of them succumbed to their injuries while admitted at the Kenyatta Hospital.

It almost seems as if the whole country is on a suicide watch,waiting for the next disaster.We have become a nation of professional mourners and whiners.

But we have done very little n terms of preventing these disasters.

Yesterday evening along the Busia -Bumula highway,4 people were burned beyond recognition while 37 others are admitted at the Busia Hospital in critical condition.An oil tanker overturned and while the driver was trying to disconnect the battery ,people came over to siphon fuel (do we ever learn) and kaboom fire!

The Sinai fire victims aren’t even buried yet and we have another tragedy.

The government has decided to provide a coffin and kshs 60,000 to the families of the deceased from the Sinai tragedy to assist in burial preparations.We need to ask for how long the government is going to assist in burying Its citizens and building monuments and issuing warnings.

Aren’t we all tired of seeing our fellow citizens charred remains and having to condole with families who have lost their loved ones over what can be termed as man-made disasters?

It is time government became more proactive in  deterring such behaviours as siphoning of fuel,and also came up with ways by which we can curb such behaviours as  siphoning of  fuel from  overturned tankers.

Anyone who is caught siphoning fuel should be handcuffed and marched to the nearest police station.Spending a few months as a guest of the state and eating half-cooked meals should hopefully serve as  a deterrent .

We need to hand out such stiff  sentences and penalties for  errant behaviours that endanger the lives of Kenyans such that when a tanker overturns people run for the hills.

Imbibers of illegal brews should also be charged with endangering their lives and robbing the nation of its citzens.When you willingly walk into a dingy bar selling alcoholic beverages with questionable names you are putting your life at risk.

The state  needs to do much  more in stopping these suicide attempts.

As a nation we have shed too many tears,said too many prayers and spent too much money over stupid accidents and incidents.It is time we put  a stop to this.

WHY ARE KENYANS ON A SUICIDE MISSION?

Suicide is defined as when one knowingly and consciously seeks to end their life.It is something society frowns upon and some religious institutions do not perform the last rites over people who have thus decided to end their lives.

In Kenya unsuccessful attempts of suicide in Kenya will have you enjoying the plush hospitality of the state prisons.

Following the events of the past few days since Monday of this week i have been wondering whether people are not consciously seeking to end their miserable lives.(At least for those Kenyans of a certain economic class).

This is how the week has been:

12th September (Monday):Over 87 people dead when a pipeline that pumps super petrol from Mombasa to Nairobi and onwards to other parts of the country leaks.The fuel finds  its way into an informal settlement’s drainage and sewage system.Next thing you know part of the congested slum is up in flames,people lose their lives,property and over 90 of them will be nursing their wounds in hospital for months!

13th September(Tuesday):16 people dead after drinking questionable brands of alcohol in Nyahururu.Others are admitted in hospital after going blind from methane poisoning,that is as a result of unregulated alcohol content contained in some of these brews.

14th September(Wednesday):8 more people die,this time in Ruiru from some other brand of illicit alcohol,many others hospitalized after going blind.

In the month of August and early weeks of September,we have read and seen the horrendous images and reports of road carnage on our roads involving public service vehicles.

Most of them have been attributed to drunk driving and speeding and not the state of our roads.

Am sure by now you are getting my drift……we are on a suicide mission.

In the first two instances the Sinai residents were living on a time bomb,that was waiting to go off at any time.The area where the slum sits, atop an underground fuel pipe was a disaster waiting to happen.The residents have been asked to move from the area ,but they refused after their local politicians backed them and they stayed put.

They forget they are just trading stock come election time.

In the two instances of illicit brews,this is not the first time nor will it be the last that we hear of Kenyans  dying from alcohol poisoning.We have had the media reports on these cases for as long as i can remember,but people would rather get high and join the stairway to heaven thanks to drinks that have been laced with industrial alcohol.

The people who manufacture these drinks have put profit before human life.Law enforcers are either too overwhelmed with other crime busting activities,they do not care or are too lazy to act.

On the issue of road carnage,a demon has possessed Kenyan drivers and refused to let go.

Safety be damned ,we have put profit before the safety of passengers.We want to reach our destinations like yesterday.That is why if you are driving on the Nairobi Nakuru highway be warned it is a pseudo race track for formula 1 wanna be’s.

It is also why Kenyans allow themselves to be packed like sardines(my apologies to the sardines for the comparison) in a tin can in matatus(14 seater Nissan vans).

We have forgotten the Michuki rules(so named after the Minister who brought sanity to Kenyan roads) that sought to govern road safety especially among public service vehicles by enforcing use of speed governors that ensured speeds never went beyond 80 kp/h ,all vehicles got fitted with safety belts and that they had a set limit of passengers.

But just when we were getting to enjoy sanity on our roads,the honorable John Michuki was transferred to another ministry and all hell on our roads broke loose…again.Things went back to normal.

And normal meant “breaking all known and unknown traffic rules and regulations.”

As we speak more than 2000 Kenyans have lost their lives not from disease but on our roads.Many more have been maimed for life….

Who is going to save us from self destruction?

SOCIAL MEDIA USE IN AFRICA:Charting our own way.

There is a lot of information on social media available on the web today.

From what social media can do, to how to reap the most from social media to dozens of new forms of social media joining existing ones.

But all of it is geared towards more developed countries and democracies and not for Africa

In our attempt to keep up with the changing times , are applying a copy and paste method for Africa especially when it comes to social media use.

All conferences and meet ups on recent technological advances are  being held in posh and plush hotels in the capitals of African countries.

Rarely do you see the laptop carrying,Ipad  and latest tech gizmo’s loving  crowd venture outside the urban centres.

Blame it on poverty,what makes commercial or business sense for the sponsors of these events but i think we need a major paradigm shift in the way Africa is going to use social media.

We all remember the Egyptian revolution that was mainly engineered through Facebook.

Closer home we have the Kenyans for Kenya initiative that saw millions raised through a campaign that was done mainly through the social networks of Facebook,Twitter and Kenyan blogs.

For most African countries they are still treading on the waters of democracy and good governance with increasing poverty levels being the straw  breaking the backs of these nations.

Instead of using social media to ape western nations lifestyles,cultures we need to ensure we are using it to open up the democratic space in African countries.

We need to be discussing our problems and solutions that will  spur development and promote democracy and good governance on the continent.

Home grown solutions will always be best , we do not need to wait for expatriates to come up with  blue prints that will get us out of the muck that is poverty.

We already have the solutions if we are willing to talk to each other,share ideas,experiences and knowledge.

Social media is such a wealth of information,opinions and ideas.

These digital platforms have provided barazas(informal forums) where everyone can be heard regardless of social standing or economic status.

Where else do you have a government permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education engaging Kenyans in a discussion on improving the education sector.

Yesterday we had such a discussion on twitter with Mr James Ole Kiyapi.

Many other stake holders and people in government are engaging their audiences and  not only in Kenya, in discussions that can move the continent forward.

 

I hope the momentum is maintained because Africa is where the rest of the world will want to be in 10 years time.

Some corporates are already aware of this and have already set up African offices.

With a youthful population, a highly educated and the huge potential both in terms of intellectual resources as well as natural resources,we need to prepare for the change that is coming and fast.

THE AMERICAN SUCCESS STORY AT A PRICE

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.
As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

Source :www.paulocoelhoblog.com

Image:www.freepik.com

There are many reasons i love reading Paulo Coelho,and not becuase for me his finest work was not the Alchemist but “By the River Piedra  I sat down and wept.

It is also becuase he is a rich store of short stores from many cultures that brng some home truths with them like the baove story.

Have you ever asked yourself why the mental health industry is worth billions in the US?

It is because everyone there thrives on stress,;iving life on the fast lane seems to be the operative in this country.You cannot thrive or grow unless you are stressed.

After talking to a friend who told me she is entitled to 15 days of annual leave in a year, I now understand why shrinks,alcohol and drug addiction and other lifestyle related conditions and diseases are very prevalent in the United States.

It even made me understand why Americans are serial entrepreneurs.

Americans or at least those who are employed work the hardest in very high pressure environments.

It is why going on holiday is such a big deal.

In a 2007 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research it was found that the US was the only developed country that did not gaurantee it workers paid holidays or leave.

Starting a business is a way for them to get out of the rat race that is formal employment  and have some down time.

For those who don’t run businesses then well there are pills,shrinks,alcohol,drugs or mega churches to help you deal with stress.

Kenyans dream,live and yearn to live like Americans, we have our TV screens,50 bob dvd’s and foreign magazines holding up the US as the standard unit of measuring success .

But the success comes with a price, are we willing to pay it?

KENYAN SLAVES IN THE GULF

This article in yesterdays Sunday Standard sent chills down my spine,the inhumane treatment that Kenyans go through in the Gulf was sickening.That they are even auctioned off was a reminder of the slavery days when thousands died on ships  as they were transported to the Americas to work on plantations.

Centuries later,history is replaying itself as hundreds of Kenyan men and women are shipped to the Gulf for opportunities that for a number of death are ending up in death or with broken limbs.

The Kenyan media has played a huge role in highlighting the issues these Kenyans face there,working on menial jobs far away from home they are subjected to long working hours,denied food and even abused by some of their employers .

The government remains indecisive and the recruitment agents that procure these jobs for these Kenyans are smiling all the way to the bank.

Despite the fact that the press is doing its job by warning Kenyans of these” too good” to be true opportunities in these Gulf countries,many Kenyans are still risking life and limb in their quest for meaningful employment.

It is time the government did more to save any more Kenyans from meeting their deaths at the hands of these crooked employers.

OUR CIVIC DUTY AS KENYANS.

“It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error;it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.”

U.S SUPREME COURT JUSTICE

Robert H. Jackson

Sometimes  think i take this quote too literally.

I will never forget when the Egyptian revolution was at its peak,a middle-aged woman out having coffee and CNN caught up with her.

I can’t remember the name of the reporter who did the story but  I will always remember what she said,when asked her opinion on what was going on at Tahrir square.

She said she was embarrassed her generation had not spoken out sooner,and here were young Egyptians fighting for a more democratic Egypt.

But then i am reminded daily by all the news channels of the things going awry in government and I  soldier on.

I tell myself  am creating a better country for my children and their children and future generations of Kenyans

Because if we don’t speak out now,who will?

The ongoing  teachers strike, has come at a time when national exams for secondary school are just a month away.

How does money for education get allocated to the military for a country that has not gone to war in  the recent past nor is it  going to war with its neighbours in the near future.

And then there is the small matter of Mp’s not payng taxes.

Most parliamentarians say they are being hijacked   3 years into their  5 year term as legislators into paying taxes.

They say  this was not indicated in their terms of employment.

Taxing them right now will disrupt their budgets,these MP’s who earn almost 1 million Kenya shillings when a teacher with an undergraduate degree will be lucky to earn more than 15,000 shillings.

The same people who passed the constitution were not aware that there was a new sheriff in town,never bothered to read between the lines and missed this little matter of all Kenyans being obliged to pay their dues to the tax man.

Yet when the media zones in on this matter,they(MP’s)say the media is being too selective on what it reports and is blowing the matter out of proportion.

Another not so little matter the government has not done much about is the flouting of traffic rules.

Gone are the days when every public service vehicle had a speed governor,speeds were limited to 80kp/h.

You will find these public service vehicles flouting all known traffic rules by overspeeding,overloading,driving unroadworthy vehicles you name it,it’ s like demons have found a home behind the wheel of most vehicles on Kenyan roads,and the road carnage statistics are proof of this.

But still Kenyans put on a brave face and solder on with their daily lives.

We look away when money meant for education goes missing, leaving it to a few activists in the civil society whom we collectively think are mad for doing what they do to protest on our behalf.

We cheer on leaders who have failed the integrity test and quickly blame it on “political enemies” out to finish them.

We wax lyrical  about them when they  lump as together into tribal cocoons, talking about alliances  as they seek political power.

We forget we are the guardians of the constitution that determines how we are governed,

We err when we neglect this civic duty.