THE FUTURE:A COSMOPOLITAN AFRICA

Definition of COSMOPOLITAN

2
: a cocktail made of vodka, orange-flavored liqueur, lime juice, and cranberry juice —called also cos*mo,

source:www.merriamwebster.com

A look at history confirms that  the greatest cities are cosmopolitan.

And here is why..

Cosmopolitan towns are a treasure trove of culture,ideas and energy.

And these 3 things are the drivers of change .

Just read through the history of cities like Rome,Paris,Istanbul and you will see why.

Take cities  like Nairobi,Capetown,Cairo ,Kigali and many others in Africa,they can all be described as pretty cosmopolitan by the continents standards.

Look at their growth and study the changing nature of their cultural groups.

Further away we have Dubai ,Hong Kong ,London,Rome,New York,Toronto and Rio de Janeiro great cities they are because they are so culturally diverse.

It is a joy to see so many African cities and towns becoming so diverse with people from different cultures because these “new people” are the change agents that will push Africa from the edges of obscurity to economic and cultural power houses.

African governments and people then need to prepare themselves for more culturally diverse populations.We cannot fight it

No longer should we see other cultures as foreign but we should embrace them for the ideas and fresh perspectives they bring .

I have always found it so fascinating the growth of Australia,New Zealand ,America was fueled by people who left home and hearth in Europe.

Should we not wish the same for Africa in the next 50 years or less,that we will see major changes and more color in many more African towns and cities.

Let us see many more African governments embracing these changes in a world that is becoming increasingly more dynamic.

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WHY AFRICA NEEDS TO TAKE CARE OF ITS OWN

In a recent edition of the Business daily there was an article on Coca Cola and not a very flattering one.

It was all about the alarmingly high percentage of 4-MI or methylimidizole a chemical used in the manufacturing of its very popular Coca Cola brand.

Kenya had the highest percentage among 9 countries  of the chemical in the Coca Cola samples tested by an independent US consumer advocacy group.

Norah Odwesso the Public Affairs and Communications director for Coca Cola Central East and West Africa Business unit response was “All of our products are safe and comply with regulations in every country where we operate. Regulators throughout the world have approved the use of caramel in our products.”

Read the full article here

Apparently each and every country in which Coca Cola operates in has different safety standards and for Ms Odwesso so long as they are meeting the minimum requirements in each country and making money it really does not matter.

Africa lacks a continental food safety body like the EU but that should in no way allow Coca Cola to take advantage of the ignorance most countries have on globally accepted safety standards.

As much as we would like to attract foreign investment, African leaders  should be more reasonable and demand safety before profits from the international brands operating on the continent.

Why for Pete’s sake should the Fanta I take in the UK, be  different from the one I take here in Kenya where another possible carcinogen sunset yellow is used as a colorant.

Yet in most other developed countries Coca Cola uses a certain percentage of fruit pulp to manufacture the same brand?

When cheap toys that have certain toxic substances are dumped on the African continent,who is going to protect our children from these harmful substances if our leaders do not put public safety over the cuts they receive for approving importation of these items ?

When inferior brands of household items,baby products like diapers are dumped on our continent who will speak out?

When foreign banks are making mega profits from deposits and very high interest loans from their African branches ,in countries where populations are still living before the poverty line,countries where governments are propped up by foreign aid,is it really fair?

African leaders need to put the needs and the plight of their people before all else.

These brands and businesses selling their products here have no interest in the safety of the continents people,all they care about is money.

Africa needs to look after its own.

Only then will we stop being ridiculed for our ignorance,people will respect us,brands will be more reasonable and stop slowly killing us with inferior products. stand on our own wo feet.

 

KENYAN RECESSION:THE GOOD,THE BAD AND THE UGLY

It’s official Kenya is experiencing one of the worst periods of recession since independence.

The Kenyan shilling is on a suicide mission against the dollar,business are cutting costs and we may soon see job cuts or hiring of more temporary staff by corporates.

And everything,literally everything from the packet of milk we use for breakfast tea to the matatu we take home from work ,we will have to pay more for .

First the good news…..

Some businesses and industries that will not get affected by the recession are the food industries,health and medical practitioners,hospitals included,alcohol manufacturers and those who sell  cosmetics.

People will always eat,recession or not,and fast food chains especially its a home run,fast food is always cheaper than the healthier stuff.

People will get sick and they will need medical attention,and even with the cost of drugs increasing as a result of the poor performance of the shilling,well these are people who will not be losing their jobs soon.

Alcohol manufacturers,whether Mututho laws are enforced or not will sell their brews as people seek to forget the harsh economic times they are living in.

It may not be surprising if we see many more people turning to cheap liquor,as the brands on the higher end of the market become unaffordable.

And women…they will want to look good,no matter the beating the shilling is taking and those in the business of selling cosmetics and sprucing up images will definitely be getting more clients.

Churches will also reap from this as people seek divine inspiration and consolation for the harsh economic times they are going through.

People want to look good and feel good all the time if not most of the time and a shilling that is heading south will not deter them.

Now to the bad……

As more people lose jobs,we may see an increase in petty crime as people turn to alternative but illegal forms of supporting themselves.

The price of things will definitely go up,from groceries,to school fees to medical costs will rise and t is time we prepared ourselves for the long haul.

The real estate industry that was growing by leaps and bounds will feel the effects of this the most .With building materials going up,not too many people will be looking towards owning a home.

Am sure even the land agents who had subdivided farmland for sale will see a dip in their profits and people may decide to hold onto their cash as they study the performance of the shilling.

The Nairobi stock exchange  is the best place to be if you are a long-term investor but it is a nightmare for anyone thinking short-term.

Share prices are at their  lowest,volumes are down and everyone is just watching and waiting for things to pick up…maybe after the elections.

And the really ugly…

Things are gong to get worse,with an election looming next year,everyone is to preoccupied with building alliances rather than the economy.

Sometimes it would seem it would be more interesting to watch paint dry than watch  the forex numbers coming in.

Now to some more good news…..

For companies that are seeking to reap from this crisis and still maintain their customers,the best way to go about is offer great bargains.

Make people feel they are getting the best value from their shillings.

And with this am thinking especially for supermarket chains and retail stores offer customers great deals on items that feature daily on people’s shopping lists especially if they are buying in large quantities.

discounts for items bought on wholesale will get you customers and  push up your volumes .

After all what you need are numbers.

Give discounts to your loyalty card holders,after all you do not want merchandise sitting on your shelves ,you want it to  move.

For the shoppers like me look at the way you can cut costs in your spending,eat out less,cook more at home.

Look for bargains and discounts.

Readjust your preferences and check out if they are cheaper alternatives to the products you use,from margarine to rice to detergent the choice now in Kenya is wide,save a few shillings.

Have any ideas on how we can weather out the recession,please share….

 

BRANDING-Some Kenyan lessons on the power of emotions.

Safaricom,Tusker and Judge Ian have to be the most recognizable brands in the country.Safaricom flaunts its proudly Kenyan heritage in whatever it odes,from its Niko na Safaricom advert that has everyone talking to its mpesa money transfer service,why lie even its promotional ads all carry Kenyan slang language like the Masonko na safaricom.Moving on to Tusker,everyone agrees we have good beer and Tusker stands tall among its peers having won several awards.And there is Jude Ian he of the Tusker project fame show,he is brutally honest,tells it like it is and never shys away from voicing his opinion on anything-I like him.

If Kenyan companies could learn anything from the above,whom ni have just picked randomly is that you need to know what you stand for .Tusker evokes good times it reminds one of a party and nyama choma.What does your business stand for,what emotion does it evoke in your customer or potential buyer?The importance of emotions in branding cannot be overlooked and there was no better example of this than in the Safaricom IPO that generated an overwhelming response from the general public because people felt they were buying into a Kenyan company.I don’t think the stock market will ever generate such excitement for some time to come.No matter what you may think about the company it has made its stamp in the Kneyna psyche.

Judge Ian never disappoints he is known as the straight talking judge who never sugar coats his criticism.Love him or hate him his opinion holds sway with the general public and i think thats why we like to hate him.He never wavers in his opinion.He has been able evoke certain emotions in us,he never falters and you will never catch him having a wishy washy opinion on anything.That is how brands need to be,know what you stand for and stick to it.A good example of a company that need to work on its image is Air-tel,which was formerly Zain and before that Celtel and when it started it was Kencell.I always ask myself ,whatever do they want to be known for apart form their constant battles with the dominant market player in the mobile industry.Hope this time,their freedom strategy stays.

As sure as he sun will rise tomorrow,change follows us our hole lives and it is true any company or business needs to change its strategy with the times but at least be known for consistency in whatever direction you are headed in.

WHY KENYAN COFFEE NEEDS TO FIND ITS WAY TO CHINA

The Chinese are consuming cup loads of coffee so much so Starbucks is planning to start growing coffee in China.

Kenya today has become a Chinese business hub and we have a lot of our products on our shelves.While i do not qualify to comment on what we could be exporting to China apart for our beautiful wildlife we have the Chinese stamping their authority on all things construction from apartments on Mombasa road to our superhighways to stadiums to our homes .Just talk a walk on biashara street in Nairobi and there is even a shop selling Chinese baby products.

In my opinion this is an opportune moment for the Minister of Agriculture to schedule a meeting with the Chinese ambassador to discuss how this can be mutually beneficial for both sides.Probably we could start paying these contractors working on our roads with bags of coffee thus creating a win win situation on both sides.

KENYAN MOBILE WARS-Who is losing?


When the mobile companies lowered their calling rates we all celebrated and for the consumer nothing was sweeter than the free calls offered by some operators to kshs 2 per minute on some networks. While we celebrated I wondered whether the economists at treasury who crunch numbers were thinking about the overall effect this would have on the economy.

That calls are now cheaper I great but how much are people spending on airtime, which is the backbone of the industry. Sale of airtime is what has driven the growth of the industry and has allowed a company like Safaricom to enjoy the tremendous growth that it has enjoyed for the past 10 years. With this growth we have seen growth of businesses from the mpesa agent in far flung Turkana to the safaricom dealers smack in the middle of Nairobi town.Safaricom currently employs over 4000 people and has some of the brightest and best in the industry, from the mpesa revolution to the catchy ads ,the company has emerged as the biggest tax payer year in year out.

Last year Safaricom emerged as the most outstanding tax payer followed whether the by the East African Breweries which goes to show Kenyans talked more than they drink. With the lowering of call rates I doubt whether the taxman will be receiving such a huge payout anytime soon. That fact alone should be worrying the Minister of finance as it will definitely affect his budget come next June.

Safaricoms IPO was also among the most exciting things in the history of stock markets where it was oversubscribed by 532% ,the share price has been stagnant for long periods with the highest it has got to being kshs 7.The company has a majority of Kenyan shareholders and while there has been a lot of bickering on its dividends we are left to wait and see what the company will declare next year.

With the interconnection rates set to fall down to 0.87cts by the year 2014 I am hoping that someone at CCK had put a lot of thought into these rates and how they would affect the economy before they set out to regulate the industry.