Renegade Air New Routes

Renegade Air (not my airline) has launched flights from Kenya’s capital city (Nairobi) to Homa Bay (in the Western part of the country. Last month, the same airline launched flights to Kisumu city and is offering a promotional offer of USD 46 (one way) to Kisumu.

Using a Cessna Caravan (carrying 12 passengers), the Homa Bay route is about USD 70 one way. It says a lot about the state of aviation that a flight of less than 200 nautical miles should cost that much.

However, kudos to Renegade Air, which only started operations in 2015, for expanding the routes. So far, from Nairobi, this airline serves the following destinations: Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Malindi, Lokichogio, Kigali, Marsabit, Loyengalani, Ileret, Kapese and Nariokotome.

my birthday

For all the friends and family, thank you for the birthday wishes. One more year, 4 complete decades and still so many things to do and looking forward to good health surrounded by family and friends. 

Let me make a few mentions:

Kenya Revenue Authority – the birthday message/present I would have wanted from you is proper use of our taxes. We all know that won’t happen so let me move swiftly along. 

The insurance company that sent me a discounted offer on funeral cover. I am alive to the fact that I am mortal, no need to remind me. It is always good to do business with you, your sense of timing notwithstanding.

My neighbour who keeps us awake with loud hooting at night – I have grown up so much in the last decade. Suffice it to say I no longer have thoughts of wringing your neck, for now. When I turn 50 and I can plead senility in a court of law, now that will be a different game…you get the drift. 

The dry-cleaning company – it is good to see our love has not shrunk over the decades that we have known each other. I am so sorry about the pandemic. Nowadays I only need a shirt and a coat in order to appear on a zoom call and this has meant a lot of the business has gone down the drain.

The barber – sorry man, I am going bald. On the bright side (and I am not referring to the shiny scalp) hopefully this will save me money.  What can I say, it is genetics. I hope you get more clients elsewhere. However, if you have good offers on toupees, you have my number.

Member of the my old cycling club – the brotherhood stands strong. If it has 2 wheels and no motor, we shall ride it. And, if we break bones doing it, may God preserve the bike for future use.

Kenya Airways – what can I say? Every time I see how much of taxpayer money is being used to bail you out, I wonder if the stress will kill me before my next birthday. Hopefully, in my 40’s I will accept that it is what it is. On second thoughts, no, I won’t. 

The watchmaker – from now on I will not be using watches and clocks. I am taking a leaf out of Judge Marete’s playbook. I don’t wear a watch, I don’t ask for time, I decide the time.

Our incompetence will kill us

The Star Newspaper reports that Kenya has formed an Oxygen Taskforce to deal with the shortage. It is a year since the pandemic hit this country. All along we have known that patients in hospitals more often than not require oxygen.

In fact, at one point, Devki Limited offered to supply oxygen for free in exchange for canisters. The government did not move a muscle, although private hospitals started collecting oxygen from Devki.

Now, it is morning, after a dark and cold night for Kenyans. The government announces that it is forming a task force to look for bedsheets.

NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON’T

A curious case is happening in Kenya. Investigative authorities cannot trace more than Ksh 5 billion that had been deposited in the bank accounts of Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, who is being investigated for alleged money laundering.

Ksh 12.5Bn went in and Ksh 7.3Bn went out according to bank records (Rafiki Micro Finance Bank). So, where is over Ksh5 Bn?

There are no bank statements to show how the balance of Sh5.1 billion were withdrawn from the fixed deposit account

This raises several questions:

Can we trust Rafiki Micro Finance Bank? Is the bank not complicit in this? Why is the bank not in court to explain this? Lastly, where are the regulatory authorities that should have been providing oversight?

A case of too many questions and too few answers.

More money, SAME problems

The government has launched a new program( KSh1.8Bn) targeting rural agricultural youth employment programmes in Western Kenya in partnership with the German Development Agency. Some 10,000 youths from Bungoma, Kakamega, Siaya and Vihiga counties should benefit from this, if all goes according to plan. The projects should improve the business environment and access to inputs, services and markets.

The Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture commented on the KilimoNiBiz program saying that it:

will increase their employability through competency-based training, promotion of job placement services and strengthening the self-organisation of the rural youth

Therein lies the problem. Making people employable is not exactly going to resolve the problems that the youth face. As usual, it is not that the government and donors have not put in enough money in this and other similar causes. The problem is that the focus is wrong and hence the solution is evasive.

The youth should be enabled to become self-employed in collective schemes that have more chance of success. Improving employability is hardly the way to go. Kenya will lift itself out of the crutches of unemployment and poverty if the people can begin sustainable commercial ventures, each suited to the locality. A strong cooperatives movement is lacking and so even those who have fantastic ideas find themselves launching small businesses that go under because they cannot achieve scale.

Providing capital to many diverse businesses each with varying probability of succeeding is like shooting in the dark. I am a firm proponent of cooperatives and the implementation is not overly difficult.

1. Each county should identify its specific strengths. Arable ones can focus on agri-business. Some can focus on tourism. Yet others can be in the extractive sector.
2. Government (both national and county) as well as donors should help in the design and launch of cooperatives, refining the objectives and putting in place the infrastructure that supports the cooperatives. Agri-business areas need cold-rooms, depots for chemicals, trucks for transport for example. These should be provided to the cooperative movement.
3. Periodically (and upon proper evaluation), more capital should be infused into cooperatives so that members are allocated, each according to their needs to expand their operations. For example, if a cooperative sources farm inputs for a new project in bulk for a membership of 10,000 the savings are massive.
4. Technical assistance should also be channeled via the cooperatives and this should include nascent business advisory services and monitoring for the individual members.

It really is time to do things differently.

Towards a Biking city

It is refreshing to see that Nairobi is taking baby-steps in realising Non-Motorized Transport(NMT). In the CBD, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services is implementing pedestrian walkways and cycling lanes by replacing and relocating some parking spots

We have timelines for the first 100 days to complete renovations along Moi Avenue, Muindi Mbingu Street, City Hall Way and the University Way. The project will later connect the City with Jogoo Road, Kibra, Westlands and Industrial Area.

However, much more needs to be done and it can be done. I hope NMS is thinking wider than the current scope.
  1. Cycling lanes are much cheaper. They do not require major civil works like excavation. For the large part, clearing the way, levelling and laying paving and implementing basic drainage is all that is needed. The maintenance costs are similarly lower.
  2. From several sides of the city, the old railway line that goes almost into the CBD has lots of land on either side. Residents only need feeding cycle lanes to connect to the railway. Cycling/walking lanes can be built along the railway.
  3. A roadmap is needed such that in x years, from any point in the greater metropolitan area, a resident has a safe cycling lane to connect to the main lane that will take them to the city (and even cross it to any of the other sides). No road should be built without cycling lanes. That is just retrogressive.
  4. For security, solar powered lights can be installed along the lanes. The city management can hire security guards, equipped with bikes to patrol the cycling lanes. Fencing off the lanes will also ensure security.
  5. The railway station has enough space to be converted into secure bike parking facilities and users can be issued with smart cards for entry and exit. A nominal fee can be levied and this will be used for paying security marshals, cleaning and maintaining the washrooms.
  6. As the lanes are being built, it is important to ensure that all premises have secure bike-parking facilities. This is not too difficult. One car park can accommodate as many as 10 bikes. Theft of bikes is a serious issue so security will be needed. As more people give up driving, the parking attendants who were attending to motorists can be deployed to the bike parks. The idea is to ensure that a few metres from each building, you can leave your bike secured and sheltered and will be assured to find it when you come back.
  7. Convenience facilities such as lockers, shower-stands for freshening up can be installed at the Old Railway station. A person riding from any of the city environs further out should be able to get to the old railway station and make himself presentable for office. As a nominally chargeable service, this will further create income for NMS. It however requires that the main roads feeding into the city be equipped with cycling lanes.
  8. Providing this expanded infrastructure will also spur the growth of entrepreneurship in areas such as bike share, importation and sale of bikes and spare parts.
  9. The health and wellness of Kenyans will be improved. A person living in Langata, Buruburu, Kikuyu, Ngara, along Mombasa road etc need not sit in a public service vehicle for hours to get to work in the morning. That is enough time to do a relaxing ride into the city, take a quick shower and be at her desk by 8am.

COVID-19: Yet ANOTHER REASON FOR Kenya-Tanzania squabble

The spat between Kenya and Tanzania is the latest twist in the uncomfortable relationship between these two East African neighbours. The situation has always been tense and these countries merely tolerate each other despite the fact that they need each other and trade with each.

Tanzania is blocking Kenyan trucks at the Lunga Lunga/Horohoro and Taveta/Holili border points in response to Kenya’s demand that truck drivers be tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to cross into Kenya.

Tanzania has been charting its own path with regard to Corona virus with President Magufuli insisting on prayers, very doubtful testing and no reporting of positive cases for over 2 weeks . As a result, the neighbouring countries have been routinely detecting positive cases from Tanzanian truck drivers.

Trade between the two neighbours annually reaches Ksh 62 Billion. The people living near the borders routinely cross from side to side in search of livelihood. The Kenyan minister for East African affairs, Adan Mohamed is downlplaying the tiff:

We are aware that there are a few trucks of Kenyan registration that have been denied access and entry into Tanzania, but we have not stopped processing vehicles coming from Tanzania into Kenya

The Business Daily reports

Goods trucked from Tanzania – including fresh produce such as onions and oranges – last year jumped by more than half, growing 53.79 percent to Sh27.70 billion from Sh18.01 billion in 2018

In comparison:

Goods trucked into Tanzania by Kenyan companies and traders last year increased 12.99 percent to Sh33.86 billion, trade data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows.

Kenya and Tanzania can huff and puff as much as they want but it seems two truths will remain:

  1. The two countries need each other more than they are willing to admit
  2. Both countries are led led by idiots who place ego above national welfare and are too proud to talk to each other like grown-ups

Kenya Not At Ease

Right in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, Kenyans are being treated to an example of how dimwitted and unfocused their leaders are. The battle between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto is gaining pace steadily. That senior members of our ruling elite have time for this, at this crucial time, shows how casually they take their duties.

Five senators who did not support President Uhuru’s move of “fumigating the Jubilee party” are to face disciplinary action from the Jubilee party. They include Iman Dekow, Millicent Omanga, Victor Prengei, Naomi Jillo and Mary Yiane. The ultimate plan may be to get rid of them from the party simply because they appeared to support the Deputy President by not showing up for a meeting with the President.

Kenyatta recently convened a Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting that ratified the controversial removal of Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and his Nakuru counterpart Susan Kihika as Majority Leader and Majority Whip respectively. The two are perceived as allies of Ruto

The language being used is telling. Newspaper headlines carrying words such as “fumigate” show exactly what Uhuru thinks of Ruto and his supporters. In the president’s mind, they are not equal partners in this alliance – Uhuru feels he owns the house and can get rid of “pests” that have been enjoying the comfort of his shelter. His Secretary General, Raphael Tuju, in explaining what is planned for the senators is even more revealing as it seems the decision has already been taken.

They have to explain why they didn’t attend the PG. The object of the summons is to subject them to a disciplinary process that shall result in expulsion. Those with genuine reasons will be spared based on the outcome of the disciplinary process

Between 2003 and 2007, Kenyans witnessed the deterioration of the relationship between 2 coalition partners, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga. Four years of infighting and mutual disrespect resulted in parting of ways and a disputed election that still haunts Kenya’s memory. It did not appear to be a big deal when the squabbling began but it built up slowly, tit for tat, until it was simply out of control.

Uhuru is not content to have Murkomen and Kihika’s heads on a platter. He is now combing through his backyard to identify MPs who support Ruto and will only rest when they lose their seats. In his crosshairs are Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Kandara MP Alice Wahome, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and Kikuyu’s Kimani Ichung’wa 

In an unprecedented move, the head of state plans to pitch camp in select Mount Kenya constituencies to spearhead the removal of some elected MPs through the recall clause. This would be a Kenyan first.

Such energy would have been very welcome in fighting Corona virus. It is admirable that the president wants this task done to completion and it proves that when he puts his mind to something, he can complete it. If only it was the right task. For a President and DP who were elected on a promise to unite the country, their score card is hardly impressive.

All in all, the tempo is picking up ahead of the 2022 elections. These machinations create tension in Kenya among the politicians and their supporters and they lead to more entrenched positions creating a dangerous attitude of “us versus them”. If unchecked, they can easily lead to the horrid post-election violence that was witnessed in 2008, leading to over 1500 dead and about 600,000 displaced.

While ultimately Kenyans must be accountable for their actions, the civil society, the members of the fourth estate and the international community must not keep silent when these early war drums are being played. The media, for example, must stop these incendiary and cheerleading headlines and instead call out the leaders for their irresponsible utterances and actions. When the music finally stops, it is the poor people who are left without a seat.

If it was possible to separate their actions and words from the wider interests of Kenya, Uhuru and Ruto could be left alone to humiliate each other as much as they like. Theirs, after all, is a convenient fellowship of thieves and as such we do not expect them to conduct their affairs in an honourable manner. However, we must ask ourselves if they are not already setting us up to be at each others’ throats in 2022. If they are and all indications are that this is the case, they must be stopped, at all costs.

We have paid the price before. The lessons remain with us.

Penniless KEMRI

It is official. The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) is broke and the Daily Nation has reported the same.

The research agency is so broke that it cannot replenish Covid-19 testing materials, protective gear and the much-needed reagents

The folks at KEMRI do a good job and even the Africa CDC recognises their dedication. It is a pity that the government of Kenya does not see value in them.

The institute has also been nominated by Africa CDC as a centre of excellence in evaluation of Covid-19 diagnostics in the continent

The Ksh 158 Mn Covid-19 funds that the government had allocated to KEMRI has run out. What a time to run out! The institute has now requested Ksh 950 Mn to hire personnel, buy equipment and fund other programmes. Of this amount Ksh 540 Mn will be used to buy coronavirus reagents and screening materials. Ksh 100Mn will be used to hire 62 more scientists.

It is now close to 2 months since Covid-19 was detected in Kenya and close to 6 months since the first case was detected in Wuhan. This was more than adequate warning for Uhuru Kenyatta and his team to get their act together. Yet, with all that time, the government of Kenya has not seen a need to ensure uninterrupted funding to an agency that is on the frontline of fighting this crisis. However, there has been time to take tea and snacks worth $40,000 in one month.

This is a country that has a new Minister of Health who spends his time in front of the cameras because he loves the spotlight but he cannot be bothered to ensure there is a proper program of response in the backend. Is it for this sparse funding that a top scientist at KEMRI who had stood firm in asking for funding, was demoted? He is surely vindicated by this turn of events.

If anything, this shows what value the government attaches to the lives of Kenyans – 0.

Ndemo: The e-learning utopia

Dr Bitange Ndemo, former permanent secretary in the Kenyan Ministry of Information & Communication, has penned an opinion article in the Daily Nation whose main thrust is that Kenyan children would fare well in online learning if the people changed their attitudes.

As the government tries to get teachers to teach online, voices of resistance continue to rise. Parents are arguing that not every child has access to broadband or devices.

The parents are right. It is not an empty argument. Forget broadband, there are houses without any means to access the Information Superhighway. The good prof just needs to walk to slums that surround Nairobi. Even in the “well-to-do” families, some kids in the city have to wait for Mum and Dad to come home in the evening so that they can use the company-assigned laptop. What happens in a family that has 2 or 3 kids?

In my view, these parents are abdicating their fiduciary duty on their children. When in a crisis, the immediate reaction is how do we effectively deal with it? If we ask the right questions, we might solve a big problem

Very good. These questions have been asked many times. The answers, from the government are still not here. Ndemo then gives examples of the questions that we should be asking and it is good to see that he is at least addressing them to the right quarters.

Can government zero-rate broadband? Can we crowdfund laptops for the poor? Can those with extra devices donate to the poor? Can the syllabus be put online for parents to assist their children? Can we have a hotline for consultations?

However, he must have forgotten that there are places where even charging the laptops battery will be a problem because such places are yet to be connected to the national power grid. I was born in such a village and the situation is still the same. Perhaps the laptops he is talking about will be solar powered? Even then, some families who do not have food for tomorrow will swiftly sell those devices. When the people are steeped in poverty, showing up with a connected laptop will not fix their problems. E-learning does not exist in a vaccuum.

Ndemo also writes about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and why we need to get on with the flow.

Our attitudes towards anything that is not within the norm is wanting in this era of rapid technological changes. We are in serious transition into a new era called the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will change the world like we have never seen before.

Spoken like a person living in the affluent part of the city. The rich and the middle class can afford to think about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and “changing the world”. The downtrodden in the villages worry about their next meal. A child not going to school is not their urgent priority. Sad as that may sound, it is the reality within which they operate.

Ndemo talks about 3G and 4G, forgetting that coverage of the country is one thing. Including the population in having that access is yet another thing.

As it is, 70 per cent of the population, is covered by either 3G or 4G. At least 95 per cent of Kenyans have access to radio and 100 per cent can access television. The question is how do we get our children to access in any of these platforms but more specifically through broadband in the shortest period.

There have been countless opportunities for the government to help the people access these technologies. There just was never enough will to do so because of the shortsightedness of the leaders. We forgot to lift our people out of poverty because we were too busy deploying 3G and 4G.

He concludes.

In times of crisis, we need to project a positive attitude to solving the emergent problems like learning of our children. With determination, we can resolve the challenges.  We undermine the future of our children when use excuses to resist change that could likely be our new normal in the days to come.

I agree on the need to be positive and optimistic. However, the reality is that for a long time, the government has done little to enable the people. To harangue the same victims of the ineptitude of this and previous regimes is callous and will achieve nothing.

We can bring Google balloons to Kenya but we still have not found a way to make those balloons help the 10-year old girl in the deepest recesses of Kenya. When she is not going to school, she is fetching water and firewood or foraging for food. This has nothing to do with the attitude of her parents. It is all about the thieving and bad governance which is the government, in which Ndemo once served, is well known for. And, that is not an excuse.

Different topics, different takes