Monday, March 28, 2011

2012 to do : vote in MPs can't be bought

Something like 70% of MPs lost their seats in 2007. Kenyan voters can do change. Despite the high turnover, most of the current crop of MPs belong to a godfather. Most (95%) belong to these godfathers because they've been bought. Tenders for those who had cash in 2007; range rovers and runda homesteads for those who were poor in 2007. Their first call every morning is "mheshimiwa unaenda wapi leo?". This is corrosive behaviour because its difficult to build democracy and infact leads to the tribal politics we now have. There are ways we voters can spot and enable better leadership.
  • Stop supporting non-ideological parties: Easier said than done, but we must look for MPs and parties that will support a pure development agenda.
  • Party/candidate funding: Question or seek to understand how the political party is being funded. Looking at the big financial hitters in the 2007 general election, one could tell who was going to play the piper.
  • Stop demanding or accepting cash or other handouts: As soon as that MP candidate pays you, he has to be compensated and compensated profitably. His first priority as an MP will be to seeks ministerial post where he can eat. Failing that, they'll fall prey to a godfather.
  • Pre-general election wealth declaration: If candidates had to declare wealth as part of their election manifesto, it may weed out pharmacists and the like.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The 30 motorcade country-a sign of...

Imagine Maembe is a younger relative of yours say by 10yrs. Like you, Maembe grew up in the village, poor with no shoes until he started secondary. He is/was bright and hence managed to get into a good high school. And there the similarities with you end.
By the time Maembe reached high school, you had finished campus (through many many harambees that started from the day you were called to Alliance) and had a fairly good job. You thus financed him all the way thru to Nairobi campus where he graduated with a good degree. Enough to enable him to get a decent private sector job.
With money to burn, Maembe seems to have taken a turn. Because of the condition of the roads in chagiis where his parents still reside, he owns a Range Rover sport, which is pretty top range. Recently, you received a call at 5.30pm telling asking you if you could buy him a spare tyre as his had punctured huko ushago. He lives in a servant quarter on Mucai drive (off Ngong Road). One drunken evening, you get a call at 2am. Maembe got into a heated discussion with his neighbour who also happens to be his landlord. The resultant uppercut has landed him at Kilimani where the negotiations are at ksh150k for him to walk scot free. Naturally his thoughts turned to his well off rela. He will of course need somewhere to stay while he looks for new digs. Maembe being of marriageable age has found himself a marriageable lady. Good. The lady hails from Kabete. Bad. Dowry is paid over generations. In keeping up with his neighbours, his church colleagues at Nairobi Baptist, Maembe will occasionally call you from Malindi, Mombasa and even Zanzibar telling you how well the weekend is going down there with Kabete gf, why don't you take easy and join him with your missus.
Because of his non-frugal ways, Maembe has several credit cards and is offcourse still paying for the RR sport. You are starting to despair, but then one Satu, Maembe invites you for ride in RR sport saying he has something he wants to show you. He drives you to Kiserian and shows you a 1/2 acre plot he has found. Yippee! You can't hide your joy at his discovered sense. He is there rub, Maembe tells you that because of his upcoming preparations for nuptials, he'll be needing all the savings he can get. Lakini this plot is going for a good price. You make a deal with him, he'll find the deposit, you'll then lend him half the remaining money and give him the rest. He agrees to this, but later calls you to ask if you can lend him the rest as well.
That in nutshell is where we Kenyans are today. We have a president who travels in 30-car motorcade compared to say 10 for Obama (3 for David Cameron). He earns Ksh36m per year, twice as much as the UK PM. And we have a GDP per capita of $315. Something like a 100 times less than the UK. When will we get a reality check.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kenya real estate: do we have a bubble?

A bubble is created when you have air in a liquid. Likewise a real estate bubble is created when prices are full of air. In simple terms, real income can't afford prices. A real estate bubble will always be driven by too much cash and not enough investing avenues.
Real estate in Kenya is class based. That is to say they are areas such as Muthaiga, maybe Karen, Runda, Kitsuru which are reserved for the upper class; NGOs; pirates; and other criminals and money launderers. These areas operate very tight demand and supply markets that keep prices not only from falling but rarely falling bar a catstrophe such as PEV. These are found in almost every large city. A bubble is rare here.

The settled middle class areas are Kileleshwa, Kilimani and many others. This market is aspirational, and in essence that is the issue. When you hear a 3bed apartment going for Ksh17m, ask yourself how many well paid Kenyans can afford a mortgage on that at around 14% interest rate. Answer, its Ksh200k per month assuming Ksh5m deposit on the apartment. This implies monthly income of Ksh500k before tax. Ho many Kenyans are on that kind of salary? Hence a bubble almost certainly exists in this market. The bigger worry is which banks are giving mortgages into this sector.
The lower middle class areas are increasingly get drawn into the squeeze with concomitantly higher rents...
to be continued...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Small scale farming: From subsistence to sustainable business

Despite, our economic progress, agriculture is still the source of livelihood for majority of Kenyans. It is still the largest employer as an industry. If Kenya is to progress economically and equitably we must become more productive and agile farmers. There has never been a better time to be a farmer, but there has never been a more difficult time to do so.
  • Knowledge is power: In Kieni West is a bit like Ukambani in that when it rains, it rains well and when it doesn't, it dries up badly. Despite this, farmers have taken on horticulture with a gusto not seen for a while. Farmers tend to have sizeable holdings i.e. 20+ acres so its not unusual to see a farmer with 1 acre under onions or green beans. The flaw is that these are rain dependant products at the initial stage. More often than not, many get burned financially if it doesn't rain as the quality of the crop is very dependant on this initial rain. If farmers had access to good weather forecasting information, they could avoid planting at certain times. There is also the whole issue of diversify your risk.
  • Government services: In the old days, farmers had access to agriculture officers who advised on the best variety of seeds to plant; they had access to veterinary services so that if you were a daily farmer, you could get insemination services and treatment services at small cost. Rather than running around trying to save very rich individuals from the ICC, GoK could quite cheaply have a veterinary officer in every county in Kenya.
  • KARI's role: For years, its been my understanding that KARI has developed drought resistant variety of seeds. I am therefore pained when I see farmers lose their maize or potatoes because it hasn't rained enough.
  • Commercialising farming: For many farmers, they have yet to move from farming to eat to farming to sell some of their produce. Farmers are better at animal husbandry that your urbanite who wishes to keep hens for sale, yet they are not involved in this business.

Friday, March 04, 2011

wikileaks: Kibaki knows Ruto was behind RV violence

A lot of what wikileaks has revealed so far has not come as much of a surprise.
We all knew Wambui facilitated the Artur brothers coming to Kenya. We all knew she and Joho were trafficking drugs at the coast and involved in a lot of other corrupt stuff at the Port. We all knew Kalonzo Musyoka was an opportunist per excellence. We knew Kibaki didn't really want to get rid of Murungaru as he helped do most of the dirty fundrasiing in the 2002 political campaign. We knew that a lot of the Kikuyu elite what very unpalatable views about Raila and the Luo community in general.

The crucial evidence that we've been waiting is for someone high up in GoK to calim knowledge or evidence of who was involved in PEV and especially in RV. On January 21st 2008, yani during the violence itself, Kibaki met Ranenberger. In what I consider the most revelatory piece in wikileaks so far Kibaki revealed "that William Ruto, one of the members of the ODM,s "pentagon" leadership, is largely responsible for continuing violence in Rift Valley." .

In essence, the man they've all been trying to get off the Hague train should actually be reserved a first class seat on the train!