Monthly Archives: June 2017

SGR, a few rumblings

The real impact of SGR will be measured by small businessmen and women taking goods to and fro the Coast, budget hotels and resorts along the route and not the rumblings of twitteratti who go on holiday to the coast once a year

Image courtesy

There have been quite some interesting views recently around the SGR and Madaraka express, and decided to throw in my thoughts and hopefully hear your thoughts too.

Magufuli has recently announced plans to launch an electric SGR train, while the Kenyan SGR is running on diesel. Truth is, Kenya’s current power mix cannot accommodate an electric train. Neither can Tanzania in its current state. Let’s be honest, TZ has for a long time been electricity deficient and has had to import just over 10MW from Uganda and Zambia, today just over 18% of TZ is electrified. There’s also questions and comparisons to Ethiopia’s train. Look, Ethiopia’s hydropower potential is estimated up to 45,000 MW, only second after Congo in Africa, though the country is still far from optimum production with abput 90% if the country without access to electricuty. We cannot hoola hoop in that circle though, Ethiopia has enough resources to export its electricity once it achieves optimum production.

So back home, The real impact of SGR will be measured by small businessmen and women buying and selling things to and from Nairobi, and families that go home on that route every week or so, not the rumblings of twitteratti who go on holiday to the coast once a year.

60% of global rail today is standard gauge, and only 17% is the metered gauge type that was installed here by the indians a century ago, also known as the lunatic express.

Whether we like it or not, Infrastructure development is not something any country needs to play small in. Forget Lee Kwan Yu and the Singapore story, the very Western countries piling pressure on Africa today, built their key transport infrastructure when their economies were even smaller than ours, on bigger debt. Let us read and learn.

As journalists and purveyors of the truth, let us give the balance and ethos this story deserves. As Kenyans, let us hold fire to the feet of the government of the day to be transparent in all its dealings, because we can always teach them the lesson on election day.

Good Bye Orange, Hello Telkom

Orange in Kenya is now Telkom.

I’ve got bitter sweet feelings! On one hand the telco has a partner with all the right credentials on board. Helios is a mammoth of a PE, and has successfully invested millions of dollars across different sectors in Africa, and perhaps the right out of the box thinking that any telco needs to survive in a market place as discombobulating as ours. In Kenya, Helios has (had) shareholding in firms such as Equity bank, Wananchi, Africa Oil, Acorn Group, Vivo and after the exit of french giant, Orange, now Telkom kenya, after a Brand Extraction Protocol Agreement signed by the Orange Group and Telkom Kenya.

On the flip side however, this still feels like new wine in old wineskins.

Telkom will need more than just a brand makeover to make an impact, especially to the modern consumer of mobile, mobile money and internet. And no matter how much Kenyans need a competitor to hold a candle to the monopoly that doesn’t want to be referred to as a monopoly, it will take a lot of might to even get a few chunks of the percentage pie held by Safaricom. If Orange Telkom found it tough, the new Telkom better brace for even tougher times ahead.

The truth is that Telkom’s assets would whet the appetite of any investor! The telco sits on 13 billion shillings in real estate, frequency spectrums and an incredible fibre optic cables network. The fear, for many though is that real estate wealth Telkom holds is the carrot that dangles so precariously.

It is a shame that The Kenyan Government still owns 40 percent of the what has for decades been referred to as the sleeping giant. I’m from the school of thought that says the government has no business doing business, Case studies? Google is your friend. I’d have loved to see how Telkom faired in a completely private space, given the muscle it already has.

One thing though, the question we may never be able to answer as Kenyans is exactly how Safaricom has managed to jealously guard its market share, no matter how much we yell, hiss and tweet Mr Collymore and his wife over stolen bundles.

Celtel tried. Zain tried. Econet tried. All these are mighty and respectful giant telco’s in their respective spaces.I still marvel at how Airtel is still fighting the good fight.

As for Telkom, innovate or die, we wish you well, mostly because we need to hold the fire to Safaricom’s feet, same way a government should not function without a strong opposition. ( I lied, mostly because we need cheaper internet)

I’m tempted to get a Telkom line, though i feel a few years above their target market:-)

Here’s there very fancy website