What the Brazilian weave index says about Kenya’s economy

I was recently nominated to be part of the Bloomberg – ALI media leadership fellowship; a year and half long programme that seeks to impact how Africa tells its own stories, with a focus on financial journalism. The past two sessions, in Capetown and later Naivasha were what I would describe as an intense meeting of minds, that challenged both our personal drive and roles in Africa’s changing face.

The second session took place a few weeks ago, the highlight for me being a session that required the fellows to create new indices that can be used as lenses for reading African economies. As a contintent we have always heavily rely on indices that are created in the developed world, yet in very simple African ways we can tell the direction the economy is headed through situations very close to home. Some were hilarious, some should be adopted by local think tanks ASAP.

Christine Mungai of Mail and Guardian Africa gave her account here

Here’s a few of of the fun indices my discussion group came up with.

The Pew Index:
The more people we have in church the worse the economy is doing. During tough times, more people pray and seek ‘Godly counsel’ but in good times, they’re out and about having fun and travelling.

The Brazilian weave Index;
In good economic times, African women invest in the best hair extensions. But when times are tight, they will compromise and go for other weaves that still look good.

The Blue Subaru Index:
The Blue Subaru, a staple in Kenya’s social media circles represents a class of upwardly mobile young people, perhaps in their first and second jobs, living in an apartment and just beginning to enjoy the working life. The more blue Subaru’s we have, the better the economy is doing.

The Pick Pocket index
There are less incidences of phone snatching and pickpocketing in down town nairobi, and apart from the fact that perhaps petty crime has reduced, pick pockets also now have their own smart phones, it is an indicator that the economy is growing enough for even those with little can afford phones that have now become more and more available and accessible.

Any ideas of your own? Please share!


It just dawned on me that the first aircraft I was brave enough to get into was an Ethiopian airline plane to Addis Ababa. To see someone. But that …. is a story for another day. It just occurred to me as I penned this intro and was looking for something nostalgic about my first KQ experience, sadly though, I cannot seem to remember the very first flight I had. Like most of KQ customers I have a bitter sweet relationship with the airline, and I do feel terrible that the pride of Africa is losing height. Fast. Here’s some observations and very (useful) information if any of you ever becomes an airline CEO and need to bring it down.


1.Ensure staff morale is at an all time low. Do not motivate or respect your staff, remember to dismiss employees and at every opportune moment, slash allowances and salaries. Make sure you lose your best minds to other airlines.

2.Do not create goodwill or loyalty from employees, this will then create abundant space for corruption.

3. Try your best to get a raw deal from so-called partners who must not share a vision with your airline. Never re-negotiate partnerships.

4. Introduce irrelevant departments with overpaid heads. Make use of as many consultants as you can who are paid to do nothing.

5. Over price your ticketing and do not care what competitors charge.

6. Withdrew from routes that make money to pave way for partner airlines.

7.Ensure your board is complacent and has as little knowledge on aviation as possible.

8.Hire expatriate cabin crew, they should stay in expensive hotels at all times, ensure you ignore multilingual Kenyans sending in CV’s for these positions.

9.Hedge your fuel for long periods of time under arrangements that will not profit the airline.

10.Make sure flight cancellations are frequent, the angier the customers, the closer you are to your ultimate goal.

11.Buy aircraft that everyone warns you against. Buy many of them actually, especially if they are expensive to maintain, with wanting cargo capacity in a market with high demand for cargo carriers. Ensure you pale in comparison to your competitors who have bigger equipment.

12. Import all your inflight items from Europe and other expensive markets.

13. Don’t bother with the procurement guys, whether it is aircraft parts or fuel, they know best.

14.Hang on to your old fleet however expensive they are to maintain and fuel.

Feel free to add your pointers to the list.

What Obama visit really means for Kenya

U.S President Barack Obama jets into a rather elated Nairobi this week, bringing with him over 3000 business leaders, policy makers from the US and across the world, as well as a battery of 170 journalists, in a sense, the world will have its focus squarely on Kenya.

The thundering symbolism of this visit, just months after one the most dreadful terrorist attacks in a university in Northern Kenya where 147 students were killed, comes bang on time for a country that is now beleaguered with travel advisories, wobbly investor perceptions, a struggling stock market and a shilling whose value has drastically depreciated down over the last 6 months. Obama’s visit is the biggest show of confidence and a rare sign of solidarity by the US government yet.

Kenya’s recent economic tribulations have been largely flared by the terrorist attacks, an ugly thorn in the flesh of what is largely seen as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, predicted at 6% by the Kenyan government, corroborated by the World Bank among other financial institutions.

Returns on investments for Fund managers in 2014 were averaging around 12.5 % all the while making profits. Technology and real estate investors are said to have made returns of over 20% year on year, yet this growth story is only well known within Kenya’s borders and little to the very investors it tends to woo.

Kenya’s trade relations with the United States; like most African countries, favours the latter. 30 billion shillings in trade last year, according to Economic Analyst James Shikwati, “ will not give the US sleepless nights’ the figure translates to only 0.01% of US’s trade.

Kenya hasn’t come top of it’s PR class, and hasn’t done enough to sell its positive stories abroad, at least where it matters. International TV screens are awash with news of the Alshabab related attacks, but Kenya’s new chapter, with its immense investment opportunities has attracted little attention from the international press. Perhaps it is time for the Kenyan media houses to set up international bureaus at strategic locations around the world, to supply world media with the other side of the Kenyan story.

Investments in Infrastructure that run into the Billions of dollars are re-positioning Kenya as the hub of the East and landlocked Central African region. One of the main projects is the construction of a new port which will be the largest on the Eastern African coast, and includes a road, oil pipeline and railway network connecting Kenya and its neighbors. An international airport and a resort city will also be constructed next to the port. The projects are estimated to cost about 4.5 billion dollars. This is just one of several infrastructure projects along with the already kicked off plan to construct 10,000 kilometers of road, intended to open up Kenya’s rural farmers who should now benefit directly from growth in Agribusiness. With the GES summit, Kenya can begin to share with the world its growth story and the opportunities present.

The GES summit also presents an opportunity for Kenya to Lobby for direct flights between the US and Nairobi, a discussion that slowed down in 2009 when the US Government declined to allow direct flights. Early this year the Kenya government was keen for a go ahead after American Aviation Authority announced it was ready to rule on the matter in March. However the ruling hasn’t been done, even as US airline Delta and Cargo carrier Fedex have already expressed interest on the route.

Kenya now has a chance to refine its position as far as the US is concerned, but even more than that, the real impact of the GES summit will be felt after the hangover is done. The real test will be the measure of trade between the two countries, the number of investors and dollars coming into the economy, as well as a new picture or new interests by international media on what they perceive as Kenyan news that will make an impact internationally.

Uhuru and Obama are expected to talk about Peace and security, but this will also be a critical time for Kenya to state and follow through on the kind of relationship it expects to have with the US, which can be seen as rocky following direct opposition from the US on matters of human rights and laxity in fighting corruption. Business analysts say the US, historically acts like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up its interests along the way

The 6th Global entrepreneurship summit kicks off on Friday 24th July, and will be co-hosted by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and US president Barack Obama. Both, sons of Kenya, who’s fathers did not get along in the early 70’s when Uhuru’s father was president and Barack’s father was a civil servant, who later faded into alcoholism after being fired from Kenyatta’s government, it is interesting to see how this new love affair will pan out.

Sweet and sour: A chronology of losses

Recently, the government handed a 1 Billion shilling lifeline to Mumias Sugar. The miller is currently deep in the throes of debt, grappling with run down machinery and concerns over what that 1 billion shillings can actually do for the now moribund business, which has crumbled in recent years under allegations of heavy corruption amidst low cane production, cheap imports as well as policy related challenges.

The Presidential team, in what could have been argued was a ‘sugar coated’ trip, headed west with a four-point turn-around strategy.

• Appointment of a management team
• Injection of funds
• Undertaking a rights issue to raise between Sh3 and Sh4 billion
• Rescheduling of debts

Former MD, Evans Kidero who has been allegedlly linked to Mumias’ failures joined Mumias in October 2003 as managing director and left in June 2012.

Let’s look at Mumias Sugar’s financial track record

Highest profit after tax results since inception
11% growth in cane processed
Cane production grew to 264 000 metric tones.

Signed contract with KPLC to supply 2 MW of electricity to the National Grid
Cane Production stood higher at 269,184 metric tones

18% growth in Profit After Tax: KShs 1.53 Billion
Share price on the NSE Ksh 60 on 8th Sep 2006

14% drop profit after tax to 1.3 billion shillings.
Decline attributed to Industrial disputes with cane harvesting and haulage contractors. This year allegations emerged that Mumias Sugar took Sh 2.6 billion from Mumias Outgrowers Company accounts, ( MOCO) and declared it as part of its profits, the sugar firm supposedly siphoned money from the accounts of the farmers’ body to declare artificial profits.

After tax profit stood at 1.2 billion shillings. The drop was blamed on ethnic fighting in the first quarter following a disputed presidential election resulted in the loss of production of some 14,000 tonnes of sugar.

Staggering drop in half year profits 73 %drop in profits after tax to 23 million shillings for its half year. Full year results showed profits after tax dropped 25 per cent Sh1.2 billion. There were some gains though, a power generation project by Mumias Sugar Company paid off through tax credit and pushing its after-tax profit up by 33 per cent from Sh1.2 billion to Sh1.6 billion.

Note: An audit done showed that between 2008 and 2009, for instance, a Sh23 million loss was identified as a result of selected customers maintaining long-standing orders and only using those that benefited them, at the expense of the company, allegations of fictitious transport costs

Net income declined to ksh1.57 billion. Production of ethanol and electricity however buoyed investor confidence. Even with those new gains, Mumias Sugar was found to have lost up to Sh2.08 billion as a result of deliberate abuse of key control measures.

Mumias Sugar has posted a Sh1.67 billion loss for the full year ending June, pulled down by a decline in cane supply and factory inefficiencies. The company blamed an increase in global and regional sugar supply. Cheap sugar imports also served to depress prices

Mumias Sugar posted a Sh2.7 billion loss for the full year ending June, pulled down by a decline in cane supply and factory inefficiencies. Mumias Sugar shoulders Sh10.2 billion debt.
Seven lenders are collectively owed Sh6.5 billion. Suppliers and other creditors are demanding Sh1.5 billion, while the taxman demands Sh2.2 billion.

Posts 1.4 Billion loss after tax
“Mumias presents a very bitter lesson on how unabated mismanagement can destroy shareholder wealth” – Aly Khan satchu

An EACC report on the sugar sector in 2010 postulated that the sub-sector is facing serious challenges of productivity, competition, governance and weakness in the operating legislative framework, challenging the way key decisions are made, by key actors including decisions on sugar importation, privatisation of sugar mills, negotiations on COMESA and other international agreements affecting the sub-sector. Political interference in the appointments of chief executives of mills, Board members, KSB elections and other key auxiliary agencies associated with the sub-sector.
Without a doubt, Mumias sugar and the sector as a whole needs a a clean up, but fears over just who is on the chopping board, how many well connected individuals got their hands in the cookie jar, how deep the rot in the industry goes are just some of the concerns that analysts feel may never be adequately addressed.

Is Kenya ready for investment?

After being listed as the 3rd fastest growing economy in the world at a rate of 6.3% in 2015, close on the heels of China and the Philippines, a recent Bloomberg report came on bang time for Kenya as the country clings on during desperate times.

The narrative ‘ Kenya is open for Business’ has in recent months quieted to a low murmur as Kenya tries to shake off waning global investor confidence, in the wake of a weakening home currency, reduced foreign inflows, corruption and a burgeoning budget, among other challenges.

After crippling terrorist attacks, the Bloomberg ‘All-Stars of the Global economy’ report reveals a country that is stealthily, though somewhat fearfully walking back to the economic high tables.

‘’For someone looking at the region objectively, Kenya still offers the best investments, with an expanding port and pipeline while the discovery of oil and natural resources automatically catapults the country as an FDI destination ” say’s Kwame Owino, CEO, Institute of Economic affairs.

If one compares Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) quotient to GDP, Kenya is among the lowest in FDI in East Africa, meaning Kenya must now engage in strategic marketing to position itself for investment.

Billion dollar investments in Energy and Rail infrastructure were uncovered in 2014, key among them the Standard Gauge Railway and Kenya’s first Coal power plant, despite millions of Kenyans still living below the poverty line.

Economists agree that investment flows where challenges abound, and Kenya has its fair share of socio economic problems, which have created numerous opportunities for investment across different sectors.

Kenya’s Economic Blue Print, Vision 2030 was crafted to address these challenges and identifies pillars namely ICT, Tourism, Infrastructure, Agriculture, manufacturing and financial services as key drivers of industrialization. A look at the now Cliché success stories of Safaricom and Equity Bank gives a scope of the potential of investment in the Kenyan economy.

Thus, Vision 2030 becomes a road map investors outlining key opportunities such as supply of laptops to primary schools, connection of electricity to schools, building of economic zones, and construction of a Dubai like ‘free port’.

Tourism contributes 14% to the GDP but displays untapped ground given the diversity, from beaches, mountains and deserts.

In 2013, Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson opened Mahali Mazuri, an exclusive safari tented camp in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, where the world’s rich and famous now come to play, potential in tourism, however, remains untapped and suffers the curse of a single story, where major tourism circuits include mainly the Maasai Mara safaris and the coastal region, leaving out other high potential sites.

In Agriculture, the drive for value addition now needs to begin in earnest given that cash crops such as tea and coffee are exported in their raw form.

In real estate, despite Nairobi’s current popular status as a city under construction, housing has been slow to respond to growth. In the capital Nairobi, just over 22,000 mortgages exist in a population of over 3.5 million people.

However, massive construction sites reveal potential, such as the $156M Two Rivers, a project set to bring in Retail chain Carrefour among others, set on 830,000 SQM. The fact that they are largely driven by local investment is seen as a stamp of confidence in the potential of real estate.

According to real estate firm Hass Consult, Nairobi needs approximately 200,000 housing units annually. However, only 15,000 units were released into the market in 2013. With population growth in the city projected at 5 million in 2020, players in low cost housing are projected to be key winners.

Telco’s are big business in Kenya, however the exit of Essar Telkom in 2014 poses pertinent questions about competition and monopolies. In a population of 40 million people and a mobile subscription of 30.2 million, new investors must be innovative firms ready to tap into the 93percent mobile users.

On business models, firms targeting masses appear clear winners. The story of Barclays Bank for instance has a popular rendition in Kenya. It evolved from a ‘rich man’s’ bank in the 90’s to a humbled brand that boasts branches in the not so posh downtown Nairobi as well as corners of rural towns. Kenya seems ready for investors that are keen on the millions in the lower end of the pyramid.

However, while Kenya has come a long way, Geo-politics, corruption, and poor infrastructure continue to discourage FDI. Corruption seems peculiar to Kenya in the context of the EAC, and economists fear it may begin to look like those investing are agnostic about things such as corruption, further denting Kenya’s reputation.

The entry of Asia poses new Geo Political challenges, where Europe and the America’s were dominant and often bully investors.
“I would like to see a situation where Asian, European and others bring in FDI for manufacturing to export which will in turn earn much needed Foreign exchange” says Owino.
He adds that Kenya needs to customize its case for FDI, either to satisfy domestic demand or to create a manufacturing economy.

Owino says that a speedy resolution to the effects of Kenya’s incursion into Somalia needs to be reached as it may affect the confidence of investors new to Kenya. However, Shikwati says a trend showing entry of local and African investors from countries such as Nigeria and South Africa in an area largely dominated by foreign capital is also a game changer.

Tycoon Aliko Dangote’s planned 400 million dollar cement plant in Kenya is one among several FDI’s sending signals of African Investors that are awake to local opportunities.


She Leads Africa is back with a competition for female entrepreneurs between the age of 18 and 35.

Do you know someone who fits the bill?

Startups with at least one woman on the founding team between the ages of 18 and 35
Startups that have received less than $50,000 in funding
Startups less than than 3 years old
Startups focused on the African market or diaspora
Startups that have already begun operations. Entrepreneurs at the idea stage are not eligible to apply

Click the link below for details and encourage your #Bossbabes to apply!

Nandi County: Ready and Open for Business

The other week I was a moderator and Emcee at the Nandi County Investment Conference in Kapsabet, a feat I must say was beautifully fulfilling for me. I was pleasantly surprised and honestly caught off guard by the level of planning and investment that’s already going into the county which is seeking to position itself as the anchor county of the Rift Valley Region.

The home of Legendary Kalenjin hero Koitalel Arap Samoei sits on the sprawling Nandi hills, it is a shame really, that the county doesn’t count in the Tourism circuit, and badly needs a good hotel, seeing as VIP’s had to stay in the neighbouring County, Uasin Gishu.

Nandi was once one of Kenya’s wealthiest districts, having seen years of green prosperity through tea and coffee; but those years slowly faded, and today majority of try small scale farmers feel like slaves of tea while most of them cut down their coffee trees, having fallen victims to zero investments in Value Addition.

Today in the sleepy town of Kapsabet, you can see and feel Nandi’s economical potential beginning to simmer,bubbling with hope and promise of the fruits of devolution underneath. The side walk chats and after hour discussions I had with some of the county leaders and local residents revealed to me a people that are ready to fly. The town that in early years refused to have a railway pass through it, is today clearing the path for the Standard Gauge Railway,looking to efficiently transport their produce direct to port cities as well as to receive imports such as Infrastructure inputs. These they say are just some among the benefits they expect with the new’ Snake’ in the words of Koitalel Arap Samoei.

The Investment conference was a major highlight in the County calendar, and attracted investors from as far as Israel, who came to put up a coffee factory in Tinderet, Danish Investors armed with about 100 million shillings to build a milk processing plant, a medical group that’s set to break ground with a state of the art medical centre, among other key investments and pledges.

The county’s ICT agenda of growing a knowledge economy saw the youth of Nandi who make 77% of the population benefit from a pledge by Jamii Telcom’s Chairman Joshua Chepkwony to provide free internet to a youth centre that will be managed by the county, a space for techpreneurs to start ICT businesses and receive capacity training, Ihub and Nailab Style.

Farmers were challenged by the various speakers and stakeholders to add value to their produce, especially in tea, where the Kenyan market continues to rely on brands that have been on the market for years, yet Nandi county can only boast of one or two branded teas.

I must say I was deeply challenged by the depth of discussion and even more the practicality of resolutions made.

Investors in Water supply, Hospitality, Real Estate, value addition in Agriculture should now be eyeing the under developed and high potential county, the hope here is that the leadership stays on this tangent and disallows politics to overthrow the economic potential.

However, I would have wanted to hear more about some incentives for investors to encourage and make the county attractive and perhaps a county economic blue print that will lead the county into the prosperity they seek. However with the appointment of an Investment Board during the conference that included a few young business people, perhaps an economic roadmap will now be designed.

Euphoria aside, should Nandi County walk the talk and separate petty politics from development, theirs will be one of Kenya’s leading counties in the next few years.

Pictures ( A Kale would say, Kitole, Courtersy of @tichophil)



Losing Cedric


I felt my heart quicken when I read the first post from Paul Barasa this morning, that read ” Farewell Cedric’ and my heart began to quicken. I hoped he was traveling, but deep down my heart sunk.

Now, Today wasn’t supposed to be that kind of morning. I’d read a book last night that’s teaching me about gratitude and staying positive, and this was just the kind of thing that rolled me back to square one on the positivity campaign.

Why now??? Why him????

I met Cedric when he was still a journalist, a business writer that always managed to make us crack up, and always caught our attention with his understanding of matters business. He was good! He asked the right questions at press conferences, some that we other journalists wouldn’t have the guts to, or others that we didn’t even know we were to ask about. He knew his stuff, and his grasp on finance and economic matters was to be marvelled at.

When he later left journalism and moved to Public Relations, our professional relationship grew further as he was handling some key accounts. He was great at his job and his charming personality and very easy laughter always carried.

He had been unwell, but his passing has broken my heart into tiny little pieces. To know that I will not get a phone call from you is something I don’t know how to begin to deal with. Your death is beyond shocking. I’m lost for worlds, lost for feeling.

You leave behind a young family, and I can only wonder what they must be going through. God, they say always picks the best of the bouquet. You shone so much he had to have you next to him. We will only pray that he can give us the strength to bear the pain of losing such a young man in his prime.

I wish we spoke more often. I wish I was there to the end. I wish I knew the pain you were going through.

Your death, Cedric has taught me to love with all my heart, to be there, to be a better friend, because, we never know when God will pick the next one to sing with the angels.

Fare thee well Cedric Lumiti. You are forever in my heart.


Date a man who reads.


A man who reads ranks pretty high up on the attractiveness index.

Bespectacled, deeply engaged in his History or Business Management books, smelling of green apples and rain ( as my friend Doreen puts it) is an absolute winner!

Date a man who reads.

But that is not the essence of this story. :-)

This weekend, just before our Cinderella mum and daughter movie date at the Junction; I bought the book
‘Who moved my Cheese’ (again) as my daughter promptly asked why I needed to buy it again.I believe there are some books that should be as personal bibles, for me, Who moved my Cheese and The Diva Principles, By Michelle McKinney. ( A brand called You, and the Career girls guide are others I like on my desk or bedside)

See, my daughter and I have a bookshop tradition. Every 2 weeks we go to together to the book store and part ways as we decide on what to read for the next few weeks. She makes her pick, and I make mine. usually separately, but as she grows older, Im beginning to engage her on age appropriate novels. We love the book shop. It is the one public place I’m fine with letting her off my sight for a few minutes, and she loves it too. I love how she gets lost in the books and stories she’d like to read. If there is one thing she will remember me for, it is for encouraging her to read.

She usually frequents a particular row of books at the store that has “Dork Diaries’ and “Diary of a wimpy kid’ and others along the same genre.

I’m usually on the Best Sellers, Self-help and fiction of the Nancy Day type (at least last week). I began to question my criteria and others when selecting a book of choice.

What I am curious about is, what makes one pick a particular book?
How do you know that is a worthy read?
What do you look for in a book?
what kind of people influence the books you read?

I used to follow the Oprah’s recommended reads, but I rarely do anymore.
These days I follow Alison Ngibuini’s #twitterbookclub to find out what others are reading and that has influenced my choice of books, as well as conversations with minds that inspire me.

I belong to the school of thought that believes that reading a book is the beginning of a new worldview. It is the one thing that you can never have enough of. It is the perfect conversation starter. It builds your language and communication skills. It brings the world to your feet. The amount of knowledge one picks up by reading a book is non comparable.

This week, I’d like to urge you to read a book, even if it is the tiny “Who moved my Cheese” which will only take about one hour of your time, but influence many of your days in the positive direction.

If you cannot absolutely read, Date a man who reads :-) Or a woman who does, maybe they will teach you a thing or two.

Happy Week!

Your network is your Net worth.

Last week I began sharing with you my views about why building a unique personal brand must be central as you develop your personal growth strategy.

Today I would like to share a few more tips on first impressions and how networking is, in essence everything.

Before you network however, you must pay attention to how you look. Always try and take an extra moment with your dressing and make up. (For the ladies, and the Effeminate metro-sexuals)
Make no doubt that people pay more attention to those who dress well. People who appear more professional are always more believable. I once walked into an interview in Denim, Sneakers and a T shirt. It took me years to convince my boss that I could do the job, thankfully,I wasn’t aware it was an interview and it was a job within the organisation I was already working for and my colleagues stepped in.

Keep your hair clean and neat. As a former Naturalista I know that neat and clean can sometimes be a thin line, despite the fact that naturalists wash their hair almost every day.

Pay attention to issues such as body odour.Deodorant must be made a human right. You must always use a deodorant as smelling of sweat is an absolute no. Keep your mouth fresh smelling and invest in a good cologne or perfume.

For men, unless you are Bob Collymore or my dear friend Mico, ( well and that reserve club of coloured sock gentlemen) keep your professional socks black. Always. The six pack of socks sales people push into your nose as you leave the supermarket does not belong to a person keen on building a great image.

It is said that your network is your Net worth.
Network. Network. Network.
Attend cocktail events, dinners where you can meet like minded people and get a chance to talk about yourself and what you do.

Join a professional organization, for example Marketing Society of Kenya, Public Relations Society of Kenya, Rotary organisations and others where you can meet like minds or people who can challenge or mentor you.

Play golf. I hear its the modern day boardroom, though I must admit I haven’t found love for that gentlemans’ sport yet.

Find a mentor. Be a mentor. When you learn, you must also teach.

Practice introducing yourself until you are comfortable with it.

Always carry a Business card.

And my absolute favourite, Have lunch/coffee with at least one influential person every month.

Best of Luck!