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Archive for December, 2014

Christmas in Kenya

23 Dec

How does two big days of partying with the whole family sound to you? That’s how Kenyans typically celebrate their Christmas – and it’s not so dissimilar to how we observe the holidays in the West. To mark the festive season, this article will describe the traditions of Christmas in Kenya.

Most Kenyans in the cities have left their families in the rural areas for work or study reasons, so the first activity that marks the holidays is a mass migration of people back to the villages to their parents’ home. Although only about half the population is Christian (Muslims make up the larger part of the other half), everyone has holidays at this time of year. However, the shops are not doused in Christmas decorations at this time. Some shops decorate modestly and you may catch the odd Christmas tune in the supermarket, but it is nothing close to shopping malls in the West.

By December 24, everyone has usually gathered in the rural home. The home is decorated in the morning with flowers and a Cyprus tree. Christians attend church in the evening, for midnight mass. On returning from church, the party starts! There’s no time for sleep. A goat is usually killed for the occasion and the family will make traditional bee rand the special dishes of their particular tribe. In Kenya most families invite close friends and loved ones for a dinner celebration after attending church services. Rice pudding, chicken, and other roasted meats are typically the main dishes in a Kenyan Christmas dinner and more often than not the dinner is followed by dancing either at a public venue or in the home. Dancing at the public venues is for all ages and can sometimes last until very late at night. Plenty of singing occurs, starting with the traditional songs of the family’s tribe and finishing nowadays with the Christmas carols we all know.

Some people attend church on December 25, but it’s usually women and old men. Most people, however, are still partying and the celebrations continue through the day with more eating, drinking, singing and catching up with family members. For many, this is the only time of the year that they have the opportunity to see their families, so it is a very important time to reconnect. Boxing Day, December 26, is the day for curing the hangover and giving gifts. Christmas in Kenya is not as commercialized as it is in Europe and the United States. This being the case, only the few who can afford gifts give them out. The interesting thing about all of this is the fact that the emphasis of the holiday remains on its religious component, which is the celebration of the life of Jesus Christ. In fact, a lot more goes on in the church than actual gift giving. It is common for people to purchase new (albeit inexpensive) clothing in order to celebrate Jesus. A gravy-like soup made from the goat’s blood and bone is a typical (and sworn-by) hangover cure… and it’s not as bad as it sounds! Gifts are given if the family can afford such a luxury, although usually even something small is appreciated.

In KiSwahili, the greeting is “Heri ya Krismasi” (Merry Christmas) and the response is “Wewe pia” (You also).So to all of you who have been reading my articles I wish you all Heri ya Krismasi. Thank you for your support this year.


Troubled times for Kenya Rugby

19 Dec

Kenya Sevens rugby has been rocked by news of the resignation of national sevens coach Paul Treu after the Nelson Mandela Bay sevens in South Africa. The former South African coach has struggled considerably since he took charge of the team last season, and judging from the string of results, this has been one of the reasons that are being speculated as the cause of the South African’s demise as head coach.

In a statement posted on the KRU website, Treu said it has been a very difficult decision, to make but believes it was  the right decision for him at this stage in life.His statement said:”It has just been over a year since I accepted the offer from the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) to take charge of the team. We have experienced interesting times, that is for sure. “We have had challenges; highs and lows. We know that this is the nature of sport and the game of rugby that we all love. If it was not too easy, we wouldn’t know the joy of achieving our goals and knowing we worked hard to make them happen.

Disgruntlements have been the order of the day in the national set up, ranging from funding, to player administration, work conditions and relationships with the coaches from the national framework. It has been alleged that Treu had once accused his players of taking banned substances. Treu said it was never his intentions to walk away from Kenya Sevens team but KRU board members were on war path of destruction that will not have let him execute his duties as team’s coach. KRU chairman Mwangi Muthee acknowledged that there has been big interference at Kenya Sevens technical bench by some members of the board. Muthee said it is sad that it has now become a business for some board members to hound out coaches as they continue to interfere with the technical bench. “We had great plans with Treu but people who have never played rugby at high level and first team are now experts,” said Muthee. “It’s a high time the rugby fraternity put its feet down and get the right people who can run rugby.”

Supporters of Kenyan rugby are distraught by these latest developments. Many see this as a step in the wrong direction detrimental to the sport as a whole, while some likened this chaos to what was happening to Kenya cricket. Kenya cricket has been on a steady decline since the heights of the 2003 world cup.





Tackling Unemployment

16 Dec

According to statistics from multiple sources, about 70 per cent of the young working class in Kenya, or almost 10 million people, are unemployed.The World Bank estimates that approximately 800,000 Kenyans join the labour market each year, and only 50,000 succeed in getting professional jobs. Not surprisingly, the high level of unemployment has been blamed for escalating incidents of crime and insecurity in the country.An employers lobby plans to hold a labour summit in a bid to find ways of addressing the high unemployment rate in the country.The summit, scheduled for next year, will also seek to find ways of tackling growing insecurity, which the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) believes is a result of having many disillusioned job-seekers. The summit will also involve workers’ representatives.

The Federation of Kenya Employers was created in 1959 to represent employers’ interests, both locally and internationally. It has a membership of 1,500 across the country. Amongst its objectives for the 2015 conference the FKE would next year engage institutions of higher learning with a view of finding the root cause of the skills mismatch that exists among graduates. The idea is for FKE to put its case to training institutions with the aim of ensuring that the curriculum meets the expectations of employers.

In line with efforts to tackle unemployment has seen the Kenyan parliament debate over The Strategic Youth Industries Bill which seeks to put Kenya on the path many developed countries travelled. The Bill seeks to establish the Strategic Youth Industries Board and have the government commit at least 0.1 per cent of its annual revenue to the board to establish industries that should be profitable, sustainable and provide employment to Kenyans in the ratio of Sh100,000:1 employee. This means if the board was to spend Sh100 million in setting up a given industry, the industry should employ a minimum of 1,000 employees and of these, 80 per cent should be young people to solve unemployment. Before establishment of any industry, the board will submit to Parliament a comprehensive proposal, giving a thorough study of the target markets; capital, profitability and employment projections. It is only after debate and approval of the proposal by Parliament that the board can establish the proposed industry. This oversight mechanism over the board by Parliament will ensure none of the proposed industry will be run down as has been the case for some public entities in the past.

The Bill demands that every industry to be set up be privatised within five years. This will see the exit of the industry from the Strategic Youth Industries framework into a listed company, therefore posing a performance target for the board since for any successful privatisation, the industry should have posted good profits over the five years.

The Kenyan government must come to realise that entrepreneurship is a skill not owned by everyone and some people are comfortable being employees rather than beginning their own ventures and the economy must also cater to the needs of these people.  Essentially the bill will cater for both the entrepreneurs and those who seek employment in various sectors of the economy.






Labour and services to flow freely among five EAC states from 2015

12 Dec

East African states are set to ratify a series of agreements to operationalise a one network area for East Africa that will facilitate easy movement on people and trade. They noted that free movement of people within the region improved trade and they would like to extend such improvements beyond that realm. Free movement of people within the region is spearheaded by Rwanda, currently the only country where people in the region are able to obtain work permits without a fee. The immigration authorities of South Sudan, Burundi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda has been instructed to conclude the agreements on free movement. The partners want a total removal of barriers to free movement of labour and services and strategies to achieve that have reportedly been agreed upon by partner states. They want to remove the work permit fees as quickly as possible in terms of the new measures.

Expanding beyond ease of access to each of the countries, Rwandans, Ugandans, and Kenyans will soon be free to set up businesses across borders without any restrictions once the three East African countries have endorsed a new deal seeking to open up their job markets. The memorandum of understanding was signed under the Northern Corridor. The Northern Corridor is the busiest and most important transport route in East and Central Africa, providing a gateway through Kenya to the landlocked economies of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.The MoU aims to eliminate all restrictions to the free movement of labour and capital among the tripartite members of the broader East African Community (EAC).The MoU aims to eliminate all restrictions to the free movement of labour and capital among the tripartite members of the broader East African Community (EAC). The new initiative seeks to remove any remaining restrictions to the free movement of labour and capital under the East African Common Market Protocol. The new initiative seeks to remove any remaining restrictions to the free movement of labour and capital under the East African Common Market Protocol. Professionals will be allowed to operate in the country and will be subjected to equal treatment as nationals. The aim is to enable the three partner states to get skilled labour and minimise dependency on experts from outside the community.

Under the auspices of the Northern Corridor, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya have already implemented several projects to deepen integration. They include the use of national IDs to cross borders, single tourist visa for foreigners touring the three countries, as well as the single customs territory that has made the movement of goods faster among member states.


Impact of Technology on Remmittance

05 Dec

We may are living in a world where technology has really superseded our wildest imagination in terms  of what it can do for us a species , but most  importantly is the global impact that it has on the remittance industry.

We see the benefits of this in various countries all over the world . This is even more captivating  where at the touch of a button you can for example send money Kenya. I am sure that when  Dr Martin Cooper had no idea what he was about to start when he invented the technology responsible for the cell phone in 1973. I am sure Kenya was not one of the countries he was thinking of.

Just by way of explanation and one case study  lets look at Kenya and how it has been impacted by this modern technology . Kenyans are able to receive a message on their cell phone in the form of a code and they can walk into an Mpesa branch and withdraw the money they need.

This facility for a country like Kenya has made a huge impact in terms of money being accessible to the rural community that would otherwise not have had a banking facility.

The financial impact on this country alone according to statics provided from a report provided by  The University of Maryland June 2010  are as follows:

By August  2009  over 7.7 Million Kenyans ( about 38 percent of the Adult population ) had become registered users of M – PESA which far exceeded expectations and by January 2010 the numbers was over 9milion. The monthly value or person -to-person transfers was over KSH26 Billion ( approximately  U.S $330 million)

All this would not have been available had technology not stepped in when it did and just the sheer scale of users is a sound indication that a small invention can make a huge impact.

Makes you wonder if we as a species think that it cant get better than this what the next best invention will be.


Divide of GMO bans

02 Dec

Globally-driven agricultural research and technology development, which defines Africa’s food security problems as being primarily about yield, poses the ‘quick fix’ of GM crops as particularly attractive. The multiple stressors that are driving food insecurity, including the interplay between inadequate access to water, poor soil fertility, climate change, inadequate infrastructure, weak markets, poverty, HIV/AIDS and civil war, are inadequately taken into account in developing solutions. There have emerged two sides to the divide between those who are pro GMO foods and those who are against them. With a virus threatening the crops of up to 70 percent of Kenya’s maize farmers, a number of lawmakers are calling for the country’s controversial ban on GMOs – genetically modified organisms – to be lifted for the sake of food security. If there is one thing you are almost guaranteed to find in a Kenyan kitchen, it is corn, known locally as maize. Corn is roasted by the side of the road, boiled with beans or ground into flour to make ugali, a Kenyan staple. For most Kenyans, maize is an irreplaceable part of their diet. Crop disease has put a huge risk on food security, the country’s cereal-growing heartlands have been ravaged by a virus called Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease. The Cereal Growers Association has said the disease could cut production this year by almost a third, with up to 70 percent of maize farmers affected.

Public Health minister Beth Mugo banned the importation of genetically modified foods in November 2012, it was seen as a timely precautionary move. It was expected to await urgent scientific verification of the findings in European research that linked GM maize to cancer in rat. Many bodies are against the importation of genetically modified crops. They state that GMOs are linked to health problems. Little is understood yet about the health effects of GMOs, but recent studies have shown animals fed with GM-containing feed can develop health problems. In many parts of the world including the EU, studies on GM crops can be carried out by the same companies that grow them, casting doubt on the quality and bias of data. They also state that GM crops fall into one of two categories: either engineered to resist chemical herbicides, or engineered to produce insecticides themselves. When herbicides are used on resistant crops, over time the weeds develop resistance, leading to the use of even more chemicals. Crops engineered to produce insecticides on the other hand produce toxins that are not only harmful to pests but other insects such as butterflies, moths and insect pollinators and that GM crops occupy large surface areas and are linked to intensive monoculture systems that wipe out other crop and ecosystems. A very compelling reason to keep out GM crops is that GM crops denature the role of farmers, who have always improved and selected their own seeds. GM seeds are owned by multinationals to whom the farmer must turn every new season, because, like all commercial hybrids, second-generation GMOs do not give good results. It is also forbidden for farmers to try to improve the variety without paying expensive royalties. Furthermore, farmers risk being sued by big corporations if their crops are accidentally contaminated with patented GM crops. Pollen from crops like oilseed rape is easily spread via wind and insects to neighbouring fields.

The pros and cons are sound in argument on both sides. One would implore the Kenyan government to extensively research the matter and come up with a tailored ultimatum that would suit Kenya itself and not for the benefit of multinational corporations.