Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Inefficiency breeds Corruption - Kilindini Port

I am sure it is not a new argument to put forth but I think that the majority of corruption in Kenya is largely due to inefficient/non transparent systems.

The corruption is merely a symptom of of the above illness.

I just cleared some items from the port of Mombasa. Due to a problem with KPA's computers about two or so weeks ago, Clearing Agents were unable to generate IDF's for about 10 days. (IDF stands for Import Declaration Form - the document that is used to inform Customs about the import..without one your goods cannot be processed through customs).

Because of this problem, no goods were cleared from the port for about a week or so. This obviously caused a backlog and meant that the goods I was having cleared not only sat in the port for 10 extra days but were delivered to me damaged. (I cannot prove the damage was actually sustained in Mombasa but as I personally delivered the goods to the ship on the other end, and my agent informs me that they were damaged when they were leaving the port, my suspicion is that they sustained the damage while sitting in the port).

I estimate that repairing the damage will cost me at least 70-80,000 Kshs.

Upon taking a look at the invoice from my clearing agent, I noticed some entries called 'incidentals'. Turns out this is just a euphemism for bribes. Seems that despite my goods sitting in port for 10 extra days, my agent still had to 'move' the process along otherwise my goods would have been there forever..incurring further costs in form of port charges etc and risking even further damage to my products.

If our port system was not only efficient but transparent, it would limit the leeway available for people to seek/demand bribes for offering services that they are paid to offer.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

MP's Humbly Request Pay Rise

The nerve!

'Mr Midiwo said given the current rate of inflation, since the last review, Sh1.5 million would be “the reasonable figure” that MPs should be taking home.'

'Mr Midiwo termed last year's budget proposal to have MPs’ allowances taxed as “mischievous and cheap politics” meant to set the public against the National Assembly.'

Coming at a time when GOK is admittedly broke and when millions of Kenyans are starving, this is really in bad taste.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Long Rains

We've been warned.

From NTV News yesterday (sorry couldn't find the clip online):

The long rains are expected to start in the next two or so weeks. A few parts of the country will experience increased levels of rainfall (more than usual/expected) but most parts of the country will experience depressed levels of rainfall (less than usual/expected). Areas like Eastern, Central and North Eastern will fall in the latter category, with areas around Lake Victoria falling into the the former category.

Despite the depressed nature of the rainfall, meteorologists still expect some storms to occur so flood prone areas are at risk of experiencing flooding.

Advice from the meteorologists to farmers was to plant crops that will not require very much water and that mature fast so that we do not find ourselves in a drought situation later in the year.

This is a critical piece of information and should be placed top of everybody's agenda.

  • Our Agricultural Ministry should be going round passing this advice to farmers; so too our leaders.
  • Our disaster management authorities and local authorities in flood prone areas should be on the ground now taking measures to avoid catastrophic flooding and ensuring preparedness if such flooding does occur.
  • Our water authorities around the country should be putting measures in place to harvest water and should pass some tips to the populace to do the same. We as the populace should also get the ball rolling, lets start talking about it and discussing it. Let TV stations carry stories on it. We need to harvest and conserve whatever water we get in the form of these rains.
  • Local authorities should be unblocking drainages to ensure that road works done over the dry season are not immediately undone by the rains.
  • Individually we should also be buying our umbrellas, car wipers etc now rather than wait til the rain arrives and the prices are increased by 20-30% or more.

Those are just a few of the top of my head but the point is we have afford to be caught napping when these rains do come. We've been warned.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Originality and Creativity: Status...idle

I don't understand why we have such bad and boring adverts aired on our local television stations. I sometimes wonder if this is depictive of the Kenya we have (as opposed to the Kenya we want). According to Mystery Shopper public institutions should be smart and creative (amongst other things) however, even private institutions sometimes fail to be smart and creative. I mean if an advert is supposed to influence or persuade someone - a potential customer to buy a certain product, then the ones I have been watching on TV are doing a dismal job. They are often so uncreative that I watch them thinking of how they can be improved. To this day I only have four adverts that I like; Sunlight bar soap (an old one that was aired years ago and is no longer being aired); the colorful Vuka-2 advert (the newest one for the Vuka product from Zain), the Auto Assured advert of a man removing a spec of dirt from one of his car tires with what seems to be his wife's tooth-brush and lastly; the Eveready Battery Advert, where a certain night watchman ties his torch (flash-light) on string which is hanging from a tree and leaves it on all night, hops onto his bicycle, goes to his home to sleep then goes back to the house he works at in the morning to ‘sign-out’ of work.

All sectors private or public, all industries small or big should think out the box and be innovative. This would improve competitiveness in the business environment and stop this current practice we see where new products seem to copy old existing ones in terms of branding, colours and even names. I guess their aim is to try and confuse people into buying the new product but I don't think this is a good marketing strategy. Examples? Blue Band margarine; a product by Unilever that has been in the market for many years, new entrant; Bidco’s Gold Band notice the word ‘band’? Need another example? How about Cadbury’s Drinking chocolate? New entrant; Raha; uses very similar packaging down to the colour! I am sure there are many more products that have fallen victim to this sad phenomenon. What’s that about??? Where is originality, creativity and innovation??? This is definitely not the Kenya I want.