Friday, 29 April 2016

REAL ESTATE AND FOOD SECURITY: THE DELICATE BALANCE BETWEEN HOUSING AND FOOD

It is a forgone conclusion that Kenya’s real estate/property sector is the latest goldmine craze that has elicited sensation among the investors; small and big. The sector has remained attractive given its high returns, mostly windfall [super] normal profits. To date, the industry has continued to attract investors, both local and international, who have since developed hundreds of real estate projects more so in the residential segment as the country faces a shortage of approximately 200,000 housing units annually, according to the Ministry of Housing & Urban Development.  With everyone looking to grab a pie of the real estate cake, we have had a number of things going wrong, from overpriced properties to shoddy buildings. However, one of the aftermaths of Kenya’s real estate boom is the use of agriculturally productive land to put up concrete jungle. Well, this is a dangerous practice and should be checked by the government.

Among the most affected areas include Kiambu and Kajiado Counties which have had swathes of land converted to real estate jewels while many more are in the pipeline. Nairobi City County, still remains the metropolis with the highest opportunities in real estate. According to Hass Consult, a leading real estate company, annual house prices over 2015 rose by 11.9% in Nairobi satellite towns while rents rose by an average of 9% pointing to the growing interest in Nairobi’s metropolis. Counties that make up Nairobi’s metropolis include Kiambu, Machakos, and Kajiado.

Kiambu County particularly has been a magnet for property developers owing to its greenery and tranquility appealing especially to those who are tired of city life in a concrete jungle. Kiambu and the greater central Kenya region boasts of some of the best fertile land in the entire country. Some of the leading projects in Kiambu include Tatu City (2500 acres), Migaa (774 acres), Thika Greens (1706 acres) and Northern Lights (500 acres) among others.


The question that lingers is, what will we do when all the productive land is used to put up properties? It consequently goes without saying that developers’ appetite for agriculturally rich land is indeed a threat to Kenya’s food security. It is therefore important that a comprehensive policy pertaining to real estate development should be put into place to safeguard the productive agricultural lands for the sake of the country’s food security. 



Friday, 30 October 2015

THE DAY OXYGEN TURNED TO AMMONIA AND CHOCKED US

The current ‘pouring’ of 2015 KCSE exams (it’s no longer a leakage), has reminded me of a hilarious incident just a few days to our KCSE back then. This is one of world untold stories of our 404 N class. He he he Read on! 





The atmosphere was full of mixed emotions; feelings of anxiety and joy. The event in the coming week would be a defining moment for the all young lads donning not so white shirts, faded navy blue blazers and grey trousers with white patches around the sitting apparatus, a sign of four years of hard work. That in a few days, determination of our destiny will be entirely in our hands. We could either successfully shape our future or slip up but we were not leaving anything to chance. Nevertheless, we were joyous for being on the last stage of completing 12 years of study. A long trying journey full of ups and downs.

It was just a few days to the KCSE national exams. All form fours (flag bearers as the principal used to refer to us) we were outside the classrooms scrubbing our desks to be void of any writings, scouring hard the seat and the desk where we will be sitting for next 3 weeks shaping our future; hopefully a clean future like the surface our desks. A dark cloud was hanging above our heads but the mood was just fine: guys were happy, engaging in sentimental moments, the mono days he he he.

In amidst of the cleaning frenzy somebody walked up to me; a form one student bearing a message. Talking in low tones, he told me that somebody standing outside the school fence wants to talk to any form four.  I don’t know why he came to me specifically. So I left to meet this stranger who had something important that he could only share with a KSCE candidate. At the back of my head I knew what it was but I could not understand where this stranger got the contraband as the exams hadn’t started. However, I couldn’t also rule it out because we knew that the so called ‘big’ schools had this thing way before the rest of us in decimal schools could even begin exams.

Reaching the school fence, there were two suspicious looking boys standing across the fence. The boys were donning uniform of Agoro Sare High School for those who come from that part of Kenya, you must know it well. They were bearing good news or not as it later turned out. They told me that they had ‘moo’, a Luo epithet for exam leakage. The English translation for ‘moo’ is ‘oil’. It’s referred as so because it makes things smooth especially tough exam papers. Ha ha ha!

But I digress…

On sale at this point was English paper one and Chemistry paper I with the rest coming later once we raise enough cash. It was somewhat a relief for me when it came to Chemistry as I hadn’t polished up my knowledge on Organic Chemistry just in case it was there. This was a special offer and the vendors agreed to offer the two at an introduction offer of Ksh.1500. Even if I wanted to take it for myself, my pocket money was barely exceeding Ksh.500, I couldn’t afford the package. So I told them to hold up. I went to my classmates to tell them the ‘good news’.

Upon sharing the good news, I could see the sigh of relief on comrades’ faces. There was so much excitement all around but we kept it in the low, careful not to attract unnecessary attention. Quickly we raised Ksh.1500. I was amazed at how fast the funds were availed. I went back and took the ‘product’. I came back and we immediately started looking for answers. We began with the Chemistry paper. You how tough Chemistry can be especially paper one. Shiet!

As revision progressed, we stumbled upon one tough question. It was beyond the class champ so we had to seek help from the overall chemistry champ who was from another class. Imagine my shock when this genius told me he had encountered the question before and he vividly recognized the paper as Nandi South District Mock. Ha ha ha!  The other paper, English paper I, was uncovered to be Kericho District Mock. We were conned man! Actually, this was my first con experience. We felt so stupid but you couldn’t blame us we were looking after our own skin, won’t you?

In retrospect with view of the current ‘pouring’ of 2015 KCSE exams (it’s no longer a leakage), you can’t really blame the students. Everyone wants a better future and KCSE seems to be a major contributor to that future. Even so, those in charge of exam administration should work to seal all the loop holes and have a fair playing field. 




Monday, 20 July 2015

UNEMPLOYMENT IN KENYA: THE BLAME CONTINUES

The two stories: one, the stampede that took place at Kenya Ports Authority’s Bandari College, Mombasa earlier on this month where over 3000 people turned up for 28 job vacancies and another one in the Judiciary where 80,000 people applied for 1000 vacancies brought to fore the latent unemployment crisis in the country, a disaster in waiting.  While unemployment is not a new phenomenon in Kenya and beyond, many have been quick to blame today’s graduates for being unemployed.

Numerous excuses have been brought up whilst no one is really keen in mitigating the already dire situation. Largely unfounded narratives being peddled around by ‘analysts’ that blame fresh graduates for unemployment include lack of entrepreneurial spirit and lack of requisite job market skills,  the most perpetuated fallacy.

The fact that Kenya is hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit is an indication that we are doing well on this realm in terms of viable business ideas but reasons for failure of the said businesses is what should concern us most. So the argument that graduate lack entrepreneurial spirit is somewhat misinformed.  Also, the employers have gone ahead to blame university curriculum for producing ‘unemployable’ graduates. One will wonder what makes them different yet they too attended the same universities that they are bashing left right and center.  

Going forward, the gospel of start your own business has never been this aggressive. The irony is the fact that those telling the fresh graduates to start their own business are comfortably sitting behind their mahogany desks, employed and drawing huge perks but they can’t create opportunities for the rest.

I believe the blame game regarding unemployment should shift to those who are employed and have worked for a very long time accumulating vast wealth but have decided not to create their own businesses that could employ them and dozens of fresh graduates. For them, the only investment they know is buying & selling of land plots and trading in stock shares but they don’t create opportunities for young lads yet they are the first people to criticize them.


While establishment of businesses is a viable solution and that we should explore it by all means, it’s imperative to point out that business success is not a guarantee and also recognize the fact that not all can be business people as some have to work for others, that’s nature. As we create opportunities, we should focus on building capacities of the fresh graduates by providing them with entry level jobs so that they can acquire experience, establish business linkages and at the appropriate time, moment move on to start their businesses. Before they clinch those professional consultancy tenders, they need to prove that they have the required capacity; that is knowledge and experience. I believe we can create job opportunities. Excuses that fresh graduates lack entrepreneurial spirit and employability skills are just that; lame excuses. We can indeed create enough jobs but those who possess the wealth have simply decided to be selfish. I think that’s about it. 

Friday, 26 June 2015

FEEDING THE THIEVES

So I’m sitting here filing the tax returns thingy. I’m on this last section conveniently labelled ‘Tax Compilation’. My eyes are stuck on this box that has amount of tax payable. I can’t help but think that part of this tax collected over the last year was stolen by some rogue government operatives and their associates.  My mind shifts to the NYS Saga. Some faceless lady was about to swindle slightly over Ksh. 600M. I believe that we have already lost more money than those in charge are willing to admit. In hindsight, this IFMIS thingy should be thoroughly audited and overhauled.  Anyway, I feel like crying as accruing this income was no walk in the park. As a matter of fact, the right side of both my shoe sole are longer there. The hustle has milled them to thin plastic chips.

While wandering in my thoughts, I also think of what I could have done with money which has now been stolen whilst it could have been used for the good of the people.  I could have settled part of my student loan commonly referred to as HELB loan. Now this HELB is like a mortgage you can pay till you die! Jeez! You pay Ksh.5 and reduces by Ksh.2. And such is life. By the way, debt is not good for your financial health. Don’t be hoodwinked by those sassy sales ladies from commercial banks.

But I ramble. Moving on.

I also could have kwachuad   ka ¼ acre in some remote area in the armpit of Kajiado County.  I mean could have done so many things with this tax bill. Somebody stole it plus those of others for his/her own good. It’s okay. I’m one of those who believe that karma is a bitch; law of natural justice.  I’m no longer sure whether I will reveal all my income streams in future as they come as I am skeptical if they will be used properly as they should.

I strongly believe that our indifference as Kenyans has contributed to the high theft cases of the public coffers. The thieves know too well that we will just sit back and watch as they rob us in broad day light. We can’t leave this task of fighting graft to Boniface Mwangi, Okia Omutata, Transparency International, Mars Group Kenya and other players in the civil society.

Everyone must join the fight. It doesn’t matter which political divide we belong to because at the end of the day it’s both our monies that are being illegally siphoned. Join the hashtags, the demos when called upon. You can’t afford to play safe when it comes to corruption. Our voices must be heard. 

OF KIBERA AND DECENT HOUSING

Development in Kibra is a complex issue than majority seem to realize. You see sometimes back, Raila launched slum upgrading project in Kibra and a number of other informal settlements in Nairobi and Kisumu. This programme that roped in partners from the government, World Bank, and UN agency for Urban Settlement among others was set to provide the residents with decent housing.

However, the development partners were in for a rude shock. After building the apartments and relocating residents, they went back to their informal houses and rented the apartments allocated to them. The development partners were baffled because in their minds they wondered why someone would opt to live in squalor instead of a decent house that has all the amenities. I remember engaging my friend Samson Onyango, a Regional & Urban Planning Expert to shed light on this peculiar phenomenon as it didn’t make any sense, at all!

Upon inquiry by the development partners, the residents gave a number of reasons for opting for their old homes. One of the prominent reasons was that living in apartments denied them the opportunity to engage in economic activities that they used to partake while living in the slums. For example, they could no longer sell their groceries, fish or charcoal among other small businesses in front of their houses. Without this income from their ndogondogo businesses, they could not live in the apartments as they had no other jobs. Some found the apartments to be too nice and did not match up to their stature. They felt as if they were living a lie and preferred to go back and live an ‘authentic’ life.

Studies have shown that living in slum conditions for a long time makes one to effectively adapt to slums lifestyle and they wouldn’t want to change that. I believe it’s for this reason that little progress in terms of decent housing has been realized in Kibra and other slums. The development partners had to pose and think of another strategy.


I think what we need are jobs, jobs, more jobs; gainful employment. The jobs that Waiguru & Co are chest thumping about are not sustainable. What will happen after drenching of all the sewer passages and construction of the toilets, toilets? They will be jobless again. For my friend Samson Onyango and other Urban Planners out there, we need ingenious sustainable urban plans.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

HIGHER EDUCATION IN KENYA: IT’S TIME TO SCALE BACK TO BARE MINIMUM

In Overall, higher education in Kenya has really grown in terms of capacity and training. However, more effort should be channeled towards research so that we can find solutions to never ending problems that come up every single day.  

Koitalel Arap Samoei University and Nyamira State University to be established in Nandi & Nyamira Counties respectively will be the next entrants in higher education. While that is commendable, I want to believe that we have somewhat successfully managed to elevate higher education in Kenya and it’s time to focus on creating jobs for the thousands of graduates that we train in these numerous university lest we make the already deteriorating situation much worse.

Statistics show that Kenya produces approximately 50,000 graduates annually and this number is expected to rise steadily in the coming years.  While the government records show that 116,000 formal jobs were created last year (2014), we still have thousands without jobs. Referring to the statistics, it means that we had 56,000 surplus jobs.  Undoubtedly, there is inconsistency with the data and most probably it’s not accurate as it does not represent the reality on the ground. The number of university graduates is not in sync with the jobs created.

With the significant growth, we should then scale back the budget to bare minimum for higher education and divert the funds to basic education (primary & secondary) which is in dire need of searious upgrading.


#My2Cents #Budget2015

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

OF SONKO AND HIS GOODIES

I have seen pictures of Sonko circulating in the social media showing him shopping for Fire engine somewhere in Dubai. His acts of “charity” has enabled him to acquire massive grass root support across the political divide. However, I believe his model of development and assistance is not the right one. As a matter of fact, it’s a catapult to the dependency syndrome that we are working hard to eliminate. The middle class seen him as an attention seeker but a psychologist will tell you that in his earlier for life he probably had self-esteem issues. That’s why I wouldn’t criticize him harshly despite his ridiculous antics.


That aside, if he is really interested in helping people then he should empower them to fend for themselves instead giving handouts. With his deep pockets, he can begin with establishing a factory/ industry, a fertilizer manufacturing plant for instance. We don’t have one despite the fact that our economy is anchored by the agricultural sector. The industries will have multiplier effect besides creating sustainable jobs for the ever increasing jobless graduates. On the whole, I am not sure whether the ‘philanthropy’ is only meant to hoodwink people to vote him the next governor for the lovely people of Nairobi. Will it stop once he becomes the governor? I guess time will tell.