Safaricom is probably more the pride of Kenya than Kenya Airways. We love this company. If you ask me, its prices are exorbitant but part of the peculiar Kenyan trends the former CEO of the company talked about is that we are a loyal lot,; high prices or not it is ‘ours’ so we stick to it.
It does help that we think Mpesa is the best thing that ever happened to us and in many ways it is. However, that’s where the good news ends. Increasingly, our lovely Mpesa is considered a foreign concept, a borrowed idea that has transformed Kenya and many other African countries. An idea formulated and implemented by Vodafone. I may not know the whole story on how Mpesa came about to be (there’s even a court case filed on this), but am pretty sure Vodafone is not the mind behind it. However, a few decades from now, I would not be surprised if history is re-written to show how Vodafone helped Kenya by creating m-pesa. In the meantime, the unsung heroes will be so gone. Wait did I say a few decades, sooner! The intellectual property right is already fully owned by Vodafone anyway which means the day we attempt to get rid of Vodafone in anyway, they go with Mpesa!!
It reminds me of what I consider one of the funniest things I know; that Mt Kenya was discovered by Dr Johann Ludwig Krapf or that Nairobi was founded by the British. What is that about, are we saying there were no people who lived there before? The founder of Mt Kenya if you ask me is a Mr Kamau, the guy who lived at the foot of Mt Kenya but did not recognize it was a goldmine in the waiting. Lake Victoria named after the queen as it was discovered by a European, really? But we are nice so we don’t fight over such things. We are a global village so names and who discovered what does not matter, right? But now even Mpesa!
Foreigners for top management
But I guess what I have a problem most with is that 20B of revenues from the Safaricoms’ of our world go back to UK in the form of fees and dividends!!! This number does not take into account the revenues that go to US or other markets. In contrast, the same entities will earn Kenya 16B as was reported in Business Daily recently.
So I just have to ask this question, how is it that as Kenyans consume beer and somehow we manage to make UK richer? Or even more real for me, how is it that a chunk of the hard-earned monies I spend buying airtime will inevitably go to UK?
But that is still not what I am up in arms about today. My biggest problem today is that all these organization, as if it’s not enough that they are making billions from us, as if it’s not enough that despite these billions they have the nerve of talking down at us and refusing to take photos with my president (am not his biggest fan but shoving him away is offensive), as if it’s not enough the arrogance with which we were addressed in the run up elections; as if all these is not enough, they have the nerve of having all these our big companies headed by foreigners.
In the recent past, organisations such as EABL have been reported to have changed its top management to have more foreigners. The argument used has been that Kenyans are also heading other organisations elsewhere but when you dig deeper you are left with many questions.
The other thing that annoys me….increasingly that hand of SA over Kenya and many other African nations is on the rise. I saw the president of SA at the inauguration of my president, a first visit to this side of the world and I knew more trouble is on its way. SA having been added to the BRICS needs to be seen as a big boy in Africa. However, truth be told Africa has had a problem with this big brother mentality. Partly becoz for the longest time SA did not in itself consider an African state. So now that it suits them they are African? Do they really get the rest of us?
But the bigger brothers, the Europe’s of this world trust them. So increasingly they are required to play an oversight role to many of our ‘local’ firms. It the reason BBK is reporting to SA, PwC to SA etc. Big brother. So it’s bad enough that we are supporting these nations but now they blatantly show that they have little faith in us and send us to report to SA. Okay I know I have issues but I feel we deserve better. N in my little experience, SA always gets it wrong, arrogance. The same reason Kenya gets it wrong in TZ. So when I read commentaries on Africa purely by SAs I wonder if they know what they are talking about. I wonder if we are this voiceless.
I want Africans to manage African – ambitious, maybe? Protectionist in an open economy? Perhaps. But I know if it was the reverse protectionism would be applied pretty fast, as is getting a visa to visit some of these lands is a nightmare!
Ukoloni mambo leo
So ukoloni mambo leo has a different face. We are independent but independent really?
However, truth be told we are to blame for most of this. Case in point, the construction industry. We the locals just failed at delivering good quality roads. What with all the greed. What with all the shortcuts. What with all the corruption. So yes, if the choice is between a road that will never end and it going to the Chinese I will choose the later anyday.
The problem is not that we are not an educated lot, we are, very much so. The problem is not that we cannot govern these entities. The problem is in our ethics. It is in the fact that the right thing will not always be the way we choose. It is in the fact that till recently most of our locally managed parstatals were by and large mismanaged. It is in the fact that my MPs care less on what is right or what the views of their employers are. It is in the fact that I voted in these same MPs less than 3 months ago, I chose between lesser evils.
Long way to go
So I am convinced we have a long way to go. That is inspite of the fact that the second Africa renaissance is on. This time it’s an economic renaissance. I believe it’s Africa’s time. With or without Africans. The GDP growth rates we are seeing are not a one-off, they are not a chance thing, they are here to stay. Africa will be the continent to watch in this century with or without the Africans.
But the sad part will be if we miss all these because of something called ethics.
My prayer, my song, my prayer again is this, that we wake up and smell the coffee. That we play our rightful roles. That we be at the drivers’ seat of change in this great nation.
How will that happen? It starts in my small office at city hall. Am I providing the services I should at the best of my abilities and no, not taking a bribe. It starts at that traffic police post, am I playing my role as I should. Me the road constructor, I need to be trustworthy with that stretch of a road.
You see this is what the the Word of God teaches, he who is faithful with little will be entrusted with more.
I need to do great things for this country. But I must start with being faithful with the little in my hands. That means I will not bribe that cop, even when it totally hurts! It means in my small world I will justly pay my house help. It means that on the road, I will give way; heck I will obey the traffic lights that work. It starts with the little I can. If I cannot be faithful with these, be sure that if I was seated in that parliament, these MPS would be an understatement to the ugly scenes you would see with me.