Monday, April 30, 2007

New Nai

Have you been to the upper hill side of Nairobi lately? you will mistake it for a completely different country. There are very beautiful architectural masterpieces all over. all those old govt and railway houses have given way to really modern and sweet looking commercial estates. only worry one has is whether the services that were meant for residential estates would be able to support these buildings or whether the city council is doing anything to improve the state of the facilities. The Kenya bankers sacco building is really a big surprise. its true as wahenga say, 'ukistajabu ya musa utayaona ya firauni!' i marveled at the stima sacco building in ngara only for me to be blown out totally by the kenbankers sacco. A tangible investment and another reason for you to shun pyramid and go for sacco instead (in support of the minister) (by the way ati that posta building at the center of the city was put up by the sacco?)

Standard investment bank has moved to really tasty offices at the center of the city. when you go in and see the number of tellers as well as customer service reps, and the activity then you get an idea of the current economic activity in the country. even the seats at the waiting area are quite cosy and each teller has a spare seat for the investors. Kudos! however the bank has still refused to set up a website at least to manage some of the information.

And when at the bank, if you inquire about stanbic bank shares, they gently remind you that kenya is way ahead of Uganda and thats why you need to be patient when dealing with the stanbic shares. apart from working only 3 days a week, they take 4 weeks to verify the certificate and so on. i think it feels good to be better than somebody at least!

But the bank did well last year and returned some decent quid to shareholders only that , again thanks to the distance between kenya and uganda, the dividends will be eaten up by the strong shilling. When we were buying it was about 24 to the Kenyan currency, now its 25.25 and rising!

Friday, April 27, 2007

research and statistics

a new survey has found out that the poverty levels in the country have dropped by a massive 10%. most interesting is that the survey found that nyanza was richer than western and rift valley the two grain baskets of the country. this new study negates the finding of earlier studies which suggested that indeed nyanza was trailing everybody else in the country. researches and studies are always very interesting. like another man said whoever pays the piper calls the tune! some older research i heard of suggested that eggs were not good for your health, but subsequently another study found that an egg a day keeps the doctor away. another study suggested that eating fish makes you vulnerable to HIV! while a second found that HIV is easily transmitted through irresponsible sex. one further found out that fish and fish products are your best source of animal protein and so on. the list of studies and their findings is as interesting and funny as people and their beliefs.

the probability and statistics courses i studied kept on talking about unbiased estimate of the population. i wonder whether that applies in real life as well

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

rain allergies

some time back just after graduation and on my first job, we used to have a rather adventurous evenings. we were sharing a bedsitter with my cousin in zima. each time it rained or threatened to rain when we were in town, hell would break lose. the matatu fares would go up to 100 from 20 bob, matatus would disappear, yet there would be traffic jam that would last for hours. on the way you would meet tens of accidents . the streets of city in the sun would become mini lakes and electricity would go. or as people use to say , there would be no lights. but thank God for the house of mumbi, umbrellas would spring up from all over the place just in time for the rain. however we would forget those umbrellas in the matatus on our way home and in case it rained the following day , the story would repeat itself.

that was over 8 years ago. a lot of rain has fallen since then and even professors of politics have since retired. chama cha baba na mama has become chama cha ODM and the sellers of the umbrellas have become the ruling tribe. however the country is still allergic to rain. and just the other day when it began to rain the story which is now 8 years old for me,(maybe older for others) repeated itself. why do people lose their heads when it rains, why the sudden traffic jam, the lights going off, the increase in fairs?

it confounds me that after all these years, every time it rains, people from budalangi and kano still come on TV asking for help from serikali yetu tukufu! but i learnt the other day that locals in budalangi sometimes dig away the dikes so that their homes can be flooded. apparently flooding in these areas is welcome news since they get to get blankets, foodstuffs, clothes and even school fees.

The reason the flooding is depressing is that given that Netherlands is built on the sea, we do not have to reinvent the wheel. all we have to do is ask those mean guys to come down and do it for us. we will pay

on another note. i wonder what bloggers feel about the Kenya RE IPO? this firm does not have very good news about it. i can see them really making frantic efforts to shape their PR but, i have this silent fear that it may be worse than Eveready.

in other news government has decided to stop the second sale of kengen, they had hoped that they would perform a mumias sugar with it but ng'o! even family finance has decided to retract. speculators took off and the market was no longer lucrative.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

of roads and GNU

last week on a road trip to the west of the country, i made some interesting observations. hitherto , i have been avoiding the naivasha nakuru stretch by going through narok, kaplong sondu and so on. but this time, thanks to little inconveniences we had to go through that road. refreshingly the road from naivasha to gilgil is now perfect apart from the fact that its still single lane and there are hundreds of trailers and long haul trucks not to mention the murderous buses. one would have thought that the govt could take this opportunity to put up a dual carriage once and for all. its quite disappointing that in 2007 we are still making narrow single lane roads. however the constructor has done a great job and the people from these areas have every reason to vote for the govt of the working nation. in naivasha there are heavy works on the roads and most old roads have been diverted. however the diversion from gilgil going to nakuru is quite long and passes some quite muddy areas. as expected, the trucks broke down several times on these diversions and for one and a half hours we were stuck on that road. all you had to do was switch off the engine and admire the landscape.

in nakuru, it apears that a dual carriage is being made through the town. and there is visibly a lot of government. until you leave the town. then you are on your own, the country stops working. all the way to kericho and beyond. even the road to eldoret is in unspeakable state. some portholes are so large they can conceal a whole sedan. the poor workmanship of moi years clearly visible.

at kedowa, on the kericho road, we found a truck which had overturned on hitting a matatu and spilling its diesel.(why do we still ferry fuel in trucks on the road?) though it was night the locals turned out in large numbers to welcome the precious liquid. at this point too we simply switched off the engine since there was no movement. however i was sweating in my seat, since there was smell of fuel all over, it was a disaster waiting to happen. i prayed that those 'hard' working locals scooping the diesel would not answer to the call of a puff. else we would be nyama choma.

if you thought portholes were bad , trying driving on these roads at night. you can hardly see them and the situation is made worse by motorists who do not bother to dim their lights on approaching you! the rest of the journey was a nightmare. a true testimony of moi's call that siasa mbaya maisha mbaya. i wonder how many times these guys visit the mechanic.

we had our late supper in kericho. a whole chicken cost 1K but going by its long limbs, it was probably worth it. however the chicken roasted at midlands was not anywhere near the chickens i have eaten since i was a toddler. it was the most tasteless chicken i ever had! and again it was suspiciously long.

that chicken was did not prepare us well for the torture of the kericho kisumu stretch and when by the grace and might of God (i believe he loves even those whose MPs are in the opposition) we got to Kisumu, we were too exhausted to proceed. the bed rates in K-city are quite high but the young lovely girl offered to give us a discount as long as we did not require a receipt and promised her that we would not attempt to take breakfast. we told her that we were already one day late from our destination and we did not have time for breakfast. k-city is a decent city and there are no young women on the streets calling out to your money. even the lodges are devoid of drunkards trooping in with girls on sale. quite a welcome break from the Nairobi menace

now that was one way, the story repeated itself on the return journey.
However on a lighter note, airfare to k-city has come down to 3500/= return before taxes. much better than spending all that fuel in the jam and still having to repair the car. the planes take only 25 minutes to the city.

Monday, April 16, 2007

loan attack

this past weekend the city was abuzz with music from many quarters. there was the CHAT awards alright but also closely looking at the BBK ATMS you could hear good music and dancers under tents drumming up support literally for the loan products of BBK. how times change, just a while back, tittle deeds were a big deal since you needed them to access even very small sizes of loans. these days you walk into a stanchart ATM booth and you meet not only the guards but also, young people trying to sell loan products to you, unsecured! and if you make a mistake of giving them your number then they will call you any day and anytime asking whether you were ready to sign along the dotted line. well for me am enjoying the being chased experience. for once tables are turned and the hunter is being hunted by the hunted!

still on banks, just as promised Equity gave a wonderful show of might and patriotism by sponsoring the winners concert. the shows were broadcast on both KBC and citizen TV. the winners even performed at dinner in safari park hotel. quite novel. however, equity almost behaved like NGOs and the whole shows were full of mentions of the bank. thereby killing the creativity of the schools altogether. Njiris high school had a completely dry play albeit with very creative production techniques. they were talking about investing abroad vice a vis investing locally. but it was clear that the pressure to bring out the theme killed the artistry of the play and if you ask me it was a shame. watching alliance high school was like watching an acted speech.

on another note, i went to gikomba the other day, to look for tomatoes. (there seems to be a shortage of good tomatoes) needless to say i did not get any. however one thing struck me. the road is really bad these days, it looks like a lunar surface really. the rain that had poured earlier filled the portholes with murky water. so it was quite difficult to tell where there was a hole and where there wasn't. but in front of me was a seemingly young man pulling a handcart. i used him to tell the terrain. it was sad, and sometimes he went knee deep into the muddy water as he pulled the heavy load. it was late, about 6:45 and so the area was mostly dark. i thought about this man. probably this is what he had done the whole day, or may be it was his only 'suk' but what disturbed me more was that he mostly likely had a family, wife and children who were waiting for him to pull the cart to its destination and rush home with his hard earned money.he probably had to pay rent, electricity, water , fare back home etc. My mind started wondering whether he had a nagging wife, or if his wife was cheating on him, or if she did not appreciate the poor fellow. the thoughts got so scary and disturbing that i decided to pass him.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Avoiding the speculators

Access Kenya has done everything in the book to make sure that the poor kim, onyi and chebet do not share the internet pie. first they came up with the Qualified institutional investors idea which was reliably shot down by the regulator, now they have surely locked out the guys by stating that you need at least 50,000 to participate in their success. you will recall that in the past people have needed as little as 1000 shillings only to participate, firms have ended up with millions of shareholders which is a nightmare when it comes to AGMs, reports shipping and the like. also share prices oscillate very fast due to speculation and sheer ignorance. thirdly they have been rather quiet about the listing, no major noises like in the case of kengen and even eveready. it gives one the feeling that access kenya has already been bought. further, curiously, AK has given a very short period for the purchase of its shares.

however looking at AK as it is, it provides a very good buy really. first , the number of shares available are quite low meaning that shortage will bite even months after listing. given its a technology firm, i expect the firm to do quite well after raising required capital. in fact, AK would be the firm to give safaricom a run for its money if they roll out their ip phones well. am told that when you go to AK you get your line and walk away with it while at safaricom, the postpaid line takes quite a while to get approval. further as the economy grows, demand of the internet and other communication and media channels will increase, normally these firms get paid per use. they have very little in terms of raw materials.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

seeing through the trick

It looks like investors saw through the magic wand that equity bank waved the other day. the response to the bonus was the share value going down some 70% against expectations that it would hold steady or decline just a little. but you may also want to speculate that the 2 for one bonus (effectively a split if you ask me) was actually planned by some people who wanted to make a kill. thats why on the first day they flooded the market with those shares but got a contempt card in return. the shares have since started grudgingly inching up.this year banks have offered very good returns just the way industrial sector did well the year before. banks have been forced to up their game to stay relevant. Standard chartered for one has fully refurbished the westlands branch and of you are an excel customer then you feel like a king. the experience is just superb and the teller booth even has a comfortable seat! compe ni compe roo safi.

elsewhere its reported that tourism has so hit the roof that hotels are having difficulties managing the visitors population. and its not only in the coast. my friends could not get a bed in busia during midweek travel something strange and even in a dusty township of bumala the hotels are going for 2500 single! what have enterprising Kenyans resorted to , turn your nice house into a villa and quite your job. well at least until new hotels come up. Looks like Dr. Ongonga is just enjoying exceeding his targets.

but tourism cannot keep up with Kenyans who are remitting money home for all sorts of reasons. only problem is the local currency is gaining strength rather fast. for me, since Kenya is hugely a net importer, i suppose this is a good thing. but for those who invested in stanbic UG. it may not be too welcome. i only learnt today that between last month and now, the shilling has gained more than 4.9% points against the yen. other kenyans are saying that a stronger shillings is not good for export or toursim, but i don't know what they would say about the rand? its also getting stronger yet, more tourists are flocking there. so there must be something else that makes exports correctly cheaper. eg infrastructure, lower energy costs, lower labour costs, lower taxes etc.

sheng tragedy :
younger man to a young man : so umedai niwarushie rwabe rwabe?
young man to the younger man : zi nimesema uwapatie so mbili so mbili

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

good for the market

the easter is over and the talk is on and all over about what is good or not good for the stock market. just like last year it was all talk about what will head north or south or whatever it is on the compass. all informed and not so informed investors are making a prediction. how will the market react to ODMs government? will it panic the way mbaru threatens? and by the way does market do well when there is stability? if so then how does one explain Zimbabwe's case or even UG and so on. how come African markets outperform other markets in the world? Africa is the bedrock of political uncertainty and instability. the truth is probably that many other factors must be taken into consideration. further, you need to find out whether the market you are dealing with is sophisticated and sensitive enough to react to every minor change. like rainfall, ministers sacking or lack of etc. however if steadmans results are anything to go by then i would think that ODM would give better environment to the market since a kibaki win means a president with no legislative support. we will have a president with few MPs meaning that the opposition will simply stifle any debate or idea that the president could have. that would not be good for business.

However talking of transitions, i think the current administration would be making a mistake by delaying the sale of safaricom. the way we are behaving is like we are soo surprised at the value of safaricom that we cant really make our mind how much its worth and how much we want to sell it. we may get into the tragedy of the beautiful girl, who turns down all suitors forgetting that time never forgives anyone not even the beautiful ones. new beauties are born every day and also even the dumbest of suitors lose interest. it has already happened with telkom Kenya and it can happen with safaricom. in todays news i read in horror that advisors are thinking of offshore listing for safaricom fearing it will destabilize the market. oh Please!

on a different note, equity bank has shown more kenyanness than putting up flags on billboards by sponsoring local drama festivals. equity has even gone further by returning the entertaining winners concert to Nairobi National Theater. Theater lovers can watch the winners this Sunday at KNT. going by past experience, advance booking is advised and available at the box office of KNT and at tumu tumu where the festivals are being held.
I dont know whether other banks are watching but equities move ensures 'catching them when they are young' approach. since all those young people who attended the festival will only know equity as the friendly, everyones bank. meanwhile BBK is opening more branches all over. i thought you need to market then open or does it happen the other way round. i don't think BBK has done anything to erase the painful memories of the late 90s when together with stanchart they literally chased away 'small' people from their halls?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Triduum

The last lap of the 40 days lent as per my church tradition started on Wednesday, the real beginning of the holy week. Thursday was a special day to everyone, since it was the end of the week and beginning of a long weekend. being a slightly conservative, i put it upon me to celebrate holy Thursday at the basilica. (if i was able i could have flown to the Vatican!) i had already missed the prism mass since i was too busy during the day. as expected the roads leading to town were packed to capacity. i don't know where everyone else was going but even the basilica packing was full. however the feast was as solemn as always with the preparation starting proper and the church being striped bare of all signs of holiness. at the end we escorted the body to the hall when there was an exposition and benediction throughout the night. the exposition was very delicately decorated and most worshipers could be seen posing for snaps with the holy of holies. indeed nokia has turned everyone into a camera man/woman. the cameras clicked as the songs went on and more people moved closer. in the past you sought to be closer for the holy feeling but this time i saw more people move closer for better shots!

the Friday's passion procession started as per tradition from flora hostels snaking its way through haile salasie road , parliament road and into the church. the slow procession was full of songs , reciting of the rosary , via crucis and meditations. the alter boys carried a big cross enacting the experience of Jesus. the whole procession was well organized with traffic policemen on bikes and some in a car, controlling traffic on the busy route. finally we arrived in the empty church for the veneration of the cross. only 15 minutes was available for those who wanted to take water and 'freshen up'. then started the long veneration service that starts with a long gospel reading. after the veneration, the church was again left empty. there was no fanfare, and people left in silence, no songs not piano, no drums. that night was for reflection as we awaited the final part th easter vigil. Good friday is the most important day for christians and is always a good time for reflection and new beginning

Saturday was a silent day with no major functions only penance for those who wanted and waiting for the vigil later that night. vigil is also called 'kesha' in other parts. during the vigil, a large bonfire is lit from where everyone lights candles and then people collect holy water.

i hope it was a happy and refreshing easter to all.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

better brighter news

don't you just like the way in 4 short years, citizen TV which was perennially frustrated by the former KANU administration has transformed itself?

Apart from providing several fm services in local languages, royal media has outside broadcasting and local kiswahili based fm station that resonates very well with the locals. actually apart from openly biased reporting at times (citizen often dedicates entire days to cover government friendly activities live) the station has some very localy oriented programing, for instance it has such firsts as live racing from ngong race course, local drama eg tahidi high. etc. its also the only station that has truly kenyan musical show (with no funny imitations) recently they decided to face competition head on and move their news slot to the prime times of 19hrs and 21 hrs. to add salt to the sore, they bagged the likable Swaleh Mdoe, the ever green Catherine Kassavuli who was actually the face of KTN and even ephy hunja! Louis Otieno who has authoritatively cut a niche for himself in the live interview segment is also squarely in the bag and citizen has even freshened the segment by bringing the interviews during news time. its just deadly. Otieno is doing extremely well and his questions are normally beautifully intelligent and direct.

however my absolute favorite is the NSE segment where they bring in people in the industry to discus the days trading. however in this segment, i wish they would ask more intelligent questions. they probably need to bag more intelligent news gatherers from KTN to help with drafting questions on the NSE trading. in fact talking about content, KTN still wins by a mile and half to spare. KTNs news is normally quite well researched especially the business segment. when it comes to business news reporting KTN is head and shoulders above the rest.

I look forward to another first from royal media, i guess it will be the first local language TV station which will initially be dismissed by politicians as tribal before they all rush to have it cover them.

but moving from the media and all things related, i am worried about the total lack of concern from the authorities as Kenyans continue to fleece their fellow countrymen. that MEGA bank initiative is it legal, if even fair? and elsewhere, mungiki is still taxing Kenyans for doing business in Kenya.

but fellow bloggers, don't you feel its our responsibility to put pressure on those in influential positions to put an end to the violence in mount elgon. isn't it absurd that everybody, even the hitherto loud mouthed catholic and Anglican churches is loudly silent on the matter. by the way were those two churches dissolved with the exit of Moi from power?

yesterday i found it very difficult to watch the news on the orgy of violence and death that has been visited on this part of Kenya.

Monday, April 02, 2007

another weekend, another month

sometimes time does fly. just the other day, i was blogging on my dec holidays and now new holidays are here! the last month ended with me getting my car fixed. i dread going to the mechanic. apart from the long hours, i dread the fact that they always (without fail) lie to me. even on something i thought i knew. so i always wait until i cant wait any longer for those funny noises to be fixed. but i pride myself for keeping the service mileage clean. this last weekend was no exception. i went to the mech to be lied to and my money to be eaten. but on the lighter side, since my car was admitted (for a few hours) i took liberty to walk from ngara all the way to KICC for the home expo. the walk wasn't as tiring as i thought. there was enough motivation. on foot Nairobi is indeed beautiful!

in fact i feel there is a conspiracy against men these days. all the women look beautiful. they also look pretty much the same. either same tight jeans or same stretch trousers, all of them look pretty. does it mean all of a sudden the not soo good looking women have disappeared into thin air or is it a conspiracy of the fashion houses against men? every woman now seems to have a well formed GMB (to a great extent) and they walk as if they are dancing to some sweet internal music. the dance-walk entertained me till the expo.

i noticed that the expo, was not as well attended as in the years before, almost all developers are connected in one way or another to villa care. most developers have not broken ground 2 years since i first saw them in 2005. they are still promising like they do that the units would be ready in 10 months time. curiously most units were already sold. most developers talked of 50 % , 70 % and even 90% sold. so rush while stocks last! thats what they said last year and the year before. i was hoping to get an individual selling his digz or serious agents selling affordable housing ready for occupation but i couldn't get any. any blog readers out there know anyone? Please hola

after that i made a real big mistake to go watch norbit. why does eddy murphy keep doing that to his career? when i was young and a budding actor, my friend and director told me to never ever be found near any cartooning. those days it was fashionable to imitate ojwang or vitimbi , all you needed to do to become a star was imitate luo accent with broken kiswahili. my director/friend kodhek told me that it was cheap fame which would damage my acting career. I thought dream girls helped eddy murphy but i must say norbit just trashes all the gains. it was simply a stupid movie.