Wednesday, August 29, 2007

road trips

It was two weeks ago that i had to take the dreaded road trip to the west of the country. that part of the country which is both the grain basket and thorn in the flesh for kenya. well to be political the grain comes from the northern west and the thorn has always come from the southern west. the trip was necessary even though the roads are presently lunar landscape. i had to deliver a van to a client in k-city. I was clever so i took the narok detour,going all the way to narok, then kisii, oyugis, ahero and finaly kisumu.

The journey was smooth until mai mahiu, then branching to the ODM infested areas of narok all the way was as rough as can be. i met very many tourist vans coming from the mara. they were being driven at very high speed in spite of the rough terrain. i wonder why we cant sort out even a road to a seven wonder of the world. anyway from narok all the way to kisii is smooth sailing. the road is so good you can go to sleep. and its closed to heavy trucks and buses are very few and far between, secondly you can see more than a kilometer ahead given the open fields.

I stoped at bomet for a quick bite. i quickly located a hotel called Western Comfort. a 24 hour travelers cafe according to the sign. went in and ordered the days special. the days special wasn't ready. ok then, roasted chicken and chips, not ready, ok rice and vegie stew, not ready! what then is ready? tea. ok bring tea and mandazi. mandazi was displayed on the counter boss utangonja tu dakika kama kumi ndio chai iive! so much for the 24 hour economy of bomet.

Kisii was a cool town, rather sleepy but green and comfy.

on reaching oyugis i was rudely awaken by the change of populace. on the road side i could see the real life models! beautiful people with the coveted figure eight that i see my oblong colleagues struggling to achieve in the gymn back in Nai. only difference was the packaging. i couldn't help but imagine my office neighbor's new hairstyle on the lady on the left or our managers new skirt suite on the one ahead of me. but even oyugis beauty did not deter me and soon i was riding high speed to kisumu once more. no major incidence till the city of the lake. the van was in a state so i decided i would wash it first then deliver it next day. i went ahead to the hotel to rest. the following day i was at lwangni beach at about 11am. This beach is a one stop shop and you can get mostly anything. to wash the whole van in the great lake, i was charged only 100 bob (thats in and out!) the van is driven right into the water, i thought for a moment it would drown. and boy there were plenty of activities for those waiting for their vehicles to be washed. among them was swimming in the murky water, or taking a camel ride. or even a boat ride. the boat were actually the old wood canoes that had been fitted with a juakali engine. the boat was obviously leaking since there was a small boy constantly scooping the water with a tin and pouring it back to the lake. a 200 metre circle in the lake cost just about 10 bob. even though people were being fitted with life jackets and there were many enthusiastic families waiting their turn,(langni beach is a great spot for family rendez vous over the weekend) i decided, i was not that kind of swimmer and simply watched the excited faces. but its not only humans who frequent the beach, even harders brought their cattle to browse and drink water.

well then you can also enjoy what this beach is best known for. the makeshift kiosks where fish is sold the same way goat meat is sold at olepolos. when you walk in, you are taken to the 'karai' where all the fish are. you then point at the one which whets your appetite most after that you sit and wait for it to be deep fried. when it comes, it actually ambushes you. a large helping of fish, steaming and covered in your favorite local vegetable, and kachumbari is thrust right in front of you with an equal generous potion of ugali. the aroma itself is enough to drown you in your own saliva. ok lwangni hotel is not where you bring your everyday chips-and-sausage-eating sweetheart. here you bring someone who wants to eat and eat hard! but i saw many expensive looking people all over. even big SUVs with red plates and white occupants kept on driving in and out. its simply an experience

by the time the fish disappears from your tray (they actually serve you on a tray. its a very big fish) the van is ready for your collection it has been wiped so well you feel like coming here everyday. only that you work in Nairobi.

well then i delivered the vehicle with neither ceremony nor funfair and headed to the airport to take a flight (i promised myself that i would not use that road on the way back. in any case there were no vacancies in the buses) the Kisumu airport was packed like a normal bus stop and even though there were security checks, it was only being done on those who were traveling. otherwise to buy a ticket you just pass the security without much questioning. but there were no tickets for flight that evening. not in any of the airlines, KQ, jet link, east African or even 540. i only managed to get one for the following day.

as long as the west remains in opposition, the country's leadership remains myopic and paranoid, the roads will remain the same and the airlines will laugh all the way to the bank! buy KQ shares pronto.

but one thing you get in Kisumu that i have never been able to get anywhere else is the warmth, the respect for guests and the richness of culture!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

oversubscribed .... again

Its now official, every IPO in kenya will have more takers than there are shares. even kenya re which had so much mystery has been oversubscribed. but like i thought, the number of shares were few and you saw that coming. in fact the demand was more than that of kengen. its disappointing though that investors may end up with only 100 shares or about 1000 shillings worth of investment meaning they will be refunded at least some 18K shillings! what a waste of time and oportunity!

if this then how about safaricom? how will they ensure that these little money refund headaches dont happen?

elsewhere i discovered that nakumatt actually did their homework about the 24 hour thing. i went to the late night shop to get some light bulbs and to my shock and awe, i found that there was absolutely no parking! even the new pavements that nakumatt constructed the other day were packed with cars and some were on the road. there was no space all the way up to the new westgate. so there are shopers at night as well!

Friday, August 10, 2007

of the 24 hour economy

There has been lots of talk lately about the need or lack of for a 24hour economy. i thought the economy was always 24 hour anyway. maybe they meaning business operations around the clock. like the matutus that ply route kariobangi south or kahawa west. meaning that the 24hour economy has been around. but the place where i shockingly saw the real deal was at isich and gikomba. most of the shops in isich operate normally at night and the streets are full of people. unfortunately the roads are pathetic and streets lights dont work. however at gikomba market, i saw that the activity is very much alive and fortunately there is some bit of good light as well. but probably the place where the 24hour thing is most required is at the port of Mombasa! clearing a cargo at the port the other day took me a whole one week because of congestion, confusion and sheer numbers. by the second day, there were 1000 people ahead of me. then at the end of it all i still had to pay charges for the delay in the form of storage charges!

there is so much work yet these guys only work till 5pm after which they chase everyone away. how much better would it be if they worked in shifts even at the customs and container terminals with operations going on around the clock?

actually there are some businesses that are better after hours like supermarkets, banks, etc. when i used to work for this company in my first job, i never understood why it the bosses used to close during lunch hour. yet that was the time some people who are busy in offices would have gotten time to make a quick purchase or a quick inquiry

Monday, August 06, 2007

Business Oportunities

these scenarios:

1 a dilapidated road network between nakuru and busia
2. a huge commuter population plying a route on a daily basis
3. large business opportunities in food transits
4. collapse of the largest public transport company
5. airfare still too higher for a good majority

well these are what has fueled the expansion of Easy coach bus services. i only saw this last saturday when i escorted someone to take a 'flight' to the lakeside town. the easy coach offices were full to the brim and there was no parking inside. in the compound they had laid out benches where commuters sat as they waited for their buses. i saw that each bus carried 38 people and each passenger paid no less than 800/=. doing quick arithmatic made me very jalous. if each bus does one round trip a day, it makes no less than 2.1 million shillings a month on this route.

this is because, kenya bus colapsed and akamba bus service is literaly on its knees with old rickety buses breaking down all the time in very lonely and dangerous places and at night!

because of the bad road in the 'opposition' areas of between nakuru and kisumu, most motorists would not risk using their private cars so buses are the in thing. come the high season of december this route will be raining money!

but another interesting thing i noticed on the Kenyan roads; i wonder why Kenyans buy powerful and fast cars. the roads are very narrow and they are not dual carriage so over taking is not possible most times. another thing is that the slim roads are shared with old slow cars as well as overloaded trailers and trucks. so the fast cars are forced to move as slowly as the slow cars hence surely there is no need investing in a 3 litre engine car!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

two sides of the kenyan coin

This morning i had a rather interesting encounter at the posta sarit. first, i thought they opened at 8:30; well i gave them the benefit of being a state corporation. when i went, i found that they actually open at 9:00. (truly i never knew in this day and age there are still people who start work at 9:00) with this booming economy why cant u take the advantage and catch customers early. anyway so i hovered around, waiting for time, i even went upstairs to uchumi to browse. i saw a nice collection of old Kenyan music of the likes of kaikai kilonzo, goerge omolo, Guta Lie Bobo, Baraka Mwinshehe etc. i am told this collection is there courtesy of Mr. Makali. the CDs are going for quite a good price. the most being only 800 bob. well then i got back to posta and noticed it was only remaining 2 minutes to nine however the cleaner walked out of the door and left it slightly open and i went in. to my shock and horror the employees shouted at me to go back out since it was not yet time! i adamantly ignored them and went straight to posta pay. after filling the form and waiting for the 2 minutes (the lady refused to look at her computer only pointing at the old clock hang on the wall) when she finally did, she discovered the software wasn't working. tried several times an even restarted the machine to no avail. so i wasted all that time waiting for a service which was down! i wish they had used the waiting time to make sure all their equipment was in order!!!!

but on the other side of the coin, other Kenyans are maximizing on the boom, nakumatt holding have opened the first ever 24/7 shopping mall in kenya. the convenience! and more things from nakumatt and equity now you can withdraw your cash from a nakumat till if you are an equity customer. the only thing is the the riders are rather confusing. you can only withdraw 10,000 if your shopping was worth 1000 and so on.

Meanwhile, kenyans are ahead of others and are wondering how safaricom will hold their AGMs. i suggest they set up a 0900 number where shareholders can call up and listen to deliberations. if you want to vote for Mr. X press 1 else press 2 . how about that?

the price of safaricom shares? will definitely depend on how many. if they decide to issue 4b shares then it will be about 9 /= per share and they may go the route of Kenya Re and insist on batches of say 1000 or even 10,000.