Thursday 21 March 2013


Dear Reader as you're no doubt aware Kenya is on the East coast of the most benighted continent.....where everyone dies young/in pain/despair and abandoned by God of snakebite/malaria/AIDS/poverty and sheer ignorance.
Even the most objective observer unconsciously internalises these memes after decades of media programming-however there's another story;concerning Kenya. Its not about the usual stereotypes,so there are no lions,riotous crowds or seriously sick babies.
Kenya is famous among a small set of world travellers for its public transport art;yes,among a handful of knowledgeable experienced tourists are connoiseurs of matatu art some of whom come largely for the visual appreciation of the latest designs.

One of the most wildly successful initiatives in the entire 3rd world is the mobile phone money transfer service m-pesa. Basically ,a phone user places money onto his phone by depositing the money with an m-pesa agent who then transfers the sum onto his phone via text. The cash is then transmitted via text-a simple idea that leaves everyone asking-why didn't we think of this before?Since its 2007 introduction after development by Kenyan IT specialists mobile money transfer is regarded as the new frontier by the big mobile phone companies. A nokia manager recently admitted that they would have to come to Kenya to learn the financial apps side of the business.

The green of the m-pesa agent is now as ubiquitous to the Kenyan as the wildebeest to the tourist.
Another unsung ICT story is that of ushahidi (witness). Ushahidi is a web based reporting system that utilizes crowdsourced data to formulate visual map information of a crisis on a real-time basis.
It proved its worth first in the Chile tsunami of early 2008 and later in the Fukushima disaster. 
On the agricultural front there is also positive news. Our dairy industry now produces over 4.4 bn litres of milk as of last year supporting some 800,000 households, with over 350,000 Kenyans being employed directly and indirectly by the industry. Kenya has overtaken S.Africa which produces a total average of 230 mn litres monthly. Currently the 3 largest producers KCC,Brookside and Fresha have captured the local market and are expanding rapidly in the COMESA zone and beyond searching for markets.
Another unique  success story on the agricultural front can be found in the tea sector. Small holders owning 1-2 acre tea farms are contracted to supply green leaf to the Kenya Tea Development Agency in the respective catchment area. Set up in 1957 the KTDA produces,sells ,markets and pays the farmer guaranteeing a steady income.
For the first time in the history of tea growing in Kenya, farmers earned an average of KSh43.02 per kilo of green leaf delivered, making them among the highest paid smallscale tea farmers in the world.

A KTDA truck transports green leaf from a collection center to a factory for drying and manufacture into black tea.

Indeed the prosperity of tea zones can be directly tied to the KTDA. Banks now offer loans solely on a farmers delivery receipts to the local factory allowing hitherto unseen avenues for rural upward mobility. A well managed 2 acre tea farm can earn  the farmer 400,000  kshs (4,600 $) annually. Banks now lend up to 80% of this sum.
Other countries have attempted to imitate the KTDA model with zero success. Uganda,Tanzania and Rwanda have tried to initiate similar schemes but failed. Rwanda recently picked KTDA managers to manage their state run tea plantations and it remains to be seen if synergies can be found.
In January 2003 national electrical power generation due to years of underfunding and maintenance was just over 1000 MW. Now its over 1500 MW with Africa's largest windpower project planned for L.Turkana,increased geothermal generation in the Rift Valley and even nuclear power under consideration. As of now 30% of all Kenyans are connected to the power grid including formerly remote areas in Samburu and Turkana as far as the S.Sudan border.

All these are signs that our development is real not the stuff confined to party propaganda outtakes.

The biggest most reliable indicator of positive national trajectory is one of the worlds fastest growing middle class. To the great dismay of the professional hecklers and doomsayers in Civil Society,going by the World Bank definition of a per capita income of 4$ daily  about 43 per cent of Kenyans are categorised as middle class. According to the British Asset Management, 16 million Kenyans are in this class.

Dear Reader,where do you think Kenya lies today?

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