Saturday, November 20, 2010
By Norris McDonald
Today is our 25th anniversary. We was incorporated on November 20, 1985. The African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA) is the outreach arm of the Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (Center).
You can see a listing of many of our activities during that time at our original website, which we converted to Multiply when the original Msn Groups platform ended). There is more activity information at our History page. My career has been very satisfying. From my beginning in the Fall of 1979 at the Environmental Policy Center (now Friends of the Earth) until today, the adventure has been incredible. I started out in the Washington, D.C.-based environmental movement. Jimmy Carter was president and was just finishing a rough 4-year run. I shook his hand at the Democratic National Convention in New York in 1980 not knowing that Washington was about to get a completely new makeover. The Reagan era was interesting and quite the challenge for the environmental movement. I still remember his 'no standard standard' for appliance efficiency standards. I also remember the Air Florida crash and the Metro subway accident on the day that I was walking back from the U.S. Department of Energy after testifying on appliance standards.
Well, without sounding like the old guy in the room sharing old war time stories that nobody really wants to hear, the situation today is as exciting as ever. We are embarking on trying to build biomass power plants in Mississippi, California and in Kenya. The adventure continues and I am having more fun than ever. Our team is lean and mean and green.
I have kept the AAEA small on purpose and will continue to do so. I almost died from respiratory failure in 1991 and 1996 (intubated for 4 days in ICU each time). After getting divorced and full custody of my son when he was 2 years old, I decided that I wanted to stick around to see my son grow up. But I also wanted to continue with my entrepreneurial environmentalism. So keeping it small worked. Although I still struggle with a chronic acute asthma that could kill me any day, my son is now 18 and I am still 'doing my green thing.' Life is good. Hey, and we just opened a new Center Hollywood blog this week (Also see AAEA Hollywood). Oh, and if you're feeling generous, feel free to click on our Donation button on our sites.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
AAEA Kenya, in cooperation with National Clean Fuels (NACF), intends to develop a ten-megawatt woodchip-to-methane-to-electricity plant in Kogelo, Kenya. We are recommending the construction and operation of a wood chip to electricity plant with accompanying substation and electricity transmission and distribution lines. The Center and NACF is presenting this proposal to the Kenyan government and other local stakeholders in order to get approval to proceed with the project.
AAEA President Norris McDonald and NACF principal Maurice Stone met with Kenyan Ambassador Elkanah Odembo at a National Black Chamber of Commerce Conference in Los Angeles, California to discuss the power plant project.
|Maurice Stone, Ambassador Elkanah Odembo, Norris McDonald|
Monday, October 18, 2010
Click on the Donate button and donate.
The purpose of the project is:
1. To support civil society organizations in the rural areas and the Government of Kenya to participate meaningfully in the climate change debates at the international level, including Conferences of Parties (COP).
2. To strengthen the civil society to campaign for good policies that are designed to help Kenya’s poor to adapt to climate change
3. To re-examine the present critique of the economic development as a main source of environmental crises;
4. To explore the thought and representations of crisis awareness of rural Kenya, especially on ecological aspects;
5. To determine the ways in which mitigation ideas of the relationship between humanity, nature and science provide a starting point for a renewal of environmental ethics and for rethinking ideas of sustainability
Medical Advisory Support Services for the Maringo Community in Kenya
Objectives of the Project:
The objective of this project is therefore to organize a medical seminar that will be delivered freely to a target group. It is planned that this medical seminar will follow up with arranging for the implementation of a medical camp where minor illnesses could be treated and sensitization on key medical issues can be addressed. The main beneficiaries will be the youth and parents of Maringo village who have greater trust on ‘Mwarubaini” for its popularity on having a capability to treat forty diseases as confirmed by herbal doctors.
Increased Access For Women in Kenya
Access to education for girls remains a challe
nge in Kuria district due to poverty, retrogressive cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and a general negative attitude towards educating girls. It is important that these causes are addressed to ensure gender equity in education. This program works towards eliminating the root causes of inequalities in access to education.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
"Peace Art: The Forbidden Expression"
Boaz Adhengo writes:
"My purpose of writing this book is to describe the complex ‘Peace Art’ as it occurs in Africa and specifically, Kenya. My understanding of Peace Art is not universally accepted. Some researchers’ prefer less expressive, more cognitive behavior models to describe this concept. More so, conflict and chaotic relation of art, a look into the opposite. It is more of a proposal into collective action, into resourceful organization of art into action. The approach into this writing is purely creative but informing, merging existing examples with experience into a digestible piece that will not warrant a meeting."Purchase the Book via Amazon.com
Monday, August 9, 2010
Dana Alston was 47 years old when she died 11 years ago on August 7, 1999.
Dana Alston, left, was a leader of the original environmental justice movement that started in the 1980's. She was one of the organizers of the first National Environmental Justice Leadership Summit in 1992. She participated in the meetings to convince the U.S. EPA to open an Office of Environmental Justice. She was a committed environmental justice activist and the movement clearly benefited from her leadership. We remember you Dana. And we will never forget you.
Dana Alston received a Bannerman Fellowship in 1992 in recognition of her leadership in the development of the environmental justice movement. The Bannerman Fellowship Program was founded in 1987 on the belief that the most effective approach to achieving progressive social change is by organizing low-income people at the grassroots level. In 2002, the Fellowship Program was renamed the Alston/Bannerman Fellowship Program in honor of Dana Alston.
Dana died on August 7, 1999 at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Dana was a native of New York and lived in Washington, D.C. She was in San Francisco for treatment of kidney disease and consequences of a stroke when she died.
Her son, Khalil Alston-Cobb, now 17, resides in Clinton, Maryland. He is (or was at 16) a skateboard enthusiast (see videos). Here is how Khalil describes himself on his MySpace page:
"I like Skateboarding, Playing videogames, listening to music, talking to Gurls, surfing the Web, and Chillin wit the Homies."Khalil is also on Twitter. He has a great skateboarding video on MonsterArmy.com. He is listed on Children of the Struggle. Dana would be very proud of her teenage son. All who knew her are not surprised that Khalil is an energetic and productive young man.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Morocco’s officially inaugurated a wind farm in the town of Melloussa this week. The project has 165 turbines and a production capacity of 140 megawatts, enough power for 140,000 homes. The farm is touted as Africa’s largest wind farm and cost $300 million to construct. Besides significantly reducing CO2 emissions, the farm is expected to save over 125,000 metric tons of oil annually. Like many parts of the world, Morocco relies on imported oil and coal for its energy needs. The Kingdom of Morocco is the only North African country without its own oil.
Funding for the project came from the European Investment Bank, Official Credit Institute of Spain, the Moroccan National Office of Potable Water and Germany’s Kreditanstalt fur Wienderaufbau. This is not the first wind project for Morocco. The first farm was constructed in 2000 and several others have been added over the years. (Triple Pundit, 6/30/2010)
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Kenya’s energy firm, Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) has commissioned a 35 megawatt (MW) third unit at the Olkaria II power plant in Naivasha, about 90 km southwest of the capital Nairobi.
It was co-financed by European investment Bank (EIB) which put in 40.8 million U.S. dollars, the International development Association (IDA) with 27. 6 million dollars and the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) which provided 20 million dollars with KenGen providing the rest of funds.
The new unit was completed in record 27 months as per schedule and went to commercial operation on May 12.
With the additional power, the Olkaria II power station, the largest geothermal plant in Africa, has a combined output of 105 MW.
KenGen is adding green energy capacity mainly through geothermal energy, which is environment friendly and has no carbon emissions. (Coast Week, June 25-July1, 2010)
Friday, June 18, 2010
By Boaz Adhengo
It all about World Cup and it is all about fun! The situation at shanty slums in Nairobi is worsening, as the financial crunch is increasing. Free education has not been able to bare fruits, and the Institute for African Ecology and Philosophy’s past proposal on community policing are losing relevancy, as poverty takes over. The World Cup is the most widely viewed sporting event in the world; an estimated 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006 World Cup held in Germany. The current World Cup is being held in South Africa, between 11 June and 11 July 2010, and the 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil. It is therefore an event that unites different people, of different backgrounds and abilities, into a focused celebration, understanding and life sharing moments, including eco ethics.
For this reason, Project Nabuur Stiftung/AAEA Kenya, through its life sponsor, the Leah Foundation, has been donating footballs to local communities where informal settlements are located. The board identified Kayole, Huruma, Mathare, Korokocho, Babadogo and Kibera as the priority areas. Thus, fifty balls have been given in a shared pattern with hopes that after the World Cup TV broadcast, we shall be able to organize our Eco Ethics Festival, with sports as the uniting element. Ghetto Radio is involved in the same quest. They have decided to follow up our football donation with live broadcasting of the event. They will provide twelve projectors for the six shanties while the local youth will organize themselves into security teams for the sake of protecting the equipments from theft or subsequent damages. We thank our membership for their ideas during our 1st Kor Bondo Lecture in Maranda, from where this generous outreach has come. We look forward to more involvement as we welcome the Africa Partners in Safari in our launch of our MoU for the coming year.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Biden's trip to Nairobi is focusing on regional issues, particularly the security and humanitarian situation in Somalia and the prospects for secessionist southern Sudan. Biden will meet with South Sudan's president Salva Kiir will discuss the January referendum on self-determination in southern Sudan. The widely-predicted decision by the southern oil-rich half of Sudan to acquire independence would have wide-ranging effects on the region.
There is also concern in Washington that one of Kenya's other troubled neighbors, Somalia, is becoming a new haven for Al Qaeda operatives. Vice President Biden will discuss this situation with Kenyan President Kibacki. (The White House)
Vice President Joe Biden's motorcade en route to US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger's residence, Nairobi, Kenya, June 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
Audio Slideshow: Dr. Biden Sees the Neighborhoods of Kenya
Dr. Jill Biden toured the Kibera area of Nairobi, Kenya. It’s one of the largest slums in the world at just about 1.5 million people living in an area about 2 square miles total. Very few people have electricity or running water and many of the residents are living with HIV.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Kenya Office Director Boaz Adhengo presented a poster at a conference at the Multi-Media University of Kenya. The conference theme was “Climate Change and Natural Resource Use in Eastern Africa: Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation.” This was the third Scientific Conference of the Ecological Society for Eastern Africa in conjunction with the Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance. The conference convened from the May 19-22 and will brought together key stakeholders in the environmental philosophy of East Africa. Though the major defining strategy was to discuss climate change within its multiple realms, there were also avenues for analyzing energy and the business dilemmas that steer development in ways that are not sustainable.
Adhengo's poster drew from a paper that he presented in 2009, “Ethical Implications of Ecotourism on Sustainable Development.” The poster is designed to draw the participant into understanding the patriotic role that humans must adhere to, for we are citizens of the world, and climate change has no borders. Destruction looks for no visas, for it is interdependent, interconnected and cross cutting. Adhengo believes we must work as a team as much as we preserve our aesthetics.
Monday, May 10, 2010
USDA Deputy Under Secretary Darci Vetter Visits Kenya Tours Food Program Sites
George McGovern Visits School Sites in Nairobi Meets with Farmers in Rural Areas
USDA Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service’s Deputy Under Secretary Darci Vetter, right, will join former Senator George S. McGovern, left, in Kenya May 10-16 to visit World Food Program sites and observe, first-hand, how nutrition programs fit into broader food security initiatives in Africa. The World Food Program is an important participant in USDA’s McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. McGovern currently serves as the Ambassador to the World Food Program and was recognized in 2008, along with Sen. Robert Dole, by the World Food Prize for his leadership in forging the link between the productivity of American farmers and the needs of hungry children around the world.
Vetter and McGovern will visit school feeding sites in Nairobi and rural areas and meet with communities that are establishing homegrown school feeding programs. Additionally, they will meet with small farmers who participate in the World Food Program’s local and regional procurement program. Vetter will also have the opportunity to visit agricultural development projects in the dairy and cassava sectors.
The McGovern–Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, helps support education, child development, and food security for some of the world’s poorest children. It provides for donations of U.S. agricultural products, as well as financial and technical assistance, for school feeding and maternal and child nutrition projects in low-income, food-deficit countries that are committed to universal education.
USDA and FAS Food Aid Programs
Contact: Katie Gorscak
Tsavo National Park
One of the paths used
Walking down a path
Monday, May 3, 2010
Anselm Croze, left, took over the business that was started by his mother. He collects all sorts of glasses and recycles them into wonderful products. He does this at Kitengela, where the family home is situated. Thus, in this huge track of land, he houses all their staff, has a small conservatoir for wild animals (ostrich, turtles, wathogs, monkeys, camels) and is a full fledged tour attraction facility. Croze is a graduate of Business Administration, but glass creativity is a passion that he has developed into a profession.
Anselm Croze was born in Cumbria in northern England. He came to Kenya with his father, Harvey Croze, an environmental zoologist who worked in the Serengeti. Anselm remembers home-schooling in a tent in Tanzania; later, he was the one little mzungu kid amongst many black urchins in a small, one-room rural school, running around, getting into dirt and trouble. Later still, he drove a taxi around Ann Arbor, Michigan, because he had run out of money to pay his university fees in the U.S.A. He understands hardship quite well, and he understands the value of practical methods of showing solidarity.
Anselm Croze presides over the hot glass division of Kitengela Glassworks. At Kitengela, Anselm combines his passion for the environment with his passion for glass art; he places his art in his environment with the same creative joy with which he weaves the environment into his art. Many Kenyan homes have some of Kitengela’s luminous hand-crafted glasses, vases, platters, and bowls in shades ranging from deepest blue and emerald green to delicate pastels the colour of illuminated water from the sea. All are created from 100% recycled, reclaimed, and salvaged materials. A lucky few are able to make the trek out to the busy hive of activity that is the source of the art.
Anselm is planning no less than a revolution: an African hot-glass movement in which handcrafted glass from every region across the continent, complete with regional specializations and signature colours, will present itself to the world as another indicator of Africa’s global-level creativity, another way in which African cultural production continues to innovate, re-imagining and renewing itself.
The way to the workshop is over rutted roads with more craters than the moon and through wafting billows of dust. That certain features of the landscape are not geological formations takes a while to notice. The visitor’s eye wanders over the seductively wide horizons of the Kitengela plains and then zooms back to a strange mound in the middle of the openness.
His sometimes disturbing artwork is out in the open, harmonizing surprisingly with the grass and rocky outgrowths and trees. His is not the only artwork on display, because he believes in artistic collaboration and engages in many joint projects with other artists. But his is certainly the animating spirit behind the exuberance and the rigour of the art.
At Kitengela, Glassworks, groups of men in protective overalls with old socks on their hands toil and sweat surrounded by roaring furnaces and bubbling glass. The men wield curious long-handled metal pipes with dexterity and controlled haste. These they sometimes plunge, twisting, into the hearts of the fires roaring around them before sitting to twirl and pad the glass into shape ,or dunking them in the buckets of cold water next to their workstations. The workshop sounds like a living thing, with water hissing, fires crackling, and the footsteps of the glassworkers syncopating as they wield their long pipes, tipped with glowing bulbs of molten glass, like fiery dreams waiting to be imagined into life. Work proceeds like a strange and dangerous ballet: The fires are very hot, the space is not very big, and the glass must be shaped before it cools—which happens very quickly with recycled glass. The men move with an eerie awareness of each other—their metal rods swinging through the dark interior like fireflies bobbing in the evening light.
Kitengela Glassworks supports the Bosco Boys Home (where Anselm recruits many of his glassmaking trainees), as well as the local high school, with material and financial support. More importantly, Anselm Croze is intent on passing on his skills and his love of glass and making beauty to as many Kenyans as possible; given the abundant evidence in his Kitengela Hot Glass retail outlets, this is a skill that is economically beneficial as well as soul satisfying.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
In the photo below, some relatives of AAEA Kenya Office Director Boaz Adhengo met in Kansas last week to strategize about how to implement American-Kenyan cooperative projects. They call themselves Kenyans Living In Kansas.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
The Alcohol industry came to the spotlight in Kenya when advertisement companies were asked to pull down bill boards near schools and colleges. Barely a few months thereafter, an alcoholmeter-‘alcoblow’ or ‘vuta pumzi’ came on the scene scattering beer consumers in all directions away from the city’s famous ‘watering holes.’ Before Kenyans could recover from what was reported to have been a faulty law with good intentions, the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International released a damning report indicating that the use of alco-blow to tame drunken driving led to a sharp increase in corruption among the police forces.
Ever seen an advertisement for changaa? Changaa (traditional whisky) enjoys a significant market share despite the fact that it is categorized as illegal. By coded word of mouth, consumers are able to trace areas where it is being served. The government spends millions policing and diverting security forces from fighting crime to cracking down against illicit brews across the country. Despite all these efforts, the illicit brew industry is booming, sometimes to fatal results when overzealous brewers lace it chemicals that make consumers lose their eye sight and others die.
A construction worker earns has to balance a series of demands from his daily income. For instance, one that earns 100 shillings in a day has to opt to walk to the workplace, purchase food and medicine, pay for the child’s fees, pay rent, and send some money to his family in the rural area. When it comes to alcohol, a cheaper option, which entails drinking while on the look-out for police raids, drinking under poor sanitary conditions and sometimes under the threat of either losing life or becoming blind due to laced chemicals; makes such an undertaking more treacherous.
On the other hand, consuming ‘certified’ beers by middle and upper income earners in the city, gives them a consumers traceability aspect. For moderate drinkers, it is safe and secure; for those that ignore the label ‘excess consumption is dangerous’ also end up in a treacherous position through drunken driving and any other irresponsible actions to accompany excessive consumption of alcohol.
Beer consumption in Kenya has proved to be one of the best ways for government to squeeze more coins from its active working class through indirect taxation. Last year, the East African Breweries limited earned recognition for being the highest tax payer in the country. Is Kenya importing developed country cliché of ‘if it grows tax it, if it fails, subsidize it?’ The contribution of beer and spirits to the governments through excise tax and value added tax has increased over the years. The excise revenue on beer and spirits in the non-oil commodities increased significantly from 14.2 per cent in 1990 to 61 per cent in 2001. Kenyan beer attracts excise duty of 85 percent and 18 percent Value Added Tax.
For developing nations, the upsurge in alcohol consumption raises concerns on whether a drinking nation can develop or collapse in a drunken stupor. Alcohol consumption has both positive and negative side effects. For instance, retail outlets such as bars, hotels and restaurants not only offer entertainment but also hire thousands of workers. Kenyan farmers who supply the barley and sugar used in brewing earn their living from this industry. Distributors, stockists, transporters, suppliers to the beer plant such as printers, advertisers, detergent manufacturers among others all profit from the alcohol industry.
What lessons can Kenya learn from failed regulation against illicit brews? That simply regulating without addressing reasons why consumers manage to get to the illicit brews is not a solution. Regulating consumption of alcohol by declaring it illicit and or through high taxes simply serves to drive the industry underground. High consumption of illicit brews is a true testimony to the effect that increased beer prices due to taxes, forces Kenyans to go under ground in search of cheap liquor.
In the past, wives have demonstrated against local brews that allegedly cause impotence in their men. The men on the other hand have argued that they cannot access the ‘clean’ brews because they are too expensive. The government on its part targets the ‘cleaner’ alcohol industry for purposes of generating revenue and regulation, the resultant effect has been the mushrooming of the informal brewers who are constantly clashing with the police.
The government ought to reconsider its taxes against beers and spirits and encourage local players to join the industry. Leading brewers such as the East Africa Breweries limited ought to be given tax incentives to enable them participate in public health activities that will encourage public health standards such as clean bars, restaurants and hotels, and public education on responsible drinking. High taxes will only mean brewers forego the aspect of investing in healthy and productive consumers leaving it the government already bogged down with other responsibilities.
To drink or not to drink is not the question. The question is whether the government can create tax incentives for brewers to ensure that the already consuming population is not harmed by either illicit or excessive consumption of alcohol. The government can still increase its taxation base by ensuring that beer consumers have a little more money in their pockets to engage in other productive activities by reducing beer prices. Let brewers and consumers keep more money to ensure beer taking does not become a danger to the future of this country.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
By Boaz Adhengo
AAEA Kenya Director
‘Geothermal’ literally means ‘Earth’s heat, which is estimated to be 5,500 degrees centigrade at the Earth’s core – about as hot as the surface of the sun. Geothermal energy is a clean, renewable resource that can be tapped by many countries around the world located in geologically favorable places. Geothermal energy can be harnessed from underground reservoirs, containing hot rocks saturated with water and/or steam. Boreholes of typically two kilometers depth or more are drilled into the reservoirs. The hot water and steam are then piped up to a geothermal power plant, where they are used to drive electric generators to create power for businesses and homes. Geothermal energy is considered a renewable resource because it exploits the Earth’s interior heat, which is considered abundant, and water, once used and cooled, is then piped back to the reservoir.
Geothermal energy can be utilized for electricity generation and for various other types of heat direct use applications, e.g. heating purposes, fish farming, bathing etc. Compared to other renewable energy technologies, geothermal is unique as it provides a base-load alternative to fossil fuels based electricity generation, but can also replace those used for heating purposes.
High temperature geothermal resources are most important for electricity generation (temperatures greater than 150 degrees Celsium), while medium-to-low temperature resources (below 150 degrees Celsium) are suited for many different types of applications utilizing heat. The classical Lindal diagram provides a good overview of the typical utilization forms of geothermal energy by temperature ranges.
Kenya’s Geothermal Development Program
Between 1979 and 1996, the bank carried out five projects to support Kenya’s program to develop geothermal power resources—the first such program in Africa. An OED audit* of the five projects found that they were successful, but warned that the sustainability of the last two projects is unlikely without further government support. The audit highlights actions that both the Bank and borrowers could take in the future to increase the chances of success for similar power projects in the region. The Bank could have taken greater advantage of its inhouse technical expertise in geothermal drilling, and could have made the procurement process more flexible to respond more rapidly to drilling problems as they arose. For its part, the government could intensify its commitment to expanding geothermal exploration and development, boost its expertise in the field, and provide sufficient resources for maintenance, while pursuing private sector participation.
Geothermal Power Plant in Naivasha, Kenya
Between 1979 and 1989, the Bank approved three loans and two credits, for a total of $117.2 million, to support the development of Kenya’s geothermal power program and resources. The five projects, carried out between 1979 and 1996, helped the Kenya Power Company (KPC) install the first geothermal-based power plants in Africa. The first three projects (approved in 1979, 1980, and 1983) drilled wells, set up transmission facilities, and built a power plant with 45 megawatts (mw) of capacity in the Olkaria Geothermal field of Kenya’s Rift Valley. After the plant was successfully put into operation, the government decided to greatly expand its geothermal development program, with a view to making it one of the main pillars of its future power generation system. The Bank supported this objective with two credits (approved in 1984 and 1989) for exploration, appraisal, and drilling in other parts of Olkaria and at the extinct volcano of Eburru.
The Bank has been suggesting that most, if not all, the future growth of Kenya’s power supply should be met by the private sector. The government has agreed to offer the Olkaria West fields for private development and to promote private sector participation in conventional coastal power generation plants. At the time of the audit, several private sector generation proposals were under discussion.
For the Bank:
1. The Bank needs to make greater use of technical staff in reviewing drilling and resource development programs during both the appraisal and supervision stages of geothermal projects.
2. The Bank needs to be more flexible in its procurement to allow the borrower to make unscheduled rush orders more efficiently and at minimum costs.
For the Borrower:
1. KPC needs to review its commitments to geothermal exploration and development drilling and needs to identify the resources needed to implement its program efficiently. Geothermal development should become a self-supporting profit center within KPC’s power generation activities, with the resources needed to support maintenance and expansion.
2. KPC needs to expand training in the areas of surface facilities design for steam gathering systems.
For the Bank and Borrower:
· If the private sector cannot be attracted to participate in Kenya’s geothermal development on equitable terms, the government and the Bank will need to prepare an alternative approach, in which government institutions play a more significant role. Such a strategy might include the provision of drilling services to investors or guarantees of competitive prices for steam, allowing the private sector to invest in lower-risk generating plants.
For the past few weeks, Kenyans have received a welcome introduction to the latest and arguably the most politically correct of their super-heroes, Makmende. An African version of the 1980’s film star Chuck Norris, albeit dressed in 1970s garb, he beats up the bad guys, rescues damsels in distress, and in the process gets himself a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a dedicated website, to boot. In his own rather unique, engaging and thought-provoking ways, this iconic hero’s rise to prominence challenges us to question, analyze, and debate issues, some of which would otherwise remain little studied or unknown to the wider public.
For me, there are two important lessons to learn from the Makmende phenomenon. The fiirst concerns how our urbanite and generally technologically-savvy generation of young Kenyans is increasingly coming together to get information, support, ideas, and products from each other. The second concerns the ways in which Kenyans can (and should) use the Internet for ideas, innovation and connection in a world characterised by uncertainty, ambiguity and unpredictability.
Just-a-Band’s widely acclaimed video, Ha-He,” which introduced the fictional Makmende, is essentially a tribute to 1970s cult classics, like Shaft. It also featured a a host of supporting characters, like “Big-G,” “Godfrey and the Laydayz,” “Black Sahara” Taste of Daynjah”, “Wrong Number” and “The Askyua Matha Black Militants”.
The origin of the term Makmende can be traced to the early to mid 1990s to describe people acting tough, or who thinks he is a superhero. It is said, for instance, that if anyone in the playground was acting gung ho you said they were behaving like a Makmende”. Similarly, if a boy who’s watched one too many kung-fu movies on TV decides to unleash his newly acquired combat skills, he would be asked “Unajidai Makmende, eh?” (Who do you think you are, Makmende?). It therefore comes as no surprise that Makmende has a number of catch-phrases to his credit, including:
· Makmende has no need for a watch, he decides what time it is.
· Makmende is so cool, Even his enemies list him as their emergency contact number
· Makmende uses viagra in his eyedrops, just to look hard;
· Makmende can never have a heart attack, his heart is not so foolish to attack him;
· Makmende doesn’t call 911, 911 calls him
Some lessons we learn from Makmende
Whether or not these traits can also be attributed in real-life to the talented actor, who portrays this fearless warrior and man of mystery is a moot point. What is rather more obvious is his meteoric rise to prominence highlights a number of important issues:
‘Viral’ Propagation of Content
Just-a-Band’s innovative use of the Internet in promoting Makmende tells us of the potential of ‘viral’ advertising or ‘viral’ marketing to increase brand awareness or product sales. It is said that Just-a-Band, whose second album, “82″, was one of the most popular releases in Kenya this year, had not planned any sort of online campaign for the video short of putting it on their Facebook page. As soon as the Band members saw Makmende jokes from fans online, they decided to do a Twitter and Facebook page for him. The rest, it seems, is history.
This, however, should come as no surprise. Within the last decade, it has become increasingly popular for people with no special technical background or technology to generate their own content and disseminate it widely through the use of video clips, images or text messages to reach audiences worldwide. Just-a-Band’s success with Makmende shows us that it is possible to build a brand or shape consumer tastes in music and other entertainment industries within a relatively short time through the interplay of Internet-based media and more traditional media, such as TV and media interviews. One clear lesson for our marketers, business educators (and perhaps even our policy-makers behind 'Brand Kenya') is to focus more attention on online marketing tools and their transformative effect on the practice of brand-building.
‘Information age business’ challenges
It could be that Makmende's success is really describing a quiet revolution in the way we could do business. As the world’s economy moves from one based on physical goods to one driven by information flow, Makmende's success could be telling us to closely analyze both the possibilities of, and barriers to, successfully running an “information age” business. Unconfirmed reports have it that the .com, .net and .org domain names for Makmende have all been snatched up by various people too, all seeing some opportunities, and that orders for Makmende T-Shirts with the most popular slogans are being advertised in several places on the net.
With all these considerations in mind, the question is how could entrepreneurs or small businesses protect themselves from detrimental acts by third parties (“information highway bandits”, if you will), which may ultimately destroy their brand. Makmende poses a unique challenge, owing to the name being a common slang word. There are however some intellectual property rights that Just-a- Band can claim over the name to deter would-be infringers.
Let us consider copyright law. Copyright basically protects artistic and literary property, as well as performing rights. Under copyright law, Just-a-Band would have exclusive rights to exercise or license television, film and video rights, Radio broadcasting in the form of a reading, adaptation or dramatization, live theatre rights, Strip cartoon rights (also known as picturization book rights), and merchandising rights. They would therefore claim copyright on all of their Makmende stories, videos and images, and on any further works on the character. But they cannot stop others from doing their own Makmende super hero (or heroine), and asserting copyright over those images, merchandise or websites.
The second form of IPR would come under trademark law. Makmende cannot be registered as a trade mark, chiefly because the name is not distinctive enough. But they could assert some exclusive control over the name by incorporating a logo into the Makmende word and register it. They could even register a service mark, comprising distinctive words, letters, numbers, drawings or pictures, colours, or a combination of any of the above. The procedures of registering service marks are similar to registering trademarks. But even where a mark is unregistered, Just-a-Band only has to look to the common law action of ‘passing-off’ to prevent infringement of his action. They would be required to show that there was goodwill or reputation in the mark, and that there was unauthorised use of their mark, which is eroding or causing damage to their mark.
Impacts of Social Media
Makmende's final lesson to us is this: the medium is message. Simply put, given that the success of the video highlights how widespread internet usage has become in Kenya, perhaps it is time to consider the effects of the Internet upon Kenyan society--beyond the impacts on business, democracy and poverty. A number of issues may be highlighted at this juncture.
First, the active role played by Kenyan bloggers in publicisng Makmende's name challenges us to rethink digital publishing. We may need to dissect the argument that the Internet has democratized publishing and made everyone a potential journalist. Some pertinent questions, then would be: (1) Is the Web truly more democratic, or does it reinforce 'older' ways of reporting in a new medium? (2) How do we maintain accuracy and accountability in reporting when anyone can claim to be a journalist? (3) Will the rise of digital publishing herald a waning influence of the mainstream media over public dialogue, and does it represent a net positive or negative for society?
A second issue concerns the new threats posed by the Internet. As reassuring as it may be that Makmende protects us from the bad guys 'out there', we should be concerned about getting the necessary regulatory framework, which supports socially acceptable uses of the Internet, while effectively addressing such threats as terrorism, fundamentalism or even pornography. These issues may sound far-fetched now, but as Kenya moves further into the information-age, concrete solutions are required.
Third, we do need to pay attention to how we can use ICT in mobilizing and giving voice to millions of people that are often excluded by the mainstream media. A case in point is in climate change governance. Can ICT play any role, say, in overcoming traditional obstacles to co-operation between states, in ways that capture the complexity of the ongoing climate change negotiations, while identifying potential leadership opportunities and alliance possibilities amongst influential NGOs, business organisations and states?
Finally, the modest entry on Wikipedia regarding Makmende--despite the hype elsewhere in the blogosphere or even in much of the mainstream Kenyan media--cautions us that much of the Internet is practically one vast cultural wasteland, ill-suited for the propagation of authentic Kenyan culture. We may share the use of the English language, but it gives no guarantee that Kenyans will successfully enshrine our landmarks of historical and cultural importance in the Internet. A simple illustration suffices: although Kenyan blogs generally attribute Makmende's origins to Chuck Norris, the official Wikipedia page attributes Makmende's origins to Clint Eastwood's famous 'make my day' statement. These words, by the way, are more associated with his character Dirty Harry's gun-slinging prowess than with any martial arts skills we ever did see from him. That aside, whom should we believe: the (presumably) Kenyan bloggers, or the anonymous hand that penned that entry on Wikipedia? This disconnect, as ostensibly innocuous as it may be, should warn us that the topics covered in the English Wikipedia may not necessarily reflect Kenyan culture, or what information and news is received from Kenya.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
5.223 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
4.863 billion kWh (2008 est.)
58.3 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports:
22.5 million kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption
75,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports:
7,270 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports:
80,530 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
Hydroelectric power - production:
3.25 billion kwh (2006)
Hydroelectric power - consumption:
3.25 billion kwh (2006)
Coal - production:
0 million short tons (2006)
Coal - consumption:
0.154 million short tons (2006)
There have been various reports about the discovery of commercial quantities of coal in Eastern Kenya and talks with China to build a railway line for transportation of the coal from the region. (Afrik.com)
Wind farm in the Ngong hills on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya
No nuclear power plants. Very little solar.
(CIA: The World Factbook, hydro-US EIA, coal-US EIA, nuclear-US EIA, US EIA Energy Profile)