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.