Saturday, November 30, 2019

MANUFACTURING PILLAR OF THE BIG FOUR AGENDA IS ACHIEVABLE.



The KNBS released the results of the 2019 Kenya Housing and Population Census just recently. Zachary Mwangi, the Director General of KNBS, read the summary of the results at a function which was held at State House. This is before giving the president an opportunity to speak.

In his speech, the president keenly noted that the mobile devices which were used in the 2019 Kenya Housing and Population Census were assembled by our local universities. He also noted that the data capture software used during the census was internally developed by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. This is great progress.

This shows that we are transiting to become a country that utilizes its skilled labour for innovation. This is in line with one of the pillars of the Big Four Agenda which is enhancing manufacturing from 9.2% to 20% of GDP by 2022.

According to the Economic Survey 2019 by KNBS, Kenya’s manufacturing sector grew by 4.2% in 2018 compared to 0.5% in 2017. Just recently, Moi University unveiled locally assembled laptops and computers. This is not forgetting the popular Taifa Laptops by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.


It is important to also applaud our country, since we are now manufacturing our own cars. We have vehicles written ‘made in Kenya’ on them. Our local brand of vehicles is called Mobius Motors. The best we can do is support our local brand of cars by preferring to buy Kenyan.

However, what we need to do is mind the welfare of our people. The Economic Survey 2019 by KNBS points out that in the year 2018, our GDP grew by 6.3%. GDP refers to the total value of finished goods and services produced within the boundaries of a country in a specific period of time usually one year.

The tragedy of using GDP as a measure of economic growth is that even if only few people are producing the goods and services in a country, it is assumed that the total population is doing well. There is a difference between economic growth and economic development. The difference is that economic growth solely focuses on the increase of the GDP but economic development focuses on both the increase of the GDP and the welfare of the people. By welfare, I mean the living standards and general well-being of the people.

It is time for us to emphasise more on economic development. Our people are crying about joblessness (especially the youth) and the high cost of living.

We should also make sure that we maximize producing what we are good at. It is sad that our country is importing maize from Uganda and Tanzania. To make matters worse, we are even importing poultry products from Uganda. If we utilize Nakuru, which has a favourable climate for poultry farming, Kenya can become Africa’s leading exporter of poultry products.

The journey towards achieving the manufacturing pillar of the Big Four Agenda is proceeding well. However, we should tighten the screws when it comes to producing what we are best at. Concurrently, we must put more emphasis on making the welfare of our people better.

WRITTEN BY,
FANON KIHU.
Mr. Kihu is an economist and founder of The Bizconomist Journal. frantzkih@gmail.com



Sunday, October 20, 2019

A UNITED AFRICA



The recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa are a good example of blacks who have been incited against one another. Tough economic conditions have been instigated against the black South Africans. Therefore, they are forced to channel their frustrations on their fellow Africans who have come to live or do business in their country.

During apartheid, 85% of the arable land in South Africa was held by whites. After African National Congress came into power in 1994, it promised to redistribute 35% of the land within 5 years. However, 25% years later they have only managed to distribute about 8%. This is according to an article written in the New Yorker by Ariel Levy.

The whites own majority of the land in South Africa. This is despite the fact that 79.6% of the population in South Africa is black, according to the South African National Census of 2011.

This appears to be the sequence in other sectors of the economy as well. The blacks in South Africa have been sidelined from opportunities in their motherland. In education for example, according to the World Education Service 689 508 Africans were enrolled in the public higher education in the year 2013. The total population of Africans in South Africa was estimated to be 42,284,132. 

Therefore, in proportion to the total population of Africans 1.63% were admitted into the public higher education. The number of whites enrolled in the year 2013 was 171,927. The total population of white South Africans was estimated to be 4,602,386. Therefore, 3.74% of the white population in proportion to the total white South African population was admitted in the public higher education.
Therefore, in proportion to their respective total populations, the whites are leading in admission in the public higher education. This is despite South Africa boasting of having some of the best universities in Africa. According to the World University Rankings 2019, South Africa’s University of Cape Town was the only university in Africa in the top 200 best universities in the world. It was ranked at position 200.

South Africa is just an example of a country in Africa whose resources are being enjoyed by the white man whose mother country is in Europe. This is as the original inhabitants, the black men, anguish in unbearable economic conditions.

The enemy is not fellow Africans but the white man. Therefore, there is need for Africa to unite as one unit. We need to guard our borders and unite as one people- an African people. We also need to wink at our African brothers and sisters in other continents to come back to their homeland- Africa. Then we shut our boundaries to strangers who are here to exploit our resources.

We are the most endowed continent with resources yet ironically our countries are ranked as poor or undeveloped. We are the richest in minerals. Botswana has one of the largest diamond mines in the world. Mali, Ghana, Burkana Faso and others are among the most endowed with gold. When it comes to petroleum, we have Nigeria which is heavily endowed in it. For copper, we have South Africa and Zambia who are leading globally in its production.

When it comes to agriculture, our soil is the best. Kenya is among the leading exporters of tea and coffee in the world. When it comes to tourism, Africa still provides the best scenery. We have the likes of Mt. Kenya, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the Egyptian Pyramids among many others.

When it comes to talents, Africa is the most endowed. It is the home of great writers like Margaret Ogola and Ngugi wa Thiong’o. The global music industry is also dominated by blacks. This is right from Michael Jackson to our very own Sauti Sol here in Kenya. In Africa, we also have the best thinkers e.g. Dr. Mary Kinyanjui who came up with the Ubuntu economic model. In acting and drama, we have Nollywood which has taken over the scene.

When it comes to language, we have Kiswahili which has since become an international language. Therefore, what is preventing us from shutting our borders to keep away scavengers of our resources?
Africa needs to stand as one unit. We have all that takes to sustain ourselves. This is the only thing that will solve the problems that Africa and its people face.

BY,
FANON KIHU
The writer is soon launching his book titled “Africa as One”.  frantzkih@gmail.com.





PERHAPS WE SHOULD GO BACK TO BARTER TRADE.


The old Ksh.1000 note ceased to be legal tender after 30th September this year. This is following an announcement by the Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge on Madaraka Day in reference to a Gazette Notice issued on 31st May earlier this year.

Among the reasons he gave for the demonetization was that a lot fake currency was in circulation. Some economists argued that it was a move aimed at fighting corruption. Both fake currency dealings and corruption should be discouraged. They have negative implications on both the general welfare and code of conduct of the society. To understand how detrimental this is it’s important to first catch a glimpse at how money came to be.

Previously, people used to exchange goods and services for other goods and services- barter trade. It reached a point where many people decided to focus on what they are good at producing. If you are a good potter you would focus on producing pots and nothing else. The principle where people focus on production in their areas of strength leaving others to produce the rest is known as division of labor.

With division of labor intensifying, it became difficult to exchange a good or a service for another good or service. This is because a potter and a tailor would for example; want to acquire bread from the baker. However, the baker would already have enough pots and clothes thus, making the exchange impossible.

People started preferring to use commodities as the common medium of exchange. Among the commodities that were most preferred were cattle, salt and shells. Then slowly, metals became the most preferred. These include iron, copper, gold and silver. This is because metals could be stored without loss and could be easily divided into smaller pieces. This gave birth to usage of public stamps and coinage. As a result, mints were put up. In order to understand this better you can read The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

It is important to point out that the fact that it was difficult to find people with matching needs made it necessary to introduce a common medium of exchange, money, accepted by all. Therefore, previously you had to have a good or service you are offering for you to exchange it for another good or service.

However, with the introduction of money you offer the coins and notes to get a good or service. Therefore, if you steal a lot of money it means that you can offer it in exchange for goods and services. You will not need to work again because the stolen money will be enough to ensure that services and goods will be provided to you. This means that as an individual, you will not have offered any service or good in exchange of what is being offered to you, because you stole the money. Therefore, technically speaking you are not of value to the society because you have nothing to offer. You only stole or faked the medium of exchange and now others are offering their services and goods to you.

Perhaps, we should go back to barter trade. Here, it was hard to fake it and get away with it. This is because you were required to produce an actual good or service in exchange of what was being offered to you. However, it is important to note that even Marxist economists who are considered the most radical are against moving backwards in matters technology.

All the same, it is detrimental to have cases like the most recent of Prof. Mary Walingo, the VC of Maasai Mara University who was involved in corruption at the university. It ruins the morality of our society because it discourages university graduates from using the skills acquired from the university and to instead follow the footsteps of the corrupt Vice Chancellor. The latest corruption scandals including at the Kenya Revenue Authority and the Treasury are equally treacherous.

We should think of going back to barter trade. More value was being created here. This is because people were actually toiling to produce goods and services in order to exchange them for others. This is as opposed to stealing or faking the medium of exchange and having services and goods given to them without any toil, as is the case now.

WRITTEN BY,
FANON KIHU.
Mr. Kihu is an economist and founder of The Bizconomist Journal. frantzkih@gmail.com.
The Bizconomist Journal is now available in Amazon.

Friday, September 20, 2019

THE MAKING OF A KIKUYU ELDER IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

 

The making of the Gikuyu elder in the 21st century raises question in regard to the relevance of the cultural institution in the era of gender equity, nation state and globalization. But on the 31st of August 2019 a big ceremony was held to inaugurate Thiongo wa Gitau as a leader of the Agikuyu community in Nyamweru Seconday School, Lari, Kiambu County. Thiong’o wa Gitau age 65 years was installed as the muthamaki of the Agikuyu community at a ceremony. He joins other three Agikuyu Athamaki. His position was accorded by members of Kiama after a thorough scrutiny of his character and behaviour both in the public and in private spaces.  He was made the leader of the Athuri a kiama  kia ma translated as, the elders of the authentic council of elders. The ceremony was well attended by the Agikuyu from all over the world including from diaspora. Governor Francis Kimemia of Nyandarua  and woman rep of Kiambu Gathoni wa Muchomba were also in attendance.

 

The Agikuyu people have their cultural structure. Their council of elders is called kiama kiama. The council of elders selects one of them to be their king or muthamaki. The person selected becomes the king of the entire Agikuyu community. This is the overall traditional leader of the Agikuyu. Thiong’o wa Gitau is the 4th king.

The ceremony to crown the king is called matathi. The Kiama has a constitution that defines the code of ethics and behavior that male members of the community should adhere to. Prosperity, peace and tranquility are the main objectives of the kiama. According to the Kikuyu tradition matathi means a gift given to a muthuri  (a man)by the Kiama. The man does not vouch to be made muthamaki. It is the spirit of honesty, faith, patriotism and prayerfulness in him that makes him be given the mantle.

The council of elders is composed of elders, respectable men, from the entire Agikuyu community. These are from regions such as Nyeri, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a and Nyandarua among others. The elders of each region choose their own chairman to represent them. For example, we have chairman of Nyeri, chairman of Murang’a etc. These chairmen now have one of their own as the National Chairman. Then the overall head of this structure is the muthamaki or king.

Gacheru Macharia, the Chairman Kiama Kiama Murang’a, spoke to us. He pointed out that the social importance of the ceremony was to reinforce the Kikuyu culture among his people. Because of internationalization and intermarriages, it became necessary to cement the Kikuyu culture among the community’s children.

 He also pointed out that westernization had eroded the Kikuyu culture especially among the youth. This is in areas such as indecent dressing among others. This, Gacheru pointed out, was a sign of young people not conversant with the Kikuyu traditional way of doing things. He also said that reinforcing the Kikuyu culture among its people would help in fighting retrogressive behaviors like alcoholism and drug abuse within the community.

“I am not just the muthamaki of Kiambu alone but of the Agikuyu all over the world. I am ready to tour from Nyeri to Mombasa to serve all the Kikuyu,” Thiong’o wa Gitau said in his speech.  He also pointed out that there is need to advise the Kikuyu boy child accordingly. This will ensure that values such as hard work are instilled. Traditionally, the Kikuyu man never looked at what was owned by the father but would go out and work hard to acquire his own property. The muthamaki also told women to guide their daughters. The aim being to remember the Kikuyu community which has suffered dislocation and dismemberment by the many years of colonialism and neoliberalism as evidenced by the high rate of mental health issues and drug abuse.

The ceremony symbolizes the significance of culture to its people. It also triggers Africans to rethink their position globally, as a people, as they uphold their roots.

WRITTEN BY,

DR. MARY KINYANJUI .     marykinyanjui@yahoo.com.

&

FANON KIHU.                frantzkih@gmail.com.

 

 

Monday, September 9, 2019

LINKING UNIVERSITIES TO INDUSTRY.

 

The cabinet secretary for education in Kenya, Prof George Magoha, has repeatedly emphasized on the importance of connecting our local universities to industry. He has spoken about this in numerous platforms such as the state of higher education held some time back.

The Federation of Kenyan Employers has also on several occasions, complained about graduates from our local universities not being adequately prepared for the job market. The University Standards and Guidelines 2014 also demands that courses offered by the university be as practical oriented as possible. Therefore, we cannot escape from coming up with practical ways of ensuring universities are linked to industry. This will is important in enhancing the relevance of programs offered by university and increasing the competitiveness of our graduates.

The first way would be to strategically bring people with wide industry work experience to give lectures at the university. They should give lectures in units or courses that require practical input. In Kenya, the retirement age is 60 years. However, it may vary as stipulated in the Public Service Commission Act 2017. We can tap into the many years of industry experience of this retired lot by bringing them on board to give a practical input on university programs.

However, this opportunity should be extended to those currently in industry as well. Concurrently, care must be taken to ensure that both those from the public and private sector are invited. This will ensure that university students get the best of both worlds.

The second way is to ensure that student clubs and societies at the university have relevant people in industry as their patrons. This is in addition to their lecturers. For example, a student club in accounting can have three patrons that is, a key person in ICPAK as their patron to represent the public sector, an accountant working with KPMG to represent the private sector and a lecturer of accounting at that university.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that in our country, the informal sector is growing at a faster rate than the formal sector. The Economic Survey 2019 by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reveals that from the year 2017 to 2018, the number of people engaged in the formal sector grew by 2.8% (inclusive of self-employed and unpaid family workers) against a growth of 5.4% in the informal sector. The economic survey also points out that 83.6% of the total employment in our country is in the informal sector.

Therefore, it is only natural that many university graduates may either willingly or unwillingly find themselves working in the informal sector. This is in jobs which require relatively low capital to start e.g. kiosks. However, it is important that we find a way of recognizing this lot.

Take for example, a student who graduated with a bachelor of statistics degree but was unable to get a job. This graduate decided to purchase a camera and has been doing small scale photography for five years since he/she graduated. However, a statistics job crops up in either the public or private sector. He decides to apply for the job. How is he/she going to account for the five years he/she was doing photography in his/her Curriculum Vitae?

Therefore, it is time our local universities found a way of recognizing skills obtained outside the conventional training paths. This is already happening in Belgium. However, journals especially those concentrating on business and economic issues have a role to play. They should offer certificates of recognition to some of the outstanding personalities in the informal sector. This is apart from using them as case studies in their research work. The Bizconomist Journal is already doing this. This will help validate our informal sector and change its outlook to become more attractive.

We cannot dispute the importance of linking our universities to industry. We can do so by engaging those with industry experiencing to give lectures on courses/units requiring industry input and making sure that student clubs and societies have people in industry as their patrons. This will boost the preparedness of university students to the job market. Concurrently, our universities and journals should validate and recognize skills obtained outside conventional teaching especially in the informal sector.

BY,                                                                                                 

FANON KIHU

Mr. Kihu is the founder of The Bizconomist Journal and is an economist. frantzkih@gmail.com.

JOBLESS YOUTH HAVE THEMSELVES TO BLAME.

 

Unemployment is rampant among the youth. That explains why when the opportunity arose, to work as census officials in the ongoing Kenya Population and Housing Census, many youth applied. In areas such as Kangemi, there were demonstrations when the youth residing in the area were not selected as census enumerators.

Just recently, the story of Kelvin Ochieng’ was aired on TV. This is the story of a jobless Actuarial Science graduate who scored First Class Honors and now lives in Mathare Slums. He also scored straight As in his final exam in high school and in his primary school final exams as well. If you were a high school student during Kelvin’s time every teacher would say to you “Read hard like Kelvin”. Kelvin is now washing vehicles for a living.

Some time back I came across the story of Sam Gachini , a taxi driver, who is pursuing PhD. Mr. Sam was saying that he is jobless and hopes to work for the government or private sector. The case of Kevin and Ochieng’ represent the many educated youth who think they are entitled to jobs in big corporations with mouth-watering salaries attached.

We need to shift from the mindset that being employed means to work in a big corporation in a beautiful town somewhere. A job is a job regardless of whether it is white or blue collar. Once, the youth graduate from colleges and university they should put their certificates aside and enter the school of life. In the school of life, your academic qualifications can only facilitate your success but are not the primary determinants of the heights you will reach.

Therefore, regardless of whether you have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s, you should fold your sleeves and embark on any job that comes your way. If you are washing cars, do that job passionately. One satisfied customer will refer another one to you and soon you will have your own company. Apart from being CEO, you will employ others. You are not tied to the course you studied in university or college e.g. if you study accounting in school it doesn’t mean that the only job you can do is accounting-related. You can operate that taxi business and use your accounting skills to count the profits you get and prepare the books of accounts needed.

If you studied marketing at the university and you do not get a job in the corporate sector, you can decide to roast maize by the roadside. You can use the marketing skills you learnt at the university to attract customers to buy your roasted maize.

It would also be prudent to look for areas where skills in your course could be applied. If you have graduated with bachelors in commerce for example, why not work your way into being a high school teacher in business and mathematics yet it’s everywhere in the papers that our country is in need of more teachers due to the 100% transition from primary school to secondary school? The youth have to embrace existentialism.

With this in mind then, if you are a youth in Kenya and you are jobless then you have yourself alone to blame. This culture of reading for the sole purpose of getting a job also needs to stop. If you meet a university student and ask them how many books outside their school work they have read that month alone, you will be surprised at the response you will get. The majority will tell you casually that they have read none. However, they are very much aware of where the next party/ ‘bash’ will be.

In our schools majority of the students only concern themselves with reading what will be examined. The ones in universities only want to read and get a job and that is it. You would think that they own the companies they hope to work in. You would also think that the world is waiting for them to get a degree so that it can pause to celebrate them as if they are first ones to graduate. What happened to reading for merely intellectual growth? Where you pursue a course/ degree just to get in touch with new ideas and be exposed to different approaches to life.

In conclusion, we need to broaden our perspective of what jobs are. Secondly, the youth need to drop that sense of entitlement to specific jobs. Lastly, we need to stop reading in order to solely get jobs and do so in order to expand our perspective of life and the challenges that it presents.

                                                                                   

BY,

FANON KIHU.

Mr. Kihu is an economist and founder of The Bizconomist Journal. frantzkih@gmail.com.

 

 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

LET’S INCORPORATE SHENG INTO OUR EDUCATION CURRICULUM





Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o was recently the chief guest at a book launch at USIU-Africa. The book that was being launched is Ngugi Reflections on his life of writing by Prof Simon Gikandi and Prof Ndirangu Wachanga. During his speech, Prof. Ngugi spoke about the beauty of every language. He pointed out that every language has its unique musicality that they are like music instruments. One language will compare to a guitar, another to a piano and the other to a flute.

Therefore, there is no hierarchy of languages. No language is superior to another because each has an independent musicality. One cannot claim a piano to be superior to a guitar for example.

Sheng has its musicality too. Some prefer to call it the vernacular of Kiswahili whereas, others call it street language. Many Kiswahili writers and scholars e.g. Ken Walibora have waged war against sheng in their various works. They find it a threat to Kiswahili. However, it is not a threat because it is a language on its own with a musicality different from Kiswahili’s.

Sheng is the language that distinguishes Nairobi City from any other city in Kenya and the world. When you dispense with sheng and the matatu culture then Nairobi is left with no heritage or tradition to celebrate.

Life in Nairobi city is tough. This is because unlike the rural areas where you plant food, harvest and eat, in Nairobi you buy almost everything including food. Those who own plots can practice small scale farming but most of the food is grown in rural areas and brought into the city.

Majority of the population lives in rental houses. The city hosts people who mainly sell their skills/services for survival. This is because many companies and corporations are located here making it attractive for the clique searching for employment.  The high cost of living makes it difficult to speak in fluent Kiswahili. The hustle and bustle of the city also makes it rather difficult to speak in fluent English. The tongue becomes sluggish and opts for something in between.

This combined with the fact that many residents have an indigenous language gives rise to sheng. It is a mixture of Kiswahili, English and indigenous languages. For example, a plan in sheng is called radar or mutaratara. Radar is borrowed from English language and mutaratara from Kikuyu.

Sheng is popular among Nairobians. This ranges from touts, traders, musicians, comedians and residents. Even in universities many skits and literary works are performed in sheng. Therefore, I predict a time when it will be necessary to offer a degree program dubbed Bachelor of Sheng if our institutions of higher learning will want to remain relevant to the community around especially Nairobi residents. This is considering that many main campuses of our leading universities are in Nairobi or along Nairobi-Thika Superhighway. e.g. University of Nairobi, USIU-Africa, KCA University, JKUAT etc.

Indigenous languages have been accorded importance in the new Competency Based Curriculum. This is according to the Basic Education Curriculum Framework 2017. This is a good step towards decolonizing the mind. However, we cannot leave sheng behind.

We have children who were born in the city. They are not familiar with their indigenous African languages. They have been socialized by the city life into speaking sheng. It serves as their mother tongue. It would be wrong to ignore this lot.

Currently we have websites showcasing the sheng dictionary. Some literary journals have published content in sheng e.g. Kwani? We have radio stations e.g. ghetto radio also airing content in sheng. Therefore, there is no better time to incorporate it into our education curriculum than now.

Sheng doesn’t threaten the existence of other languages. It is popular in Nairobi which hosts the main campuses of many of our leading universities. Therefore, our universities may have to introduce courses teaching sheng in future.  It also serves as the mother tongue of children who were born in Nairobi City and don’t know their indigenous languages. It is therefore, necessary to incorporate sheng in the competency based curriculum as well.


WRITTEN BY,

FANON KIHU.

Mr. Kihu is an economist based in Nairobi and founder of The Bizconomist Journal. frantzkih@gmail.com.