Category Archives: housekeeping

Agriculture not only improves Food Security but creates Wealth for Africans

An open letter to African Union Heads of State by Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the United Nations rural development agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Judging from the daily outpouring of commentary, opinions and reports, you would think that there were two African continents. One of them is the new land of opportunity, with seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, offering limitless possibilities to investors. There is, however, this other image: a starving and hopeless continent, hungry and poor, corrupt and prey to foreign exploiters.
As Africans, we are tired of caricatures. But we are also tired of waiting. Waiting to be led toward the one Africa we all want: the Africa that can and should be. We know the real Africa, filled with possibilities, dignity and opportunities, able to face its challenges and solve them from within. Never has the time been more right for us to finally realize our full potential. It is within our grasp.
As a scientist, I am always interested in facts. Africa is a land rich in resources, which has enjoyed some of the highest economic growth rates on the planet. It is home to 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. And it has seen foreign direct investment triple over the past decade.
As the head of an institution whose business is investing in rural people, I know that you also need vision and imagination. At the International Fund for Agricultural Development we have banked on the poorest, most marginalized people in the world, and over and over again these investments have paid off. For people, for communities, for societies. And more than half of the people we invest in are Africans.
More than 10 years have passed since the Maputo Declaration, in which you, as African leaders, committed to allocating at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture and rural development – key sectors in the drive to cut poverty, build inclusive growth and strengthen food security and nutrition.
Today, just seven countries have fulfilled the Maputo commitment consistently, while some others have made steps in the right direction. Ten years is a long time to wait. In less time I have seen projects turn desert into farmland.
In just a few days in Malabo at the 23rd African Union Summit, I will join those of you, African leaders, who will gather to discuss this year’s focus of agriculture and food security. This is my call: Don’t just promise development, deliver it, make it happen now. Make real, concrete progress toward investment that reaches all Africans. Investments that prioritize rural people.
Our biggest resource is our people. To squander this is worse than wasteful. If we don’t act now, by 2030 Africa will account for 80% of the world’s poor. Is this the legacy that we want to leave for future generations?
The AU declared 2014 as the year of Agriculture and Food Security. And this is the year we look beyond the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals to a post-2015 world with new goals and targets to reach. I hope that this means that we will be dedicating ourselves fully to making agriculture a priority. GDP growth due to agriculture has been estimated to be five times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector, and in sub-Saharan Africa, up to 11 times. Ironically, it is countries that lack lucrative extractive industries and that have had to invest in agriculture who have found out what is now an open secret: agriculture not only improves food security but creates wealth. Small family farmers in some parts of our continent contribute as much as 80% of food production. Investing in poor rural people is both good economics and good ethics.
A full 60% of our people depend wholly or partly on agriculture for their livelihoods, and the vast majority of them live below the poverty line. It’s not pity and handouts that they need. It’s access to markets and finance, land tenure security, knowledge and technology, and policies that favour small farms and make it easier for them to do business. A thriving small farm sector helps rural areas retain the young people who would otherwise be driven to migrate to overcrowded cities where they face an uncertain future. Investing in agriculture reinforces not only food security, but security in general.
In an Africa where 20 states are classified as fragile and 28 countries need food assistance, the need for a real rural transformation backed by investment and not just words is critical – I have often said that declarations don’t feed people.
Investments must be focused on smallholder family farms. Small farms make up 80% of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa. And contrary to conventional wisdom, small farms are often more productive than large farms. For example, China’s 200 million small farms cover only 10% of the world’s agricultural land but produce 20% of the world’s food. The average African farm, however, is performing at only about 40% of its potential. Simple technologies – such as improved seeds, irrigation and fertilizer – could triple productivity, triggering transformational growth in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that irrigation alone could increase output by up to 50% in Africa.  Rural areas also need the right investments in infrastructure – roads, energy, storage facilities, social and financial services – and enabling policies backed by appropriate governance structures that ensure inclusiveness.
If we look at the countries that have met the Maputo commitment, we see that investing in agriculture works. Given that agriculture has become lucrative for private investors, and about 60% of the planet’s available uncultivated agricultural land is in Africa, there is no mystery why we hear about so-called ‘land grabs’. Opportunity draws foreign investors. There is nothing wrong with foreign investment. But it has to be managed, to the benefit of all.
What is a mystery is why, with such a vast potential and a young population just waiting for a reason to seize it, our African leaders do not announce that they will redouble their efforts to drive an inclusive rural transformation, with concrete commitments, that will make Maputo a reality. I hope that after the Malabo meeting, that will be a mystery no longer.
African economies have grown impressively. But it is time to stop focussing on GDP figures and instead focus on people. The majority of our people are engaged in agriculture, and the neglect of that sector must stop if we really want to realize the healthy, peaceful and food secure Africa that we know can be. It is not a dream; it is a responsibility.

Idea Exchange: Bank, Literature, Journalism, Opportunities, and Win a Free Phone

The Africa AgriBusiness Challenge from Enactus Kenya and Syngenta seeks out youth to generate creative business ideas to improve the agricultural productivity of certain crop value chains. Deadline is June 10.

The 2014 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship will have five awards to celebrate entrepreneurs at different stages of the entrepreneurial life cycle; lifetime achievement, transformational business, outstanding mature business, outstanding growing business and outstanding social entrepreneur.

The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. Details here .. via @calestous.

@AfriCOG Investigative Journalism Fellowship Programme 2014. Deadline is 30 May. 

Anthemis Fellowship seeks out entrepreneurs, executives and thought leaders who are passionate about building an improved financial services industry fit for the digital age. The Anthemis Fellowship program includes 4 months at the Anthemis London office, 4 months with one of their portfolio companies and 4 months with a major financial services firm. It also comes with a monthly stipend of EUR2000 and an invitation to attend the Anthemis #HackingFinance Retreat from July 10-13, 2014 in Meribel, France. Deadline is June 1. 

@APO_Source has had a scholarship for an African journalist to to attend the 2014 annual meetings of the African Development Bank.

Bloomberg Africa ‏@BBGAfrica – seeks Swaziland, Eritrea, Djibouti, G.Bissau, Cape Verde, Eq. Guinea, Sao Tome stringers – Please e-mail asguazzin@bloomberg.net

Citi Africa Management Associate Programme Citi in Africa is  looking for ambitious graduates with strong academic backgrounds, maximum of two years’ work experience, leadership, teamwork, and excellent communication skills.

The 2014 CNN/MultiChoice African Journalist Awards will recognise excellence in culture, economics & business (NEW), energy & infrastructure (NEW), environment, health & medical, news impact (NEW), photography, press freedom, sports, language general news, Francophone news and also Portuguese news. Details here and the deadline is 30 May.

EABL Foundation scholarships for needy students who have gained admission to Kenya public universities. Deadline is June 6. 

Etisalat Prize 2014 for African literature is now open with a top prize of £15,000 and a fellowship at the University of East Anglia, while winner and shortlisted writers also receive a sponsored two city tour promoting their books. Details here and the deadline is 8 August.

The Golden Baobab Prizes for Literature include awards for a picture Book (targeting readers aged 6 – 8 years), early chapter (targeting readers aged 9 -11) and rising writers (for a young African author under the age of 18 who demonstrates the talent and drive to become the next great African author for children). Details here and the deadline is June 29.

Jalada / @KwaniTrust seek 3 best Afrofuture submissions for a second anthology. Deadline is D/L 15

Japan Government scholarships  in research, teacher training, technology, and specialized training .. via @njathika

Want to be a Jameson brand ambassador? Here’s how to apply (via @uqweli ) oops – deadline also passed.

KCB: The region’s largest bank has ongoing internships, management trainee and management exchange programs. Sourced from @RookieKE blog.
 
Kenya Revenue Authority –  KRA graduate trainee program 2014

The Kenya StartUp Cup is open to all Kenyan youth entrepreneurs who can apply to win Kshs 1 million (~$11,500). Details from the @prepaid_africa blog and the deadline is May 20.

KenyaTop100 seeks successful companies with turnover of Kshs 70 million to Kshs 1 billion (~$12,000)  with 3 years audited accounts to compete and be among @kenyastop100 

Kijabe Forest Trust @KijabeForest  is seeking a new logo design.

Kuona Trust has internship opportunities for students at their offices in Hurlingham, Nairobi. 


The Kwani Trust 2014 fiction workshop seeks to develop new contemporary fiction writers between the ages of 18 and 24 and from outside of Nairobi. To apply, check the website, and send email to submissions_at_kwani.org by May 26.

Orange  has launched the 4th edition of the Orange African Social Venture Prize which will award prizes to four projects; three with grants of 10,000 EUR, 15,000 EUR and 25,000 EUR, and a new special prize of 10,000 EUR. It’s open to all entrepreneurs or legal entities that has been in existence for fewer than three years at the time of the competition and the deadline is 19 September.

Power Africa Off Grid Energy Challenge from @USADF and @GeneralElectric Africa offers up to $100,000 to 100% African owned and African managed firms that seek to power up under-served parts of rural Kenya. Deadline is June 20.  

School of Data: Become a School of Data Fellow as they are currently broadening their efforts to spread data skills around the world, and are seeking people who are data savvy, understand the role of NGO’s, are interested or experienced in working with journalism and/or civil society, or enjoy community-building.  Deadline is 1 June.


Standard Chartered Bank Fast Track Program: The bank is looking for young graduates to join their management trainee program in several African countries, including Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and several international locations. Sourced from @RookieKE blog

 
The Stanford University Africa MBA Fellowship Program pays for tuition and associated fees (approximately US $145,000) for citizens of African countries with financial need who wish to obtain an MBA at Stanford GSB. Stanford will award up to eight Stanford Africa MBA Fellowships annually. Details here and the deadline is 13 June.


Strathmore University @StrathU scholarships from @imbankke for 10 needy students pursuing various Finance related degree programmes.

Swedish Institute Management Programme‏ The Swedish Institute is launching a new leadership programme for progressive leaders from Kenya,Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Zambia – offering a combination of theory and practice in the area of responsible leadership and sustainable business.  Details here and the deadline is June 6.

Total Kenya Graduate Management Trainee Program. The company was is looking for young dynamic graduates.  Also sourced from @RookieKE blog but the deadline was 7 May  
The Wall Street Journal @WSJ looking for entrepreneurial reporter to cover the most entrepreneurial of Africa beats–business, from Nairobi. Apply to @pwonacott

Submit your wikimedia proposals to be included at Wiki Indaba 2014 in Johannesburg. Details here and the deadline is 15 May.
The World Bank Young Professionals Program 2014 seeks highly qualified and motivated individuals skilled in areas relevant to the World Bank’s operations such as, economics, finance, education, public health, social sciences, engineering, urban planning, and natural resource management. Details here and the deadline is 30 June.
 
Win a Nokia Lumia 1320: There are very few comments on the blog here despite the number of daily readers, and many of the comments are from spammers promoting products from far off countries. To stimulate comments, I’m giving away a brand new Nokia Lumia 1320 phone (worth about $400/Kshs 35,000) to the person who engages the most on the site. The phone was an excellent, but unexpected, prize awarded to the winner of the best business blog at the recent 2014 Kenya Blog Awards ceremony. During the month of May, readers to the blog and it’s archives, can make as many comments as they want, and I’ll respond on some. 
Rules 
1. There are no rules about winning.
2. It’s about serious comments, not volume – and blog comments only, not tweets/tags
3. This is personal, and the promo has nothing to do with Nokia  or Nokia East Africa.
4. @Coldtusker is excluded 🙁
5.
An announcement will be made on June 14, and there may not be a winner  if no one is deemed to be worthy.

Win #NationHela Cards

Prepaid cards are really useful these days as there’s so much you can buy on your phone or computer – such as purchases from app stores, online book stores and deal of the day sites. The best things about the cards like NationHela is that they only take money that you have, and send you an immediate alert on the remaining available balance by SMS. 

This is unlike with credit cards, which, if you’re not careful, your purchases will creep up and hit you with a surprise when you see the bill a few weeks later. Yes, a few purchases of $3.99 and $9.99 items won’t seem like much until you get a bill that is in Kshs ‘000 shillings.

NationHela has two cards to give away – each loaded with Kshs 2,000 (~$24). To win the first, leave a comment on what you think is the best feature of NationHela or a prepaid card, and for the second, leave a comment suggesting how NationHela can improve. 

Blogging in 2013

Top blog posts in 2013

1. Consumer Guide on Solar for Homes
2. Kenya Bank Rankings 2012 (Part I) 
3. Kenyan M&A
4. Private Equity Moment
5. Subway (Restaurants) to Kenya
6. Why Unit Trusts are better than Bank Savings Accounts
7. Chama Management 101  (a book review
8. Paypal in Kenya
9. Base Titanium aims to be a model for the Kenya mining sector
10 Buyouts, Vultures, Divestments

So lot’s of interest in reading up merger and investment activity in Kenya this year, but, overall, the top posts visited were Safaricom/CBA launch M-Shwari and Who Created M-Pesa  both published in 2012.

Tablet for Business Tales: Part I

How do you introduce someone who’s watched the new world of tablets, launched with the first iPad, go by very rapidly and evolve into many stronger models three years later – and who does not believe in them? Very gently…!

Despite the prevalence of iPads and other tablets at conferences, on the TV news, and even around Nairobi,  I still have not met anyone, other than @Wanyama, who uses a tablet productively as their main business device.

I recently got a generous offer to review the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 (Model GT-N5100) from Samsung Kenya after the recent 2013 Kenyan Blog Awards in which Samsung was a sponsor.

The first order of business was to get a SIM card, and that was at Safaricom who also cut the card down to micro-SIM size with a special stapler. It’s also very easy to switch the Note from Safaricom, to a Wi-Fi when you find a signal, and save on some money. I also bought a Micro SD card, but when it came to getting a hard shell/case for the Note that took a bit longer. I went to several shops, who all had a variety of 7″ and 10″ cases, and this is a new size in the market at 8″ (the Note is aimed at Apple’s new iPad mini), but eventually, I found one at Fone Express.

Need to invest in larger Suit Jacket pockets

Another challenge was portability of the Note. It does not seem to fit in many jacket pockets, but larger pockets are something one should request from a tailor when ordering a suit in the future!

Tablet’s are about apps, and there is a Google Play Store and a separate Samsung Store that I’ve not really tried. In the first month, from the Google one, I downloaded several apps I was familiar with such as:

– Evernote (great when you take notes on different devices like laptop’s or mobile phone and sync) and Adobe Reader

– Waze, Ma3Route and Ushahidi for Nairobi traffic updates

– Skype for communications

– The New York Times, Bloomberg, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal for news

– DSTV to see programming highlights

– Tried out several simple farming applications to track farm inputs and sales.

Road Bump: Swype is a nifty program that makes typing faster in touch screen devices. It costs $0.99 and I was able to buy it from the Google store (which also prices paid apps in Kenya Shillings) after I added my credit card details. However, when I uploaded Swype, I found that I could not access the tablet as there was no keyboard to Swype/type in my access password on the top screen.

I spent a few days going back and forth with the Swype (online) and then Samsung (in Nairobi) teams without success and I had no choice but to go for the most radical option – which was to wipe out the tablet.  This seems to be a common issue in the tablet world in which people are constantly adding and deleting apps, some of which don’t work properly, or compromise all devices.

There were quite a few guides online and videos on YouTube showing the simple commands to reset it to factory mode – and fortunately, it worked! Within a few minutes, the tablet was back to life, and once I got online, the previously downloaded apps were ready to re-install including Swype, which I’ve re-added, without incurring an additional charge.

So far the Note is growing on me. It’s nice and easy to use for taking notes at meetings, where I previously used to carry around a laptop. With a hard case, and larger jackets, let’s see where how far this can go.