Category Archives: Apple

UNCTAD report shows an unequal digital global economy

The increased use of digital platforms in everyday lives across the world is leading to a divide between under-connected nations from hyper-digitalized societies

The Digital Economy Report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shows that China and the USA have done the most to harvest the digital economy and now dominate the rest of the world and leading to an unequal state of e-commerce. The two countries host seven global “super-platform” companies – Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tencent and Alibaba that account for two-thirds of the total market value of the seventy largest digital platforms with Naspers as the only African company in the group.

Google and Facebook collected 65% of the $135 billion spent on internet advertising in 2017, while, in Australia, Google took 95% of the “search advertising” revenue while Facebook took 46% of the “display advertising” revenue.

Europe’s share of the digital economy is only 4% while Africa and Latin America combine for 1%.  In Africa, progress has also been uneven with four countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa accounting for 60% of digital entrepreneurship activity. They are followed by a second tier of Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda (with a combined 20%)

The Report showed that the evolving digital economy has a major impact on achieving sustainable development goals (SDG’s) and calls for governments in developing nations to focus efforts on things like:

  • Skills development & re-education e.g. consider that in the Western world, you can do a whole university degree online.
  • Revising policies on data privacy & sharing e.g. have restricted local data sharing pools and have tariffs on cross-border data.
  • Revising competition regulations e.g. curb the tendency where platform companies tend to capture/acquire young promising companies in the developing world.
  • Taxation e.g. developing country governments should seek to tax digital platform companies.
  • Employment e.g. by setting minimum wages & work conditions for gig-economy workers.
  • Break down silos: no longer think of government as being separate from academia, private sector, civil society and tech communities.
  • Also, while the US and Europe have divergent views on data protection, it cites a survey which found that Kenyans had the least concerns about data privacy (at 44%).

Speaking at an unveiling of the Report in Nairobi, Dr. Monica Kerretts-Makau said that the world is trending towards a captive society where you have to be on a platform to transact in an economy and that presents problems and opportunities in the African context.

The 2019 issue of the Report, that was previously focused on the “information economy”, can be downloaded here.

EDIT June 2020: The Kenya Revenue Authority announced the introduction of Value-Added Tax (VAT) on digital marketplace suppliers in the Finance Act 2019. Member of the public can send their views on the draft proposal  by June 15 to

Rewiring Education

This week, the M-Pesa Foundation Academy and Nairobi International School hosted author John Couch, who was first Vice President of Apple Inc., for a talk session on “rewiring education.” The chief guest was Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Joe Mucheru. 

Rewiring Education speakers.

Excerpts from the rewiring education Q&A: 

  • Kids come into employment fully trained in things that are no longer relevant. They then have to unlearn that, and we are working with universities to modernize the curriculum.
  • Schools have to hire teachers who are registered with the Teachers Service Commission. But those who are there only have B.Ed (Bachelor of Education degrees), and lack skills to stand in front of students who are far ahead of them in technical knowledge.
  • The Kenya government has developed a brilliant curriculum, that will start next year, but teachers have not been trained to deliver this. International schools take three years to retrain a teacher.
  • The median age in Kenya is 19 years, and half the civil service is made up of teachers.
  • The most important skill to have in life is (to embrace) continuous learning.
  • Schools can currently evaluate student memorization, but not their creativity and innovation abilities.
  • “When I was studying at Berkeley, California in the 1970’s, people thought the social revolution was taking place in the streets, but I knew it was taking place inside computers.”
  • Safaricom set out to provide connectivity to all schools in Kenya and the government was to provide the devices.
  • “The way we are teaching kids is a disservice and I am in the process of suing the UK government for wasting thirteen years of my life!”
  • The US also treats teachers as a union problem, not a professional occupation. Teachers are underpaid and under-trained.

IPhone to Kenya

Today will see the official launch of Apple’s i-Phone (3G) into the Kenyan market by Orange mobile. You could say it’s a case of bad timing as Kenyans are going through tough economic times and perhaps entering a recession period.

Recession or not?: With (very) high prices of petrol (until recently), electricity, maize and other foods, a spike in the government deficit, global financial turmoil, fewer tourists, reduced remittance volumes all signs would point to an economic slowdown. Right?

But not the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK): I have been in the past ‘impressed’ (did I say it was the best bank site?) by the volumes of reports published by the Central Bank, mostly because they are timely, though difficult to decipher the message.

The CBK reports have predicted some hardships but remained very optimistic and rosy about the country’s economy. But it appears that the messages are tailored to suit the tone of the day because Kenya’s leading business newspaper has taken note.

Today’s Business Daily has a very harsh critique of the CBK reports (which many banks, funds, government departments use to formulate their policies). The BD editorial laments the consistency of presentation, shifting periods for which data is presented, differences in figures published by KNBS (statistics bureau) and a determination by its authors to manipulate data through a series of omissions and change of periods under review that makes it nearly impossible to keep track of ongoings in the economy.

Former Nairobi Stock Exchange boss Jimnah Mbaru (who’s also a sometime author) thinks Kenya is headed for a recession and has published a column which ran in some newspapers and appears at Capital FM website titled How Kenya can escape recession. He advocates (like US President-elect Obama) that the Kenya Government spend its way back to robustness. Some of the proposals he suggests include reduce interest rates and cash ratio (which have already happened) but also some strange ones like the government should buy Safaricom shares, sell buildings, and mandates that more sewers be built he also says hedge funds cashing out brought down the NSE this year…hmm.

Blog views: In the absence of a Finance Minister, the Government is engaged in a series of Voodoo economics.

i-Phone outlook: Looking around Nairobi with all the Hummers, new Range Rovers, new apartments complexes etc., it is clear that there’s an affluent class that does not feel the pinch of a (possible) recession and despite the tough year it has been, there have been several new entrants in Kenya.

The i-Phone which has been a worldwide smash, and impressed many (not all) its customers, can be expected to do well here also. Like with the Blackberry before it – which was circulating here unlocked/hacked before its official debut, it will now be licensed and supported after the official launch.