Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sh240bn Tatu City take-off gathers pace

Renaissance group managing Director Arnold Meyer explains the concept of the TATU City that will be constructed behind Kenyatta University along Thika Road in Nairobi. The duel for control of multi-billion Tatu City took a new turn last week when the majority shareholders accused directors Nahashon Nyagah and Vimal Shah of obstruction yet they have not injected cash in the project. PHOTO | FILE

Renaissance group managing Director Arnold Meyer explains the concept of the TATU City that will be constructed behind Kenyatta University along Thika Road in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE 

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The take-off of Tatu City seems to be gaining pace with a number of multinationals and local firms lining to take up space at the Sh240 billion industrial complex.

Speaking to Smart Company after signing a deal with consumer goods maker Unilever East Africa that acquired 70 acres at the 420-acre planned light industry park, Tatu City founder Stephen Jennings said it was all systems go.

Unilever’s CEO Marc Engels said the planned Sh17 billion expansion aims at meeting the growing demand for their products, saying Kenya was a suitable location with robust human capital and infrastructure that links it to its neighbours.

Mr Jennings struck it big when he managed to rope in US Ambassador Robert Godec and Kenya’s Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed during groundbreaking ceremony for the Kijani Ridge residential development where 301 houses will be set up.


Kiambu Governor William Kabogo placed the first order followed by other local tycoons.

Sixty per cent of the units were sold on the first day of bidding.

Kijani Ridge is Tatu’s first gated community site where buyers will only provide funds and pave the way for construction of the units whose approvals have since been granted.

Ambassador Godec said the initiative represents the attractiveness of Kenya to American businesses and that the houses would showcase the US’ taste of residential units and industrial developments in one centre.


Dormans termed the move strategic since Africa was the next growth frontier.

The Dormans global head office, which is scheduled for completion next July, will employ 200 Kenyans and becomes the first plant that is set to add value to locally grown coffee on Kenyan soil.

The processing, packaging, warehousing and trading factory has annual capacity of producing 15,000 tonnes.

Tissue maker, Kim and Fay, has also secured 10 acres at the park where it plans to construct Sh2.5 billion regional headquarters-cum-industrial complex as it relocates from Nairobi’s Industrial Area.


The main distributor of Heineken beverages Maxam has also secured land to build its head office and warehouses as it also runs away from the city’s congested Industrial Area.

Thika-based Bidco Oil Refineries has also purchased 78 acres at Tatu City.

The planned city’s infrastructure that comprises of water, electricity, paved roads and sewerage is being put up by Chinese company, Sinohydro, which signed a Sh400 million deal with Tatu City owners.

Mr Jennings expressed optimism that more multinationals were signing up, several months after his company, Rendeavour, participated in hosting US President Obama’s inaugural visit to Kenya where he was accompanied by executives of over 50 American firms.


“We welcome the ongoing developments where firms have chosen Tatu City as their destination of choice for expansion into East Africa.

Tatu City will deliver its promise to create a live-work-play environment free from congestion while providing homes and jobs,” he said.

According to Tatu City’s master plan, the mixed-use satellite city located in Kiambu County will house 62,000 residents and accommodate a further 30,000 Kenyans who will be working at the various firms located at the industrial park.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why the first product may not be the best

A Virgin Atlantic plane.

A Virgin Atlantic plane. When you’re working on launching a new company or product, it can be tempting to try to rush the product to market, but it’s often better to slow down and get your offering right instead, says Sir Richard Branson.   Photo/FILE

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The first time a car’s GPS unit asked for my preference between taking the shortest route to a destination or the fastest, I was confused. “Aren’t they the same thing?” I thought.

The point was, of course, that sometimes a circuitous, 10-mile route on a highway might take 10 minutes, whereas a five-mile alternative through back roads might take three times as long.

Unfortunately, in business there are no GPS devices to clearly chart the way forward, but over the years I have learned that the fastest route is seldom the best.

When you’re working on launching a new company or product, it can be tempting to try to rush the product to market, but it’s often better to slow down and get your offering right instead — testing, retooling, and testing some more.

Even the most successful companies occasionally make this mistake.


In 2008, for instance, as the race to provide cloud storage was heating up, Apple rushed to offer MobileMe, a subscription model that promised to sync up all the data that subscribers stored on all their Apple devices.

But the service was badly flawed — it didn’t work a lot of the time.

It took Apple three years of hard work to retrench and create iCloud, a free service that Steve Jobs proudly unveiled in 2011.

The odd thing was that Apple caught up again.

Apple’s competitors in the cloud space, notably Amazon and Google, had cruised along with few difficulties during those three years — essentially, sticking to the main road — so Apple was able to learn from its bad experience and recover.


Think about it this way: When you visit a new city on business, you seldom get to see much more than the airport and city centre.

When people ask me what I think of China, for instance, I am obliged to point out that I know only a small part of that huge country.

My answer usually has to be couched with, “Well all I’ve ever really seen is Beijing and Shanghai but …”

A tourist who visits only London knows little about Britain, and one who visits only New York and Los Angeles has little understanding of the US.

My point is that you need to develop a solid knowledge of your market, and taking a little time to explore the possibilities for your product or service, test it out with potential customers and ask for their feedback will give you a much better understanding of the terrain.

And if you meander through a few out-of-the-way places, exploring some unusual ideas that have come up, you’re more likely to spot opportunities that your competition has rushed past.


At Virgin Atlantic, we once made a similar mistake during our battle with our arch-rival, British Airways.

We wanted to be the first to introduce a lie-flat bed in our popular business-class cabin, so we went rushed out a new seat.

Now, “flat” is an interesting term. When I say that a door is flat, you probably think of a perpendicular surface, whereas if I say that a bed is flat, you automatically think of a horizontal one.

The problem with our proud new “lie-flat bed” was that while it was flat, it wasn’t horizontal.

In our rush to be first, we had taken the fastest route and produced a seat that converted to a flat bed that sloped at an angle of about 30 degrees.

Passengers (including me) worried that after they drifted off to sleep, they might slide off!

And while we were rushing to deliver our new idea, British Airways had gotten wind of our secret new seat and took their time to develop a truly horizontal lie-flat bed, beating us to the punch.

We went back to the drawing board.

The second time around, we came up with a completely new, horizontal seat and a revolutionary new herringbone cabin configuration — and Virgin leapfrogged ahead of them.

But that rush to be first cost us a lot.

It was an expensive lesson, reminding us that getting things right is better than bringing a new idea to market first, but very badly.

So when you are launching a product or service or working on making one better, remember the story of the tortoise and the hare.

The fastest route doesn’t always get you to the finish line first.

And if it does, the runner-up might prove to be the real winner.

This column is part of a weekly series by Richard Branson in which he responds to reader’s questions from around the world. Send questions to RichardBranson@nytimes.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

When you dissect a problem into bits, it becomes easy to solve

Employees in a board room. When you break a problem down into bits it becomes easier to share amongst more people with different capabilities and get them to contribute, each in their small way to solve it. PHOTO | FILE |

Employees in a board room. When you break a problem down into bits it becomes easier to share amongst more people with different capabilities and get them to contribute, each in their small way to solve it. PHOTO | FILE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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WE all take hard knocks occasionally. It is unrealistic to expect a smooth sailing in life without sustaining such heavy body blows, unless you are not making progress.

In business and in organisations such hard hits come in different forms, shapes and even times.

Quite often, they seem insurmountable.

I have learnt that the knocks are not as important as how you react to them, how you plan your reconstruction, how well you thicken your skin and protect your sanity.

For in the absence of these you may as well become an extension of the problem.

Top of the list is a clinical dissection of what ails you; precise identification of the problem and breaking it down into the components, for ease of identifying possible solutions.

It is unnecessarily scary to confront the problem as one, for it will seem insurmountable.


When you break it down into bits it becomes easier to share amongst more people with different capabilities and get them to contribute, each in their small way to solve it.

Organisational and business challenges are not to be confronted by ego-driven approach.

They will only turn worse.

Even where egos may be deflated, it helps more to keep them aside to be inflated in future rather than during the turbulence.

Remember, it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help.

If things are not going the way they should, clearly there is a problem.


It helps to ask a friend or valued colleague for some honest feedback and assistance.

The feedback could be brutal, particularly when it introduces a whole new perspective that you had not seen.

However, this could be the much needed angle to set things right.

These are times to look for ways to improve, it is a critical time to ask yourselves whether you could do what you are doing more effectively and efficiently.

You may have been working too hard rather than smart.

It is a good time to examine your areas of known weaknesses and identify what you need to do to eliminate them.

This is the time to get up and fight, you cannot afford not to.

Such times call for patience. It is not unusual to frantically search for a magic bullet.


Yet they do not exist — may be in the fairy tales.

The most colourful corporate stories you ever heard only told one side of the story.

When challenged do not over romanticise them; the best you can do is to hope for a similar happy ending.

Reconstruct one stone at a time. Giving yourself ample time to heal, you will finally get there.

Times change so should your strategy and plans.

Change with the times to make sure you have an upper hand over the competition.

Great challenges are known to have been solved by just transparent communication.

Truthful open minded communication is a great leadership tool.

You could do everything else right, but in the absence of effective transparent and open minded communication the problem could remain unresolved in the minds of the key stakeholders.

Open mindedness demonstrates your readiness to accommodate other views and ideas, including accepting that you could be wrong.

In leadership and management therefore, one important skill to cultivate is the ability to quickly identify a problem, break it down to manageable bits then build the resilience to deal with issues.

Dr Muturi is the executive director,  Kenya Institute of Management. 


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Small business in Kenya is one sad story

A grocer at Nairobi's City Market in  2009.

A grocer at Nairobi's City Market in 2009. PHOTO | LIZ MUTHONI 

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“We will never sell our freedom for capital or technical aid. We stand for freedom at any cost.”

  -Tom Mboya, July 1 1958, Makerere University.

It means everything to be a Kenyan citizen. We hold our place in the African hierarchy with pride, regardless of the adversity and the shame we face.

If Pan-Africanism had endured, and Africans had spent more time improving relations while crafting a unique ideology to empower ourselves socio-economically, then Tom Mboya's statement would have been our mantra, an unfailing African self-belief.

We could blame Mother Nature for instilling the prey-and-predator dynamic that is more common among wildlife within us.

We are, after all, a society that has perfected the complexities of understanding each other's cultures as well as our own. Yet we wilfully play ignorant, just so that we can brew hate and violence.

The tribe is Africa's most beautiful curse. To the well travelled, our tribes and cultures are lauded for their aesthetic value, yet for us, tribe is the identity we bring to politics, business or any other facet of our lives that is exploitable.

While we are distracted into hating each other, the world is busy moving forward, and for the masters that pull the business strings, business is booming. We have forgotten ourselves and what we came to do.

Government can be defined by one key task: to collect tax, cess, excise, duty as well as all manner of fees, so that they can be redistributed through a public welfare system that cobbles together our real basic needs (food and water security, education, healthcare and security).

Before we dream about building overpriced infrastructure, we need to master those basics. Whatever is left over, and it should be plenty, would meet our infrastructural obligations and cover government expenditure with the surplus left over to start paying our debts.

However, it seems simpler to go the faux-development route of megaprojects mired in corruption that cost us more than they are worth, and add very little value to the greater economy.

This neo-colonialism alone is responsible for killing local entrepreneurship in Kenya. How do we get the scales right again? First we need to understand the problems.


Very few people understand that Government has a very poor grasp of, and interest in, local entrepreneurship.

Currently, local entrepreneurship is a rudderless ship, without a captain who understands its mechanics. Both our unwritten and written policies on small business are enacted and enforced by civil servants and elected leaders who, despite being successful businesspeople, are poor entrepreneurs.

That poor understanding forces us to look outside for investors and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) out of desperation.

The most “revolutionary” development for entrepreneurship in Kenya is that it takes fewer days to register a business than it did last year, and this faces revision again next year.

Yet you still have to go to the same number of different offices in different parts of the city to stand in different queues to actually get rubber-stamps, certificates and other registration paraphernalia.

Yet the government cannot set up a single office across each county housing representatives from all the different departments one needs to grace to start a business, with all the application forms in one handy pack.

A grocer at Nairobi's City Market in  2009.

A grocer at Nairobi's City Market in 2009. PHOTO | LIZ MUTHONI

Since we are digitally inclined, we can even manage a single portal with all the key functions of the different departments in one place. It hasn't happened.

Kenya's entrepreneurs need their President to be the loudest voice on entrepreneurship. He alone needs to handle this docket to ensure that he solves the key problems that depress Kenya's income-generating abilities.

In this respect, he needs to channel Winston Churchill's attitude during the Second World War, rallying Kenyans with every potential resource available to start businesses.

We do not need conferences or trips abroad, but simply a person turning up to listen and to resolve.


We have a weakness for elitism, and must “selfie-drop” every time we meet a celebrity. So too with government leaders. They too want to be seen with the Captains of Industry, the rock-stars of the economy.

So keen is their quest that meeting an International Renaissance Man earns them extra points. This is where ego steps in, as well as foreign corporate money and muscle.

We are dazzled by numbers, billions we are always told, with immense savings and benefits to the public, with our children on the fast track to jobs. Except, almost none of that ever happens.

When it does, it is nowhere close to the advertisement and it costs more than we were told to implement and manage.

If it is technology, it is deployed by a “preferred partner” whose field staff earn a pittance for doing the bulk of the work. That eco-system does not permit employees to become employers since it is the norm to exploit said talent and pay them slightly better than minimum wage.

Tinkerers have nowhere to perfect their talent, yet we would rather build a city that will hopefully attract foreign multinationals here to employ back-office staff, and export any profits back to their home countries.

This, obviously, is a very thin line that weaves between free-for-all and protectionism, but it is borne of reality. Developed countries strictly control, and in many cases ration, foreign investors by using a very visible glass ceiling  – the visa. One cannot wake up in the morning to dash to New York or Paris at the drop of a hat.

Yet some of the the opportunities we are doling away in the name of FDI are keeping capable, trained youth unemployed, forcing them to indulge in crime against a backdrop of worsening economic disparity. Without sensible rationalisation, this will only create animosity. 


The etiquette of the banker has remained resolute and constant; bankers simply must protect their business at all costs.

This principle neatly ties into another, that banks do not loan new businesses money since they have no proven track record, and in many cases, lack collateral to secure financing.

Worse, in a volatile economy that has record lending rates against poor public sector and corporate performance, it's no big secret that banks are forced to hold on to every penny they can. Raising capital against equity is even more expensive and riskier, as shown by recent events. Yet, it continues to get worse.

The would-be-local investors, the millionaires and the billionaires of Kenya have very little faith in their fellow citizens. Their cowardice echoes resolutely among entrepreneurs.

There simply isn't enough capital being made available to build desperately needed cottage industries that would boost the lower and middle classes.

China has invested itself to near bankruptcy and is currently facing economic woes, but they have backed local business well enough to gain a near-global monopoly on manufacturing.

Without that level of capital being committed to entrepreneurial efforts in Kenya, we are simply passengers in a country we own but have little control of. Entrepreneurship is thus relegated to the one per cent that can raise capital by any means necessary.

Government is better off using enterprise fund money to insure high-risk loans offered by banks to start-ups and small businesses, instead of running wasteful funds.

It might even be more prudent to hand over the funds equally among banks as a loan program managed by the banks, who have far better experience with  funds management than government.

With nobody backing entrepreneurs with a solid plan and capital, the disenfranchised youth will continue harbouring animosity over the fact that they have no stake in their country.

A Kenya Airways Boeing 777-300ER at JKIA ,

A Kenya Airways Boeing 777-300ER at JKIA , Nairobi on October 25, 2013. We need to stop celebrating superficial wins, since that blinds us from seeing the beginnings of failings of corporations like Kenya Airways or Mumias Sugar or even Uchumi. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION

We need to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over again. We also need to shift our focus to what we need to be doing over running around, doing too many unnecessary things at the same time.

This is costing the youth opportunities that they desperately need to empower themselves.  We need to stop celebrating superficial wins, since that blinds us from seeing the beginnings of failings of corporations like Kenya Airways or Mumias Sugar or even Uchumi.

Due to our pride, we would rather keep throwing good money after bad in mismanaged institutions than hold the office bearers accountable.

Kenya has become a dangerous free-for-all and anyone, background unchecked, is more than welcome to launder their money in Kenya under the guise of being a “foreign investor”. This has started stirring the “us” versus “them” conversation.

After all, it isn't easy for struggling Kenyans to see outsiders benefitting from opportunities they are perfectly capable of handling. We keep imagining that we need cosmetic surroundings to function, yet the average entrepreneur doesn't need more than a table, chair, power and an internet connection to manage a business.

Our beautiful savannah is straggling under staggering poverty. We remain cursed with high income disparity, and ever-reducing opportunities.

We need new people with new ideas that are genuinely revolutionary and can reach the poorest of all.

We need a voice that has the moral courage to remonstrate with the President for the government's failing. The youth need a far better Kenya than the one they have.

Thiarara Ng'otho is an independent IT consultant who creates solutions for ICT-based businesses in Kenya.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Knowing when to learn new skill or just let go

This January 23, 2008 file photo shows Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, with a model of the SpaceshipTwo at the America Museum of Natural History in New York.  PHOTO | FILE

This January 23, 2008 file photo shows Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, with a model of the SpaceshipTwo at the America Museum of Natural History in New York. PHOTO | FILE 

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Q: How do you decide whether to hire someone with a special skill, or to learn how yourself? For example, let’s say that you have a great idea for an app, but no development skills. What would you do?

— Markus Lock

 As an entrepreneur, you need to be self-aware. I’m not talking about self-consciousness — entrepreneurs should be willing to shake off their inhibitions.

Rather, anyone who wants to launch a business should have a solid understanding of what he’s good at and what he’s passionate about.

Knowing this will help you to achieve your goals more quickly.

A common perception about entrepreneurs is that, like artists, they work alone.

Many people think that successful businesspeople have overcome challenges and brought ideas to the marketplace through sheer force of personality. But that’s a fairy tale!


While going it alone is a romantic idea, few entrepreneurs launch a business solo — and in fact, artists usually have help too.

Markus, it’s vital to the success of your business that you learn to hand off those that you aren’t able to do well.

I’m not saying that you should never try your hand at a new skill — entrepreneurs are usually insatiably curious.

So you should give app development a go yourself first. (You should try everything at least once!) You might discover that coding fascinates you.

If that’s not the case, no harm done — find someone who has the skills to create your app.

When I try a new task and find it’s not my cup of tea, or I’m simply not cut out to do it, I delegate it to someone who is passionate about the work, knowing that person will do a great job.

This is part of our philosophy at Virgin: We aren’t limited by the skills of the people on our team, but also employ hundreds of agencies, contractors and freelancers. We work with website developers, aircraft manufacturers, call-centre operators, service suppliers and many other wonderful third-party providers.


Over the past 40 years, they have helped us to grow our brand to the point where it is now, and we wouldn’t be able to function without them.

I still remember how daunting it felt to hand over work for the first time.

When my friends and I started Virgin decades ago, I knew that I lacked vital knowledge in some subjects — particularly in accounting, as I was never very good with numbers.

As I mentioned in a previous column, after trying my hardest to manage the books and finances, I hired an accountant, Jack Clayden.

My friends and I wouldn’t have gotten our business off the ground without Jack: He shared our vision, and in some areas he knew better than we did how to make it a reality.

From our experience working with him, we learned that if we really wanted to grow our business, we’d have to delegate.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should just hand over your work to your team.

As your business grows, seek out people who understand your ideas, want to build on them and can envision ways to make improvements in your business.

As your responsibilities increase, delegating those that others can do better will free you to plan for the future and find new ways to develop your company.

But while it’s important to trust your staff and collaborators and allow them some autonomy, it’s important to stay connected to your business, or you may not notice the warning signs when something is about to go wrong.


This all comes down to collaboration, which is vital to any healthy company and an integral part of any entrepreneur’s life. It sparks wonderful innovation, without which a business may never move forward.

If you can delegate and collaborate effectively, you’ll find that you have more time to focus on the big picture and achieve the things you need to do to make your product or service stand out.

This column is part of a weekly series by Richard Branson in which he responds to reader’s questions from around the world. Send questions to RichardBranson@nytimes.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Investors to flock Kabarnet for investment opportunities

Baringo Governor Benjamin Cheboi (left) during the launch of Baringo Entrepreneurship and Expo Summit (BEES) held at the Intercontinental  Hotel Nairobi on October 7, 2015. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI

Baringo Governor Benjamin Cheboi (left) during the launch of Baringo Entrepreneurship and Expo Summit (BEES) held at the Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi on October 7, 2015. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI 

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Baringo residents will use the county entrepreneurship summit that starts this Thursday to deepen ties with business partners as well as to showcase possible investment opportunities across various subsectors.

Baringo Governor Benjamin Cheboi told the Nation on Monday that the inaugural passenger flights from Nairobi to Kabarnet would start on Wednesday bringing in participants to the first ever expo to be held at Kabarnet Showgrounds with deliberations ongoing to facilitate regular weekly flights from Nairobi to Kabarnet en route to Eldoret and Lodwar.

“We have vast deposits of minerals, geothermal resources as well as oil deposits are now being developed and we are optimistic that sufficient volumes of air passengers will help sustain the anticipated air transport business,” he said.


Mr Cheboi said that data on available investment opportunities had been prepared by local experts with keen interest on tourism, green energy development and agribusiness ventures.

The county’s first ever expo, said Mr Cheboi, had received a major boost from current investors who had expanded their enterprises leading to a rise in revenue collection from Sh150 million in 2012 to the current Sh250 million to Sh300 million.

Mr Cheboi said that opportunities for investment in low-budget hotels were enormous around key tourist attraction sites at Lake Baringo and Bogoria targeting local tourists that have formed the bulk of visitors to the county for decades.

He said that his government had also prepared a blueprint for modernization of irrigation farming where a Sh3 billion dam had been planned and approved by the national government which will see acreage under horticultural crops tripled.

The governor said that security issues had been tackled adequately with the future looking bright since the Standard Gauge Railway and the Kenya-Sudan railway line was planned to cut across Baringo thereby giving manufacturers access to the markets as well as cheap power.


“We are telling steel manufacturers and others that we have cheap energy as well as cheap transport to export their products to the regional markets as well overseas,” he said, adding that they were ready to partner with any investor seeking assistance on setting their enterprises.

Baringo, he said, was keen to support establishing businesses that would provide locals with jobs, adding that his government had invested heavily on funding students to undertake various technical courses at local and regional universities.

Mr Cheboi promised all investors that the county government would fund training for all workers for any factory that sets shop in Baringo so as to nurture local talent.

The governor said that the beef and mutton business presented an enormous opportunity for all investors in value addition since there was a ready market for meat products in Nakuru, Eldoret, Nairobi and Mombasa.

The Expo will be held for three days and is aimed at showcasing available opportunities for SMEs and multinational investors.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Small businesses get help to tap American market

Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization and Enterprise Development Adan Mohamed during the launch of the second edition of the SME Handbook at the Laico Regency on October 26, 2015.

Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization and Enterprise Development Adan Mohamed during the launch of the second edition of the SME Handbook at the Laico Regency on October 26, 2015. Major plans are underway to boost the capacity of micro, small and medium-sized enterprise players to enable them leverage on the African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa) through exports to the US market. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Major plans are underway to boost the capacity of micro, small and medium-sized enterprise players to enable them leverage on the African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa) through exports to the US market.

Experts say that despite the recent Agoa Extension and Enhancement Act of 2015, giving Kenya the opportunity to increase its trade volumes with the US, the country has failed to reach its potential.

In 2013, Kenya exported Sh4.47 billion worth of textiles and apparel, Sh100 million worth of leather, and Sh8.9 billion worth of vegetable and food products to the US.

“While this is encouraging, it leaves room for improvement. Kenya plans on increasing the annual exports margins from about $500 million to $1 billion by the time the extension is ending in 10 years (renewable),” says Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed.

This week, the ministry will hold a forum to educate micro, small and medium-sized businesses on the detailed regulations and benefits provided by the renewed Agoa Act and how to build their capacity for exporting products to the US.


Mr Mohamed said the forum will educate MSMEs from various sectors — construction, agro-processing exports, home décor, handloom, textiles and apparels, leather and fisheries.

“It’s time for MSMEs to leverage on this great opportunity we have as a nation with the Agoa Trade Act renewal. This forum is crucial in the process of expanding our export capacity to the US. The invaluable information that will be shared will give Kenyan MSMEs a platform to actively engage this market,” said the CS.

He said MSMEs have the opportunity to capitalise on several value chains and take advantage of the opportunities that allow trade in more than 6,300 products duty-free from Kenya to the US.


The government recently launched the Cold Chain Initiative Assessment Programme, in partnership with the US.

Officials say the initiative will fast track expansion of Kenya’s export portfolio while ensuring compliance with US standards and regulatory requirements on perishable products.

Ongoing negotiations between the two governments for direct flights are expected to lead to the opening up of market opportunities for small businesses.

The country is targeting Sh100 billion in export earnings from Agoa in the next two years, translating to thousands of new jobs.


Monday, October 26, 2015

No need for investor to fund that brilliant idea


If you have a great idea, you can quickly discover whether people will support it: Just post your business plan online, and you’ll receive almost instant feedback — either people will love your idea and want your product, or they won’t. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Q: As a hopeful entrepreneur, I wanted to ask for advice on how to attract potential investors at a young age. I am having trouble getting financing for my business plan solely because I am 23 years old and lack liquid assets.  I have great experience and recommendations; what I don’t have is a lengthy career. I started working part time as a baggage handler for a small airline three years ago while I was in college. By the age of 22 I was working in a management position at United, one of the world’s largest airlines.  I often tell investors this story to demonstrate that I have what it takes to succeed, but I am constantly being turned down. What alternative strategies would you suggest for securing funding?

— Eric Brewer

Eric, first let me congratulate you on working your way up to a management job at United Airlines in just two years. This indeed shows that you are determined — and, as you’re finding out, if there’s one quality that young entrepreneurs need, it’s determination.

As you probably know, I started Student magazine at age 16, so I know first-hand how frustrating it can be to get turned down over and over again by potential investors simply because you lack experience.

But as an entrepreneur, you’re always going to meet people who think that they know better than you do, how your business should work, and sometimes they will be right — but that won’t always be the case.

The only way to win over sceptical investors is to stop trying to convince them that you’ve got what it takes, and just go ahead and start your business. Only then can you prove that your idea really works.

Let me explain: The belief that you need a sizable investment when you launch a business is a myth. The fact is that only a tiny percentage of businesses are funded this way.

Years ago, I started Student with just £300, which my mum got after selling a necklace that she found on the street. I used the money to interview influential people and convince companies to buy ads in the magazine.


But today, the game has completely changed. Crowdfunding and social media have made launching a business a much easier endeavour for new entrepreneurs.

If you have a great idea, you can quickly discover whether people will support it: Just post your business plan online, and you’ll receive almost instant feedback — either people will love your idea and want your product, or they won’t.

A positive reception can prove to potential investors that there is sufficient demand and a solid market for your product or service. More important, a good online response can give you access to crowdfunding that’s not contingent on your business being fully operational.


In the UK, another way to gain seed funding without having to depend entirely on investors is to apply for a start-up loan, which offers better rates and terms than traditional bank loans.

We provide such loans, which can total as much as £25,000, through Virgin StartUp. Since launching 18 months ago, Virgin StartUp has funded more than 700 businesses.

In addition, Eric, while you might believe that getting an investor’s approval, prestige and cash is vital for your business, at your stage in the game an investor might actually hinder your efforts.

Having the flexibility to change and grow is vital for start-ups, especially if you’re new to business.


Keep in mind that most people become entrepreneurs because they want to be their own bosses.

Why look for somebody to answer to before such an arrangement is beneficial?

Ask yourself: Are you really willing to give up control so soon? Wouldn’t you rather concentrate on working with customers to create the business of your dreams, and then look into securing an investment at a later date, after you’ve proved your idea’s worth?

When I’m asked questions like yours, I always think about the young entrepreneur who won Virgin’s Pitch to Rich competition in 2014. Carl Thomas founded MiPic, an innovative platform that gives amateur and professional artists a way to monetize their images by allowing customers to order prints and products, like flip-flops and phone cases, that feature their photos.

After Carl had difficulties finding a big investor, the Pitch to Rich prize provided a much-needed injection of cash and a strong endorsement of his product.

And as his business developed, Carl turned to crowdfunding and a start-up loan for additional financing.

Fast-forward a year, and Carl has secured the backing of a large international investor.

Seed funding is called that because the amounts of money involved might seem smaller than what’s best for your fledgling enterprise.

But remember: Such seeds can grow into bigger and bigger businesses. So don’t get disheartened by investors who knock you down. The game has changed: The secret to unlocking success is you, not them.

This column is part of a weekly series by Richard Branson in which he responds to reader’s questions from around the world. Send questions to RichardBranson@nytimes.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Govt proposes ban on imported used clothes

Industrialisation PS Wilson Songa has proposed a ban on

Kisumu residents buy second-hand clothes (mitumba) at the Kibuye market in January 2014. The clothes are still costly, beyond the reach of many Kenyans living below the poverty line. Industrialisation PS Wilson Songa has proposed a ban on mitumba to help revive the struggling textile industry. PHOTO | JACOB OWITI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The government is considering a ban on imported second-hand clothes, popularly known as “mitumba".

Industrialisation Principal Secretary Wilson Songa on Friday said the planned move — to be executed “in phases” — will herald immense benefits for the country including eliminating “health risks” associated with the imported used clothes and protect local textile and leather industries.

“This idea of bringing clothes for dead people and we are so happy about them, should really come to an end so that we also see how we can develop our own industries and enable our own value chains to be more effective,” said Dr Songa in Nairobi on the sidelines of the launch of a series of status reports touching on the country’s priority manufacturing sectors.


Dr Songa said doing away with used clothes would improve Kenya’s value chain in the apparel and textile industry making it vibrant again.

“By doing away with those “mitumbas”, our textile value chain will become so much more efficient because we will not have unnecessary competition which really does not benefit us at all,” said Dr Songa.

He added: “Instead of (Kenyans) putting on second-hand clothes for dead people why not put something new that we are proud to have made at home and that is also competitive and of the same quality as the 'mitumbas'.”

Statistics show 65,000 Kenyans ply their trade in the imported used clothes and shoes business.


A section of Kenyans and traders have in the past opposed government plans to ban second-hand clothes and shoes.

Former Finance Minister Njeru Githae introduced the same idea through Sessional Paper Number 9 of 2012.

The argument from the Executive was that importing used clothes had changed from the noble idea of helping the poor in developing countries by having people in the developed nations donate their extra clothes. The government argued that the idea had transformed into a thriving business benefiting rich traders who now steer the multibillion-shilling industry.

But the passage of the Sessional Paper would require accompanying laws to take effect. This would require initiative from the Executive and parliamentary support.


When President Uhuru Kenyatta was the finance minister, he slashed import duty on second-hand clothes from $0.3 per kilo (or 45 per cent, whichever is higher) to $0.20 per kilo (or 35 per cent, whichever is higher). These rates are still applicable.

Mr Kenyatta said then that the cut was necessary to allow low-income earners to afford clothes during the economic slowdown that the country was grappling with then.

From June this year, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) ruled that importers of second-hand clothes and shoes would have to ensure their goods have been fumigated and inspected by a public health authority at the country of origin.

They would also have to get clearance certificates from Kebs. But second-hand clothes and shoe importers have protested the new regulation.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

60 agribusiness competition finalists in Nairobi for training

The six finalists in Young Innovators in

The six finalists in Young Innovators in Agribusiness competition from East Africa (from left) Vava Angwenyi, Ignace Nyiringambo, Pascal Furaha, Noah Ssempijja, Catherine Mbondo and Abrhame Eudria. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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Sixty finalists of the Young Innovators in Agribusiness 2015 competition from across Africa are in Nairobi for a two-day mentoring session at the Toyota Academy.

The successful participants were picked from 800 applicants after their start-up businesses were identified as major solutions to creating useful links and value addition along the various agricultural value chains in their respective countries.

They are part of the entrants in the second edition of the agribusiness incubating competition called “Young Innovators in Agribusiness Competition” that attracts youth aged between 18-35 years.

The edition funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its East Africa Trade and Investment Hub project. Syngenta and Inter-Region Economic Network have also taken part in helping young people engage in ventures that improve livelihoods.

“This year’s competition seeks to expose and link the young innovators to investors keen on funding social investments that enhance incomes of the world’s poor by recognising their individual efforts,” said the competition’s team leader, Mr James Shikwati.

The competition is still open and closes on October 30 where 120 start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises will be selected to compete for the seed capital amounting to Sh2 million to be shared among six winners.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Ericsson award seeks to empower budding innovators

Ericsson has announced a global technology competition to spur students to develop innovate ideas to improve the quality of urban life.

The Ericsson Group headquarters in Kista, north of Stockholm. The Swedish firm has announced a global technology competition to spur students to develop innovate ideas to improve the quality of urban life. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Ericsson has announced a regional and global technology competition targeting students to promote the use of information and communication technologies as tools for improving the quality of life in cities.

The "Future of City Life” themed Ericsson Innovation Awards 2016 seeks to give students the opportunity to develop innovate ideas to improve lives in the cities in collaboration with technology experts.

It is projected that by 2050, close to 70 per cent of the global population will live in urban areas and smart cities. Hence, the global competition’s focus on the use of ICT to connect human beings with their environment.

“In the future, everyone and everything will be connected. Ericsson’s role is to drive this transformation, opening up new ways to innovate, collaborate and empower people, business and society,” said Tumi Chamayou, vice-president, Ericsson sub-Sahara Africa.


Online registrations for the regional competition closes at the end of this month when ten teams of four people each will be selected and further winnowed to only four after idea presentations. The final four teams will participate in the final round at Cape Town, South Africa with the winner taking home a cash prize of Sh1 million.

For the global competition, Ericsson experts will select ten teams, after which they narrow down to four, who shall then participate at the grand final in Stockholm, Sweden.

The winning team will receive a cash prize of Sh2.9 million besides internships and employment at Ericsson

Previously, Ericsson has hosted "Apps for City Life", "Ericsson Connected Vehicle Cloud" and "The Future of Learning" competitions in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively. All the competitions are geared towards use of ICT to make life better.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Narok fish farmers urged to form associations

The Narok County government has urged the local fish farmers to form associations to stave off exploitation by brokers.

Narok County residents gaze at a new fish pond in Leshuta. The Narok County government has urged the local fish farmers to form associations to stave off exploitation by brokers. PHOTO | YVONNE KAWIRA | NATION MEDIA GROUP   

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Fish farmers in Narok County have been urged to form associations in order to reap more profits from the enterprise.

Speaking at Leshuta, Narok County’s Fisheries chief officer Ms Martha Nairenke said it was through associations that farmers can set prices and negotiate better terms in the market.

“It is through the associations that the government also plans to ensure the farmers can access extension and field services, in a more organised manner,” she added.

Fish farming is relatively a new concept in the county and hundreds of farmers have already begun rearing fish in ponds- relying mainly on water from springs in the county.


Mr Lenny Kamoe, a resident of Narok County began his fish project three years ago, after he was introduced to the idea by the Action Africa Help International (AAHI).

“It is a very lucrative venture. I started with one pond, which had 1,000 fingerlings. Now, I have two ponds stocked with 1,000 fingerlings each,” Mr Kamoe said adding that he rakes Sh300 per fish.

According to Mr Kamoe, for a beginner one needs about Sh150,000 to be in a position to set up a fully constructed and stocked fish pond. Subsequent restocking costs about Sh20,000.

“The polythene paper is the most expensive aspect of this but this you just buy the first time, you will also need to set aside Sh20,000 for fingerlings as well as fish food,” Mr Kamoe added.


According to the AAHI executive director Mrs Caroline Kisia, the organisation is looking to empower farmers turn to alternative forms of income generating activities and at the same time eradicate the food security menace in the country.

“Our projects are community-based. We focus on helping communities across the country venture into sustainable income generating activities that in the end will improve their living standards,” said Mrs Kisia.

AAHI last week unveiled a fish pond at Leshuta, a centre intended to act as a training place for the community. So far, the greatest challenge in the county has been convincing residents to form associations so that they can market their produce together.

“Most of them prefer selling their produce individually, which exposes them to exploitation by middlemen,” AAHI officer Ms Caroline Jepchumba said.

Currently, there are about 400 fish ponds and about 10 fully stocked dams in the County. Among the species cultured in the ponds include the warm water fish which are mainly Nile Tilapia and the African Catfish. It takes about six to seven months for the fingerlings to be ready for harvest.


Data from the county government shows that the county consumes approximately 1,000 tonnes of fish annually against an estimated annual production of a paltry 41 tonnes.

“This is the deficit we are looking to bridge by encouraging more farmers to take up fish farming. Meanwhile to bridge this gap we have had to buy from other counties like Kisumu, Bomet and Nairobi,” said Mrs Nairenke said.


Last year, the county harvested 30 tonnes of fish with farmers earning about Sh10 million from the enterprise. According to the county government, the production is expected to double by the end of this year as a result of more farmers taking up the venture. Other farmers are also expanding their projects to allow them rear more fish to meet the growing demand.

“I have already dug a dam in preparation for the El Niño rains after which I plan to stock the dam with over 5,000 to 6,000 fingerlings,” Mr Kamoe Said.

The county government now plans to construct another fish seed hatchery to serve as a source of fingerlings and demonstration centre.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Resort and Cities to market Longonot Gate properties

A Longonot Gate model house. PHOTO | COURTESY

A Longonot Gate model house. PHOTO | COURTESY  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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The company behind the Sh140 billion Longonot Gate housing project has launched a brand, Resorts and Cities Limited, to market its properties.

Company chairman Lee Karuri said this would enhanced their identity in the investment and construction industry.

“Every real estate project we develop will have a distinct mark of quality and excellence,” said Mr Karuri.

The chairman added that the firm would retain its business model of building integrated communities which includes roads, ICT connectivity, water supply, sewerage systems, power connections as well as other economic, leisure and state-of-the-art social amenities.

He added that they were currently targeting prime locations within the counties.

“Kenyans are increasingly seeking new opportunities that offer a more diverse and secure lifestyle for holiday homes, retirement and leisure away from the urban areas. We seek to provide investors an opportunity to generate revenue through offering their homes for short stay guests,” Mr Karuri said.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Counties now key selling points for Kenya’s opportunities

Baringo Governor Benjamin Cheboi (left) with his deputy Mathew Tuitoek during the launch of Baringo Entrepreneurship and Expo Summit (BEES) held at the Intercontinental  Hotel Nairobi on October 07,2015.

Baringo Governor Benjamin Cheboi (left) with his deputy Mathew Tuitoek during the launch of Baringo Entrepreneurship and Expo Summit (BEES) held at the Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi on October 07,2015. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Ongoing expos to market the 47 counties as investment hubs have created a platform that places Kenya on the world map as a land of opportunities.

Kenya Investment Authority General Manager in charge of Investment Promotion Mr Pius Rotich said the agency is partnering with counties to create a database for all investment opportunities.

“Our role has been made easy since we link investors and county governments for fast-tracking of all deals. Then we keep track to ensure investors get a worthy return for their investment with locals earning handsome returns from jobs created,” said Mr Rotich.

Governors, he said, must shun unnecessary standoff with the national government and instead create a platform that encourages dialogue and a conducive environment for implementation of projects that benefit the people.


He commended Baringo County government for coming up with policies that recognise public-private partnerships as vehicles for driving development.

“Politics of development nurture partnerships between its people and investors from any part of the world.  Fighting the national government only serves to scare investors away,” Mr Rotich said. “Let county governments handle investment issues so as to leave the national government to handle more important things.”

He said Baringo County government is leading the way in providing comprehensive information on investment opportunities.

He said county governments are agents of development. and have to create a conducive environment that attract investments from all corners of the world.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Nairobi attracts bulk of foreign real estate cash

Investment firms Cytonn  and Taaleritehdas have embarked on a Sh1 billion project to build posh residential houses at Nairobi's Karen suburb.

Finland's Ambassador to Kenya Ms Tarja Fernandez (centre) with Taaleritehdas Private Equity Funds real estate director Antti-Jussi Ahveninen (left) and Cytonn Investments CEO Edwin Dande (right) during the groundbreaking ceremony for its Amara Ridge development project in Karen, Nairobi on September 28, 2015 PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Nairobi leads a list of 10 African cities in attracting foreign cash inflows especially in the real estate development.

The just released study by real estate firm, JLL, says that Nairobi is favoured as the gateway to East Africa, outpacing Abuja city (Nigeria) and South Africa’s Johannesburg.

Other cities whose real estate sector attracts notable cash inflows are Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), Lagos (Nigeria), Luanda (Angola), Lusaka (Zambia) and Mozambique’s capital Maputo.


The study reveals that sustained economic growth and rising urban populations continue to generate the need for significant investment in office blocks, roads and residential houses.

This signals Kenya’s entry into the high-growth period of development, the study says.

Digitisation of the Nairobi Land Registry is said to have eased land transactions, attracting investors.

The city is also witnessing a new crop of middle income earners driving growth in the malls, luxury houses as well as hotel facilities by established foreign brands in various parts of Nairobi.

The 32-paged JLL study, Emerging Beyond the Frontier, asserts that while political risks have a bearing on all investments in Kenya, a long-term view and formation of strong partnerships with Kenyan investors mitigates against the challenges. 

JLL’s chairman for Sub Saharan Africa Mr Mark Bradford added that rapid rates of urbanisation and burgeoning middle class has seen multinational corporations, hotel operators and investor groups take keen interest in the country with each seeking to find space in locations highly sought by the newly rich locals.


Interest in Nairobi is driven by high returns on investments at the Nairobi Securities Exchange where recent introduction of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) is seen as a safe bet for foreign investors seeking a share of the real estate pie.

Nairobi bourse and the Nigeria Securities Exchange have also enjoyed new reputation as safe hubs for investment for foreign direct investments, creating an alternative financial hub to the South African bourse.

Nairobi is also catching the attention of the world due to its growing interest in exploration of oil and gas as well as the vibrant information, communication and technology subsector.

JLL’s Sub-Saharan Africa Capital Markets Director Anthony Lewis attributed the growing investments in Nairobi to tangible progress realised in political and economic governance. 

This, he said, has improved the business environment making developers to inject funds in modern commercial real estate development.

The study observes that as competition for office and residential house developments reach fever pitch, Kenya could see foreign investors sink funds in other major towns such as Nakuru which are showing a “good appetite” for high-end investments in real estate.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Haltons Pharmacy signs Sh2bn expansion deal with Vivo Energy

Vivo Energy Managing Director Polycarp Igathe (right) cuts a ribbon to mark the partnership with Haltons Pharmacy.

Vivo Energy Managing Director Polycarp Igathe (right) cuts a ribbon to mark the partnership with Haltons Pharmacy accompanied by Fanisi Capital Managing Director Ayisi Makatiani, Haltons Parmacy Head of Business Development Dr Louis Machogi, Vivo Energy Executive Vice President for Supply and Market David Mureithi, and Haltons Pharmacy Chief Executive Officer Samuel Njuguna. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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One of the fastest growing retail businesses in Kenya today Haltons Pharmacy has signed an agreement with Vivo Energy to open 200 outlets at its service stations countrywide.

Haltons Pharmacy's Sh2 billion expansion will be financed by Fanisi Capital which acquired a stake at the retail company.

The retail business has grown from four stores in 2013 to over fifty in 2015.

Fanisi Capital chief executive Ayisi Makatiani said the project is so far the biggest undertaken with Haltons Pharmacy.

“We are confident in Haltons pharmacy’s business model and we would like to confirm this confidence by making further investment into the company as it expands in terms of geographical reach, product and services offering,” said Mr. Makatiani.


Haltons’ chief executive Sam Njuguna welcomed the deal adding that the stores will be put up in two years’ time.

“It’s difficult and expensive finding space for business premise. This partnership now makes it much easier for us to establish outlets in more than 150 Vivo Energy stations across the country,” he said.

Fanisi Capital made its first investment in Haltons Pharmacy in 2011 with a Sh300 million ($3 million) stake in the chain.

Founded in 2009, Fanisi focuses on agro-processing, healthcare, education, and retail sectors.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Tuskys launches Sh150m internship programme

Pedestrians outside a Tuskys outlet in Nairobi on August 4, 2014. FILE PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI

Pedestrians outside a Tuskys outlet in Nairobi on August 4, 2014. FILE PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Tuskys Supermarkets on Friday launched a Sh150 million internship programme expected to prepare 7,500 graduates for the job market.

Tuskys chairman John Kago said the programme was aimed at preparing the youth for the job market, which has for years lamented the supposed lack of "skilled and experienced" graduates.

“Every Kenyan leader in politics or private business must stop complaining and equip young people with essential skills that contribute to nation-building. The improved security in our country, liberalization of the economy as well as a conducive business environment has enabled us to expand to the current 58 stores in Kenya and Uganda employing 6,000 people,” said Dr John Kago during the launch.

Tuskys Chief Operating Officer Peter Leparachau said the company would absorb 60 per cent of the interns upon completion of the six-month programme.

The project aims to provide retail operators with skilled manpower rather than continue relying on the costly on-the-job training approach.

Mr Daniel Gathua, Tuskys CEO, welcomed the project, saying there was an urgent need in Kenya to create job opportunities for the youth.

He said time had come for Kenyan companies to expand beyond the borders to create employment for Kenyans and ready markets for local products.

Mr Gathua called for close ties between the private sector and academia to ensure graduates get internship programmes as well as relevant market skills.


Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed urged companies to offer graduates practical training and expressed optimism that the government's internship programme, which currently benefits 35,000 students, would rise to serve 100,000.

"The government has created incentives for companies offering internships and the youthful population will continue being at the core of government programmes to help them acquire relevant skills," added Mohamed.

Tuskys has partnered with the University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya Utalii College, Technical University of Kenya, National Youth Service and Artemis Outsourcing Limited, among other tertiary institutions, to make the programme a success.


Friday, October 9, 2015

How brands are getting it wrong with social media

A graphic depicting social media use. Social

A graphic depicting social media use. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have certainly been game changers, with companies often seeking to outdo each other in wit and speed of response to customers. GRAPHIC | MICHAEL MOSOTA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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That technology is changing the landscape of how brands integrate and interact with customers is not in question. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have certainly been game changers, with companies often seeking to outdo each other in wit and speed of response to customers.

What brands often forget when interacting with consumers, however, is that they are first and foremost humans. This is a fatal error as physical interaction with customers is just as, if not more, important as virtual interaction.

Market research reveals that even companies with a strong digital presence still have physical locations where customers can interact with them.

A complaint from an aggrieved customer is often met with an apology before the social media team (assuming there is one) even takes their time to understand the customer’s issue, perhaps in a bid to “save face”.

Responses like “What is the issue?”, “Please DM (Direct Message) us the issue” are very common. A better response would be, “What can I do for you?” , which focuses less on the assumption that the only reason customers would interact with a brand is because they had a problem they wanted solved.


Audience segmentation, which is an uncommon practice with Kenyan brands, would go a long way in pre-empting some of these communication issues with brands.

This would enable brands to create different conversations to suit various audience needs as opposed to treating them like numbers on a spreadsheet and responding to them with generic, automatic responses.

Employees must therefore create natural conversations with customers at different segment levels. Remembering a customer’s name or phone number, for example, if this is not the first interaction, is a good starting point.

A company’s leadership sets the tone, as this is the only way the rest of the staff will be able to offer the desired brand value to customers.

The CEO who breathes and lives the brand triggers traction down the line. Hence, leadership plays a very critical role in inspiring staff to integrate and propagate the brand values.


Brands, like humans, are bound to err, but one other mistake brands make is to refuse to admit when they are wrong and offer an appropriate apology.

Another issue afflicting brands is the inability of brands to accept mistakes and quickly rectify them. We see a lot of this in the service industry, where many employees don’t even know how to react to complaints and instead insist they are correct.

This only escalates the problems and erodes the brand. A recent example is a local supermarket’s varied prices on products at the till and on the shelf. The supermarket refused to admit to any such error, even though the customers had evidence of such occurrences.

As competition and the rush for market share intensify, brands are running helter-skelter to fill a leaking bucket rather than retaining the customers they have, inadvertently removing any emotional connection they might have achieved earlier. All that is left is sales promotion after sales promotion, and hence gaining and losing in equal measure.

The writer is the Managing Director of Brands& Beyond and the Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Marketing – East Africa.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Ministry to help local investors raise funds for Konza projects

Investors interested in setting up at the Konza City have been asked to submit bids for development of 24 parcels of land.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i speaking at the Konza investor briefing on October 8, 2015. Investors interested in setting up at the Konza City have been asked to submit bids for development of 24 parcels of land, as government pledges support for locals. PHOTO | LILIAN OCHIENG | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Investors interested in setting up at the Konza City have been asked to submit bids for development of 24 parcels of land, as government pledges support for locals.

Speaking at the Konza investor briefing, ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said interested local investors who face financial shortfalls would get government support.

“Together with the National Treasury, I am working on a Public Private Partnership framework that will see government source for funds to support local investors,” said Dr Matiang’i.

The Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KoTDA) will rely on Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) to attract investors who will construct commercial, residential, educational and public amenities within the demarcated land.


Land will be leased out to investors for a period of 99 years. Interested companies are expected to have strong financial muscle, a well-defined construction plan with timelines to start development by April 2016 and complete it by end of the year.

Investors are also expected to adhere to Konza’s green building requirements as well as have an ICT focused development strategy.

The property owned by the National Treasury will be controlled by the KoTDA Bill and partly by the Special Economic Zones Bill. When enacted, the Bills will provide tax incentives for investors developing the parcels of land.

“This phase of the project will help establish the critical mass of jobs and services required to stimulate the rest of Konza development and support 5,000 residents,” said Eng John Tanui CEO KoTDA.


Some 345 local and international companies last year expressed interest in investing in the planned tech city. Concrete details on the leasing plan however kept away the likes of Equity Bank which had committed to construct a Sh3 billion data centre. Safaricom had plans to construct an M-Pesa academy but later relocated the project.

“We have the local capacity to roll out major projects even without technical and financial muscle, we can enter into joint ventures with foreign investors,” said KEPSA CEO Carole Kariuki.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

My digital address book is a game changer

Ukowapi is a digital address book which profiles individuals through a web and mobile platform using Global Positioning System

Ukowapi CEO Steve Odhiambo during the interview at Nation Centre on September 30, 2015. Ukowapi is a digital address book which profiles individuals through a web and mobile platform using Global Positioning System (GPS). PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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While in Germany, Mr Steve Odhiambo sent several parcels to his mother in Kenya. However, most of the parcels got lost because she could not be traced as her postal services had been cut off. 

This got Mr Odhiambo thinking on how to remedy the situation. And a business idea was born.

He decided to come up with a digital address book that would ensure that parcels and other goods get into the hands of the right people wherever they are.

The innovator started working on the idea while pursuing university studies in Germany. It took him two years for his concept to take concrete shape.


Ukowapi is a digital address book which profiles individuals through a web and mobile platform using Global Positioning System (GPS).

The aim of the platform is to ease delivery of goods, services and parcels. It traces the location of people without precise physical and postal addresses.

“While in Germany, I tried many times to send my mother parcels back in Kenya but they were never delivered because her postal address services were cut off,” Mr Odhiambo told Money.

“It is out of this need that I decided to create addresses that would be tracked down using mobile and GPS.”

Ukowapi also seeks to make individuals reachable through a web and mobile platform. It provides safe and secure sharing of digital addresses by providing reliable and verifiable digital information.

Ukowapi is a Kiswahili word which means ‘where are you?’ The invention was started with a seed capital of Sh11 million provided by an incubation centre in Germany. 


So convinced is Mr Odhiambo of the viability of his idea that before he even breaks ground in Kenya, he is already setting his sights on Ethiopia and Nigeria, where Internet uptake is high and is the key driver of businesses.

Mr Odhiambo says Kenya is ripe for his business because the economy is rapidly shifting to online.

Among the businesses that Ukowapi is expecting to connect through digital addresses are HelloFood and Jumia Kenya. The firm is also targeting courier businesses, hotels and supermarkets.

Mr Odhiambo, who did his undergraduate in Electrical Engineering at Darmstadt University in Germany, says he has conducted sufficient surveys in Kenya and realized there is a yawning need for his service.

Ukowapi is coming in at a time when HelloFood, Jumia, Jovago, and Eazy Taxi are thriving in the online business. These virtual companies are certain to find Mr Odhiambo’s GPS address tracker very instrumental in connecting with their customers.


Mr Odhiambo currently has five employees all based in Germany. The venture has set up a website http://www.uko-wapi.com/ linked to a web, android and an iPhone application.

Mr Odhiambo says Ukowapi is set to revolutionise address systems in the developing world to “a safer, more connected and more accessible world”.

The enterprise has received recognition in Europe and has already bagged awards before it is unveiled. Last year, at The European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) where he was the first Kenyan participant, he emerged second.

In 2012 Mr Odhiambo bagged the Galileo Masters Award for his Ukowapi innovation. Galileo Masters is a European award which recognises innovative services, products and businesses that incorporate satellite navigation technology into everyday life.


The piloting of the innovation in Kenya will kick off on Friday at Serena Hotel in Nairobi. Mr Odhiambo says the event will bring together important stakeholders in food delivery, e-commerce and courier services.

Mr Odhiambo says the innovation provides a unique platform for e-commerce firms looking to make cost-effective deliveries with minimal location errors.

Kenyan buyers are increasingly turning to online markets such as Bid or Buy, OLX, Nation Media Group’s N-soko, Jumia, Rupushops and Mama Mikes. It is this trend that Mr Odhiambo looks to tap.

Mr Odhiambo says his invention will make it big in the local scene and the continent at large just like Safaricom’s mobile money transfer platform M-Pesa.

Just like Safaricom mobile cash transfer service, he says Ukowapi is mobile-based platform.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Telcos, banks give shylocks a run for their money

Some of the services that are gradually edging shylocks out of the market include Safaricom’s M-Shwari, KCB M-Pesa and Equitel.

Some of the services that are gradually edging shylocks out of the market include Safaricom’s M-Shwari, KCB M-Pesa and Equity Bank's Equitel. PHOTO | DENISH OCHIENG | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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About half a decade ago, if you wanted a quick loan, you went to shylocks. 

Many preferred these informal providers of credit because all you needed to give was some asset in form of collateral and in an instant you have your cash.

Another thing that attracted borrowers to these informal lenders, who invariably operate in the backstreet, is that you got the money quickly to meet your pressing need.

This was a far much easier route than borrowing from banks whose procedures were stringent. Never mind that the shylocks’ interests’ rates were comparatively sky-high while their legality remained a hotly divisive subject among financial experts.


However in the recent past, things have dramatically changed with the advent of the mobile money services provided by telcos. With these services, loans are just a click away, redefining the terms quick money and financial convenience.

What is even more attractive is that you do not need any collateral to obtain the credit. They just look at your saving habits and credit record and if they are impressive, they immediately open the loan taps.


Some of the services that are gradually edging shylocks out of the market include Safaricom’s M-Shwari, KCB M-Pesa and Equitel.

With M-shwari, you just need to click a button and the money is wired instantly into your mobile account so long as you meet the requirements. The amount you can borrow depends on your savings. Your borrowing limit is also increased when you repay your loan constantly on time. A one-time fee of 7.5 per cent is levied for each loan.

In order to qualify for a loan all you need is to be an M-Pesa subscriber for six months, save on M-Shwari and actively use other Safaricom services such as voice, data and M-Pesa

The loan interest is based on the duration taken to repay it, with the shortest period being 30 days.


Banks too have devised ways to regain the ground they have lost to telcos, especially to Safaricom, by coming up with easy-to-access loans.

Kenya Commercial Bank, for instance, has partnered with Safaricom to launch KCB M-Pesa. On its part, Equity Bank has introduced Equitel, where the credit history of the borrowers determine whether or not they get the loan. Aside from this, all that individual needs is an equitell SIM card to access the loans.

To obtain credit through KCB M-Pesa, a borrower just needs to dial a code and go through simple steps. The loans are priced based on the repayment period. The highest interest rate is 12 per cent for a credit payable in 180 days. For a 30-day credit, you pay 4 per cent while a 90-day loan attracts 9 per cent interest.

For KCB M-Pesa, you don’t have to have an account with the bank to use the service; all you need is an M-Pesa account.

You can borrow without having made any savings.  The Loan limits are between Sh100 to Sh500,000 with a top up option.


Banks have also been increasingly simplifying the procedures for applying for loans in addition to finding ways to get rid of the lengthy paper-work processes.

“Banks are trying to relax rules in order to meet the needs of the informal market by lowering loaning standards,” says Said Habil Olaka, CEO, Kenya Bankers Association

“The untapped market of people who once depended on shylocks have today turned to be a money-making segment for the financial institutions.”

Shylocks admit that the current trend puts them in a difficult situation.


A shylock operating on Jevanjee Street in Nairobi says his business is feeling the heat as more big corporates come up with micro-credit products and as banks increasingly become lenient to applicants.

“The rate at which banks are launching these micro-credit platforms will force us out of business” he said, “when banks lowered the amount they lend borrowers, we were left with clients needing small amounts of cash.”

Even in terms of ease of getting the loan, the ground is dramatically shifting beneath them.

Borrowers no longer have to go to banking halls for the loans; all they need is to tap their phone and get an instant loan with very small interests. 


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

MICHELLE GOODMAN: Why it's wise to keep that job as you build a start-up

Keeping your day job while starting a business has its advantages.

Keeping your day job while starting a business has its advantages. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Keeping your day job while starting a business has its advantages.

Aside from the steady income and free coffee, reliable full-time work helps you flesh out your résumé and portfolio and extend your professional network.

Even better, working for someone else gives you a front-row view of the best (and worst) ways to run a company, from managing time and money to handling customers and employees.

We asked some successful entrepreneurs who founded companies while holding down a 9-to-5 jobs to share the lessons they learned.


Holding down a day job means having only so many waking hours to devote to your side venture.

That’s why validating that your idea will work and that people will pay for it — should be priority number one 1, says Shara Senderoff, co-founder and CEO of Career Sushi, an online marketplace that connects young professionals with employers. 

Senderoff was fortunate that her former employer, a Hollywood TV and film production company, agreed in 2011 to fund and incubate her start-up in-house.

But because she didn’t need to bootstrap, she mistakenly spent more time than she should have on Career Sushi’s branding, web design and minute platform details, proof of concept be damned. 

“I probably spent six months doing that,” says the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur, whose site now serves 15,000 employers and 150,000 job seekers.

“In retrospect, that was a wasted six months.”

Of course, the typical start-up can’t afford such indulgences, lest they run out of cash before going live. Lesson learned, says Senderoff:

“Don’t try to build a Porsche when you just need to build the wireframe and test whether the car will ever drive.”


Wrangling your schedule won’t necessarily be easier after you leave your 9-to-5 job. Between the shoestring budget, lean staff and avalanche of action items, deciding which tasks to tackle each day at your start-up can get overwhelming. 

For Allyson Downey, co-founder and CEO of baby-product review platform weeSpring, working at an educational non-profit provided valuable training in organising and prioritising. 

To stay the course, Downey relies on a chart on her desk, a carryover from her previous job, showing the day’s top goals.

“I have a column called ‘user growth,’ a column called ‘revenue growth’ and a column called ‘development,’” says Downey, who is based in New York.

To prevent herself from “going down the rabbit hole of fixing little things and building new features,” the development column is half the size of the other two, she says.

This means that less-pressing tasks like updating weeSpring’s About Us page take a back seat.

“That has been on my to-do list for two years, and it probably will continue being on my to-do list for another two years because I need to keep my head down and focus on the stuff that’s going to move the company forward,” Downey explains.


Before Guy Baroan began running his Elmwood Park, N.J.-based IT firm, Baroan Technologies, full time, he spent several years managing an indoor amusement park.

The facility employed 80 teenagers and hosted about 135 children’s birthday parties per week. 

“There had to be a specific method for the hostesses to go in and run the birthday parties,” Baroan explains.

Employees needed a process road map — from the timing of the cake presentation to the sale of game tokens — to keep parties running smoothly and guest meltdowns to a minimum. 

Baroan was a one-man show when he left his job in 1997 to focus on Baroan Technologies.

Determined to hand off some of his workload as soon as possible, he took a page from the amusement park operations and began documenting all his business practices — everything from scheduling appointments and making service calls to training workers. 

“The best way to delegate is to create processes and systems,” says Baroan, who now employs 18 people and brings in $3 million in annual revenue. “Then you have a consistent method where, no matter who’s doing a task, it’s going to be done the same way.”


Before devoting herself to her business full time in 2012, Katie Stack spent a decade working in the costume departments of regional theatres

Often it wasn’t until the final fitting that a designer would decide on a different colour or fabric for a costume and want a replacement

Between overtime and last-minute shipping costs, “suddenly the cost of that new garment was around six times what the original cost of the garment was,” says Stack, who now runs Stitch & Rivet, a design studio and retail boutique in Washington, D.C.

In selling her own handmade totes, handbags and belts, Stack ensures that the quality of the materials she orders from vendors is up to snuff before making each product.

Because if she isn’t happy with a particular fabric or zipper, her wholesale customers might not be either. 

Stack’s advice: “If you need to change what you’re doing, change it in the prototype stage instead of in the final stage, when you’re up a creek and can’t really backtrack.”


Heidi Andermack became intimately familiar with the fluctuations of small-business cash flow during the seven years she managed her husband’s custom font company.

So when she co-founded Chowgirls Killer Catering in 2004 in Minneapolis, she and partner Amy Lynn Brown set some fiscal ground rules: Limit the amount of personal credit used to float the company during lean times; avoid draining their retirement funds; seek out a bank loan as soon as they qualified. 

They also relied on their business’s peaks — summer wedding season and year-end holidays — to sustain the valleys.

“Learning those patterns of your business is really important,” Andermack says. “You can expect slimmer times.”

You also can expect cost overruns, adds Stack, who began padding Stitch & Rivet’s budgets for worst-case scenarios during her theatre days.

“Always have a contingency budget,” she says, noting that she allots 15 to 20 per cent more money than she thinks she needs for website overhauls, trade shows, printed materials and product development.

“If you don’t use it, that’s great. But chances are you’re going to need it.”

Making workers feel valued has always been a primary concern for Chowgirls’ Brown, who was paid handsomely by the multinational media company that employed her for nine years before she turned her full attention to catering.

“Being treated and compensated well and receiving great benefits taught me how important that is for staff loyalty,” she says. 

Chowgirls, which makes more than $2 million in annual revenue, offers its full-time staffers competitive pay and generous benefits, including four weeks of paid parental leave, three weeks of paid vacation (after three years on staff), free massages and grocery discounts.

“We have a really high retention level,” Brown says.


When Baroan started his company in the late ’90s, “IT people thought they were gods,” he says.

But he had no desire to build a team of smug techies who would be too arrogant to treat customers with respect.

Instead, he cribbed the service philosophy of his former employer, the amusement park: “We had a major focus on treating everyone like a guest in your home rather than just somebody off the street that you’re doing a favour.”

For his IT crew, this means showing up on time, addressing customers by name, answering questions and checking whether customers need anything else before wrapping up jobs. 

“People judge you by what they can relate to,” Baroan says.

His customers may not know much about network configuration data, but they know when someone is courteous and reliable. Baroan credits these traits with earning his company referrals and repeat customers over the years.

“That’s how the business grew,” he says.

Cutting corners is not in Kevin Jordan’s DNA.

His six years as a commercial airline pilot instilled in him an unshakable discipline. Skip the required preflight inspection, and you could jeopardize lives.

Now owner of Redpoint Marketing Consultants, which he opened in 2012 in Farmville, Va., Jordan applies those same standards to each project he accepts, even those involving chores he’d rather avoid — and chores that his clients may not even know about.

One such task: interviewing clients’ customers for their take on the business. “Some of those things are a pain,” he says. “It’s hard to get people on the phone.”

But for Jordan, having the discipline to go the distance when no one’s watching is part of the job.

“Just like with the preflight inspection, the client may never realize that you did a lot of these things,” he says.

“But it will make a difference in the long run. And that’s what distinguishes me from other people who do what I do.”