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Monthly Archives January 2020

Sudden Death

Posted on 3 min read

“You and I hear of sudden deaths and yet we imagine we shall not die suddenly.” – C.H. Spurgeon.

Death by Many Names

There are many euphemisms for death:

To pass away, pass on, lose one’s life, breathe one’s last, meet one’s end, meet one’s death, lay down one’s life, go the way of all flesh, go to one’s last resting place, go to meet one’s maker, cross the great divide, slip away, depart this life, give up the ghost, kick the bucket, croak, buy it, turn up one’s toes, cash in one’s chips, bite the big one, check out, buy the farm, blink for an exceptionally long period…..

Death by Fear of Death

It is ironical that we live life as if death is too far away, yet it is the most certain thing that we are sure will come to us; just a matter of time. It could be tomorrow, or 67 years from tomorrow, but death is more certain than taxes.

And the fear of death paralysis. Although young people may not be worried about dying a slow painful death due to multiple organ failure at the age of 97 years, they are very conscious of the fact that they can die any moment in a way that they may not anticipate.

It could be a terrorist attack, a blood clot, a road accident, a violent robbery or even an attack by wild animals. I have seen great people meet their sudden deaths in such incidences. My college classmate was stabbed to death. Two high school classmates have died in the hands of Al Shabaab.  A primary schoolmate dies in an air crash. A close friend in campus perished through a road accident while another dear friend suffered a blood clot and was gone in a short time. I have heard of somebody who was stung to death by bees.

Why we Fear Sudden Death

Even non sudden death is not amusing. If someone dies at 102 years, we still mourn them and feel the emptiness that comes with it if we were close to them. But a sudden death has zero warnings and hits harder.

We are afraid of what will become of our families. We are worried about how the death will occur. We are afraid of so many things. I do not think anybody gets worried about what they will miss once they are gone, but just the emptiness and nothingness of being no more.

As human beings, we are usually not ready for death.

We are also afraid of death because we rarely see death in life. A few years ago, life expectancy was very short and anybody who lived to be 40 years old had witnessed so many deaths. It is estimated that the life expectancy was around 30 years in the year 1800. Today, modern medicine and other factors have made death rare.

Now that You will eventually Die…

You need to make sense of the life that you are living so that when death comes, you will be set. Ask yourself these questions, because tomorrow it might be you.

  1. What’s your origin? Understanding how we got here will help us put our life in a way that is consistent with our origin. Were you created by a divine being? Are you a product of random thoughtless gathering of atoms? Are you a former goat that got a second chance in life?
  2. The meaning of life. Where do you derive this from? What’s your purpose here on earth? Are you here do accomplish something, or simply existing with no objective? Do toys, education and money you acquire in life all work together towards a certain end.
  3. What informs your moral values? Is evil, stealing, murder, corruption and all vices acceptable, or there is a fixed code of conduct that we must adhere to?
  4. What is your destiny? When you die, will something follow after that, or you will rot and that will mark a cold end, brutal end?

A thousand Deaths

As Shakespeare said, ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.’ Be brave and ask yourself those questions.

P.S

Do you think chicken have a fear of sudden death?

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Why Air-crash Accident Investigations Take Long and What We can Learn from Them

Posted on 2 min read

Flying is one of the safest modes of transport today, and it is not by chance that it is so. It is a result of years of research and learning, majorly through simulations and very good engineering, but also through learning from mistakes that are made.

During the infant age of flying, many lives were lost as engineers and pilots experimented with various models of aircraft. But even when people think they have figured out all that can go wrong, something still goes wrong once in a while and commercial airliner crashes. The results are usually fatal.

Why do aircraft accident investigations take a very long time? The answer lies in how the investigations are done, and the objectives behind the investigations. Whenever a plane crashes, various stakeholders gather together to try and establish the cause of the crash and how it could have ben prevented. The main objective is not to point fingers and blame somebody, but to establish facts that can help prevent similar accidents in future.

Some of the changes that have resulted as a result of airplane crash investigations include Cockpit Resource Management, smoke detectors and automatic fire extinguishers in lavatories and cargo-holds, wind-shear detectors, transponders and flame-retardant materials.

What are the impacts of these investigations?

The most direct impact is that flying continues to get safer year after year. Various factors that could lead to accidents are eliminated including petty things like how a pilot and a copilot relate while on duty.

What if we approached life problems from a perspective of helping humanity get better instead of crucifying those on the wrong? We would end up better people because we can help humanity improve and thrive.

What if we looked at the cause of a road accident beyond the fact that the driver was over speeding, to the requirement by the owners of the vehicles that the driver must do a specific number of trips per day? What if we go beyond and realize that the reason the owners demand a minimum number of trips is because of the many bribes and fees that they have to pay?

The list can go on and on and on.

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Letter from Middle Earth

Posted on 2 min read

Dear earthlings,

Where I live, we have neither electricity nor cars. We do not have access to the internet, and we actually do not need it. We usually do not have money, although we are not poor. We have more food than we need. We talk to each other every day, we till our farms, we write proverbs, we discuss the meaning of life and the origin of man every day. We are a society full of life.

But times have changed. Nowadays the chief has a mobile phone, although he has to travel two ridges away and climb a hill in order to use it. Once a month he goes to the city to have it charged and serviced. We understand that this is one of your technologies that you would want us to use, but why should we?

Our biggest invention here was when my third cousin invented a smoke to internet signal converter. This meant that we could easily send smoke signals to the internet, as your computers are designed to work like our smoke signals; using only two digits. And that is how you can read what I am writing today.

Why we are Reaching Out

Let me go straight to the point.

The world we live in is a world that is changing, and the change has a lot to do with you more than us. We have not changed much in the last 4000 years, while you have really been changing in the last 150 years. It is common-sense that the changing people must be responsible for the changing world, and that is why all fingers are pointed at you.

Our rivers are drying. Strange diseases have come up. The air does smell. The rains do not come on time. When they come, they are usually angry.

Sometimes the heat becomes unbearable and Middle Earth does not feel like home anymore. We feel like we need to act urgently, but we do not know what to do. Should we stop eating beef which we have been eating for the last 4000 years? Should we stop using firewood, yet we have no other means to cook. Besides, we only use dried up trees.

There seems like there is little that we can do. That is why we are hoping that you can find a solution to what is happening, or even be the solution.

Right now, our goal is to stay alive.

Hoping to hear from you.

Regards,

Middle Earthers.

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It Matters how we Collectively Bring up our Children

Posted on 3 min read

As a young parent, I am entitled to give my opinion on parenting based on the fact that I know very little. I am wallowing in the comfort of blissful ignorance, or what the people who study human minds and behavior call unconscious incompetence. I have not parented long enough to know that the little I know is too little, so I will go ahead and write my mind before I become conscious of my incompetence.

Parenting is a hard task and the stakes are high. Unfortunately, I cannot just visit Coursera and get a diploma in parenting. I have been forced to navigate this task as a untrained parent, and it will be several years before I get a meaningful feedback on my performance. Worse, the end product has a life and a will of its own, so my great efforts might have very little correlation with the output. Nevertheless, I soldier on, knowing that I have been given one shot at it, and I want to always look back and say that I did my best.

It takes a village

Today, 55% of the world population lives in an urban setting, and it is expected to rise to 68% by 2030. This urbanization might make my agemates forget that it takes a village to raise a child. Parenting is not an easy task for one person, and two people can barely go through it without doubting if they made the right decision to have those kids in the first place. However, there is more to parenting than just parents. The society that a child grows up in matters a lot.

Environment Matters

Every person is influenced by the society where they grow, and the society is nothing more than a collection of people. If you grow up in Vietnam, you are likely to find a great delicacy in rats, while if you are Kenyan, you will gracefully starve to death while rats roam around freely. This is a factor of the environment, and it applies to so many areas of life, not just cuisine. That is why Kikuyus remain Kikuyus, the Dutch people remain Dutch people even after several generations, The Japanese remain Japanese and Somalis will always be Somalis.

The biggest environmental factors have a lot to do with culture and conditioning. Bring up a child in a place where they swear and use curse words in every sentence and they will pick up the language. If it is in an environment where every kid rides a bike, they will follow suit. If it is in Iten in Kenya, perhaps they might win a marathon in future.

Is your child growing up in the right environment? Before you ask that, step back and ask what is the right environment.

Remember that even if you teach your children all the right things, you have the society that will teach them the wrong things. This is why you cannot parent in isolation and have to take a stand against the ills and the evils in the society. Politics will influence your children. So will corruption and the constitution

The Environment also Changes…

A society is not static. People who rejected gay practices 50 years ago gladly adopt them today. Poor families become rich, and some stable countries become wrecked. Give your children a true compass in life so that when change come, they will know when to change, and when to stand firm.

Case of Millennials and Gen Z

Parenting methods also change.

That is possibly why we have some character traits that cut across a whole age group. If we have millennials who are very entitled, it means that there is a group of parents who brought up their children teaching them to be entitled. (Which reminds me, this millennial thing is just a regional construct. Where I come from there is neither millennial nor boomer, OK?). If generation Z does not grow up with a terrifying sense of entitlement, it is because the millennial parents are taking action to correct what was wrong with how they were brought up.

Conclusion

The conclusion of this is that I do not know much about parenting. Proverbs advise that even a fool who remains silent might be deemed wise. Let me not write about parenting.

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Lord of the Memes

Posted on 1 min read

The world has changed. I see it in the Instagram. I feel it in Facebook. I smell it on Twitter. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.  

It began with the sharing of pictures, and soon, memes became the fastest way to communicate without writing too much. Out of the memes came the memefied people who have always made our lives happy. We are in meme revolution.

My question; Who is the Memelord of Africa? I bet the answer would be President Uhuru Kenyatta, and this has been documented widely here.

The president who recently quit social media still continues to trend online as his memes dominate. He is not only the president of Kenya, but also president of the meme republic.

Perhaps, men were deceived, and now we have one meme to rule them all!

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Making E-Commerce Work

Posted on 2 min read

I need an Ecommerce website where I can sell my products that I often market via WhatsApp and Instagram.

This is the question I have encountered many times from people who want to sell their products online, and want to set up an ecommerce website. The easiest solution is to design for them a website, train them on how to add products, set up a payment method and get them started. However, this method rarely works.

Setting up a website, integrating payments and training someone on how to use it is an expensive task. Yet, for most starters, they are not looking forward to selling tons of goods for a start, and the labor-intensive work of adding and managing stock is not something they enjoy.

Besides, the biggest hurdle comes to delivery. Getting products delivered to a buyer in Kenya is hard, or extremely expensive. There are few logistics firms that can deliver conveniently and at an affordable cost for small volumes of goods.

A Different Approach

To solve all those problems, a Kenyan startup, Mzizzi, is offering to scratch the itch. With an ecommerce platform that is now being used by over 1000 merchants in Kenya, Mzizzi is offering a platform that comes a ready-made e-commerce website, payment integration and delivery of products. This means that if you sign up on their platform, you only need to send them your catalogue, and they will get the website up and running, manage your stocks, and do the delivery of the products.

With this approach, small merchants can effectively sell online without having to worry about how heir goods will be delivered. They also have someone to respond to queries and monitor stocks so that they can focus more on business development. Mzizi does not charge any set up fee, but they make money from commissions charged on every sale made.

We hope to see the platform transforming e-commerce in Kenya.

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One Person Can Change alter the Course of History

Posted on 2 min read

In the late 90s, South Africa was facing a HIV/AIDS crisis with almost a quarter of all black South Africans living with the virus. The hope for these people was in affordable ARVs which were never close to being affordable as they cost about $1000 per month. Most people could not afford these drugs and relied on the government to subsidize and make them affordable.

The government of South Africa risked bankrupting its health budget, and thus passed a law allowing the minister of health to override patent laws in a health emergency. This would help them to get cheap, generic AIDS drugs to deal with the crisis.

But shortly after, 39 pharmaceutical companies filed a lawsuit against the government of South Africa. They argued that South Arica was trying to violate their patents. The case would have serious implications for the developing world as far as access to affordable healthcare was concerned. To most people, these were greedy global corporations trying to protect their profits as making to harder for the people who needed the drugs most to acquire them.

In 2001, the 39 companies unanimously dropped the lawsuit. The case was closed.

How did this happen?

The answer lies majorly in one man. Dr Tadataka Yamada had just been appointed the chairman of research and development at Glaxo SmithKline, one of the leading pharmaceuticals. When he learnt about the case, he was horrified, and decided to do something about it.

He talked to his staff and realized that many opposed the lawsuit. He talked to the board members and persuaded them to back down. He said Glaxo SmithKline should not make life saving drugs, then prevent people accessing them. 

His action set forth a chain of events that led to the lawsuit being dropped, as well as several other changes that saw Glaxo SmithKline being actively involved in campaigning for global health challenges solutions and dedicating more resources towards diseases ravaging the developing and least developed countries.

One person altered the course of history.

What do you need to change at your workplace?

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Kenyans and Locusts Have Something in Common

Posted on 2 min read

Locusts are just grasshoppers. When left on their own, they live a quiet and peaceful life munching on grass. They are barely visible, save for when you walk on grass where they are and they hop around. They threaten no one and do no harm.

But once they come into contact with a crowd of fellow locusts, a form of ‘herd’ mentality kicks in. They alter both their appearance and character. They develop powerful wings and an insatiable hunger, and group together into swarms that can destroy any vegetation that is on their way. They can fly for a distance of 100 km in a day, creating total destruction on their path.

The trigger for this transformation is usually a drought followed by rapid vegetation growth. This is the secret signal that initiates the mutation and exponential reproduction. When this happens, even human beings get scared.

But this behavior is not all that unique. When I think of the Kenyan voters (and non-Kenyans should not dare point fingers), I realize that we are in the same class with the grasshoppers.

Kenyans are full of wisdom. They know exactly what is wrong with the government. They know who is stealing from them. They know who causes unemployment and all the bad things that exist in the country.

All this wisdom lasts until the year of the general elections, where every community decides who they are going to vote for. All of a sudden, the wisdom fizzles out and a herd mentality kicks in. They throw away wisdom and vote for their fellow tribesman who has exploited them for years. Tribes move together like swarms of locusts that devour every good idea that ever existed.

After the election, they go back to their superior wisdom and can tell exactly what is wrong with the government.

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Can SACCOs Save Kenyans from Predatory Digital Lending Apps?

Posted on 3 min read

Kenya is a first of many, but it is possibly the SACCO movement that stands tallest, although little talked about. In terms of savings, Kenya has the largest SACCO movement in Africa, and SACCOs have been the preferred source of credit for many people. But just like with any thriving industry, disruptions are always around the corner and while SACCOs depended on a good savings history to loan people money, a new form of lending that depends more on the reputation of the borrower more than their saving history has taken a big share of the market. The term for it is digital loans.

Growth of digital Lending in Kenya

With the advent of mobile phones and increased internet penetration, borrowing of money has been shifting from the traditional channels to electronic channels. Financial institutions started digitizing their services and started taking advantage of the digital economy. One of those steps was to make financial transactions faster and lending more efficient. However, it was not until 7 years ago that digital lending became popular with the launch of M-Shwari (a partnership between Safaricom’s Mpesa and Commercial Bank of Africa, CBA). Today, there are over 50 digital lending apps in Kenya that are churning out loans worth millions of shillings every day.

The lending apps exploit social information and apply various artificial intelligence tools to determine creditworthiness. This involves factors such as your mobile phone airtime usage, the amount of money you transact every month, your likes, location, Facebook friends and even how you save people in your phonebook. Algorithms are able to analyze the data and determine how much you are worth with some astounding levels of accuracy. This is possibly why there are less defaulters of mobile money loans than there are for shopkeepers, banks and loans from friends and family as shown in the figure below.

Figure 1:1 Proportion of defaulters by loan type, 2019 (%). Source: Central Bank of Kenya, 2019 FinAccess Household Survey.

Impact of Digital Loans

There has been a lot of talk on financial inclusion afforded by these mobile apps. Many people who could never afford credit are now able to get cash to boost their businesses, pay school fees, or for whatever purpose. Banking on the high penetration of mobile money in Kenya, it is now faster and easier than ever to get a credit facility and have the money sent directly to your phone. The number of people who use these apps keeps growing.

But on the flipside, there is the dark side of the mobile-based loans. While most of these digital platforms do not charge interest, they have what is called set-up fee for every loan. While most of them are very short term in nature, the effective ‘interest’ charged by these apps comes to about 90% p.a for the conservative ones like M-Shwari and KCB-MPESA, and up to 180% p.a for Tala and Branch. These rates make the poor people who need these loans to use the most expensive form of credit that anyone can get. In comparison, SACCO loans charge an average of 12% per year while banks are limited to not more than 4% above Central Bank of Kenya lending rate, which would translate to 13% per year.

How SACCOs can intervene

For ages, SACCOs have occupied a prime spot when it comes to lending. However, they are not the preferred go-to shop when one urgently needs a loan of KES 500, 1000, or 15,000. This is the market that has been left to digital lending apps. Yet, it is the members of these SACCOs who go ahead to borrow from these apps. SACCOs would be better positioned to offer these micro loans, as they already have members’ savings as security, and their interest rates would be more affordable. This would make the credit more affordable, non-predatory and low risk.

Unfortunately, most SACCOs in Kenya are small in nature, and lack the financial muscle to deploy systems that can allow them to lend to their members using mobile apps. There already exists systems and mobile apps that can allow for SACCOs to do this, but the adoption of these systems is still low for the majority of the SACCOs. Many also have a high staff turnover rate, and depend on semi trained personnel to run the operations. This makes it even harder for these SACCO to intervene. Perhaps, the government and umbrella bodies should focus on how to get an effective system for the SACCOs which will help them face the Silicon Valley based lenders.

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Procrastination

Posted on 3 min read

I had planned to write this last year but two. I know it is never too late. There is always time to do it in the future.

When I was in school, we knew that the semester was always concluded in three nights; the night before CAT 1, the night before CAT 2, and the night before the main exam. One only needed to spend time lazing around the whole semester, then get into action the last day. The strategy always worked, sometimes.

And that is the life of a procrastinator. They say that there is a lot of time to enjoy wasting. There is always time for anything. Have you found any living person who ran out of time and the clock stopped ticking for them? If you are in Africa, there is a lot of time. When God created time, he made a lot of it!

The procrastinator makes new year resolutions and waits till December to start implementing them.

We are many

There is one of us who was told to come up with a register of all the procrastinators. He is yet to get started. But we are many, very many. We are the people who enjoy the benefits of procrastination.

Benefits

If you can do it in two hours just before the deadline, why do it in six hours one week before? There is nothing that saves tune than procrastination.

Even wisdom is usually a function of age. Better delay doing it until as late as possible, for then you will be older, hence wiser.

Procrastination is natural. Natural is good. Let’s save the planet.

It has saved me a lot if things. I have always procrastinated on taking driving classes for the last 71 years. Now they have come up with self-driving cars, saving me the hairs I would have lost taking those useless classes.

The Perfectionist

There is one class of procrastinators who go through hell on earth.

A procrastinator who is a perfectionist will face death by a thousand cuts. Late to start, and even when they start, they will restart again to meet certain standards. As they suffer from a paralysis of analysis, even the non-perfectionist procrastinator will be a million steps ahead. Time is not good for perfectionists.

The Ugly of Procrastination

While procrastination has its cure in deadlines, where the procrastinator spends sleepless days and nights just before the deadline, there is one thing that all procrastinators live to regret. In absence of deadlines or external factors to motivate them, many of life tasks can be ignored forever.

This is why many tasks are never done. Many degrees are not studied. Businesses are not started. Important self-development goals are ignored. At the end of the decade, one will look back and cry at the missed opportunities, but it will be too late.

When we realize that time is short and the clock is always ticking, we will understand that procrastination is worse than an armed robber.

In the words of Denis Waitley, ‘Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.’

Disclaimer

The only thing a procrastinator will never procrastinate about is on procrastination.

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