Monday, December 26, 2011

Staring "White and Green" Christmas Reality

Wrote this on a calm Boxing Day morning listening to happy birds chirp outside my window. Their energies and persistence speaks loud of awoken early to feast on the fattest worms to their daily fill perhaps thereafter washed it down with fresh sweet nectar from flowers with driblets of morning dew.

The world has enough for everything that lives on it but not enough for one greedy person.

Ugali na sukuma wiki/WIKIPEDIA

Dedicate this those without a box to open, no gift received - not even cheap Christmas card. Much appreciate of the numerous Seasons' Best Wishes text and email messages facilitated by more affordable and convenient modern communications technologies. I received one such 'cost avoidance advisory' best wishes SMS that read:-

Eeeee, naona hapo bado unafikiria Krisimasi.. Ushaifanya hesabu ya hiyo siku? Hebu fikiria ::: Ku-travel hapa na pale 4,000/= kubuy vyakula vingi na kushiba exes 7,000/= kubuy nguo 10,000/= kukesha out 20,000/= kualika mafriends 30,000/= Je! na mpango wa kando 35,000/= na bado uko na shida ya pesa??? FIKIRIA.... Achana na mpango wa krisimasi!!! PIKA SUKUMA EPUKA HASARA...

[Translated: “eeh, I see you are still thinking Christmas. Have you budgeted for that day? Unplanned visits shs 4,000, buying much food 7,000 buying clothes 10,000 going out 20,000, costs of inviting friends over 30,000. Extra marital affair expenditure 35,000 and as it is you're pecuniary embarrassed? Think about it, forget plans for Christmas! Cook kale and ugali to avoid further indebtedness.”]

But wait a minute.... none of the above should be happening in Kenya because “An increase of ten percentage points in mobile-phone adoption in a developing country increased growth in GDP per person by 0.8 percentage points,” according to the World Bank, “mobile phones have made a bigger difference to the lives of more people, more quickly, than any previous technology. They have spread the fastest and have become the single most transformative tool for development,” according to Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang, Lead Economist at the World Bank

Forget the World Bank report:

Unless, according to their report, your families feasted on oven perfectly roasted Christmas turkey receipe.
Oven roasted brine soaked turkey /WIKIPEDIA

World Bank were wrong, judging from the sukuma wiki and ugali Christmas reality Kenyans face that is farthest from their theoretical findings. From deep down in the African trenches, the original Christmas spirit was killed a long time ago instead morphed into a mobile networks operators' harvest season. In a marketeers with advertisers galore wherein reinforces the Bank's historical privatisation preference and continual 'private sector' support less caring about consumer protection.

And neither have we forgotten nor fully recovered from the effects from your Structural Adjustment Programs of the late 80s and early 90s. While at it, how come you failed to predict the so-called “Global Economic Crisis” and advice rich economies controllers on how to avoid it?

Mobicos wrecking poverty havoc in Africa.

While mobile subscribers text one another blaming themselves and offering advise against reckless spending over Christmas, they certainly make mobicos smile all the way to their banks. They fail to see the real villains behind their poverty and ugali miserable holidays. Their chain SMS forwards further boost mobicos profits, recalling this year's financial performance, “12.9% growth in Turnover to KSh. 94.83 Billion,” Safaricom reported.

In December last year six hundred and sixty five million SMS messages were sent in Kenya in equivalent to shillings 665 million at one shilling per message. Between October and December 7.4 billion minutes of calls were made over mobile networks of which 6.4 were “on-net” (or calls made within the same network not to subscribes on other networks). Calculate using cheapest operator's tariff of 3 shillings per minute would means a whooping KS 22.2 billion mopped from subscribers pockets, according to regulator report.

By the way, it amazes to find telecommunications reports written especially crafted for technology experts? You know, the folks that “speak in tongues” to us at conferences? Ever using incomprehensible acronyms and whom appear relieved to conclude their presentations with “positive indicators of success and future industry prospects” - citing increased; penetration, minutes of use, affordability, growth in data services, national GDP (using above referenced Word Bank report). While we, the lay audience, nod our heads in agreement – if to be seen as “in the know” but in truth more often than not we have no idea what they are talking about? Many afraid to publicly demonstrate their stupidity by asking “technical questions” thereafter?

A good question one may ask would be, “For all the wonderful technologies you have spoken about, how much does it cost me and what benefits and savings do I stand to gain by adopting it? What known and potential harms does the consumer risk and what precautions should be taken?” The harms could range from financial, physical, biological, social or emotional trauma upon discovery of eroded privacy, among others.


Effective regulation resulted in costs of telecommunications coming down, but up to last year. This year has seen weakened telecommunications regulation resulting in consumer prices rising. Mobile calling tariffs and Value Added Services have risen. Apparently taking a cue from petroleum dealers, sugar factories, food industries and electricity company, mobile phone services providers have embarked on rationing what hitherto were “unlimited services” they now sell those services in very limited doses - as if communications are dangerous medicines to be dispensed in small doses.

Blame threatened insatiable telecoms corporate greed for draining out billions out of all our pockets leaving us with no turkey or chicken but the ugali you were forced to eat this Christmas. Blame the regulator for allowing prices to go up north.


Government policy is ultimately responsible for what is affecting your pocket- whether in taxation, bandwidth or calling tariffs and consumer protection. Government fails when it looks the other way while consumers suffer. Fails more miserably when it goes ahead to support price increments and even worse should it interfere with independent regulation to favour any of the handful of operators at the expense and alter of public interest. And pathetic when genuine, assertive and independent consumer protection is scuttled and deliberately frustrated by invisible hands through deliberate but clandestine individuals officials acts.

To mess any economy, stuff its telecommunications regime. Communication is the nervous system of the (publics) economy [different from (corporates) economy] which when obstructed triggers widespread irreparable harm to the (national/government) economy. Now with bank lending rates shoot to highest levels in eight years, disastrous inflation awaits in 2012.

The government is challenged to demonstrate implementation of consumer protection policy as required by the Constitution of Kenya promulgated last year to arrest now rising prices and ensure competition benefits are passed on to consumers.

Role of advertising and/in media:

Laugh your head off at The Ex Journalist’s Guide to Saving the World, Soulful PR and Selling Kitty Litter but think about it, journalism no longer serves the public interest they way it used to. Nowadays media enterprise interests dominate editorial “policy” way above journalistic values.

Own research has established that the first six-month of 2011 (January to June) Kenya's total advertising revenues on broadcast (radio and television), six major print newspapers, magazines and periodicals on local media was approximately shillings 19.1 billion - with telecommunications industry accounting for Shs 4 billion (or 23.2 per cent of advertisements revenue.) Below table lists expenditures above 1 billion shillings
Industry/Sector Advertisements Revenue (KShs)
Communication 4,088,978,680
Corporate 2,410,821,743
Finance 2,202,185,650
Household 1,894,897,744
Pharmaceuticals 2,516,553,206
Beverages 1,905,573,580
Foods 1,210,821,702
Personal Care 1,341,857,898

a) How does abundant advertisement cash affect the media editorial content?
b) Do the ads-enriched media houses deliberately present slanted reporting to protect and advance commercial interests for their big advertisement spenders?
c) Can free, media coverage airtime ('space wasting') consumer protection agenda withstand the onslaught from high media revenues sources agenda?
d) How do commercial firm's business proposals to media houses offering high revenue-share model control what all people think about (even if may not control what they think)?
e) How can we be certain that, overall, the media fairly weighs on consumer protection against advertised goods, products and services?

While at it, the media could have lesser "Celebrity Journalism" and increase on their "Life Skills" improving content.

Wouldn’t you think that most consumers of media would want the information they accept to be true, useful, informative, dignified, and objective? Well, is it? ...crucial for all people to know how our media-driven society has shaped and mis-shaped our values, causing considerable harm at the same time. Consistently, the media pokes, prods, drives, pushes, and coerces consumers with FEAR. How many of these fears are ever realized? How much of what we see in the media (and especially the news) is in our realm of normal?.

Prior to modern times, the potential for using electricity existed, but went untapped. In the past 50 years, fear mongers have accelerated the ways to deliver pain to audiences and make them jump. They learned how to parlay the manipulation of that emotion into the largest cash cow to date.

Modern humans have been taught, even conditioned, to fear many things.The list of fears grows exponentially as each individual articulates the things s/he dreads. A short list of popular fears includes change, financial insecurity, other people, big businesses, wasting time, uncertainty (the unknown), and more. But these fears are a learned behavior. People aren't born with an instinctive fear of any of these. From where did they come?" poses

The Future not so bright either:

I would be lying to say that it looks brighter when data and progress curve point contrary. The number of civil society interventionists – alleviating societal suffering due to government/governance failures serves as a good yardstick. In progressive societies such interventionists work towards making themselves irrelevant, in any case they would not receive donor funding if they did not have well grounded legitimate funding proposals.

In December 2004, Kenya had at most 5,000 registered NGOs/CBOs/CS organisations registered in a then population of 33 million people. India had about 11,000 such organisations while their population was about 1 billion. Today, there are over 8,500 such registered organisation in a population of 40 million people.

Hopefully this clarifies why a sizeable number were forced to eat ugali yesterday to avoid further indebtedness. Best be advised to tighten your belts or learn how to take sukuma wiki with pepper (with a glass of water at hand)

The world may have enough to feed everything on it but clearly excessive greed has overcome our planet. Tensions from competition for dominance and control of resources can only multiply.

Fasten your seat belts!

No comments:

Post a Comment