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Archive for January, 2009

A while ago, a group of my friends (from very diverse backgrounds) were having an e-discussion on Africa’s Investment potential. One school of thought proposed that Oil is the driving factor for many of Africa’s Investment Alternatives – a thought that was then quickly dispelled as not mostly true. Whereas that may be the case for Nigeria et al, it remains largely not necessarily true for a vast majority of the African States.

 

One of my friends then said:

I don’t disagree that these emerging economies could be a boon for the astute investor, but not because of the price of oil. 

 

And this was my response to that:

I totally believe in Africa’s Investment growth potential. I refuse to let the hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe, one lonely isolated and mismanaged economy, serve as a bench-mark for “Investment Environments in Africa” to the rest of the world.

And, I do agree that direct growth of investments in Africa has more do than just the price of oil. The versatile nature of contributors to growth ranging from mining, tourism, agriculture etc can help in dispelling this claim
That Investment opportunities in Africa have expanded over the past few years is no longer a matter of conjecture but rather an issue that a lot of analysts, venture capitalists and investors at large are exploring with a lot of gusto. For a continent that was often synonymous with political strife, ethnocentric skirmishes, disease and immense poverty, this paradigm shift is at the very least, very impressive.

A few Statistics;  In a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report, Africa Recovery, it emerges that the profitability of foreign companies in Africa has been consistently higher than in most other regions in the world. Annual average FDI inflows rose from $ 1.9B in 1983 -87 to 3.1B in 1988-92, and then doubled to 6B in 1993-97.

In my opinion, inasmuch as this is a debatable stand point, when examined in the context of unique macro conditions of each particular region, expected rates of return on FDI vs. actual return, forecasted vs. real GDP, then we can lend credibility to that statement.

It has also emerged that a lot of Multinational Companies (MNCs) are setting base in Africa due to these very reasons. The scope is so high that studies are now being done on the effect of MNCs in Africa/ developing nations. We also have evidence of African based mining, food processing etc companies expanding into other countries leading to outward inflows of FDI up to $ 43B annually.

I can think of a few reasons that could help explain the rise in investment avenues and/or opportunities in Africa:

1. Macro – economic stability.

In a global economy plagued with negative to stagnated growth, even among G20 Nations, there has been a noticeable positive and consistent economic outlook in African nations (some). The trickle down effect may be negligible due to the strides that have yet to be made, but this does not negate the sustainable growth nonetheless.

2.  Re-shaping of political legal environments.

 

Private investments are directly co-related to the legal structure in a country. Efforts are being expended towards achieving a “free and fair” business environment that will then foster investment programs and initiatives.
3.  Regional integration

e.g. the African Union, East African Community etc. These have greatly increased the synergistic capabilities of individual member states through collective bargaining agreements, lifting of trade of trade barriers and providing a united front concerning economic fronts to some extent.

4.  A very educated workforce:

A lot of investment management professionals are educated in the USA and Europe and then return to their countries bringing with them fresh perspectives and outlooks, global mindsets and best practices that have virtually turned around private investment firms in many nations.

Whereas significant strides have been made in my opinion a core issue that still need to be re-examined is in regard to taxation. A major problem of doing business in Africa is:

Multiple taxation.

An importer will pay import duty and stamp duty then customs tax. At selling you will then have to pay a VAT (Value Added Tax) which is an average of 15% for most regions. That is the very least, and in most cases depending on the jurisdiction you are carrying out your business, you ma have to pay Local County or City Council Taxes. I feel that the taxation system can be better streamlined to allow revenue for governments while still encouraging investments and trade.

Indexing of Investment Funds

In investments, one major issue would be the fact that most Capital Markets in Africa with the exception to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) have their investments funds and avenues indexed to a single measure which may not accurately reflect performance of portfolios. However, this may very well change with time. Many Capital Markets are now working on developing Indexes that will be reflective of different sectors and I can see how this is going to make these markets even more robust.

On a macro- level, what is really pushing investment growth in Africa is the tailoring of Funds to meet regional needs. Mutual Funds, to include Unit Investment Trusts have grown three fold in the past ten years. Why? People are familiar with this kind of Investment Avenue. Introducing this from a professional perspective makes it more “acceptable”.

I also see great potential for a Futures Trading Market in Africa – an area that has largely not been explored. Maybe one of these fine days, I shall be on the forefront to spearheading the creation and development of one.

The bottom line therefore still remains the creation of a free market based economy in the region. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was very instrumental to this end. This was basically a subtitle to the Trade and Development Act of 2000 aimed at creating incentives for African Countries to further their efforts towards market based economies. A lot of benefits were accrued by countries that actively harnessed the provisions of this Act – but that is something I will discuss at a later posting.

I see even more growth in the African Region. The Astute Investor already knows that and is actively harnessing the little gains right now.

 

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said:

Africa’s Profitability is one of the best kept secrets in today’s world economy

 

That may very well be a phenomenon that is fast changing!

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I am my Mum’s Daughter :-)

My friend once had a good chuckle when I sent her email partly saying ” I talked to my Mum”. I didnt get it at first, but the ” Mum” part was the funny piece. You see in the US of A, we say ” Mom” not ” Mum”! Well being the me I am, I quickly embraced the observation and actually found myself consciously thinking about it…so many things we do all our lives without thought or second thought.

They say ( and I am seriously paraphrasing here) that you can judge a woman’s progression through the Mommy to Mom to Mother – for some reason, I don’t see myself calling my Mom ( yah see how quickly I embrace observations!) , Mother! I call my Mom Mama. Mama said in a Kisii Accent – Lol!

Growing up we used to wonder why Mummy carried either big bags/purses or multiple bags in lieu of the former. I mean what happened to fitting your ID aka Kitambulisho, some money and keys in a small kibeti and going your way? I went through that phase – the small, single purse stage too, but quickly became my Mama. Mama still has a purse for her “things”, another for things she is taking to her friends, and another bag just in case!

Going to grad school for me meant working full time and going to class once a week for 4 hours. Leaving my house early in the morning meant I was laden with my laptop case, my purse, my book bag and another bag with ” things” in it – so I officially no longer wondered how a woman can carry so much with her all the time!

But there are also other reasons why I am Mama’s daughter:

1. I am an excellent cook

I cook very well ( repetition intended!). I am very comfortable in the kitchen and love to experiment with new ideas. My mum makes this terrific pan fried meat stew….with Ugali and garden fresh kale aka sukumawiki aka collard greens mmmmmhhhh!!!….I am almost going to catch a flight at the thought of that!  Over the years, my favorites have also evolved, but my favorite still remains Italian. I also have developed a strong liking for seafood – yes, the fish, shrimp, mussels etc. I am tending to stay away from red meat; I just do not crave for it anymore.

I cant remember “formal” cooking lessons at home – it was more of a watch and learn kind of thing. But, they say you learn from the best right? Right!

2. I love tea

And by tea, I don’t mean green tea – though I do enjoy green tea chilled with a dash of lime. By tea I mean Kenyan Chai – the kind with Milk and loose tea leaves with Tea Masala. I drink tea all the time, My Dad used to tell anyone that would listen that her daughter a.k.a me, could easily live on tea.

When my mum visited us in the US of A, the best part was waking up to Mama’s fresh made Kenyan Tea!

In high school, sometimes I would spend my school breaks with my aunt – my mum’s younger sister. She was more “big sister” to me than “mother figure”. I remember sitting with her talking into the wee hours of the night over lots and lots of tea.  And she would talk to me about “stuff ” and we would laugh loudly, Kenyan style. Two women bonding over tea.

People wonder how I can drink so much tea; Well, I just can!

3. I have this quiet disposition that says a tonne – no words necessary. Enough said!

4. I love shoes

Now shoes have to be talked about! I share a shoe size with my mum and one of my sisters. So days of living at home ( many years ago), meant there was an abundance of shoes to choose from! The thing runs in the O_____ women.

A while back, my then 2 year old niece had tonsil surgery. She wakes up from, and the first thing she says ” I want my shoes”! So she is wheeled back to her hospital room wearing the hospital “sarongs” and … yes , her shoes!

My sis P says ” a woman can never have too many shoes” – words from a wise woman!  F, my other sister finally had to give in and learn to walk in 6 inch heels as soon as she left high school.

I personally think that a woman who doesnt know who to walk in heels need to learn or learn!

5.  Keeping my head above water

My mum has an uncanny way of sifting through issues, knowing what to keep and knowing what to throw out. I can confidently say she still keeps me grounded. Calling my mum is still the best “therapy” for me. Lol! All I have to do is listen and I will hang up feeling better and knowing what to do – and most importantly knowing what not to do.

Its no wonder I am always running up my phone bill calling directly from my cell phone instead of using a calling card. Sometimes those cards are so irritating, takes forever to go through, fuzzy lines and you end up spending a chunk of time saying ” can you hear me?”

Sitting here typing, I just realize that should I keep typing, this post shall never end! There are simply too many things that make me my Mum’s daughter.

I love my Mum’s resilience, the fact that she has always pushed me to be all I can. She has thoroughly ” threatened” any of her children away from mediocrity. She always says, give it your best shot and do not settle for just good enough!

Right now as I work my way through my third and hopefully last degree, she is my greatest rally. She understands what I want and will stop at nothing to see that I get to getting there….what more can a daughter ask for? And as I have grown older, seriously, I am becoming my Mum – a most awesome thing! In College, I used to say, if I cant be more like Jesus, let me be more like my mum.

Mama has also raised other wonderful mum’s; my 2 sisters are also mum’s. I know, the values they are instilling in H and K, my nieces are a trickle down effect from a wonderful mum’s touch – and they will both grow up to be wonderful women. My nephew B ( my brother’s son), is also blessed to have such a wonderful grandma by his side – he shall definitely grow up to be a young man that understands the force that is an awesome woman’s nurturing.

In their song “Mama”, Il Divo belt out  ” Mama thank you for who I am, thank you for all the things I’m not”

That about says it – I am mum’s daughter and there is nothing else in the world I would rather be. I shall now proceed to wait for 2 more hours, call my Mum and have a good laugh about “things”

 

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Realized…..

Today, January 17th 2009, marked my 5th anniversary. I have now been in the US of A for 5 years. I am pretty happy about “how I turned out” Lol! I am pretty excited to still be on the “path” – interpreted in any number of ways.

A few years ago, I made it a point to be my own measuring yardstick – live my life by standards I have set for myself. I also wrote the following “mantra” if you will, to always remind myself that “there is always a more excellent way”. Today, I post it.

I am forever grateful to God for allowing me the experiences he has accorded me in my journey here. The people I have met, the challenges, the good and not so good. All those have refined me to be a more exceptional woman. And as I mark my 5th year…..all I can think of is “He aint done yet”

My late Dad used to tell us, his 4 children ” whatever you do or don’t do, someone is going to have something to say; So, do what you want to do anyway because then you will be in the business of doing whats important to you – no matter what anybody thinks”

Words from a wise father!


……IT moments……

I have realized that I really am stronger than I thought I ever was or ever could be and I have also realized that I really can endure.

I have realized that I have sometimes been settling for less than I deserve, less than I am capable of doing and less than is my worth

I have realized that I really am capable of doing much more than I think I can

I have realized that I have sometimes been yielding in the complacency of the moment for the sake of short term holdings.

I have realized that I don’t have to apologize for dreaming big, for thinking big, for living with a winner’s attitude

I have realized that I don’t need people to understand who I am or why I live my life the way I do – I simply strive for respect, just like I respect others dreams.

I have realized that if I am not on the same path with someone, then I need to keep walking the path that has brought me this far, even if it means severance to alliances.

I have realized that only by being true to my self, my purpose for life, have I been able to be this far

I have realized that I need to be true to that.

I have realized that even though I may have faltered and even fallen along the path that has led me here; I have found the strength, the inner strength to keep going on – because I refused to stray away from that which defines the core of me.

Then, Today, I have decided, that the journey of that defining path that is my life has to go on.

And so I do just that.

Forgetting what lies behind, looking ahead and running the race to finish and win!


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A more Excellent Way…

“But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way”

In my opinion striving for excellence doesn’t mean striving for perfection; it means, at least to me the journey towards getting to the best I can be; it means never settling for just “good enough”, but aiming for that which, at the very least, is more than just good enough. It means, taking it a notch higher, a step further, a thought better refined, an action given just a little bit more consideration, a little more effort. All the aforementioned, done even if in a nonchalant state.


In the 2000 movie, Men of Honor, Cuba Gooding Jr. (Carl Brashear) aspires to be a marine diver. This in the era of segregation and with all things militating against him. His father simply tells him “Don’t end up like me”. He despises the position he has found himself in (toiling in the fields – a sharecropper), but most importantly he wishes more for his son.


Carl finds his way into the Navy, but is relegated to flipping burgers because inasmuch as the Navy has been desegregated, people’s perspectives have not – however that is not my focal point here. Determined to make it as a diver, one afternoon, exasperated from flipping burgers, Carl takes a dive into the waters and swims his way to be first at the finishing point. He gets into trouble yadayadayaa.The Navy Officer reprimanding him finally tells him:


“You are the fastest damn swimmer here and you have the balls to prove it”


He then proceeds to give him a shot as a diver. At the end of it all, Carl overcomes all kinds of issues to become the first African American Navy’s Master Diver. If you ask me, his fortunes changed the moment he took that dive – literally. Metaphorically, it would imply a refusal to remain in the shadows, in mediocrity, in just good enough. It signifies Carl’s decision to want more, aspire to be better and in my own coinage – seek for the more excellent way. It wasn’t easy, but he put his mind to it, refused to give up, despite and in spite and proved that he was the “fastest swimmer “around!


He refused to give up; that to me is the difference between a winner and a non-winner. Period!


Towards the end of 2008, I asked myself what my “Oceans” were and decided to dive in into the waters I was yet to dive into coz of fear, uncertainty, excuses etc. I also decided to continue swimming steadily in the waters I was already in; slowly at times, but surely. Stopping for a breath of air, but going right back at it.I firmly realized that all it takes is transcending “normalcy” and taking that first leap. The rest will eventually fall in place.


So whatever your “Waters” are today – Dive in, today and begin to show that you can swim. Sitting on the sidelines will not get you there. Let not yourself be deterred by mob psychology to make you believe “we are ok” Get to doing what you have to do. No one says it’s going to be a petal strewn path all the way – but you have to get on the path anyway!


And remember to always strive for the more excellent way!

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