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Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

So, my poor blog has been thoroughly neglected, but I have been on a good cause! Happy 2010 people! Maybe a little late in coming seeing as its February and all 🙂

It’s been a hectic busy and very eventful 5 months (that is how long I have been back), but I feel like I have been here forever – nimekuwa mwenyeji tena – complete with driving amidst mad matatu drivers on bad roads, sitting in a matatu with blaring music I do not understand ( ama ni uzee? Lol!) It is a little different when you are back visiting for a few weeks, and it is a totally different scenario when you are back for a little longer – as in my case. I say “back for a little longer” because I have yet another part of my “relocation” that I will be going on in the near future that will be my next 4-5 years. That will be talked about when it happens.

Holiday season was very eventful and exciting! All of us were home together for the first time in 10 years. And it was an experience I would not trade for anything! Then its amazing that 10 years ago, we were kids and this time around, there were grand-kids for my mom- talking-too-much, running around grown grandkids!!! Blessings, blessings! Of course, for the first time in many years, I got to enjoy my holidays, winter – free! No winter coats, no scarves, mittens, no snow, no ice – just good weather! (Though it rained a little too much this time around) –Bliss!

I am very humbled and pleased to announce that, together with some people near and dear to my life, heart, dreams, visions and goals, we have founded a Foundation that is geared to developing young female entrepreneurs. We are specifically targeting young disadvantaged girls and our goal is to equip them with a skill and training that will alone enable them go “out there” and be self sustainable. We are absolutely not training the young girls to go out there and look for a job, though that is a choice they will ultimately make for themselves – there is a very serious paradigm shift going on globally and Kenya has not been left behind.

Entrepreneurship is it!

My Doctoral Research will be on Female Entrepreneurship as I had alluded to here so, as you can all see, I am finally, finally, after many years in Financial Markets, beginning to live my passion and that is something that I am profoundly grateful for. Baby steps but I am very confident that our vision at the Foundation is coming alive in a big way!

So besides fine tuning documents for registration and grant presentations, building our initial office facilities (read haggling with Kenyan Fundis that are seasoned to look down on wanawake), extensive travel, getting sick three times, serious networking ( I have talked to people I have never thought I would talk to and folks – its been quite an adventure) – it’s been fun.

I am very picky and detail oriented but I was occupied with other things and didn’t have the time to sit and type up constitution, drafts etc so I had someone do that for us – BIG mistake! Gosh – I got the first drafts and I used very many little words (bearing in mind I am the “polished type” that doesn’t curse). Yaani there were so many mistakes, I wanted to beat someone up! Then I realized, well, I better do this myself – and that put me about 3 months behind schedule because I was basically re-working a lot!

We are working on the Corporate Blog for the Foundation (as we work on the website etc) and I should send a link in a few weeks – so much to do! By the way, for those that do not already know, Social Networking is the in-thing. Yaani nowadays, you can do some facets of business efficiently via just a corporate blog (if well thought out) and even on Facebook. I am not surprised, because I have seen first hand what and how such avenues as Facebook and Blogs can be used in a very powerful and positive way.

Of course, we have issues we have to deal with, like any organization, but we are taking it one step at a time and realizing that Rome was not built in a day. We are taking the things we have to deal with in stride and in line with our mission and our vision.

As Executive Director, boy, the curve balls come each hour! And I realize that people want answers from me! It is greatly shaping me and with each day that lapses I am learning so much. I am no longer in a position where I can just leave and hope that someone gets the job done for me – I have to go out there and get things done. Very exciting, nerve wrecking BUT fulfilling! I knew it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake when I resigned from my Treasury job in the US, and it was something I knew I wanted and had to do – so help me God.

My Mom deserves special mention here – she seriously has been there so so so so much! I WOULD NOT have been able to do this without her support: emotional, moral, spiritual, networking (she knows everyone!) and financial support! She keeps telling me I can do it – and that keeps me going!

There are going to be subsequent posts concerning this (moving back), coz there is so much I want to write about but cannot do so in one post so watch out for, but be patient – Lol! And I hope I will actually get to doing that.

There are 2 things that I want to quickly mention though.

My friend ( and my once roommate in Kansas when we were in Grad School) and I were going for a latte at Savannah in Down town Nairobi and walking down the streets, we bump into this guy that was also living in the same city with us that now works with my friend in Nairobi. During dinner, as we caught up, we were amazed at just how many of us that were living abroad are now back home either working or running our own businesses.

The beginning of the end of brain drain? Maybe.

But one thing I am thankful for is that I am not back to Kenya to “look for a job” per se. I think that would be a very exasperating and novel idea for me right now.
I personally know of about 10 Africans (in professional jobs in the US, UK and Canada) that have been back to their countries in the past year. And I know of a good number that are returning in the coming months.

The second thing I want to note is that I have observed and gladly enjoyed the fact that there are a good number of young Kenyan women “doing their thing” back here. Some are married and have families, some are single and have no children, and some are single parents. In all these situations, I have had an opportunity to interact, in my three months back, with some seriously fierce Young African Women who know what it is they want in life and are going after it. The complacency that was previously held about and concerning us is just simple no longer in existence.

There are still some weirdly insecure and sick men and women out here, that still perceive young women or just women in general in the patriarchal idiocies that defined our (African women’s) place in society, but like I like to say – there are some things that are so etched in people’s DNA’s hakuna haja trying to change them.

A man, a grown Kenyan man, we were consulting on some technical aspects of the Foundation at one meeting told us there are some things a Kenyan Woman cannot simply do and needs a man to do them. We thought it was a joke in bad taste and let it slide that time considering the business at hand – big mistake! (Out of the 7 Trustees, 4 are women). That guy said the same thing in a subsequent meeting and we respectfully told him we no longer needed his services – chauvinistic idiot! I wonder if he has a wife or daughters!

And surprisingly, these self proclaimed, know it all, save the world men are the same ones that have no issue whatsoever with a woman picking up the check all the time, paying for their indulgences etc. They only feel the need to assert and affirm their man-ness to other people (and perhaps themselves!) when they are dealing with a woman who reads into their BS and refuses to indulge their nonsense! Bure kabisa!

Such thinking simply has no place siku hizi!

There are other pleasant things going on in my non-business life that I don’t want to blog about yet, but boy, am I glad to be back!

Happy goings everyone and do not let anything stand in the way of doing what it is you want to get done. The major thing begins with YOU taking the first step.

Be bold and have a great year!

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It has been an extremely busy past 2 months for me. I resigned from my lovely Treasury Analyst position in the US of A, packed up, eeehh, tried to pack up the past 5 and ½ years in a few packages and got ready to relocate, ran around with my sister to get ready for her wedding day, attended a WONDERFUL, the most awesome wedding I have attended in my life and watched my sister get married to a wonderful man then got on a flight and began my 30 hour journey to Kenya. I slept a lot on the way and I made a note to myself to make sure I get richer real soon to avoid flying coach on such long journeys 😀

I will blog about some specifics of all these events later – soon – hopefully. For now I want to talk about my woes trying to use my MasterCard Debit Card in Kenya.

Last time I was in Kenya, I did not have to use my card extensively because for one I was there for only 3 weeks and secondly I had carried some USD with me that I exchanged on arrival. The one time I used my card in Kenya, it worked like a charm ( In Nakumatt) – so I assumed I was going to have the same smooth sailing experience this time around.

I had only about USD 200 on me when I arrived in Kenya, that I exchanged for Ksh and with what I am working on right now ( I will also blog about that soon hopefully), that really didn’t last me for long. So I run out of Ksh and I go to a Bank and try to get some money from an ATM using my MasterCard Debit Card. ( My Visa Credit Card – ( I only have one credit card since I refused to get sucked into the fiscal irresponsibility that we tempt ourselves into by having cards we do not need). So my Visa Credit Card is paid off every month and since I am going to be around for a while – I am not intending to put any balances on it – that is how I planned it period!) – Well long story short, after a trip to Barclays, Stanchart, KCB, NBK etc, I was still Ksh-Less! At one of the aforementioned banks they simply told me “we cannot allow you to use our ATMs” – How rude! And, they didnt even give me the option of getting Ksh via Cash Advancing my Card!

One very nice and helpful young man at NBK and a college buddy of mine via Face book directed me to Southern Credit Bank (they deal with MasterCard) and well – I am thankful to them…. 🙂

It made me really consider being a MasterCard Rep to Kenya – Why aren’t our Banks multifaceted and deal with multiple card companies? Seriously – there is nothing special about Visa – or maybe Visa has just done a good job of branding their image in Kenya. Plus now I will have to get used to carrying around wands of cash! I know that we are yet to get to being a cash-less society – but this little experience made me realize just what vast avenues we have yet to address in our financial markets! Such exasperation, such little annoyances that really could be deterring vast potentials out there!

Other issues irritating me are PEOPLE NOT KEEPING TIME! . Anyone that knows me, knows I am always on time! At work in the US of A, I am the one that would get to meeting rooms and call people still at their desks running late for a meeting!

Last week I had a breakfast meeting scheduled with a person helping me out with some of the things I am working on. The meeting was supposed to be at 8am because I had other things to attend to as well on that day. You can imagine my HORROR when he calls me at 915am telling me he is on his way – and finally showed up at 1030am! Gosh! SO, I had to get on the phone and begin canceling most of my other engagements for that day!!

SO right now, I have a bout of Malaria going on – I have been feeling crappy since Sunday – so I might not be very lucid and a little grouchy typing this…Hehehe! But I guess that’s why they call it acclimatization!!! I intend to get well real soon because I have a lot of things to get done!

That’s all for today – Happy goings!

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My Kenya

Today – I said a prayer for Kenya, I thought about the country that gave me my Me-Ness! God Bless Kenya 🙂 !

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So, Kenya’s Finance Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, has basically issued gag orders for Senior Treasury Officials – no-one is supposed to comment on policy issues, and he, Uhuru, will serve as spokesman, sole spokesman for both the ministry of Finance and the State corporations under it – notwithstanding the fact that those are supposedly autonomous bodies. Technocrats in Treasury are barred from communicating directly with parliament as well.

Pardon my long sentences – its how I would say it if I was speaking.

I am not angry, and I suppose Uhuru has to do what he has to do to cover his ass; Now he can, after he gracefully appended his signature to documents, THE BUDGET, with errors to Parliament. Now he can, now that the errors were actually discovered; now he can since everyone is wondering just how some things can conveniently become “typing errors”. What if the “typing” errors were not “discovered”? I think we as a country are beginning to embrace new levels of shame – bila aibu!

My only question is – Alikuwa wapi? Forgive me, but – whatever dude!

For those of us that work in Finance, we KNOW for a fact the hair raising activities, double checks, triple checks, formulation of algorithms, backward testing of data etc that goes on before the Financial Statements are declared good – before the statements are rendered to be an accurate representation for the financial status of an entity – and that is even before the signing of the statements, and then the presentation of that happens and that is way before the auditing part begins!

SO forgive me if I don’t even begin to buy into Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta’s misplaced and reactive anger and measures – that is just a plain and lame show! As Finance Minister, you should have known better – or the people that work for you a.k.a, the people that are paid millions in tax payer money – should have advised you better! (If you choose to abdicate your responsibility and take that route)

This situation we have going on here – should not be happening! Bottom line – Ahhhh, Tuheshimiane tafadhali! And I am sure I have Finance PhD’s, MBAs, CFA’s, CPA’s, Economists, Analysts, your regular “Joe the Plumber” with no Finance technical know-how that will say, this here, is a bunch of BS!

I have had the opportunity to work in our financial markets in Kenya before I left for Grad School and subsequent career opportunities in “Diaspora”. And, I have always known at some point in time – I intend to return to Kenya because – just because. I won’t go into the reasons why – because that is a LONG story.

But, assuming, I would return, not go into entrepreneurial activity and end up working in our financial markets yet again – God forbid I have to deal with such nuances!
I think about it this way – I have worked pretty hard to know what I know today and what I keep learning each day – I simply do not have the strength to fight “forces” that will definitely seek to “gag” what I have worked so hard to understand and know!

You know, there is a very good reason why we will keep losing people that we have no business losing to other nations – it is such “Uhuruish” stances!

And before anyone goes telling me the noble thing to do is “make it work while you are home” – I beg to differ, I believe there is, always, a more excellent way! And this typing error business is simply not it! I am just saying! And like Kaasa – I have to wonder if I really want to…….

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