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Opinion

The bitter story of Mumias Sugar Company

Victor Mochere

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The bitter story of Mumias Sugar Company

Have you heard the bitter story of Mumias Sugar Company?

 

Regarded by many as Kenya’s most successful sugar miller, Mumias Sugar Company was a disaster waiting to happen.

 

Many pointed out how Mumias Sugar Company was a fortress in the wreck that is Kenya’s sugar industry, only unaware that it was just a matter of time. As the old wise men said, “Ukiona cha mwenzako cha nyolewa, tia chako maji”.

 

The proverb means that if you see your neighbour’s head getting shaved, your head will soon be undergoing the same – you’d therefore better wet your head for a smoother shave, otherwise you will be forced to undergo a painful, dry, shave.

 

But what ails Kenya’s sugar industry?

 

The Kenya sugar industry is under legal siege. The typical Kenyan issue of coming up with laws to tackle a problem is evident here.

 

Many of Kenya’s sugar factories are owned by the government, and have slowly declined under mismanagement and corruption. The appointing of political cronies and tribal management to such firms means that unqualified people are appointed to lead these firms. The same management can hardly resist dipping their fingers in the sugar jar, and end up slowly eating the factories to a level where they can’t operate, or if they can operate, do so at very high costs.

 

Elsewhere, sugar industries in other places are owned by business people who take good care of them, only eating profits. To increase the profits, sugar factories in other countries are run at lower costs, and at a higher efficiency, that maximizes on costs while also trying to keep their product as affordable as possible in a bid to fight off competitors.

 

This has eventually resulted in a situation where you could somehow convince a Portuguese speaking Brazilian to sell you sugar, in your mother-tongue-afflicted English.

 

You then board the sugar on a ship, where it will spent 6 months in the high seas, and another month or so in the inefficient port of Mombasa. It then gets loaded onto a truck to Nairobi, in what is a proportionally costly.

 

On getting to Nairobi, Kenyans will still find your sugar cheaper than sugar from Kenya’s sugar belt, just a few hours away from Nairobi.

 

When the bitter truth of this dawned on us, our hapless farmers cried foul, and our politicians reactively ground into gear. With everyone keen on keeping on eating, a familiar “win-win” solution was found. We would come up with a law banning or limiting the importation of sugar, to protect “our farmers” and tax payer factories.

 

Genius, right?

 

Wrong. In Kenya, laws are for the poor, the rich consider laws as merely a suggestion that they may choose to uphold or ignore.

 

As the inefficient cost of Kenya’s sugar production went up and up, the difference in price of Kenyan produced sugar and that of imported sugar grew.  The chaps who drive dark tinted big cars figured that if they could somehow import sugar into the Kenyan market, and sold it at the Kenyan price, you could double your money faster than a prophet could by promising to act as a godly middleman.

 

Meanwhile, Alshabaab, all the way in Somalia, figured out that if they could import sugar and sell it in Kenya, they could easily fund their war on Kenyans. In Kenya, they found a ready market in businessmen who find sugar a fast means to riches.

 

The government agencies meant to uphold the ban on imported sugar were nowhere to be seen. They had taken shelter from the money that was raining on them as bribes. After all, if someone slaps you on the cheek, with a bribe, you offer them the other cheek….

 

It did not stop here. Those appointed to run our sugar factories found that they if they imported sugar and repackaged it as local sugar, they would need to stay up all night just counting all the money that came in.

 

Thus, a law to protect Kenya’s sugar industry has only resulted to helpless Kenyans being forced to pay double what they should for sugar. The poor farmers who were to be protected by the laws are now owed billions by sugar factories. Kenyans are still being asked to fork billions to bail out these sugar factories, in readiness for their next, inevitable cycle of collapse.

 

Furthermore, Kenya, being part of COMESA, is bound to allow neighbouring countries to sell their sugar in Kenya. However, Kenya has perpetually requested for the extension of the deadline, year in, year out, under the guise of putting our sugar industry in order.

 

A man finds himself in a dessert, with neither water, nor food, stranded with all his belongings. Luckily, the man is found by a helicopter, which could rescue him, but the man has to leave his belongings in the desert. The man argues that he can’t leave his belongings since he will be left poor.  The helicopter leaves, and the man gets lost further in the desert. Another helicopter comes, and another, but the man is still not ready to abandon his belongings. This man is Kenya.

 

It’s time Kenya’s government left the sugar industry to private sugar companies, like West Sugar Company (Kabras), and allows other companies or individuals to take over the failing sugar factories. Laws protecting the sugar industry should also be done away with, alongside those that determine how and who can run a sugar factory.

 

The laws just but a flimsy hatch trying to stop a barraging flood of cheap sugar from everywhere else other than Kenya. The only beneficiaries are the crafty and powerful business men, who are eating on our behalf.

 

As if we have learned no lessons, the same mess is set to repeat itself in the maize industry, where the government is setting up flour milling industries to “protect consumers”. Importation of maize is also banned to “protect farmers”, and government owned National Cereals and Produce Board who is a major buyer of maize, is now to become a miller. De ja vu, you have heard something similar before, haven’t you?

 

As is said, history is bound to repeat itself for those who fail to learn from it.

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I’m a literati savant, altruistic, queer laughist, critique from the non-core academia and above all it’s my conviction that in all my papers the rule of three applies.

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Opinion

Everyone is (should be) an entrepreneur

Victor Mochere

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Everyone is (should be) an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs have often been described as people who add value to products or make products with value, either directly or indirectly, and sell them at a profit to customers. While those people who do not impact any value to products they sell are basically ordinary people in business. Therefore all entrepreneurs are business people and not all business people are entrepreneurs.

 

Each individual alive today has a product that they sell to their customers, and that is the human labour either physical or mental.

 

If you are an employee, then your customer is your employer, to whom you are selling your product labour. If you are a student, then your customer is your examiner, to whom you are selling your mental labour. If you are a business owner, then your customer gets the products or services upon which you have spent your labour on. If you are not employed, you still have your product which is your labour, you can choose to either sell it to your potential employer by being employed or use it to create other products or services to sell to your potential customers.

 

The key pillars of entrepreneurship majorly rotate on creativity and innovation, therefore for your labour to be very competitive and to be bought, you must invest in those pillars so as to make it better than that of others.

 

It is a sad tragedy if you don’t think that your labour is a product, or at extreme don’t consider yourself an entrepreneur. It is also a sad reality that most employees lack the entrepreneurship mind-set and prefer rather to remain with employee mentality. Most employed people often think that value creation is the work of their employers, through assigning them specific tasks. That it’s their duty to perform those tasks, and that’s it. They think they don’t need the passion, drive and stigma to create value.

 

Most employees see their current work as a necessity for survival rather than an opportunity to advance themselves through value creation. So they will keep working, day in day out with an anticipation of payment for their labour and if they are not paid, they will resort to industrial action. Others will humble themselves, keep their heads down, perform tasks assigned, follow the routine, and hope that they will get a promotion or salary increment for time served while praying that they don’t get laid off.

 

Think of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., imagine if he has treated the buyers of Apple products (his customers) as most workers threat their customers (buyers of their labour services). They keep asking and buying Apple II computer, why don’t we focus on producing them. Then he would never have developed the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. The world would never have had better and advanced products, and he would have remained much poorer as a result.

 

There are also the bureaucrats, the non-entrepreneurial bosses. A bureaucratic boss expects the employee to stick to the routine, any deviations would be treated as insubordination, and as needlessly creating extra hassles. Such a boss is receptive to value-adding innovations, and would readily give the employee a bigger role to facilitate and tap into his/her quest to create a lot of innovations. A bureaucratic boss would also know that other entrepreneurial bosses would try to poach the innovative worker’s services given a chance, he/she in a bid to prevent that, would increase the employee’s pay.

 

In pursuit of value creation, an entrepreneurial worker will have to be intelligent and assertive, in doing so will enhance his/her demand in the industry, improve his/her career credentials and ultimately as a result be served with better opportunities in terms of compensation, working conditions, more fulfilling work and life.

 

Shun away from the mentality that you are not an entrepreneur. Every person should have the mindset of self-employment. For those employed your boss is your current customer. For those still in school, your customer is your examiner. For those employed on wage contract, your customer is the market. In any case, whichever path you choose to pursue, you will have to invest heavily on creativity and innovation which in other terms can be perceived as entrepreneurship, the consequences of satisfying your customer being deriving some gain.

 

Only you, are ultimately responsible for your own worth creation, the pay you want and the career path you desire. You are the person and in essence the entrepreneur responsible your own labour producing company called “Me, Ltd.” It’s worth noting that everybody is a potential entrepreneur and entrepreneurship is for everyone.

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I need a Kim to my Kanye

Victor Mochere

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I need a Kim to my Kanye

Awhile back, my folks were all over my ass. They wanted an insight, an update, a grapevine if you may, anything that resonates with my love life. They literally made my phone a ‘ticking time bomb’. But am single, and for quite a long time I have been. At that moment it struck me, in a couple of years I will be clocking 30, so I need a Kim to my Kanye.

 

If you are interested in a junk like me. Then you must be tall, short ladies will have to forgive me on this. Be modest, mature and civilized. I don’t like socialites, or at the very least slay queens. I don’t want to be with someone who takes selfies with their tongue out. It’s important that you look presentable. Know how to package yourself. A God fearing lady will be an added advantage. Maybe with a price tag, ‘made in Heaven’. I’m not a church person so you might be forced to drag me to sermons, once in a while. I’m not an anger management consultant, so don’t bother if you are irascible. In a nutshell I need someone who is emotionally strong, and not a wet or green crap.

 

You must be young enough to be a lady and old enough to be a woman. In fact, if you think 23 is old, then you are the right fit. A very loving, caring, patient, tolerable person. Also you must be a very responsible person, hardworking and relatively smart. Which means you should be a logical thinker, intellectually secure and not myopic. A very support woman who is ready to be a wife and a mother. You must not be a drunkard, smoker or do drugs. For crying out loud am trying to start a family. Not unless we’re both drinking, lightly, and we will from time to time.

 

I’m in my mid 20’s. Four months ago I marked my quadranscentennial birthday, so ideally you can guess my age. I’m averagely tall, very dark and arrogantly looking. I do get comments like, ‘ugly’ ‘weird’ ‘trash’ whenever I post a picture of myself on social media. Though I do believe that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Thanks to my mother, am an affable person. Shy but romantic and often attached to sex but I have never dated before.

 

I love movies, music not so much. Sometimes, more so on weekends I might extend into the night watching my favourite TV series, I hope you won’t be bothered by that. I don’t watch soap operas. I’m a fun maker, a joker, thrice I have choked on my jokes. But I will caution you if am making a joke about you. I’m a sound sleeper, so I will appreciate if I get someone who doesn’t snore at night or keep rotating in bed. I do read, but mostly about technology and politics. Once in a while you will find me blogging, that is something that fascinates me.

 

I love eating, and do cooking, though the only person who approves my cooking is my uncle. I might be forced to share your kitchen or displace you entirely, when that happens please bear with me, cooking is one of the very few hobbies that grace my résumé. I don’t like sports, not at all. So if I happen to give you an excuse of going out to watch football, then I must and will certainly be lying. I’m an open person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep secrets. My life is a secret itself. I love kids, I hope and pray that we will have ours too, at most four. I have this notorious nephew who usually comes to my house to play video games or watch cartoons, I do give him his space and I will appreciate if you do the same. I have a very strong bond with him that I won’t like to see threatened or jeopardized.

 

I love coffee, very much. In the morning I usually take a cup of coffee with cream while in the evening with lemon and sometimes with ginger. I take shower twice a day, a cold shower in the morning and a hot one before bed. I don’t like riches or poverty, I live a modest life that will be part of you too. I must warn you that I have a killer instinct, more so when it comes to achieving what I want.

 

I don’t prefer a public life though the name ‘bigwig’ has been used on me before. I’m an introvert to some extent, so in case you want to bring some friends over, please have at least one who can initiate a conversation. I don’t smoke or do drugs, the far I have gone is some two or three buffs of a joint. But I do drink occasionally, once every month I go out with my friends to have fun and catch up. I will explain what I mean by fun on our first date. But the good thing is that I usually come home. Sleep overs are only when I have traveled.

 

Before you get too excited. Kindly note that am a nobody, in fact my father once called me a ‘useless baboon’. I don’t know whether he meant it literally or metaphorically. And I must insist that I don’t own much worth calling wealth. But we can start small. Won’t we?

 

If you’re interested or know anyone interested, rush to my inbox IMMEDIATELY!

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Opinion

In Africa, LGBTI is an abomination

Victor Mochere

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In Africa, LGBTI is an abomination

Africa is a third world continent, solely because it has chosen to alienate itself with taboos that are centuries old. As the rest of the world rides along, Africa is limping far behind. Welcome to Africa where people have failed to move with the rest of the world and rather decided to be comfortable with the status quo. LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex), is considered a sin, an abomination to the African moral standards. Engaging in such acts will lead to public ridicule, stigmatization, and jail term or at worse death. The fight for gay rights in most African countries is a suicide mission. Governments have even treated gay groups as radicalized terror groups, advocating for their elimination. With anti-gay religious groups in an effort to gain converts pouring unprecedented resources, making the struggle even more difficult.

 

With the exception of South Africa which has legalized same-sex marriages, other countries have shown a hostile reception to homosexuality activities and apart from Cape Verde which to some extent is considered the most gay friendly country in Africa. Some countries have even outlawed and criminalized LGBTI rights and activities, imposing sanctions, heavy penalties, life imprisonments or death sentences to the culprits. Yet what these so called ‘criminals’ do is to profess love to each other, without harming anyone or affecting the economy. Until March 2018, Kenya was conducting anal examinations, before outlawed by the High Court, on gay people then slapping them with a 14 year jail term. This even though the constitution is silent on homosexuality. The government has invaded the privacy of its citizens and want to control who they love, what they watch and what they say.

 

I remember a while back I made a joke on Twitter.

The responses that followed were harsh and amounted to trolls. With people making assumptions and accusing me of either being gay or being a gay sympathizer. We live in a world where even the mention of the word itself can result to tainting of your name and reputation.

 

When Rafiki, Africa’s first film with an LGBTI theme was first mentioned, people shunned away, castigating it as a poison that will lure their children to immorality. The film was banned in Kenya, the country of its origin, not to be aired or sold in any part of the country. This despite the film taming itself from intimacy scenes and only focusing on professing love. Regardless of its misfortunes, the film became the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. But Africa failed to celebrate the artistic impression it portrayed even after getting a standing ovation and positive reviews and reception in other countries. The most ridiculous part being that, a film with no sexual advances can promote gayism. It’s not only shows how primitive Africans are but how a backward thinking syndrome has taken the continent hostage.

 

Coming out in Africa is like digging your own grave. Gay clubs have been raided, homes torched and innocent people stoned to death just because they failed to recognize that, being straight is a default. LGBTI people are forced to linger behind the closed doors and only make love in the cover of darkness. These laws were introduced by the colonial masters, of which UK Prime Minister Theresa May has publicly apologized about. But Africans will later consider LGBTI as a non-issue and work to advance corruption and tribalism as a consolation.

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