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Opinion

The plague of unemployment

Victor Mochere

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The plague of unemployment

Unemployment. That’s hell of a monster that has taken the country decades to defeat, but still growing stronger each day. It’s something that can consume and lead you astray if you are not that careful. The process of life is systematic, you are born and when you become of age you go to school. You put all your efforts and concentration towards studying and passing exams. Hell, they will tell you, “… education is the key to your future. All you need to do is to cut that key into the right shape”, “Cut it well”, they will say, “… it will take time, energy, creativity and efforts but remember the padlock is before you.” They will assure you that education is the only hope you have, and without it you are just a hopeless wondering maniac. You have no choice, you will listen, and they will give you the tools and send you to battle. Like a mindless sheep you will fight, and fight you will. Eventually you will succeed, pass your exams, graduate with good grades. Then they will cast you into the world, and proclaim you mature enough to fend for yourself. That is when reality strike in.

 

You are now 26 years already. Three years have passed since you danced like a stripper on your graduation day. You have sent your CV to every prospective employer with no reply. The world is looking at you with bare eyes. You have walked miles and miles to submit your applications and attend interviews, if luck shines on you. Those sharp shooters of yours have hit the road hard, until they have taken the shape of wedges. Your shirts have turned yellowish below the armpits. The collars torn out, the food of rats. Your beautiful brown baby face is now dark poking of huge pimples. The only friend left, is dust. You will be told, “… you are doing this wrong, what you need to do is to create connections and broad networks. Don’t just apply for jobs, who does that? Attend events, contribute at forums; that is how people will come to know you.”

 

“Maybe I chose the wrong career path, I think I should have done education instead of finance, law instead of engineering, computer science instead of procurement…” the list goes on and on. Then the advocates of education will approach you, sympathize with your situation, their mouths full of advice; call it experience. They have been through the same predicament, you have to give them that. “My dear, education is not everything, what you need is to think beyond it, think broadly. Look at your father, he never went to school, does not know how to read and write, but he has never begged or lacked anything in his life. Sit down my son, my daughter, and bring your thoughts together, you don’t have to be employed in order to succeed in life. You don’t have to wait till end month for a five figure salary in order to know that you have made it, to know that your education has paid off. No, why not think about self-employment?” Then the vocabulary of being an entrepreneur poops up. “Come up with an idea that resonates with your focus area and do thorough research about it.”

 

Entrepreneurship. Here you will pay yourself. Your resilience, effort, struggle, commitment and dedication will determine the amount of money you walk away with. They will not support you, naah, because no one can easily believe in you. Not they. “My son, my daughter, go out there and start something new, think of what the world needs and ignite ideas that will fill that gap. You have our blessings and unwavering support”. Then the man or woman you are, you will sit down, in your 85m2 bedsitter, if you are lucky enough not to be living in your parent’s house. With a piece of paper and your smartphone at the palm of your hand. You will google and google about ideas, your pen will scribble down the few that you can manage. You will beat your brain until you narrow down the one that you are passionate about. “Tomorrow I will start on this one”. If hungry, noodles will call it a day. You watch a movie and lay down on your bed. The next day you wake up at the 10.00 am, time is of little essence now. Lazily from your bed, you remember about the idea that you had. “I will deal with it later”, you procrastinate. Time goes on. Your folks from the village will be kind enough to remind you, “… what happened to that idea that you were talking about?” “Oh that one!” You have already forgotten about it. Then you will peg your excuse on lack of capital. Again time goes on. They will keep calling, “… find a purpose for your life”, they will say.

 

You resort back to applying for jobs. Every day you flock to the internet to check out new postings. You will apply for every damn job that meets your eyes. Applying for jobs becomes you daily job. If there is anything you have learnt in your experience of applying for jobs is, to never restrict yourself to jobs related to your degree. You will apply for anything and everything, from cashier to content writer to sales person to bartender. You won’t mind even being employed by a dog as long as you get paid at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if you are paid peanuts without benefits, what matters now is at least you get in. From there it will be easier to climb the ladder.

 

Then one day you get lucky, this Indian guy needs a shop attendant. After a short interview he settles for you. You close your eyes and say, “Thank you God”. He offers you a basic salary of Ksh 15,000 and you gladly accept it. You come up plans on what to do with the money, the kind of investments you want to make, can take one by surprise. You dedicate yourself to your work, producing the best results. Your boss is impressed. You become too comfortable and forget about hunting for jobs. As the payday draws near, the devil takes over. You remember about WhatsApp status, Instagram and Snapchat. You want to declare to the whole world that you have a job now and today you will be paid your salary. Your pool of friends, that has been ashes all along, starts to make plans for the night. You will not be left behind on this one. It’s your time to have a little fun. At the club you are the one buying drinks, entertaining any figure that resembles a human being. The next day, when you wake up to nurse your hangovers, you get a rude shock, did you just spend Ksh 7,000 the previous night? Regrets move in. You make resolutions not to drink again. Boundaries are set. I will start saving from next month. But next month becomes next month.

 

Three years down the line. Your Indian employer, shocks you with the worst news. He will be closing down the business to go back home. As if you were sleeping, you wake up from the dream of your life. What was I doing all along? The monster laughs at you. It’s time to be unemployed. You start the process of applying for jobs again. You forgot to advance your education. The degree you got 5 years ago is the only weapon you have to compete for a job in a deteriorating economy. Your child is two years now, soon school fees will be demanded from you. Next year you will be 30. You can’t even inform your folks of your current situation. Your bills and expenses push you to the wall. Time is not on your side. You start selling items from your house. Poverty kicks in. You have no moves left on your chessboard. You are ready to try anything the world has to offer. The only way you can see this out, is construction. Taking home just Ksh 200 a day. You take a look back at your life, what is left of your education is casual works. But what matters now is survival. You are back where you started. Unemployment.

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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

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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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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Opinion

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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