Monday, December 1, 2014

Can the real President please Stand Up! When will Kenya exit Somalia?

Few years ago I opposed Kenya's military involvement in Somalia- and I have subsequently been on record in various forums opposing the same - the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan should have served as a lesson.  Even after billions having already been spent with NO tangible results (instead only negative effects), it is high time the government of Kenya develops an exit strategy and pull out as soon as possible.

The Kenya government has not come out openly to state the number of Kenya's military personnel killed in Somalia since the invasion, and the number of Al Shabab militants killed. It is evident that Kenya has suffered immense human loses both within Somalia and within Kenya- I bet more than all the Al Shabab militants killed.

The economic effect of the invasion and subsequent retaliatory attacks has been extremely negative for many Kenyans. Tourism is at the brink of collapse in some of the regions in Kenya- when it is expected to be high tourism season, you can find a five star hotel in Northern coast at less then US $ 70 per day on full board basis!

With many years of neglect and marginalization in the coastal and Northern Kenya, communities have limited economic opportunities- the continued decrease in tourism only serves to worsen an already grave situation. The amount of money consumed in now what seems like a never ending war would have been utilized to support economic opportunities for disgruntled youth in Coastal and Northern Kenya. 

You cannot simply fight with a guerrilla like extremist militia in their own territory with warplanes and an army alone- they simply have nothing to loose and as a country and region, we have a lot to loose. The over zealous Public Relations exercised by the government's spin masters can also be better utilized in the war against terror, instead of focusing on irrelevant issues. 

It is also disturbing that no one seems to take responsibility- the government is supposed to provide leadership on such crucial issues-  and not simply leave citizens on their own.

I believe the war against extremist elements can only be won with a combination of factors- the mind, the pocket and intelligent application of force.

As an entrepreneur, my businesses are being affected each day by this never ending situation- and as a patriotic and concerned citizen, I am willing to play my part, and share solutions when called upon- but the buck stops with the President- he must act, and ACT now!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Today's Wisdom

Even after having the privilege to travel around the world and meeting with so many people, spanning different cultures, different economic backgrounds and different races, I discovered that the true measure of success is happiness.  I am never shaken by power, fame or money, but humbleness, kindness and humility, and simply by the power to appreciate the simple things that every person does for me, or my friends or my family.  The persons who offer to help, even when they have so little, will always remain the true heroes – because they do so from the bottom of their hearts. Imagine being in a desert and all you want is a glass of water, and stranger offered to share the little they have with you. And so, always remain true to yourself and your beliefs.

Monday, August 18, 2014


As expected, no African team progresses passed the quarter final stage in this year’s world cup.  Interestingly, even some women in my local grocery market had predicted so. One day as the world cup was going on, a 46 year old mother of an aspiring footballer told me,  “we all support fellow Africans but they can’t win because we are poor and the people in charge keep fighting, all I want is my son to play in Europe and lift me out of this daily hustle’.

The only countries outside Europe that have won the world cup are Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. All the three are ‘developing countries’. So why are African countries with relatively similar social economic conditions fail to progress and win the world cup? Perhaps poor leadership is one of the main reasons.

Just like many African countries, football is the most popular sport in Brazil and the best players in both Brazil and Africa come from poor backgrounds. Brazil comes from a relatively similar sad background of oppression as most African countries, but Brazil has won the World Cup a record five times while no African country has progressed past the quarterfinal stage. Brazil experienced Slavery and from the 1930s, the country’s great skill and passion for football became a source of national pride. Many children growing up in impoverished shanty towns-favelas- see football as the only way to escape a life of hardship.  Unlike many African countries, Brazil has experienced stable political leadership that has provided an environment for the poor to escape poverty through football.

Poor political leadership has led to slow economic growth in many countries in Africa hence hindering investment in football. Before 1960, the GDP per capita in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina was fairly the same with many African countries. According to the World Bank, the GDP per capita between 1960 and 2012 averaged at US $ 686.17 in Nigeria and US $ 3753.36 in Brazil during the same period. By 2012, Nigeria had a population of 168.8 million & GDP of 459.6 billion and Brazil 198.7 million & GDP of 2.253 trillion. Between 1960 and 2012, GDP per capita averaged US $ 428.94 in Ghana and US $ 7088.37 in Argentina.  Clearly, there seem to be a correlation between steady economic growth and performance in world cup for originally poor countries.

Poor leadership perpetuates corruption in football management. African footballers have repeatedly come into conflict with their own football authorities over poor leadership and corruption. Samuel Eto’o pointed out to Confederation of African Football “The only problem in Africa is our leaders, who do not respect us. Until we are respected, other (continents) will never have any consideration for us,” Eto’o was barred from the national team for instigating a boycott over unpaid bonuses two years ago.  George Weah, the only African player to win World, European and African Footballer of the Year awards, agrees that the governing of the sport needs an overhaul. Some British media has accused the current Confederations of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou for taking bribes to influence television rights and to support Qatar’s bid for the 2022 world cup. 

The build up to this year's world cup witnessed how poor leadership had brought conflict between players and officials too. According to French sports daily L’Equipe, the reason the players of the Cameroonian National Football team had initially refused to travel to Brazil for the World Cup was due to a disagreement over bonuses.  In Nigeria, according to Nigerian media, Premium Times, the players and officials of the Nigeria Football Federation, disagreed over money meant for the players, less than a week to Nigeria’s first match at the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

Poor leadership has fuelled conflict in several countries in Africa and that has contributed to the poor performance at the World Cup. Some of the countries that have represented Africa at the world cup have experienced internal and cross border conflicts in the past decades. Fighting between Cameroon and Nigeria flared up over disputed oil-rich Bakassa Peninsula in 1994 to 1996. Nigeria has experienced several years of internal conflict due to resources in the Niger Delta region, military coupes, and now in Northern Nigeria due to religious differences and extremism.  Algeria had civil war between 1991 and 2002 and Ivory Coast between 2002 and 2007.  On the contrary, Brazil has not experienced internal or external conflict during the same period.

In some cases however, a country can perform well even when faced with unstable leadership and internal conflict.  Argentina won the 1978 world cup under a military rule. On 24 March 1976, the Argentine armed forces overthrew the Government and for a period of almost seven years called the "Dirty War" the military dictatorship maintained a brutal régime. 

Unlike many other continents, football is like a religion in Africa, a common phenomenon that unites the whole of Africa. Governments can enumerate the unity exhibited by ordinary Africans in football to remove barriers to free movement of people and goods, and create opportunities to reduce unemployment for youth. While many Africans know about Yaya Toure or Didier Drogba, few know that Ivory Coast is one of the largest producers of raw Cocoa- simply because the finished cocoa products they consume are imported from Europe.   

As Nelson Mandela once stated “Sport has the power to change the world” and hence it is important for leadership in African countries to use the spirit of football to improve governance and bring economic development, that will in turn increase investments in schools that nurture talents. Well-managed countries also attract more investment into their economies that ultimately increases corporate sponsorships in sports.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Investing in youth rather than arrests will solve terrorism.

Arbitrary arrests of youth fuels terrorism.

On May 15, 10 people were killed and 70 injured when two blasts hit a popular market in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. This occurred only a few hours after a massive public outcry over a directive by the Inspector General of police for all window tinting to be removed from vehicles. The matatu (taxi) that had the explosives was not tinted. 

In another of the many recent attacks, two police officers and two other men were killed when a car bomb exploded in a police station in Nairobi in late April. Just days before, more than 3,000 people had been arrested and held in a make-shift camp at a stadium in Nairobi. Human rights groups reported that men, women and children were held in terrible conditions, with women denied sanitary pads and one woman even giving birth while being detained in the stadium.

About a month before, explosive devices in two eateries in Nairobi's Eastleigh neighbourhood killed six people and wounded another 25. As we've come to expect, the next morning police rounded up at least 900 people for questioning only to release most the next day without pressing any charges.
And the raids affect all walks of life. These sweeping arrests even caught a high level Somali diplomat, violating long-established norms of diplomatic immunity. Somalia has since recalled its ambassador in Nairobi in protest.

What these stories all demonstrate is that mass arrests and harassment - which seem based primarily on appearance or religion - don't help flush out the real people behind the terrorist attacks or crimes. If anything, they discourage innocent people from engaging in their communities and fuel distrust and hatred of the police and the government. It is ironic, that this is exactly the type of environment that creates fertile ground for terrorist groups, like Al-Shabaab, to recruit alienated and often unemployed youth.
Al Jazeera Correspondent - Not Yet Kenyan
The "anti-terrorist" campaign that often targets Muslim youth began in Kenya after the bombing of the US Embassy in August 1998 and only intensified after the September 11, 2001 terrorist.
Research has shown this ostracism often serves to push youth towards extremist groups, and according to the 2008 United Nations report, the effectiveness of counter-terrorism initiatives depends largely on the level of cooperation between government forces and local communities. Cooperation, not hostility.

More recently, since Kenyan military invaded Somalia in October 2011, there have been more than 25 terrorism-related attacks, killing hundreds of people and injuring many others. Although it is hard to find the exact number of youth arrested in arbitrary arrests during this period, media reports indicate that police often carry out raids almost every month in Eastleigh, coastal regions and northern Kenya, arresting an average of 50 people during each raid.
During the same period, only two people have been successfully convicted on terrorism related charges, while hundreds of youth who have been arrested are freed for lack of evidence or bribe the police officers. Clearly this approach is not working.

Unfortunately, governments in Africa are increasingly ignoring the real issues that affect youth and drive extremism - unemployment and poverty, which fosters an atmosphere of anger and despair. There are rumours of Kenyan youth lured by US $5,000 to join the Somali-based Al Shabaab group.
With better alternatives, it's possible to resist that temptation.

According to a recent Institute of Security Studies paper, poverty alone is not driving people to radicalisation, but poor socioeconomic circumstances undoubtedly make individuals more susceptible to it. One of these factors is the unequal opportunity for upward social mobility because of religious, ethnic or political differences.

Across African countries, the difference between the rich and the poor is huge. For example, the difference between the coastal region's luxury hotels and the poverty of ordinary Kenyans living nearby is striking. We - both individuals and government - need to look for ways to ensure that the benefits of tourism reache beyond the walls of hotels. There are solutions if we think creatively and work together.

For proof, just look to the semi-autonomous state of Puntland in Somalia. It has managed to reduce infiltration of Al Shabaab by investing in agriculture and livestock, food processing, education and technology to provide youth with jobs.

Investing in youth rather than treating them as suspects produces clearly different outcomes. One fights insecurity and terrorism by improving lives and the other fosters suspicion and alienates Kenyan youth. We fundamentally need to change the way we think of our young men: They are potential innovators and job creators, not criminals and terrorists.

Evans Wadongo is a 2014 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow and the Executive Director of Sustainable Development For All in Kenya. Wadongo's work has brought economic development and renewable energy to rural communities in Kenya and throughout Africa.
Follow on twitter @evanswadongo

Friday, April 18, 2014


"Those who succeed in life and business keep an eye on the big picture. This means letting go of petty perceived slights and road bumps that present themselves each and every day. When you keep the end goal at the top of your mind, it is easier to negotiate with a difficult client, create successful, win-win partnerships, and focus your energy on what is most important — not getting sidetracked by petty annoyances and putting out little fires.

That goes for relationships, too. If a long-term committed partnership with your spouse is your top priority, then you are less likely to focus on the proverbial toothpaste cap conundrums that trip up so many couples. Even bigger issues such as differences in money management or raising kids are more easily negotiated when you are both focused on lifelong collaboration."

Monday, March 31, 2014

Arbitrary raids and arrests of innocent youth perpetuates insecurity and terrorism

The recent terror attacks in Kenya are always followed by arbitrary raids and arrests of innocent youths,  most of whom are not linked to any terror group. These raids and arrests only fuel hatred towards the police service and the government which has the counter effect of promoting extremism that can create a breeding ground for terrorist groups to recruit such disgruntled and often unemployed youth.

Recently in Mombasa, Kenya, the police raided a mosque in Likoni and arrested hundreds of youth, and one of the youth has 'vanished' up to now. Just a week ago, police in Nairobi arrested several youth and charged about 40 of them with loitering charges. Two of the youth arrested were innocent hardworking youth who have previously volunteered with me on a project to provide economic opportunities for unemployed youth. There are reports in the Kenyan media that police raided student hostels in Eastleigh area in Nairobi last night at 2 a.m and harassed innocent youth, arguably on trying to 'chase' terrorists. How is this really related to unraveling the real people behind terrorism?

 According to the United Nations report: Uniting Against Terrorism - recommendations for a global counter-terrorism, released in April 2008, the effectiveness of counter-terrorism initiatives depends largely on the level of cooperation between government forces and local communities. When explaining the influence of counter-terrorism strategies on conditions that are conducive to terrorism, Kofi Annan stated: Past cases show that Governments that resort to excessive use of force and indiscriminate repression when countering terrorism risk strengthening the support base for terrorists among the general population. Such measures generally invite counter-violence, undermine the legitimacy of counter-terrorism measures and play into the hands of terrorists. 
Political factors have pushed Muslim youths to join extremist groups as a counter-reaction to or in retaliation against what they see as ‘collective punishment’ driven by a misguided perception around the world, Kenya included, that all Muslims are terrorists or potential terrorists. Since the anti-terrorist campaign began in Kenya following the US embassy bombings in 1998, many Muslim youths have been arbitrarily arrested and incarcerated on suspicion of being engaged in terrorist activities, which is part of a wider pattern that intensified after the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001.

Increasingly, governments in Africa are ignoring the real issues affecting youth- unemployment and poverty-and and in fact encouraging anger and hatred among such youth who are already burdened with lack of basic needs and services.

Fighting insecurity and terrorism requires efforts from all people including citizens of any country and whenever citizens do not trust their government and the police, community policing will fail and in fact unemployed and poor youth will be lured into terror groups. Governments should increase their intelligence but also focus on more people friendly policies that will make every citizen a partner in the fight against violent extremism.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why I don't care about National Examinations as a way to Evaluate students

For years, many have neglected the huge disparity between industries and the education curriculum. In one of the articles I read recently, Google does not like hiring the so called 'top performers' in school and one of the reasons is that these graduates feel they know so much and hence under-perform in the real world because they don't like learning. More and more of the new progressive companies are looking at other ways to evaluate potential employees and academic performance is reducing its popularity as a determining factor, at a very fast pace. Unfortunately, schools have continued to focus more on academic performance as the key pillar of measuring the potential of students.

Although it is not entirely fair to only look at the world's top innovators and business leaders as a pointer to this growing disparity, every sector in the world is dominated by 'average performers' in school who believe in hard-work and ability to learn as a way to rise to the top.

In Kenya for example, how many of the top performers in business, sports, arts, leadership and other sectors of the economy were the very best students in their 8th grade when they sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education or even in high school when they sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education? It requires no magic to look at the performance of students from early stages of schooling to college and eventually their careers in life. How many students who were the top performers in the country in primary school examinations end up being top students at high school examinations? And how many of these are top performers in college? And how many become the best in their industries or set up successful businesses or even perform well in arts or other fields?
Who among the top CEO's or business people was the best student in primary school, at high school and in college consistently?

I believe it is a high time education world over was re-looked at, and realigned to match with our day to day needs and aspirations. The methods of evaluating students should take into consideration several factors apart from academic performance only. There needs to be more linkage between industry players and schools. Human skills as well as aspects of entrepreneurship should be part of the curriculum.

If employers, innovators, investors, sportsmen, entrepreneurs among others are looking beyond academics in evaluating partners or employees to work with, why should our education systems in many countries continue to put emphasis on academic performance only?

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Unspoken Monster- INEQUALITY in the world.

More often people talk about the GDP per capita of any country or the purchasing power but it is so rare for people to narrow down to the number of people contributing or benefiting from the economy.

Russia is the 8th biggest economy in the world (according to GDP per capita) and the 6th largest in terms of purchasing power. However, Russia is ranked 55th in the Human Development Index, signifying the underlying inequalities in access to social-economic opportunities.

Sochi- the Russian city that is currently hosting the Winter Olympics, the glamor and glitz is only in the central part of the city, even though over 50 billion US dollars has been spent on the games. Like the scenes in most of the developing countries, sewage flows freely on one of the areas on the outskirts of the city. Another village in the outskirts of Sochi city does not have running water and families (majorly women) have to walk and fetch water for their daily use. Electricity is cut for several hours of the day affecting poor families many of whom have little children.

In Kenya, 70% of the country's GDP is generated in Nairobi, the capital city and yet only 10% of the population live in Nairobi. Majority of Kenya's population live in rural areas and depend on subsistence farming for survival- often living from 'hand to mouth'. Subsequent governments have often neglected these vast rural areas, investing marginally in education, healthcare, energy and other socioeconomic opportunities, leaving millions in poverty.  The Northern part of Kenya is neglected, and yet it can be utilized effectively to generate income for the country.

Like in many African cities, the improved infrastructure and the rising consumerism in Nairobi has often led to some people wrongly thinking that Kenya's middle class in rising sharply. On the contrary, majority of Nairobi's so called middle class still live in poor housing conditions without access to stable electricity and running water. The rising Nairobi middle class cannot afford new cars or purchasing houses, and often struggle to meet the very basic needs- they continue to be simply tax payers who fund misplaced priorities by governments.  On the contrary, a very small percentage of Kenya's population owns majority of the corporate companies and multi-billion dollar businesses and contribute majorly to the countries GDP.

It is therefore imperative that we not only look at a country's economic growth, but rather at how the economic growth is being spread out to all regions and the different demographics. Citizens should demand for more equitable distribution of resources to effectively achieve a well balanced economic growth.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Education System ain't working in Kenya.

I honestly think the education system in Kenya should be re-looked at- by taking into considerations modern trends and incorporating views from even students themselves. National Examinations at 8th grade really don't make sense if 50% of the students fail and almost a third cannot get admitted into high schools! This is only fueling the already high unemployment rate of over 40% among youth. END RESULT- Insecurity, increase in Poverty, Early Pregnancies, High population growth, Poor health and sanitation among other social economic ills.