Saturday, September 24, 2016

Kenya, the Country of Enormous Opportunities

Kenya, the Country of Enormous Opportunities

Kenya, the name of the country derived from Mount Krenyaga, meaning white (snowy) mountain, the second highest mountain after Kilimanjaro. White people couldn't pronounce Krenyaga, therefore called it Kenya.

The British Kenya Colony established in 1895, became independent on 12 December 1963, with a black majority Government of President Jomo Kenyatta. During the freedom struggle, his fourth wife delivered a baby boy on 20 October 1961, whom they named Uhuru, means Independence. He also named the Capital Park and the Highway, Uhuru. He remained as President till his death in 1978. It is a country of 581,309 sqkm; three times to the size of Gujarat and 1/5 size of India, has population of 45 million, less than Gujarat (60 million). It is an Agro economy based country mostly dependent on imports of 85% of it's goods of Industrial products. The GDP of the country is $63 billion ($143 billion PPP), and was ranked 145th in HDI in 2014.

Nairobi one of the most beautiful hill station and capital of Kenya is located on equator at an elevation of 1795 metre above sea level. It has tropical weather. It was HQ of Railway in 1898 to monitor construction of Mombasa to Kishumu rail line.

Kenya has Wild Life National Park at Massaimara (Rift Valley Drive from Nairobi) and Lake Victoria, shared by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the biggest in Africa and the second largest freshwater lake of the world. Kenya has bigger share of the lake.

Mombasa is the major port of Kenya that handles the major cargo of the East African countries. Mombasa (Manbasa in Arabic) and Mumbai may have similarity in their names, as the Portuguese sailed for trading from Mombasa to Mumbai. Portuguese used to call Mumbai as Bom (good) Bahiya (Dariya-Sea), British called it Bom (good) Bay (sea). Gujarati traders were sailing to the port of Mombasa for centuries and many Gujarati and Kenyan workers were working together at Mombasa port. While lifting or pulling the heavy weight together, the Gujarati used to say loudly, 'Har Har Ambey'. Now 'Harambee' is part of the symbol of their national emblem meaning working together in Unity. But Gujarati people were vegetarian and don't eat beef. However, Kenyan people eat beef, therefore they call cow as 'Noambe'! Swahili, their national language carry many Indian and Gujarati words. To welcome, they say 'Karibu' (karib-come closer). Our Simha (lion) is their Simba. They use the word Chay for tea and Chori for the theft. For saying OK they say Gujarati word 'bhale'. Our sabu (soap) is their sabuni. Water for them is 'peya' (like our pyaoo).

English is their official language and Swahili is the National language. People say that if you know English then you can't learn Swahili in 10 years but if you are English illiterate, you can pick up the Swahili in 3 months. Because once you start communicating in English, people here respond and you lose the opportunity to learn the local language.

It has three rainy seasons. If there is no rain for two months, they call it drought. April-June are the main rainy months. People do have problems of drinking water and irrigation. Maize and wheat are their major crops.

People in general are good, simple, friendly, carry smiling faces; and happy with Ugali (made from maize flour) with Sukuma (leaf vegetable) as staple food. Meat is costly (KSh 400-500/kg), therefore they eat non veg food on the weekends. Fruits and vegetables, particularly the potatoes are tasty. Tur daal and rice of Kenya carry special flavour. Most of the Agro products are organic. And our Chef in Indian Restaurant Chopati in Skyline Mall, Nairobi cooks the tastiest dishes of Indians recipes. As a result, Chopati is the most popular dine out place amongst the Indians.

People in villages live in simple and small houses, made by the women using wood sticks, mud and grass. Some people now build houses using tin sheets roofs. Cows are very important in the life of Kenyan families. With Ugali, Cows are their bread and butter. They slaughter cows (noambe) after the end of their productive life. But bulls numbers are restricted. Their buffalos are wild. Some tried to made them domestic but failed. Many people rear Sheep and Goats too. Donkeys (ponda) are used for carts. If a male doesn't have 10-30 cows or 100-300 sheep or equal money in pocket as dowry to the bride's parents, he can't get a girl of Kenya. Even if one tries love marriage and run away with the girl without paying the dowry, he will not get dowry when he marries his daughter in the society. For son, he has to pay the dowry. It has more girls than boys in marriage age group, therefore, some people keep more wives and carry a family of many children. But the husband is like a mobile van, rotating day wise or week wise amongst the wives, living at different places.

But in cities, living cost is too high. The rent, the house, the land (1 acre/ KSh 50-500m), the goods and services, etc, are very costly, therefore the couple have to go for the job. Per capita average salary of a common working man in city may be around KSh 15,000/month. A lobby attendant in a star hotel may receive KSh 50,000/month.

There are three types of land titles: owned by individuals, owned by communities and owned by the government. Government owns the majority of lands. Community lands are governed by community laws. And government lands are always given on 99 years transferable lease.

Goods are very expensive here, may be five times costlier than India, because 85% of the goods are imported. Government has imposed heavy import duty but it has made the cost more expensive as the local industries are in the initial stage of development. In India, if you make ₹2 out of ₹1 in commerce and industry, in Kenya you can make KSh 6 out of KSh 1. One to ja Six. Better than the Ramlakhan movie song, eji, oji, ... 1 to ja ka 4!

As the aspiration of good life is very high and the goods are expensive in cities, few youths take a short cut of robberies. The foreigners don't feel safe in Nairobi. It is very risky to walk on footpath after the dark. Robbers can attack at traffic junctions. It has tropical weather where no fans and ACs required at home. But security concerns keep the Cars AC on. The compound walls of the houses in the city are very high, and many have barbed wire above it with electric current. The gates are heavy. Hotel gates are like jail gates, have double closers, the gate as well as the crossing. Each visitor has to get down of the car and pass through X-ray and security check at the wicket gate.

For Gujarati, it is second home. Halari (people from Jamnagar) are the main habitant Gujaratis in Kenya. For them their is similarity in word Kanaiyo and Kenya. They have been prospered a lot.

Shri Narendra Raval (Guru), a Brahmin boy was in service of a Saint Harikrishna Maharaj of Bhuj Temple in Gujarat. With metric education he came  to Nairobi in his teenage as a pujari of a temple in 1978. He came in contact with the traders and manufacturers of iron and steel, started his own venture, and now became an Industrial giant, with $0.5 billion turnover a year, flourished in Iron and Cement Industries Sectors under the banner of Devki Group of Industries. He owns two helicopters to travel to his factories. He has house in London.

Shri Ashokbhai Shah, a BCom graduate from MS University, Vadodara, came following his brother with zero capital became one of the biggest entrepreneurs in Nairobi. The President has assigned him a government security guard for 24x7. He started his business of computer in 1998, moved to plastic recycling, built wealth, moved to Dubai but lost all in recession, returned to Nairobi, rebuilt the wealth and now become a real estate developer. He is aiming 1000% profit in his new venture Infinity Industrial Park. 35% space has already been booked and rest will get investors as soon as the project is launched. He has borrowed the idea of Industrial Park from Gujarat and is investing his profit in Gujarat around Vadodara. Their Abacas Pharma is market leader in pharmaceutical business in East Africa. His partner Shri Rajesh Mehta, a PR man making friends in Government, is busy in establishing a Cement Plant in partnership with Sanghi Cement!

Dr Manu Chandaria, the Lion, is another success story.

There are many success stories of Halari Gujarati; Jayendra Malde, Nitin Malde, Sudhakar Pathak (Karibu Travels), Kamal Gupta, etc. In 120,000 Indian population in Kenya, 70% are Gujarati. Their employees, home servants and security are Kenyans. Very good and loyal people, don't look at the females of the family with bad eyes.

Indians maintain very good repo and relations with the President, Ministers and the bureaucracy. Administration is positive for Indians but rejects many PR applications, e.g., the Chefs without diploma/degree of the field or a certification from the Government authority of the country of origin will not get PR.

Gujarati people live in Nairobi in the area named Park Lane. There are other Indians living too. They have their malls, dispensary, schools etc. They prefer British school. Education in Maths and Science is poor. The East Africa Swaminarayan Satsang temple, the first temple outside India in Africa continent was established in Nairobi in 1945. BAPS Swaminarayan had build another beautiful temple in Nairobi in 1999 using Jesslmer Yellow sandstone with a beautiful interior made from intricately carved wood.

To win the trust of the local people, Gujarati traders, industrialists, religious and social organisations spend good money on charity, on health camps, etc. Hindu Council of Kenya is working for the Social services and Cultural promotion. We had been to Hotel Safari to see the local tribal Zulu dance. The hotel was famous for serving meat of many animals. Now the President has imposed a ban on killing and selling or serving meat of the wild animals, therefore, the Chinese and other tourists can enjoy the tastes of Chicken, Ostrich, mutton and beef only. Some of us couldn't tolerate the smell of the roasted meats (barbecue), didn't enjoy the Zulu dance much. The Council is ready to do cultural promotion of these groups with India.

Security of life and properties are the big concerns for Indians. To save the life from killing or serious injuries while traveling, Gujarati people carry extra 50,000 - 100,000 Kshillings in their socks, so that one may pay and get relieved. Recently, month and half ago, a Gujarati trader was murdered in front of his house gate in Mombasa. He was returning from his office carrying KSh 15 million. Two guys were chasing him. As soon as he opened his house gate, the robbers opened fire, the security man of the house ran away, and till he handover the money with him to the robbers, they fired 3 bullets and killed him on the spot. It is risky to travel alone, risky to stop at the traffic signals in nights. In another incident, a boy returned from a mall and entering into his car was assaulted. They broke his shoulder and took away his cell phones and money in the pocket.

Medical services are very expensive. Indore patients have to pay KSh 100,000/day even the disease can be cured by medicines. They grant late discharge to exploit the patients. Agakhan Foundation and MB Shah Hospitals are there but demand for medical tourism to India is very high. There were complaints about the doctors in Ahmedabad regarding their heavy charges of treatment and expensive tests, rolling them around many windows. There was a complaint against Dentist Dr Mayur Shah, who charged ₹750,000 for root canal and building caps of 7 teeth (20 years guarantee) of a Gujarati old lady of Kenya. The caps came out after 7 years. When the son of the mother approached the doctor, he didn't respond.

The present President Uhuru Kenyatta is a son of the first President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta. Kenya has 41 ethnic tribes, of which the major five groups are: Kikuyu (22%), Luhya (14%), Luo (13%), Kalenjin (12%) and Kamba (11%). Christians 70%, Muslims 15% and others 15%. The President belong to the Kikuyu tribe. He is very popular and has initiated many development works of infrastructure development of the country. He has injected development hunger into the minds of the Kenyans The project of supplying power to all the schools of Kenya is in progress. 60% work is over. They have hydro and geo thermal electricity power generation stations. They use eucalyptus tree as poles to lay the electricity transmission lines to all over the country. It is economical. Recently, the rail and road contracts are won by the Chinese companies and the irrigation projects were granted to Israel. Indian companies lost the business in competitive bidding.

It is Presidential type of Government system like US, where the President is elected directly by the voters and the ministers and the PM are appointed by the President. President is the Commander in Chief of the Arm forces. There are Senators and Members of Parliament. As per the old Constitution, they had eight Provinces, like our States. Now they have introduced new Constitution from 2013 and replaced the provinces by 47 Counties. Each County is headed by the Governor, elected by the people through direct voting. As usual in democracy, they too have problems of elections expenditure to influence voters and there are allegations of mal-practices in elections. In last Presidential elections, it was said that Mr. Raila Odinga (former PM) of the Orange Party, the loser of the election had secured 46% votes and Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee Party had secured only 30% votes, was trailing behind, and suddenly the electronic system of the counting was shutdown. Then, after a day or two, manual counting of votes was conducted and Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta was declared elected. The opposition charged that the winners kept the extra ballot boxes ready with votes inside in favour of Mr. Uhuru and added them with the polled boxes of the Strong Room. The matter was reviewed by the Supreme Court and it had upheld the manual counting and the results. After all, the elected President is the Commander in Chief of the Army. The question is still in the air, how could the votes polled in some polling stations can be higher than the population of those polling stations. Kenya is getting ready for the next Presidential Election in 2017. The ruling Jubilee Party will face the opposition, the Orange Party of Mr. Raila and its alliances. The President is popular and hoping to win the second term and the oppositions are yet to finalise their candidate to face Mr. Uhuru.

Kenya is an interesting destination for the tourists and for the entrepreneurs. Which place on earth is without problem? Some gains some losses. It has potential of growth, good margin of profit, therefore, those who can't compete within Indians market can eye over Kenya. After all entrepreneur means risk taker (with money of others!). Kenya is a beautiful Country of Simple but Smiling People. May be a destination of some more Gujaratis.

Har Har-ambee!

16 September 2016


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