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Sunday, 27 July 2014


Lee Kuan Yew

Divock Origi was sweating profusely in the tropical sun. His demeanor was calm, as he observed the tactical game being played before a capacity crowd of 210,000 spectators in Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, Uruguay. 

The emotional tension was palpable, pulsing through out the stadium and across the world. This was the most watched game in history and more than 6 billion people around the globe were watching it. This was the final of the World Cup 2030, and Kenya a newly industrialized country, had advanced to this level despite insurmountable odds. 

The advance had been unpredictable, and Kenya was carrying the weight and aspirations of a recently more assertive Africa.

World Cup Trophy
Half of the stadium was filled by East Africans a cohesive bunch who had congregated from around the world to witness this feat. Africa was one, in standing, and to attest to this the VIP section had all the leaders of African nations in attendance. The look on their faces spoke volumes, none exuded a dignified posture. While many fought back tears, evident from their watery eyes, some threw away restraint and bit their nails nervously.

Divock had done the impossible in his short coaching career, and brought his ancestral country to the final game. All that remained was for them to display what they had learned together. Despite the commotion around him he couldn’t help but travel back to the fateful day when this journey started 16 years earlier.

After Belgium graciously bowed out of the World Cup 2014 he had a heated conversation with his father on whether an African country would ever win a World Cup. Since then he had constantly replayed that conversation and his father’s words in his mind.

Even when he had been the anchor that took Liverpool through success in the Premier League, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup.

Deep down all this success drove him to believe there was a greater purpose he was meant to aim for and attain, more than the accolades and price money that he had accumulated, but, he was not accustomed to blind risk taking and whenever he could he strove to keep a keen eye on the developments in his ancestral country. He chuckled as he looked with pride at the Kenyan president who sat in the VIP section of the stadium.

What had attracted him to reach his decision in 2025 to quit active football and start a coaching stint in Kenya that was denigrated by the football world was a well-orchestrated and concerted effort by this man.

The beginning

In 2017 the president had come to power, with promises that seemed almost unattainable. Many said he had utopian aspirations. But part of his many talents, was the ability to inspire and cast a vision that would drive, millions to blind allegiance.

What he also was, was a man with a second chance at life, and he wanted to leave a legacy that would even rival Lee Kuan Yew’s success in Singapore.

He made sure he had people around him that were talented, world-class, incorruptible and resolute in their drive, and placed them in key positions in his government. 

It also helped his lofty ambitions that Kenya’s oil reserves rose to 42 billion barrels , after further oil discoveries were unearthed in four exploration blocks straddling the eastern parts of the country (L5, L1B, 2A and L2).  As the impossible became possible the president set about shaking and transforming the social, economic and cultural identity of the country.
Oil Exploration Blocks in Kenya


The president and his able cabinet realized that, they had to create a nation devoid of the British railroad legacy, where people had congregated along the railroads tracks and with time towns and shanties had evolved into cities and slums.  

A project dubbed “the four corridors” was initiated in 2019 to open up Kenya soon after. The onus of this audacious project was to build four high-speed rail networks that created new settling centers in Kenya and also connected the country like never before.

High Speed Rail
The four consortia that were each awarded a corridor to construct were given an ambitious five years to complete their part of the undertaking. Part of the qualifier required them to train more than 40,000 people who would run each of the networks, and also set up technical institutions in one of the cities along their corridor that would empower the nation in becoming self-reliant in managing the high-speed rail networks by 2024.

The Northern Corridor was covered by the Mandera-Moyale-Marsabit-Lodwar-Lokichokio high-speed railway line project spanning 1619 km.  The Middle Corridor was covered by the Wajir-Isiolo-Maralal-Kitale-Eldoret -Kakamega high-speed railway line project spanning 1588 Km. The Mid-Lower Corridor was covered by the  Lamu-Garissa-Meru-Nanyuki-Nyeri-Nyahururu-Nakuru-Kisumu-Siaya high-speed railway line project  spanning 1146 km. The Lower corridor was covered by the Kisii-Narok-Nairobi-Machakos-Taveta –Mombasa-Malindi railway line project spanning more than 1202 km.

Another project that soon followed was a concerted effort to increase the road network in Kenya to 630,000 km, and the creation of expressways between some of the major designated cities. The underlying intention was to build dual carriageways between all the 47 counties, and single lane roads straddling all corners of each county. The inspiration was to ensure that there was no place in Kenya that was not 1 kilometer from a paved road. The government chose to have most roads paved with concrete and also pushed for development rights

The development rights were carefully designed to ensure that they created jobs for Kenyans.

Four international airports were built in Lodwar, Isiolo, Nakuru and Wajir while Kisumu, Mombasa, Eldoret and Nairobi airports were extended and upgraded.

Tourism Hub

The creation of a tourist hub in Isiolo was lauded and well received, but it really took off when Kenya made a point of inviting Walt Disney Resorts to develop a Going-to-Africa theme park, Merlin Entertainments to develop two LegoAfrica Parks and OCT Parks China to bring to life a China-meets-Africa theme park.
Each of these companies used the natural beauty of Kenya and incorporated natural wildlife themes in their hugely successful and world embraced theme parks.  They were also present in Machakos and Nairobi. In time they developed Sea themed parks in Malindi and Mombasa.

The annual visitors to Kenya soon rose to 30 million people from across the world as they were aptly marketed to by these theme parks multinationals that had extensive experience in creating memorable experiences.

National Youth Service

To ensure that Kenyans became more cohesive, disciplined and focused the national youth service was strengthened empowered, and made compulsory for citizens between the ages of 18 -23. And the best among those in this training program were hand picked for further studies in Ivy League universities around the world. The understanding was that these people would come back and serve the country in different capacities under the ministries for a period of 5 years before joining the private sector if they so wished. By doing this civil service would always be top class, proactive and ready to advance in a global economy.

The government also made it essential to pay its work force well. It made concerted effort to have a trim, world-class civil service; an example being the police who became one of the best paid and best equipped in the world.


The government for once had relevant discussions with the academic fraternity and soon after Kenya in its concerted stance invested in overhauling the education system and making it more competitive and astute for the global economy. 

Kenya invested heavily in training quality teachers and students, because it realized that people were its greatest assets. It made education free and compulsory from the age of 5 -19 years, footing the bill for all public education in the country. It invited and 'incentivised' top global universities around the world to setup shop in the country and tap into the wider African market. It offered substantial support for foreign and local students to apply and join these universities.
Local universities were then required to partner with a choice of the top 100 universities around the world in offering relevant courses in the country.

Due to the state of the economy and the well-received action of the government around the world, most of the top global universities were soon found in the university cities of Taveta, Machakos, Kitui and Thika. German and Korean technical universities were also invited to train and retrain the country’s youth into employ-ability.

Kenya was soon a well accepted outsource site for most Fortune 500 companies as more highly skilled Kenyan started getting into the job market.


Given the availability of large swatches of land across the country, Kenya set about to become the global leader in agribusiness. With close coordination with Israel and Netherlands, the country set up large farms that did poultry, livestock, cereals and fruits for the local and international market. The farms became self reliant in less than 3 years, and with relevant partnerships with local universities, scientists, managers and engineers for this industry became prevalent and available to support other such ventures across Africa.   

Agribusiness in action
In return for generous incentives these farms were required to create value out of raw materials locally and sell premium products to the international market. These agribusinesses ended up feeding the whole nation comfortably.
Land control

The land issue had been an issue for such a long time due to speculation, land in the hands of a few and abject poverty. But as more people became employed, the government acquired ancestral lands, and got about modernizing these areas while ensuring that people could be resettled across the country, with better or similar comforts found in any city in the world.

The concept was to build up the country section-by-section offer jobs and comforts of life and let people migrate to these areas that were dispersed across the country.


To inspire the creation of an identity Kenyan, devoid of tribal linkages, the government, invested billions of dollars in building 80,000 housing units every year from 2019, which were allocated to all pension holding persons in the country at highly subsidized prices. These houses when built had access to clean water, effective drainage and sanitation, clean electric power and proximity to the road network, (which at this point were earnestly underway). They came in two sizes, 3 bedroom and six bedrooms depending on the size of the family.  
These houses were constructed in all cities and towns across the country and owners were selected on a national lottery system, to allow for dispersal of people, based on their training and where their skills were required around the country.


The energy needs of the country were also aligned to the intention to incubate and mature various skill intensive and knowledge intensive industries, while also driving the mining industry. To this end, the needs were revised upwards to 250,000 MW by 2030 rivaling earlier estimates of 19,200 MW.
Multinationals Vestas, Goldwind and Enercon built wind farms in the Chalbi and Nyiri Deserts and off shore wind farms in the Ungama Bay region in the Coastal region.
The use of concentrated solar power allowed for massive installations to be erected in the Northern Corridor from Turkana all the way to Wajir.

Solar photovoltaic was extensively embraced as installation prices kept going down and every new house built was required to have an essential installation to cater for more than 90% of its needs.  Tax exemptions were given based on energy efficiency for most of the industries that operated in the country.

The use of geothermal power was also increased exponentially with exploitation of the 10,000 MW.

The government realizing the potential of renewable energy, created highly competitive incentives for renewable energy companies around the world to undertake R&D in the country.

Forest Cover

The president wanted to make Kenya the venue of a highly lucrative world class Carbon Exchange Market, part of his strategy was to make Kenya one of the greenest countries in Africa, and a gateway into the African carbon market, he thus addressed the drastic loss of forest cover in the country, by revising and up scaling the aspirations to reforest Kenya from 10% to around 30% especially in semi arid areas and deforested areas. The budget for this process was increased to $ 1 billion dollars by 2021.

Carbon Market in Kenya
The advent of the Nakuru Climate Exchange with the support of the European Climate Exchange, made its debut in 2023. Soon after it became one of the best Climate Exchange centers in the world.


The government did not overlook the large underwater aquifers in Turkana running into 250 billion cubic meters able to serve Kenya for more than 50 years, instead a policy was legalized that ensured that this water would be used in a manner that would allow it to replenish over, hundreds of years.

This would only be possible through the reclamation of municipal waste-water, coordinated harvesting of rainwater and the use of now viable desalination treatment projects at the coastal region.

Industrial water withdrawal was also an element that needed thorough discussion as Apparel manufacturing, semi conductor manufacturing, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and car manufacturing multinationals setup up their factories in Kenya.

To avoid pollution and waste-water destroying the surrounding ecosystems, strong environmental policies were set and constantly policed by a visionary environment management authority. The chairman, who was a retired Singaporean industrialist, became the first among others who were brought in from around the world to show example, coach and mentor the country newly empowered workforce.  
Many of the industries had to develop adequate structure to ensure limited degradation of the environment.  

 Oil Fund

As money from oil streamed in the president ensured that there was such a high level of transparency and efficiency that the country won a number of global awards.

The country then set about converting the oil revenue into a Kenyan Pension Fund, aping the Government Pension Fund of Norway. It allowed surplus funds made from oil sales in Kenya to enter a pension fund that owned stock in various blue chip stocks around the world. The fund was also used to further the exploration of new oil blocks and fund heavy industry joint ventures that were done in Kenya and across the world.


With the discovery and processing of large deposits of Iron, rare metals, coal and titanium, it became viable for Kenya to start industrializing. To arrive at this juncture local capacity was build over time with the Oil Fund giving incentives to foreign companies to do business competitively in Kenya.

Three of the largest oil refineries in Africa were built in Isiolo, Lamu and Wajir able to process 700,000bbl/d. 

Sanitation and greening Kenya

Sanitation was always an issue around the country it was only after adopting a well targeted campaign of improving waste management, etiquette training and culture reprogramming that it finally sank into the Kenyan people psyche that it is detrimental to litter or perform acts of sabotage on public infrastructure.

Social Economic structures

Realizing that to be competitive it had to be honest and competent, the government set about creating a truly corruption free government with very steep penalties for corrupt individuals. The mood was set when a close aide of the president, was arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned. Soon everyone knew that there was little tolerance for this vice. The president set it as his personal agenda to stem corruption and ensure that every single Kenya Shilling was accounted for.

The cabinet was an economic executive board, not a planning body alone, success was measured by the success of policies and results and politics was highly frowned upon.

It was not long afterwards, that its neighbors followed suit Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Somalia also became bastions of success.

Yes, Somalia too, when Somalia realized the amount of oil wealth that it was sitting on and as its diaspora started coming back home, things improved and the Al-Shabaab in the face of success became a thing of the past.


With the introduction and institution of compulsory national youth service ample number of service men for the police, military and generally the security apparatus of the country became robust. It also grew organized and fit, a product of constant interaction with terrorist activity. The military was not spared in the anti-corruption hurricane and meritocracy took root. In several international reviews in 2022 the police system in Kenya was termed as one of the top 30 most efficient in the world. The Kenyan borders became well policed using both personnel and the latest in surveillance technology. 


As the country set about undertaking great feats, Divok was approached not once but 12 times, to come and see the developments that were sweeping through Kenya, he had a chance to visit the various construction works across the country in late 2020 and also saw the soccer training grounds in Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa, Kitui and Wajir. They were exemplary. The skills of the young boys impressed him, and he decided to finally quit in 2025 and settle permanently in Kenya as he focused on turning 16 -18 year olds boys into a well-coordinated team that would challenge the best national teams in World Cup 2030. Truth be told, none of the boys in the team had really had any experience in top-flight football.

But then again this was the football of the future. Where old was debilitating and would easily cause a team to fail.  

As the final whistle was blown, the score was 1-0 Kenya had just won the World Cup 2030 against host nation Uruguay.

As the Kenyan team waited for the FIFA World Cup trophy to be engraved ‘2030 Kenya’, on the last remaining space on the bottom of the trophy, tears fell freely and unabatedly as millions of Kenyans watched around the world, and began to understand that for them to have gotten this far, it had a lot to do with the institutional changes that took root over the last 17 years.

This was the thought that ran through Divock’s mind as he lifted the cup with his teammates and the stadium erupted into momentous cheering.

NB: This is a fictional narration and most of the facts collected have been rehabilitated to inspire change.



Tuesday, 15 July 2014


Fairchild founders Gordon Moore, C Sheldon Roberts, Eugene Kleiner, Robert Noyce, Victor Grinich, Julius Blank, Jean Hoerni, and Jay Last (L-R). (Computer History Museum)
The arrival of the digital era was marked by the exponential uptake of the microchip across a number of industries and their radical transformation. Central to how rapidly this era took root was predicated on Moore’s Law. Coined by the co-founder of Intel, it stated that the number of transistors being integrated on a single microchip would double every two years, with no cost increase. As this digital revolution was taking shape in the late 1950s and early 1960s most African countries had begun to unshackle themselves from their colonial masters. 
The microchip industry averaged global sales of $26.16 billion for the month of March 2014, and has players from all around the world. From humble beginnings in the 1950s when the ‘Traitorous eight’ created the first commercially viable microchip for about $150, the microchip can now be found in every device technological; it is ubiquitous and fundamental in the running of today’s global economy.  What I failed to mention in this statement is that, there is currently no microchip fabrication factory in Africa. Why? 

The first years of the microchip were dictated primarily by the aerospace and military industries. Popular tabloid reminders of their advances were seen through the first intercontinental nuclear missiles and Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon.
The African citizenry unfortunately was not to gain from this industry directly due largely to deep political and economic development failures that took root as many of the countries crawled to self-reliance.
The microchip was an instant success in the developed world. And it became industry knowledge that the cost of the microchip would go down over time, the competitor who was to remain afloat, was required to either produce more innovative products at a cheaper cost while delivering these to an ever–wider audience, or outsource the production entirely.
So while worldwide market monthly billings of the microchip industry rose to the $1 billion mark by November 1983, so too did the cost of setting up a fabrication plant. In two decades from 1972 to 1995, the cost rose dramatically from $20 million to $1 billion. Recent estimates of such plants being set up in the US by Intel or in Abu Dhabi by Global Foundries stretch the cost past a dizzy $5 billion.
According to Clayton Christensen, a best selling author and Professor at Harvard Business School, to amortize the $5 billion investment in a fabrication plant over a five-year schedule costs more than $3 million a day. It takes huge amounts of capital to support the incessant cycles of investment and obsolescence that keep Moore's Law on the march, he added.

A fabrication plant is a technological wonder to behold with environments so sanitary that a dust speck would cause production to come to a grinding halt. The devices being used are extremely precise down to a billionth of a millimeter and thus highly expensive; pieces cost between $700,000 to more than $ 50 million, and you have hundreds of such pieces of equipment in the plant.
The benefit to a country lies in the generation of thousands of direct and indirect high-paying jobs, spinoff revenue for local communities and massive investments in research, equipment and materials for the economy, not mentioning that microchips sit at the top of the electronics industry pyramid.
Undoubtedly there are African countries that can build a fabrication plant comfortably given the size of their economies. But to avoid the classical case of factories left to run aground due to lack of management ability. A yardstick measure needs to be applied in terms of which country can really pull this off. A country with a majority of its population living below extreme poverty is calling for a mix of Brazilian and Egyptian style strikes or revolution if it tries to setup such a plant.
Given that most economies that set up these plants are in direct competition to each other certain fundamentals have to be appreciated and inculcated even before a proposal is considered viable. These include having well-functioning public and private institutions, a well-developed transport and communication infrastructure network, a stable macroeconomic environment, a healthy workforce, a developed financial market, the ability to harness the benefits of existing technologies, an efficient goods market and a large domestic or foreign market among others. These are essential to stay competitive.
In Africa, at least currently only Morocco and South Africa are the only two economies that are large enough to support such an investment while meeting these fundamentals. In the final analysis, African countries can be competitive in the Global market place, but it takes concerted effort from all stakeholders in any country and regionally to get there.  

Sunday, 13 July 2014


Mongol Warrior after war
The Roman Church branded them as the angels of the apocalypse. They were depicted as brutal, flesh eating and greedy. This was the dark ages, and folklore was more accepted than facts. It is noted that some of the worst wartime atrocities with estimates of up-to 80 million dead were committed as the Mongol conquered the known world in the 13th and 14th century.

At their zenith they ruled an area extending from the Sea of Japan to the East, to Central Europe to the West, from Siberia in the north to the Indian subcontinent in the south. It is still considered the largest contiguous land empire in history; six times the size of Alexander the Great’s Macedonian Empire.

The Mongol empire ruled for a strikingly short time span, but their mark is evident in today society, from trade, to culture, art, to military strategy their contribution is extensive.

The Mongol empire has more to offer today’s businesses than was previously assumed. Whether you are running a start up, bootstrapping and fighting to come by some financial injection, a stable organization about to transition into your best years, or are declining into oblivion there are lessons you can learn from this empire.

1.    Your strength lies in less

The Mongols are a very hardy people. For centuries before the empire became, their story was the same, they were nomadic, moving from place to place, depending on their animals, and at the mercy of treacherous weather patterns. Heavy snow, ice and droughts were common, harsh winters of -30°C constantly decimated their livestock. Due to constant travel necessitated by the need to survive they only possessed the bare essentials and lived in tents.  
Steve Jobs and Wozniak - 1977
Their situation was further exasperated by the trade disputes they had with their neighbors the Jin and Xia Dynasty to the South East, who were wealthy empires that refused to trade with the Mongols for desperately needed goods

 Respect the early days of your business. Learn to survive and flourish based on your adversity; you might not be forced naturally to do this, but critical lessons are learnt at this period. Learn to ask questions like why your business exists and what value your business ultimately brings to society.

There is a reason why the Silicon Valley mantra of “fail fast and try again” exists. And it stands far apart from bringing value to society.

There is a reason why Vmware makes profit while Twitter, Groupon and Zynga barely do so in comparison to their valuation.

We live in an age where bootstrapping is lauded and sensationalized. An ecosystem has blossomed around the world of venture capitalists who are willing to fund even half witted ideas from a large global pool of technologists who have received sufficient dozes of inspiration from the success stories of companies like airbnb and Whatsup. The fanatical “me too” romantic notion of this aspiration can be misconstrued and the wisdom of the difficult early days lost as many people commit Kamikaze like acts, in aiming to emulate the success of the few. It’s only after wasting first and second round of financing in propping up a dead entity that it becomes apparent that some companies were really never meant to be. An interesting piece on this here

Remember that 3 out of 4 businesses that start in Silicon Valley fail within the first 30 months.  It is no wonder that there is even a Failcon  conference that focuses on failures.

2.    Study industry strengths and weakness, design for success

The Mongols fully studied the power and weaknesses of their neighbors and realized that aristocracy was their Achilles heel. Far ahead of anything else most of the surrounding empires at that time were ruled by aristocrats who wanted to retain their empires at the detriment of the masses, corruption was a byword in the Chinese empires.  The size of armies was based on wealth and influence and not on order and discipline.

To counter this Genghis Khan, first of all instituted a principle where meritocracy was king. One rose through the ranks because they showed exemplary ability in the field, rather than how well one knew or had a blood relation to the leader. He then set about bringing structure among the ranks. He did this by having leaders of groups of 10, 100, 1000 and 10,000. The leaders of these groups were chosen based on ability in the field.

Make sure you have the right structures in your organization from very early on. Build to disrupt not to conform. It might be easy in the beginning to hire people who simply buy into your vision but the earliest you can, get people who merit their position. Reward results rather than cronyism. Read Economist piece here

3.    Have grand aspirations and a clear blue strategy

Genghis was a brilliant military commander who from a young age struggled to revenge his father; once this was achieved revenge was translated into a passion for conquest. Without his character the Mongol empire would not have grown beyond its domestic realm. Deep down Genghis wanted to be termed as a supreme leader, a master of no equal.

Be aware of and use your talents and abilities. You possess talents that can allow you to achieve the aspirations that you have for your business. Be relentless and don’t short change yourself with short-term aspirations of being just a billionaire. Despite being courted a number of times, to sell their businesses the founders of Facebook  and Google understood their vision and had grand aspirations. It is only by sheer resilience that they stood their ground and didn’t sell off their companies, they are now some of the wealthiest people in the world. Please have lofty aspirations that include something more than dollar signs next to your name, it will probably change the world we live in.
Remember to have a blue ocean strategy that sets you apart not a red bloodied one. Find clarity of vision first, and then pursue it with all your energy. Which takes us to the next lesson

4.    Oneness in vision

Genghis knew that victory was meaningless without establishing a sense of nationhood so he had to fight and unite all the warring Mongol tribes under a single structure. He then set about establishing a formidable army using the national sport the nerge (traditional hunt) as an exercise to distill discipline and skill. His aim was to make the troops learn to think as part of a larger entity. Only showing their individual abilities when they were required to. It took him close to 4 years to have the army he desired. But by the end of that period discipline, order and structure was what Genghis army had.

Invest time to bring your business into one living, breathing organism, where every person works as part of the whole team .  It takes time, effort, practice and play together to get there. Merit and ability should be essential at critical moments, but teamwork should be supreme, and a culture of thinking as one should be fundamental.

5.    Create a formidable enemy
Geghis realized early that to maintain supremacy at home he had to have success abroad.

Leaving your ‘troops’ without a formidable enemy to conquer is a recipe for descent, conflict and departure.
Learn to train, mentor, give direction and then send your people out to achieve the seemingly impossible. 
In the battle with the Chinese empires the Mongolians were greatly outnumbered, but because they had become one in mind and focus they overcame their numerous and disorganized enemies.

6.    The power of one

A Mongol soldier was highly resourceful, he was supposed to manage 4 horses, a shield, 2 bows, 60 arrows, a lance, cooking pots, a sharpening tool, a needle and a thread, including his daily ration. He was supposed to be ready to move for distances of hundreds of miles within minutes of warning.

Hire the people who have the DNA of your aspirations, who have in them the ability to do the length and breath of what you want to achieve. Remember Genghis soldiers were hardy nomads, who moved around all their lives, with little luxury. What they were doing was explicably part of their culture and nature. You may not necessarily find the right people for your organization from the Ivy League schools, but know what is the underlying DNA you require to make your business a success.      

7.    Respect and embrace, tolerate and allow for diversity

It is widely known that their foray into warfare outside their region, the Mongol warriors decimated what they did not understand. But they were quick to learn, partly due to their visionary leaders, who understood that the foundation of a great empire lay in the skills that they found in conquered empires. Due to this, forced migrations were initiated for skilled people found in the Persian and Chinese empires they conquered. The most valued people were metal workers. These would later build the ramp and siege works the Mongol used to attack Westerly Islamic and European strongholds and fortifications.
Cast your net far and wide for talent, some of the best people to build your business may actually be in places unknown and unappreciated doing “insignificant” work.

One of the things that the Mongol Khans knew about was tolerance and the need to accept diversity for economic and cultural prosperity. Unlike the Europe of the dark ages which was intolerant and steeped in mythology and illiteracy. The Mongol empire was literate and religiously tolerant.

Learn to embrace diversity it is by inviting and creating a conducive environment for a cross section of people to interact that ideas flourish and prosperity is realized.

8.    Learn to change and adapt

The conquest of China was different due to the outlay of the land, which was either densely forested or covered by paddy fields. And thus horses, a principal mode of transport for the Mongols could not be used. The war would take years instead of months. To achieve conquest, Kublai Khan decided to adopt the Confucian practices, gab and behaviors of the Chinese. He essentially became Chinese. He then invested heavily in trade, art and science and included the Chinese in his army.

While it is a sound lesson to change and adopt, ensure that you are always clear on what benefits this will accrue and understand the merits and demerits. Not just in the short term but in the long term. Remember not all change is good, some change can elevate and some can destroy. Chose wisely and strategically, and not through a knee jack reaction to what is happening around you. I would go with Warren Buffett’s sagely approach rather than Raj Rajaratnam quick and ‘calculated’.    

9.    Clarity of vision through the ranks 

The first major defeat that the Mongol army faced was due to the large Chinese contingent they had in their army in their war with the Japan Empire. Due to the stratification in army (the Mongols were at the top and the southern Chinese at the bottom ranks) a majority of the people who went to war with the Japanese was the southern Chinese who were uninspired and did not identify with the aspirations of the Khan. Twice they were rebuffed and in the end 80,000 people died and this signaled the decline of this great empire

Remember even as you are growing and achieving great success, take time to sell your vision to the least and to the greatest of your employees.

Remember that merit should determine progress in your business. No one should feel like they have stagnated because there is some form of stratification in your organization’s rank and file.  

10. Do not do what those you ‘conquered’ did before you

During his best years, Kublai Khan build a Confucian style city, splendid, bedecked with beauty, rectangular and awe aspiring. In the city he built cities within cities that essentially isolated the people from the center of power. He then realized that to populate this great city he had to attract the aristocracy, he thus set about making it a city of culture, as a patron of the arts and so began a shadowy dive into an aristocratic lifestyle that took him away from his constituents and the proper governance of his empire.

The head stopped knowing what the toe was doing. Poverty ravished different enclaves in his empire and rebellion brewed.

Stay hungry, stay foolish , never perceive you have arrived at the big boys party. Stay humble. That is the price you have to pay to stay relevant for eons to come.    

Finally train others in the wake of your departure, no one entity lasts forever, but a philosophy can outlast generations.

Thursday, 3 July 2014


The Interview
An accident vehicle

The July morning air is heavy and cold; the clouds seem to stifle every equatorial ray that wants to filter to the ground. A man wearing a petrified look is busy sweeping a concrete block, the building I am walking to has seen better days, and holds a colonial feel: present, ancient and minutely imposing. On the side of the building is a tin hut; this is the residence of the traffic police department. The officer I meet rigidly sits on a rickety chair with an oversized occurrence book in his hands. Would he like to comment on the ‘cashless matatus’? No comment, the relevant traffic police officers are out in the field covering an event the president is attending.
Outside the clutter is palpable, old vehicles that were impounded decades ago that were never collected sit side by side with mangled car wrecks, evidence of the high number of car accidents that are prevalent on the Kenyan roads. 

Impounded motorcycles
Impounded motorcycles strewn like garbage in a dumpsite, occupy a sizable portion of the police station’s compound.  As a recent introduction to the Kenyan roads, they came like an avalanche that spread from Uganda few years ago, today one can barely drive in a Kenyan town or city without running the risk of hitting one of these contraptions of terror.

A few steps away from the police station I engage a number of ‘Matatu’ drivers and touts on their thoughts of the ‘cashless matatus’.

“I know of a man who can only afford to spend 40 Kshs (0.23 $) on transport daily, he wakes up at an ungodly hour and boards a ‘matatu’ just to beat the peak hour and leaves the city very late at night to also pay the least fare which he can afford, he is paid by the day and can only live from hand to mouth” One said.

“I also know of a ‘matatu’ owner who sees this cashless system as a way to reign in his meager source of income from a government that is not offering him any better services” stated another.

“ I remember vividly the ‘Mega rider’ cards which existed in the 1990s which allowed someone to take a ride anywhere using a card for a monthly flat rate, this current card will only want to bring in more tax revenue to the government, to the detriment to the poor” states the first resolutely.

Another sagely states “The idea to reign in corruption and increase tax might be a good one, but they need to start from the buses and minivans which are owned by richer owners, they shouldn’t treat all owners as the same, some are really struggling to even fill their vehicles with passengers on any given day”.

Matatus waiting to fill up with passengers
“Remember that most commuters undertake short commutes, a cashless system will need to be sensitive to this. I think it will make more sense for long distance commutes,” states a tout.  

The Road to Cashless 'Matatus'

Kenya has high adult illiteracy, which stands at 38.5% of the population (15.6 million people ), which directly imputes that the system has to be simple, easy to use and offer certain benefits that, supersede the current cash based system.

The other effect of this demerit is that development projects that would normally take a short time end up taking a much longer period. This is something that the guardians of this system have to contend with. As of 2nd July 2014 the scheduled Nairobi wide enforcement of the cashless ‘Matatu’ system had failed to take off mainly due to lack of proper awareness and understanding of how the system functions by the ‘matatu’ owners, operators and commuters.

Coordination and sensitization was clearly understated, so too was the information needed to roll out supporting infrastructure before the launch date.

While the journey to financial inclusion in Kenya is progressing well, with adult population totally excluded from financial services having declined to 25.4% in 2013, mainly due to M-PESA and initiatives done by Equity Bank. More needs to be done specific to scenarios sensitive to developing countries.

Of interest also is the Kenyan road system, which is heavily concentrated in the classic colonial railway path, which straddles from Mombasa to the border with Uganda, with strong concentration in the Central region. The Kenyan road system has to become more equally distributed and it should express future aspirations of Kenyans, and not depict its past.

What this advancement will bring is better usage of the Kenyan roads by Kenyans.
As we speak there are certain communities that are not directly included in the national development conversation, they are marginalized simply because there is no road that gets to their community.

The equation to prove is that better roads, lead to increased movement and interaction between communities, towns and cities, which translates to increased development around the country.

Pastoral communities reliant on food aid, Kenya. Photo: Andy Hall/
Gone will be the days where the stores in Eldoret and Kitale are bursting with excess grain while a few kilometers away in Turkana people are dying of hunger. 

One element that the cashless ‘matatu’ system wants to end is corruption in the public transport sector. While corruption can only be overcome when there is a culture change from the grass roots to the epicenter of authority in Kenya, a concerted effort has to be implemented revolving around prevention, detection, sanctions and restitution. And I truly believe the tone needs to be set from the top as noted in this article

As the government moves to regulate the public transport in Kenya and transition the paratransit business estimated to be worth 200 billion ($ 2.28 Billion) from the informal to the formal economy, increase employment opportunities and inculcate a culture of respect for motor sector regulations, there is need to appreciate that better consultation and consensus is required from across the broad spectrum of stakeholders to make the current attempt at cashless ‘matatus’ a reality in the near future.