Thursday, December 19, 2013

There is need to overhaul labour laws

See a link to an article i wrote published in the Business Daily of 20th December 2013. Tired of strikes by employees in Kenya? In this article, I share an informative idea on transforming the labour laws regime in Kenya.

This marks my last article for 2013. Happy holidays and God's blessings.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Community rights and Investment: Is Kenya getting it right?

The question of how communities benefit from investments has come to the fore in Kenya. In fact is has been a thorny issue in Africa. I am writing a brief opinion piece with some proposed solutions. I will share the opinion soon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What Kenya can learn from Thatcherism

Any government has to formulate policy to regulate its relations with businesses. In doing so it is faced with one dilemma. This is spurring economic growth while improving standards of living. Matters of wages and conditions of employment are at the heart of this quagmire.

You will recall the demand for salaries by members of the National Assembly and the teachers strike. A common trend of industrial actions and general instability in the labour sector has been witnessed. Most recently was the strike by workers of the Nairobi County.

It is not a headache for the national government only. Inevitably now, County governments must now contend with the possibility of disgruntled employees. Contributing factors include the ongoing transfer of functions between national to county governments. These upheavals come amidst the respective government’s efforts to re-align and harmonise its human resource.

These are just but a few tremours witnessed in the labour industry. Perhaps the volcano is yet to erupt. However before eruption begins, the government must seriously re-evaluate its national labour policy guideline. It will be aimed at aligning the wage policy with its overall vision of a prosperous Kenya.

From my reading of the book “Business and Politics” A comparative approach, one question arose. Can Kenya learn from the Labour government in Britain? In brief, the administration of Margaret Thatcher adopted three policies in its relation with businesses.

First the government withdrew from direct involvement in business. It allowed more free market operations. Secondly, there was a change in the Labour laws that caused a shift of power from trade unions to businesses. Lastly, the government made Britain the least regulated and more market driven economy within Europe.

Thatcher also had an anti-european stand. She did not want to see power and control wrestled from Britain. She also reduced government responsibility for non-employment and increased emphasis on monetary policy. Her successors, John Major (1990-1997) and Tony Blair (1997 – 2007) continued advancing these policies, only that there was introduction of minimum wage. Collectively, these policies are what I refer to as Thatcherism.

Thatcher’s suggestions are not entirely applicable to Kenya. However Kenya can learn a few lessons, translated as solutions. To begin with, Kenya must allow more interaction of the forces of demand and supply. The government must also re-align the power balance between businesses and trade unions. It calls for re-evaluating all labour laws, i.e Employment Act, Labour Relations Act, Labour Institutions Act among others. Economic reasons must be the guide for making industrial relations decisions rather than purely on social reasons.

The strength of trade associations and peak organizations needs to be evaluated so that businesses present a united position on economic issues affecting them. A fragmented business organizational structure means that individual businesses represent themselves in matters of governance.

These are some suggestions both the national and county governments can implement. The desired end being a just and prosperous nation for all Kenyans.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Business and Human Rights: LSK's Advocates Magazine

I wrote an article that was published in the August 2013 issue of The Advocate, a magazine of the Law Society of Kenya and i shall send a link soon.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Learning from Thatcherism

I am currently preparing an opinion piece on what African governments can learn from the policies of Margaret Thatcher's government. #MindTreasure @stephenwandeto.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New strategies for civil society towards Kenya's economic and social prosperity.

The last few weeks have seen the implementation of the budgetary provisions of the Constitution by the National and County governments. The renewed role of the National Assembly and County assembly in approving the budgetary proposals has been seen at work. It has ensured that the executive is kept in check and ensuring that finances are used for the benefit of the entire public. The powers and mandate of Constitutional commissions such as the Salaries and Remuneration Commission and the Police Service Commission has been tested with proposals to disband and reduce the powers of the two commissions respectively. The Teachers Service Commission is engaged in negotiations with the teachers union as public schools remain closed due to the teachers strike. Industrial actions by trade unions across all sectors now threaten to distabilise Kenya’s fragile economy. In the corridors of justice there is increased vigilance to enforce the provisions of the Constitution through tribunals and the courts.

Amidst all these challenges and opportunities, we have also witnessed the manifestation of the same old culture of misplaced priorities and potential misuse of resources. We have seen for instance Governors allocate resources to buying vehicles, building mansions, entertainment and hefty allowances. The shared functions between the National and County Governments have been widely ignored. We have therefore seen a manifestation of the such use of public resources in County governments is a worrying foundation for the new governance structure. The devolved system of government was introduced to ensure the resources are devolved to the grassroots. If devolved funds are channeled to recurrent expenditure and corrupt practices, County governments will not achieve their purpose.

This now brings me to the vital role of civil society. Civil society has been argued to become irrelevant with the self-implementing mechanism of the Constitution. However a vibrant civil society is needed both at the National and County levels of government to check the excesses of use of power and ensure that the law is obeyed to the letter. This is founded on the principal of public participation in the exercise of power. County governments must open themselves up to scrutiny so that there is a participatory approach to governance. Counties cannot address the challenges of devolution alone, they need input from the people through organized groups.

To begin with, i would propose that civil society first organizes a major Civil Society conference. This will be a conference for members of the civil society to carry out a stock taking on their contribution to the economic, social and political progress of our nation. With respect to the Constitution, in the aftermath of the General Elections and while Devolved governance is taking shape, they need to develop new strategies to champion their advocacy course. Embracing best advocacy practice organizations countries such as Ghana, South Africa and Canada will also give the industry more insight and wisdom in this regard.

Civil society risks irrelevance if strategies of the past are employed, protest marches are good but no-longer effective. Civil society should now invest heavily in Information Communication Technology (ICT) and social media campaigns while ensuring youth participation in its activities, such was the foundation of the arab spring that manifested the power of social media in bringing about a revolution.

To participate in this the general discussion should be business and community leaders, government leaders including members of the executive, legislature, judiciary and constitutional commissions. The idea is to have a forum to exchange ideas and formulate strategies that will inform Civil society’s activities and advocacy programmes from now hence forth.

Implementing and defending the Constitution is not a destination but a journey that all Kenyans must be willing and ready to participate.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Employers and Employees: A tricky balance

The stalemate on MPs salary has brought to the fore the question of balancing the rights of employers and employees. The dispute that has caused national outrage must be looked at from an employee-employer perspective in order to bring it to an end. In this case the government wants to reduce the wage bill while the employees want more salaries to sustain their desired standard of living. On the other hand the same dilemma is constantly manifesting in the private arena. In this case the balance is that of corporate rights, with corporations seeking to make profits and increase shareholder value and employment rights for the employees who run corporations. As the current debate has proved, it is not easy striking the balance.

The Constitution provides that employees are entitled to fair working conditions. A wholistic reading of the constitution and other labour laws also reveals that employers have rights that they can enforce against employees.  

Kenya’s is a case of progressive move towards an aggressive tussle between employers and employees. As the economy thrives, everybody wants a bite of the cherry. Last year we experienced strikes by teachers, doctors and nurses that paralysed the delivery of essential public services. The private sector was not spared either, as there was experienced several labour strikes and unrests.

The tussle has also manifested in the judgments emanating from the Industrial Court. The Court has been aggressive in enforcing employment rights provided in the law. Employers cannot get away with violations of the law and employees cannot expect to get more than is provided under their contracts of employment or the law. The decentralisation of the Court to other High Court stations has helped in shaping a nation-wide jurisprudence in labour law.

As a solution it is important for parties within the labour movement to embrace alternative dispute resolution in resolving any misunderstandings or disputes among them. The stakes in labour issues are high because the employer and employee are both yearning for survival. The life of the state or corporation depends on the income it earns and by keeping expenditure as low as possible. Employees on the other hand seek to earn more income and hopefully improve their livelihoods. To balance these competing interests, embracing negotiations and mediation as the preferred means of resolving labour disputes is essential. That is why the talks between the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) are a welcome development are encouraged.

Alternative means of dispute resolution will ensure that cordial relationships between employers and employees are nurtured and preserved.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Vision, Mission and Values for Long-term success

If you have interacted with the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S4, you can’t stop admiring its unique features. However the message and philosophy accompanying the smart phone is of more importance here and it all starts with its slogan “Life’s companion”. According to Samsung, it is a phone that simplifies life and even helps one check their weight and keep proper health balance. Specifically the company states in its website that the Galaxy S4 was “Developed to redefine the way we live, the Galaxy S4 makes every moment of our life meaningful. It understands the value of relationships, enables true connections with friends and family, and believes in the importance of effortless experience”.

Well I have been reading Jim Ware’s book “Investment Leadership: Building a Winning Culture for Long-term Success” that confirmed the vision and strategy of firms like Samsung. The book discusses the need for corporate organizations and corporate leaders to have a clear vision that goes beyond profits, a mission that has people as its motivation and a culture that is informed by the company’s values and unique attributes. Although the book is focused on the investment industry, I believe that private companies, public entities, partnerships, state ministries and departments, community organizations, churches among others can learn great lessons on the important basics for building a winning culture for long-term success. Remember that the emphasis is not just on success, but on sustainable and long-term success that outlives the people currently running the organization.

Companies and organisations that have an active vision and mission of their desired destination and keep working towards this vision, are more likely to have long-term success. The government has a development blue print – Vision 2030. County governments are also expected to develop economic blue prints. However it not a question of just having well written visions but are they living in the hearts and minds of all stakeholders.

In the corporate scene a common example is Equity Bank whose main vision is to provide banking services to the poorest of the poorest in Kenya and now the bank is implementing the same vision across Africa. You wouldn’t be surprised to meet an elderly lady at Equity bank seeking financial services because that’s Equity for you. So it is not just about having a vision in corporate marketing materials but the vision must be alive, it must speak every single day that an organization is in existence and building innovation in line with the vision.

The greatest lesson Jim Ware offers is that a vision must not be about money and profits, but about people. Jim interestingly observes that profits follow organisations that have a larger-than-profit vision. Listen to a CEO as he/she announces the full year results. Is the announcement just about profits or about the innovative products that have transformed customer’s lives?

The other most important lesson is the fact that all directors, managers and employees in the firm should have the vision at their finger tips. Once a customer enters the reception area the impact of the vision and the firm’s core values should be evident. Employees should be alive to the vision and be committed to achieve it whether they have a big, small or no title at all.

Lastly, for today, Jim shares on values and culture. He states that it is important for firms to have values that are not just well stated technical words like, integrity, efficiency and so on. These words do not communicate the values of an organization. Each stated value should be accompanied by an explanation in a language that is easy to read and understand.

For instance a firm can expand its commitment to customer service as follows, “Customer Service – at Kip Limited, we are committed to provide our clients with the right information at the right time to enable them make the best decisions for their family’s financial future. We shall listen more than we speak and therefore respond to all written and oral questions and complaints within 24 hours. We shall keep our client’s updated on the status of their account. We shall speak to clients with respect”. By reading this, a client going to Kip Limited knows the kind of service expected.

I encourage leaders across all sectors of our nation to build organizations with a living vision and mission statement and establish a value based culture to achieve long-term success.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Model true leadership

A leader influences the direction of an organisation/company/family/country towards a better future through relationships.

Some Kenyan members of the National Assembly are not modelling any leadership yet i wonder why we continue to give them too much attention.

I hope we can turn our attention and energies to learning from the extraordinary league of leaders in private and public institutions and give our children a taste of the true aspects of a leader as we seek to transform our nation and great continent.

You are a leader in your sphere of influence.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The President now speaks on Public private partnerships

Further to my earlier post on Investing at Home, i wish to note that President Uhuru has spoken more firmly on the importance of Public Private Partnerships during the swearing-in ceremony for Cabinet Secretaries. First, my congratulations to the Cabinet Secretaries as they lead us to achieve the Kenyan economic and development goals.

Im particularly excited to note that the President mentioned about strenghening the legal and institutional framework. Therefore, the Cabinet will need to embrace team-work in implementing the Public Private Partnership Act No. 15 of 2013.

Here are the President's words.....

"...Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to emphasize that Vision 2030 projects, indeed the overall growth of our economy, will be achieved within the framework of Public Private Partnership. You will be expected, therefore, to further strengthen the policy, legal and institutional framework that has been put in place for Public Private Partnerships. The aim will be to facilitate private sector participation, joint ventures and foreign direct investment in key development projects in the country, including investments in power generation, roads, railways and ports.

In addition to forging strong partnerships with the private sector, we must never lose sight of the ordinary citizens who are the customers or ultimate users and beneficiaries of public services. Our people have a duty to expect good services from public agencies, demand accountability for results from all public officers and report to the necessary offices when services are not forthcoming..."

Im excited to be a Kenyan and African. God bless us all.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Investing at Home

See an article i wrote published in the business daily today, on how the law facilitates public private partnerships. It is a build up to President Uhuru Kenyatta's call to Kenyans living in Great Britain to invest in Kenya.

In the article i explore the new law (Public Private Partnerships Act No. 13 of 2013) passed in January  this year whose aim is to  facilitate such partnership.

Lets all work to build a prosperous, equal and stable country. God bless Kenya.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Benchmarking lessons we all need today (Africa)

See my opinion piblished in the business daily today on Lessons benchmarking offers institutions.

Share you thoughts on the importance of benchmarking for Kenya and Africa.

Can we ever find a balance?

See the link to an article i wrote for the business daily just before the general elections on the need for Kenya (and indeed other African countries) to balance between business and politics.

I hope the President and his deputy are listening especially as the cabinet nominees prepare to take office after vetting by Parliament. Together let us build a prosperous nation.

Do you think we can ever find the balance? Are we doing enough?

See the link.

Your County: Will you participate?

One of the key objectives of devolution is to bring services closer to the people. It is a move from the central system of government to a government where people can contribute towards their collective economic and social welfare. Our legislators should know that it is no longer business as usual. The Constitution has placed the people at the core of every governance process either directly or indirectly through their elected representatives.

The County Government Act for instance is very clear on the role of a County Assembly representative which is to act as the intermediary between the people and the County Assembly. They are supposed to consult the electorate and present their issues in the Assembly for debate. The Governor and the county executive committee are also supposed to be accountable to the people. They should consult the people, eg through public forums before decisions affecting them are affected. Residents of a County will for instance participate in the formulation of county development plans.

I am mindful that we are fast approaching the budgetary season, if I may call it so. We are likely to see several tugs of war. One is between the national and county governments as the latter fight for their rightful share of the national revenue. The second is a fight at the county level as Kenyans seek to be involved in the budgetary process. With billions of shillings being allocated to counties, Kenyans should be keen to ensure that the funds are not wholesomely allocated to recurrent expenditure.

At the county level public participation is not an option or a recommendation, it is a legal requirement. Devolution has therefore heralded a new era whore the voice and opinions of the people matter. Governance is now participatory, it is not a matter of elected representatives alone. It is the representatives and the electorate.

However I must sound a warning that although the Constitution and various county legislations have opened the door for public participation, Kenyans must remain vigilant. I am sure some leaders will be happy if the public does not bother to participate since they will have been saved the rigorous duty of being accountable to the last coin.

If devolution is to truly succeed, you must participate fully.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Lets talk food, food, more food and water.

One may ask so what should be the new government’s top priority? Should it be implementation of the Constitution, land reform, foreign policy or job creation? To answer this very important question, we can borrow a leaf from China. At the moment Kenya is rapidly looking east to attract investments, support an ambitious development agenda and seek good export market. Kenya is also looking east for Economic Bench marking against the Asian Tigers like Singapore. Kenya therefore has both lessons and insights it can learn from the East. Now let us focus on China as we explore an answer to the introductory question.

China’s rapid economic growth started with a clear economic blueprint just at Kenya has the Vision 2030. However, most interesting is the first problem China sought to solve in the 1980’s, it was food security. China wanted its population to be well fed. They invested in efficient large-scale agriculture. On the other hand despite having a well researched vision, majority of Kenyans are still struggling to meet their most basic needs, food (including water), shelter and affordable healthcare.

I therefore believe that the most pressing need is ensuring food security. If my belief must have the most popular phrase in Kenya today ‘Implementation of the Constitution’, then I will do exactly that. A clear policy on implementation of Article 43 on Economic and Social Rights should be our priority. Article 43 (1) (c) specifically provides that every person has the right to be free from hunger and to have adequate food of acceptable quality. It does not mean that we will not address other aspects of development e.g. Technological innovations but we should have a specific priority target – food and water.

If Kenyans are well fed, we are most likely going to address the issue of preventable and lifestyle diseases. We shall also address the problem of insecurity since poverty and lack of food contributes to people’s desperation and they therefore result to petty crimes just to put food on the table. Within weeks and months, petty crime grows to hard-core and organized crime and then we have a security nightmare. Once people are well fed, they will not think about how to put food on the table. Instead they will seek ways of being productive and to generate and implement ideas. Women in arid areas will no longer spend their entire lives with on their hands and children on their backs, looking for water. They will instead apply their mind to developing the lives of their families. In the same way children will not miss school to attend to the daily chore of fetching water, they will instead be well nourished to attend school and develop their minds and transform society.

Food security has been a thorn in Kenya’s fresh for years. It is time the National and County governments addresses this problem. County governments have a golden moment to transform various counties into food baskets if they invest heavily in agriculture. However it is not the role of government alone, government facilitates. Corporate can for instance invest in agriculture as part of their Corporate Social Investment. Various companies can also partner to implement an irrigation project in an arid area which will go a long way in transforming lives.

Despite the fact that the implementation of Article 43 rights should be progressive. The government should start making such progress towards providing accessible, affordable and quality food and water. I am sure this will help us have a more prosperous and stable nation.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How a company can comply with the Constitution

I believe that more than ever before the issue of the constitution should not be about blaming and claiming. It should be dialogue based, both public and private companies are part of this dialogue. It should be about shaping opinions and working towards promoting human dignity for all.

Already there has been debate about the one third gender rule in the boards of public companies. The National Gender Commission has been actively following this matter. Recently, the Limuru Golf Club has been in a case of discrimination against women some of whom are very prominent and influential in the financial services sector. These in my view are only drops in the ocean.

All people want to feel respected and valued and companies must now proactively promote the realization of fundamental rights within their ranks. I believe that corporate can carry out some crucial measures which can be classified in three stages.

The first step should be a due diligence audit to answer the question, Where are we? This will involve looking at the current operation structure and how they appreciate such principles as justice, fairness, equality, accountability and good governance. The company should also examine its human rights policy, if any.

The next important stage will be to conduct an audit of the constitution and the many new laws that were enacted by the tenth parliament. This will enable a company understand the new legal and constitutional environment in which it operates. This should also be accompanied by an audit of recent decisions from our reformed judiciary. Why? Because Kenyan courts have demonstrated that they will be firm in defending the constitution. This will enable a company understand the judicial philosophy of reform and how the company can best prepare in the event of a suit, but most importantly mitigate against such risk.

The last stage is to combine the first two stages. The goal will be to align systems and structures within the organization with the new rules and regulations.

In conclusion, corporate organizations will reap more benefits by carrying out a human rights/constitutional due diligence audit. The other side of the coin is that the new dispensation also comes with many opportunities especially as you think of county governments and companies must be ready to take advantage of emerging investment opportunities. Lastly, young and promising entrepreneurs should also position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities and operate their new ventures in a rights-compliant manner.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Excuse me..treat me well!

Anytime I take a lunch break and encounter a group of colleagues chatting about their work place, the conversations center around complaints about t'he boss'. I am sure you have eavesdropped on such conversations. I am currently writing an article on dignity at the work part of it...

The issue of poor wages even among professionals keeps arising, many complaining that wages are inadequate. But while they do not have a trade union to plead their case, more often it is a case of “everybody for himself and God for us all”.


However let us ask ourselves, does this have to be the case. Must we have employees who grumble? What can management do to ensure happy and satisfied employees? The journey to finding answers starts with understanding the role of human dignity in managing employee relations.


The aim is to provoke the thoughts of managers and business leaders on the concept of human dignity and the importance making decisions that safeguard and promote dignity for internal clients (employees). It is made on the larger concept of balancing between corporate rights and human rights both within the public and private sector.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Why Corporate Social Investments??

A wave of change has been sweeping the corporate stage. Today we see a shift from the traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) towards Corporate Social Investments (CSI). This is a new form of engagement with societal needs and trying to formulate long term solutions to local and national problems.

Unlike CSI, CSR is more concerned about corporate organizations getting involved in addressing needs in the society, they may range from food donations, rehabilitation of hospitals and schools. Companies will pride themselves in such projects since they demonstrate a concern for the people and most importantly that a positive action has been taken to change the circumstance. CRI has a long term view of the desired impact. CSR has a shorter term perspective.

However it is time to move towards long term projects that transform generations.
While still in school, somewhere on the slopes of Mt Kenya, I learnt of the Nation Media Group’s initiative to elect an electric fence around the Aberdare Forest. I had also witnesses the destruction caused by elephants by ravaging agricultural plantations and sometimes causing human death when visiting relatives who love near the forest (my cousins teased often me at night my imitating the steps of an elephant). 
Such a project not only eradicated the danger of more deaths, but it transformed a local economy which depends on agriculture. Once the fence was elected, farmers were able to plant and harvest without the fear of losing their investment.

Another instance is the ongoing general elections. Many corporate organizations have only been vigilantly involved in campaigns for a peaceful country. This is a very important initiative but should be made a long term affair. Companies can for instance have an annual day of peace, where they encourage their customers and partners to focus on the importance of peace in the country.

There are many examples of corporate social investments in our continent but the bottom line is that for Africa to grow, we must move from the culture of social donations towards social investments.
Africa arise...


Generational Investing: focus on children

Life should taught me one important lesson, that it is important to provide for present generations and secure a sustainable future for latter generations. The balance between the interests and rights of corporations and the rights of the people they serve is therefore critical.

Companies exist to make profit and increase shareholder’s value. They however do not exist or operate in a vacuum since they are managed and driven by people. In addition, they either offer goods or render services to human beings or even explore resources among indigenous people. People can collectively be referred to as community.

Communities on the other hand are interested in companies that improve their standards of living, those that contribute towards a better future for their children and children’s children. Although communities are interested in monetary gain, they have a higher purpose which is to safeguard their dignity and that of their children.

It therefore follows that the corporations should invest in such a way that they promote the welfare of their community. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives are good but not sufficient. A move towards Corporate Social Investments (CSI) should be encouraged. Community good should be the engine of all activities the goal of profit notwithstanding. Investing in education, health, infrastructure, agriculture is part of it. Corporations should also invest for the good of society.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Investing the Rights Way!

A new report by the Institute for Human Rights and Business which is useful for investors has been released.

The report 'Investing the Rights Way: A guide for Investors on Business and Human Rights' is a great guide for investors on how to integrate human rights due dilligence while investing.

Follow the link below and enjoy reading.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Prepared for Monday?

Our beautiful country is going through a unique electioneering period. It is as new as the institutions manning the process to the roles and responsibilities of the various positions of leadership. It also comes at a time when Kenyans are more awakened and alive to political machinations applied by politicians to win votes. On a positive note, the elections have not affected the performance of the economy and a successful end will ensure that we are on the pathway to greater growth.

The other new reality is the possibility of the elections going into a runoff incase no candidate gathers a simple majority during the first round of elections. This is a phenomenon that may drag the electoral process to April/May depending on whether the first outcome is challenged in the Supreme Court. Of course we are all praying that the elections will be peaceful and we have an individual and corporate responsibility to ensure this happens. However these are without doubt the most uncertain times for businesses in Kenya. One is tempted to predict that once we successfully go though the elections, we shall remain unstoppable.

Although managers cannot accurately predict what will happen, they have to make a risk analysis. Here are a few tips that managers can apply in the short-term. Sort of do a best case and worst case scenario with the business in mind. This assessment should be done with both elections scenarios in mind that is, with or without a run off. Managers should then focus on the risk posed to the company’s operations in high risk areas. The risk posed to employees who work from high risk areas should also be considered. The possibility of employees seeking time off to deal with personal emergencies is also highly possible.

If a bulk of a company’s supplies are from high risk areas, adequate emergency measures should be put in place to ensure that there is no interruption in delivery of goods. Think of more insights we can give corporate managers?

Let’s work a peaceful election.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Are you complying?

In the February 2013 issue of the Management Magazine, i wrote an article on "Towards a culture of Compliance". The article speaks on the need for entrepreneurs, investors and business managers to appreciate the new business environment. You may ask, when did things change? The answer is, the Constitution. Read the full article for more.

Ever thought how you can balance business and politics?

Here is an opinion piece that i wrote for the Business Daily in Kenya...

Keep the balance.

Monday, February 18, 2013

No strike but Keep the carpet raised

Fnally teachers will not go on strike today. It is a good decision by the union. However it only gives the government time so they should not burry the matter under the carpet, so it must be raised.

The economic challenges and prospects of our nation should be a priority for the next government noting that expenditure will increase as a result of the new county governments act.

It will therefore be a government that will have to seriously balance many competing interests for the sake of present and future generations.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A strike? Who is fooling who: A thought for future generations

I have argued previously that for us to prosper as a nation, together, certain things must happen. Today i want to emphasize on one that i hold very dear. It is that rights come with responsibilities. Today it concerns the teachers strike that is scheduled to start next week (19 February 2013, as i write i think of my cousin 'Nimu' who is in class one in Itundu Primary school in Mathira Constituency on the slopes of mount Kenya.

Our purpose in this blog is to ensure that we live today, enjoying all privileges and rights, but withour compromising the interests of future generations.

Coming to my point, so teachers have a constitutional right to strike, but who cares about our pupils and students. Already the school year been interupted by virtue of last year's strike, today we are on the verge of another. On the other hand, i couldn't help but question, who between the gobernment and the teacher's union is fooling who?

In the book, of the month Business and Politics, Graham Wilson argues that it is critical for the government to provide leadership towards a balance between business and politics. Otherwise the economic environment will become to volatile that investors will shy away from the country.

For the sake of future generations and a stable economy, the government and the teacher's union must bring this matter to an objeclive closure.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book of the Month

I am currently reading the third edition of the book:

'Business and Politics: A compatative Introduction', by Graham K. Wilson.

The book discusses the role of government in business. It analyses the extent to which governments are involved in private businesses and the various forms such involvement takes. It discusses the main roles of government in business that mainly include regulation and protection. In doing so it compares how various governments have done business with the private sector.

It has given me several insights into boing business with government.

Speaking of Kenya and election campaigns, business executives should keenly follow the policy recomendations by various aspirants for political office to determine how they are likely to influence businesses. The political ideology of for instance of a candidate will influence the way government interacts with business. I figured this out during the first ever presidential debate yesterday.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Oily story of Shell and Nigerian farmers

A court in the Hague last week ruled that Shell Nigeria was only responsible for one out of five alleged oil spills. The farmers were very disappointed. But Shell carried the day mainly because it demonstrated the preventive or curative measures it took after the spills occurred.

This takes me to the issue of mitigating risks. Brief thought on this story. What measures are your businesses taking to minimize risks in the short-term and long-term?
See how story was reported by the New York times.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mama Elvis: The 'Shed hotel business model'

Three days ago I had a meeting in an upmarket residence. It was refreshing as I enjoyed the scenery and the sight of men and women at work.

Then I came across a small market, along Ngong’ road and has a footpath that residents of Kibera to go to home. I was tired and decided to have a cup of tea and interact with the small business people working hard to make a living.

I ended up in a small shed (Kibanda) hotel where a woman was seated waiting for her customers. She was happy to see me and eagerly welcomed me. As I made my order and was served very fast. I enjoyed her service and warmness.

Our conversation centered on her work, the business model she has employed, her working hours, her clients and how business was doing. Lastly we talked about her son Elvis who is now 6 Months and 4 days old and who looked happy to see me talking to her mum. Please note that we never talked about our ethnic background where I stay or what each of us earns or even who we are supporting for the elections.

We just talked about the ‘Shed business model’. Here are lessons I believe businesses can learn from Mama Elvis;

a) Know your clients well. Mama Elvis knows that her clients are people working in the upmarket construction sites. She knows their likes and dislikes.

b) Customer service is key. I enjoyed the service Mama Elvis gave, she was warm and pleasant to talk to. I was a complete stranger yet we talked freely. So let your employees spare one or two king words for your clients, it builds relationship. Having a television set is not natural. Clients need a human touch.

c) Make the business environment condusive and attractive. The shed hotel (kibanda) was very clean and quiet, very peaceful and relaxing. Remember there was no air conditioning or plasma screens to watch the latest international news. It was as simple as can be.

d) Know your business model. Mama Elvis model is a ‘Shed Hotel’, nothing more nothing less.

e) Have the right motive. I believe that the primary reason why Mama Elvis wakes up every morning was to add value to her clients. To  ensure that they have enough energy to carry out their tough manual jobs.

f)  Lastly, lets do business for present and future generations. Elvis represents the next generation. It is important that we do ethical and clean business so that future generations have a place to live and earn a descent living.

Tomorrow I shall share some of the things that can be done to improve the ‘shed model’

Monday, January 28, 2013

The juice about Kenya's elections: Lesson for businesses

This year I have two good observations about the Kenyan election campaign. I call them juice since they are very refreshing.

The first juice is that despite the push by some politicians to play the ethnic card, there is every sign that Kenyans are now brighter and wiser. During the nominations, we saw Kenyans from across the country rejecting candidates who were not elected democratically. Kenyans, especially in rural areas, worked hard to ensure that the candidate who won their hearts and minds secured the party nomination. The ‘big boys’ in Nairobi had no control over the will and determination of rural folks. They tried granting direct nominations but failed in some cases. It shows that politics is about the people. It’s a bottom-up approach. I only hope that we shall not give politicians room to use the tribal card.

The second, juice relates to the real contest. What do I mean? In the past Kenyans have been made to believe that elections is a contest between ethnic tribes. Sadly, this notion is far from over. However, it is now emerging that elections is about the ability of leaders to understand the problems affecting the people and offering practical solutions to these problems. It is about the ability of citizens to live a dignified life, where they can access their basic needs with ease. It is about giving people an opportunity afford quality life. It is about justice and fairness for all despite our present circumstances.

For instance, we can have supper highways, yet a majority of our city residents cannot enjoy a better life. Only those with the ‘monies’ will benefit from the boom in property prices and this is not what Kenyans are looking for. A leader who is able to deliver quality life this will win our hearts, minds and ultimately, our votes.

On the same note a business that works to first win the hearts and minds of their customers will be very successful, I dare say. As we have always said on this blog, business (and now elections) is about people. It is about ensuring that present generations enjoy quality life and future generations have a world to live in.

Enjoy a glass of cold juice.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Vote for Me versus Corporate Social Investments

Its campaign time in Kenya. Politicians are out to seek our votes before March 4th. They are making all manner of promises “I will build roads, bridges, schools and hospitals” “I will ensure adequate provision of water and security, if only you elect me as your representative” “Do you see this problem, this is how I will solve it immediately you elect me in fact I will do it within the first one hundred days”. On and on they continue to make promises until the day we cast the ballot. We all know that many of the promises are never fulfilled.
Now I have been reading about how companies can engage in Corporate Social Investments. This is engaging in investments projects that transform the society and lead to permanent or long-term transformation within communities. This is opposed to Corporate Social Responsibility which is not long-term. 

Politicians will constantly fail us, yet the promises they make are good and admirable. One only wishes they were true to their word, our communities would be very prosperous. But we all know that wishes are not horses. 

I therefore believe that the promise rests upon corporate organizations taking up the challenge of investing in socially viable projects that will improve people’s living standards. Kenya for instance faces a recurrent problem of food shortage yet with proper irrigation, we can feed all Kenyans and even have surplus to export. A company can invest in community irrigation projects to make a contribution towards eradicate food shortage. 

For instance teenage pregnancies are a major problem in informal settlements within Nairobi. Well, rather than wait for the girls to deliver then move to help them, which is good, a company can invest in public education project targeting parents and teenage girls to ensure they understand and appreciate the dangers of underage pregnancies. The number of corporate social investments companies can engage in obviously outnumbers the promises made by politicians. I therefore believe that companies can make a major and significant contribution to society.

Again this will ensure that companies operate in a way that safeguards the interests of future generations. 

Have a responsible campaign period.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Barber Shop Innovator

This year I have always awed by a Barber Shop that keeps changing its outlook. The walls are painted very year and the set-up in the Barber is altered every now and then depending on customer needs. Recently the saloon owner has acquired the adjacent M-pesa (Mobile money service) shop and hired more employees to expand the business. Not forgetting that the entertainment keeps on changing for the better.

The employees in the Barber are always pleasant and they are conscious to keep the Barber Shop tidy and the surrounding environment clean. I am sure that I have not seen the last of the changes in the barber shop.
A small business that is big on innovation.

This year, corporations and professional service firms should endevour to embrace change. Innovation in all aspects of a business will help drive the impact they seek to have in society. It should not be business as usual otherwise we shall not have the much needed competitive edge in the market. The government should also embrace innovation to drive economic growth especially by supporting Smalll and Medium Enterprises.

Have an innovative year for the sake of present and future generations.