Blog Archive

Sunday, August 26, 2007

More small cars coming our way from India...

Wow... it is amazing how far India has progressed since 1980 vs most African countries... But as usual I shall concentrate on Kenya...

This is a slideshow about Indian car manufacturers & "small" cars...

India used to be thought of as an over-populated backward country but the changes there are amazing. The problems are still there but the economic progress is outstanding.

I pick India, not China, as a model Kenya should emulate (the GOOD not the bad) since Kenya, like India, has a (flawed) democracy. China is a totalitarian state Kenyans will & should not embrace.
Furthermore, India faces many issues/problems that mirror those of African countries including a burgeoning population, poverty, corruption & a monolithic bureaucracy.

So, what can we learn from India (the GOOD not the bad!)?
  • Privatisation - India is moving from a socialist mindset to a capitalist mindset. Some may argue that India has alway been a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist nation. Well so was most of pre-colonial Africa. The largest Indian firms are PRIVATE enterprises/groups including Reliance, Tata, Birla, Wipro, etc. Many state owned firms are being privatised as competition sets in. (Kenya is doing well on this aspect esp after Kibaki came to power. I hope the trend continues).
  • Technocratic appointments - Manmohan Singh (PM) was a technocrat who was appointed as Finance Minister in the 1980s. And then give them a free hand. The "Dream Team" of the 1990s was a good idea but derailed when they did not kiss moi's ass. (Sigh... Kenya could do much better in this respect. Political appointments rule the day not merit. Then add underworked but overpaid assistant ministers to this mix!).
  • De-tribalisation - India has more issues/problems than Kenya regarding "tribes", religions & castes. Nevertheless, there has been a slow but steady growth in those who don't care about these matters. And it starts from the top. Rajiv Gandhi married Sonia (an Italian). Indira Gandhi (a Hindu) married a Feroz (a Parsi). There are many other examples that are not widely known. The CEO of BioCon is Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. Kiran is India's richest woman & married to a Scot. (Kenya is doing poor in this regard especially when the populace is intent on electing their "own" regardless of merit. The good news is that the urban youth are not swayed as much but the rural - ethnic - vote exceeds the urban vote. Raila's son, Castro, is married to a Kikuyu girl! But will this turn into votes for him?)
  • Women empowerment - Even though women are often treated as second-class citizens, India's current president is a woman. India's kingmaker is also a woman (Sonia Gandhi). Indira Gandhi was the PM for many years. Many of the states have Chief Ministers who are women. (Kenya has women politicians (karua, ojiambo, ndungu, etc) but except for Wangari Mathaai, I do not see these politicians agitating for the common woman. Campaigning for another 40 "special" seats does not count. What about the 17,000,000 other girls & women? And why do women who constitute 50% of the population need special treatment? If the women ganged up, they could elect a woman president as well as the majority in parliament!)
  • Domestic Market - Indian firms export BUT the domestic market is important. Indians support local firms. Even Coke had a tough time when many Indian favoured the local "Thums Up" over "Coca-Cola". (I am embarrassed when I see imported butter & eggs in Kenyan supermarkets!!! Yet we have KCC among other firms exporting dairy products to the Middle East. We import canned "Heinz" beans & "Ceres" juices whereas we have local firms producing the same /similar goods! Kenyans' obsession with imports is pathetic!
  • Spread e-government - India has spread government's reach to embrace substantial portions of the population through technology. The kids are becoming the teachers in many villages. The trend is fueled by examples/idols ranging from billionaires like Azim Premji of Wipro among others. India's huge BPO industry is pushing technology into the villages. (Kenya has been talking the talk but not walking the walk regarding technology. We need to employ savvier professionals who can spearhead e-government. Credit to Kimunya among others who are driving the computerisation process. But we need to do more, sooner.)
  • India has embarked on connecting the corners of the country with expressways. The idea is to boost trade as well as encourage exports & efficiencies. The rail network has great coverage all over India. (Kenya does not have a decent highway across the country. The Nairobi-Mombasa highway is a veritable mess. Nairobi-Kisumu is even worse. Imagine the possibilities if we had a decent North-South highway from Namanga to Lokichoggio AND a 4-lane decent highway from Mombasa-Kisumu. Our cross-border trade with S. Sudan & Uganda would show strong gains as would Kenyan domestic tourism).


MainaT said...

CT, god article. The more I think about why we are underachieving, the more it occurs to me that ours is not a resource-constraint issue or lack of ideas. Its just the way we do things. Meritocracy; planning; integrity all overused words but we are not acting on them enough.

coldtusker said...

MainaT: Ideas abound in Kenya esp among the youth.

And I agree... Kenya has tons of resources esp agricultural.

The port is a great resource we don't make proper use of. We could treble tonnage thru Mombasa if the roads, railways & KPC pipeline were optimally designed & used.

Anonymous said...

A small axe to the Safaricom IPO
I am not the daughter of a Big Man. Neither am I married to a Big Man — or even to the son of a Big Man.

I had the good fortune to have essentially middle-class parents who worked hard to give my siblings and me a good basic education. And I had the good fortune to have a mother whose citizenship made it possible for me to attend university, courtesy of the student loans system of her country.

The student loans covered fees and accommodation. But my parents couldn’t afford to send us much money — getting $100 on birthdays and at Christmas was like getting a windfall. So I worked to supplement the student loans, from the time I left Kenya at the age of 16.

Of course, I now recognise that, despite not being associated with a big man’s family, in comparison with the majority of people in Kenya, I am not only fortunate, I am actually extremely privileged.

But, despite that recognition, having worked since the age of 16, I also know the value of my money. I have worked for what I have. This is why, for instance, I get apoplectic with rage about corruption.

Under Kenya’s ridiculously constructed tax brackets, I fall into the same top tax bracket as Kenya’s Big Men. And I get nothing for it, having to pay privately for everything—including security where I live and medical insurance. But, my privileges taken into account, I certainly wouldn’t mind paying the amounts of tax that I do pay if I felt the money went to help those with fewer privileges, not to pay the obscene salaries of those who cannot be bothered to assure the House of a quorum sufficient to pass even 10 Bills a year — or to build the “bigness” of the Big Men.

The other night, some friends and I calculated the share of Safaricom’s reported Ksh17 billion ($253.7 million) profit that would have gone to Mobitelea — the company that, according to the Public Investments Committee, is irregularly in possession of no less than five per cent of the mobile phone company’s shares, meaning that there are apparently no records of Mobitelea having paid for that shareholding.

MEANING THAT MY TAX MONEY, which went into building and sustaining Telkom and Safaricom, was essentially given away. Meaning that, coming back to our calculation, the alleged owners of Mobitelea — the son of a Big Man and the son-in-law of another Big Man under the former regime and a Big Man in this regime — earned themselves no less than Ksh850,000,000 ($12.6 million) last year alone. From doing nothing at all, except live off the profits of having stolen from us. Ksh850 million off my back (and your’s as well). Again, I am incapacitated with rage.

And yet, the Treasury insists that Safaricom’s initial public offer will proceed, regardless of the outcomes of the PIC debate within the House or any court cases that might ensue.


FRANKLY, DESPITE OUR NEWFOUND fascination with IPOs, I don’t think a single one of us should put a single shilling forward. Those of us who do work hard and honestly deserve better. If shares in Safaricom could essentially be given away to Big Men, their sons and sons-in laws, then they can be given away to us. Why should we pay for them? They’re our property in the first place, which the government was meant to hold in trust for us. If it breached that trust for three of us, then it should share the love with all of us.

It might not seem like it, but there are, in fact, victims of corruption. Those victims are you and me — every single Kenyan who dutifully pays his or her taxes. I’m furious. I’m ready for a tax boycott — the residential associations led the way and it’s time to scale up their efforts. We need to say to hell with that IPO until the issues raised by the PIC have been satisfactorily dealt with. We need to be the “small axes” that Robert Nestor Marley talked about and cut down all those “big trees.”

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is a political scientist based in Nairobi

Patriotic Kenyan said...

Coldtusker, thanks for not deleting Muthoni's article on Safaricom IPO. Join me in raising a stink untill the Mobitelea returns all our stolen money. Just like we raised a stink in 2000, when Moi wanted to sell Kenya Re to his son for sh.800 million(vs its value of sh.5.75billion), we need to stop this one too.

coldtusker said...

Patriotic Kenyan:

I agree with her i.e. we need to recover the stolen merchandise which is 10% not 5%. Vodafone should cough up the stolen 5%. Kenyans will "refund" the price they paid. We will even pay them a premium but Vodafone should some clean!

Nevertheless, a link might have been appropriate!

Or a summary of what she said...