We Need An App For It!

 

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Many companies try to create a great experience for customers. But few are willing to make the changes required to deliver on that promise. In fact most don’t even realize just how bad their experience can be.

The mobile app market is growing faster than a beanstalk. The industry is huge and growing daily, and there is no end in sight. Expectedly, the mobile developer population has boomed, and the number of mobile apps in the market has hit new heights. The revenue generated by the global mobile app industry has skyrocketed.

Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile provider launched a mobile App that improved the UX or User Experience especially for smartphone users. Being a mobile network that currently has over 8 million smartphone users this was quite overdue for the behemoth that is Safaricom, a company hosting one of the greatest innovation in mobile money.

MySafaricom working on my IOS couldn’t be better, even though it’s coming many years too late. But with it on my phone, I enjoy the fact that I can have different services on my hands with the same login credentials. With  smartphone, long gone are those days, when you have to remember that USSD code for checking your data bundle balance.

With just an app and a data connection, every user is able to view their loyalty bonus points (Bonga) balance, their credit balance and the remaining megabytes or gigabytes on their subscribed data plan.

MySafaricom lets you access mini M-Pesa statements directly within the mobile app but also offers full statements by generating email requests for the same which come as PDF attachments.

 

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This struck me as a little odd and retrogressive(?) since ideally you should be able to access full and interactive M-Pesa statements WITHIN the mobile app itself and even select data ranges as well as conduct real-time data queries using the mobile app.

I think that Safaricom got this bit wrong but considering this is version 1.0 of the MySafaricom mobile app I am sure they will add these interactive features going forward as many a customer would find it massively useful for them to do so.

Getting access to customer service or additional assistance from Safaricom via the MySafaricom mobile app, it has a Live Chat feature. This looks good but one thing I noticed is that it seemed to be embedded from the main website and does not ‘live’ as a native feature of the MySafaricom mobile app? It just did not look like it was built from the ground up for the mobile app experience so I think Safaricom could have done a better job here.

My Service section of the mobile app gives you access to range of common Safaricom services like Sambaza, Skiza, Okoa, Roaming, My SMS, Data, SMS, etc. So, for instance, you can Sambaza airtime or data to another Safaricom subscriber directly via the mobile app. Basically, rather than use clunky USSD or SMS to make these services work, you can do so directly via the mobile app which is super handy.

The Knowledge Base section of the MySafaricom mobile app is a feature that contains frequently asked questions (FAQs) where Safaricom’s services are concerned which you can search through using various keywords and phrases. This is a good feature that seems to have been repurposed from the website that helps users find solutions to their issues without necessarily having to engage customer support

MySafaricom App might have come five years too late, or even more, but I must say it has improved the UX or User Experience for those holding smartphones and are connected to the internet. Safaricom could consider building a number of mobile apps for different use cases, just as the likes of Facebook and Google are doing with theirs.

I personally am looking up for the days when we will have an App just like MySafaricom but tailormade for M-Pesa and since Safaricom have woken up their sleeping innovation giants, I hope it will not be five years too late. If this will be the end of applications like STASH, only time will tell, because in today’s technological age, whatever it is……..We Need An App For It!!!

 

 

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China-Africa Relations, Not a “Win-Win”.

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If you have been travelling around Africa, you must have seen what I have been seeing. Chinese people everywhere. They are taking flights all around Africa, taking refuge in big cities, small towns and villages. Yoon Jung Park at Howard University forwarded a very thoughtful article by Howard University grad Chika Ezeanya, reacting to the just-opened $200 million African Union headquarters building in Addis Ababa, a “gift” from the dragon. Her mixture of frustration and disgust at the symbolism of the African Union accepting the donation of this building was almost tangible and very nicely phrased.

But one thing about her article caught my eye: the statement that 90% of the labor on the building was Chinese. This might be the case for all the projects that Chinese people are doing all around Africa, a continent with the highest unemployment rate. China invests more in Africa than any other country, with Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Angola among the biggest recipients of Chinese funds. Infrastructure development, for example highways and railways, is the main area of business for the Chinese in Africa. They also invest in smaller enterprises and food outlets, according to the report.

China has been a disruptor of the world, from the United States which is now the biggest consumer of China products to now Africa. A while back, we resisted everything China, the quality of their products then was not good. We went for products from the US and EU, all went well but then most of American companies were shipped to China. Today, my favorite iphone is assembled in China. Globally, the attitude towards China is somewhat positive, according to a 2014 study by Pew Global. Across the 43 nations surveyed by Pew, a median of 49% expressed a favorable view of China, compared to 32% thinking of them unfavorably. However, China’s overall image in Europe and the U.S. was mostly negative. Only 35% of Americans had a positive view of China, whereas 55% were negative.

Today, the U.S. and China are competing fiercely over African business. I think the Chinese do everything they possibly can to become number one, they want to become the number one superpower. However, an increased Chinese influence over Africa may cause trouble in the future, and perhaps stifle the development of democracy. As we speak, many African countries are already heavey laden with the burden of debt from People’s republic of China. Young Chinese have taken jobs in Africa, own small business across Africa and our institutions want us to learn Chinese. “Is China the savior for developing nations, the only world power investing in their future — or is this the dawn of a new colonial era”? that is the question most people are asking.

In hitching itself to China’s rising star, Africa has developed a relationship in which aspiration is no longer the pipe-dream it once seemed. With Chinese investment offering significant promises for developing African nations, cooperation with China is proving to be a significant stepping stone on the road to development. However, with the negative long term social and environmental impact that this cooperation potentially threatens – regarding bauxite mining, gold mining, or any other venture – it would be wise of African governments to tread cautiously before committing to a course of action which might have entirely the opposite effect to that intended. China’s rise on the African continent might indeed provide an opportunity not to be missed, but denied the proper checks and balances it could prove less a win-win relationship.

As we look forward to the coming general elections, the government seeking re-election has ridden on the projects delivered by the Chinese people, the railway connecting Nairobi and Mombasa, 472 KM costing sh327 billion. The pros and cons of this projects are not addressed in equal measure, and so not now but in future is when we will start to reap the real fruits of Chinese relation with Africa. Time, will always tell.

 

 

Prayers From Auschwitz.

“You have made me so rich, O God; please let me share Your beauty with open hands. My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with you, O God, one great dialogue.

Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on Your earth, my eyes raised toward Your Heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude.

At night, too, when I lie in bed and rest in You, O God, tears of gratitude run down my face, and that is my prayer. Amen”. – Etty Hillesum

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On September 1st 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and thus began the second world war. Less than a month later, Warsaw surrendered and the Nazi victory was all about complete. On November 1940, the Jews of Warsaw were transferred and confined into small ghetto within the walls of the city. The ghetto population increased to 45,000 and the conditions became unbearable. The streets were full of starving children. The diseases and poverty were rampant. Some kilometers away the gas chambers were designed to kill 600,000 people every day.

While stories of Auschwitz seem more fiction than reality to many, to most people, this place, is one of those places they would rather forget. Most of my polish friends have never visited Auschwitz, and they are not planning to, they say it’s a place that reminds them of the past they would rather pay to forget. On the 68 year of celebration after the liberation, I watched a survivor narrates of his time in the consecration camp. That evening was a turning point in my life. I wrote in my journal some lines that will remind me that this would be one place I should visit. Atleast before I die.

By late 1941, Hitler decided that the Jews of Europe were to be exterminated, so Birkenau, originally intended to house slave laborers, was re-purposed as a combination labor camp / extermination camp. Prisoners were transported there by rail from all over German-occupied Europe, arriving in daily convoys. By July 1942, the SS were conducting “selections”. Incoming Jews were segregated; those deemed able to work were admitted into the camp, and those deemed unfit for labor were immediately killed in the gas chambers.

The group selected to die, about three-quarters of the total, included almost all children, women with small children, pregnant women, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. Mengele, a member of the team of doctors assigned to do selections, undertook this work even when he was not assigned to do so in the hope of finding subjects for his experiments. He was particularly interested in locating sets of twins. In contrast to most of the doctors, who viewed undertaking selections as one of their most stressful and horrible duties, Mengele undertook the task with a flamboyant air, often smiling or whistling a tune.

He was capable of being so kind to the children, to have them become fond of him, to bring them sugar, to think of small details in their daily lives, and to do things we would genuinely admire … And then, next to that, … the crematoria smoke, and these children, tomorrow or in a half-hour, he is going to send them there. Well, that is where the anomaly lay. As I walked inside the camp I wondered, I wondered what kind of man would send small innocent children to death while he goes back home and put his own children to bed. 

For me, a trip here is something I cannot explain. This is a very emotional trip, filled with silence, soul searching and most times tears. People visit here in their thousands everyday, but it’s always a silent tour. No talking, just marmar. The trips are very well organized, with a bus ride from the city of Krakow and a tour guide. You are provided with headset and you are able to hear what your guide is saying clearly. I saw pain in the pictures on the walls, pain of prisoners in their uniforms, labeled with a small triangle and a number. I saw where they slept, small rooms where they crowded with not enough restrooms and air, I saw what remained of their belongings, their spectacles, all crowded in a large room, two tons of women hair cover two large rooms, this is just the remnant of what the Nazi germany looted from them.

They robbed them of everything, they robbed them of their homes, families, personal belongings, the hair on their heads and the clothes they were wearing. All this was shipped to germany, to be sold. Tons of gold were melted from their ornaments. And after they took so much from them, they choose who they would kill, women and children. And for those who still had the health and strength they robbed them of that too. They worked 12 hours, without food. Their labour was free, painful, sweat, tears and blood, everyday. At night they were crowded in small rooms, they died from suffocation and starvation. Some slept standing all night……some made it and others didn’t.

The pain of those who died here is still here, it hasn’t gone away. I don’t know if it will ever go away, it’s been 72 years since the liberation and for me it’s been 4 years since I desired to come here. I am also in pain, I see their faces and in the quietness of this place, I can hear their voices. The place where some of them were hanged still smell of death, the sight is still fresh. You can see the crystals flying in the gas chambers, denying you air as you suffocate to death. Its been many years, they say time heals all wounds, it doesnt.

After the warsaw ghetto uprising, Jewish fighters continued to defy the Nazis. Over 30,000 Jewish fighters fought in resistance units in the ghettos, forests and death camps. They fought all throughout Poland and Europe until the final defeat of Nazis in 1945. Emmanuel Ringelblum letter to his fallen friend described his emotions on this painful moment.

“Peace go with you my friend, maybe we shall meet again. The thing is the dream of my life has come true. Self defence in the ghetto and Jewish armies has become a reality. I have lived to see the magnificent heroism of Jewish fighters in battle” Emmanuel was killed days later. In his last letter, the warsaw ghetto historian described the spirit of Jewish resistance…..”To live and die with honor” Unlike other brutal foes…….the resistance fighters lived and died in honor.

Many of those who had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz, those I have gotten the opportunity to talk to, can’t describe their experience other than that of sadness, emotions and reflective. And like many of my Polish friends, it’s something they would rather not talk about. Something they wish they would forget. But there are some wisdom words that greet you when you enter Auschwitz…words from George Santayana. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat

 

To the memory of men, women and Children who fell victim to the Nazi genocide. Here lies their ashes. May their souls rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

It’s a Social Media world.

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Fareed Zakaria argues that the world today is the world at peace, and he should know better, because he is considered one of the world’s best thinker. We have made a lot of tremendous advancements in health and in technology. There are no geopolitical wars, the worlds biggest nations are not at war with each other. Most people are educated and knowledge, more accessible than in many centuries ago.

We are more online today than ever before. We live online, we dont go online. Social media have become prominent parts of life for many young people today. Most people engage with social media without stopping to think what the effects are on our lives, whether positive or negative. Are we as a society becoming more concerned with Facebook “friends” than we are with the people we interact with face-to-face in our daily lives?……..you know the answer.

There are also a lot of benefits that come from social media and the internet for teenagers. For a lot of people in my age group social media is an outlet for thoughts that they are able to share with their peers. Websites where you can interact with others your age means a lot to teenagers because it is a form of self expression. As we begin to get older it is very important to know who you are and what you want to do with your life, through social media you can easily find this out. So before we get into our serious years we might as well practice how to express ourselves in a respectful way.

Also social media is an easy way to connect with people all throughout the area that you live in. In my age group a lot of very close friendships have been formed through social media and have helped to benefit each other in multiple ways. The reason social media makes it so easy to create bonds is you’re allowed to express your likes and dislikes, which people can easily relate to. As many ways as people believe that social media is bad, it can also provide a lot of good, you just have to use it for the right things.

Young people in Kenya are okay with government regulating social media, citing hate speech as a reason to inform the regulation. A majority of youth polled do not mind regulation of the internet by their governments. When asked if governments should regulate the use of social media, 54 percent of respondents believed the government should regulate social media; 46 percent indicated they did not want the government to regulate social media. Ghana has the highest number of respondents (61 percent) who favour the government regulating the use of social media followed by Kenya (58 percent), Nigeria (54 percent) South Africa (52 percent).

From the feedback of the countries polled, Ugandans least support regulation at 46 per cent. The Ugandan government shutdown the internet during the elections two years ago, something that none of the other countries polled have faced. Kenya has the highest percentage of youth who picked hate speech as the reason for regulation at 36 percent. When asked why they would support a government regulation of social media, most (24 percent) felt that a regulation would be effective in preventing hate speech.

It is clear that countries that have experienced free speech issues whether it’s access being misused or access denied, inform their decisions on whether they support regulation or not. There have been concerns that the Kenyan government could shut down the internet during the August elections. While the government has responded by saying it will not, it has been quick to add that electoral violence is one reason they can use to shut down the internet.

We grow up in a world where everything seems possible. We dont have a choice on whether to DO social media, the question is how well to do it.

What do you think of Christ.

What do you think of Christ, Jesus Christ?
Is he the Lamb of God and Son of God?
one who baptize by spirit
Whose sandals I am not worthy to untie?
What do you think of Christ?
The Miracle worker?
Who turns water into wine
Heals the sick, the blind, raises the dead
Who feeds five thousand people
on five loaves and two fishes
What do you think of Christ?
He who walks on water
The bread of life, The shepherd,
He who came to save us from sin
Paid it all in full.
The true light that gives life,
That all men may see
What do you think of Christ
To John, he was the Messiah. Son of God
To Nicodemus Rabbi, to the samaritan woman Sir.
To Lazarus a friend, to Martha Lord
To Mary his son and to me, Lord, Friend and savior.
What do you think of Christ
Friend let me tell you, you need to know
My Jesus, son of God
Nailed to the cross, his blood flowed
For me, for you, for them, for us all
He cried, my God, my God
It was my sins, your sins,
That he died to become king
What do you think of Christ  oh yes, Jesus Christ
He who’s tomb was empty
Stone rolled away
Where the body once lay
He how is alive and in heaven he awaits
Because one day I will meet the one
Who is so full of mercy and grace
Tell me my friends
What do you think of Christ,
Jesus Christ.

Lubao MarketPlace.

“I have learned that I, we, are a dollar-a-day people (which is terrible, they say, because a cow in Japan is worth $9 a day). This means that a Japanese cow would be a middle class Kenyan… a $9-a-day cow from Japan could very well head a humanitarian NGO in Kenya. Massages are very cheap in Nairobi, so the cow would be comfortable.”
― Binyavanga Wainaina

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There is no place like home. It has always been said, so receive greetings from Kakamega, the land not of my fathers but maybe just a place I have called home. Kakamega District is one of the Kenyan town. It is located at the longitude of 34.784655 and latitude of 0.321655.  My parents later moved in a house they had built, few days after I was born. I went to school here, before I was forced to escape home eight months after my high school graduation for fear of arrest. I was innocent.

About fifteen kilometers from Kakamega town there is a market. Lubao market, as old as I can’t remember. Lubao Market is located at the longitude of 34.7835877 and latitude of 0.3165564 . I was born here. Its difficult getting somebody here who has more information on how the market started, they just found it here and benefited from it. But this place has many titles. The biggest dog market in East Africa……yea, East Africa. Kenya’s cat auction….I am also surprised……..where animal sales thrive. The market is segmented to suit the demands of buyers and sellers in what is considered the biggest dog fair in East and Central Africa.

People bring dogs from the neighbouring towns like Webuye, Eldoret, Kapsabet, and Kitale and as far as Burnt Forest for sale. On a good market day, more than 100 dogs are sold here. Every Thursday is booming business, starting from the road to the market, to the market itself. The real story. Lubao was a slaughterhouse, long time ago. A place where cows were slaughtered to be sold in butcheries in Kakamega and its environs. The slaughter house being here meant that cows would be transported here to be killed…..I mean slaughtered. Thats how the business started, people from around came to sell their animals at the slaughterhouse to earn money to take their children to school.

So the demands grew, people needed to have a cup of tea while doing their business. So there came hotels, and shops and other things that paved way to a small town. Today, it’s a small but very vibrant town, Thursday being one of the busiest day of the week. It is very common to see hotels that open only on Thursday, only one day a week. When I visited the market, business was bigger and better. Together with my Dad and his friend, we were buying a cow to be slaughtered when we host our visitors this Saturday at our home in Lurambi. After a lot of bargaining, a very common language in Kenyan business dealings, we managed a good buy. One cow and One goat.

Looking at this place, its very evident of the contribution this Market has put in the many lives of people who have traded here. My Dad narrates a story, long ago. After I had joined college and I needed money, It was very urgent. Him and my brother Job…..his real name, took a cow they had kept went on a journey to the market, he still has a vivid remembrance of the day. The market brings together people, or traders I should call them, burdened with different dreams. Ten years ago, my Dad’s burden was to get money for my college tuition. Today his burden was different, the visitors to feed and entertain………Burdened by the need of protein.

 

A Letter from Abuja.

I arrived in Abuja on Tuesday 28th 2017, it was 11am local time but it felt like it was 2pm. It was hot, hot with more than enough humidity. I didn’t feel it until I got out of the terminal to pick my cab. As they say here, somebody was “fetching me” from the airport. First, I was in a connecting flight, 8 hours of travel through Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, before I could find myself in Nigeria, my entry port – Abuja.

I headed straight to immigrations, – the guy who decides who walks in and who doesnt. I have my invitation letter printed, with a copy of passport bio page of the friend inviting me. No questions asked, a few people shouted on the que “visa on arrival” and there I was, with all my papers and my passport. In a small office at the terminal, a visa was manufactured, for $25 dollars. Without questions.

With a visa on my hands I went back to the counter, for the entry stump. The gentleman at the booth looked at me, then at my passport. Can I see your return ticket he asked, so I placed it on his hands, he looked at it then he asked for my invitation letter and confirmation of where I was staying. The Hotel. At that moment I remembered 4th of December at O. R Tambo International, when I was almost denied entry to South Africa, I had to tell the immigration officer it was my third visit to the country.

I was staying at an Airbnb, I had no confirmation of hotel and I believe Airbnb is not a hotel, so I passed. Then he asked for my yellow fever certificate, for a second there I was thinking, it should have been the first thing to ask. I finally got my passport stamped and picked my luggage and finally kissed the sun in Nigeria. I waited a while to be “fetched” it was a long while. I looked for a cool place to wait but it was unthinkable luxury at that moment. So I removed most of the clothes I was wearing to adjust to the weather, then from a distance somebody shouted my name. Thn started “Life in Abuja”

My friend who has been here for a week now narrated to me how he first arrived in Abuja, with no invitation letter and no hotel confirmation. He did have a visa. He had arrived from Nairobi and the only thing he could present to the immigration was himself and his passport. I have since picked a few visa experiences from those who were traveling from other countries for the CMS Summit Event. One friend from Poland said he was asked at the Nigerian embassy in Poland to pay express mode, that was additional money on the visa fee and after he paid for it, the gentleman just pocketed the money on his face.

With all the drummer behind me, Abuja is a great place. If you are from Nairobi, used to roads full of traffic from 5am, this city, gives you peace. I hear Lagos is like Nairobi, people who have lived in Lagos and are now in Abuja say, they aren’t cut for Lagos, they they are at peace in Abuja. The road network works well, it’s while though with very little creativity. Nigerians live big, and you can see it here. The presidential visa is build under the biggest rock in Nigeria, what is to be a tourist attraction now a no go zone-protected area. We had a view of it from the Venture platform, a startup incubation company we visited for a tour.

At venture platform, we came face to face with entrepreneurs wanting to make it in Nigeria, with different products on innovation. This young and have found a home at venture platform. I have been in many places like this but this place, provides accommodation for the people who travel from far and they want to see their dream materialize. I have loved my stay here, I have loved to food and the people. Taking my uber-ride everywhere, a trip to the market, and 4am dush to the airport. All this has been worth every moment. I have made good friends, people I will work with for many years to come. I did not have an opportunity to drive in Nigeria, they drive on the wrong side-the left side.

Other that that, it has been amazing stay.