The Peculiar Kenyan

My 600th column: Kenya’s true economic engine

by Sunny Bindra on September 21, 2014 · 15 comments

in Sunday Nation

This is my 600th column on this page, and to record the milestone let us take another look at this country of ours – through a different lens. Recently, feeling depressed by the state of the nation – the self-centred, money grabbing politicos and their relentless noise, the unending terrorist attacks, the spiralling epidemic of [...]

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When companies are built on being the best in a rat race, only rats will win

14 September 2014

John Lanchester writes very useful books demystifying the world of finance, explaining its arcane intricacies to those who weren’t schooled in it. Sitting on a plane recently, I came across a piece by him in the New Yorker. It contained this gem: ““My father once told me about the first colleague he ever knew to [...]

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The story of one kind man and his kiosk

7 September 2014

Many moons ago, a gentleman called Chege ran a food kiosk close to the main campus of the University of Nairobi. Chege’s place was well frequented by students, and was an institution unto itself. Many of these students came from relatively humble backgrounds from all over Kenya, and lacked support systems in the big, unfriendly [...]

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Education is acceptance, not antagonism

31 August 2014

A friend was visiting Kenya from abroad recently, and I took him to visit his old high school. The place was a shambles, dirty and decrepit. Some of the desks and chairs looked like they had not been changed since my friend last sat on them thirty years ago. And yet there was gold to [...]

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Use this golden rule to make people matter again

24 August 2014

Can we run this world as though people matter? Of course we can. Henry Hazlitt showed us how, way back in 1946: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely [...]

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We are running our world as though people don’t matter

17 August 2014

What’s the most common thing you hear political and business leaders say about Kenya’s insecurity problem? That it’s having a bad effect on the economy. That as tourism implodes, economic purchasing power heads south. That as fear pervades the nation, the investment climate suffers. What’s wrong with this picture? All of the above is true, [...]

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“Look at that, you son of a bitch.”

10 August 2014

Edgar Dean Mitchell is a former NASA astronaut. He was the sixth man to set foot on the moon. As he stood on the lunar surface and gazed back at planet Earth, he was profoundly moved. Later, he wrote this about the experience: “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction [...]

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Societies explode when equality of treatment is missing

3 August 2014

I can’t watch the news anymore. I can’t watch any more images of children being maimed and mangled as rockets rain on them out of the sky, because of ancient hatreds that they know nothing about. I can’t watch any more images of people hell-bent on killing other people within their own borders, because of [...]

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It’s time for shareholders to change their perspective

27 July 2014

There’s a problem in business, and it’s a serious one. No, it’s not about the difficult customers, or the disillusioned employees. It’s about the shareholders. Shareholders, we know, are the supreme entity in business. They put their money at risk, and stand to lose it all if things go wrong. They are therefore entitled to [...]

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Why Germany won, Brazil lost, and Africa under-performed again

20 July 2014

Football’s World Cup comes and goes every four years, and in its wake it alway leaves some valuable lessons. This column tries to chronicle them, so here is the 2014 edition. In 2010 I wrote here that to win in football (or any collective endeavour) four ingredients are necessary: first, a great ethos and common [...]

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Why this cheap obsession with showing off?

13 July 2014

It seems wherever we turn in Kenya these days, we find someone discussing their net worth. On frothy television shows, in newspaper spreads, in glossy magazines: invariably someone is on about their material achievements. Said person will be posing for the camera, expensive watch carefully placed to catch the best angle. And the discussion, usually [...]

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Denying your own identity is a peculiar self-hatred

6 July 2014

There’s been much debate in Kenya of late around the subject of skin lightening. As we know, many young African and South Asian women take this option, using skin-harming products to chase the illusive beauty myth that surrounds light skin. Many of them, when challenged, defend the practice, calling it no different from changing their [...]

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Ever wonder why we make way for the Big People?

29 June 2014

You’re stuck in traffic. If you live in Nairobi as I do, there’s nothing special in that statement. We’re mostly stuck in traffic jams, most of the time. It’s the way we’ve become, numbed into the acceptance that wasting time in a vehicle is a natural state of being. Kenyans talk about jam so much [...]

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Divided, we fall

22 June 2014

Let us not just count the dead. Let us see that it is someone’s loving father, someone else’s only child, a family’s income-earner who has been snuffed out. Terrorists ran amok again in Kenya last week, massacring the residents of Mpeketoni in Lamu County for hours. The full death toll is yet to be confirmed. [...]

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Two crucial questions for your business

15 June 2014

Last week I laid into the never-ending culture of businesses playing only for the cameras, rather than playing for the real prize. So what is that prize, and how can you tell if you’re on the way to achieving it? The prize of business is no different from the prize of life itself. It is [...]

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Why must so many businesses look good just for the cameras?

8 June 2014

Tomorrow morning in Kenyan newspapers, you will see photos of the following: People holding a dummy cheque together, and smiling at the camera. People pretending to read their company’s annual report together, for the camera. People wearing ill-fitting helmets while touring a construction site, and pointing upwards for the camera. People sitting in a donated [...]

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Why the fights for flags and titles?

1 June 2014

Why do so many of our leaders in this country fight tooth-and-nail for titles, like “your excellency” or “the honourable” – even when they are worlds away from being either excellent or having any honour whatsoever? Why are there ugly squabbles perpetually happening for the right to fly the national flag on vehicles, or to [...]

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