The Peculiar Kenyan

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 [...]


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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What are we to do with our short lives?

25 May 2014

The meaning of life is that it stops. I hope reading that sentence placed at least a comma in the flow of your life. What did Franz Kafka mean when he wrote it? Our time on this earth ends. In all cases. There’s a full stop. For some, the full stop comes at the end [...]

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When governments spend big, taxpayers do not

18 May 2014

The grand projects are in full flow, and the media applaud enthusiastically. A new railway, laptops for the children, roads for the counties, WiFi for the towns. All of this is described as largesse, generosity on the part of enlightened government, freebies from our favoured development partners. The money is flowing, and boom times are [...]

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If you want nothing done – form a committee

11 May 2014

I had a problem with my jaw recently. I was following Nigeria’s problems with the Boko Haram terror group, and the recent truly horrific abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls. The girls have been missing for weeks, and fears abound that they have been sold into slavery in neighbouring countries. Few of us can truly appreciate [...]

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Who makes your mind up for you?

4 May 2014

Who makes your mind up for you? That would be you, right? Of course we all want to believe we are independent spirits and free-minded souls; that we think for ourselves and come to our own conclusions. Sadly, for most of us that is just a delusion. Our minds are being made up for us, [...]

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What the Manchester United débâcle reveals about succession planning

27 April 2014

I knew I would have to write this article; the only question was how soon. In August last year I tweeted: “Pep Guardiola will be just fine; David Moyes will not.” I was responding to the appointment of Guardiola and Moyes as managers of two of the top teams in world football: Bayern Munich and [...]

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Nothing really changes until the culture changes

20 April 2014

A year ago, India seemed to be looking upon itself in horror. A horrific gang-rape had occurred on a Delhi that seemed to shock the nation. Moral outrage filled the airwaves; punitive sentences were promised. This could never be allowed to happen again… And then…what? Nothing much. In fact, the reverse seems to have occurred: [...]

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No, I don’t know that many Mr Singhs…

13 April 2014

When I make a new acquaintance in Kenya, particularly those of a certain age, there is a question I will very likely be asked during that first conversation: “You must know Mr So-and-So Singh?” My new friend will then proceed to roll off the names of a few Sikhs of his acquaintance, typically building contractors [...]

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What is your child being educated to become?

6 April 2014

If you’re a parent worried about the future of your child, you should really read Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin. And the first thing that should begin to worry you is how your child is being schooled. Is this your child’s daily education routine? Show up every day. Be punctual. Fit in. Have good handwriting. Don’t [...]

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Which customer would you give a refund to?

30 March 2014

If you run a business, or are employed in one, allow me to put three scenarios to you this Sunday. Think about your answers carefully. Scenario One: an unhappy customer comes to you. She is dissatisfied with the product she bought, because it doesn’t work. You study the situation, and conclude she is right. Should [...]

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