The Peculiar Kenyan

Is violence the only way to make a point? If Kenyan university students have a grievance – an injustice, a bad policy, or even just a power cut – they will be out on the streets rapidly. Not protesting, but rampaging: attacking and stealing from motorists and bystanders, hurling stones, destroying property. When Nairobi hawkers [...]

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What is your experience of experience?

22 February 2015

When we look for good people to employ, what do we look for? Typically, qualifications and experience. I’ve already discussed the problem with qualifications on this page a few weeks back. First, there is the problem that you just can’t trust the qualifications presented to you any more, certainly not in Kenya. No one I [...]

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Moving your business in new directions? Do it properly

15 February 2015

Nairobi is a madhouse. Getting around is a real pain these days. A simple trip can take a couple of hours out of your day. And if you look at the willingness and competence of the people in charge to solve the awful traffic problem, you have to conclude that it will be jam today, [...]

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Agony Uncle Sunny Answers Your Questions Again

8 February 2015

As we all know, we live in a peculiar country. A very peculiar country. There are so many confusing questions that bedevil us every day, and precious few answers. So I have decided to occasionally become an “agony uncle” in this column, to tackle some of your more thorny conundrums. Here’s the latest instalment. Q: [...]

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You think your people are better than their people? Ask for your school fees back

1 February 2015

Parts of European football have a racism problem. When a black player is on the pitch, some fans in some countries will start making monkey gestures, or throw bananas on to the pitch. Picture this: a grown man in the crowd starts jumping up and down, aping an ape. He makes primitive sounds. He does [...]

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We should all talk a little less and do a little more

25 January 2015

Talk, talk, talk. Everyone talks. They talk incessantly. They chat, analyse, pontificate. They debate and discuss. They love to hear the sound of their own voices. People gather in seminars, workshops, conferences, off-sites. They yap for days. Then they gather the results of all that was declaimed and bloviated in elaborate reports, complete with detailed [...]

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The ‘nut rage’ incident that had consequences

18 January 2015

You must have heard about “nutgate.” In a nutshell, here’s what happened. A passenger aircraft was about to take off from JFK airport in New York. A lady seated in first class was served macadamia nuts. The nuts were served in their bag, rather than on a plate. The lady was deeply offended. She lambasted [...]

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Why should children hate school?

11 January 2015

If you have young children, you are likely to have faced a familiar problem this week, pretty much anywhere in the world. As your children ended their Christmas holidays and went back to school, what happened? It’s safe to predict that virtually every child out there descended into deep gloom as the time to return [...]

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Everything you enjoy today was created by a trailblazer

4 January 2015

Most of us tread on well-worn paths. We live in places where we are connected to electricity and running water. We acquire received wisdom from orthodox institutions. We take up familiar occupations, and follow traditional career paths. We start businesses in conventional industries with established competitors and known rules. We take the road most taken. [...]

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The significance of your insignificance

28 December 2014

I had to deliver a eulogy at a funeral recently. Observing endings is a good time to dwell on the meaning of your life. One minute, you are fully alive on earth, working, contributing, connecting; the next, due to some often surprising turn of events, you will be gone. No more, with people gathered around [...]

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Do people really change that much?

21 December 2014

Back in the nineties, Kenyans were really fed up of their leaders. The country was in dire straits, and there seemed to be no light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. In those days, our only symbols of hope were a group of people not in government: opposition politicians, young activists, [...]

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If you want true leadership, first know what it is

14 December 2014

What does it mean to lead human beings? Last week I wrote that in the wild, leaders are often just the biggest, most ruthless animals. And they take most of the spoils. Here in the human race, a race in which I can write these words and you can read them, an entirely different model [...]

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Learning the wrong lessons from nature

7 December 2014

A few years back I was sitting in the balcony of a famous game lodge in the Tsavo reserve, taking a short break while running some executive education seminars. I was gazing upon a watering-hole, against the magnificent backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, unveiled. Suddenly, the bushes next to the watering hole parted, and a massive [...]

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What a life well lived looks like

30 November 2014

I lost a much-valued work colleague this week. Please indulge me this Sunday, for I feel her short life has much to teach the rest of us. How do we extract any meaning from this all-too-brief, seemingly meaningless existence of ours? How do we attach any nobility to life when it seems subject to what [...]

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Don’t just hand your money over to bad businesses

23 November 2014

I often state something like this on Twitter: “Don’t give your money to businesses that despise you.” I will keep repeating a version of this for as long as I can. Interestingly, every time I do this, several people will reply with: “So what should I do with Kenya Power?” In other words, how is [...]

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Wait: could rampant cheating be a good thing?

16 November 2014

Last week on this page I wrote about a chronic problem in Kenya: that we are increasingly unable to trust the certificates churned out by our educational institutions and examination bodies. Some of these certificates are forgeries; others are bought without doing any of the requisite study work; yet others are gained by cheating in [...]

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What happens when you can’t trust educational qualifications?

9 November 2014

There have been widespread reports of cheating in Kenya’s public examinations again this year. As there are in most years. The problem of papers being leaked and sold seems to be rife. In addition, can we trust the certificates being churned out by our educational institutions any more? So many are suspect, being sold by [...]

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