A Letter To Summer Bunnies: 10 Reasons Why Things On the Ground Are Different


By James Sang

For the summer bunnies coming to Kenya in December. I have some advice for you. Just so you know, hapa kwa ground, mambo ni different. Here is my ten-point message to you:

1. The dollar is weaker against the shilling; hence it won’t go as far as it did last December. So either bring more money, or advise your slay queen aji-sort.

2. Contrary to commentaries running on social media, the overall fundamentals of the economy are still sound. The economy is growing at almost 6%. The GDP will hit 10 Trillion this year, and the inflation rate is at an all time low of about 4%. It’s on the ground that things are bad. Granted that some sectors are doing well, while others are on the brink. Also, it depends on your station in life. The wealthy who live above the earth’s atmospheric pressure do not even know the economy is bad. Everything is good for them. The rest of us are struggling. And so will you after you exhaust the few dollars you brought while dunda-ing.

3. Corruption is not a nebulous concept. It is real. Leave your righteous ideologies at the departure lounge. Absolutely nothing will happen if you do not bribe some government official. Even businesses now recognize corruption in their Profit & Loss books as the cost of doing business. They just give it a civil name, like “Other Expenses”.

4. KRA has 4 functions: Create arbitrary taxes, increase tax rates, collect taxes, and kill small businesses. If you are planning to do business, keep this in mind.

5. On healthcare, get yourself some sort of insurance. Some airlines sell insurance with the ticket. Our hospitals here charge cash up-front. If you don’t have it, and you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, you will die outside the hospital entrance. No one gives a sh*t about your life.

6. We in Kenya generally don’t give a rat’s ass about our overall safety, let alone yours. We drive very drunk (Alcoblow guys have been ordered off the road, to our collective sigh of relief). We do not wear seatbelts, nor condoms. Sex just ain’t good with it. We let our little children sit on the front seat without seatbelts. Our baby-sitter sits holding a baby at the front seat with no seat belt while we drive like dare devils. Ni shauri ya mungu, we say. And then a head-on happens, and we are all thrown through the windshield. No problem. We will hold a harambee for the funeral and wait for the next crash victim. Just buy health insurance if you don’t like dying. We simply don’t care!

7. The rural economy is doing well. Go to any farmers’ market and you will see an overflow of agricultural produce of all types. There’s plenty of fish from Lake Victoria. Milk is flowing like a river. The guy who supplies us with milk is a farmer from Kajiado. He drives his pick-up truck to Nairobi twice a day to deliver his milk to his customers. At the end of the day, he goes home with 20,000 shillings. That’s not small money for a small-scale farmer. At my home village outside Nakuru, a private investor has erected a huge milk-processing plant. You may want to consider getting into agri-business. The costs of these products are however high in the urban areas due to transport costs and illegal importation. Which is still a good deal for the farmer.

8. The urban economy is in the doldrums. There is a clear shortage of cash, especially for the urbanites who largely depend on the monthly check, hence the venting on social media. The government is not paying suppliers, and so businesses are suffering, and hence laying off people. Chances are you will hang out with a jobless friend. You know what that means. Help a brother, or sister.

9. The Nairobi Securities Exchange resembles the US Penny Stocks. Only a handful of stocks are above 50 shillings. The overall share Index is a measly 155. You may buy, because it’s low, but I don’t see it rising in the near future. Your call. If you bought the government treasury bills and they matured this month, you will get a check alright, but post-dated to January.

10. The real estate market is on the brink of collapse. Malls in Nairobi – especially the new ones – are half-occupied. Home-ownership is just but a dream to many people. Property owners are not finding tenants; thus the default rate is at an all-time high of about 40%. For this reason, banks are repossessing properties and selling them for a song. Incidentally, this is the right time for you to buy. Just shun the tangatanga/kieleweke politics and focus on the advertisement pages.

Finally, the BBI Report has been launched. All of us, including the president, celebrated with shots of single malt whisky before we went to Bomas. Get a copy and read it during your flight so that you don’t come asking us whether it has anything to do with parte after parte after parte. Or Tua tua. Sisi hatutaki ujinga.