Saturday, 26 July 2008

Nerve-racking ...

As well as opening a cyber café in Kisii, I have found that I am a partner in an export business. This came about quite by accident when we offered a foreign trading company photographic samples of the ware we have on offer.

To our surprise, they wanted to place an order, not the usual 15,000/- but lots of zeros after the US$ sign.

Now, we are not an export company, which is not to say we don't have some experience in the field of international commerce, gleaned from a previous life. But that was in Europe, where there are rules to be obeyed, guidelines to follow, etc. Yes, I know we moan about all the red tape, but believe me, when it's not there ...

So, here we are, in a backwoods town, off the beaten track, receiving an order for umpty-tump thousands of dollars-worth of goods.

Now the next problem is that English is not the first language of the buyer. Nor is it the first language of my partner. The problem arises because their first languages are not the same! So, there are issues raised, and we have to guess what they are by deciphering the "English" emails sent to us.

It has taken a week @ three emails a day to get this far and I think (hope ... pray) that we are approaching the final straight ... that is, the straight that hands us the contract.

That's the easy part. Then we have to ensure that the products are of the correct quality, are produced within the right time frame, and are packed to withstand international shipping, not least of which include the Kenyan roads!

Of course, in a rural town anywhere in the world, you are not going to find a bubble-wrap manufacturer or supplier. That has to come in from somewhere bigger. Then there is the need for a fork-lift truck. "What is one of those?" OK, maybe a tractor with a lifting attachment on the front? Maybe.

Then there is Health & Safety. In gB (that's great[?] Britain, not Gordon Brown), you have to be qualified to drive a fork lift. Try explaining that in a country where many car drivers have never passed a test!

So, it looks like I will be going out rather sooner than I had anticipated, to make sure that all things are safe, and that the quality control system, insisted upon in the contract, is in place.

It's a tough life, but someone has to do it. ;)

Look out kenya, here I come - again!

Friday, 25 July 2008

The bell tolls for Gordon?

The last few months must have been a nightmare for Prime Minister Gordon Brown. His Labour party lost the Henley election (not surprising) coming in after the Conservatives, Lib Dems, the Green Party and the BNP.

They lost at Crewe and Nantwich, they lost the mayoral election in London, and now, they have lost one of their safest seats, Glasgow East.

This morning (Friday), Gordon Brown stated that he realises that he has to listen to the people. This afternoon, he stated that he had a job to do and he was going to get on and do it.

Excuse me, Mr Prime Minister, but, what do you think the people want you to listen to, taking the last four elections into consideration? Are they saying, "Please, Mr brown, we are voting your party out, but we want you to carry on?"

Or, are they saying, "Mr Brown, you are not what we want, please leave - now!"

Personally, I think the people, to whom Gordon insists he is listening are stating the latter.

Parliament is now in recess for their elongated Summer break (for which they still get paid), so absolutely nothing is going to happen until September.

But what then? Will there be a coup? Will he call an election (fat chance)?

Or will he try to muddle on as he has been for the past 13 months?

Mr Brown, practice what you preach. You criticised Mr Kibaki for hanging on to power. You criticised Bob Mugabe for hanging on to power, so ...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Guilty as charged ...

I plead guilty, as charged. I have been wasting my time, not only writing a blog, but also reading others' blogs.

And it struck me. Why are all the best blogs [in my humble opinion] written by the females of the species?

There are a few good blogs written by males, but the majority tend to be rather dry. Have we men lost our sense of humour? I look at my past efforts and shudder.

I look at the blogs written by Mzungu Chick, Mom de Plume, Nutty Cow, Reluctant Memsahib, etc., and in every case, there is humour, usually about little things that happen in life, or just life in general.

Conclusion? I need to get a life.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

I will always be white ...

During my stay in Kisii, Josephat frequently asked (through an interpreter) why I was so pale. As he is a Luuya, his skin is very dark, and I was particularly pale, having just escaped from a British winter.

So Josephat took it upon himself to make me dark. After I had bathed him and Vaselined him, he decided that if he greased me, I would become dark like him.

[Note: The character that resembles a European Buddha is, unfortunately, me. However, I was happy to find that after a month in Kenya, I lost about a stone - no biscuits or cake, no chocolate, a lot of walking, only fresh food!]

[Note 2: Josephat was abandoned at 6 months and deposited with Mercy Gate Children's Home, Kisii. On my first visit in September 2007, Jojo adopted me, calling me his Baba Mzungu. Whenever I am in Kisii now, Jojo is an almost permanent attachment to my hand, shoulders, neck or lap.]

Monday, 21 July 2008

Riots in Schools

I read an article today in the Daily Nation about students in several schools going on strike.

The answer from the powers that be? A suggestion that the ban on caning should be abolished.

And whose fault is it? Why, that parents, of course.

It obviously isn't the fault of the education system, but no one in the system thought to ask why the students were rioting. So, why were they?

They say that the food is atrocious and the hygiene facilities were terrible - and they had heard that, after the debacle of the KCSE results last year, the mock results were going to be used this year. It is well known that the mocks are much more difficult than the real thing. Also, they are set and marked internally, so there would be no national standard. That doesn't sound very fair.

Of course, the education system [?] in England and Wales is not without its problems. The SATS test results were late.

Why? Because the government had sub-contracted the marking to a US company - a company in a country that does not even speak the same "English" as the British.

There was a case of one kid's work, using correct punctuation and no spelling errors was marked below another's where there was no punctuation and a plethora of spelling mistakes.

When are politicians - in any country - going to realise that they are playing with the future of children? These kids are the future of their countries. Let's get our respective governments to stop playing around and take education seriously!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Why has China bought Mugabe a mansion?

IT MAY not be surprising that, as befits any mad dictator, President Mugabe is now the proud owner of a palatial £4.5 million mansion in Harare and a similarly lavish country hideaway, each fitted with the latest electronic security systems, including anti-aircraft missiles. But why should all this have'been provided for him by the People's Republic of China?

The explanation lies in a deal struck in 2005 whereby Mr Mugabe handed over to China his country's mineral rights, including the world's second largest reserves of platinum, worth £250 billion. In return for allowing the Chinese to cart away more than half a billion pounds' worth of minerals a year, Mr Mugabe not only makes a vast personal fortune for himself and his henchmen, but is given all the arms he needs to keep his criminal regime in power, including guns, jet fighters and military vehicles. (For further details, see my colleague Richard North's EU Referendum website.)

Contrast this with our own Government's response to Mugabe's tyranny. Since Zimbabwe is included in the 28 areas of "common foreign policy" we have ceded to the EU, we can do nothing except in conjunction with our EU colleagues.

On Monday we saw the humiliating spectacle of Gordon Brown pleading with the EU's President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to add 36 more names to the list of Zimbabweans on whom the EU has imposed pathetically ineffectual "personal sanctions". Otherwise, the EU's only contribution is to give Zimbabwe €25 million a year in aid, which Mr Mugabe welcomes as a way to give food to his supporters while the rest of his people starve.

All this provides a remarkable parallel to what is happening elsewhere in Africa. In Sudan the tyrannical government is given full support by China in return for a monopoly on its large reserves of oil. Meanwhile, EU politicians wring their hands over the tragedy unfolding in Darfur, while a pitiful EU military force in Chad notably fails to protect a million helpless refugees from the genocide waged on them by China's friends in Khartoum.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as we learned from an excellent report in The Daily Telegraph last week, China last January signed a "minerals for infrastructure" deal, worth £2.25 billion, under which it bought the rights to some of the world's richest copper and cobalt reserves, in return for building roads, railways, hospitals, dams and airports. This is the country where, five years ago, the EU proudly sent its first military force bearing the ring of stars insignia - to achieve precisely nothing.

All over Africa, the Chinese dictatorship props up ruthless and corrupt regimes We now learn that the Congolese government had first proposed such a minerals deal to the EU but, according to the country's deputy minister for mines, the EU replied that it "did not have the muscle that was needed".

All over Africa we see a similar story. The ruthless but canny Chinese dictatorship props up equally ruthless and corrupt governments, as in Angola, in return for that continent's fabulous mineral reserves. Britain, which once ruled much of Africa, has handed over its policy-making to the EU, which does little but make sanctimonious and irrelevant gestures. Yet this is the continent which, in 2005, both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown proclaimed was "at the top" of their international agenda. It was in the same year that, as the EU's acting president, Tony Blair flew to Beijing to sign an agreement making the EU and China "strategic partners". It is only too obvious which "partner's" strategy is proving the more successful.

I cannot guarantee all the statements in this blog. They were complied from a vatiety of articles