Wednesday, June 7, 2017

SGR: The Rise of an Empire

Eclipsing the old pre-independence railway to a twittering old flame, the Standard Gauge Railway was over 1300 kilometers in length when it finally reached Malaba, in late 2010s, earmarking the initial phase of connecting the three neighboring countries mutual to the agreement including south Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda to Kenya.

With construction beginning in fall 2013,  the first phase ended in early 2017 before the president inaugurated the Madaraka Express train that made headway to Nairobi's depot on the eve of the country's freedom day on June 1 of the year.

Before its completion, the railway attracted eclectic views from both the populace and media alike. In tandem with construction was the relocation sagas along the line especially around Nairobi, in the first phase, and later along the Rift valley belt with some officials coming to book for soliciting bribes from families seeking compensation along the line. 

The immediate fact sheet of the construction of the railway dates back to 2009 when the country's  then regime ratified a memorandum with its then biggest East African trading counterpart, Uganda, to engineer a railway with modern gauges of less than a meter apart that would have electrical propulsion capabilities. There would follow a tripartite agreement pitting Rwanda to the prior ratification with the signing taking place in August, 2013.

The Chinese consortium that constructed the railway had to fulfill its mandate in several lines including one to Rwanda that had to hail at Kigali  by 2018 from its Mombasa initialization. The second line had to reach Kampala in proper infrastructural time via Malaba in Western Kenya from its initial phase of 2014. 

Upon completion of phase one, which received a lot of celebration due to, in part, high speed, low fare and acclimatization of most Kenyans' dreams to reach Mombasa in less than the minimum 8 hours it used to take buses to make it to the coast, the railway introduced sanity features to surface transportation in Kenya. For instance, the rail, running parallel most of the way with the then unruly, single track A109 highway to Mombasa, had beautiful, terra-cotta embankments, modern offices and accommodation villas, plus stations every regular number of kilometers, besides high rise flyover bridges running kilometers on end in some places, and the top cake of it all, the availability of an aerial electric line, all within a non-stop perimeter wall.

With funding coming from a China-based bank that provided ninety percent of the funding with the Kenya government settling the remainder, the financing of phase one alone, in 2017, was equal to almost an eighth of the country's gross budget for that year which stood at KSH2.6 trillion.

With perfect gradients and topographical maximization, the costly infrastructure project that was SGR ended the transportation deficit of delivering goods and passengers from the coast. It also created a more sustainable economic bloc that is modern-day East African Community (EAC).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Parasitic Capitalism in East Africa as Digital Working Creates Neo Africa

Strategists have repeatedly warned that the on-surge of a digital gig economy will deprive the creators’ backyards of handy manpower-as they concentrate fully on the digital companies’ math regalia. However, the biggest concerns are that, despite the worker vacuum these 24-hour companies create, once they flourish, they do little to develop the region in which they ‘operate,’ with the nitizen-approved excuse that by virtue of being online, they are in a global village and can thus develop any part of the earth: tongue in cheek for personal enrichment through the cloak of the World Wide Web.
In East Africa, the future is as bleak. In fact, Kenya, according to an Internet hosting company based on the continent, ranked back in 2017, as conceited as this may eventually turn out to be in coming years, as having the best Internet connectivity in the continent. Be it as it may, and as much as the youth are flocking to SEO-related informal careers, leaving manual work to old men, and as much as the region, with severe economic deprivation is becoming the farcical no country for old men and young men alike, but for the monied few, a new dark reality is revisiting the East African digital world slowly.
Hear it now:
As youth flock to digitized editions, contribute tons of copywrite material in exchange of a few dimes, most of which go to their local outsourcing agents, who in turn sell it, sometimes in 1000% profit to their rich clients in the West, the pension of the post-college writer, designer, videographer or artist is becoming a pipe dream.
For one, once the fortunes of the agents and their outsourcing companies nod for the sunset of retirement due to the lucrativeness of parasitizing on talented yet monetarily inconvenienced youth who can’t break the shackles if they want to put bread on the table or pay for their university fees, these companies abandon their workers in ex-ma-china fashion. Because there is usually no contract, per se, the worker cannot resort to legal representation and has to hunt for the next netizen-boss online who he will never see or even eschew (due to barrage of work) until he discerns a blank screen on where the former site used to be.
Therefore, even as East Africa blossoms in cyberspace and creates jobs for people who otherwise would not ever dream for a bed of roses for lack of jobs for which they have studied in the formal sector, it is an early call for a future of parasitic capitalism in the digital context of the region…..