Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why Kenya, and why now?

Some have asked “Why Kenya?” and “Why now?”

My excitement for Kenya surrounds the opportunities for early stage businesses who have a reasonably stable economic base from which to launch, myriad new tools at their disposal, and a massive, and growing population with increasing purchasing power - not all of these points are true of all developing economies!

So: Why Kenya, and Why Now?

1) Kenya has a robust non-extractive based economy. With Kenyan GDP comprising 40% of the region’s GDP, Nairobi is the economic capital of east Africa, with a stock exchange, and many corporates’ regional (or continental) headquarters. Most importantly, however is the stability - Kenya’s economy is not based on extractive industries such as mining or fossil fuel extraction - it's based on agriculture and services. I believe this makes Nairobi a bit more robust to external inputs as compared with neighbors. (Note the 25% overnight growth of GDP due to rebasing.)

Nairobi skyline (source)
2) New technology adoption has been very rapid in Kenya. This will likely continue to enable quick, massive improvements in lifestyle, healthcare, agriculture output, financial inclusion / services, communication. As landmark examples, please see success of M-Pesa (mobile money), and the numerous, successful on and off-grid solar/distributed power generation products.

M-Pesa and Bitcoin (to a much lesser extent) are in use in Kenya (source)
Off-grid solar is massive business in east Africa, including Kenya;
some key players are M-Kopa, d.light, Greenlight Planet, SunnyMoney, Off-Grid Electric, and Azuri (source)

3) Kenya has (debatably) the fastest, cheapest, and deepest penetration of internet on the continent. Wow, what an advantage in a continent where infrastructure seems to be always lacking. In Nairobi, new business incubators are all around, with the iHub proving an invaluable epicenter of activity for software-based startups, and the upcoming Gearbox promising similar excitement and opportunities for hardware startups. Prevalent and affordable internet is enabling collaboration like never before.

    Internet penetration in Kenya is high relative to continent neighbors (source)
    Multiple undersea cables now connect Kenya to other countries (source)
    Due to the robust economy, the rapid technology adoption of Kenyans, and the prevalent and affordable internet, I’m excited about Kenya!

    Further reading:
    I should note that the above are *my* reasons for being excited about Kenya; plenty of other groups have published their own reasons:

    • CIA World Factbook, Kenya
    Of course there are other reasons to love Kenya; so come visit!

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    A long weekend in Kenya

    Happy Thanksgiving from Kenya!  

    I was able to take a long weekend to visit some beautiful sites to the northwest of Nairobi and want to share some photos - sorry about the poor quality; all are from my phone's camera.  
    Excited to bring a real camera on subsequent trips!

    A little map of the key locations for this post; all highly recommended! Total drive time between Nairobi and the top left, Crescent Island (just outside Naivasha Town) is about 3 hours.

    We first took a self-guided hike around Crescent Island Game Park, a peninsula into Lake Naivasha. Only very dangerous animal here is the hippo, so we stayed away from the water’s edge. All of the other animals kept their distance.

    Adventure buddies, with a giraffe neck between us in the distance.

    I like the silhouette of the impala on the horizon; like so many things, better in real life!

    We might have found our first home; it's a real fixer-upper!

    Some waterbuck with their shaggy manes.

    Sometimes the animals don’t even notice you’re nearby – this was on our way out of Crescent Island from our jeep.

    I love this guy.

    After Crescent Island we did some camping in Hell’s Gate National Park where there are many warthogs, zebra, and some baboons.

    The warthogs are usually found in twos and threes, and usually leaning on their front elbows rooting around for interesting things in the ground.

    We did a short hike into the gorge; there are plenty of seeping rock walls with geothermally heated water coming out. Great formations!

    Grooming time, all the time.

    Beautiful wild animals!

    Easiest, most delicious camping dinner:
    Sachels of diced potato, onion, bell pepper, cheese, butter, and spices, wrapped in foil;
    40 mins over a fire or in the coals.

    Massive cliff wall, allegedly inspired portions of the Lion King movie by Disney. Great climbing available and done here.

    Next day excursion to Brown’s Cheese farm – make reservations in advance. Browns makes 17 kinds of cheese, and will start exporting to the USA soon!

    Taking a tour of the factory; the fresh cheeses go from cow to store shelf in 2-3 days, aged cheeses obviously take longer.

    Final stop on the trip was a day hike at Mt Longonot, a volcano that was last active about 150 years ago, and steam vents dot the perimeter. The hike up, around the rim, and back down is about 13 km; about 5 hours.

    The view inside the crater, about 2 km across. Allegedly some animals live in the crater, though we could see none, only evidence (droppings) on the rim and trails outward facing.

    Much of the rim is hiked within a deep channel, usually just about a foot deep for your feet to walk in, but sometimes eroded so far that the walls are over your head! Generally very well protected/not exposed to wind, etc.

    It ended up turning stormy at the end of our hike, most of the way around the crater rim, but we still had a blast! 
    (Sorry for the vertical video!)