I was in the beautiful Semien Mountains in Northern Ethiopia recently. On an extremely high altitude, people were still growing barley. I will spare you the story of how and when those people arrived there. What I noticed were the way these people were able to grow barley in this predominantly rough, rocky, cold area: they remove the stones from the acres, one by one, to remain with a clear acre and a good harvest.
Kenya has a new government with ambitious plans being explained in good rhetoric and with a fresh unconventional cabinet of mostly non-politicians (sworn in today). All very promising, but it’s not the names that matter but about how a these modern style-leaders are gonna deal with the small things that Kenyans are dealing with: the stones in its acres that avoid that the barley can grow. Examples: I recently heard a story about a guy who wanted to import a boom-microphone. One of those big mics on sticks that are used for recording sound when shooting a movie.
Importing movie-gear is supposed to be tax-free in Kenya. This guy though had to pay 70 percent import, tax, duties, levies etc. Just because he was importing this thing and some individual thought he could get rich over somebodies back or what he thought is actually not so important: the guy had to pay 70 percent of the value for this taxfree-import. Discussion ended already when started and I suppose the customs-dude who charged him is still ‘doing his job’: a proper stone on Kenya’s Acre!. And the minister? He does not even know most likely.
Case 2: Nairobi City Council: the totally infamous guys who rather beat their fellow citizens and rather arrest them then even make an effort to ask why they are arresting someone. Good example of that, is shown in Nairobi Half Life, the by now famous Kenyan Hollywood Production. These guys seem to operate in plain clothes, these days. A friend of mine was selling tea leaves in one of the informal settlements. Making 200 KES (2 Euro) per day or more on a good day. Without asking questions, she was arrested and taken to the City Council Office and kept there for almost a full day and then given a fine of 5 times her daily profit. They could have warned her, they could have looked at the situation, they could have taken a wise decision in stead of a human one: another bunch of stones in Kenya’s Acres.
And now the story of the imported Apple Computers: ‘Yes, sir, your Mac is there, but…. eh… we can’t give it to you’ I asked him why. Well, hesitating to tell me, he started. Very often, our computers are kept at the airport by the customs-dudes. We can see the computers, everything has been paid, but… the guys at the customs won’t give them out. This waiting time quit often could take up more than three or four weeks. ‘And after four weeks?’, I asked, ‘Well, we have to pay them for keeping our computers in the storage room’, the guy said. Mmmm… So if things take time in Kenya, the very reason might be that there is a stone on the acre. Big challenge now for the new ministers to identify and remove the little and bigger stones that avoid a prosperous harvest and maybe find our own way of removing them.