Businesses win with world cup

Its always fascinating when you hear the amount of money companies sponsoring the world cup are spending just to be part of it.

One can be forgiven for asking whether they recoup their investments. In some cases, you don’t have to know the figures; just look at the amount of advertising MTN has paid for in the last six months, look at their fan park, look at the advertising material produced; look at Sony’s advertising stands at the Sandton- its big money.

I had a chance to go to the Sony 3D experience dome and its a worth while experience; Forget that they promise to show game highlights and they end up showing the game for less than two minutes. Its a 15-minute commercial and 13-minutes showcase Sony products in 3D.

I think Sony is going to recoup its money because it has an audience from several countries, who can then buy the products back in their countries. Even if they will not buy the expensive 3D cameras, am imagining, the other products will be taken up.

Sony’s strategy was very targeted, one stand for the youth, showing the games and other products for the age group, another for the basic who do not know where they belong and the 3D experience for the hi-tech or those who have nowhere to go and are out to kill time.

MTN has managed to keep the buzz up with its “Ayoba” advertising; which means cool; when I was for the Argentina game, I remember fans shouting Ayoba. They would sing in Spanish then shout Ayoba, making it so catchy.

Am imagining that for most world cup folks, MTN is the only network and probably the network has sold lots of sim cards and airtime. If not that, even solidifying its continental position is still something.

That may be a big win for big corporations, but even the smaller businesses have won, hotels, restaurants, shops, and other businesses have all adjusted their prices to be “world Cup prices”, the cabs are even worse, its so expensive to travel.

The shopping malls have these signs that say discounts but when you look at the prices, there is no change if anything the prices are up, but you know there are people who cant buy unless they see the item labelled “on sale”.

Even the hawkers near the stadium, they have hiked prices and when the Vuvuzela complaints were on a high, they were stocking ear plugs and I wondered, who would wear ear plugs in the stadium?

So, big or small, international or local, businesses are winning big with the World Cup because its Ayoba time!
Businesses win with world cup

World Cup Fans Cheer Their Teams in Style

The other day I was at Mandela square late in the evening, it was cold and chilly but for the football fans who have braved worse winter weather, I guess it was nothing.
Culture at its best

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There were groups of fans, chanting slogans and working hard to outdo each other.
One corner, Argentina fans were singing their voices hoarse, Brazil was in another corner, Mexico was somewhere in between and Mexico was just there, then there were these two Swiss fans, who had painted themselves red and were only in shorts.

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I guess the fans have different ways of expressing themselves and believe it or not, the stripping helped attract more women to their side; works well huh? In all these chaos, I happened to be standing next to a cute guy, from one of the South American countries; he did not speak much of English but he had a lisp and I made sure he talked and talked, forget that I was not getting half of what he was saying.
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It was a pleasant atmosphere that allowed people to do things they would normally do, talk to strangers and just jump up and down. Vuvuzela or no Vuvuzela, the place can get noisy.

So, in all the mayhem, I got to know who are the noisiest fans of the day- Argentina- I think they can out-shout the vuvuzela.

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World Cup Time out: Zulu Xhosa cultural experience

In all my travels, there is one thing I have loved: visiting communities that are similar to mine; seeing them do things or eat food that I can identify with.

That is why when I got an invitation to a Xhosa/Zulu wedding, I could not miss it for anything; its literally killing two birds with one stone. It was time to witness all those things I have read online.

It was the wedding of Phangisile Mtshali and Sihlwele Manciya and I was the international guest, she made it sound so exotic!

The wedding was in Umthatha, about 200 kilometers from East London; this was also an opportunity to remember my history; what I had learnt about the Transkei homelands during the apartheid era; the scenery is great but the twists and turns can pose challenges to unfamiliar drivers.

In most African traditions, a wedding is a long affair that can take a whole weekend and this was no different; there was a traditional as well as a “white” wedding and it reminded me of how weddings have been commercialized in Kenya and the union between the two families is not a big deal especially if one does not have the money.

The Ceremony

In a nutshell, the wedding was at the groom’s place and the bride’s family came in huge numbers, there is a lot of meat and slaughtering going on, the bride’s family comes with their goat, which was part of the Lobola, as their contribution to the whole cooking affair; the two parties must confirm that its one of the goats given as part of the Lobola, lest they bring some skinny emaciated animal with chewy meat.

The two families have to exchange gifts; the bride buys for the groom’s family gifts and vice versa. This, ladies and gentlemen is not a joke; its an expensive exercise and am sure the family regard you in higher esteem than other Makotis if you bought expensive stuff; am sure that is what most in my Kikuyu community would do.

After all the ceremonies, that is when the bride earns the title “makoti” which means daughter-in law. The whole family embraces the new bride and show her around; assuring her that she is no longer a stranger.

The food

Whenever am in South Africa, I love eating Samp, which is a mixture of maize and beans, more like Githeri, only that its done differently. I think the main reason I love it is because the maize is first undressed while our maize is cooked with the crust, which can be rough on the throat on the chewing and swallowing exercise but the Samp is very smooth.

The meat is very soft, maybe because it is cooked over a long period and the selection trumps our boring wedding dish of overcooked rice, black peas and beef. The setting of the tables can tell you much; but again, I was a visitor, so I was impressed because this was all done in a village and not in a 5-star hotel, so it told me the level of detail that went into it.

The meat impressed because it was fresh and in plenty, again, in Kenya we are meat lovers and this played into my food loving hands lol! That is the part of the tradition that the old men in my community like, so that they can claim that women and children don’t eat this and that part, women don’t come to the fire when they are in the barbecue process while in truth, they just want to eat all the best pieces.

The dancing

For such a long ceremony, it is important for the crowd to be engaged mainly through ample entertainment. There was a mixture of traditional and modern music, and boy, you have to love it!

In this ceremony, you have a right to get up and dance if you feel the rhythm is great and if you like, you can grab the person next to you, female or male and you can take the stage, albeit for just a minute.

I knew it was going to be an interesting day when I saw one lady; the oldest Makoti in the family dancing to the music just before the church ceremony started; minutes later, she was joined in the dance by young girls, who were showing such exuberance of youth, which makes the whole ceremony interesting.

If I thought the dancing at the church was great, I was wrong! I didn’t know that men can swing their waists that well that the dance becomes more sexy! Forget the Congolese dancers, they fade in comparison to the Zulu men, the movement and rhythm to the beats made everyone get on their feet, it doesn’t matter whether you are a good dancer or not, just get up and shake it!

Well, well, enter the bare chested girls; and the whole thing changes, I thought the Zulu dance of throwing up the feet was a boys affair, I was wrong, the girls did it with much vigor and energy, I wonders why they add weight later in life, they don’t even need the gym, just keep dancing; its sufficient exercise, but what do I know?

The dancing went on till after the ceremony at 9 pm, the catering team was so kind to leave the music in as they removed the decor, I imagined that back home, they would have switched off the music so people can go away; no, these guys appreciate entertainment. And yes, the youth were the majority among the last dancers, way after 10 pm.

The whole dancing affair taught me a knew lesson in engaging with people, its like crowd sourcing entertainment; when the Phangisile and Sihlwele were coming from the photo shoot, and from the change over to evening wear, people kept on dancing, showing off their skills, making sure no one was bored and if you were not on the floor, you were taking pictures.

In the end, I learnt a vital lesson; these are not shy communities; they are expressive, whether old or young, you all have a stage. It reminded me of how pretentious my society is; its rare to find men and women dancing together freely like they did.

Making new friends

This must be the most satisfying part of the ceremony for me, because for all the people I interacted with, we will no longer be strangers; we know that if they are in Nairobi, whether announced or unannounced, they can always say, hey, we met at that wedding!

For me, I was lucky to have Simangele and Nandi (another Makoti) to translate those things that I didn’t understand and answer some of the stupid questions I was asking, which made me fit in even more.

There were also other people whose names I cant even recall but I remember sharing conversations about president Jacob Zuma and his many wives and how women would have to queue for his attention and why we would all look for a side dish, just like one of the wives did.

You should have heard the conversation gravitate around how waiting for the turn is bad just in case you are not psyched and whether it is practical for modern men to be polygamous and satisfy all the women.

Then there was the discussion about the makotis and how some families think that they have found a new “slave” every time there is a new girl in the family which reminded me of the hostilities between mothers and daughters in law back in Kenya. The expectations seem to be common.

In this era of professional women with careers, manicured nails and designer suits, I think it can be considered unreasonable to expect what traditionally, a woman who was not working was expected to do. In some cases, you find that the families expect too much from the daughters-in law while the women born in that family are just as lazy… er…… committed.

Finally…

My advantage is that I can fit in many African communities, they will always look at me as one of their own, until they speak to me, until they realize that I am not aware they are speaking to me.

For instance; in the evening I joined some people on the fire, and someone was talking to me, he must have been talking for two minutes non-stop before he realized that I had no idea. The fire was hot and I was down memory lane; stepping on the fire stones in a way that would make my grandma throw something between my legs just to alert me that my “shop” was too exposed, that is if I was wearing a skirt.

The fire became a new meeting place and for the people to share their stories and the alcohol, you should have heard the cheers when the boxes with alcohol were brought in; the excitement! New stories were shared, which made it such a nice evening.

In the end, it felt more like home away from home and reminded me that people get chances to catch up and learn during these ceremonies.
World Cup Time out: Zulu Xhosa cultural experience

Football or not, Nigeria means business

Tonight Nigeria is taking on South Korea but there is no celebration because Nigeria is fading fast from its past… but that doesn’t mean that Nigerians will not enjoy and take advantage of the World Cup; if there is no win on the field, then business should win.

Nigeria is one of Africa’s footballing power houses; even when they don’t have the best team, they are always expected to perform well, after all, they are one of the richest nations.

It was fair for us to have legitimate expectations that Nigeria would at least go into the second round. Do better than countries like Slovenia and New zealand. But this has not been the case.

Forget that Kaita, seen as a rising star, decided to make a fool of himself in a way that he ruled himself out of future games, the team never looked like a shadow of its glorious past, forget represent the likes of Okocha and Oliseh.

After the red card, Nigerians declared that he was not welcome home; that he should go straight to Belgium where he plies his trade. Some argued that African players do not take their teams seriously, especially those based in Europe.

While all that was going on, it did not mean that Nigerians living in South Africa and those visiting were in mourning; they are busy talking business. This ensures that even if they lost in the pitch, they don’t lose off it.

By default, I happened to be at the right place when someone was invited for the party before the party and I joined in. Its not bad crashing parties especially when there are no many options.

So I went to the party, there were mainly Nigerians and Cameroonians and on that day, Cameroon was playing and the people did not look very happy. They were not even impressed when I suggested that Cameroon players were aging; but my defense was that I may not know much because Kenya is good at Marathon; eventually we were friends and talked a lot about African football.

Back to the party, I was told that it was to showcase Nigerian and Cameroonian businesses and there was a giant stand to show the array of opportunities as well as music to make sure the day was crowned.

There was so much, I didn’t even know that there were Yoruba descendants of Southern Africa. It maybe an avenue for someone to make money but the info was impressive.

I got chatting with one of the guys preparing barbecue or nyama choma about business prospects in South Africa and he was more optimistic that its better and is improving with time.

All the eating and drinking was good but I must admit that Nigeria seized the opportunity to market itself as a business destination. We have adverts about tourism in Brazil but I wonder why other African countries did not think of the opportunity to market themselves.

Imagine if the Kenya Tourism board had even a small table at one of the joints where fan who have tickets and those who don’t are gathering; you never know about the prospects.

You may think Nigeria did not do well on the field but in terms of generating business, I think they beat other countries by using the World Cup to attract some positive attention.

Rise of world cup pundits….

The other day, a friend texted me to say that she was sad Nigeria was losing. I don’t remember her being a football fan so out of courtesy I said “it’s great that Nigeria has such a fan”. The reply made me laugh “I am not a football fan, I a m a World Cup fan.”

It reminded me of how this month there will be several people in pubs and restaurants silencing others with their punditry. Some have no clue; others do but they all claim to be experts of sorts.

Given that matches are played every day, women have no choice but to learn some terms and withstand the two hour torture without the soap operas or movies; after all, it happens once every four years.

The problem with us women is that even when we know nothing about the team or the game, we want to contribute. In the process, the names are mangled and jumbled and if you ask deeper questions like who is the captain of that team or where does this footballer play, you realize the knowledge is based on quick sand.

Its not wrong to take a quick lesson and it doesn’t mean that all men know about soccer but even in a pub, all I want to do is watch it; don’t talk to me or offer your punditry, don’t bring funny celebrations or over do it because we are all there to have fun.

So, we all have our version of overnight pundits and others who don’t care but whatever it is; I think people are allowed because it is the world cup!

Having a lousy game? blame it on the Vuvuzela

Its always easy for a losing team to find someone or something to blame; thats why I was shocked Robert Green did not blame the Vuvuzela for his howler against USA. Green has taken some beating and he owned up to his mistake, continuing the English weakness in the goalkeeping position.

The funniest was Patrice Evra, French Captain, who blamed the dull and comma inducing draw on the Vuvuzela. He argued that their feet could not move smoothly because of the deafening noise.

During the Confederations cup, Xabi Alonso was leading the chorus for those who think the Vuvuzela should be banned, I cant wait to see how Spain will perform and whether the gadget will be banned.

In all the hulla ballooo, it has sounded like the “Africans” are the ones responsible for all the noise, but look again around the stadium and at least around Sandton, and you will get the idea how the gadget is popular.

The visiting fans have even learnt the rhythms and are busy blowing it everywhere; it has become the annoying sound we all want to hear, after all its the world cup.

BBC has indicated that it will cancel the noise with a high tech device or whatever it is; either way, we have been watching South African soccer with all that noise, maybe BBC pundits should learn how to shout like the other pundits.

My conspiracy theory mind thinks that either way, people will look for something negative just because this world cup is a success and is in Africa!

Is the World Cup benefitting the rest of Africa?

When FIFA announced that South Africa will host the 2010 world cup finals, it was instant jubilation for the country and indeed the continent.

Many countries especially around southern Africa saw it as an opportunity to attract international attention by hosting training camps given the weather is almost similar. This was a legitimate expectation because in 2006, small towns and cities in Europe got lots of attention by hosting teams.

But as time went on and the rebels in Cabinda decided to attack an African team, it became clear that teams would not be pitching tents in any of the countries, preferring to be based in Europe than Africa; even some African countries had to go to europe because teams could not accept to play practice matches locally.

Portugal and Brazil did many of us proud by playing games against Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, I think it was specially nice that Brazil played in Zim, at least they were not scared of Comrade Bob Mugabe. Can you imagine if it was England?

So, it was clear that the immense benefits would be to South Africa, and all sectors, especially tourism, had invested heavily in ensuring that football fans did not go home after the matches, but proceeded on safari.

Largely, it may look like other African countries did not benefit much but I think the benefits are there. On my flight from Nairobi to Jozi, there was a huge contigent of Chinese soccer fans, who were in Kenya on Safari and a smaller Swiss fan base, which was in the country for three days (I was eavesdropping on the conversation with SAA crew over Yellow fever certificate).

I am sure southern Africa countries will get visitors after the world cup and maybe others will venture further north of the Limpopo river to experience what Africa has to offer. Am sure much of the benefits will be felt later; maybe with increase in tourism numbers but some benefits such as marketing the continent as an investment destination will be harder to audit.

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Kenya ICT Board launches $ 4 million local content grant

This is the press release…will comment on it later..

The Kenya ICT Board is pleased to announce the launch of a Ksh 300 Million grant to promote the development of local digital content and software applications. The process kicked off with a ‘call for proposals’ in today’s Daily Nation newspaper.

The main purpose of this grant is to propel the emergent lucrative but yet underexploited local content industry to growth. The grant which targets the local content developers including software developers, film, animation, advertising, publishing, gaming and education professionals and all content creators, will provide the funding required for the development of quality applications relevant to the Kenya government and private sector.

Digital content, a major contributor and driver of economic growth in developed countries, can be broadly categorized as content accessed from electronic devices like personal computers, game consoles, mobile phones and digital TV. The internet offers the most common form of distribution of digital content. Digital content can include anything from internet based marketing, gaming, online education content and services.

Worldwide, digital content activities are transforming traditional industry structures and business models. Local examples include mobile payment systems like M-Pesa and Pesa Pal and government e-services like online PIN registration. Thus the digital content industry has vast potential as a major contributor to our economy and society through employment creation, capital investment and export earnings, provision of skills and capabilities to traditional as well as new and emerging industry sectors. At the same time it is also significant as a means of expressing Kenya’s unique cultural identity.

With over 3.4 million users of the internet in Kenya, research indicates that the importance of the internet outstrips those of several key developed countries. Even so, the latent demand for local content is underlined by the fact that surveys show that lack of local content is the main reason many Kenyans shy away from accessing the internet. On the launch of the grant facility, the CEO, Kenya ICT Board Paul Kukubo, commented,

“We are pleased that we are launching this grant at a time that the ICT industry is growing and access to the internet all over the country has vastly improved. The future for content industry is bright. Talent, creativity and skills are key drivers of competitiveness in the content sector and we expect that this grant will enable Kenyans everywhere to develop world class locally relevant content and get this industry to rapidly match the lucrative opportunities for talented content developers in developed nations.”

Kenyan content developers have already demonstrated their ability to be innovative, creative and entrepreneurial in their creation of content that is relevant to our people.

The increase in locally developed software applications, websites, films and animation has been extraordinary over the past few years. However, despite evidence of commercial potential, it is not currently competitive in attracting funds and investment capital. This content grant will give content creators in the country a chance to demonstrate their talent, in both the artistic, social and business environment and propel investor confidence in the sector in the long term.

Speaking at the press conference, the Deputy CEO, Victor Kyalo commented, “It is important that with the landing of the fiber optic cables that we as a country produce local digital content, not just ‘access’ other peoples content. It is very positive that Kenyans embrace and appreciate ICTs, but more important is that there are more Kenyan made e-Products available in the market.

We want this grant to motivate the local content creators and software developers to originate, create, and adapt quality content that the country needs .We intend this content grant to be a driver for the long term development of content and recognize that private and public sector need to pool resources to meet the capacity challenges this lucrative sector faces.”

The Government attaches high priority to addressing skills shortages because of the threat they pose to productivity and economic growth. To address this, the Kenya ICT Board has a number of initiatives purposed to build skills in the ICT sector. Among these are a Centre of Excellence for the BPO sector, an incubation program for software developers and a software certification standard that will give international accreditation and competitiveness to our local developers. Additionally, the board is creating organic growth within the ICT sector by training entrepreneurs (over 1000 already trained) to run digital villages all over the country. All these coupled with the improved infrastructure, has put Kenya in the forefront of potentially explosive growth in the content and software development sub-sector.

About the grant
The content grant is divided into two major sections: US$1.5Million for private sector applications and US$2.5M for government applications. The latter will be used to propel the utilization of ICTs to improve government service delivery . The government has in the past few years firmly embraced ICT to become more efficient and responsive in the delivery of its public service – from processing ID cards, driving licenses, registration of companies, revenue collection and currently, the digitization of records at the Ministry of Lands and the judiciary, with more government departments to follow. This is all in line with Kenya’s vision of becoming a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life by 2030.

The private sector grant of US$1.5M is open to firms and individuals to develop applications that would be of benefit to the general public or improve the delivery of existing private sector services.

The first round of grant allocation will award a maximum of US$ 50,000 per firms and US$ 10,000 for individuals. The Kenya ICT Board expects to make at least one call for application per year over the next three years.

The content funded by this grant will build capacity within the ICT sector create efficiencies, build social capital, increase utilization of ICTs by local communities and demonstrate to the world, Kenya’s talent for creation of digital content.
Key dates

Call for proposals: June 2, 2010
Deadline for proposals: July 19, 2010
Successfully grantees announced: 15 August, 2010
Disbursement of grant money: October 2010

Travel Diary: With Kenya Airways

When I heard that KQ had embraced technology, I thought it would make my travel life easier. I had stopped flying Kenya Airways because of overbooking and bumbing me off flights and in the process scuttling my plans and causing me monetary loss; and they didn’t care.

But on some routes, you can’t avoid KQ, you are stuck with it and whether you like it or not, I dont think they will change soon, so we have to get on with it.

There is something painfully wrong about missing a flight, except in some of those acts of nature like the volcanic ash and stuff. When it happens to you, it is understandable to want to yell at the airline staff who in most cases are not to blame but the airline itself.

Take Kenya Airways, it is well known that KQ has a penchant for over booking and canceling flights. In their effort to make sure that all flights are full, KQ doesn’t mind inconveniencing traveller.

But what I don’t understand is why Kenya Airways booked me on an 8.10 flight to Kigali this morning, while there is actually no such flight. I learnt this from a passenger who tried to book the flight a month ago but was told there is no such flight; they were stopping the flight from today. So, a bunch of us who were on the 8.10 flight wondered why we booked it or why KQ has it on their schedule anyway.

The funniest thing is that at 5.30 am, I got an sms from KQ, just as I was about to leave, telling me that the flight had been cancelled and that I would be on the 10.50 flight.

So, I religiously came to the airport 2.5 hours before time, even though they say 2 hours before. I am so afraid of KQ overbooking crap that I would do anything to be there on time.

Getting to the airport am told that we cant get on to the flight because the other people who had not left their telephone contacts were at the airport and filled the flight. So, why dint they just let me come and I would not have been in this mess.

I was feeling that KQ had finally embraced technology but it has taken it the other way round; it is using technology to punish passengers. Beware; your day will technically be wasted because your plans are disrupted.

I know Kenya Airways is better than most airlines in Africa and its good to be patriotic but not at the expense of my plans. If it was a natural calamity its ok but human error? KQ can do better.

THe funniest part is that no one will compensate you, cancel your meetings but even the taxi, you have to haggle KQ to reimburse or give you transport back home.

Then this KQ rep said we were to get vouchers worth $150 but now it seems they have reneged; we are getting nothing now. Explanation; flight was cancelled, its not overbooking.

Time wasted!