Back in the day, I chose my Kenyan matatu by its paint job and musical selection – the more wild and African the better. But today the matatus of Nairobi are quiet, their proud African voices silenced by a music tax.
The Music Copyright Society of Kenya had put a pox on the sounds of Africa by requiring that matatus pay Sh2,000 ($27) or more to MCSK in royalties to play music in their share-ride vans. Now that may not sound like much money, but itâ€™s the concept that strikes me (and a few matatu drivers) as crooked.
Matatus, taxis, and other commercial passenger vehicles usually play the radio or CD’s. With the radio, it’s the broadcasters that should have already paid royalties. With CD’s and tapes, how can the MCSK make such a blanket tax without knowing if the music was legally bought or even made by the musicians they represent? Its not like MCSK is passing on the royalties to Bob Marley or any other Western artist. Its not even paying it own members all that much.Read More
Last night in a Seattle airport bar, I learned we would have the son of an immigrant as our next president. I have never slept better on a redeye flight. While I dozed in happiness on the way home to DC, joy and relief passed through the hearts of the world.
We just proved the American Dream is alive – anyone can be President.
And even though I missed the epic Election Day parties here in DC, I’m headed to the biggest Barak Obama party ever – Kenya.
The country is in a fit of ecstatic delight. The son of a Kenyan, President of America. I am crying as I type this, overwhelmed with pride in my country. I cannot even imagine what a beacon of hope Obama brings to Kenya.Read More
This week I’m staying in the Nairobi Serena Hotel, an oasis of luxury in the lush tropical gardens of Nairobiâ€™s Central Park, and my hotel room has breath-taking views of Nairobi’s skyline – an African success story writ in glass and steel.
But don’t just take my word for it. Talk a video gander at my hotel room view for yourself:
Now don’t you want to be in the Serena Hotel yourself right now? Swimming in the pool on a warm summer day, with that skyline peeking past the attentive staff? I know I do…Read More
How can you make an African shopkeeper happy? How can you also make him legal, and hopefully move him or her from the informal to the formal economy of his country? In Kenya you can do this quickly and easily by building a kiosk.
For years under the Moi administration, small shops operated in every unimproved stretch of street that had decent foot traffic. Over time, these shops created their own traffic, their own economies of scale that, on occasion, the government would take exception to.
Then the shops would be razed, destroying livelihoods, commerce, dreams of the very poor African shopkeeper, the very people who were working the hardest to escape poverty. This cycle kept the illegal squatters from improving their shops too much, creating the very eyesores that brought the government bulldozers.
As part of the whole new Nairobi, the city council is changing its ways. It is now building strong, permanent shops for shopkeepers, replacing tin with metal, scrap wood with concrete, dreams with reality.Read More
In the 1990’s, Kenya’s capitol developed a reputation as a center of thievery and lawlessness. People would be harassed by glue-sniffing street kids, their cars robbed of anything valuable, and any respectable citizen fled the city at sunset. That’s why they called it “Nai-robbery.”
When I was here in January 2003, President Mwai Kibaki had just been elected, ending twenty-seven years of rule by Daniel arap Moi, rule that became exponentially more corrupt over time. Kibaki’s arrival was greeted by two weeks of parties, the country rejoicing over the change, with optimism so high it frothed over in the streets of Nairobi.
For the first time in decades the zebra crossings were re-painted and cars stopped for pedestrians. Traffic police were refused bribes with drivers requesting a real ticket instead. The whole country seemed to cleanse itself overnight. At the time, I was impressed, but I didn’t think it would last.