Charts: County Skill Level and “Poverty” Rates
September 18, 2014 — 15:02

There exists disparities in the level of education within counties. Looking at the list of the counties with highest proportion of skilled population – calculated as population with more than secondary level education – Nairobi leads the way. But that would be due to migration of skilled labor from other counties to look for employment.

From the next chart, you notice how skill level and poverty rates compare in some selected counties.

But knowing how poverty rate is calculated, what does it mean for counties inhabited by nomadic pastoralist communities who own large herds of cattle but with no income in the conventional sense?

poverty rates and cattle owned

In counties like Turkana, for instance, inhabitants own large herds of cattle (around 1.5 million) yet still ranked as having the highest poverty rate in Kenya (88%).

African Countries with Access to Information Laws.
September 16, 2014 — 16:05

A few weeks ago, the Kenyan Cabinet gave their green light for the enactment of the Access to Information and Data Protection bills that have been in discussion since 2006.

Below is a map of 23 African Countries that already have Acccess to Information laws that make data access easier for their citizens. Hopefully Kenya will be Joining pack soon! :)

Kenya as a Single Map of Her Infrastructure
September 16, 2014 — 13:24

Kenya as a single map of her Major Infrastructure and resources.
– Administrative boundaries
– Population
– Major Towns
– Electricity Grid
– Roads
– Railways
– Under sea cable
– Hydro-power dams


View larger map

Making Sense of Africa’s Middle Class – Standard Bank Definiton.
September 15, 2014 — 13:22

There has been a lot of talk about the African Middle class and looking at the amount of attention this issue has received, there is something there.

A few weeks ago, the Standard Bank released a new report mapping Africa’s middle class ecosystem, which went in contrary to what the African Development Bank (AFDB) had predicted in 2010. AFDB was very ambitious with their numbers but check out the chat below for a few select countries’ popupation, Standard bank projections 2014 and 2030 with AFDB’s 2010 report.

Feel free to leave a comment.

Literacy rates from selected countries
September 11, 2014 — 14:05

The world marked the International Literacy day earlier this week.

According to the UN, literacy is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development, as it empowers people so that they can make the right decisions in the areas of economic growth, social development and environmental integration.

Literacy rate is defined as the percentage of total population over the age of 15 that can read and write.

But how literate is the Kenyan population and how does it compare to its neighbors, the rest of Africa and the world in general?

Notice how well Zimbabwe is doing, easily amongst the best in Africa. Germany and Luxembourg typify the situation in Western Europe. Afghanistan and Burkina Faso, on the other hand, rank as the most illiterate populations in the world.

Breaking it down by gender, we see just how glaring the disparity is. We can get the Gender Parity Index -dividing the female figure by the male figure – for literacy in the selected countries to get a clear view. The closer to 1 the index is, the more gender-equal the population is in terms of literacy.

Brazil is particularly interesting: the female population is more literate compared to the male population!

Convicted Prison Female Population by Age , 2008 – 2012
September 5, 2014 — 12:33

Principal Crops Average Prices to Producers, 2006 – 2012
September 4, 2014 — 9:03

Have you ever thought of becoming a farmer? If so, what would you grow on your farm?
Below is an analysis of the crops that are grown in Kenya and a breakdown of how much the producers g0t in Kenyan shillings per 100kg between 2006 and 2012.

The most interesting numbers as you can see are clearly from growing pyrethrum which has a very high return per 100kg.
Refer to this past post of flower farming in Nakuru County. Clearly, the money still lies in the flowers although their production has significantly reduced.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.46.40 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.46.19 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.48.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.48.00 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.47.37 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.47.25 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.47.08 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.46.54 PM

Major Causes of Death in Kenya 2010 – 2013
September 1, 2014 — 9:06

The Real Estate Market in Nairobi.
August 21, 2014 — 10:18

Moving houses is something I have found to be most fascinating and as a friend told me, it is quickly becoming my hobby. An expensive hobby time and money wise but I guess that is the thrill!

ToLet

For me, moving houses is proving to be one of the most fulfilling data collection and analysis project I have ever done. I have paid for information on the housing sector so many times, I have been in the depth of misleading information and I have used previously collected information to find houses with no need for a housing agent as we will see below.

The most famous real estate websites in Kenya are www.olx.co.ke, www.buyrentkenya.com, www.property254.co.ke, www.expat-blog.com, www.capitalfm.co.ke among others. Well, these are my 1st data sources. This is where you get the agent contacts from. Important to note is that when you look through these sites long enough, you will realize that these are the same agents who advertise different houses on the different spaces.

The most annoying of the experience with working with house agents is the fact that the agents will advertise a very amazing house at a very “unbelievably good” offer, and this offer normally lasts until an hour before you view the house as mostly “ahh, I am sorry madam, the house was reserved just an hour ago by someone else but I have other houses just like that one.” No he doesn’t! Well, this is the first agent whose number you should lose, well.. if you are not into the kinds of people that will play you.

Below are some of my findings from the housing market and I must mention that after reading Freakonomics, for sure housing agents and the Ku Klux Klan… same logic!

Space

The greatest fraud of the upcoming Nairobi real estate market especially on newer houses/apartments is space.

In my search for a new home, I visited the apartments in mention on the twitter post below:

these are 3 bedroom apartments that go for about KES 90,000 but once you go in, you probably will not pay anything more than KES 70,000. The rooms were all small and very squeezed bedrooms and bathrooms and the architect probably needed to be fired before the foundation was dug. As Leonard Mudachi’s frustrations on designs show in this tweet:

Most of the newer house designs look the same, a shower head right atop the toilet seat, all in the struggle to squeeze in an extra feature.

Still on space there is one trick; an entire apartment block of two bedroom apartments is fine. Another of three bedroom apartments is fine too. Problem comes in when you find blocks of two and three bedroom apartments as very often, the two bedroom has been converted into a three bedroom at an extra cost.

Trees

If you are like me, trees are one of the most important things when it comes to making a home.

This is my current home, at least for the next few hours and as you can see, I literally live in a forest!

Soon to be former home :-(The reasons for my moving is what my friend describes as “soon there will be no apartment standing in Kile, the apartment economy is the tablet of the technology scene!” This house was built in 1976!

This is beside the point but generally, houses that have trees in site, not sight tend to be a lot more specious. In an estate where there are some trees, old or newly planted the house designs tend to also leave some space for a flower pot if you wish.

In places where all you see is concrete and cabro, the houses are generally smaller even though with “modern finishing.” Case in point, the apartments in the tweet above.

Owners  and house pictures

The most disappointing thing about looking for a house online is when i started to notice a trend of some kitchen  or bathroom pictures looking very familiar. Some of the pictures were actually recycled, posing a nice kitchen to be that of another house while it is not and for those like me who love to cook, kitchen space and setting is very important. Too important.

Advertised houses where there is only one picture, do not trust the advertiser. I repeat, Do. Not. Trust. The. Advertiser! Retreat. When the agent has no picture proof of the house he/she is selling, that means that they have no idea what they are selling and no matter how gorgeous, specious, fantastic or in a great neighborhood they say it is, ! you cannot trust them. Mostly the reason for this is, the house owners have not given them any permission to advertise or simply do not want to work with agents. If you can, as I did, get a photographic memory, drive around gate to gate and find the house.

Houses that were build and are managed by the owner are the best. Mostly, these are not as greedy as the construction agency and are always more spacious and well thought of.

Agents – fee/free

As you may know, I am in the data business and I do charge my clients for information. It is only fair that I pay for information and I have paid up to KES 10,000 for housing information from one agent (that i ended up not liking.) Some agents work for free as they get the commission from the house owners while others want you to pay upfront, normally KES 2,000. Others only ask you to pay after you find the house.

While we are in the business of rewarding people for their hard work and information, if you can, avoid those agents that bring up payment in their first 3 statements. These are mostly greedy and if you can, do not work with them unless you have somehow confirmed housing details and are willing to make the move.

Old vs new

Old houses are generally more spacious than the new houses. Newer houses have better finishing but most often poorer designs. In general, older houses were managed by the owners and as mentioned above, owners normally have the best interests of their investments. This is however not for all, but most of them ad I have easily sampled over 100 houses over the past two years.

The other fraudulent thing in the real estate system worldwide is that most houses are advertised more on their location not their features. A crappy house in a “popular neighborhood” sells better than a great house in a quieter less known place.

Balconies

Someone at architectural design school is going so wrong in so many places when it comes to designing houses and house balconies.

I once saw a great house whose bedroom balcony faced a classroom of the French School and one of the selling points for this house was, it has two balconies. The second balcony faced the apartments’ stairway.

Most apartments near the road have balconies facing directly to the road, which is a disaster for the house cleaner as this is an open call for a dusty and noisy house at any given point!

Some balconies however face the directly facing apartment’s balcony and unless you are in the mood for a little neighborhood chitchat across balconies, this is probably a big no no!

Some houses have greatly placed balconies and others simply dont, which often means a bigger living area space, well less outside.. depending on what you are into.

Some houses were most likely built by people who do not appreciate the idea of laundry washing and before you know it, you can only hang your laundry in the living-room balcony, pausing an aesthetics and movement challenge.

This said and done, I have found a new home that I like and that tends to do away with a lot of the above challenges so next time you are house hunting, I am your guy, very affordable!

Related post: Read this post Data for housing agencies, the steriotypes – 2012

Flower Farming in Nakuru County
August 5, 2014 — 10:35

Located 90 km from Kenya’s capital, Nakuru county in the Rift Valley is a great agricultural center, endowed with amazing touristic destinations with lakes and craters.

Agriculture is a major contributor to the Kenyan economy, with up to 22% stake in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The horticultural industry is one of Kenya’s economy fastest growing industries and another great contributor to the GDP, with 3% input to the GDP (approximately USD 1 billion annually to the economy). Of this, the floriculture subsector contributes 1.6%.

Kenya’s climate is very favorable for flower farming. Differences in altitude allow dynamic climatic conditions from the hot coastal plain up to the cool highlands. With a temperate climate prevails above 1500m with daytime temperatures ranging from 22 °C to 30 °C and night time temperatures from 6 °C – 12 °C. There are two distinct rainy seasons. The long rains from March to June and short rains during September and October.  The rainy days are restricted to 60 – 80 days, giving a chance to excellent radiation most of the year, which is ideal for the year-round growing of quality flowers.

Nakuru County is Kenya’s floriculture center, contributing highly to the employment and economic development of its people. According to the Lake Naivasha Growers Group (LNGG), there are 73 flower farms in the county, with Naivasha town accounting for 48 of these.

Flower farming in Kenya dates back to 1928, which started with the introduction of pyrethrum, a flower used in the production of natural insecticide. For an extended period of time, Kenya was the biggest producer of pyrethrum in the world, producing up to 90% of the world’s pyrethrum up until 1998, a position that has since been taken over by Tasmania, Australia. Pyrethrum production used to be at over 18000 metric tonnes (MT) per annum, a number that has drastically reduced to about 200 MT per annum.

According to Mr. Nyang’au, a former pyrethrum farmer in Nakuru County, the major contributors to this decline have included:

  • Poor farmer remuneration
  • Mismanagement of funds at the board and farmer societies
  • Introduction of synthetic insecticides to the market. Synthetics might be cheap but are not only environmentally unfriendly but this introduction also competed with the farmers’ natural options.
  • Pyrethrum farming is very labor intensive and this means that small-scale farmers who depended on school breaks for cheap labor from their children and students were not able to cope during school terms.
  • The introduction of other cash crops, whose timing coincided with the declining times of pyrethrum production also pushed these numbers further down.

While pyrethrum farming has seen a decline in Kenya, countries like Rwanda are making an entry into the market with pyrethrum farming which has started to see sustainable income for the farmers. This is a clear indication that there is still great potential in investing in pyrethrum flower farms, especially for the small farmers as the demand for the produce by manufacturers of natural insecticides is still set to be on the increase.

The Nakuru County governor, Mr. Kinuthia Mbugua constituted a task force in 2013 to investigate the decline of the pyrethrum farming in the country, with a mandate to suggest action plans that would be taken to revive the subsector throughout the country, to attract new interests among farmers to get into pyrethrum farming.

In the agricultural sector, floriculture in Kenya is the second largest foreign exchange earner after tea. The floriculture sub sector has seen a great increase both in exports, local sales and profits. Contributing up to 1.6% to the country’s GDP, with unvalidated statistics showing that in 2012, the floriculture industry exported 123,511 tons of flowers valued at KES 42.9 billion. The flower industry is one of Nakuru County’s biggest employers both directly and indirectly with over 500,000 people (including over 90,000 flower farm employees) depending on the floriculture industry.

The vast area of Naivasha constituency is covered in green houses that are used for flower farming. Kenya is the leading exporter of rose cut flowers to the European Union (EU) with a market share of about 38%. Approximately 65% of exported flowers are sold through the Dutch Auctions to the European market that includes Holland, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Switzerland; and although these exports did not start until as late as the 1970, the flower industry has enjoyed great attention around the world especially for the good quality of flowers grown, leading to a maintained average growth of 20% per annum.

Naivasha constituency is the most convenient location for flower farming due to its proximity to Lake Naivasha, given the high water demands in flower production; both in irrigation and maintenance of the farm machinery.

Naivasha being 1880 m above sea level gives the area an ideal climatic condition for floriculture. The main flowers grown include: roses (53.6%), Easter lilies (26.5%), Arabicum (4.1%) carnations (3.1%), and Hypericum (1.98%). Other flowers cultivated include, Gypsophilla, Lilies Eryngiums, Arabicum, Hypericum, Statice, and a range of summer flowers.

In the recent past, the flower farms have come under a lot of pressure on issues of overdrawing water from Lake Naivasha (although this is not conclusively proven as the lake keeps rising and falling), water pollution, poor employee working conditions and remuneration. Some of the problems have seen Karuturi, one of the largest cut rose producers in the county, at 6 billion stems of cut rose for export a day, come under receivership and face management hardships.

According to Mr. Eddy Verbeek, General Manager at Florensis Kenya, there are various challenges that are faced by the Kenyan flower industry.

This varies from downturn in the European economies, the flower industries’ main market, resulting in the reduction of sales prices or static at best. Escalation of the production costs in Kenya in the same period including fertilizers, chemicals, fuel, power and labor in the order of 8-10% per annum. This results in minimum profit margins that can’t sustain re-investment and expansion.

Although Vision 2030 anticipates that the agricultural sector delivers a double digits growth per annum, the sector is paying for well over 45 different taxes, permits and levies to various government bodies. In the new devolved system, most of what is ailing the industry is that, “with the devolved government, it looks like the counties are coming up with new licenses, levies and permits for the same things we already pay to national government.” Instead of just adding new ones the counties should focus on harmonization and rationalization of the licenses, permits and levies.

The sector is embracing the newly devolved county government. It has the potential to work closely on a county level to make floriculture flourish. The issues that farms in Nakuru have are different than the farms at Mt. Kenya or Coastal regions. Working with a county government instead of national government could be an advantage.

With the new devolved system of government, the Nakuru County government has a task to ensure that the flower industry maintains its profitability without bearing too much burden on imposed taxes even as they push to increase their revenue collection. The result of this would be a balanced ecosystem where the flower farms are able to maintain their profits and their employees since if otherwise operation costs are heightened, this would be transferred to the customer which in effect might lead to reduced sales and whose ripple effect might be loss of jobs and livelihood to the citizens that depend on the industry.