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Too Much Data… Endless Possibilities.

Recently, I applied for a loyalty card in one of retail outlets. I was, as part of the procedure, required to fill out a form. The most striking aspect of the process was the actual amount and the level of detail in the information that I had to part with. This included, among other details:

  • Personal details – my date of birth, gender
  • Household and family details – my spouse, size of my household, number of children
  • Location details – residence
  • Contact details – email, phone number
  • Behavioral details – occupation, interests
  • Financial details – who I bank with

A quick look at this information could only lead to one inference: retail outlets in Kenya are, knowingly or not, effective collectors of staggeringly useful data.

Remember, these retail brands have outlets all over the country: In every major town you would expect to find one of, some of and in some cases, all of Tuskys, Naivas, Nakumatt or Uchumi outlets just to name some of the major brand names. This means they collect this data every single day while effortlessly covering the whole country.

Taking all these information about shoppers, adding to this the fact that the loyalty card provides a system to track shopping habits like frequency of shopping, items purchased and amount spent over time all mapped to an individual; and then overlaying this against already existing demographic data would create a rich and massive data set from which no limits exist when it comes to what could be achieved from it.

Association rules and patterns between variables could easily be used to inform targeted marketing strategies, shopping basket data analysis, product clustering, catalog design, stocking, store layout plans and channel expansion among other retail-specific business decisions.

The goal here would be to turn all this information into actionable insight. First and foremost, the right business questions must be asked. From these questions, appropriate analytic techniques and tools are developed to add value to this customer data by turning it into insight.

Whether this is happening within the Kenyan retail space and at a level high enough to influence outcome is debatable but one thing is for sure: Out there, brands like Budget are firmly in the current datafication-of-life wave and have been known to use customer data as the corner stone of their strategy.

The business needs are there, the data is there, the intellectual capacity is there – so why are we not utilizing these again?

The Rape Conundrum

Over the last few days, reports of a politician accused of alleged sexual assault has dominated the airwaves and resurrected the whole rape and sexual offenses debate about who to blame or rather how to rid our society of this heinous and insensate act.

The chart below shows the total number of reported offenses against morality – a category of crimes that includes rape, defilement, incest, sodomy, bestiality, indecent assault, abduction and bigamy according to the Kenya Police Service – in the 5 year period between 2009 and 2013 broken down into specific crimes. Please keep away from the defilement section if you do not wish to be appalled!

offenses breakdown
Evidently, there is a steady rise in the number annually, ignoring the slight fall in 2012.

This, though, is the number of reported crimes and hence would not include the crimes where victims keep quiet out of fear, embarrassment or just ignorance.

A slight peek into this debate always brings out an uncomfortable truth. It is almost conventional wisdom now that to reduce these incidents, ladies should change their mode of dressing, take self-defense classes, carry pepper spray in their handbags, avoid some designated areas, et al: all this in a free society!

This, to me, conveys a certain narrative. That it is your fault you were raped. You should have known how to fight. You should have been stronger. You should have dressed differently from what makes you comfortable. You should have avoided that street.

Why blame the victim, albeit indirectly?

This is not me assuming that rape only occurs against women and it is only perpetuated by men. No. This is a collection of thoughts about this predilection to lay blame on the victim while minimal exertion is directed at the perpetrator.

So How Do We Change This?

Well, a tweet I came across on “rape prevention advice” embodied what I have felt for long..

To some, it is just an insensitive attempt at making a mockery of the vice.

I think not. To me, it is a well thought-out strategy that rightly shifts the power of prevention from the victim, innocent and barely on the wrong, to the perpetrator, who is in control and can decide whether an actual rape takes place or not.

With the current narrative, a victim feels responsible and might make them hide the truth out of fear of blame and more victimization while the perpetrators move from victim to victim. But if it were to be packaged, instead, as an intolerable act of violence where the perpetrators are called out for who they are and what they did and the victims supported in their recovery then we might see a difference.

Let us move away from telling the victim/probable victim that it is/was their fault and they shouldn’t exercise their right to movement, dressing and association in a free society and shift to reminding the perpetrators that it is their fault and their decision to bring harm to another human being. That what they did cannot be condoned.

Time to stop saying, “You were wrong to be raped” to the victim but turn to the perpetrator and say, “You were wrong to rape.”

World Water Day

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Sylvia Earle

On Sunday, March 22nd, 2015, the world marked the World Water Day, a United Nations initiative to celebrate clean water and highlight the plight of the not-so privileged when it comes to access to clean water and sanitation. The theme for 2015 is “water and sustainable development”.

Globally, 748 million people do not have access to an improved source of drinking water and 2.5 billion do not use an improved sanitation facility. Improved sources of water are less prone to contamination making them safer. They include piped water, rain harvested water, borehole water and water from protected wells.

Water and sanitation

In Kenya, 52.5% of the population have access to improved water – though the number significantly differs between rural (44%) and urban areas (71.7%) and between the various counties. 84% of Nairobi’s residents have access to improved water sources while only 20% of those in Narok are as fortunate.


Improved sanitation include connections to main sewer, septic tank, cesspit, Ventilated-Improved Pit latrine and covered pit latrine.

The national figure for access to improved sanitation is 61.1%. Nairobi is again the best placed county with Wajir as the lowest placed county, 13 times worse off than the capital and 9 times worse off than the national average.


According to the World Water Development Report, demand for water around the world will increase by 55% over the next 15 years. This strain is expected to impact hugely on health and food sustainability with Sub-Saharan Africa most at risk.

Calls for improved security, job creation, end to corruption et al are no doubt benevolent but if we can’t formulate policies to ensure sustenance of basic life as well, then we might be putting the cart before the horse here.

How does Education Level Affect Employment?

The recent release of the results of the 2014 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations was predictably met with the usual post-KCPE/KCSE effusiveness about growing numbers sitting for the exam et al before predictable discussions about how to reform the education system followed by Kenyan-style hibernation until next year when this year’s results will be released.

Recently though, in a discussion about socio economic factors in Kenya, someone brought up the issue of employment.

Employment rate is used as a measure of labor market conditions and an economy’s ability to provide jobs for its population. Kenya’s unemployment rate grew from just over 12% in 2007 to 40% of the labor force in 2013.



Among the 10 counties with the highest proportion of employed persons in Kenya, Nairobi and counties around the capital make up 6 of them. This reinforces an earlier point about urbanization as a form of brain drain where the rest of Kenya’s counties act as feeders for Nairobi and the counties around it.

But what implications does education level have on type of occupation?

employment type

2 striking observations:

The first, individuals with secondary-plus education are 1.6 times more likely to be wage-employed than those with primary level education only. This forms a good basis to argue for the scrapping of the primary school version of the KCSE, the KCPE.

Year in, year out, a significant proportion of the students who sit for the KCPE are locked out of high school after “failing” the national exams. This means that at the age of 13 or 14, the system already slashes an individual’s probability to gain wage employment by 1.6 times. You simply can’t grow an economy like that. Anyone see the paradox in declaring education free yet limit its access? Let everyone get a high school education at least, whether they are a good student or not. Simple.

Also, people with no formal education are more likely to be engaged in agriculture than those with a secondary-plus education. Agriculture is the backbone of this economy which, then, makes it is self-defeatist to leave it to the hands of those with no formal education. It should not be an after-thought, a plan B, when employment seems unattainable. Make agriculture sexy, shower it with incentives and let’s grow this economy.

Great Prospects for the Kenyan Economy But…

Good news for the Kenyan economy: The latest Kenya Economic Update (KEU) by the World Bank projects the country’s growth to rise from 5.4 per cent in 2014 to up to 7 per cent between 2015 and 2017.

This would place Kenya among the top five fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, with growth rates rising to between 6 and 7 per cent over the next 3 years.

GDP Growth Rate

Positive ramifications are expected from the falling oil prices and increased public investment in infrastructure, the standard gauge railway to be precise, which is expected to strengthen growth at least in the medium term.

However for the economy to perform at the required level, some trends have to be reversed. Chief among them is in the manufacturing sector where its contribution to overall GDP has been abysmal. It is common knowledge that expanding economies thrive on a strong manufacturing sector that not only improves the balance of trade by contributing to exports but provides employment as well.

In Kenya though, the sector’s contribution has has been minimal and has been threatening to fall even farther.

manufacturing sector

As Maria Paulina Mogollon, the World Bank Group’s private sector development specialist puts it, “Kenya needs to increase the competitiveness of its manufacturing sector so that the country can grow, export, and create much needed jobs.”