Standards, enterprise and rights: a trilogy of extremes for Kenyan women

At the green edges of the Mount Kenya National Reserve, about 300km from Nairobi, in a small little known town called Kimahuri, is a rusty chimney that savors with sweet potato. This is the home of Mary Mukami. She is a potato farmer. I met her at the Agricultural Society of Kenya show in Nyeri in 2015. Her story introduces four concepts that exemplify how the social invisibility of women’s role in production as well as the perceived informality of their innovations could be major obstacles to standardization for women-owned enterprises.

Mukami spent a better part of her life a thousand kilometers away in Rift-valley, precisely in Molo, where her parents and community indoctrinated her into potato farming. After the skirmishes of the 2008 post-election violence, she emigrated with her husband to what she calls, her own beginning.

To start, she worked as a casual at a neighbor’s farm under a contract locally called mafuti, meaning that the more square feet she tilled the more she earned. Her long experience in farming ensured that she dug better and more square feet than a typical Kimahuri woman. She outdid the men as well, and unlike them continued her work after lunch-time from 2-4:30pm. She instantly became a favorite with employers.

One evening, her neighbor passed word that she would be among four other women to weed his crop of cabbage. She had no work scheduled so she prepared for mafuti. It was a hectare of about 40,000 cabbages, weeding would ensure she had a job for a whole week. At 8 sharp she stood at the farm with a thermos flask of tea, a bowl of mataha and a customized hoe. Quarter past and the women began. About an hour later, a rug, struggling with a hang-over joined in, noisy and nasty. He stood most of the time to entertain with some vulgar tunes.

It struck 1pm and the women approached the farmer’s homestead for pay. To her surprise, her employer brought a different yard-stick that not only measured bigger square feet but also revised the rates for women. It infuriated her the same way it did an undocumented lot of other women and she raised complaint. As usual, only she did. It reminded her of the desire to earn extra when as the only woman, she had to cook for the other laborers or run for water in jerrycans when petrol ran out. But since these were normal customary roles, only the diggings were compensated.

Well, with perseverance she mobilized some capital and leased her own farm. As the crop established she instantly encountered weaknesses with kiudutho; an unaccredited strategy for sourcing and management. Her potatoes delayed 10 more days to germinate and she had to order 50% more seed to replace half a bag that was simply rotten, 20% of her rows that failed to germinate and another 20 that had sprout weak. Unlike Molo, Kimahuri has no seed multiplication station for certifying seed. Regular farmers replant part of their harvest. The clever ones, such as the women group at the Archdiocese, buy it in the guise of food from outstanding farmers. On average, their crop would yield four fold at a tenth of disease pressure.

There was more. Mary spent 30% more on nutrition and pests due to counterfeit fertilizer and pesticides. At a critical stage she couldn’t irrigate because her 1.5inch PVC pipes had burst and she was tired of repairing her Honder (not Honda) water pump. So riddled with counterfeits they even spilt over her farm into the electrical fencing around the Mount Kenya national park. This presented her worst nightmare, the risk of wildlife depredation. She joked how her husband would shop for literally everything including her own sanitary towels, afraid that she would buy fakes.

Anyway, Mukami harvested what she equated to about twelve bags of 100kg worth about Kshs 24,000. Similar input, excluding sleepless nights fighting elephants and porcupines and irrigation, would yield an easy 50 bags of equal measure in Molo. Her crop was late three weeks past the peak prices. She was in with the glut and potentially bad weather a recipe for loss.

Middlemen in Kimahuri, weigh the harvest by muthukio, a subjective way of feeling the tension a potato bag creates on your arms. Mukami once attempted to weigh the bag and it logged slightly above 120kg, suggesting that for every 5 bags she was ripped off a bag. They could controversially expand to steal more. At length, Mukami had seven bags worth Kshs. 7,000. The alternative was to sell directly to the market and when this included boarding the truck as the only woman on a night-long journey to Mombasa, the husband declined. She was devastated!

Her kids were now old enough to tend themselves after school and Mukami saw opportunity to focus on her makeshift hotel, in Kimahuri town. She serves the usual tea and maandazi, bean stew with chapatti or ugali and special, which is basically all of the above in a potato stew. One afternoon, her clients demanded for saucer, a small portion of the food served as a discount. If contained, she says it could save her Kshs 500 everyday, enough to double her pace of acquiring a dairy cow.

The story of Mary Mukami is not substantially different from that of other women who run 48% of SMEs in Kenya. Although they contribute 60% of employment and 55% of national wealth they are disproportionately plagued. Findings can be stereotypical, for instance, challenges of inadequate management skills actually imply the lack of a formal code say ISO 9001. Gender-blind market intelligence and infrastructure could easily portray women as incapable of delivering customer satisfaction; reason why two thirds of all women-owned enterprises die in the first year. Another hurdle is presenting women as purely victims of weak metrology and QA.

To the contrary, and to the stupendous notion “anything informal is dysfunctional”, women could be their own cure. Example? The Archdiocese’s women group secured a grant under the constituency development fund to set-up a seed multiplication station. Relying on self-reporting they profiled market demand, ecological suitability and the husbandry capability of members. With endorsements from the Padre and the area chief, they sanctioned all potato measures to a standard 100kg sisal bag. They also held a workshop with the local agrovet suppliers to invigilate contraband fertilizer and pesticides. As of last month, with Safaricom and ecologists from Kiriri Women’s University they created a text-line for reporting stray elephants to the Kenya Wildlife Service. WHO also initiated them into the fortification mark of quality to identify food options for eliminating micro-nutrient deficiencies among under 5yr.

The results? Human-wildlife conflicts are down to 10%, mothers’ remunerable time quadrupled by an extra ten hours every week whereas household income has in cases grown tenfold. This concert between in/formal standardization has lowered residual toxicants to allowable limits set by supermarkets and exporters for snow peas, French beans and Irish potato. Other fetes such as equal pay for work of equal value, overtime and access to export contracts, testify to the potential of metrology for equitable social change.

The pink principle: what to do with attributes to build a “customer-first” hotel

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I coach tourism management and often, I brainstorm with hotel executives and get stuck to crack new ways to grow sales. The first thing I do is remind them that, “Attributes matter more than products”. Weird? But strangely, we win. Continue reading “The pink principle: what to do with attributes to build a “customer-first” hotel”

Classy bathroom taps that crack the code for Olive Gardens

Directions and navigating maps, I am the worst. I prefer landmarks. Hurlingham is vast and has too many facilities branded Olive Gardens, but once they told me its right next to Nairobi Women Hospital, the rest was easy.

I recently attended a workshop there on the impacts of mercury in dental fillings. The debate was dense, matter of fact, denser that the mercury we sought to eliminate. It is for this particular feeling that we needed somewhere serene to retreat, somewhere new ideas descend freely without weighing down the soul. Like a feather.

We started off at Flamingo Hall and right there, in that large rectangular order of seats and tables, and the dark center, we felt too old for each other and tired. The windows were large and though they didn’t fail to illuminate, the ceramics below yearned for something more animated. Outside, in the vegetation, it was no secret that real birds were calling. The air was just perfect. Yet, why the enervation?

Let’s go back.

I had traveled 600 km the previous night, from Mombasa. I was wasted and needed a quick shower before running back into the workshop. I also needed a change of clothes, wearing the same ones I had traveled in was starting to feel outdated.

I rushed to the reception to check in. I met Mercy. She had sparkling eyes and they held me and led me to the lounge, onto a very deep couch to wait. I became keen, enough to view fine detail, the features and just how much workmanship had gone into the hotel. There were the usual innovations with glass-top tables, the ones with a woven frame. Abstract paintings and hard-wood paneling, state-of-art entertainment and WiFi. But there were bizarre flowers of wire and foil paper.

The entire facility was held within three floors. At the ground floor, where I sat and to whence the main gates had ushered to ample parking, then the lounge (have to repeat), a diner, two other conference facilities (Kiwi and Malibu) and of course Flamingo.

The bar is futuristic, in case you prefer something lighter and outdoor, there were bamboo diners for 4 surrounded by a compact landscaping. It desperately needed a pool. No, Nairobi is freezing, but some water with ducks, an aquarium maybe… my thoughts.

Finally, Mercy handed me the keys and put a butler at my disposal to command my luggage. Up we went. First floor, and every other floor, had deluxe rooms lined parallel to the lounge downstairs and the standard rooms intersecting at perpendiculars. I didn’t see much of deluxe, but Executive was incredible. Spacious key-entry and wall-to-wall upholstery.

The furniture was all fashioned to antiquity, not Olympian, more like Venetia but with “Olive Gardens” masterfully engraved, in gold. The queen-size bed was set a meter away from a large window through which the east wing of the facility and surrounding neighborhoods were an easy spectacle.

The bathroom was large; however, the tiles on the walls and floor, mirrors, lighting, the toilet seat and shower, towels, soaps and all the accessories weren’t peculiar, as if they needed Mercy’s sparkle. The high-tech shower heater was too much for novices and the manual on the mirror did little to help. There was every reason to rate the room a 3-star.

In disquiet, I headed out to dry… then boom! I had heard fairies of how steel could be molded into intricate pieces of art and although I came across lots of carvings, never a molded. I still believed in the actuality. Right there before my eyes_ a tap shaped from hot steel. Your faith has made thee well.

I stood there for 10 minutes and hours, later after the workshop. And if you shouldn’t judge a movie by its trailer, maybe you have to rummage through a boring intro, twisty endings and thrilling middles, and do it twice or thrice to finally nail a scene that knocks open the story and the movie is a blockbuster.

The tap, the silver lining around Olive Gardens, had restored proportionality to the rooms, potato crackers reclaimed their delicacy and so the abstract art, its depth. How courteous of the crew and suppose or indeed, the hotel management so committed to the use of genuine parts, beautiful things and safe systems… high quality, mercury-free for me and you. Wow!

New mugs and sharp uniform: killer cocktail for Red Rose diners

mug1Referrals are unbelievably powerful marketing tools but do they fall from the skies… like rain? Here are cues to provoke great stories that will attract friends of your friends to dine at your restaurant.

I had guys from Nairobi over for talks on a project related to dental care. It was way past lunch-time and I had limited options for restaurants to match their class and my budget. Intuitively, I took them to Red Rose along Digo Road, next to Limitless Fashions, right across Budget Supermarket.

It’s a warm diner with about 15 tables for 4 to 6. The seats at the ground floor are red while those overhanging on a designed balcony, were white. There were large mirrors all round and together with the white ceramics on the floor and tables and large tinted windows, the space lit-up with a sense of budding flowers. Fresh.

It’s quiet too, despite the loud music raving outside from matatus enroute to Bamburi and Mtwapa.

There were other utilities like the standard stainless-steel counters, scented handwash and easy access that create a feeling of homeliness which is good when you’re looking for typical urban foods on a tight wallet.

We ordered. Their bone soup is perfect and how they serve it, a huge chunk of tender beef in a platter with a tiny bowl, salt, seasoning and diced pepper set on edge on a plain saucer. Fish and chicken are made on order, takes about 10-15 minutes, they each come with a dense exotic broth. Any of these was served with chapati, ugali or rice. Worth the waiting.

Should you try the cocktail, a combo juice of beet, mango, avocado and pineapple, insist on a jumbo-size glass, order it chilled. They deliver it with the layers intact.

Presentation is deified and this you notice with the coffee mugs. It’s typical for hotels to purchase cutlery once and for all. However, the cost for this is often the client feeling awash in one big-old bowl. It’s different when the rim of your mug is still intact and the glazing is still bold without cracks and the insides are white not yellowy with stains.

The art on the mugs and the very words, “Welcome home” seemed to suggest a true commitment from management to offer personalized service_ we have known you well and long, but what shall we serve you?

I remember the feeling… when guests would visit our home. Mom would charge us to get the newest set of mugs and hide the stained ones, those with cracked lips. It taught us that guests were special and deserved the best. If this be your mission, you’ll keep off the nasty joints where sugar has speckles of dirt, tables are shaky or take-away ideas are still shady.

Most of all, should you order tea, make sure someone with a colorful uniform takes the order and another, with plain bright colors serves it in a new, colorful and inspirational mug. That’s my wow experience.

Delays that wreck customer experience for Kenya’s leading luxury coach

Modern Coast still commands the direction and pace of Kenya’s transport industry, and majority of us seem to agree with that. Sadly, this dominance carries with it a hideous spell that makes even the best, vulnerable to a sickness that could ruin so much so fast.

Word of truth, Kenya’s middle-income has expanded tremendously in quantity and quality. In quantity because the SME has managed to create branches across East Africa and employ a reasonably paid workforce. In quality, there has also been the temptation to culture a code of safety and comfort among these employees.

In settings where long trips are still inaccessible to millions and much of the infrastructure undeveloped, safety and comfort tend to become synonymous with luxury. And this is where most players in the industry go wrong. seem inclined towards endless regulation, riding smooth and safe on bad roads is the secret tide beneath the wings of Modern Coast.

In terms of regulation, it is often done by manufacturers, I’m talking Scania and the like; companies that define safety and excellence for traders and governments. What you get is a combination of class and safety and who else to entice more than the people owning and working for SMEs.

Additionally, they have had to rethink marketing, from very composite to more organic tactics such as branding buses with popular celebrities. Other pluses were online booking, loyalty cards, and reasonable stop-overs on the journey. What’s more, they had to stratify offers within and across coaches. OXYGEN sends a daring, ultra-modern stance and you could choose across business, First-class or VIP. Depends on your style.

Other stuff that makes the working-class go wild?

How reasonable to offer water (and I miss AFIA juice), free WiFI, genuine leather and reclining seats, personalized entertainment and AC and a large view of the landscape. Multi-axle and KONI suspension and shock technology are all customized to the bus for incredible comfort in nasty terrain.

There was also the discomfort of jerking about the seat as gears change from low to high-speed. Gone. Opticruise is the new clutch control that calculates millions of decisions every second so that the driver knows how and when best to speed or slow. The result, the smoothest ride.

Travelers also yearn for flexible departures to any destination and indeed Modern Coast has truly differentiated its schedules throughout East Africa. The speed too is fine.

Another feature worth mention is the overhead rack. These are compartments for small luggage but are now more spacious, easy to reach and lock. They are well lit and hardy and how they integrate with the AC and sound systems, pretty awesome workmanship. Then, you travel hands free…

Did I mention that Modern Coast is also leading in ticketing technology? It even reads, somewhere, that all arrivals should be half an hour earlier than departure and its here that the bubble stretches too far and… boom!

First of all there has been an endless promise for a bigger, cleaner, safer and cozier lounge, where travelers could shelter, freshen-up and even more importantly, for Modern Coast to showcase its luxury packages. Sadly, the waiting for the waiting bay is getting unbearable.

Small, dirty and congested lounges are the perfect recipe for many things that could compromise quality. Technically, we call it the broken window. One dysfunction breeds another and soon the system fails. Example, travelers arrive late to avoid sitting in a nasty bay, but arrive all last minute, there is a bottle-neck at the teller and with the crew. As pressure mounts, travelers tend to be edgy and staff irritable. Tensions flare and there is an exchange. Superiority complexes of staff translate to customer harassment and an impostor takes advantage. Then trouble…

I have details; the AC at the Mombasa’s lounge is broken and has a missing window, and how outrageous to cluster your customers at a petrol station without sufficient fire-safety? The fumes are also too noxious to knock-out. The floors are not mopped well and regularly, the seats are worn-out and dirty, and the TV’s volume is always poorly set. This is not all. In Nairobi, the ceiling is at the verge of falling and its impossible to tell between passenger, crew and looters.

At the stop-overs, the language is shadiest. In the 21st century don’t tell us “tokeni mkajisaidie?”

My point, market superiority is seldom a matter of technology alone. Poor company infrastructure has a long domino-effect on customer experience. Modern Coast may not have lost its luck but must work with earnest to accelerate the construction of a waiting lounge that reflects its technology and capital.

For now, seek a consultant in crisis management and etiquette to aid your team in taming egos. Coaches are spaces like any other, I don’t see why they should  not afford every traveler a wow experience.

5 foods that make ship viewing harmful to you and the sea

August 2015 was a phenomenal date for Ship enthusiasts, a little known attraction at Mama Ngina Drive. MV Clemens Schulte was scheduled to dock at the Kilindini channel at the port of Mombasa. Residents, tourists and crew lined up in their thousands to feast at the masterpiece of maritime engineering.

Strangely, this is not peculiar to the month or year. Inasmuch as it is a first time for many to see the majestic tides and the crags of Likoni, a whole lot more frequent the Drive to entertain their fanaticism of sea vessels.

However, I have a moral duty to interrogate five controversial diets popular to ship-viewers frequent at this site. Without their knowledge, they undermine the quality of the seawater and jeopardize diverse marine life. I should also bother with the health of ship-viewers and so I shall. At length, I offer a locally available, but out-rightly affordable and enjoyable alternative.

  1. Chewing Khat

Miraa is the modern plague for all scenic places. The international journal of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences made a disturbing review of Khat’s health effects. Viewers are predisposed to psychiatric and dental disorders, duodenal ulcers and oral cancers and worst, libido losses. Even more confounding, khat is often taken with high-sugar beverages and gum (both whose packaging is littered recklessly) and cigarette smoking (a lead cause of lung cancer and air pollution). The chewing and obviously repulsive spitting is a bit of a stretch for an activity that demands civility.

  1. Hawked foods

At least 100,000 people cross the Likoni ferry everyday. At the time of their crossing, either very early or late is tempting to catch a quick meal. There are food vendors in plenty to meet this demand; the good ones have make-shift stalls called vibanda while the not-so-good ones simply hawk around. Ask me and I know that food from the Kibanda is fresh and hot. Not so with the hawker. Dare me and you shall cringe with diarrhea. Sadly, there are no public toilets on Mama Ngina Drive. Where-else you’ll download your stuff amounts to open defecation and it ain’t cool.

  1. Alcohol

There aren’t pubs, yet some visitors, particularly those in private cars always seem half-drunk or halfway drunk. This is risky, considering that the channel goes upto 55m deep. Mobilizing the coast guard to seek and rescue such a fellow is heroic, but we could avoid this particularly the part of nasty drunkard talk.

  1. Fruits

Every certified health professional will encourage you to take a fill of clean-fresh fruits. they supply us with materials that fight ailments, strengthen our frame and keep us in good moods. I wish we would stop the vandalism of trash-bins. If there was a button I would hit it, hard. So I beg you, when ship-viewing turns rowdy, simply pack your fruits very neatly and go have them at home. This helps keep the vermin at bay.

  1. Chocolate

The first time I saw the tug boats, I thought what super-powers. Then it hit me that in life its about the small things and how they master the big. When the lawns are green and neatly mowed, and the majestic Baobab has estranged his foliage, a spell of romance inevitably sets and dangles its dainty scent. The concrete seats also make with ease to hold and awe at the bird calls, the crushing waves and the steady cruise of tightly-packed TEUs are impulsive just as a bar of chocolate. Yet the wrappings fly by and may a turtle at sea congest or add sore to folklore which upon the beauty of gay, was love beckoned to stay.

Solution

Kachiri is the local slang for cassava crisps, the civil call it Mhogo. A group of young men at the vibanda facing the sea have sought and discovered the perfect tools to clean, carefully grate and deep-fry the biggest and tastiest cassava. They toss in seasoning for a hotter and reddish-orange finish, some salt and they pack a kilo in a transparent polythene bag. With these, farmers right behind the hills of Arabuko Sokoke forest, are transforming aridity and adept hands into a functional livelihood. And by-the-way, the take back the bags.

Mhogo is a rich source of fiber, calories, potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium, and vitamins A,B-6/12,C and D. Organizations such as CAST have devised a way to grind it to flour for an amazing posho. Its also the best weight-loss dish with snacking options. Its the one gift you could share with the one you love without the impulses of violence, littering or a running tummy. How else to maintain livelihoods and still enjoy the serenity of this wonderful getaway for the glory of ship-liners.

Flaming BBQ, Safari Cats and sync that drops hats for Safari Park

I love surprises. I go flat when a team conspires and succeeds to create surreal experiences for customers. This I call the “wow experience”. I have probably hopped around Kenyan hotels the most and may therefore have a thing for managers yearning to realize excellence in their service. While some experiences remain too disappointing for documentation, I cannot overstate my abilities to bring out the obvious cues upon which success will rest.

Mid October, this year, I attended an international conference at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi and for two days I kept digging for wow experiences. Nairobi is a mythical capital that bathes in tragedy, culture, commerce, a national park, Africa’s largest slum, the UN and a sense of social experimentation. The presence of this 5-star hotel speaks tons of resilience. In these settings, a wow experience would be too sinister to nail. It often pops up. Undeniably, all clients streaming in such a hotel share an erratic degree of surprise. How on earth to formulate a universal wow. Simple tip.

My taxi was flying in the possible 13km in a North-easterly past the ultra-modernism of the Thika superhighway. While I was ushered behind elephant garnished gates to an expansive and electrifying landscape, in particular, I remained afloat to the exact place they had embalmed an elephant. 9 feet below, to the smile-filled reception, it truly struck me. There was the other spectacle of butterflies buzzing in the sea of flowers, a watercourse and purple jacaranda all beaming amazing, awesome and incredible.

On the eve of my arrival, I received a call from a lovely lady, Yvonne, with gracious words, soft as wool. She was eager to confirm whether I had any window preferences for my room (whether I had withdrawal symptoms for sunrise), dos and don’ts for meals, conference furniture, décor…patio. I could tell she had a pen and notebook. I had not given it thought but then it occurred to me that my stay at the hotel would not be an extension of my house or the office. What a genius! Flatteringly, to make sure I didn’t sound uneducated, I told her my obsession for sky blue, and that was it. Shock of my love and chest; my sheets were sky blue so azure were my towels, shower gel and sandals. The rug too, seat cover at the conference, notebook, pen and identification tag. Specification, rather than tragedy is truly a pick for wow.

The discussions were intense and they took a toll on me, at dusk I wanted nothing but a cold Tusker. My butler lounged my bag on a trolley to the room, but then hinted that the hotel had a surprise dinner for the guests. I thought… too tired. He insisted. I dragged myself into the shower and out. Put on a casual and made way to the dining.

The lighting was enchanting and above the neat smiles of the beautiful ladies serving steamed hand-towels, the dark sky was slowly saturating with a white smoke and sweat savor of roasting meat. The tables were set in black and for each were eight white seats. My colleagues had all but few arrived and a tension was building of I-couldn’t-tell-what. I sat.

Upon keener inspection, I noticed that the tables were not all black, but one circular dense mat over lain with eight square bamboo table mats. The geometry was a kill, the eight mats and seats were seeking a line towards a giant porcelain vase at the center of the table in octahedral proportions. I was served chilled beer.

There were no plates and this distressed me, but encouragingly, the cutlery lay in old English. Right in front a stage lit-up to a background of African artwork that ensemble the biogeography of Kenya; the alpine podo, acacia, cacti and the majestic coconut palm. Creatures such as the crocodile, birds, the lion and the iconic elephant were meticulously rendered together with the trees and birds giving the canvas the suspense of “frozen in time”. A troupe of performers in leopard-patterned gear, drums, shouts and endless gymnastics issued and tore the stillness of the graphics on the stage. There was panic in the audience as the effect of the lights and tumultuous dancers animated the still graphics in the background suspending a sort of luminous 3D resurrection. The Safari Cats, for so were the performers called, and the surreal background offered a fusion of southern Abantu, Asian, Aegepti, and modern day Kinshasa. The first row were already on their feet, crawling on the wooden floor and I could sense a willingness to join-in among the seven that sat by me but for lack of a daredevil, only flashings issued of cameras and smartphones.

A gentleman clad in a white jacket and a black bow-tie boldly rose to the stage and declared sight to the blind. It was dinner time. The performers crossfaded with waiters and waitresses and they seemed to stage even bolder theatrics in hauling hot hot-plates on the mats I had just described. They were in their hundreds and by sheer swarm intelligence transformed into chefs wielding hot skewers in hot poles. It was the fastest delivery of nyama choma I had witnessed and no one urged me to start my dinner. I engorged. Beef sausages were next, I ordered two, and then desired two more and two rounds. The mutton was amazing but so was the chicken. Out of respect, seeing that the fillet was cooked right in, yeah out of respect I had one huge unsevered chunk, you know like a bite from a great white shark. Damn the sausages. What I needed was more choma… crocodile is amazing. What was I to do with all this flesh and a sense of privacy?

I always believed that there was magic to so much meat, but this night, in full glare of the flaming BBQ, I opened up and all this gibberish was pouring out of me. Very silent table it was.

My pace was waning. The gentleman seated next to me was Ethiopian. He wasn’t about to concede supremacy at the hot plates. Despite years of experience, the meat was taking a toll on him. We were losing him. Such a  nice guy, he was under a spell to explain how the Nile had the power to reverse false prophecies of dwindling resources, a narrative that had trained radicals. Terrorism, he offered, is worse when elephants are accorded more humanity than the citizens. Esther sat on the next table but the chit-chatting and some meat had pulled her to ours. She is a senior official in an African think tank and strongly believed that had Africans been brave to accommodate new diets, the continent could pull out twice as many farmers out of poverty. There was a fellow Kenyan on the table, Simone, he swore to have talked his Governor into creating a fish-eating week in Meru’s calendar. How true his allegation were lay only in the secret powers of the meat. He was a show-off and swore he had cut by half the statistics of stunting among under-5yr.

As I lay there dazed by the mood lighting, within the king-size deluxe, I gathered these stories into some perspective, including one from a Nigerian girl who was opposed to a pan-African youth forum and had instead proposed a 50-20-10. I really wept over dormant potential.

There were hard questions. Kwame, the guy clinging to the very last brown slice of fillet, was curious to ask why in a forum on agriculture, there wasn’t a single farmer. We shared business cards and ordered for more beer. I suppose, this was the most effective networking strategy and probably outdid the plenary to consolidate a continental hope. For me, the fiesta is a secret passage into the heart of Africa and allowed me to stare at opportunity and although the complexity of our people clouded the solutions, in that full belly I recognized problem-solvers. My Safari Park wow.