Kachwanya: There is talk that Kenyans in the Diaspora are giving up on Kenya and there a number of issues sited like power rationing or? electricity shortages, water rationing, crime is on the rise, urban transport is a nightmare, and insecurity and lawlessness are creeping up.
John Karanja: Let me start by saying that sometime you have to go through the rough patches before you can realize the fruit of your labor.? People who came up with the phrase? necessity is the mother of invention knew exactly what they were saying. I mean if there is no Electricity in Kenya that means there is a chance for someone or company to invest in producing electricity, the same goes for water supply, as seen by the guys who have started harnessing power from small streams ?. So to me people in the Diaspora should look at some of the problems facing Kenyans as an opportunity which they can use to improve the lives of Kenyans. I am even happy that there is power? rationing in Kenya because people are beginning to re-think the whole paradigm of relying on governments that are not interested in getting people out of poverty, but simply entrenching years of cronyism and nepotism of the highest order.
Kachwanya: You are what?
John Karanja: Look at it critically for a long time Kenya has relied on water generated electricity which probably might not be enough even ?in good times ?if the aim is to ensure that every homestead in Kenya has electricity. But with the current shortage people have started thinking of how to get alternative energy sources like Windfarm and nuclear. These are things people will not think about in good times, people will not look for alternative? unless forced by circumstances as it is now in Kenya.
Kachwanya: There are those who are arguing that there is too much negativity associated with Kenya and that they are already have kids whom they would not like to bring back and subject to the ?grim kind of life being reported all over? here . What do you say to that , like if you have a kid would you have the same mentality?
John Karanja. People forget that international media never report any good things going on in Kenya and Africa in general. Nobody will report Safaricom making a lot of profit, a sign that doing business in Kenya is as good as doing it anywhere else. Nobody reported that Rwanda?s economy grew by around 11 percent last year but when Japan recently got out of recession and posted 1 percent growth, it was all over the international news. That will tell you that if you are listening and reading the western media, ?the only image you will have about Africa is the misguided notion of everything bad. Personally I was born in Kenya, brought up in Kenya and I think I pretty much know what Kenya is and I don?t mind my kids growing up in Kenya. Well that is their country.
Kachwanya: You mentioned early on the email that due to current technology that is internet, and phone communication, you? have been able to run a company in Kenya although with the help of employees on the ground.
John Karanja: Yes and the company is ?SpaceKenya( www.spacekenya.com). We provide IT Solutions? such as Domain registration, webhosting, Web Application Development and Graphics design. Believe it we provide quality services to our customers.
And you are right with the fact that technology has actually made it easy to run a corporation virtually on the space. Just a click of a button and I am like in Nairobi chairing strategic meetings, checking the accounts, and even solving internal problems.
We also run Afrineurs.com which is a social media site for African Entreprenuers who just need a break and to share their ideas. For so long, we have had very poor access to information and me and my partners felt that we should do what we can to help people out there. We hope to have at least get 5 new projects rolled out within the first year.
Kachwanya: I read and listened to your? interview about Seacom and Fibre in Africa with Voice of America Africa Correspondent Douglas Mpusa? ( http://tinyurl.com/seacomVOA ). In between I realized that you were really excited about this. Now that we are? on the topic of the Diaspora, how can Kenyans? abroad take advantage of the opportunity presented by?? Fiber optic cables and the expected fast internet.
John Karanja: I think this is what? many Kenyans have wished for, for ?a very long time.? To start with there is ecommerce which in my view still in infancy stages in Kenya. Look at the example of www.babawatoto.com.? It is operated by a guy based in US. So if you are in Diaspora there is no excuse there. Actually I would like to see many people taking incentives in this direction and enter warehousing and distribution industries
There is also the BPOs,? Kenya has a lot of advantages in regards to setting up BPOs and running them. The problem for sometime was the slow and unreliable internet connection but with the arrival of Fiber Optics, that would not be the case anymore.? So it is very possible for Kenya now to compete effectively in this one with countries like India.
Kachwanya: I am not a big fan of politics but I am forced to ask in regards to the use of social media. It was evident before 2007 General Elections that majority of the hate emails which made round in the internet came from Kenyans abroad. The people who were very active in the blogosphere and the discussion forums in the internet by that time were Kenyans in the Diaspora and the things they were saying about the candidates then were unthinkable. They even took time to create Raila, Kibaki and Kalonzo viruses? which spread In cybers in Nairobi. ?The Question is, you are Abroad, you have all that good life, why do you start spreading hatred among your brothers and sisters in Kenya?
John Karanja: You are very right, I used to check what is going on discussion forums like mashada and the outright abuses which were being thrown there ware in bad taste. I think the way democracy works is still a new concept in Kenya. But I had hoped that Kenyans abroad would have known better and give some civilized discussions on the issues affecting Kenya. But is not in order to imagine that all the Kenyans abroad are doing that, I think is just a few elements who have lost their way, I hope the lesson learned with post election violence will stick for a long time in their heads. ?Still on that we have been discussing with a number of friends(including you, i might add) and companies and we are organizing on how we can help in resettling the people still living IDP camps. Very soon we will have the program ready. Our chairman is Steve Gitau and i will let him announce it when it is ready. Otherwise keep up the good work and i believe that yours is one of the most respected blogs out there.
Kachwanya: Thanks John for that.? Yes, that is John Karanja who is currently based in UK
Note: John Karanja also runs a blog at http://www.johnkaranja.com