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OLX working to Promote Chamas

OLX recently launched a partnership with Chamas, where they try to promote the groups through:

  • Training them on how to use OLX and leverage it to raise money for any financial need their group may have. Once the Chamas have been introduced to the OLX platform, they are trained as individuals and as a group.
  • Offering them a platform through which to buy any assets they may have as a group: everything is practically listed on OLX
OLX logo
OLX logo

Although the initiative piloted in Nairobi, OLX is now working with chamas across the country. In order to motivate them, the Chama with the highest number of listings on OLX, gets a cash reward from OLX towards achieving their goal as a group. If the women are also involved in business, they are being encouraged to list their items/services for sale on OLX. All manner of items can get listed, save for illegal or inappropriate stuff.

So if you know of any chama that could need an innovation to take them a notch higher, an idea to raise to funds or sell stuff, do encourage them to sign up for online listing on OLX. It’s time to leverage technology for whatever sector of our lives.

Solving the Rubik’s Cube

I recently composed a list of 30 things to do before 30, you know the kind of bucket lists people make that are half goals, half dreams and a whole lot of resolutions we don’t really mean to keep. So I made that list, but I am not putting it up just yet, I have shared enough of my life’s details on this blog!

Anyway, solving the Rubik’s cube is one of them. I can now happily cross it off my list, it’s conquered. In fact, I have just solved one that I’m walking around with, right now, as I blog this.

Rubik's cube
My own Rubik’s cube

I have always been fascinated by the cube but never really took the chance to learn to solve it, till recently when Google made a interactive doodle in honour of the inventor, Professor Rubik. I tried solving it, gave up, but still tweeted about it and someone offered to teach me, I quickly learned and I am now willing to share that knowledge!

So there are 3 ways (in my view) of solving the cube:

1. Take the cube apart. Arrange the pieces then reassemble them. Least challenging way, there’s no point then, in bothering to “solve” the puzzle!

Professor's_Cube_disassembled
Rubik’s Cube disassembled

 

2. Be a genius with visualization. Look long and hard at the cube, turn it around, solve it in your head, then just move the pieces into place. I don’t know how the guys who set records such as 5.5 seconds do it! It’s amazing watching their hands move faster than your brain can think! Of course they use high quality, low friction cubes to minimize efforts in movement, but still, the way they optimize their moves to solve the cube in the shortest time possible? It’s impressive. They are the speed cubers.

3. Learn the steps. Over the years, a number of people have experimented and written down a series of steps/movements (algorithms) that if you follow, you will end up with the solved cube. The algorithms are designed so that as you progressively solve the cube, you don’t spoil the faces you have already solved. So the movements end up being repetitive at some point, but if you muster them, then you can solve the cube in a very short time, such as  under 1 minute, and you can pretend to be a genius! It’s a good feeling.

There are several algorithms out there, you can search them and try them out once you have a cube. However, I wrote down the simple one I learned from my teacher, so to speak.

Before you try out the algorithms, you must first learn the terminology: top face, front face, middle row etc..  but it should all make sense as the terms are descriptive. Here’s the link to the simple algorithm, so if you wish to learn, try it out and holla if you’re stuck!

Good luck!

Book Review: Den of Inequities

I met Kinyanjui Kombani, the author of Den of Inequities, when BAKE (Bloggers Association of Kenya) had a Daystar training under the Creatives Academy invite, a few months ago. I bought the book and had it autographed, and then it lay around the house for weeks before disappearing into my mother’s handbag for a few more weeks. Finally, I found it and since it’s a small book, I read it in a day, it was a Sunday.

den of inequities
The cover of Den of Inequities by Kinyanjui Kombani

There are three main characters introduced in the book: Omosh, a poor construction worker living in the slums; Gosti, a local thug also living in the slums and Aileen,  beautiful daughter of a rich dad. How do they coexist in the den of inequity that is the city of Nairobi?

The story of each of the characters is written simply and titillatingly,  with the right suspense and description to capture the reader’s attention. I held my breath in some scenes, smiled at others, empathized with the characters, got afraid of some of the cops, sympathized with the thugs, the mungiki (I think it’s called The Chama in the book) and others who were at the mercy of these dirty cops..

The book gives an insight (albeit fictional) into behind the scenes of extra-judicial killings, the announcements you sometimes hear in the news of suspected criminals shot and killed by anonymous people. Take for instance the recent killings of everyone in Maina Njenga’s car; he is the former leader of mungiki. Type into Google Maina Njenga and all you get is dramatic, fatal events surrounding the man. How would you like a look into what’s really going on? Pick the book and it will all make sense!

For Omosh, things go wrong, and he needs a way to make things right; for Gosti he finds himself deeply involved with The Chama, when someone from his past comes calling. Aileen unfortunately tumbles into these events, and now how will it all end?

The one disappointment with this book was the lack of character depth. Maybe because the book was short so there wasn’t enough space to develop the characters. Omosh’s story is especially surprising because he does not seem to be the kind of man who does what the book say he does at the very end. In fact, after the first few pages, he all but disappears only to reappear at the very end. Gosti is the only one whose character is fully developed. I also thought the book would focus on the main characters as introduced by the book description, but they were kind of side stories to the main story: heind the scenes of extra judicial killings.

All in all, it was such an enjoyable book and I would recommend it to everyone I come across. Pick your copy from any bookshop today for only Kshs. 400 (thereabout). My only regret was that the book was too short.

 

OLX to Sponsor the 2014 Social Media Awards

Last year, I was part the panel of judges for the inaugural Olx social media awards in Kenya. Our work was to shortlisted five out of all the the  nominated persons/accounts in each of the categories, and then the public would do the final voting. This year, I am happy to announce that I will also be a judge :) The list has not changed from last year. The awards culminated in a gala dinner at the Laico Regency. OLX is also the sponsor for this year’s Social Media Awards.

OLX to sponsor social media awards
OLX to sponsor social media awards

 

Last year, the OLX Social Media Awards had 25 categories including Social Media News Channel of the Year, Social Media Personality of the Year, Social Media Corporate Award of the Year and Social Media Innovation of the Year.  New categories will be introduced this year to make the Awards more exciting and inclusive.

 

For the full list of nominees and winners of the 2013 Inaugural Social Media awards, click on the link!

I will keep you updated on when the nominations are open so you can nominate your favorite social media influencers, we judges will shortlist them based on criteria that we will share with the public, and finally you will get the chance to vote for the final winner.

The awards create a platform for individuals and organizations to celebrate the contribution of social media in the social, economic and political spheres by recognizing those who have used it positively to impact lives.

What Goes Through the Mind of a 26 Year Old Woman?

I composed this blog post in my head while I sat in traffic, contemplating my life. The radio was tuned into 1FM, it’s the only radio station that has a clear reception, since I am still using the Japanese frequencies that came with the car radio. The music is local and urban hits: basically modern African hits – Mafikizolo, Davido, Sauti Sol, Elani, Diamond Platinumz, Ali Kiba (mapenzi yana run dunia comes to mind) etc. But my thoughts drift…

nairobi traffic
These are the traffic jams I have to go through in the evenings. Plenty of time to think. Image from http://monicahnjeri.files.wordpress.com/

My Son

Of course, he’s always on mind, especially if I am idle. I think about how he will start crying for me from the moment I drive through the gate, rushing towards me so I can pick him up then he smiles and tries to remove my spectacles. He’s already widened them beyond belief and now they hang limp and loose on my face. This means I have to remove them and then there is the delicate balancing act of my son, spectacles, keys, handbag, laptop bag and any groceries I may have bought. Usually, I make sure I drop anything else except Jeremy.

When in traffic, I think about what kind of life I want to give my son. Will I bring him up to be a kind, responsible man? Will I help him achieve his dreams and ambitions? Will I be the kind of mother he would be proud of? Can I set a good example for him to follow? How will I afford his school feels? What kind of schools will I take him to? In fact, where in the world will I bring him up? (This will be relevant when you read later thoughts).

I’m grateful everyday for the support of my parents, I’m still living with them and in a way they are parenting both of us. Will I make it when I move out and start on my own? How tough is this single parenthood journey?

Then I relax and decide it will be a journey, one day at a time, and things will always work out, they always do for me, in the end.

Finances

cash-kenya-shillings
Money, money, money… money (know that song?)

Which leads to finances. I have been working in formal employment for almost 2 years now, but I have little to no savings. Start saving now, they say, while you are still young, no matter how much you earn. It is not easy, I must admit. I live a subsistence kind of life; my salary only sustains me as far as the next salary. I need a side hustle that brings in good money. Or a better job, which will of course mean I increase my expenses and we are back to subsistence. How can I make more money? I ask myself.

I am not the type of person who would depend on another for money & security, I always know I will make my own money. And when we speak with friends, we tell ourselves, can we really make enough in formal employment? Business is the way to go, we agree. Entrepreneurship. Some of my friends are already running their own businesses. Some are working, like me. Not many have the courage to be entrepreneurs, not many were meant to be entrepreneurs.

Career

This could be me and Jeremy..
This could be me and Jeremy.. or is it Jeremy and I?

Which leads me to ask myself, do I like what I am doing? Is it leading me to the path of riches and accomplishments (vain thoughts?)

Do I want to continue working in Ernst & Young in IT audit and consultancy? Is there a future for me here, right now?

Then I remember the decision was already made for me. I have already tendered my resignation letter  but will be here for the next 2 months, then have my last working day in early September. I am leaving EY to go back to school. See next train of thought.

Academics

I recently graduated from Strathmore University with an MSc in Mobile Telecommunication and Innovation. Here is a graduation selfie to prove it :- ) (FYI I graduated three years ago with a first class BSc in Computer Science from JKUAT)

graduation selfie
I am serious looking I know but I was contemplating my accomplishments :)

Did the time I invested in learning at Strathmore, courtesy of the Safaricom Academy worth it? Definitely. I learned not only mobile programming in all platforms (USSD, Android etc), but also project management, business skills, entrepreneurship, leadership and management. I know I will apply them not only now but also in the future, especially when I set up my own business to make more money so I can better take care of my son (all thoughts center around the same issues, as you can see!)

Japan, October 2014

As you wonder why I am resigning from my job with an reputable, international, I will tell you to stop wondering.. here’s why.

I got a Japanese Ministry of Culture and Education (MEXT) scholarship to go and study in Japan, at a university of my choice. I decided to go because I have always wanted to travel, and I’m going to the East first, conquer the world one country at a time. So I am going to the School of Information Science at JAIST to major in Artificial Intelligence. Another MSc. For like 2 years. But I’m young enough, with 2 years of work experience.. and I like studying, and will probably end up in (industry) research. Every tech company worth its salt has invested in research.

So I’m leaving in early October, hopefully, fingers crossed. I’ll leave Jeremy and Bella in my mother’s loving arms, then when I’m settled, I’ll send for J. For the next 2.5 years that I will be in Japan, I couldn’t possibly leave my son behind that long! I will have to do everything possible to reunite us.

Relationships

My friend Pitz tells me a woman is her most attractive at 26. He says there was research carried out, apparently. Or is it a survey? So as you see me today, I am at the height of my attractiveness hehe.. so where are those serious men? How will my ambitions to travel and see and work anywhere the world, to study etc.. how will these ambitions converge with another? Is there someone out there whose path will cross mine? Is it okay if I am not even contemplating marriage? Is it okay if I decide I don’t have to “settle down” and can live the rest of my life in single motherhood?

The thing about relationships is that it’s not your decision alone to make. So until someone else comes along whose decisions I want to be a part of, and vice versa, I shall reserve my stall my train of thought here….

By the time, traffic has started to move, but oh wait, it was just a teaser. The cop halts the flow of traffic after 2 or 3 cars. We sit and wait.. and I finally decide it’s time I solved the Rubik’s cube that I’ve been learning to these past few weeks, in between reading books (I am currently reading the Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and I am yet to write the review for Den of Inequities by Kinyanjui Kombani), blogging, meeting friends for coffee, and squeezing in some hours of work between commuting to work in the morning and commuting home in the evening..

Solving Rubik's Cube
I’ve been using a numbered cube to make master the moves faster

The cube is just about solved when traffic finally moves and I zoom home to my family, hooting at bad drivers, cursing at those who cut me off in traffic, and nodding to Elani’s kookoo.. I’m going kookookoo so kookoo coz I…aiaiai love you…… turning up the volume of my Japanese radio.

 

Yes, There are Things You Cannot Sell on OLX!

Jokes and taglines aside (Everything sells!), there are some things that you cannot sell on olx (or any other online platform for that matter), for various reasons. Mostly legal and/or cultural.

OLX has to validate ads to ensure no laws are being violated before allowing them to go live, that is why when you post an ad, you might be told to wait for sometime before the ad can appear on the website.

For legal reasons, below are some things you cannot sell online:

  • Babies or any human beings or body parts or bodily fluids!

    baby for sale
    baby for sale
  • Illegal/outlawed/banned drugs e.g. marijuana, cocaine, miraa (if in the UK!)
  • Any content that violates copyright or trademark, especially if you do not own that copyright
  • Any content that violates intellectual property (IP) of another, especially if you don’t own that IP e.g. pirated movies, music, patents
  • Porn – this is a no no
  • Information regarding other people without their consent
  • Stolen items – don’t post stolen cars, phones, computers..
  • Don’t advertise your pyramid schemes, chain marketing etc
  • Illegal services such as soliciting are not allowed!
  • No pictures of frontal nudity!
  • No weapons

    No guns allowed
    No guns allowed

For cultural and personal reasons, please don’t put up for sale the following items on the site (not exhaustive):

  • Used cosmetics and other used personal items such as combs, toothbrushes, underwear
  • Tobacco products
  • Alcoholic drinks etc

Check out olx for the full list of things not allowed for sale on the website.

So while everything sells on olx, remember, only within legal and cultural limits!

Pivot East 2014 Winners

I know I am late in publishing this list, since the competition and conference ended last week. Pivot East was held at Panari this year, and the winners in the five categories were picked from a pitching contest in which five start-ups were shortlisted for each category.

Pivot east 2014 winners
Pivot East 2014 winners

Here are the winners of PIVOT East 2014

Mobile Society Category

SokoText (Kenya): SokoText uses SMS based pre-ordering service to make it easier for small mama mbogas (fruit and vegetable sellers) in slums to get their daily stock. SokoText is based in Mathare slum in Nairobi.

1st Runners Up: TotoHealth (Kenya). TotoHealth enables hospitals and organizations to communicate and provide targeted information on antenatal & postnatal care using low-cost phones.

Mobile Entertainment category

UbongoKids (Tanzania): Ubongo Kids is a multiplatform, interactive edu-cartoon with SMS interaction broadcasting on TV to kids in Tanzania and online for kids around the world. They are looking to expand across Africa and already have a deal with Startimes to kick this off.

1st Runners up went to Safari Tales (Kenya): Safari Tales is an edutainment android mobile application for children to access Digital African Narratives & learn African Languages. They currently have four complete stories available on the app.
Mobile Enterprise Category

A SiM Mobile (Kenya): ASim Mobile is a supply chain mobile solution integrated seamlessly with most popular accounting, ERP apps in the world.

1st runners up: Online Hisab(Ethiopia) a cloud-based accounting package for Ethiopian SMEs, who are looking for an affordable and easy to use accounting solution.

Mobile Finance Category

ChamaSoft (Kenya): A group management platform which manages administration of chamas, allowing them to concentrate on investment rather than administration.

1st runners up was Beyonic (Uganda): Beyonic seeks to eliminate cash by creating the best solutions that enable business to make payments using mobile money.

Mobile Utilities Category

Sendy (Kenya): A platform for on-demand errands. With the tap of a button, they instantly connect senders and riders and enable payments via mobile phones

(Note, I have actually used the Sendy app before, read my review here)

1st runners up were MaraMoja (Kenya) -Maramoja is Kenyan social enterprise dedicated to providing easy access to safe, reliable transport services through your mobile device.

The founders award went to Online Hisab a cloud-based accounting package for Ethiopian SMEs, who are looking for an affordable and easy to use accounting solution.

The winners of the competition will get funding amounting to 10,000 dollars per startup from m:lab East Africa. The funding will be split into two halves, the first being a $5,000 grant. The other $5,000 will be an investment which may be topped up by other investors

Using Sendy

This post was first published on the Sendy Blog

It’s one thing to write about an app after learning about it, it’s another to actually use the app and experience it for yourself. After learning about Sendy, I downloaded it from Google Play,  but didn’t use it for a while.

Sendy app on my phone
Sendy app installed on my phone, right next to Calls Blacklist .. very useful apps.

 I had bought a book for a friend and was having a challenge delivering it to them, because of distance and hectic schedules. So this week, I have been working in Industrial Area in Nairobi, and my friend works on the other side of town in Kilimani. The obvious solution was to have a rider deliver it, so I opened the Sendy app. At first, it had my location at Bunyala road, so I tapped on the screen to update my location and it did so immediately, I didn’t even have to turn on GPS, I guess it uses your GSM network for location as well.

Sendy rider at Inda
Sendy rider nearest me in Industrial area

There was only one rider who was around me, so I pressed the button for call rider. He informed me his name is Oloo and he would be there in 20 minutes (much less than the app indicated). I told him I needed something delivered to Kilimani and he quoted his price, which was reasonable. So he agreed to come over, as he was in town.

I had cash, so when he arrived in the 20 minutes, I just paid him. But if you don’t have cash (or change) you can pay through M-Pesa or your VISA card.

Oloo called me about 30 minutes later and told me had delivered the book. Calling my friend confirmed receipt. So I texted Oloo to tell him thanks and saved his number for future use.

I remember asking him how he signed up for Sendy. He told me he had to go through a lengthy vetting process including getting a certificate of good conduct from the CID, but he has had good business so far. So you can trust Sendy riders.

But come to think of it, I don’t need to save all numbers of all riders I come across; because once they have the Sendy app on their phones, it tracks their location. If I ever need a package delivered, all I have to do is load the Sendy app on my phone and get the nearest riders available around me, and the estimated time until they arrive at my location. Usually, the time they take to arrive is much less than indicated in the app, because they’re on motorbike thus not hindered by traffic. You can always call them to confirm their ETA.

Later, when I was having coffee at Savannah Lounge at Sameer Business Park, I tried out the app and it had updated my location and the nearest rider information had also changed.

A Sendy rider nearest Sameer Business Park
A Sendy rider nearest Sameer Business Park

I’d suggest everyone download this app and keep it in their phone, because you never know when you will need it.

It’s simplicity is astounding, the first page you load is the one showing you riders around you. You just have to sign up first after downloading it. Let me know your experience with it once you have used it.

Everything Sells? Why Not Find Out

There are many odd things on sale on olx Kenya. Not in the least, rabbit urine. As more and more people get online looking for deals, the market expands for the seller. There should be no limit to what anyone can buy/sell online (within legal limits!)

airport for sale
Haha, someone was once trying to sell an aiport. Image from http://www.trending.co.ke/vip_lounge_burnt_down_and_othe-219513221.html

So do you have something you never thought could sell online, that probably couldn’t find a ‘category’? – although I think there is a “Miscellaneous” category.

Anyway, random stuff that you can sell include:

  • Kids’ uniforms that your kids only wore for a few days/months
  • Unused gifts from Christmas/Valentines/other gift-giving seasons
  • I typed “sisters” and got 3 results.. no one trying to sell their sisters, the results were a cleaning crew and a “Sister’s Estate”
  • Another random word “little” and got 137 or so results. Basically anything you type you will get a result.
  • Books that you’ve outgrown
  • Quails and all sorts of animals

What miscellaneous stuff would you like to sell? Put it up and it will probably sell. And if you’re thinking of buying anything, check the deals/prices on olx first.

Safari Tales, The Kids App We’ve Been Waiting For

If you’ve been looking for a kids app that tells traditional folk stories in English, Kiswahili and other African languages, then Safari Tales is what you need. The application is free to download from Google Play.

Safari Tales application
Safari Tales application

The application has:

  • Folk Tales
  • Poems & Tongue twisters
  • Songs- Nursery Rhymes & Lullabies
  • Learn Kiswahili
  • Have fun offline – upcoming Kiddie events

The features of the application include:

  • All African Folklore in one application
  •  “Read to Me” — hear the narration as you read the story
  •  “Read it Myself” — read the book in its traditional form
  •  “Auto Play” — plays like a movie, automatically reading and turning pages.
  •  Tap on a word to read its meaning from an in-built dictionary
  •  A full library of traditional African Folklore: ¸ Free first Bundle of books!

If you have young kids and they’re tired of playing fruit ninja, angry birds, temple run and whatever other games kids play on your android devices, download this app today and let me know your feedback. I will probably do another post when I have interacted with this app fully.

Here’s the link in case you missed it.

 

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