Editorial: Money, Magazines and Fire Engines
Tuesday, 04 May 2010
Keeping hold of money is difficult, and here in Nairobi, I point my finger firmly at the lovely ladies from Mocha. I have warned them that it’s only a faint consolation that if I end up living in my car after handing all my earnings over to them, at least I will do so in style, with exceedingly good shoes and bags.
Now if you’re looking after actual cash, there are some ways and means of tackling this, and one of the acronymed security companies appears to be working on this since all their recent viral marketing was, if funny, also unintentional as ‘butt of joke’ is hardly a viable marketing strategy. Locking up money more firmly in boxes is one thing, as is preventing those boxes from being carried away by staff or, indeed, anyone and their pet goldfish, or marking it with paint so that it becomes unusable if stolen.
And then there are public finances. Aid Watch , a blog run by aid critic Prof Easterly, had an interesting debate recently that increased spending on aid for the healthcare sector by donors does not necessarily translate into higher government spending in the same field. The shorthand for this is ‘fungibility’ of money, and it really is an old on-off debate in aid: you can’t physically mark the money donors put into a state’s budget, and despite efforts to ringfence donations for specific purposes, having aid money can relieve a government from having to put its own money into the same sector (well, their own taxpayers’ money, but that’s a finer distinction that sometimes seems a bit esoteric for those doing the spending). Donors pay for ARVs? Thankyouverymuchwithchips, we’ll buy some more tanks then.
It’s a concept that, like a naughty puppy, I had my neck grabbed and my nose stuck into via two separate incidents on the same day: I woke up to my neighbour’s house about to go up in flames. Since he was out of the country, there was quickly a small crowd of neighbours trying to figure out how to get into his house and put out whatever smouldered inside and had filled up the first floor with dark smoke already. Our landlady mentioned that she had tried to call the city fire brigade which, we all know, is about as useful as putting in a call to Mars. Nairobi, a city of an estimated 4m, in the year 2010, a regional business hub, a conference destination, with a whole dedicated Nairobi Metropolitan Ministry and a shiny Vision2030 and also a pebble-based beautification plan by government official Dr. Alfred Mutua, has a grand total of zero functioning fire departments. Sod departments, it probably has a grand total of zero functioning fire engines.
It was a stressful morning, and a stark contrast to a media event I attended later in the evening. As an analyst, as a media professional, and also as a lover of beautiful fashion magazines who will longingly stroke the Chanel ads, I decided to follow the kind invitation to attend the launch of a new lifestyle magazine called Passion for Life . It is published by a company called Golden Dreams that also, I have learned, produces TV shows and other media products. The CEO of this company is Dr. Alfred Mutua. Yes, him of the pebbles, clearly a man of many talents. But I did wonder: Isn’t government spokesmanning a full time job? Paid for by your taxes? So in this big pot of government revenues that are being allocated to different purposes: No money for fire engines. A full time salary for a government official who is also the CEO of a media production company. ‘E’ in CEO standing for ‘executive’, I think.
With these musings on financial and other management, over to you. Read on below, have a look at the latest job openings in East Africa , check out the many business events in the region . And stick to making things go up in flames figuratively, it’s safer!

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