The Dinero Social Savings System is building on Kenya’s MPesa mobile payments system and Kenya’s social savings groups by giving Kenyans a way to save their money in gold and silver as well as transact in the metals.
Africans at the “base of the pyramid”, the lower 40% of society by income level, have difficulty escaping poverty for a multitude of reasons including their lack of access to reliable savings instruments.
The low savings rates engendered by negative real rates of return from African banks have led to the widespread perception that Africans are not interested in saving. However, in Kenya and East Africa there are savings clubs called “chamas” that are popular and widespread. The average savings rate in Kenya is 12%, while Africa as a whole has a savings rate of 18%.
In Kenya there are 300,000 registered chamas managing $4 billion per year in assets, and the actual number is estimated to be three times higher. An estimated one in three Kenyans is a member of a savings chama.
But chamas tend to suffer from poor governance and a poor choice of investment instruments. In order to counter high inflation rates, chamas tend to invest by making loans to group members at interest rates as high as 20% per month. This leads to a high default rate and tends to create strife within the community.
We believe that Africans are interested in saving, but that they are discouraged by lack of access to reliable savings instruments in non-depreciating assets with a real rate of return. In order to solve this problem, we have created an application called ChamaPesa to enable Kenyans to reliably save through their chamas with good governance using their smart phones.
The purpose of our ChamaPesa app is to allow chamas to invest in quality financial instruments such as gold, stocks, bonds, unit trusts, etc. in very small increments – allowing even the poorest to save.
We believe this application will enable us to capture a multi-billion dollar market with modest competition, and to enable Africans to save with confidence.
An acquaintance sent out this letter to his mailing list regarding the Westgate Mall shooting in Nairobi.
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The horror of the Westgate Mall Massacre in Nairobi this past weekend
was not just another lone-wolf mall shooting. It was effectively
The Islamist monsters deliberately targeted children, babies and
pregnant women in the name of avenging the deaths of Muslims by Kenya’s
invasion of Somalia. Casualties included the family of the President of
Kenya down to the janitors and clerks in the stores. A newlywed couple
expecting their first child died in each others’ arms. Every strata and
tribe of Kenyan society has been touched by this.
Even though the attackers tried to release Muslims before shooting those
who were not, the situation was so chaotic that they killed many
Muslims, including a Somali mother and young boy along with the “Kaffir”
they were intending to kill.
The heroes of the event also came from every strata of Kenya, as one
Christian Somali businessman with a concealed carry license rescued
about 30 people, repeatedly re-entering the mall at the risk of his
life. Likewise an off-duty British SAS soldier rescued several dozen.
A four year old boy confronted one of the terrorists and told him “You
are a very bad man” which caused the terrorist to apologize, hand him
and his sister candy bars, and allow them to leave the mall with his
mother whom he had just shot in the leg.
The nephew of President Kenyatta went back into the mall to save his
fiancee and was shot multiple times as he shielded her with his body.
Like New York in 9/11, everyone in Nairobi knows someone who was
involved in this tragedy. We are praying for the families of the
wounded and the dead, and especially for those whose loved ones are
interred in the now-collapsed portion of the building. These poor
people don’t know what happened to their missing relatives.
In the providence of God nobody from my team was at the mall on
Saturday, but I have been a regular patron of that establishment, and
several acquaintances of mine were wounded or killed. The attack feels
very personal to me.
On Sunday morning, even as the attack was ongoing, hundreds of Muslims
were seen attending churches in Nairobi to express their solidarity with
their fellow Christian Kenyans.
This event has transformed the way Kenyans think about their divisions
with each other, and it is also causing many Muslims to question the
religion they subscribe to. We believe we will see many Kenyan Muslims
come to Christ as a result of this.
Please pray for the Somali Christian Fellowship that I am involved with
here in Nairobi. It is expected that Kenya’s government and people will
take out their wrath on the Somali community in Kenya in the coming
weeks. We are praying that Kenyans have learned their lesson from the
ethnic violence of 2007, and will restrain their anger against Kenyan
Somalis who had nothing to do with this infamous and barbaric attack.
Please pray for Kenya and for Somalia, that all will come to know Christ
and the peace that passes understanding.
Prior to going to Kenya I bought three Scottevest Explorer shirts. An acquaintance of mine told me that having a shirt with lots of pockets would be very valuable.
The shirts are made of cotton. Each one has 19 pockets…though some of what the advertising calls pockets leaves much to the imagination. Several of the pockets are made of a thinner material. I was disappointed that they were not made of sturdier cloth like the rest of the shirt. Though it did not happen, I was concerned that the cloth might rip or a seam tear.
The shirt does not bear up well under repeated hand washing and scrubbing by Kenyan housekeepers. But to be fair, not much clothing would wear well under those circumstances. My housekeeper worn several holes in one of my cotton under shirts. I’ve no idea what she did to it.
My acquaintance had to tell his cleaning woman to be a lot more careful because she was wearing a hole in his Explorer shirt from scrubbing too vigorously.
I found the breast pockets to be the most helpful. Prior to going through security, I put my valuables in these pockets. I figured that if my money was going to disappear, at least fumbling around with the pockets would slow down a thief. But my money and other important papers were not stolen.
I was able to buy these on sale for $60 a piece. Now they are going for about $80.
Overall I was pleased with the shirt and would buy it again.
Today I was sitting here in the living room of the coding house that the software venture has rented. I was at my desk working on my new MacBook Air. The front door was open to allow a cross breeze through the house. Right beside the front door is a bag with about 20-30 empty beer bottles. I suppose that one day we’ll be sufficiently organized to take them to the store for a return credit.
I was the only one in the living room. The other two guys were in their own rooms.
Suddenly I heard the sound of bottles moving against each other. After a moment I got up and walked to the bag and saw that something was inside and moving. Very curious, I opened the bag and looked.
A chicken had walked into the house, climbed into the bag, and apparently was trying to nest … perhaps to lay an egg or something.
There have been occasions when one or more chickens have come inside the house, but I’ve always been immediately aware of their presence and chased them outside. I’ve no idea how long this particular hen had been inside the house.
When my grandmother traveled from Germany to spend a month with our family, my mother, who is always interested in trying a new recipe, encouraged her to make a meal. The recipe below is one of the breakfast meals she served. Being a finicky kid, I was not a fan, but having lived on my own for several years, my tastes have changed and now find that I enjoy things I did not like in my younger days.
Originally my grandmother just included dates and the walnuts. I’ve experimented with other dried fruits and nuts and I think it is now slightly better.
It is fast, easy, cheap and healthful.
I don’t measure the quantities, I add until I’m satisfied with the amount. Adding the grated apples will add significant volume and may cause the ingredients to overflow the pan.
* Rolled oats
* Grated Apples (I prefer Granny Smith or Pippins)
* Dehydrated Apricots
* Dehydrated Peaches
* Nuts (I’ve tried Almonds, Walnuts, and Pecans)
Sauté the rolled oats in melted butter. When the oats have been lightly browned, add as much or as little cinnamon as you like and mix together. Add diced dates, dried apricots and dried peaches. Add some diced nuts. My favorites: Diced almonds.
Add several grated apples. These not only add flavor but also moisture. Serve and enjoy!
Yesterday I bought a MacBook Air. The power supply to my cooling fan on my five year old Dell Latitude finally gave out. I can still use it … if I put the PC on top of something frozen to keep it sufficiently cool.
I spent my first evening updating the software and operating system on the MacBook Air. It took hours.
Today I’ve been figuring out how to transfer data from the PC hard drive to my MacBook. Migration Assistant did nothing. The Mac did not recognize my PC.
I spent a good part of the afternoon figuring out how to move my Thunderbird profile. Identifying its location was not hard in Windows. But identifying the profile location in Mac took a good two or three hours to find.
After much searching, I discovered a set of commands: CMD + SHIFT + G will let you look for particular files. Thunderbird profiles in Mac are located here: ~/Library/Thunderbird/
Then it is a matter of copying the Thunderbird profile from the PC to the Profile folder in Mac. Also had to copy over profiles.ini.
Once I did this, I opened Thunderbird. All my e-mails were there!
I flew to Dubai earlier this month. I took an 11:30 Monday evening flight out of Nairobi on an Emirates Boeing 777-200. The most striking thing about the flight were the number of people on the plane. Kenyans and expats were leaving the country in anticipation of violence in the upcoming presidential elections.
According to the video screen on the seat in front of me, the flight path took us over Ethiopia, the Red Sea, and for the remainder of the trip hugged the border of Yemen and Saudi Arabia, finally flying out over the Persian Gulf briefly for an approach into Dubai International Airport.
Disembarking from the plane, the first thing I heard was the Muslim call to prayer sounding over the intercom. Remember when the men, hobbits, and others in the Fellowship of the Ring were passing through the Mines of Moria and Gandalf risks a bit more light in the Great Hall? This airport reminded me of that. Cavernous, pillared, very white, shiny, but at 5:30 am pretty devoid of people, orks, and balrogs. In spite of a full plane with hundreds of people, I found myself around fewer and fewer people as I followed the signs for passport control.
I found my way into a line for entry into the UAE and ended up staying there for a good two hours. Two men were on duty processing passports. They took their time and then at about 6 am, it was time for shift change and everything came to an obligatory halt as the new crew set up and prepared for their day.
Finally the line started moving again. I was processed by a woman. Hardly speaking, she took my passport, gave me a 30 day visa and I was allowed entry into the UAE.
The first thing I did was to exchange $100 US for Dinar. Then I found a cafe and bought an iced tea. I was hot and exhausted. I’d barely slept on the plane, I had on a pair of borrowed dress shoes that were way too small for my feet. My room would not be ready until 2:30 pm so I had to figure out how to kill several hours.
Before flying out, I’d done what reading I could about the UAE, its cultural customs, transportation, and food. The last thing I wanted to do was give offense in some manner and end up in a Middle Eastern prison cell!
My first stop on the Metro was The Mall of The Emirates. If for nothing else this would be interesting simply because there was a ski slope in the mall. On my way in, I found an ATM donation machine where individuals could make donations to various charities and the poor. Examples being: monetary donations for food, oath penance, alms, the disabled orphans fund, and others. Swipe your bank card, make a charitable donation all without coming into contact with the hoi polloi of Dubai.
I needed two things at the mall, dress shoes, and a belt.
Now here is where I discovered something interesting. I was carrying a calculator with me so that I could calculate the exchange rate and find out how much this was going to cost me on my credit card. At the leather goods store where I was buying the belt, I brought out my calculator and started figuring. The woman serving me immediately offered me a 30 percent discount. I bought the belt. Awhile later I found a pair of shoes that were retailing for over 1800 Dinar or about $600. Too much money and I headed towards the exit. One young man from Syria came running after me and offered me 70 percent off the shoes. That sounded pretty good. I ended up spending about $200, but the shoes felt wonderful on my cramped feet.
I walked through a Carrefour store. Carrefour hands down beats Wal-Mart. One minor irritation that I have in Kenya is the lack of decent kitchen sponges. I found a package of Scotch-Brite sponges. I’d used these all the time in the US. So I picked up a few packs.
After looking around the mall, and hanging out at a cafe, I decided to check out my hotel. I took the Metro to my station and got a taxi. Wow! Does Dubai have great roads…or at least the area in which in which I was. Kenya’s roads are treacherous. They are poorly maintained, full of pot holes, crowded, and just dangerous.
The hotel was not ready for me. In fact it would not be ready until after 4 pm. But I could leave my luggage at the hotel and spend the rest of the day exploring.
Back on the Metro, I headed for Dubai’s gold souks.
These were disappointing. I found a lot of ugly jewelry but few bullion coins or bars. The souks that I saw were in a more run down area of Dubai. On the street, I met some Russians of whom I did not have the best impression. So I moved on quickly.
I found an Indian food market and bought loose almonds and dates. This ended up being my dinner and the remainder was breakfast the following morning.
I made it back to the hotel by 7 pm. My room was ready. But the air conditioning was not working. Someone from the hotel staff had to come in and get it working for me.
The next morning I visited the offices of Gold AE. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon in two very hot offices. The cigarette smoke was oppressive.
I ate lunch/dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the Dubai Mall which is even larger than Mall of the Emirates. The mall is a part of the Burj Khalif complex, is three stories and has 1200 stores. I doubt there was a single empty retail space….probably subsidized all in good part by the government. I found out that I could go to the top floor of the Burj Khalif for about $100. However the only time slot available was at 4 am the following morning, so I passed, choosing instead to sleep.
Sometime during the night, I came down with an awful headache….I think as a result from the heat, stress, and the cigarette smoke. Once there was daylight, I stumbled out onto the street, got a taxi and told him to take me to the nearest coffee shop. I periodically nursed a large cup of coffee but mostly cradling my head in my hands. Walking barefoot back to the hotel actually did more to help me than anything.
Thank God the return flight did not leave until mid afternoon. I was moving slower than a three toed sloth.
I got onto the Metro and went to the airport. I made it through the security checkpoint fairly quickly and then found a drug store, where I bought the Middle Eastern equivalent of Tylenol.
Unlike the trip to Dubai, the plane on the return trip was virtually empty. I had empty seats next to me and was able to sleep my headache off for the most part.
The first Sunday after I arrived in Nairobi I was invited to join a photo shoot. My friends Matt and Jennie Chancey had long desired to replicate the American Girl photograph taken by Ruth Orkin in 1951. The pictures were taken at the Nairobi Gallery. Steve Anderson from southern California was the photographer.
The following day I was invited to the Talisman Restaurant in Karen, Nairobi for another photo shoot. We were fed both lunch and dinner. My face made it into one of the photos on the Talisman’s website. One of my arms is pictured in another.