Morning Glory

Let us Use 2020 to Invest Our Time into Greatness

I never thought that I would leap from bed one morning right into the arms of the year 2020. Yet that is exactly what happened that bright, first morning of this unique ‘double 20 year.’

Twenty years ago during the dawn of the new millennium in the year 2000, my mind had never wrapped itself around the reality of 2020, which seemed to be far off on the horizon at the time. Yet here we are, in the bosom of 2020.

I shared the final lunch of the year with Lenny and Sunil, the young couple that has now been sailing in the ocean of marriage for a year. As I caught up with Lenny who had just returned from Hungary for holiday, Sunil stirred a pot of divine beef gravy as she sneaked in and out of my conversation with her husband.

“Traveling opens one’s mind,” he said as he forked a piece of meat on his plate and thrust it into his mouth. He told me about a professor of his who had challenged him to think harder. The Hungarian professor had a habit of looking into his eyes and posing provoking questions like the real origin of Christmas day and why many African countries wallow in poverty despite the religious strength of citizens of those countries.

Such is the deep conversation that accompanied every bite that we took. Almost one hour later, empty plates were dispatched to the kitchenette adjacent to the living room then we sank deeper into this conversation for the entire afternoon and early evening. Then I drove home and switched off my phone. I always love to cross into a new year alone, in the deep embrace of silence.

Just like that, we are twenty years deep into a new millennium. People like my friend and little sister Glory, who were born at the stroke of the new millennium, are now twenty years old. Adults. People like me, who were born when the seventies were screeching to a halt, are now on the right side of forty. Time is flying much faster than the Kenya Airways Boeing 787-8 - Dreamliner jet. But where exactly is time flying towards? What drives time? Answers to these two questions may not be crystal clear, but one thing is certain - we should all be the focused drivers of our time, not just passengers. We should steer our days towards our goals, not just sit there and see where our days will lead us to.

Leo Tolstoy, the bearded nineteenth century Russian writer once said that, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” This means that time is a warrior that can fight either for or against you. In November 2019, I flew on a Kenya Airways dreamliner from Johannesburg to Nairobi. Our Pilot was Captain Kimani. He flew the 118 tonne bird (the weight of 80 cars) to Nairobi, not Dakar or Dubai. When you are the captain of your time who knows where you are going, time will fight for you, not against you.

More than two hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of USA declared that, “Time is money.” This means that wasting time puts you in the same category with a bank robber. In the US, Kirk Radke a private equity and corporate lawyer charges clients 1,250 US Dollars per hour. Think about that the next time you waste a whole hour. But more than money, your hour is your life so when you waste it, you are literally wasting your life. Don’t waste your life in 2020.

Theophrastus the ancient Greek philosopher declared that, “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” We may not all have much money but as long as we are alive, we all have time, which makes us equal. Life hands us all twenty four hours in a day. How we spend those hours is what differs. Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner of all time, spends many of those hours running in the dusty, scenic paths of the Great Rift Valley. No wonder he is the greatest long distance runner of all time. Jimmi Hendrix often spent more than twelve hours practicing the guitar. No wonder he was the greatest guitarist of all time. Invest your twenty-four hours wisely and consistently. That investment will lead you gradually to greatness in whatever you are investing that time in.

Stephen R. Covey the famous American author elaborated further, “the key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”

Bwak the Bantu Poet, put it plainly, “yesterday is gone, it’s no more. Tomorrow will come, it’s not yet. All you have is now. Give it your all.”

2020 is here and it’s all we have because 2019 is gone and 2021 is not yet here. Let us use 2020 as our very own dreamliner jet that we shall fly into realization of our dreams. May God help us to do so.

Time for Pan-African Trade to Flow Across all the 54 African Countries

African countries don’t buy products from each other as much as they should be doing. A new economic pan-Africanism should rise like a bright sun whose light cannot be stopped.

On May 8th 1996, Thabo Mbeki, the then Deputy President of South Africa, gave one of the most memorable speeches on pan-Africanism.

He began his speech by unfolding his fingers, casting an intense look at his audience and declaring three simple and powerful words, “I am an African.” He paused, allowing applause to flow through the room like the Zambezi River, then continued, “I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.”

The then President Nelson Mandela, the one man that the entire continent looks at as their very own, was looking on like a proud father As Thabo Mbeki uttered those words. I am an African. I am also an African. My passport may recognize me as a Kenyan but my genes recognize me as an African.

55Dazzling Maasai Sandals from KenyaIt makes sense that Thabo Mbeki used natural resources to emphasize his African being.  Indeed, transboundary natural resources are scattered all over Africa. These resources transcend boundaries, and are not restricted by them. Think of Zambezi River, Africa’s fourth longest river. It begins its epic journey in the wetlands of Mwinilunga District of north-western Zambia. Before its journey ends in the Indian Ocean, the Zambezi powers through Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique.

In 2018 and 2019, I had a first-hand experience of Africa’s border-defying transboundary resources and immense pan-African potential.  During this period, I was the Coordinating Lead Author of a historic United Nations Environment Programme’s Youth Publication known as Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) for Youth, Africa: A Wealth of Green Opportunities. You can download the book in the link below:

(https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/report/global-environment-outlook-youth-africa).

More than one hundred young African writers, photographers and reviewers from at least thirty African countries contributed to this Publication.

This experience of producing this Publication proved that it is possible for Africans to follow the example of the Zambezi plus other great African rivers and unify efforts across borders. Our national borders should only exist in maps, not in our minds. After all, we are all Africans.

In 2005 when I was still in my twenties, I was consumed by a desire to be part of the solution, not the problem. That year, I founded Sasafrica Productions, a company whose vision was to ‘unveil Africa.’ Together with a team of nearly 30 staff and associates, we wanted to showcase to the world and to fellow Africans the beauty of Africa. We did these through short films acted by young talented actors from Kibera, Nairobi’s biggest slum. In later years, Sasafrica Productions integrated other media into its African storytelling quest. We began helping clients to use audio, poetry, short stories, book writing and strategic communications in their storytelling. Being a writer myself, I even travelled to Nigeria for three months to research on and write a book about one of the early founders of the Young Women Christian Association in Nigeria.

I later travelled to nearly twenty African countries, which left me with a much deeper appreciation of Africa’s common heritage and shared future. It is because of this that in 2017, I founded Sasafrica.Shop, an E-commerce website that prides itself as Africa’s first ever online marketplace for African products. The goal is to ensure the extensive sale of African products on the global market and within Africa.

I am convinced that for our shared African future to be much brighter, we need to trade a lot more with each other. It is a shame that many African countries trade more with their former colonial masters than with fellow African countries. Although Africa produces far fewer industrialized goods than the West, we are overflowing with millions of cultural, ornamental, fashion and agricultural products that we can sell to each other. Such are the products that Sasafrica.Shop is showcasing, thus opening a regional and global market for the greatly talented craftsmen and craftswomen who make them.

If it is made in Africa; if it depicts the soul of Africa; if it oozes the passion of Africans; if it is handcrafted by talented African hands; you will find it at Sasafrica.Shop. A good example of high quality African products that are becoming popular across the continent are the Kenyan produced Maasai Sandals, also known as Swahili sandals. These sandals are a fusion of real leather and elaborately handwoven beadwork. They are mostly made in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and Malindi, a coastal city. Through Sasafrica.Shop, we have been able to sell these sandals to USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and other European countries. Ironically, it initially proved difficult to sell the sandals to fellow African countries due to the high air shipping charges.

Fortunately, earlier this year, we discovered parcel delivery trucks and vans that travel all the way from Kenya to South Africa. Drivers of these trucks and vans are the unsung Ankara Jeans Rucksack 5Ankara Rucksack from Kenyaheroes of trade within Africa.  They endure long days and nights on the road, cumbersome border agents and unpredictable weather, to deliver goods to countries in eastern and southern Africa. Because their charges are quite affordable, it has now become possible for us to ship maasai sandals, Ankara bags, Rwandan uduseke basket, brass jewelry and other African products to countries like Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. Our goal is for great African products from those Southern African countries to also take full advantage of the East African market.  The more these products reach a wider market on the continent, the more the people who are on the value chain of their production will benefit economically.

Although the distance between Nairobi, Kenya and Windhoek, Namibia, is 4,000 kilometers, this shouldn’t stop entrepreneurs from the two countries from trading with each other. We are therefore making it possible for traders in Namibia to buy Kenyan products like the maasai sandals, then sell them within Namibia. In the same vein, even Namibians who just want to buy and use them without necessarily selling them, should be able to do so at the click of a button. Either way, distance between African countries should not be a barrier for trade between people from those countries.

Time is ripe for economic pan-Africanism to take root and flourish. Thankfully, African policy makers are finally catching up with African traders who have been trading across borders for centuries. The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) is committing African countries to remove tariffs on 90 percent of goods. Our presidents should prioritize the operationalizing of this historic agreement so that Africans can trade freely. If that happens, Africa’s market of over 1 billion consumers and a total GDP of over $3 trillion will turn Africa into the largest free trade area in the world!

We are therefore going to begin highlighting which African countries have operationalized AfCFTA, and which ones are dragging their feet.

But we are not going to just sit and wait for policy makers. Instead, we choose to follow the example of Zambezi River and ensure that amazing African products can flow all the way from Eastern Africa to Southern Africa. More than that, awesome African products from each of the continent’s 54 countries should be able to be sold freely and easily all across the continent.

At Sasafrica.Shop, we are committed to ensure that this happens sooner rather than later.

David John Bwakali, Sasafrica CEO

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Whatsapp Number: +254732979318

Running 10k with Eliud in Mind

‘I will walk for most of the 12 kilometers and just run a little bit here and there. That’s because I have not run for the last one week since I was suffering from malaria. I finished my medication - Dihydroartemisinin+Piperaquine (P-Alaxin) two days ago and I feel fine now.’

These thoughts were running through my mind as I fist-bumped Kim the security guard and stepped out of the main gate of our court. The cold was biting so hard that I wondered if it had been sent.

I walked at an average speed along the dirt road, turned right to another dirt road and then onto the tarmac. ‘I think I should run a bit.’ So I started running at a slow jog. My Nike running shoes  began making a staccato sound as they hit the tarmac. My 88 kilos were unhappy about this transition from walking to running but I shut down their protest.

‘I will run for a couple of minutes until the first junction on rhino road.’ But when I reached the said junction, I decided to continue running. My legs felt strong, and my heart wasn’t thumping, thanks to the slow speed. ‘I should probably run until Kifaru Primary School, then start walking from there.’

But when I reached Kifaru Primary school, my legs were still feeling good. In fact, I was now seeing Eliud Kipchoge in my mind. I could see him swinging his arm above his chest as he ran along Vienna's Prater Park. I saw his sleeveless white top and the Nike Pro Arm Sleeves and swung my own sleeves-less arms happily.

There was a time not too long ago when I used to detest the arm swing of my running style - I swing my arm in the upper body, not the lower body and for some reason, I thought that wasn’t cool. Then one morning, again not too long ago, I was browsing through YouTube when I came across Kipchoge’s Berlin marathon, the one he broke the world record. I noticed that his arm swing was also in the upper part of his torso, just like me. Great! So now I have embraced my running style fully.

‘I will run until Mama Lucy Hospital, then I can walk from there.’ But after running past the matatu stage in Umoja 2 where colorful matatus were queuing as if in a wedding reception, my feet were still feeling strong, my heart rate still manageable. When I hit the Usain stretch and continued running comfortably, another thought flowed into my mind. ‘I can actually run all the way to Komarock and back home, without slowing down to walk!’ And so I decided to act on this thought. I decided that for the first time in more than a year, I would run at least 10k without stopping or slowing down to walk. 10k is one quarter of a marathon, and I had last run such a distance without stopping back in 2017, when my running was at its peak.

It’s funny how a victory won in the mind can materialize into an actual victory outside the mind. Ordinarily, running the entire Kangundo Road stretch from the Mama Lucy junction is a big breakthrough. But this morning, because my mind had already hooked itself to running the entire 12k from Tena to Komarock and back, I felt like I was just gliding along. I made it. I ran the entire 12k without stopping. Yet this was after a one-week absence from running and two days after recovering from malaria. Of course my speed of 7.39 mins/km was quite slow, but hey, it’s one step at a time.

As Bwak the Bantu poet wrote, ‘one small step forward gets you closer to your destination.’

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Following in the Footsteps of Eliud Kipchoge

9.08AM. 12th October 2019. It is seven minutes to the start of Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon at Prater Park in Vienna Austria. In a few minutes time, he will attempt to do what no human being has ever done by running the entire 42km marathon in under two hours. Like millions around the world, I have been waiting with breathless anticipation for this marathon, which has officially been dubbed as INEOS 1:59 Challenge. 

I dash to the kitchen to pour some white tea into my silver flask. The one with the black bottom. I want to start watching the marathon with a steaming cup of cardamom-flavored white tea in my right hand and a thick slice of Blueband plastered bread in my left hand. A few minutes earlier, I was at Naivas to buy unsliced bread so that I can slice thick, uneven slices and spread on them thick layers of Blueband margarine. I find the taste and feel of thick self-sliced bread to be better than the thin, sliced bread.

Just as am pouring the steaming tea into the welcoming flask, everything goes silent. The drone of the pump that is pumping water into my tanks goes silent. The voice of the NTV lady who is commentating about the historic race disappears. Fear grips me as I rush from the kitchen to the sitting room. I find to my horror that the electricity has disappeared. That’s right, off all the days that electricity could have taken a break, it chose today, at this historic moment, to do so. I slump into my brown-cushioned cane sofa. I want to cry. The race is beginning at this very moment and am not watching it!

I dash from the sitting room through the veranda into my home office. I would have preferred to watch the marathon on the big screen in the sitting room but anyway I will have to stream it on the laptop, which I hurriedly switch on. As fate would have it, the mobile phone Internet that am projecting to my laptop is so slow that youtube is not loading. I buy more bundles just to be sure that the problem is not insufficient bundles, but that doesn’t help. I am almost crying now.

I run from the house towards Jam Rescue club along Outering Road, eager to watch the marathon there. But when I arrive at the Club, the place is more silent than a church on a Monday morning. There are only two people there, both cleaners who are scrubbing the rough floor tiles. I honestly want to start crying now. This cannot be happening. So I decide to test if the internet on my phone is working now.

There he is! There is Eliud Kipchoge in a white top, running, surrounded by black clad pacemakers. Awesome! I walk home watching the marathon. Feeling as if Eliud can see that am finally watching his race.

I decide to get into The Growler, my car, to watch the marathon from there.

That is where I am sitting now. The marathon is at the halfway mark and Eliud is on course to finish it in under two hours. Am watching this on the official INEOS Youtube channel for this race. One of the commentators is a lady, a former American long distance runner whose voice is absolutely beautiful. I smile at her voice.

Thirty kilometers are over. Twelve remaining. The lady with a beautiful voice says that she can see some strain on Eliud’s face and the two other guys who are commentating the race with her agree. My heart starts to sink. He has to finish this race in under two hours. I tell my car’s frayed black steering wheel.

Joan texts me, saying that her heart is beating really fast, as if she is actually running. I can’t reply. I can’t afford to miss even one second of the race. My small bro Jay calls me. I disconnect. We are into the last thirty minutes. The lady with a golden voice says that Eliud is within ten seconds of the two hour mark. He is on course. My heart joins Joan in racing alongside the champ. The greatest of them all.

Bernard Lagat and several other pacemakers join Eliud in the final five kilometers. Lagat, a longtime friend of Eliud is 44, older than me and still running long distances at fast speeds. This gives me hope.

We are in the final 500 meters now. Eliud springs into life, even though he had been springing along for the entire race. He raises his hands and beckons to the pacemakers to step aside.

He sprints down the final three hundred meters. The finish line is in sight. He raises his hands in the final fifty meters and crosses the finish line in under two hours. 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds to be precise. I shed a tear as I clutch the rugged steering wheel.

I am immensely inspired to run the marathons of my life with similar focus and determination. So help me God. I will also make my own history. I fish out my phone and send a whatsapp text to Eliud. Thank you so much for inspiring an entire generation. May God Bless you. 

Yes, I have his number.

My Left Leg Refused to Run

When my eyes slummed shut at 12.45AM, I knew that I would wake up in less than four hours, by 4AM. My body knew that the 4.30 morning run was mandatory. So I was not surprised when at 3.45 AM, my eyes flicked open. My phone was hiding beneath the white pillow next to me. After I found it, it informed me the time and I smiled, happy that I was truly the boss, able to tell my body what to do as opposed to the other way round. Alas, little did I know that my body would shortly be sending me a message that I would be inclined to disregard.

Don’t go for this run. These words were initially hazy. So I drank my cardamom tea, put on my socks, slipped into my long-sleeved running top, then into my Nike running shoes. Don’t go for this run. My left leg told me by way of a gentle throb. Nothing painful, just a dull feeling in my left ankle, as if I had been standing on that leg for a while. I descended the stairs, opened the gate and started walking briskly. The security guard with a permanent frowning face was on duty this morning, sitting by a bonfire with a man I didn’t recognize.

I ran briefly on the twenty-metre rough road outside our court’s main gate, just to taste the state of my body. Don’t go for this run, it insisted. I will go for this run, I responded. Today, I was planning to start running at the tarmac, but when I reached it after a brisk walk on a 100-meter rough road, I saw a police van ahead. Thankfully, police nowadays don’t ask any man they meet at such hours for a national identity card like they used to, back in President Moi’s days. But still, I decided to continue walking until that van passed. I turned right onto rhino road and was just about to begin running when I saw another police van ahead, plus two groups of people conversing in low tones. Again, I postponed the start of my run and walked briskly past the people and police van. I wonder what happened here. Did someone die?

I started running.

My footsteps became louder and faster as I slammed into the sandy tarmac. But I felt uneasy. Although my heart was in the run, my body wasn’t. Today, I was hoping to beat yesterday’s record of 7.1 mins/km. But my left leg was leading the rest of my body in a lingering protest at my decision to overrule its clear instructions earlier. So I stopped running but instead of taking a U-turn, I walked for a few meters and continued running. Stop! My body commanded. I finally turned back. It was 4.47AM.

We must learn to listen to our bodies. Although there are times when self-control requires that we overrule the body’s voice, there are also times when we must listen to that voice.

Strong!

The guy running towards me was stocky, probably a good ten kilos heavier than me. But he was running faster than I was, his face barely visible because of a red hood that was covering three quarters of his face. His large frame reminded me of a rhino. So it felt as if a rhino was charging towards me.