Old lady is in the sitting room literally dying of laughter. Seated to her left is her 7 year young nephew, to her right is her long haired, big olive eyed 11 year young niece. They’re watching Garfield. Meanwhile, my old man has blacked out on one of the arm chair’s and olive eyes father is busy drooling all over the other with his head leaning out of the cushioned armchair and his torso well buried into the cushions. I, on the other hand have just woken up (its 2pm) by the way, and a solid Sunday lunch conveniently awaits his highness. Good life! I serve myself and join the already filled sleepyheads, the very young and the young at heart in the living room. I open up The Sunday Nation, spread it all over one of old lady’s new and queerly shaped (I dare not tell her) mahogany coffee table and automatically flip the page over to Mutahi Ngunyi’s opinion column. I place the plate of grub on my lap and switch to ‘auto read’ and ‘auto eat mode’. Family, sunshine, no hangover, good food, Mr. Ngunyi….what a way to kickoff Sunday. Uncle olive eyes arouses from his drooling slumber, twists his neck the full 180, interrupts my surreal afternoon and orders me to shave his son’s head. ”’The kit I came with is somewhere around there!” and then gets back to drooling. NKT! Fortunately, we… in the leafy suburbs have very handy housies and ours typically just happens to have some barber skills. At a fee of fifty bob, he agrees to do this favour for me and just as we are prepping up a shaving spot on the terrace, one of my boy’s unexpectedly pops by. A lunch and a beer later, we go for a short drive around my neck of the woods before ending up at his X’s house and what a warm evening it turns out to be. My boy’s X let’s us know that her beautiful 1 year old PYT(pretty young thing) is via one of my first cousins would you believe. What a small world we live in. Anyway, we spend the rest of the evening playing with pyt Nduta and trading stories with her mommy and her auntie for a few hours before realising that we’ve overstayed our welcome.
FFWWD….It’s now 2.30am and I’m feeling inspired to write something that’s been on my mind for a while now. Will I be just as blessed once mid life starts to creep in and give my children the same nirvanic sunny Sunday’s just as my parents have been able to? And in a country where over 80% of folks don’t own the houses they live in, this is truly a blessing. How nice it must be to own your own slice of this world and be free of the ‘when’s the rent due mentality’ which very unfortunately around 80% + of Kenyans endure. So when I think about clearing school and getting into that bleeding career/ corporate world (yukk!) it would really help if I could have folks who can throw me a sh15million flat somewhere in Riverside to start me off and negate the inevitable ‘when’s the rent due’ mentality. Unfortunately, my folks aren’t the Windsor’s….so nikujipanga! Therefore I and a lot of my friends who will be graduating this year will have to fall into this ‘when’s the rent due’ clique and what’s poignant is that not all of us will make it out. Infact we might as well begin forming a ‘club 80:20′ (80% renters and 20% buyers).
Consider this scenario…Say you get a reeeaallyy good well paying job by the final quarter of this year and you’d like to start house hunting in order to opt out of ‘club 80:20′ early on. You’d naturally want a house not too large, in a safe hood (if we have any left!) and in a leafy suburb. Now! From the much I know, this will at least cost you a cool seven to eight ($100,000+) mil in Nairobi. And that’s probably for some fourth floor flat (bila elevator FYI!) in a slightly upper middle class hood. And unless you plan to live in Athi River, forget about buying a townhouse. Maybe a sh7 mil servant’s quarter if you’re lucky. Alternatively, one can buy a plot of land like our folks used to and start saving up bit by bit before deciding on building. But those days are gone unless you plan on living fifty kilometers out of Nairobi or you’re just lucky enough to inherit a chunk of land. A quick peek at the property guide will illustrate plots in Githurai going for up to 3mil….and I doubt anyone of you want to build and reside in a place called Githurai for heavens sake. As for the purple poppy, Jacaranda tree lined infested suburbs a cool twenty million plus per acre will only get you to the negotiating table. It’s like guys just wake up and say…oh! I’m going to sell my land for this xxx fukin millions today! After all, it’s a willing buyer willing seller game right? Even the guy in Zimmerman who sells to you a sinking piece of land sand witched between four blocks of flats, no sewer system, no drainage, no trees, bad air, no air and no sunlight will probs sell that rat hole for a few millions.
Basically, whatever price ‘property X’ is in Nairobi today divide by three to get the its real value five years ago. And the only bleeding reasons majority of our dumb ass biz journalists will give you are; demand is up, the economy is experiencing a boom, the government is constructing more roads and the best one yet is the inflow of pirate money. Fine, these are valid factors but they aren’t the only ones. How abut these; Wage rates haven’t suddenly shot up, the social amenities provided by government are still the same ones that existed when I was in primary school, banks are still tight with liquidity if not tighter and government infrastructure never seems to satisfy the rate at which our population is growing. Just look at Muthurwa bus terminal during rush hour! If you ask me, within five years, greed (often fronted as demand) has soared property prices sky high and may kill our prospects of ever entering the property market as first timers before we hit thirty.
I think we would all like to see each other do well. To be first time home owners by the time we hit our early thirties and also to trade stories of what other investments we have under our belt. Ideally, people invest in order to enable themselves to enjoy some of the finer things in life or at least to simply make life a bit more bearable. But the way things are going in this town our first time homes may be the only pieces of property we ever own. What’s more, I doubt we can ever replicate the old school way of saving a little bit every end month in order to pick up a speculative piece of land for anymore. It’s the way most of our folks may have acquired their wealth but in our era this will simply be unaffordable and I’m sure we all know this. What I do foresee is that we will have to think of alternative investments methods (other than starting a business) to spruce up our savings, enable us to go on holidays, put our kids through the ‘Harvard’s’ of this world, plan for retirement, buy that jet black collectors Mercedes you’ve always wanted and ultimately leave a legacy for your loved ones long after you’ve departed. And the first pick would have to be the Money markets, Stock Markets and Capital Markets.
Realistically speaking, will this be possible in a country where our own government can’t even set the transport sector straight? Where we still have family owned investment houses (akina Waiganjo& Waiduthia) going under every other day? Where former primary school headmasters have suddenly found their niche in trading multi million shilling mortgage securities? Where secretaries offer you stocks advice in place of their stock broker bosses when they aren’t available? Where we have unethical and unqualified traders handling public finance? And a Government that handles hen snatchers more ruthlessly than the kings of graft. Now…couple this with an almost financially illiterate lot of Kenyans who spend all their free time up watching Gossip girl and 24 and as a result are easily lured into pyramid schemes; make communal/herding investment decisions and other fake ass get rich quick scheme investment ventures… Add a greedy lot of Kenyans who don’t want to make money the hard way but would otherwise prefer perfecting the art of conman ship and serial defaulting… add a dash of a government that politicizes a finance bill and theeen…. throw in a bunch of dishonest Nairobians who would never pay their taxes given the choice yet still sit, bitch! And hold the government accountable on budget day… Presto!!… We now have a financial system that specializes in committing financial murder. Where you can work for 40 years, trust an investment house headed by a former Chemist with your savings and watch your pension fund get handled by some idiot of a trader who has no clue what CFA stands for. And oh yes! Drives a custom fitted Range Rover yet lives in a rented penthouse. And it’s thanks in a large part to dishonest financial systems such as these that have led to the unaffordable state of things in Nairobi(expensive property, expensive loans, expensive mortgages).
So for those of us that may have just gotten into the job market, or may be looking for their ideal job, or have a start up business or are about to graduate and are not relying on our folks inheritance to bail us out…think of Nairobi in the next 10 years and realistically tell me how the hell we are supposed to live here if things continue to spiral out of control?
Now…this year, like every other year, we will have a number of us graduating in our respective trades. Medicine, Engineering, Law, English, Finance etc. In all these fields however you look at it they all have a duty to society. Doctors have a duty to save lives; lawyers to uphold law & justice; engineers to ensure creativity and public safety, health and welfare in doing so and financiers to ensure that; ethics, tenacity, rigor, analytics are observed in the financial world (someone stick this slogan up outside treasury). And seeing as one of my specializations is in finance I do feel that I have earned a right to share my simple financial views especially when something seems a miss. Firstly, finance is at the heart of any dream whether at the micro or macro level of society and that is just a fact. Permit me to illustrate! if you want to start a business…finance…If you want to own your ideal home….finance…your dream holiday…finance….your masters & PHD…finance….do you dream wedding?…finance! In short, everything you can think of achieving is directly and indirectly involved with finance and if you think I’m wrong, then think of how many dreams and hopes the global recession has shattered thanks to rogue financiers and unqualified financiers. And because finance matters, we need to get more training in those nerdy professional courses such as CFA, ACCA, CPA etc and get rid of the quacks who hardly know what these titles stand for and get them out of the pension funds, investment banks and their laissez-faire attitudes away from public (taxpayers) money. Also, the more qualified financiers get, the more we may be able to lobby for strong financial bills that can finally punish tax evaders and more importantly hand embezzlers and graft godfathers with death sentences (China style) rather than wasting them on hen snatchers. We’ll also be able to create derivatives markets that will enable those among us aspiring to be farmers to kick out the middleman and enable one to sell their produce at the right price to anyone anywhere in the world.
This doesn’t have to be a utopia. Slowly but surely the numbers of people sitting for legitimate local and international accounting examinations such as ACCA,CPA and now CFA and attending reputable organic business schools such as Strathmore (Ahem!) has massively risen and the more they are the easier it will be to put restrictions on which qualifications one must bear before handling public money. This is a strong indication of the seriousness with which this industry is being taken. Though it may be a while before a complete overhaul is complete at least the process towards forming a true free market with minimal government oversight has begun. A market whereby transparency and information is readily available. A market where we can readily pump in our hard earned salaries, bonuses and profits and predictably get back a return on making the right investment without cutting any corners. A finance system where retirees don’t have to worry about high school headmasters losing their hard earned money and getting away with it because of some lousy ‘disclaimer’ in ‘fine print’ at the bottom of the contract. In short, a system that appreciates financial prudence and awards you for it by turning your dreams into a reality; that business you dreamed about!….that wedding you dream about!….that jet black Benz you dream about!…your legacy!…all financed.
But this overhaul will never be complete without ordinary folk and professional financiers alike observing ethics right from the Central bank governor – to the minister for finance – to the bank MD – to the bank customer – to the guy at the till. We all need to be ethical in the way we carry out any financial undertaking and ensure complete transparency otherwise our dreams of seeing a true financial system into fruition will be up in the air. Worse, club 80:20 will continue to create lifetime membership package deals. Being ethical is not only the right way of doing things but also the cheaper way. Two, start to think of your life in the long run and get financially literate….youth is running out so grow up! (Note to self)….
This week fegi100 takes its hat off to 2 persons:
1. Just a Band’s ‘Makmende’ aka ‘makmesh’…Kenya’s first viral campaign that hit #67 on Google worldwide searches @1400 GMT on 25th/03/2010
2. Obama for passing his health care bill…Now we all know how important it is to walk the talk
3. Fegi100…..we have our first documentary coming soonest!