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Kenyans know the feeling. You’re at an airport, a bank, a service station, on the road, or often just at home, and it all goes wrong through no fault of your own. You stand there in the queue, on the forecourt, the roadside, or in the dark and wonder if it’s corruption, incompetence or that they just don’t care that leads to these daily frustrations.

It’s the feeling of helplessness that is perhaps the worst emotion that these everyday occurrences give rise to. You could complain but what will be the result? Nothing will be done, what’s the point? You know nobody’s really going to do much about the problem and no one will take responsibility. And to add to it all, you know you are being ripped off.


Once it was maize. Export the maize surplus, create scarcity in Kenya, drive up the price, make a killing and never mind that people may have died in the process.

Ksh 4800 – supply and demand or created scarcity?

In May of this year the petrol pumps ran dry, traffic was brought to a standstill as people queued in cars, trucks and matatus. The fuel suppliers blamed the pipeline company, the government blamed them both and they both then blamed the government. The country ground to a halt but someone made money out of it and to hell with the inconvenience. Corruption? Incompetence? Both? (See Forum posting, ‘Fuelling controversy and why the pumps ran dry’, May 9).

At present its cooking gas that is in short supply. Two years ago you could get a canister of gas for Sh1,650 that will now cost you Sh4,800. The Energy Regulatory Commission now say they will introduce caps on cooking gas prices… once a new import handling facility is finished next year.

The Business Daily blamed ‘middlemen’ and speculation by oil marketers for the shortages and subsequent price hikes. The ‘cartels’ blamed increased demand and lack of storage capacity. They all apportioned blame but no one took responsibility.


Who put the lights out?

48 years after independence (on Monday) the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) can’t keep the lights on in our capital city. Power cuts are a daily reality for Nairobi’s inhabitants and of course many, many more Kenyans have no access to electricity at all. Yet at least the KPLC do have a 24 hour helpline (0732 111 680). You can call them up and they will tell, you’re right, there’s a power cut in your area. At least you get it confirmed.

Other set ups make a show of helping their customers but it’s just a show. Again, nothing really happens and no one takes responsibility.


The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has a help desk. On one occasion this Forum correspondent was waiting at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to pick up a friend. The runway lights had failed (again) and planes were stranded all over the East Africa region. KAA’s help desk was handing out slips of paper with a phone number on them. Locals soon noticed that the number was one digit short. Can’t help that was the response of the only person on the desk, that’s the number we’ve been given. Shortly afterwards KAA won the ‘Best Airport in Africa award. (Longer term readers may recall we addressed this subject in a posting entitled ‘Ask a silly question’, July 22).

Well at least the KAA handed out a phone number, even if it didn’t work. Stranded again last week, this time at Julius Nyerere International Airport this correspondent approached the Tanzanian Airport Authority representative nearby. “We have a help desk just there”, she said. “There’s no one on it”, I said. “I know” she said but “it is the help desk”.


No fly zone?

And why was this poor hack stranded in the first place? Because much against my better judgement I had been prevailed upon to accept a flight ticket on the Fly 540 airline and the Fly 540 flight due out at 17.20 only finally departed at 23.50.

The posse of disgruntled passengers, all of whom seemed to have experienced this problem with 540 before, all of whom said they had never even had a recognition from 540 that they had failed there customers, and all of whom vowed never to fly with them again, rebelled.

The representative from Fly 540 said he was going to find out what was happening. He didn’t come back. Later another Fly 540 representative turned up. No, he didn’t know who the manger was. No, he didn’t know where his office was. Well yes, he did know where the office was but he wasn’t ‘authorised’ to say where. Anyway, he said, the flight will leave at 20.30. Then it was 21.40. Then 23.00…

As so often happens, one feels helpless and hopeless. But there is hope and there is, at least in part, a solution dear Forum readers, and we are all part of it.


Writing in the Sunday Nation (‘Social media causing consumer revolution’, November 27) the excellent Mr Sunny Bindra noted that where as once upon a time businesses could get away ‘could get away with being bad to customers’, or neglecting them, now, in the days of websites, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and all, everyone is connected to everyone else. And bad news travels fast.

‘Kenyan CEOs, start paying attention here’, wrote Sunny Bindra. Quite right too Sunny.

Oh, and by the way, just in case you’ve ever had, or have a problem with them, the CEO of Fly 540 is a Mr Neil Steffen and his email address is . Do get in touch, pass it on, and stay connected.


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