The Belittlers Conundrum – The search for the ‘Silicon Semenya’

Apr 11, 2013 7 Comments by

Huyu amenguka juu hajui ku-fly. Mimi sitaanguka.

Ok, a disclaimer/warning as always. This is another one of my hard-hitting posts. Yeah. Like I have any boot-licking pussy posts up in this mofo?

Not a “feel-good” blog post about how far we have come and how “good things will be in 3 years”. If you do not want to ruin your day with some facts and truths, I suggest you read something more palatable.

Moving on.

We come from a society where we blindly believe that we can be anything. Despite all our misgivings. Yeah. I want to see a boy born in Kibera become the president. I want to see just ANYONE apply for and getting funding from the ICT Board. I would like to see just a RANDOM person get elected a chair of any board in Kenya. Or the CEO of Safaricom.

It is not uncommon to see people belittling “what it takes”. You see a person in their Range Sport or Bentley and say “give me 5 years”. You see someone fluent in code and just churning out solutions and you say, “give me 6 months”. Wait!! SevenSeas have bought an office park on Riverside? Even me. Give me 3 years.

Please. STFU!

I think we are technically, mentally, culturally and politically inclined to NEVER realize the dream of creating a replica of “The Silicon Savannah”.


“I am no expert. Unless you think I am. You could be right. But I can bet you ain’t”, I always tell people. Slow down!! We are so desperate to call one of our own an EXPERT, and fill the “technology section” on the weekly news, that a simple app on the news gives one these undeserving titles.

Google has the masters of C. The AUTHOR of Python and an army of coders. Not hello-world masters we invite in conferences here. Hard-core gurus. As at 2008-09-02, Google Chrome alone was being worked on by 42 coders.

Man-power is there.

In Kenya, I cannot mention more than 15 coders who understand how the C compiler or how the JVM works. Deeply. Who have mastered ONE language so well, then can create ANY pertinent system in it. And you still think you can code?

All I see are VB/.NET/F# “gurus” whose best work is downloading some code online and punctuating the comments, then changing a variable name.

We do not have the ARMY for such a war. Everyone wants to be a General. We have no foot soldiers. Until we have enough soldiers and fewer prima-donna copy-pasterammers, we should not take part in this march. We will just embarrass ourselves. And Uganda.


42 developers working on Chrome. in 2008. Yes. And NOT ONE was irreplaceable  And NOT ONE was has their name on the “About” page. In a culture of “whose deeq is bigger”, we have never outgrown this issue. In the last 6 months have I been called not less then 2 times to “salvage a project” because the lead programmer “got fed up and left with the DB schema and server password”.

In Kenya, programmers are Gods. In the SV, programmers are servants. Implementers.


We have a PHD culture. “Pull Him/Her Down”. We see it everywhere. From Bishop Magua turning from a Technology hub, to a TekeKnowlogy hub where politically incorrect shop owners get kicked out, teke, to create more idle space. We are not using what we have, fully, but we want THEIRS!

The me-tooism is also a problem. There is NOT a single fully-working and mass-use solution for Farmers. And yet we have over 10 “Mobile Solutions for Farmers”. We seem to enjoy the journey and the camera flashes so much, we don’t complete the race. A few visitors from some university and a few journalist interviews and young coders forget what they are. Young coders.

We are happy to have 2000 users on each of our 10 systems. Not build one with 20,000 users. Call it premature codejaculation.

Unless you are buying a house or a lorry, no bank will still give you a loan to “do the next skype”. Good luck on winning the grants also. Funding? Do you have a mlami partner? No? Woiyee pole.


Nationwide Wifi. Makes me smile. With all the 2.5M+ Android phones in Kenya, here is nothing stopping a team of free-spirited enthusiast and experimentalists  from creating a secure SimCard-less VPN network where all the calls are over WiFi and, yes, FREE. Free Calls. Free Texts.

But Noo!! The government will not let this happen. Not when they own 40% of some Telco. Low Data-transmission-rates. Router-Induced congestion. QOS degradation. Name it. Another noble solution will tank

In Conclusion

We don’t respect rice. We fry it. Since eggs can be fried. We forget rice needs some more time. To simmer and soften. And then we complain that the frying pan is spoilt.

Avoid group think. Be VERY VERY good in one thing. And grade yourself against the world’s best. Not twitter noisemakers. The better you are in code, the less time you take on a project. The faster you get paid and move on. Learn something new everyday. Google shamelessly. Just not frequently. Read books. Be soldier 1 of 10000. Kenya needs 10000.

Back to code.



Coding, Personal, Startups, Xema Labs

About the author

Coder, hacker, inventor, pool guru.

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