We have had to thing more that 50 times before deciding to write this post. In February, we broke the news that Safaricom was to announce the much talked about Innovation Board. The board’s main mission has been to bridge the gap between Safaricom and the average innovator, creative, and content creator.

Safaricom apparently believes that putting into play such a board will give it much edge over competitors.

First things first. Safaricom has not issued a press release on who the board members. Safaricom CEO Board Collymore just highlighted the issue of the board during the graduating of the first students of Safaricom Academy. What we have had is a bunch of individuals who have been tipped to sit in the board bragging about their nominations and maybe licking their lips before the eating party while serving the board.

We have had more than 4 blog posts so far. But who are the individuals who might be the members of the Board? According to themselves, they are

  • Erik Hershman – iHub, Ushahidi, AfriGadget and other stuff. An America and claims to be white African but never held a Citizenship of any African Nation
  • Mbugua Njihia – CEO Symbiotic (Software Development Firm)
  • Al Kags – Poet, Speaker, Talker, Formerly with Kenya ICT Board and many other things
  • Rehema Parmena – IP Lawyer at Rehema Parmena and Company Advocates based in Hurlingham
  • Bob Collymore – Safaricom CEO and a British Citizen.
  • Betty Mwangi-Thuo (I dont know why ladies always have to minus a name) – Head of Safaricom New Products and Classmmate of ICT Board CEO (Paul Kukubo) as per her own confession.
  • Joseph Sevilla – Former Dean of Strathmore IT Department, a Spaniard and is very well connected with government officials who needs to silence critics and get some boot lickers.
  • Paul Mugambi – Also from Safaricom new products division.
  • Fred Waithaka – Safaricom Legal Department.

Now that is what is being said by this blogger and this blogger that is going to be the composition of the board. Does Safaricom really need an Innovation Board? For what reason and what did they want to do that they didn’t find easy to do without the bloggers? Why must 30% of the board members be non-Kenyans? And when you have it that to be in a Safaricom Board you must have come from Braeside, Brookside or Safaricom Side School then that’s what?

You cannot be in the in an innovation board because just you created a place which was meant to have more Kenyan developers, creatives (not loudmouths) and content generators nurtured but you have ended up with a situation where at any given time, you have 70 of residents as lonely wazungus who are suppose to be researching on African tech, civil society and media scene but are busy drinking lots of coffee and beer at iHub instead of the not so well connected Kenyans given a chance to be guided.

These are what Safaricom needs to do for it to be pro innovation. BTW apart from M-Pesa which I seriously believe was a fluke, what has Safaricom created? You know when you do a wrong, it is only your dark side which comes to your  critics mind. So remind me of the bright side of Safaricom before I suffer total memory loss. Again for Safaricom to be seen to be pro innovation, these are what it MUST do;

  1. Safaricom must open the “innovative” product M-Pesa’s API to the local developer. This will go to prove to the average Kenyan techie how serious the company is about doing business with them. You can’t claim to be my friend while you don’t even see me worth sharing an idea with you.
  2. Safaricom must allow for uncapped internet in their 3G network. Most of the today companies and startups are created with researched ideas from the great marketplace and field which is the net. As long as you have an idea that every person entering Gikomba has to be charged a gate fee, you don’t look progressive to me. Do you know that even if today you go as a visitor to Safaricom, you will not get a Wi-Fi and use your laptop or Wi-Fi enabled Smartphone effectively? You must be innovative in thought to be innovative in action and even have a board whose innovative thought can only be out of this world.
  3. Safariom just like I have said with the Kenyan government, must detach from the meentality that every Kenyan innovator must have heard of iHub. We are being stagnant in thought when we have our minds squatting around iHub. We have more than enough big towns in Kenya. There are many weaknesses of the iHub and many strengths. We cannot, as a government and corporate, now revolve around a belief that iHub is the start and the end of innovation in Kenya. That’s foolish to say the least. Think of a student who went to Ronald Ngala Primary School in Mombasa then to Tudor Day High School then to Mombasa Polytechnic and has great technique.

You know that the majority of great innovators and even technicians didn’t go to University. Like William Ruto used to say, Universities train managers. But managers needs the technical people they need to manage. University graduates with bachelors and those pursuing masters lost their innovative mind with the many research assignment. They can effectively mentor but innovate. Not all but most. And our University courses simply went dry in ideas. They are more on how to make millions instead on how to create millions.

This so called Innovation Board, looks to me like a Nazi’s Secret Police ( Gestapo). A good number (3 to be exact) of the members of the proposed board used to be the harshest critic of Safaricom. They had to be silenced. And After silencing the majority of the outsiders, you had to have another 50% come from Safaricom. Now that is how a totalitarian regime is built. And do you remember that Safaricom CEO just disallowed any official of the company brandishing the title “Chief” apart from himself? Now that caps it all.

What I believe Safaricom is doing is just to test waters. That is why it is having this controlled leak over the board. And Safaricom even removed the details about the innovation board from its website.

After writing saying all the above, I think that the first target might be Tech Mtaa.