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#Tandaa : Paul Kukubo and Bitange Ndemo, You Are Conning Kenyan Techies

The second tranche of Tandaa grants were dispersed yesterday. And the winners, as you expected, are not surprising. They are either people who have known Paul Kukubo and Bitange Ndemo for sometime or just seems to have secret deals with him. It does not mean that some of the beneficiaries are not well deserving Kenyans. Many are and I must confess that the 2012/2013 Tandaa grant awards have seen more truly Kenyan companies win including Virtual City and Eat Out. Again the fund disbursement has been changed from single instalment cash-out to 12 month instalments cash-out.

But we still have the usual tech colonialists from western countries or Asia who come to exploit what Kenya has without giving much. Some are but majority have an intricate web of relationship with Kukubo in his personal business dealings or Ndemo as a government official.

I am not saying that talent should not be rewarded but my argument is way beyond that. Look, I have worked in 5 different countries which require work permits. I came to understand why governments need work-permits and the process of issuing investor or business permits to foreigners from experience.

The 2012/2013 Tandaa grants have seen a business owned by an Indian who did not know that Kenya existed some 4 years ago, win some Ksh 4 million without much sweat. Sriram Bharatam came to Kenya in 2010 to set up Iridium Interactive. The business deals in the space of digital marketing. Sriram came to Kenya on the invitation of Google to set up www.kbo.co.ke because then, there were not many Kenyan companies and individuals playing in the fiield. Even now not many does it.

So through Iridium, Sriram earned the Google millions and was even lately involved in the theft of data from Kenyan-based South African start-up, Mocality. The issue exploded and with the sacking of Google Country Manager in Kenya, I believe Google cut down their involvement with Iridium. So Iridium started looking for business elsewhere and they thought of the idea of Kuza Biashara.

Look, I have no personal problem with Iridium, Kuza Biashara nor Sriram but the issue is what the laws of Kenya dictates. When you want to come to Kenya as an investor, you must show a host of things and first, you must show that at least you are coming to invest not less than Ksh 8,000,000 (yeah 8 million) in the country. You will then have to pay a fee of Ksh 250,000 to the Kenyan immigration to gain a work permit as an investor.

So to have some “investor” come and fight for a measly Ksh 4 Million with young Kenyans struggling to get even Ksh 50,000 to fund business idea, is just theft. The argument by Dr Ndemo and Kukubo when confronted with the issues is that “the individuals will employ Kenyans.” If Kenyans were just looking for what to keep their population busy, we would very much encourage robbery, prostitution and drug running. The moment a foreigner makes money locally while he has not much in common with Kenya, he will repatriate his earnings and the profits. The payment to Kenyans will always not add up to much.

Kenyans have ability and capacity to run and create successful ventures. From one of the #140Friday events, you would realise that Kenyans feels that they are being taken for a ride. We don’t need leeches who claim to come to build for Kenyans some ICT expertise which they don’t have.

The LinkedIn Profile of Sriram Bharatam


The same guy behind Iridium and Kuza Biashara won an award at Connected Kenya in Mombasa. Connected Kenya is also an event with the same characteristics of fraudulent ideas. Sriram was with Paul Kukubo throughout the 3 days the Connected Kenya lasted until some delegates joked that the two might have been involved in some homosexual relationship.

Again some of the fools who benefit from the fraudulent actions of ICT Boards or are employed to sing praise to the core beneficiaries argued that Kamal is Indian. Yes Kamala Budhabarty is Indian but he is not fighting for government grants to build Craft Silicon. He has fought to build a company and look for investors including bank loans which he services. VCs at Fanisi Capital have supported the likes of Kamal Budhabati and not the ICT Board grants

Again, how would you want to connect Kenya when you don’t invite KENIC nor KIXP to such an event? Where are the key achievements of Kenya ICT Board and ministry of communications? It is all hype. As long as we still don’t have basic government services delivered in a digital manner, we will never brag of any achievement.

Whenever a visitor comes to Kenya, he will always meet the bureaucratic government functionaries and functions which will just drain them to the last drop of energy. The police, registrar of companies, income and corporate tax filing as well as our immigration services should digitalise their core functions for Kukubo and Ndemo to boast of any meaningful achievements at the ministry. The newly built government data centre in Ruaraka is empty and consuming lots of energy while the government host its key documents including the Hansard from the Kenyan parliament on Google Cloud services.

The constant arrogant retorts by Paul kukubo and Bitange Ndemo on deals at ICT Board which can only be described as fraudulent are sickening. Whenever we have raised points which support them, none of them have complained how much we are praising them. When we raise pertinent issues on integrity, they would rather see no evil nor hear any evil.

Again, from the 2010/2011 beneficiaries, what has been the achievements of Tandaa and how many of the businesses which benefited are up and running? What happened to the rest?

Kenya ICT Board CEO, Paul Kukubo, has called for a formal meeting for me to raise up the issues with his office on Wednesday. I will share more after the meeting.

Written by Robert

Respected Kenyan blogger, tech evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle @RobertAlai or Facebook page (www.fb.com/RobertAlai).

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