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10 years: I dropped golf for writing

ENG kizza

July. 07, 2020

It is 10 years now since I committed to contribute an article every Wednesday for the Ideas & Debate section of Business Daily , and out of 520 weeks I have written 505 articles, a 97 percent delivery rate. Many have asked me how a Chemical Engineer domiciled in the energy sector got interested in writing, and how I manage a diverse coverage beyond my petroleum comfort zone. They also wonder where I get time to do all this writing while maintaining a tight consultancy schedule.
My fascination with newspapers began in early 1960s. My father who was active in politics always had newspapers in our Karatina home, and these gave me a special craving for general knowledge which has continued to this day. Those were exciting years of high octane independence politics. Specifically, I have maintained a special loyalty for Daily Nation ever since it first appeared on March 20, 1960. It has remained positive and progressive. In 1966 when in Form Three, I wrote two “letters to the editor” in Daily Nation , and I still keep the cuttings.
My technical training and careers in petroleum never diverted my craving for global and local knowledge. In 1970 when in a UK University I signed up weekly Newsweek subscription which I maintained into 2000s. As the Petroleum Institute of East Africa (PIEA) CEO in 2000s, I wrote many oil industry lobby articles in newspapers, and when I left PIEA to focus on consultancy, Business Daily asked me to be a weekly energy contributor.
My past experiences in senior positions in multinational oil companies; ongoing petroleum consultancies in the region; appointments in public boards and committees; active farming experience since 1970s; wide reading of global and local books (a book a month), have all enriched my experiences and knowledge which I share in my column. Besides energy my other areas of interest have been infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture, and governance in general. In my columns, I focus on encouragement for value adding change.
Writing has become an exciting “hobby” which I undertake on Sundays, irrespective of how busy I am. I had to give up golf nearly ten years ago to accommodate my consultancy, farming and writing.
Yes, decade 2010/2020 has been quite eventful and never lacking in significant, interesting, and relevant material to write about. The new 2010 Constitution was the most significant event, and with it came devolution. After start up drama and problems, counties are still work in progress with enormous potential for development. They are evidently reversing rural to urban migration.
The Constitution brought new liberties, but these have at times been abused to derail and waste precious time for a country still playing a development catch up game. In the past decade, corruption has continued to taint politics, which has become more synonymous with quest for power and money, than patriotism and service. I do not think the new BBI constitution will fix this major problem and letdown.
The decade saw oil discoveries excitement which has ended up in disappointment as “real” first oil export remains uncertain. The upstream oil sector “local content” is now a delayed dream. We also witnessed oil prices drop from over $100 to twice hit levels below $30 in 2015 and 2020.
Jubilee government successfully continued the Kibaki infrastructure miracle especially in Nairobi and Mombasa. The SGR is still work in progress which should be given chance to stretch all the way to Kampala, and I am sure this will one day happen. I was involved in the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) feasibility study in 2010/11 and I am pleased to see Lamu port become a reality. The scope of Lapsset corridor project may have changed but the economic concept has remained correct.
Globally, two significant “disruptors” appeared on the scene. President Trump has disoriented many previous global comfort zones. Specifically, (and rightly!) he has stopped Chinese ascendancy to global economic domination. Recently Covid-19 came and overwhelmed a world that previously thought itself invincible.
Kenya is entering a new decade that will be defined by new leadership in 2022. May there be many more positive stories to write about, and may new medical sciences allow us to peacefully co-exist with Covid-19.
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