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The East African : December 16th 2013
22 The EastAfrican OPINION DECEMBER 14-20,2013 LAST WORD Gibbe≥ish gesticulations o≥ shee≥ b≥ave≥y? Well, well, well, who did you ask? Joachim Buwembo How I p≥ay that one day, mobile phones will swallow the banks I am not a finance expert and some things are a bit difficult for me to understand. So while I join fellow East Africans to rejoice the sign- ing of the Monetary Union protocol, I confess I am not sure how it is going to make my life better. Since I operate concurrently in three East African countries and am a longserving writer in this regional newspaper, I suppose I am expected to be ecstatic about the prospect of a single East African currency. But for now, I am doing fine with my KCB account opened in Arusha some years back with which I operate from all major towns of East Africa and every small town of Kenya — in dollars. Because small dollar bills cause you losses when you exchange them, sometimes when I need $40, I first deposit 10 dollars then withdraw 50 so I get a fair exchange rate at the nearest bureau. I am not a finance expert, so I haven’t yet figured out if commercial banks in the region will become relevant to our development after the monetary union and single currency take effect. For now, they are just debt collection points for most customers. Since my days of formal employment ended in 2008, I have opened several briefcase companies, each with the sole purpose of getting a particular contract. And in order to get paid, I have to open a new bank account in the names of each briefcase company. At the end of the job, the account naturally gets abandoned, leaving behind a string of abandoned bank accounts and co-signatories whose names and some faces I have forgotten. I am not a finance expert, so, being currently happy at the US dollar being fully convertible with the new pinkish dollar bills no longer raising eyebrows in our towns, I am not sure how the East African currency will serve us better. Hopefully, it will serve for more than regionalising national pride. I am not a finance expert, so I don’t know why high costs lead to high profits in East Africa’s banking sector. With only single-digit inflation for some two decades, banks continues charging double-digit interest for lending and effectively pay negative interest for saving. They blame “the high cost of doing business” and then every year boast of making huge profits. Can a finance expert explain to me how insufferably high costs lead to high profitability? As a layman I find this contradictory, unless someone is being cheated in the process. I am not a finance expert, so along with a few million other East Africans, we pray for the day when mobile phone companies will fully take over banking functions. For right now, whenever I move money using my mobile, I know exactly how much I am being charged for every transaction, unlike with banks where I get shocked at he end of the month with the numbing magnitude of the deductions. How I long for the day when employers will be sending salaries to people’s mobile accounts. I am not a finance expert, so I hope laws in East Africa are made for man, not man for the laws. May our leaders amend the laws so that our mobile accounts become our bank accounts. For the mobiles reach everywhere, give faster service, are more transparent and definitely more efficient than commercial banks. If the two are to merge, may the mobiles swallow the banks, rather than the other way round. Joachim Buwembo is a Knight Inte≥national Fellow fo≥ development jou≥nalism. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Illustration: John Nyagah TO SETTLE on a fake sign language interpreter to communicate to all deaf people in the world during the memorial service of the great Nelson Mandela was pure crass. But some people say that 34-year-old Thamsanqa Jantjie deserves an award for his bravery to fake his way into such an important global function attended by over 100 heads of state and former heads of government. Jantjie, who stood next to US President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service was described by the deaf people all over the world as gesticulating gibberish and as somebody who was simply flapping his arms around and appeared mostly to be swatting passing flies! Jantjie hit back by saying he is a sign language champion but he suffered a schizophrenic episode while on stage. The US Secret Service must be worried sick the fake man could even have been a terrorist. The Jacob Zuma government must be sweating with embarrassment. ... imagine a heckling Comrade Mugabe The indefatigable President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe cannot let go of his hatred for the West, even in his twilight years. The 90-year old man shouted at US President Barack Obama, during the Nelson Mandela memorial service when the US president chastised many African leaders for pretending to be inspired by Mandela but don’t allow divergent views in their own countries. Mugabe sitting among the dignitaries punched his clenched fist in the air shouting “Snowden! Where is Assange? Double standards!” Obama however ignored his ranting. For the love of a car, $35,000 for a ‘nut’? Most men would cringe at the idea of parting with a testicle, but in order to save a few bucks, a car lover is willing to lose one of his body’s most valuable assets. Mark Parisi, a self-proclaimed tightwad, is willing to have one of his nuts removed in order to earn $35,000. He confirmed to the shocked presenters of US TV show The Doctors he planned to sell his left testicle to medical researchers for money to buy a new vehicle. One of the show’s hosts joked after hearing the news: “It’s a Nissan for your left one!” Parisi estimates he’s saved more than $150,000 over the past two years by participating in other medical studies, including the “flatline” study in which volunteers agree to have their heart stopped. The tale of Colditz and the great royal escape ... A turkey in UK with royal connections has been spared the chop after a daring great escape. The plucky bird has been named “Colditz” after he did a flyer on the way to the slaughterhouse. He was being taken from the Rhug Estate in Corwen, Denbighshire, which supplies the Prince of Wales with his festive fowl. But incredibly, Colditz soon turned up in the village of Llangollen — and boldly pecked on the front door of Gareth’s mother-inlaw, Pam Owen. Farmer Gareth Williams said he did not expect to see him again. An amused owner of the Rhug Estate, Lord Newborough, said “My father escaped a Nazi prison camp in the Second World War but was captured and sent to Colditz, so we thought that would be a fitting name.” A public toilet seat, supe≥glue and a p≥ank gone too fa≥ A woman had to be yanked off a public toilet seat after a prankster smeared it with extra strong superglue. The unfortunate incident occurred at a Home Depot store in Georgia, US, after the shopper went to use the bathroom. When she tried to get up after relieving her- self she found she was unable to do so because her skin had become stuck to the toilet seat. She was eventually freed by emergency workers and taken to a local hospital for further treatment. The prankster has not yet been caught.
December 9th 2013
December 23rd 2013