Kenny Rogers, Kenya's VP and Me

The Scene:
Kenya School of Monetary Studies, Central Bank of Kenya, Nairobi
Candle Lit Dinner by the Pool

At the Table:
Kalonzo Musyoka, Vice President of Kenya
Njuguna S. Ndung'u, Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya
Professor Kim Wilson, The Fletcher School
Your Humble Blogger

Professor Wilson, turning to the VP: "Your Excellency. I'm doing some work on the effect of gambling on poverty in Haiti. Is gambling amongst the poor a big problem in Kenya?"

VP: "Do you know Kenny Rogers?"

Professor Wilson: "Yes, I do."

VP: "As Bwana Rogers says, 'You've got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run.."

Me: "Your Excellency, it turns out I sang that very song at a karaoke bar in your country only two nights ago."

VP looks me, pauses, : " never count your money, when you're sitting at the table, there will be time enough for counting, when the dealings done.

Timidly at first, then with rising cadence, the I join the VP in song: "Every gambler knows, the secret to survival, is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep, because every hands a winner and every hands a loser, and the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep."

Later in the evening, in his public remarks broadcast on national television, the VP remarked on the intelligent conversation he had had with a young American and his professor.


Should the Foreign Aid Industry and the African Digerati Work Together?

The foreign aid establishment and the African Digerati are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Africa. USAID, the World Bank and other anchors of aid are consolidated, lethargic and rooted in a command economy that Breznev would be proud of. The Digerati: engineers and entrepreneurs solving problems via the medium of mobile phones and the Internet, are decentralized, innovative, energetic and generally suspect of any bureaucracy.

One line of thinking says that getting these communities to even talk to each other is a waste of time. I'm not so sure. I've made the argument that the Obama Administration should think carefully about concrete ways to leverage technology in international development.

I just wrote a short article called Searching for Innovation in Foreign Assistance in the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs. Its a review of the economist Bill Easterly's most recent book, but its also a first attempt at introducing the reform minded flank of the aid industry to the dynamism and energy of the Digerati. I'll be on the hunt for anecdotes of the Digerati as I romp through Kenya and Uganda this summer.

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