Archive by Author | Pete Larson

Are Kenyans really paying 16 bribes per month?

Probably not. The popular news is widely reporting this figure based on results from a pilot study sponsored by Transparency International, a German NGO.

“In East Africa’s most prosperous economy, the average city resident pays up to 16 bribes per month, according to Transparency International. Locals have dubbed Kenya “ya kitu kidogo” — the land of the “little something” — a kind of homeland of the bribe. And on the streets of Eastleigh, Nairobi, the victims of those bribes point their finger at one perpetrator.” – USA Today

Aside from the popular press, it is even being quoted in scholarly works.

I grew suspicious as I only pay about two to three bribes per month. While bribery and corruption are persistent problems in Kenya, 16 seems rather excessive based on my experience there.

So I went digging. And found the original research. Turns out, as noted above, it is a pilot study, done with little funding, using a convenience sample pulled off people walking on the streets of Nairobi, or rather a single place where the researchers pulled people aside and asked them questions. The respondents are mostly in their 20s and educated.

The sampling design appears to be not a sampling design at all:

“The survey was designed to capture citizens’ interaction with the government institutions primarily, but the survey itself sought information on both the public and private sector. The sample was selected by cluster sampling from three clusters as follows: i. Micro and small enterprise operators (“jua kali”) sample, drawn from membership of microfinance organisations

ii. Corporate sector, drawn from the membership lists of industry and professional associations

iii. Random “street” sample. The survey was administered to a random sample in public places (restaurants, bus stops, public parks and residential areas etc) to capture people not represented in the other two clusters (e.g. public sector workers and the unemployed) The “jua kali” and “street” clusters were administered through personal interviews. The questionnaire was sent to the corporate cluster respondents by business reply mail and followed up by telephone. However, the response rate was extremely low and had to be complemented with personal interviews to obtain an acceptable response rate.”

I suspect, given the demographic of the respondents, they were hanging out around the U. Nairobi area in the CBD of Nairobi and NOT in Eastleigh as the USA Today article suggests. In fact, the report doesn’t mention Eastleigh at all.

The authors, to their credit, caution against the use of the results:

“The survey is a pilot study, whose primary objective is to establish the viability of empirical corruption research. It was not designed to provide a representative sample from which statistically valid conclusions about the urban population as a whole can be drawn. ”

So… while I get that there isn’t a whole lot of research on the subject, and any contribution is, well, a contribution worth examining, the results of this study should NOT be presented as fact, given the poor sampling design.

We can, of course, excuse the popular press, since they don’t care, but scholars should be extremely wary.

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More “music” no one will care about.

DG002 (1 of 1).jpgBecause we shouldn’t deceive ourselves. The digital age has provided too many opportunities for people who shouldn’t necessarily be putting out records  and flooded whatever market may exist, reducing opportunities for everyone.

It’s like the famous tragedy of the commons, “an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource.” So, I just quoted Wikipedia. Strike two, maybe.

So here I am, acting in my own self-interest and behaving contrary to the common good, through my second collection of songs for Mark Maynard’s Saturday Six Pack Radio show. For those who don’t know, I wake up every Saturday, improvise a song and send it to him for airplay later than evening. It requires little work from me, no financial investment, and gives me something to do besides mope in my Nairobi apartment about what my life has become.

Enjoy (if you can). You can find it here on Bandcamp and even purchase it if you are feeling particularly sorry for me.

Here’s the video for the lead track.

 

Links I liked

  1. The Return of Yellow Fever (link)
  2. Historical Review: Problematic Malaria Prophylaxis with Quinine (link)
  3. A Single-Payer Plan From Bernie Sanders Would Probably Still Be Expensive (link)
  4. A Unique Perspective on the Making of ‘STALKER’: The Testimony of a Mechanic Toiling Away Under Tarkovsky’s Guidance (link)
  5. Lethality of First Contact Dysentery Epidemics on Pacific Islands (link)

and some nyatiti from Luoland:

 

 

Videos of me playing “music”

I was at a friend’s this weekend, who just happens to do video work (for an NGO in East Africa) and who just happened to have a friend from the UK doing video work (in a Somali refugee camp in Kenya) and who both just happened to want to shoot a video, which went from shooting a simple practice video of our band (more on that later) to “Pete, let’s film you doing a couple of solo songs” which turned into 2.5 hours of intense setup (six cameras) and 10 minutes of filming. And hours of editing. And uploading.

The results were great and I’m incredibly thankful to Colin Crowley and Niko Belev for making me look better than I really do. Thank, dudes.

 

 

The fictional nation of Wakanda

wakanda_0003I recently went and saw the latest installment of Marvel’s film series, “Captain America: Civil War” and was reminded of Black Panther, Marvel’s other African hero (X-Men’s Storm would be the other). Black Panther is a prince of Wakanda, a fictional African country, which just so happens to be located near Lake Turkana, close to the Sundanese and Kenyan borders. Apparently, I could go and visit Wakanda if I wanted.

Wakanda is a special, though reclusive place. Wakanda is the world’s only source of Vibranium, the metal from which Captain America’s shield was created. Wakandans, though historically hunter gatherers, profited from the sale of Vibranium, and became one of the richest countries on earth. The prince of Wakanda, in contrast to many of his peers, reinvested the money in technological development ventures, and allowed his people to flourish. Wakanda’s tech is like nowhere else on Earth, designed specifically by Wakandans for Wakandans. In short, Wakanda is what Kagame wishes Rwanda could be.

I had no idea that Black Panther was slated to appear in “Civil War” and was happy they chose to film in Lagos rather than in some stereotypical African landscape of lions and elephants. People on this side of the world are excited about the prospect of a Black Panther stand alone film, due in 2018. Africa needs heroes, particularly ones who can stand on equal footing with heroes from everywhere else.

A fan made trailer, but…

Links I liked

While I’m fighting multiple infections at once (not bedridden, just annoyed), I though I’d post a collection of articles that caught my eye today: Haven’t done this in a while.

  1. Dispatches: Scapegoating Refugees in Kenya (link) and Why Kenya’s threat to close its refugee camps is even worse than you think (link) and Refugee Nation: The Escape Artist in Tanzania (link)
  2. The Communist Manifesto in pictures (link)
  3. Socioeconomic Inequalities in Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Systematic Review (link) – Poor people get sick. The title is somewhat misleading as the article focuses merely on poverty.
  4. Between-Country Inequalities in the Neglected Tropical Disease Burden in 1990 and 2010, with Projections for 2020 (link)
  5.  “I shared:” Can tagging papers that share data boost the practice? (link) – Scientists need to encourage one another to make their data available to the public.
  6. Every Insane Anti-Obama Conspiracy in One Chart (link) – Brilliant
  7. Kenya:Democracy on Trial? – A brutal grilling of opposition leader Raila Odinga. He has no idea how to respond. (link)

Rising wealth in Kenya: is everyone benefitting?

Picture1Looking at some data on socio-economic status (SES) from two regions of Kenya, I was able to compare current levels of household wealth with those of 2007 in the same households.

We measured SES using a method common to studies of developing countries. An accounting of specific material goods including ownership of radios, TVs and bikes along with type of water source, toilet is performed. We then use multiple correspondence analysis to assign weights to each item as they appear in the data set and a total score is calculated for each household (Filmer and Pritchett, 2001 though they use PCA). Each score (ideally) represents the relative level of wealth of each household.

Kenya’s GDP has been increasing rapidly since 2001. During my five years of travelling to this country, I’ve seen the place transform itself. There are more goods on the shelves, people look better, kids die less and women have fewer children. HIV and malaria are down and people are busier. It’s worth noting that Kenya has no real natural resources; its economy is mostly based on a well developed domestic market economy and agricultural exports.

The question, however, is whether these economic gains are being felt by everyone equally. To test this, I compared data from 2007 and 2015 to see if all households experienced an increase in wealth during this period.

I made the graph above. Assuming I’m interpreting the graph correctly, this would suggest that while wealthier households in 2007 consistently continue to be wealthy in 2015, the relationship for poor households is scattered. Some households are doing better, while other may have experience no change, while others may be poorer in 2015.

Clearly, no matter how one interprets these results, we should be explore what types of households might be falling behind, or experience no gains at all.

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