GUEST POST: Traveling While African On A Kenyan Passport

By Mark Karanja

Traveling while African can be a pain and it all starts with visa denied.

I am enraged by my position, because this is the second time I am here.

I dared believe that I was somehow different from those I stand with in the land of the undesirables. Those of us who hold the all true blue Kenyan passport, that repels Western visas like no other.

I will start from the beginning.

I am a social introvert. Simple social encounters are reduced to managing awkward stares and inappropriate questions often hurled at me. So over the last couple of years I have found myself relying heavily on the internet to form connections with people all across the world. It is easier there. It is a wonderful world of possibilities online. I have formed meaningful, even long lasting bonds with digital penpals turned good friends.

The Unofficial Expatriate Guide To Kenia

You finally got your dream posting to Kenya and you cannot wait to post pictures of your first Safari adventure in the Kenyan savannah. You bought a copy of Obama’s “Dreams of My Father” and finished it on the plane to Nairobi. The excitement as you step off the aircraft onto Kenyan soil is palpable.  You loved “Out Of Africa”, bet on Kenya to win the 3000m steeplechase at every Olympic game and think Lupita Nyong’o is absolutely gorgeous. You can feel the connection and cannot wait to visit the Maasai Mara to meet a real moran and the Kibera slums.

OH My! What A Guy! The Many Facets of Being Jeff Koinange

Jeff Koinange is without a doubt, Kenya’s most celebrated journalist. As host of the popular JKL show  on KTN TV his industry remains unmatched and his ability to find connection with all types of people has elevated Jeff to an undisputed position, as a voice of influence in our times.

Jeff was the first African in history to win an Emmy and notably the first African to win a Peabody, and the first African National to be awarded a Vernon Jarrett and the Prix Bayeux.

The “Bench” a moniker for Jeff Koinange’s JKL show hosted by Kenya Television Network has become an institution warranting the title “the voice”. It is where talent is unearthed. It is where issues of contention get aired providing a weekly catharsis for dedicated viewers. The “Bench” helps us by constantly calibrating national events and contextualizing issues, thereby birthing a more informed audience.  The bench will clock 9 years in November 2016 and it has provided a platform to more than 3000 guests. This is what is considered good journalism.

But it what does it take to consistently operate at this high level? Does Jeff have a life outside the bench?

 I invited Jeff to my bench and this is what he had to say…

One Africa, One Market

Kenya’s star representative to the Big Brother Africa reality TV show is Jackson Makini, better known as Prezzo. Mr. Makini launched himself into the public consciousness by flying in a chopper over the Wilson airport fence into the adjacent Carnivore grounds to dazzle the girls at a teen music award ceremony almost a decade ago.

That stunt obviously reflected well on his celebrity credentials and earned him a coveted spot in the Big Brother house located in South Africa. The show concept is simple. The contestants are confined to house, placed under 24 hour camera surveillance seven days a week watched by millions of viewers in 14 African countries. Controversy and manipulation is the end game and a contestant that has sex on set is assured of a lucrative post show career.

Closer home Tusker Project Fame is underway bringing together contestants from 6 East African countries in a pop idol competition. Similarly, the contestants are confined to a house, voluntarily sign off their privacy to be subjected to public scrutiny in a singing competition that guarantees instant stardom.

The media hype that tracks the contestants of these shows is partly responsible for turning our youth into prisoners of envy and consumerism. The popular shows are an assembly plant for narcissists; inspired by the Greek myth about a beautiful youth who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water and turned into a flower.  Invariably kids remain mesmerized by their reflection on TV and start to think simple living is impoverishment and celebrity is synonymous with happiness. The obsession with the private lives of other people compensates for the lack of meaning in daily lives. The manipulated sense of lack creates an addiction to instant happiness as advertised by one’s favourite multinational brand.

The narcissists will leave no legacy behind.