"CEOs can't wait to read Sunny Bindra's articles every week."

Jun 30, 2024
What is a nation?

What is a nation? What makes it what it is? Is a nation its borders, the lines on a map that define its boundaries? Is that what we think of when we think of a country? Is a nation its physical features, the mountains and lakes and rivers that are its hallmarks? Or is a […]

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Apr 02, 2023
Learning from street hustles

Last week I discussed the Netflix series Street Food Asia. The foodie in me loved looking at the origins and excellence of various dishes: chaat in India; tom yum in Thailand; jajan pasar in Indonesia; putu piring in Singapore. But the student of human endeavour in me was even more impressed. Street food, you see, […]

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Nov 22, 2020
Why the pandemic won’t kill globalization

A Brazilian visitor uses his Uber app to hail a Toyota taxi in Nairobi.  You watch a German series on Netflix, sitting on your Kenyan sofa, using a Korean TV, while eating takeout food from a local restaurant, ordered via a delivery app. Which country benefits from these various transactions? All of them.  The coronavirus […]

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May 03, 2020
To be ready for the new normal, start working on these 3 things

9/11. Most people know what those numbers mean. On September 11, 2001, a series of unprecedented terror attacks took place right on American soil. Four passenger airliners were commandeered by terrorists; three of them were deliberately crashed into buildings. As you would imagine, air travel volumes plummeted, throwing airlines into crisis. But after a raft […]

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Sep 15, 2019
Why do people keep selecting bad leaders?

Let me tell you about a certain country. A century ago, this country was regarded as one of the most promising of the future. It was richly endowed with a very diverse trove of natural resources, and had a GDP per capita higher than that of France or Germany. It attracted immigrants from far and […]

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Jul 29, 2018
The taxi driver with advice for presidents and prime ministers

Kamran is a taxi driver in Dubai. I met him on a recent trip and found him a little different from the norm. Despite doing a difficult and demanding job, and one that does not offer the best reward, he stays upbeat and positive. So much so that I engaged him exclusively on a daily […]

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Feb 26, 2017
Who’s the most important person in the game?

Two football teams run out onto the field and take their positions. Who is the most important person on the pitch? Is it one team’s star striker going for a record number of goals? Is it the other team’s veteran midfield general? Or is it that agile new goalkeeper, widely expected to be one of […]

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Jan 08, 2017
Things improve if the consequences are real and personal

A lifetime of observing people and societies has taught me one thing: people only behave if the consequences of their actions are visited upon them, personally. Why do Nairobi nightclub owners continue to bombard their neighbours in residential areas with music played at insane decibel levels? Because their own children are not studying for their […]

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Dec 18, 2016
Societal failure looks like this

It’s an interesting photograph. In the middle there is a sparkling new Rolls Royce parked in a city street; clearly, the owner is doing very well. But wait, to the left there seems to be an open drain running alongside the glittering car. And to the right of the limousine a very young child is […]

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Nov 20, 2016
What did the Trump ascendancy reveal?

Donald Trump is now the world’s most powerful man, put there willingly by the world’s most successful nation. There were people who saw this coming, but I wasn’t one of them. I did not believe that a majority of voters would install this man as their leader. Consider what has just happened. Americans have voted […]

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Nov 06, 2016
Universal basic income – could it actually work?

Predictably, my column last week brought on a storm of responses. I wrote then that we might soon all be considering universal basic income (UBI) a possible response to a changing world. We might think it appropriate to give every person in the country an income to cover essential needs – without linking that income […]

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Oct 30, 2016
Will we be paying people to do nothing?

What would you say if I told you we might soon be giving every adult a basic income – whether they work or not? You would think I’ve finally flipped and lost my marbles after coming close to doing so many times in the past, yes? Well, allow me to explain a little further before […]

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Oct 02, 2016
To understand human endeavour, understand Hubris and Nemesis

In her book Signals, author Pippa Malmgren asks us to understand how the world economy works by going back to the ancient Greek concepts of Hubris and Nemesis. Hubris is what happens to people when they overdo it. They succeed, and therefore they become overconfident. They think they have unusual powers. They imagine they are […]

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May 03, 2015
Xenophobia comes from small minds entertaining small thoughts

Xenophobia never died. That intense, irrational hatred or fear of “the others” is alive and kicking. It thrives, paradoxically, in South Africa, a country whose rebirth was predicated on the principle that “separateness” was wrong. It emerges, predictably, in Greece, where immigrants provide a convenient scapegoat for self-inflicted economic woes. It even threatens, bafflingly, to […]

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Nov 09, 2014
What happens when you can’t trust educational qualifications?

There have been widespread reports of cheating in Kenya’s public examinations again this year. As there are in most years. The problem of papers being leaked and sold seems to be rife. In addition, can we trust the certificates being churned out by our educational institutions any more? So many are suspect, being sold by […]

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Sep 21, 2014
My 600th column: Kenya’s true economic engine

This is my 600th column on this page, and to record the milestone let us take another look at this country of ours – through a different lens. Recently, feeling depressed by the state of the nation – the self-centred, money grabbing politicos and their relentless noise, the unending terrorist attacks, the spiralling epidemic of […]

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May 18, 2014
When governments spend big, taxpayers do not

The grand projects are in full flow, and the media applaud enthusiastically. A new railway, laptops for the children, roads for the counties, WiFi for the towns. All of this is described as largesse, generosity on the part of enlightened government, freebies from our favoured development partners. The money is flowing, and boom times are […]

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Oct 13, 2013
Why tax the tools of knowledge?

If you want to develop a nation, what do you do? Several essentials must be in place. You need your people to be free from hunger and have access to primary health facilities, so that they can do the work they need to, in good health. You need to have the rule of law, so […]

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Jul 14, 2013
Where else would you rather live?

I get this all the time. People will ask me: how are we supposed to live in this country? It’s a complete mess. It is corrupt to the bone, and corrupts anyone trying to earn an honest living. Easily solved problems like traffic and power supply and cleanliness are left to fester. Leaders are self-interested […]

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Jun 02, 2013
Entrepreneurs are heroes. So why do we treat them like villains?

Kenya’s economic salvation will not come from its government, no matter how big it becomes. It will not come from its huge corporations, no matter how many bumper profits they declare. It will not come from its mineral resources, no matter how vast their quantities. Kenya’s economic heroes are not politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats or executives. […]

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May 26, 2013
The Germans play for the long term

Last night, the 2013 UEFA Champions League final was played. I have no idea who won, as this column’s copy deadline is long before Saturday. But I can safely predict that a German team took home Europe’s premier club football trophy. This, of course, is not because I have particularly strong powers of prophecy; it […]

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May 12, 2013
A simple economic truth: performance before pay

The teaching of economics appears to have failed utterly in this country. I blame this on the teachers. I remember my own first teacher of economics: he would walk into the room, start writing lines and lines of notes on the blackboard and expect his class to copy it all down. At the end of […]

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May 05, 2013
Should Kenya make toothpicks?

My friend and fellow columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo asked an interesting question on Twitter recently: why don’t Kenya and other African countries make toothpicks? I promised to answer, so here is a response. Perhaps the question is better framed in the way that many of Charles’s followers seemed to put it: why can’t we even make […]

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Nov 25, 2012
Venting anger on ‘foreigners’ is foolishness

As Greece’s economic implosion continues, a worrying trend is emerging: the growing popularity of neo-Nazi groups and attacks on immigrants. The increasingly popular Golden Dawn party has been repeatedly implicated in racial violence, though it denies involvement. Its hostility towards African, Asian or Arab immigrants, however, is overt, as it reportedly champions slogans such as […]

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Jun 25, 2012
Booming banks and booming property prices are not enough

“Spain’s banking crisis did not come out of the blue. In the 1990s the Spanish suffered a bout of collective madness. Interest rates fell from 14% (with the peseta) to 4% (with the euro) in a matter of weeks. In 1998 the centre-right government passed a law that significantly increased the amount of land for […]

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Apr 29, 2012
It’s not the superhighway that counts – it’s what you do with it

Kenya has spent more on infrastructure projects in the past decade than at any other time in its history. And there is more to come. That is a great and necessary thing. Projects like undersea cables, superhighways and bypasses, link roads, rural power connections, bridges and port expansions will all have significant impact on our […]

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Nov 20, 2011
Taxpayer, you’re footing all the bills all by yourself

I feel I need to write something this Sunday that some of you may dismiss as a statement of the bleeding obvious. But here goes anyway. A government’s only real source of revenue is taxpayers. That’s it. I said it would be obvious. Yet it needs restating nonetheless, for I fear in the modern economy […]

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Oct 30, 2011
The shilling is weak. So where are our exporters?

Last week I discussed the manic dance of the Kenya Shilling in this column. I wondered whether our economic “fundamentals” are as sound as many claim, and whether this phenomenon of low-currency-high-interest-rates-high-inflation will go away any time soon. I also wondered why we have accepted a persistent trade deficit for so long. Kenya exports way […]

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