The Logistics of Unga ‘Revolution’

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June 20, 2017

Maize meal flour stocked in a local supermarket

May 2017 was not the first time Unga, or maize meal flour, made news headlines after its retail price reached record highs.

In 2011, many Kenyan citizens grappled with the escalating prices of fuel and food, and especially – as you may have caught on by now: Unga.

The original ‘Unga Revolution’ was spearheaded by convener of Bunge la Wananchi – Women’s’ Caucus, Emily Kwamboka (activist) on May 31 2011.

Kwamboka mobilized and led protesters in Nairobi’s Central Business District in demonstrations decrying the high cost of living and particularly the price of Unga, which then stood at KES 120 for a 2-kilo packet.

The then-Prime Minister, Raila Odinga came out and met the protesters outside his Office Block along Harambee Avenue and asked for 21 days for a solution to be delivered. Whether a solution was given within the 21 days is a story for another day or blog…

Fast forward to the current shortage of the staple that has sent empty bellies rambling resultant to retail prices spiralling upward from an average of KES 120 to KES 165. Being an electioneering year, politics have taken the centre-stage on Unga.

Amidst all the Unga Politics however, what has emerged clearly is that the importance of the logistics industry in dealing with the Unga shortage cannot be gainsaid.

Although silent players in business most of the time, logistics were greatly considered and discussed when 29,900 metric tons were first imported into Kenya from Mexico in mid-May 2017, within a record five days!

Kenyans took to Social Media and poked holes into the Government’s theory on how maize made its way from Mexico to Kenya in such a short time considering paperwork itself takes quite some time.

The Government of Kenya through Transport PS – Dr Paul Mwangi tried to clear the air by stating that Mexican maize had been Warehoused in Durban (South Africa) and transhipped to Kenya; explaining the quick turnaround.

The devil really is in the details. Whether or not the maize was from South Africa or Mexico or from a vessel that had been loaded with maize and was in the high seas speculating (as had been alleged by PS Mwangi), one thing is for sure: Sea Freight was involved and KES 90 Unga was available on our shelves and on the table of the 80 percent of Kenyans who consume it as staple.

Because Kenyans love Unga so much – to the tune of consuming three million bags a month – another vessel docked at the Kenyan port yesterday (June 19) with the precious Maize which will be processed to Unga.

To reach the various parts of the country in the shortest time possible the staple will be transported aboard the recently launched cargo trains on the Standard Gauge Railway, the much slower railway service managed by Rift Valley Railways and trucks.

Today I recognise the much-uncelebrated logistics players who make the world go around and more so those who meet the strenuous demands of emergency logistics. You all deserve a pat on the back.

As I thank you for stopping by to read this post, I urge you to go grab the subsidised maize meal before it runs out of stock! Happy Scrambling!


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