A Training Manual

Foreword by Sahani Kom

This is the beginner’s manual. Please read all the instructions carefully and observe the rules and regulations   contained herein. This ‘code of conduct’ will help customers identify you as an MPEZA agent (particularly of the peculiar Kenyan variety) anywhere in the world.

1.Set Up

Find a space. Any  space. For example,

  1. For universal application- between the door and the door frame
  2. At Mama Mboga’s ( the green grocer)– between the tomatoes and dhania
  3. At the Kinyozi ( barber shop) – between the moustache and the goatee
  4. For advanced users with highly developed ‘techie’ skills – between the ‘Alt’ and the ‘Alt Gr’ keys.

Any space.  Literally. Hang up your agent number and transaction charges chart and open shop. Oh and your ‘MPEZA’ sign. Extra points if ‘MPEZA’ is stylized in neon with little LED lights flashing around it.

  1. Working Hours

If your space happens to be in the CBD, open at the crack of dawn to take advantage of the early morning rush hour crowd on their way to work.  Once shop is open, try out this neat trick:

  1. Wait for customer to walk in and approach the counter.
  2. Inquire what manner of transaction they would like to do.
  3. Upon hearing their response, repeat the following magic words; ‘Sina float’.
  4. Watch the customer disappear.

Pretty cool, huh?  It works every time. The same trick will also work at 11:53 pm, especially for agents whose neon sign says ‘OPEN TILL LATE’. This is a finely honed technique that has been handed down from generation to generation of MPEZA agents. Don’t let us down.

3.Customer Interaction

First and foremost, when dealing with a customer, every MPEZA agent must muster the official look, also known as ‘the blank stare’. As an agent, you are to sustain an expression of mild to extreme boredom throughout your interaction with your customers. Secondly, do not, under any circumstances, acknowledge greetings or pleasantries offered by your customer. However, if you happen to be in a particularly philanthropic mood that day, the official code of conduct will allow an exception to this rule by allowing you to proffer the official response as demonstrated below:

Customer: Habari yako? ( How are you?)

MPEZA agent: Sema  ( loosely translated to ….*insert naija accent* “Talk now, you are wasting my time.”)

After this, proceed with transaction. Ensure your speech is short, clipped and abrupt, in a manner likely to suggest that you have better things to do than pressing buttons on your MPEZA handset.  For example:

Customer: Habari yako? ( How are you?)

MPEZA agent: Sema

Customer: Nataka kudeposit ( I would like to deposit)

MPEZA agent:  Ngapi? (How much?)

Customer:  Soo tano ( Kshs 500)

MPEZA agent: Blank stare

Customer: Wondering what the blank stare means.

MPEZA agent: Opens hand, palm up, Blank stare again.

Customer: Has a brainwave. Fumbles in pocket.  Produces Kshs 500 note. Places it on  agent’s counter.

MPEZA Agent: Withdraws palm and sighs.

MPEZA agent: Namba? ( Number?)

Customer: 07********

MPEZA agent:  Presses buttons on handset. Boredom deepens. Displays phone screen to customer with eyebrow raised.

MPEZA agent: Confirm

Intimidated Customer: Nods head.

MPEZA agent: Presses buttons on handset again. Sighs deeply.  Tugs at transaction record book and scribbles in it.

MPEZA agent: ID?

Customer: Meekly recites ID number

MPEZA agent: *Slides records book across counter* Sign here

Customer: Signs book. Receives new message alert on phone.

Customer: Asante (thank you)

MPEZA agent:  Diverts blank stare to next person in the queue. ‘Sema!”

Please note that the instructions above only apply if you are in a good mood. If you are having a bad day, please refer to technique described in No. 2 above.

4. Additional Notes

If you happen to work in a   particularly busy MPEZA agency, please feel free to ignore the customer who is first in line and serve the person who can’t be bothered to queue because they are only depositing and you know them well anyway. If your customer has not been able to locate your agency number or transaction charges chart, please direct their attention to it by pointing with your mouth. Also, If your agency has multiple counters, please feel free to interrupt the transaction to share funny anecdotes with the agents  in the counters next to you ( preferably in vernacular) and keep your customer waiting  as you laugh loudly and forget how much they said they wanted to withdraw/ deposit. Whatever you do, do not give the customer in front of you the impression that they are important because they are supporting your business. After all, there are 19,999,999 other Kenyans out there just aching to stand in your queue. 🙂


The end.

©The Least likely wordsmith 2016. All rights reserved.




I get

A little tired

A little weary

A little worn

A little teary

At such times

It seems

Eyes that have barely seen

Have seen all there is



You remind me

That sunsets were created for quietness

And nights for rest

And even weary eyes see much better

After shutting down

And looking inwards

For a while.

I won’t make it to catch the train this morning.

It is 6:35 am as I leave the house and I’m already reconciled to the fact that I will have to pay higher fare on the bus to town since there’s no way to get myself to the train stop by 6:45 am.

It’s a typical Kenyan July morning – chilly and misty with overcast skies – the sort of weather that  fools the groggy  mind to linger under the covers and is eventually responsible for causing the otherwise early risers like myself to( you guessed it) – miss the train.

But I digress.

Soon enough I am at the roadside bus stop praying that there will be a bus along in less than the average 45 minutes. I’m soon joined by a few people, most notable of which (for the purpose of this story) is a young man carrying a laptop bag.

We will henceforth refer to him as ‘Mr. Laptop’.

Ten minutes later, a K.B.S bus ambles slowly past the Chinese road crew that has closed one of the two lanes on the road and lurches to a stop on the sloped shoulder of the road, a few meters from the bus stop. In typical Embakasi fashion, the small crowd of commuters rushes to board the bus. I am hot on the heels of Mr.Laptop, who manages to reach the bus door a second  before me.

And then ‘it’ happens.

In his haste to board the bus, Mr. Laptop’s bag is caught in the doorway and the following sequence of events seems to happen in slow motion.

The bag strap snaps.

Mr.Laptop turns around in horrified anguish as….

His  laptop drops the 2 meters or so  to land squarely on..

My right foot.

It is at this juncture that slow motion unfolding of events ends and a confused flurry of nerve impulses run through my body as my mind tries to come to terms with the sudden rush of excruciating pain emanating from my foot.

Mr. Laptop lurches out of the bus to retrieve his laptop from the dusty ground where it landed after bouncing off my doll-shoe clad foot with a look of utter panic. The small crowd surges again at the door of the bus and I manage to clamber on and clumsily drag my throbbing limb to the only seat available which just happensto be at the back of the bus and also happens to be right next to Mr.Laptop.

The bus driver kicks his vehicle into motion and I lurch awkwardly to the side, grabbing the seat in front of mine for support. There is a plastic bag on my seat.

‘Is this yours?’ I ask Mr. Laptop, holding the plastic bag out to him. It  takes  him a minute to notice that I am referring to the package he has put on my seat.

He nods but doesn’t pick it up.

A tad irritated, I sit down still holding the package. I motion him to take his property and he says ‘give me minute to see if my laptop is still ‘alive’. Still holding his package, I gingerly prise my shoe off the injured foot to inspect the damage. The pain is unbelievable but I can’t tell if the injury is serious or not.

Mr.Laptop gives an audible sigh of relief as his precious laptop powers on. He turns to me with a smile.

‘Aki niko na bahati! Haijakufa!’   (1)

I wince as the throbbing intesifies.

‘Unajua imeniangukia na imeniumiza?’ I ask him. (2)

‘Eh? Imekuangukia? tsk ,tsk,tsk!’ (3)

I can’t believe this guy. Your laptop nearly severed my toes and all you have to say is ‘tsk,tsk’?!

The conductor is soon at our side, demanding his dues. I fumble with my handbag, lunch bag and Mr. Laptops package in an effort to reach my wallet. Fare paid and tickets secured, Mr. Laptop starts brushing the dust off his beloved laptop bag and then turns to me and says:

‘Uko na ka – tissue?’ (4)

I’m beginning to have very unkind thoughts about my designated traveling companion, including all of the things I would at this very minute LOVE to give him (a punch in the face, perhaps?) Right then, I have a vision of the little angel who sits on my right shoulder wagging his finger in disapproval at me. My thought s change slightly to the more charitable ‘maybe he’s slow’… (Read retarded)…. His precious laptop’s near-death experience must have given him quite a scare…He’ll apologize in a minute…’

I take a breath and fumble again in my bag for some tissues. He picks the tissue without a word of thanks and proceeds to dust his bag.

By now, my thoughts towards him are certifiably ‘unchristian’. I take a deeper breath and attempt to communicate.

‘If my toes are broken, I will send you the bill ‘ I venture with what I’m hoping is a wry but disconcerting expression.

Mr. Laptop lowers his head in a bashful smile and my heart rises within me as I anticipate his long overdue expression of sympathy and profuse apologies for causing me grievous bodily harm…

‘Unajua hata si mara ya kwanza kuanguka. Kwanza last time ilianguka kwa matope’. (5)

I close my eyes and meditate on the principles of the movie ‘anger management’……

Just then, someone seated at the front of the bus alights. I try to get up to change seats but Mr. Laptop beats me to it.

I settle back unhappily in the cramped back seat, with all manner of malicious thoughts floating around freely in my head space. Meanwhile, my second toe is swelling so rapidly it feels like there is a potato in my shoe. I notice that Mr.Laptop has this time forgotten his ‘package’ on his seat. I contemplate whether to pass it along to him and dismiss the thought as soon as it crystallizes in my brain.

We get to Nyayo stadium and traffic is as usual, at a standstill. A number of commuters alight and I finally get to change seats. I also realize Mr. Laptop has alighted. As I begin to worry about whether I will need to have my foot checked by the doctor, Mr Laptop, as full of exuberance as ever , bounces back on the bus and as he passes by me, he smiles at me and says ‘ Nimesahau paper bag yangu’. (6)

As quickly as he scrambled onto the bus, he grabs his package from the back seat and scrambles off again.

And I give up the fight.

As his back (and laptop) recedes as he criss-crosses through Mombasa road traffic, I can’t help but be amazed at how insensitive, un courteous and blissfully ignorant of their bad habits ‘some people’ are.



(1) “I’m so lucky, its not dead!”

(2) “Do you realize it landed  on my foot and really hurt me?”

(3) “Really? Tsk, tsk, tsk!”

(4)” Do you have some tissue?”

(5) “Actually, this is not the first time my laptop has fallen. Last time it fell in a puddle of mud.”

(6) “ I forgot my paper bag.”