Sh75 Billion Can “Carpet” the Road From Nairobi to Sultan-Hamud


The Sunday Nation


12 June 2005


Econet Wireless (Kenya) Ltd. - the telecommunications company - has sued the Kenyan government claiming damages to the tune of Sh75 billion following the withdrawal of their license to operate a mobile phone network in this country. That is so much money that it is difficult to visualise it. But let’s give it a try…

First of all, if you want to know how large the number 75 billion is, subtract one from it and the answer is 74,999,999,999. Now read that out loud – seventy four billion, nine hundred and ninety nine million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine. How long does it take to say that? Now think about how long it would take to count from one to 75 billion.

Now let’s go back to the money: Sh75 billion can finance the ministry of education for almost a year. Alternatively, this money can foot the bill for Mrs Ngilu’s National Social Health Insurance Scheme for to years. If you are an industrialist, you can buy out all the shares of Kenya Airways AND Barclays Bank of Kenya and still have some Sh10billion balance!

For those who prefer land, this money can buy all the plots (buildings excluded) in the area surrounded by Uhuru Highway, University Way Haile Selassi and Moi Avenues in Nairobi’s central business district – paying sh50 million per plot!

If you got the money in cash, Sh75 billion would be 75 million one-thousand-shilling notes. If you counted three notes per second (very fast for an ordinary person), it would take you 25 million seconds – almost 7,000 hours. If you worked eight hours per day, the counting job would take 868 days. That is over two and a half years, assuming that you rest over the weekends.

Incidentally, no bank in Kenya has this amount in hard cash. However using a machine that counts ten notes per second, a bank would take a year and three months to count the cash. Remember, banks only open for six hours per day, Monday to Friday.

Now, a Sh1,000 note is about 15cm long . If these notes were placed end to end, the total length of the resulting line would measure over 11,000 kilometres. That is, almost the distance from the North Pole, through the centre of the Earth, to the South Pole.

The width of the note is 8cm and the tarmac section of  a two lane single carriage highway is about eight metres wide. Therefore, placed side by side with the 15cm lengths touching, 100 notes would traverse the distance across the road.

75 million notes arranged in this manner would make 750,000 rows of 100 notes each. This pattern would cover a distance of 112 kilometres. That is the distance from Nairobi to Sultan Hamud along Mombasa Road. It gives a new meaning to the phrase “re-carpeting the highway”.

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