Why Entrepreneurship is Dead in Kenya - Changing the conversation. -

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HomeAboutTech & BusinessLIFESTYLEPhotography/FashionPOETRY Tech & Business Why Entrepreneurship is Dead in Kenya – Changing the conversation. June 22, 2017

I had a conversation with a friend the other day that made me realize something that has been heavy on my mind for a while. Why is there such little effort made towards entrepreneurship in Africa? In Kenya – to be specific.

Post colonialism, the status quo has been go to school, get a job, get a car, get a mortgage, work your entire life, retire. The family can be included in the middle of any one of those stages. School life has been standard, primary school, secondary school then tertiary education. The more you are educated, the more your of getting a higher paying job and as a result a more comfortable life. Hence specialization and an amassing of numerous degrees, masters and PHDs.

Notice the use of the word job. We are trained to seek employment, finish school and get employed. Work for someone your entire lifetime, put in a more gruesome way, a zombie awakening of sorts. Wake at 5 everyday to be at the office at 8 to leave at 5, then maybe meet with friends and head home to catch the 9 O’clock news and be asleep by 10 P.M. So, say you clear school at age 22 and the retirement age is 55, you have 33 years to stick to the same routine. Wake, work, socialize, update, sleep.

The brave, get employed for at least 10 years, then get off to start their own businesses from the savings they collect from their previous bosses. This business last for as long as they can be sustained, which they eventually get bought off at a good enough price to ensure a healthy retirement. Or merge with other companies offering the same services, making them somewhat inferior but still with enough money to go by. A capitalist system really. Our end goal is that of having a retirement that is secure.

That line of thinking has diverted us to investing in our children. We work double shifts, numerous jobs to ensure that our children get a fitting education, so that they can get good jobs that will allow them take care us when we are old and gray. The cycle continues.

Looking however at the Asian community in Kenya, their thinking is rather commendable and one that should be emulated in our economic lives. The largest employers in Kenya by default if we don’t consider the government, and have ensured sustainability of work in their specific fields. What is their secret? They put family and business together in that, a father will start a business which is passed down to generations. In a family setting, the father identifies a gap, takes on providing the needed service and while doing that, involves the children in the running and growth of the business. This means that the child will grow up learning how to run the “family business”. They develop an interest early and focus on that in their education. After they are done with school, instead of joining the job search, they take up the running of the family business and that is passed down. This allows the incorporation of new and fresh ideas, into the business thus allowing it to be bigger, better and to diversify also.

There is a public outcry that the universities are producing half backed students. Convert this into a question, the answer would be, children are just going through the system, finish school, go to university, get a job and die. They don’t pursue their interests or even give them mind. If anything, they convert these into hobbies. Study whatever it is the system throws at them, come out with the degree, advance it even and join the zombie population. When you have a 9-5, you have no time to have a side hustle, as we like to call it. All your productive hours are converted to making someone else rich.

A good example would be Simba Corp, from the father’s business of bringing in cars from neighboring Tanzania, it began as one of Kenya’s most successful indigenous commercial organizations with a very rich heritage in motor vehicle sales and services. It is now an integrated business group headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya with controlling interests in such diversified fields as motor sales and service, hospitality, investment and financial services. They are dealers in brands like Mitsubishi and Renault in the country. That growth is very visible from their huge office in Westlands, their hospitality branch which started 5 years ago now boast with properties like, Villa Rosa,commonly known as, Kempinsky. Yes, the one that hosted the former president of the United states of America, crazy right? I know, I couldn’t believe it either. That is only but one.They have created jobs for so many people and their CSR projects have developed the lives of so many people. Passed down to his children and their children will make sure these goes on, and the company will probably go into other fields. Creating more jobs and changing the lives of millions of other people.

That said, there is need for us to change how we perceive economic development. We should look more into sustainability than just having and securing a job. I know, you would want to argue that we cannot all be business men, there is need for lawyers, artists, politicians, singers and to you I say, a background in business is good for any career. If you teach a child how to manage money from an early age, there is almost a 0 chance of them becoming a failure in anything. Plus, at least we haven’t gotten to that 2, or 1 child policy yet. I’m sure at least one would be interested in continuing the family business or managing the family project. Encourage them to take up activities they like to do but to also work more on themselves than other people.

Keeping that in mind, we will experience the birth of entrepreneurship like no other. Entrepreneurship is for the bold, our generation, the millenials, we are basically a large group of renegades. I think its time we change the conversation.

Image credit: CNN

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I am a lover of art and music. A free spirit and thinker who finds life in expressing herself through her writing. Welcome to my subconscious mind.

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