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Kenya: Obama Visit Signals Business as the Best Solution for Third World Problems
Recently, a young entrepreneur known as Sylvance greatly impressed many viewers of a local Kenyan TV station, judging by the numerous feedback messages they sent. He said that he had risen from that much maligned group of business persons called street hawkers into the CEO of a large middle income marketing business. The young man who was often chased around by Nairobi City County security personnel, for illegal hawking, is now comfortably employing 1000 young persons, while earning millions of shillings for himself.
As I listened to his story, I remembered with a sinking heart how many times aspiring politicians have promised to provide employment to the Kenyan youth. Once elected, their promises have remained hot air as the poor youth in the country sink further into social decadence. There is no doubt that such politicians, especially when they first aspire, are well meaning. Nevertheless, it is their lack of tact that results in the predictable failures to fulfill their promises.
Issues at Global Entrepreneurship Summit Nairobi 2015
US president Barrack Obama is opening the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015 in Nairobi from July 24 2015. Among the keynote speakers will obviously be government types in charge of Economic planning from across the continent. They will belabor plans made by the various governments to provide employment for the youth in their countries. They will not mention that most of these plans have already come to naught, or are progressively doing so.
Leading the Kenyan delegation will be individuals talking about how they have initiated the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, the Women Enterprise Fund, the Fund for the Aged and the Fund for the Disabled, among others. There will predictably be no clear statistics to show the success of these funds in the past. The reason is simple; most of this money ends up in the pockets of government bureaucrats through their sidekicks who are, or impersonate, the youth, women, aged or disabled persons.
The rest of the funds are squandered by lucky social groups which regard them as government largesse. In any case, to get such funds, the groups must be closely associated with the local elected leader so that they get the necessary recommendation. Since such groups gain favor by vigorously campaigning for the leader during elections, they believe this is a just reward for their previous hard work.
The Cases that Should be Showcased at the Summit
Stories like that of Sylvance should be given prominence during the summit. If 1000 individuals can employ 1,000 people like he has done, there would be no unemployment to talk about in Kenya. Nevertheless, such a story cannot be featured in the summit, unless the invitations are not made by government. Such stories tend to slight the King as the main guy in the house. The main guy in African politics is the elected leader, so there is no time for sideshows like Sylvance. Yet ironically, it is the kind of solution he provides that is direly needed to solve the unemployment jinx.
Other examples of business solutions to Kenyan social problems are the success stories of Safaricom and Equity Bank, among many others. Safaricom is the leading cellphone service provider in the country and the company with the largest annual turnover every year. The driving force behind Safaricom is innovation. Their most outstanding, and most profitable creation, is M-Pesa, the mobile cash transfer service. Kenyans from every corner of the country have used M-Pesa as a means of transferring or receiving cash, even from the remotest locations. It goes without saying that M-Pesa alone employs hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who help to provide its services.
Equity Bank on the other hand is the country’s largest and most profitable bank. It has thrived on the policy of bringing in small savers, previously ignored by banking services, into its clientele base. By opting to serve the masses, the bank grew such a huge capital base that it could lend millions to corporate organizations and government thus making more money. The bank has further diversified its services by outsourcing teller services to small-time entrepreneurs who operate miniature banking services in neighborhoods. Employment opportunities keep growing both in the bank itself and in its satellite services.
The Need for Infrastructure and Services
The next election is just around the corner. If you hear some fool talking about providing employment to the youth once elected, please tell him off. Government has no business providing employment. In fact, government has no money, all the money emanates from and thus belongs to the people. Government can only provide services which are paid for by the people. Such services include promptly registering businesses, which in turn provide employment. When such services are replete with endemic corruption and bias, then they will definitely be an impediment to the development of opportunities.
The logic is pretty simple and government types know it very well. If businesses like that of Sylvance are registered, they soon grow and provide employment. However, they tend to start small, so at that stage they cannot provide the bribes required to grease the thieving palms of government officials responsible for registration. Consequently, Sylvance wanabes will have to cope with teargas and truncheons as they try to eke a living out of Nairobi, Abuja or Addis Ababa streets. Consequently, some of the potentially revolutionary ideas will die along the way out of sheer frustration. Meanwhile, the big businesses, which have reached their full potential and thus cannot provide any more jobs, will continue to be protected by the crooked officials, since they will provide the big bribes. The only reason government types do not do anything about this situation is that it suits them just fine. So long as the pesky young entrepreneurs are kept out of business, there will be no rising stars to challenge them for their positions. Anyone who can employ even 20 people is a big threat to the local political bigwig. It is an ego thing.
The reality is that there is a dire need for infrastructure and services to help old and new business to thrive. It therefore makes more sense when an aspirant proposes to develop more roads, provide electricity, build up more market places, schools, hospitals and communication systems. These things help to support businesses to thrive thus creating a suitable environment for economic development to take place. As a consequence jobs are developed and unemployment goes down.
That is the way forward for all third world countries. That too is the idea behind the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The question is; will the bloated egos of politicians allow such development to happen?