More than 4000 entrepreneurs are assembling in Nairobi for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) to showcase the budding innovation spirit in Africa. Although the summit is a good platform to help Kenya liberate our dwindling tourism fortunes, we have a lot of policy and behavioral tantrums in our bedrooms we have to ponder.
Corruption. Recently, I met a young man excited for wining a tender from one of the government agencies worth 1.8m. Three weeks later, I met the same young man frustrated. He had reported a net loss of 40 000, after implementing the project. When I asked him what happened, the answer was, 20% of his supposedly fortune, had been slushed by gatekeepers in the system. When he was pondering about the scourge, two bulging officers from the county government turned up at the site where he was operating, and demanded 30 000, or frustrate his efforts to work. While he was dealing with the said county government officials, some three guys showed up; this time from the agency which awarded him the tender, they demanded 100 000, failure of which they will write a wrong assessment report. In a nutshell, the young man spend 0.5 million shillings on bribes and kickbacks. He also spend another one million executing the project, 288 000, on tax and 60 000 preparing the tender document, before it was presented.
The young man’s story, presents the real picture many young people are undergoing to do business in Kenya. Many business moguls courting opportunities in Kenya have claimed they have to factor corruption in their budgets to survive our business environment. Recently, President Mugabe warned his cabinet against competing in the same graft league with “Kenya and Nigeria”, saying, they risked losing their jobs. The former BBC’s East Africa correspondent, Michela Wrongs has described our situations as “Africa’s lootocracy”.
The cost of doing business in Kenya is another elephant in the room. The cost of energy in particular keeps on fluctuating each morning, a factor that makes our manufacturing industry uncompetitive. Am aware a lot is happening in the sector to bolster our power generation sector, but a lot more needs to be done, to reduce the cost of power which is currently a key factor for high cost of living.
President Uhuru Kenyatta with some of the Business moguls attending the Summit
Our legal regime around patent is another key factor,forcing many investors to shy away. We do not have a culture which respects and protects intellectual property. This has frustrated many young entrepreneurs, who initiate their ideas only to be stolen by bigger players. Young innovators are frustrated when their hard sweat is stolen, and third parties mint millions at their expense.
Lastly, our education systems failure to link academia with the prevailing market trends. Our institutions of higher learning are operating as ivory towers, producing graduates who lack employable skills. This is attributed to our mass production philosophy, coupled with entrepreneurial urge of our universities. This is well demonstrated by mushrooming of fifth flour campuses, with no facilities, competent teaching staff and research budgets.
For the GES to be meaningful to Kenya, there is need to bring all stakeholders together, namely the political class, academia and the private sector players to harmonize the fragmented business environment to resurrect the hopes of the east Africa nation currently touted as the next frontier of our continent’s economy.