The founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, is scheduled to arrive in Kenya on the 20th July. Over the few years, the country has been graced with the big fish of the world. We were host to the former president of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama. Like goods conveying through a belt in a factory, Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook), a few months ago, followed suit. Kenya is indeed a hub of innovation in its own right, the buzz created within the country on entrepreneurship and innovation is remarkable. Yet, as most things in the world, we tend to judge books by their covers.
We live in a competitive country, whether this is a good or bad thing is left to personal opinion. Unfortunately, this constant rejuvenating vigor of ours tends to push us into a survival limbo. Our economy has obligated us into having more than one source of income. We tend to be workaholics, those that work hard and party hard (over the weekends). Most, are defined by their 8 to 5 jobs but their true self illuminates after when they seek to make ends meet through their side business. This is the entrepreneurship juggle. For most techies, they are held in high esteem by their colleagues on how brilliant their lives seem to be. Beyond the assumptions, lies the bare truth that most techies let their ideas wither due to the uncertainty and the risks involved in running their own businesses in the country.
What is it that takes one to battle all odds? How easy is it to run a tech business in Kenya? Over the next few weeks, we seek to find out the answers. Feel free to share your opinion.
It starts slow like a forbidden habit you never know you have grown into and before you know it the voice inside you becomes real. At first, you feel it deep in your bones that you are meant to fully commit yourself. Your hobby becomes your passion which in turn (for some yet to be understood reason) transforms into a way of generating income. The plan is all laid up, not only will you excel, but also be the best period!!!
As times goes by, the stop signs are more apparent and one day you realize that lemons were meant to be bitter, not sweet. By this time your pockets have run dry, your mouth tasteless from all the repetitive marketing and your dreams, well they stagnated almost just around the time you started.
Entrepreneurship is hard!
Generally, nothing comes easy, more so in starting something new. Luckily, nature revolves around balance and most things do have solutions. Within the madness, there are pillars to hold you strong. The various start up incubators and accelerators, especially around the tech industry, serve this purpose to a tee. Mentorship, networking, both financial and emotional support are cultivated in such spaces. You get a sense of belonging. Understanding. The journey becomes shared albeit to different destinations. Within a certain period, you pat yourself on the back due to the growth you have had but the smile never really tells the truth. Until one goes through the same, will they understand the face behind the mask.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur in Kenya requires one to have a certain vibe that flows from them. Here are some of the traits I believe are essential when it comes to entrepreneurship:
- Patience – According to Google, patience is having the capacity to tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset. Being an entrepreneur, the last bit of the statement above might be relative depending on your temperament. Most times, being humans, we tend to get upset by many things especially the ones we have no control over. In Kenya, more often than not, getting wound up is rather common. This comes from factors like slow processes within public institutions, people trying to benefit themselves or the old common traffic that engulfs the city center every day. Then there are the opportunists that graciously wait for you to prove the concept of your business idea to shamelessly copy it. It’s a tough eco-system. One needs heaps of patience to run their business in Kenya.
- Tenacious – If you love watching animal channels, it’s highly likely you have come across a pack of lions hunting for prey. This kind of determination is essential in running a business not only here at home but across borders. Entrepreneurs tend to get out of their comfort zones, breaking their channels and knowing no borders. Giving up is never an option, especially since too many eyes look up to see whether you are capable or not. Moreover, the society, in my opinion, tends not to support local businesses especially when you’re young. Excelling comes with sacrifices, hence being tenacious is a key ingredient in achieving your goals.
- Tolerance – Running any type of business requires a team around it. There have been very few cases of successful business people who did it all alone. We live off mentorship, guidance, and opinions generated by other people. This requires tolerance to be able to accept criticism. There’s this syndrome of young entrepreneurs thinking the way they perceive their idea is the best yet on taking it to market actual users say otherwise. One needs this trait to better their business processes.
In most countries, the number 2030 carries with it a hefty tag. It holds a vision, the year that most countries will become economic powerhouses. Achieving this vision serves as great motivation to most people especially the youth within Africa. It is estimated that there are 1 billion people on the continent with the majority being young people under 35 years. This fact combined with time and other factors provide a key reason why achieving vision 2030 is sustainable.
Mobile penetration is also playing a major role in innovation across the continent. According to Ericsson, by 2019, they estimate that almost every person will have access to a phone. Interestingly, mobile penetration is higher than electricity penetration. It is for this reason that mobile money works well compared to other regions. Even more appealing is that this innovation, mobile money, has its roots in Africa. There is a big opportunity in the technology space. Moreover, technology reception is high, therefore, technology innovation is widely supported.
Over the last few years, there has been massive investment in businesses in Africa. This is because of the vast ideas coming through that solve real life problems. The African ecosystem is different compared to others hence understanding how it works plays a key role in solving most of the issues. Therefore, venture capitalist and big corporations opt to invest or form key partnerships respectively with local companies to come up with solutions. This is great since it not only develops local industries but also enables an expansion of exposure. In general, any solution that seeks to improve lives within the country is welcomed.
Innovation in Africa is thriving simply because entrepreneurs are solving issues that affect their day to day lives. This creates a future for the next generation. The future is indeed great and definitely a space to watch.