By Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
Sometime in December 2020, I had the rare opportunity of meeting some young Kenyans in a mini workshop showcasing an innovation in information technology. What was evident with the team is they had a scalable idea and also the right exposure that gave them the foresight and good prospects in the market. Some have schooled in top universities in the Western world countries such as UK and USA. Indeed, one of them had some experience with startup tech companies in Silicon Valley of USA. Gleaning some more information, I did find one of them had actually worked in a top tech firm and another in another firm dealing with anti systems virus in South African and various other African countries.
Remarkably, also they had some exposure of the workings of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics.
This made my mind wonder that we if we have all this talent who can spot opportunities miles away, then what is the problem with Kenya? It seems we are not all that hopeless as a country or even continent. When young people are exposed with the best of education and technology they do well. Young people have ambitions that are curtailed by our harsh economic times in Kenya’s history.
Today as in the past, more often than not, to get a chance to work in most places depends on who you are connected to. Woe to you if you don’t have the right connections. This cut throat fight for small decent job opportunities available has created vicious fights for job vacancies. It creates insecurity in work places. In work places it is not about just hard work or doing the right things than if you are pleasing your boss or the right people. This is a very sad situation as working in fear does not create the ground for optimal productivity.
Getting the job in itself is a hard, keeping it even harder in a country riddled with corruption, tribalism, nepotism and all manner of dirty schemes.
When a system frustrates a generation, it internalizes that and thinks that the only way to make any headway or make it through in life is to get the easiest of ways to make money like through gambling, stealing, fraud if not corruption. That desperation and love for shortcuts is dangerous. Yet there is a way to get out of the muddle. It is not impossible to create innovators and entrepreneurs within our country as the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and so on. But it requires an environment with high regard for values and not the mentality for get rich quick schemes.
Nations that have developed fast have in place systems and structures that work. Why are there many successful inventors and innovators and great entrepreneurs in US? What has China attempted and done right in the last say 20 to 30 years that nowadays so many great entrepreneurs and companies are emerging from there? What made Europe an epicentre of innovative minds that enabled her in conquer the rest of the world and colonize it ? It was hard work, innovation, creativity and an efficient system.
If we too have to get there, we have to reward innovation and creativity. We must make committing evil very expensive whilst committing resources to development to create opportunities. Unless we do so, we will continue churning out mediocrity and wastefulness. Opportunities are there in plenty,if only we overhaul and retool our systems.
The writer is a political, economic and social Analyst and commentator.