Impacts Of Politics On The Entrepreneurial Culture in Kenya.
Henry J. Kaiser, an entrepreneur of the 20th century, build 1500 ships during World War II with such a fast speed that he startled the world. What motivated him? A priceless gift that his mother had given him. His mum, Mary Kaiser, often told him, “Henry, nothing ever is accomplished without work. If I leave you nothing else but the will to work, I will have left you a priceless gift: the joy of the work.” His mother further told Henry that loving people and serving them is the greatest value in life. Mary instilled a culture of hard work and inspiration in his son’s life, perhaps the greatest will many of us could wish for. A culture that gave birth to Henry’s entrepreneurial path.
In defining the word culture, David Dressler in the book Sociology: The Study of Human Interaction noted that culture is a social heritage (shared) transmitted by one generation to another. He, David Dressler, defined culture as consisting of the skills, beliefs and knowledge that are commonly shared by a number of people and transmitted to their children. An entrepreneurial culture is thus expected to have been passed down to us from the last generation. The ability to think and find solutions to challenges while adding value to life with a long term gain ought to have been part of our accepted way of life. Unfortunately it has not taken root in our context. What has politics got to do with this? Let us try and see how politics influences the entrepreneurial culture in the country.
Politics is supposed to deal with promoting policies as put in place by the government. This means that we have to look at this topic in parts pertaining the people, capital, systems and the entrepreneurial environment. Politics are usually run by people, politicians, and representing the majority people who are the citizenry. The success of the government in this case becomes everybody’s affair. Entrepreneurship too needs to be everybody’s affair since it promotes the economic aspect of the government.
Everyone who wants to be an entrepreneur mostly looks out for an apprentice or a successful entrepreneur who can mentor and motivate them. The problem with Kenya is that an entrepreneur seems transient. The politicians have made it their primary objective to play politics and promote self-valuing agendas instead of promoting entrepreneurship, good governance, economical and ethical agendas. This ends up making those young people who wish to be entrepreneurs pessimists in their journey. It didn’t surprise that all of a sudden we had over 40,000 people showing interest in running for political office. People, who otherwise, could have turned themselves into successful entrepreneurs and promote the development agenda from the private sector.
As a country, politicians needs to encourage the populace to be entrepreneurs by identifying the successful ones and motivating them in their journeys. The county governments can organise for seminars with the successful entrepreneurs so that they can motivate the upcoming ones. Elevating the business people who contribute to the economic muscle of the country and counties into key management sectors can help motivate the young men and women looking up to be self-made millionaires and billionaires. Encouraging also the use of locally manufactured goods and services helps show appreciation for our own. When the entrepreneur feels appreciated, he/she feels motivated to tussle ahead.
Let us look at the USA for a moment. Back in April 2012, former USA president Obama signed the JOBS (Jump-start Our Business Startups) act. The act was aimed at making it easier for startups to raise public and private capital in the American financial markets. In the act, a category of “emerging growth companies” was created to exempt or even subject the small upcoming companies to reduced regulatory requirements for some limited time so as to encourage them go public. Now this is good politics to the entrepreneur. Such acts need to be created locally in a sense that it can encourage the culture of entrepreneurship. In our country the language of startup is synonymous to holographic goggles or augmented reality, they exist elsewhere. A startup will most likely be subjected to the same standards as a multinational or even an international player in the market.
Over the past, the government has come up with good initiatives that did encourage availability of seed funding for upcoming entrepreneurs. Think of the youth fund, youth enterprise fund, women fund among others. The underlying principle is usually very superb, hell breaks loose at the implementation stage. The problem ultimately begins at the stage where we realize that our research capacity as a country is broken. If we put in place a strong research culture and then appreciate the research society, then we could have made one of the greatest steps towards strengthening the entrepreneurial culture. Think for moment why most startups fail in Kenya, it is because of a lot of copying. If my friend gets youth fund and starts a clothing stand, I also go and get the funding then come and too set my stand next to his. Had we a strong research culture, innovation could be very high in the country.
Also as a country we need to put in place a curriculum that is research and skill based. The theoretical approach in our academia right from nursery school through to university should stop. Primary schools need to have science labs and computer labs. We need to teach by demonstration and interaction. The same ought to be done in secondary schools with advanced training. Much theory should be done with in the universities and in their place research introduced. Then enough resources should be put in place to ensure that there is a smooth flow of the research work all through. The private sector should come in to help and encourage the outcomes of the research, the innovations, into smoothly transitioning and commercializing themselves to successful business enterprises. Once we get there, we could have learned to fly.
In as much as we are afraid to near the cliff, we should encourage ourselves and move closer. Then we should do away with the wings we have fixed with wax and have parachutes at our back. The age of artificial wings of chicken feathers fixed with wax ended long ago. We ought to train our children on matters to do with money from a young age. When the culture transition time comes, it becomes even.
By having proper systems in place, a good entrepreneurial spirit with the right blend of mentorship from successful non-controversial entrepreneurs, the entrepreneurial landscape will change. It starts with us. The great philosopher Plato once said, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” There is no shortcut in this if we are to use politics to change the sluggish entrepreneurial culture in the country.
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