No amount of entrepreneurship can save jobless Kenyans from a shrinking economy

Total Unemployment in Kenya is at around 39% with the unemployed youth standing at approximately 20%. It is ironic that Kenya being the regional economic powerhouse by per capita earnings (having been overtaken by Ethiopia in 2015 on Gross GDP), has the highest number of unemployment rate in the region, forcing many jobless Kenyans to creatively venture into ludacris entrepreneurship enterprises.

You have seen them. Masters graduates waving flyers advertising themselves for any job openings in Kenya with others doing so in disguise pretending to be searching for husbands – white husbands. Walk over to Facebook and you will find hundreds of them operating Facebook Accounts in which they are CEOs of upstreet swag, or upcoming fashion houses, or even hookup joints for rich sugar mummies and daddies; the last being the most popular in the recent past.

As youth unemployment in Kenya continue to ravage, two groups of contrasting viewpoints have emerged; those who agitate for political change, and those who view the unemployed as lazy uncreative individuals that must wake up from their slumber and find some meaningful self employment opportunities in the vast field of entrepreneurship.

I have no problems with the first group of Kenyans who are seeking solutions through political change, but with those who view jobless Kenyans as lazy idiots who can’t be imaginative enough in order to create for themselves some meaningful income generating ventures.

Alright, in the last few years the gospel of entrepreneurship has been sung until the youth have given up on job searchers, deciding to instead try some form of online mostly Facebook income generating mechanisms. Offline, there are thousands who have opened up eggs, clothes, and related merchandise hawking businesses in the streets of Nairobi, Nakuru, and a few other towns in Kenya. There thousand others who are trying their luck in blogging, photography, filmography, and some form of semi-formal businesses. The skyrocketing number of jobless Kenyans who have attempted to make a living from these informal and semi-formal enterprises have forced the sectors to become saturated in a span of less than four years. Today, it is close to impossible for penniless jobless Kenyans to start any business in the aforementioned sectors and become successful.

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Even so, the successful Kenyan entrepreneurs are not helping grow Kenya’s economy to enable young entrepreneurs flourish too. This is because the success entrepreneurs are in the business of importing second hand or refurbished products from Europe, UAE and China thereby helping develop the economies of those nations at the expense Kenya’s economy. Take for instance the situation where China exports to Kenya goods and services worth Kshs 320 billion per year but imports from Kenya goods and services worth a meagre Kshs 8 billion. Sadly, these successful entrepreneurs also do their monthly shopping for their own consumptions from places like Dubai, London and Paris. A few who do shopping from local malls like Two Rivers still buy goods brought in from Dubai, London and Paris but stalked in Two Rivers. Overall, Kenya’s global balance of trade was at more than negative Kshs 112 billion by 2015, meaning as a country we have been good at helping other nations develop at our own expense.

For those unaware of the impacts of negative balance of trade, just think of it this way – any time a Kenyan imports an item from China, he/she helps the Chinese manufacturer of the item to grow and create employment in China. The item can be something as simple as toothpick. If however the same entrepreneur bought the item from a Kenyan manufacturer, then the Kenyan could have helped the local manufacturer to grow and consequently create an opportunity for the local manufacturer to employ a few of the jobless Kenyans who are being seen as lazy thoughtless leeches who cannot fend for themselves.

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When Kenyan entrepreneurs spend in excess of Kshs 112 billion net per year to bring goods and services into the country, most of which we could make ourselves, we deprive the economy of this cash, hence reducing the purchasing power of the nation. When everyone’s purchasing power is reduced, their ability to buy even from the businesses that import goods/services from China diminish.

As a businessman I have experienced the effect of diminishing purchasing power over the years. Inflation aside, when I opened by small shop in November 2012 I used to have a daily revenue of over Kshs 10,000. Despite a few similar businesses around mine closing shops due to hard economic times, the best I can get in daily revenues with the current economic environment is Kshs 3,500, forcing me to lay off the only employee I had – a boy who is now one of the jobless Kenyans.

Despite businesses closing shops, Kenyans losing their purchasing power to China, India, UAE, Europe, and US, and the Kenyan government continuing to borrow massively for projects that will help China, India, UAE, Europe and US export more to Kenya, you will hear some heartless uncaring unconcerned individuals masquerading as entrepreneurs asking the jobless Kenyans to stop lazing around and pointing fingers at the political offices to instead focus on finding entrepreneurial ventures from where to creatively generate income. When I listen to them, I wonder where these success entrepreneurs went to school.

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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