New taxes, BBI stalemate, delayed rains, Covid-19 and its consequences should tax the Kenyan optimism to the limit. On the streets and in the media, pessimism seems to overshadow our quintessential optimism and endless resilience.
We could therefore ask in good faith; is there anything to be optimistic about the Kenyan economy beyond the ‘Bora Uhai’ slogan we like to throw around? Should you even bother starting the business you have been dreaming about or keep going through the laborious motions of keeping your business alive? My unqualified answer is yes. Here is why I think you should hang in there.
As a business or potential entrepreneur, your creativity and ingenuity now becomes your greatest asset. One reason to be optimistic under the gloomy economic conditions is that the potential for your creativity is unlimited. Use that to solve our problems. Who thought a vaccine for Covid-19 would be ready that fast? Those who came up with it are raking in good money now. Who thought our cars would be shops during the pandemic? Who thought we would teach and examine students online during Covid-19? Entrepreneurs should tap into their own ingenuity and creativity; or better loop in other people, from consultants to friends. They will be surprised by the range of solutions to problems they are facing. The problem in Kenya is that no one wants to pay for new ideas. That is why patents, and copyrights exist to keep off men and women who ride on free ideas. When shall we start paying for new ideas? When shall we start appreciating thinking as work?
An economic downturn spawns new ideas, but only for the keen and observant. Can you sell online instead of face to face? Can you try a new business now that the old was badly affected by Covid-19? Can you sell new products like lemons whose demand went up during the pandemic? Did you anticipate what would be in demand during Covid-19?
There are a few businesses whose creativity is now paying off.
1. Java, the coffee chain, now has Java Express, that occupies smaller spaces. Have you seen Java Express in a supermarket? You could do the same for your products and services. Noted how agent banking saved banks money while extending their reach? Think outside the box.
2. With increased vaccination, the end of Covid-19 is nigh. So much that some economies are fearing inflation as the demand rises. It is no guesswork, economic recovery will follow from mass vaccination. A serious entrepreneur should be getting ready to take on the market during the post recovery period. What will customers look for after masks? Can you adjust your products and service mix for this period?
3. We can be optimistic because of our international networks. Other countries are markets for our goods and services. Their success in mass vaccination is our success too. Their recovery will lead to a higher demand for our goods and services. Is your business looking to tap into this? There are new markets and gaps to take advantage of, knowing that the pandemic wiped away many of the businesses in Kenya and abroad.
4. The economy forecast is hopeful. And things can only get better. We expect the economy to grow at 4.5 per cent this year as forecasted by World Bank. That positive forecast should raise our optimism. Our near zero growth last year is behind us. So yes, you can focus on staying afloat and getting better. Things are beginning to look up.
5. Improvements in infrastructure like roads, railways, power and ports herald growth and the productive potential of the country. That is happening now. You can ride on that for the future. Think. How can you benefit from a new road, SGR, fibre cables or power connection?
6. You can be optimistic because innovators never sleep helping us solve our problems. How could we have ridden through Covid-19 without innovations like MPesa or motorbikes? You may say whatever you want, but Fuliza has ensured many families get a meal or medical services. One can worry about paying back later.
Innovation is so prolific that economists are wondering if the law of diminishing returns should be repealed. New ideas keep expanding our frontiers of possibility. Think of skyscrapers and how much we can do with the small piece of land. Think of how wonder drugs have prolonged our lives. Think of how genetics has increased crop yields and put off the Malthusian nightmare.
7 Where there is food security, there is hope for the economy. And the weather has been good lately. Rain has led to good harvests ensuring the population is well fed and healthy despite Covid-19. It could have been worse. We could have been fighting famine and the pandemic. Increased food supply leads to lower prices. We hope it will always be that way.
8Another reason to be hopeful is that our nation is becoming modernised. Things are developing to catch up with the developed world, and those who tap into this, will become the next tycoons of our generation. Have you noted the diminishing family sizes and aspirations to improve our living standards? Those are the marks of a place set for growth. Even in our slums the dream of higher standards of living are still valid. Diseases of development like cancer are however slowing down this optimism.
9If the seven reasons above aren’t doing it for you, then I want you to realise that there are new frontiers. There are opportunities everywhere, even beyond our small planet. We have discovered more than 4,000 planets outside the solar system, the so called exoplanets. You never know, one day you could relocate one of your businesses there. Long before taking the interplanetary trip, space was always big business, ask Elon Musk or Steve Bezos. May be the earth is limiting your potential.