Entrepreneurship and creativity should be rewarded in Kenya

Entrepreneurship and creativity should be rewarded in Kenya


By Prof. Maurice Nyamanga Amutabi

Kenya is missing out on its creative geniuses, and sometimes we are so fast in dismissing them instead of encouraging them. We end up losing them to other parts of the world. The world may not know that money transfer by phone started in Kenya, and was first used effectively by Safaricom through M-pesa. Today, this Kenyan creativity is becoming global and yet no one has been rewarded or recognized for it. If Daniel Ogutu, the founder of the idea was in Europe or America, he would have been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in economics or entrepreneurship.

Bicycle taxis also started on the Kenya-Uganda border at a time when not many people across the world imagined that bicycles could be used as taxis. The creativity of Kenyans has never stopped to amaze me. It is only in Kenya where you will find someone in the office working while her hair stylist is working on her. It is only in Kenya where I have seen someone going around offices collecting shoes to go and repair or polish them, as their owners continue with work. These are inventive business strategies that would make the world wonder, is this real? I recently came across three remarkable entrepreneurial geniuses recently in Kenya.

The first creative item is a solar lump which also comes with sockets for charging phones. The inventor of the solar lump is a student at a Kenyan public university. The lumps are so popular in many rural homes where they have suffered many hours of darkness due to lack of money for kerosene. These lumps have been Godsend. Unfortunately, the inventor of these lumps and chargers has not been recognized or even supported to produce these lumps on large scale. He has not even been honoured as a hero. If he was in another country, he would be feted and celebrated.

The second one is a young man I encountered at a market in Western Kenya where he was exchanging motorcycles with cattle. One grade cow exchanged for one motorcycle. He had several motorcycles on one lorry and was loading cattle on another. Once the famer gave him a cow, which was accompanied by letters from a veterinary office and the local chief, he was allowed to select one motorcycle. He sells the grade cows to Uganda at about kshs.50, 000 per head.

The third creativity was on Uhuru Highway in Nairobi where there was a young man on a motor cycle selling five liter jerry to motorists at 1,000 instead of the usual 500. What amazed me was the professional manner in he approached stranded motorists who had run out of petrol in the Nairobi traffic jams. They paid him the 1000 he was asking without questions. He proceeded to assist them in fueling and even had bottled water for them, as a gift. We hope traffic jams become a thing of the past on our roads, but it is good that someone has decided to assist stranded motorists instead of robbing them as would be the case in some cities.

Two years ago, I was amused when a young man who had succeeded in putting together an aircraft was threatened with arrest by an OCPD who demanded that he had to get a permit in order to fly his plane. The challenge was that in order to get a permit to fly, he had to be a certified pilot, from a recognized school of aviation. Now, just imagine if the Wright brothers had been born in Kenya, and forced to deal with some local ‘OCPD’ in their American backyard where they did over 1000 trials on their aircraft contraptions.

The contraptions of the Wright brothers available at the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC are nowhere near the beautiful craft that the young Kenyan genius had developed from scrap metal. True, getting such a contraption into the air is dangerous and security risk today, but the young talent should be guided and given support on how to go about it than being threatened with arrest by police. We should support and celebrate our heroes, inventors and discoverers and not condemn them or threaten them with arrest.

Prof. Amutabi works in Research at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.


About African Interdisciplinary Studies Association Website

Prof. Maurice Nyamanga Amutabi is President of African Interdisciplinary Studies Association (AISA), a pioneer professional associaiton bringing together members from all disciplines in Africa and abroad. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who previously worked as Deputy Vice Chancellor at Kisii University and also Director of Research and Professor in Peace and Strategic Studies at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), 2010-2013. He has previously taught at Central Washington University, USA (2005-2010) in African Studies Programme and Moi University (1992-2000) in the Department of Development Studies and other public universities in Kenya. Prof. Amutabi holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA in History and African Studies. He received his B.A (Hons) in 1989 in Political Science and History and M.A in 1991 from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Maurice Amutabi is co-editor of Regime Change and Succession Politics in Africa: Five Decades of Misrule (with Shadrack Wanjala Nasong’o) – in 2013. Amutabi also co-edited Africa after Fifty Years: Retrospections and Reflections (with Toyin Falola and Sylvester Gundona) in 2012. Amutabi is the author of The NGO Factor in Africa: The Case of Arrested Development in Kenya (New York: Routledge, 2006). Amutabi is co-author of Nationalism and Democracy for People-Centered Development in Africa (Moi University Press, 2000). He has also co-authored Foundations of Adult Education in Africa (Cape Town/Hamburg: Pearson/UNESCO, 2005). He has written two novels, Because of Honor (a novel on Islam in Africa) and These Good People (a novel on corruption in Africa). Amutabi is also the author of Nakhamuma Stories (a collection of short stories from the Abaluyia community of western Kenya). His chapters have appeared in over thirty books. His articles have appeared in several refereed and reputable journals such as African Studies Review, African Contemporary Cultural Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, International Journal of Educational Development; and Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. Amutabi has made presentations at over one hundred national and international conferences. Amutabi is the Vice-President of the Kenya Studies and Scholars’ Association (KESSA), Kenya’s premier research and academic organization. He is the editor-in-chief of Kenya Studies Review and Eastern Africa Journal of Humanities and Sciences. Prof. Amutabi has conducted extensive research on many issues of development. He has taught courses on peace and conflict and gender and development. He teaches in the PhD and Masters Programme in the Institute of Peace and Security Studies at Kisii University. He enjoys blogging and writing and is an avid sports fan, but does not support any of team, preferring to support the team that plays well.
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