The Annoying Copycat Business Culture In Kenya

The Underutilized Potential In Kenya

I was seated somewhere having a chat with a friend when I noticed innumerable green doors scattered across the street. One mobile phone money transfer service is highly popular in this country and literally every business has this service as a side hustle business – but some of them never have enough float, ukitoa 5k amekafunga for the day. What’s up with that?

I will not complain about that as a consumer because I know “huwezi chonga viazi” when such shops are around. You can literally ask your friend for a loan in an emergency and you will have it in the palm of your hands a matter of seconds.

I will not even remind you the “quails” business idea that had every Kenyan buying those tiny birds left, right, and center. I will have you know that in one rural neighborhood, the talk was that “quails can CURE diabetes and cancer – do not ask where that is.

The Annoying Copycat Business Culture In Kenya

I did not want to seem like a negative person but I could not help but think, “Oh! After all these years, how did we not know that the little bird is a remarkable cure for all our lifestyle diseases?” The operative word here is CURE. It takes pharmaceutical companies 15 years (or thereabout) to come up with a definitive cure for anything. However, FYI, quail farming is highly successful in some Western countries – I guess not every citizen does it there – I tend to think it has its value there.

A good friend once told me that Kenya is a hub of stealing ideas. Of course that is an overstatement but you can sort of relate with the point. You might have a good idea and with your little savings decide to jump into the deep end. A month or two later, someone with deeper pockets comes along with the YOUR idea and literally implements your business idea at a scale five times greater than you. Like a dog with its tail between your legs, you close down your business five months later when you realize economies of scale are not an economic concept to mess with.

How many betting companies do you know now? I cannot remember the last time I saw a cooking oil, toothpaste, house sale, or toilet cleaner advert during prime time. It’s all about betting and gambling. I am not judging anyone who gambles or bets, (Hell! I have had a go at some of these money sucking “ventures” and it always ended up in me swearing I will NEVER do it again but then you see Abisai and think maybe…) but why is there a sudden influx of betting. It’s because people have noticed pesa iko betting!

Look at the makeup industry for example. Recently, a certain female musician did her wedding with horrendous makeup on her face. Did Nyota Ndogo pay for that?? Why take up space for other talented makeup artists who love what they do and do it well.

Think about mobile phone selling shops along Tom Mboya and Moi Avenue? It’s either that or a “fish and chips” joint – commonly selling kuku pono. The demand is there I do not deny that, but is that all our economy can support? The problem with such ideas is that some people are in it solely for the money. Consequently, the result is bad customer service, bad food, and all other tactics to save costs to annihilate the competition. You all heard about unscrupulous Nairobi cake vendors who put marijuana in the cakes. Why would someone do that?

Also read: 7 Types of Weird Behavior In Kenyan Clubs That Need to Stop

You also heard about French fries being fried in a mixture of transformer oil and cooking oil so that the cooking oil lasts longer. We are yet to get hard evidence on such alleged claims. And for what? All in the name of saving costs to make maximum profit and outwit the competition. Sadly, the competition already knows and probably does the same.

What happened to people who make good food because they love cooking nutritious foods? There are now only a few countable food joints that sell good food because they have seen a need and gap in the market. And yes. With the right marketing strategies and fair pricing, Kenyans can willingly buy good quality food and breakout from the kuku pono narrative.

It got me thinking; is it that we lack ideas or is it that our economy is not robust enough to accomodate new business ideas? Are people unwilling to consume new products? Are there enough alternatives available for consumers? Are new ideas sustainable enough to ensure that people want to invest in them?

Thank God though, recently, it is not unheard off to see a Kenyan come up with a unique idea that ends up being an instant hit.

In my research, I happen to come across a company in the United States, where a popular movie star has taken photography and video to a whole new level. He has a company that gets gigs shooting promotional videos for high end clients. On his team, he has a drone pilot, some tech guy, and the movie star is the face of the company. They tech guy is skilled in software and hardware to modify the drone to take amazing video shots in different environments and at different angles – by the way, drones are advanced AF in western countries – I am talking about hardcore competition level sh** Back to the story. Some of their clients are people who organize boat race competitions, stunt master stuff etc. Hence, they have to adjust their drone to take amazing shots in strong winds and so forth. The pilot does this on a full time basis and loves it – and yes, gets paid to do that. The team literally travels across different countries in the world because their videos always go viral.

This leads me to my point – Why do Kenyans love setting up businesses because they see that those businesses are doing well for others? That’s not even the biggest problem. The problem is that one sets up a business, yet lacks even the slightest passion or skills in running such a business. Kenya is full of brilliant minds and we can also create opportunities in different niches. Let’s breakout from the clichés!

Don’t you think this is the reason those mobile phone transfer service attendants always have an attitude while serving you? Have you ever had to tolerate a nasty attitude from attendants because you HAVE to withdraw or deposit?

We need new initiatives and Kenyans have the brilliant minds to make it happen. We have the potential. If we put our minds to it, we can make it!

Here is where I think we should start:

  • Each one of us needs to identify our passion and implement ideas
  • Each one of us needs to put our skills to good use – if you are an artist, be good at it, if you are a chef, do the same, if you love inventing new products do so…
  • We should identify problems and gaps in the market and come up with solutions for them. Let us not underestimate our potential because Kenyans are intelligent, vibrant people.
  • For those with access to the funds, believe in someone’s good idea and invest in it.
  • If you have to do something, do it to your level best and not just to earn money.

This is a challenge to everyone including myself.

If we don’t do that we will never get out of this vicious circle. And guess what? This is the reason why we continue to see the same age old vices in our society. I would like to blame corruption and evil in society on a lack of ideas and opportunities.

How else do you explain a politician/leader that has an obligation to enhance development but prefers to steal public funds because he/she wants to set himself/herself up for life? It’s like he/she believes there is no other way to get ahead in this country except by looting public funds or stealing. Who set the precedent that mtu akiingia government ni kukula mbaya?! Mbona si maendeleo??

Let me not even think about the crop of teenage gangsters who have been maiming Kenyans and robbing us at gunpoint. I mean why does a TEENAGE boy or girl need “insane” amounts of money? – to go to Westi and party like a rockstar ama to park a larger than life BMW in a rented house in Kayole? I can imagine that members of such gangs have to live life in fear of being identified.

To change the situation in this country, we need the youth to develop ideas and create businesses. We also need mentors for the youth.

Dear Youth of Kenya;

  • Identify opportunities in society and do not set up a business because other people seem to be doing well in it. Some people use businesses as money laundering fronts; so be careful.
  • Do your research: identify the market, determine the best suppliers, love what you do, identify your talent, and look for avenues to reach the end user who might have need for your skills.
  • Please avoid get rich quick schemes because there is always a catch.
  • Do not steal from someone because you might take money that was intended for reinvestment in a business to feed a family somewhere. If you steal, you might also take money meant for a hospital bill somewhere. Would you want your parent to die because money for the hospital bill was stolen? – I don’t know how to put it in any simpler terms.
  • Go to school – or learn a skill such as welding, carpentry, etc.
  • Find a mentor
  • Attend network forums
  • Network with friends to brainstorm business ideas to take over the world
  • Believe in yourself



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