Building on trust to thrust the economy

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By Alfred Sugut

I recently stumbled upon an excerpt that is said to have been presented to the British parliament by Lord Macaulay in 1835. This is what he told them: “I have travelled across the length and breadth of Africa and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief, such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we could ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if Africans think that if all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.

Judging from how the state of affairs are, over the past couple of decades, it is evident that colonial masters did their job; perfectly well. Every town in this country has a couple of shops operated by nonblacks-no objection to it. Their dominance in the different sectors in an economy that is predominantly black, is what concerns us most.

Business rivalry and trade spats

There has been tension of late, as foreign nationals, especially those from the giant Asian nations have been involved in wholesale and retail trade of common goods within the country: the one that got the attention of the public was the Gikomba market incident. This has resulted in the calling for deportation of the individuals involved in such engagements, as the ministries concerned say there is no visa in the country with such work permits. The simmering tension is almost creating diplomatic spats as the embassy of the nationals involved says it is not aware of the deportation of its nationals.

Be that as it may, the actions taken will only serve to treat the symptoms. The real issue will still be untouched. The questions that beckon are, why were the foreign nationals able to penetrate the market in the first place? Who licensed them? Is it possible that there are county staff who are not competent enough to understand which businesses they should license for these foreign nationals and which ones not to?

Time and again, it has been observed that blacks in general do not to trust each other and their products. The probability is that a black person, in his home country, selling superior goods alongside a non-black person-who could be selling inferior goods or offering an inferior service, will make less sales. All factors held constant, it is perception that is at play.

Building the infrastructure

Successive governments after former President Daniel Arap Moi, have been keen on laying a foundation for economic progress of the country and by extension, her citizens. A lot of programs have been advanced; including road, rail, electricity, education and infrastructure; just to name a few.

There is however a missing link. The morals infrastructure – unfortunately cannot be directly built by the government. This is the software that when well integrated with the hardware currently in place, (the ‘uchumi imesorota’ phrase that is in the lips of almost every Kenyan) will be heard and viewed only in ‘viusasa’.

Initiatives such as buy Kenya build Kenya will go a long way in strengthening the missing link. Policies should be put in place and properly implemented. The ‘Africa is rising’ phrase will translate to Africa has risen.

Butterflies are beautiful to see flying around. But before our eyes relish the beauty, the butterfly gradually metamorphoses. Great works we see around, are products of time, sacrifice and the belief by those who did them, that it was possible to do it. If one appears for an interview, without donning an Italian suit, and handmade shoes from France, there is a likelihood that he or she may not impress the interviewers. Unknown to many, what we consider as classy, has painstakingly been developed over a long period of time.

It is about time we sacrificed and consciously trusted and supported our own, to better ourselves. The multiplier effect of this is so huge; ready market, the ability to source for capital, the willingness to invest in research and development, initiating and successfully implementing social responsibility programs.

The next time you go out shopping or if you are thinking of doing anything, think of promoting local entrepreneurs.

alfred.sugut@gmail.com

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