A majority of Kenyans do not have a businessperson as a role model, despite the touted importance of entrepreneurship to the country’s growth.
A new survey by TIFA, a market research company, shows that six in 10 Kenyans do not have a businessperson they admire or respect.
Instead, when asked about the personalities they admire the most, politicians and musicians topped the list.
Billionaire businessman Chris Kirubi, a majority shareholder in investment firm Centum, is the most admired businessman, with five per cent of those surveyed naming him as the person they most admire or respect. He is followed by industrialist and entrepreneur Manu Chandaria at four per cent.
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Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi, and Jimmy Wanjigi share the spoils in third position, with two per cent of respondents naming them. Mr Wanjigi, however, is not renowned for a national enterprise.
Five of the 12 business personalities who feature in the list scoring one per cent each were either active politicians or had at some point been active participants in the political process, signifying the relationship between money and power in Kenya. They include President Uhuru Kenyatta, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, investment banker Jimnah Mbaru and the 2017 gubernatorial aspirant for Uasin Gishu Bundotich Buzeki.
Other popular business persons that score one per cent include the founder of Keroche Breweries Tabitha Karanja and Bidco Africa co-founder Vimal Shah.
The size of Kenya’s economy has expanded significantly in the recent times, churning out millionaires in a number of sectors. Real estate, food processing, hospitality and finance are just a few of the industries that have produced ultra-rich individuals.
In the last decade, the size of the economy has expanded from Sh2.1 trillion to an estimated Sh9.5 trillion, with novel and ingenious business models and products putting Kenya on the global map.
The number of super-rich Kenyans with a net worth of more than $1 million (Sh100 million), excluding their primary residence, increased by 306 in 2018, according to a 2019 report to property consultancy Knight Frank.
The survey showed that the number of dollar millionaires in Kenya grew to 9,482 in 2018, up 3.3 per cent from 9,176 the previous year.
The report projected this number to increase by 22 per cent to 11,584 individuals in the five years to 2023.
However, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the tight-knit relationship between politicians and some entrepreneurs may have left a bitter taste in the mouths of Kenyans.
Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge recently castigated the media for sanitising thieves using terms like “flamboyant businessman”, warning that this had, in a sense, “disinfected” corruption.