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Do ‘sonkos’ secretly envy hustlers?

By XN Iraki | July 3rd 2019
By XN Iraki | July 3rd 2019

Do ‘sonkos’ secretly envy hustlers?

To the vast majority, hustlers are to be pitied. They struggle under the sun or in the rain to make a living every day. They have no social security, like a pension, no per diem or sitting allowance.

But they buy sugar and other commodities at the same prices as anyone else. We must salute them for that. In reality, hustlers should be admired by professionals in big firms. Why?

1. Their risk-taking behaviour. Every day is different from the previous one, with new challenges presenting themselves. There’s never a dull moment. Professional jobs, on the other hand, are routine. Office workers can anticipate the customers they’ll get, and can perform their tasks almost by rote. Yet, despite the constant change, hustlers still go to their hustles even though they’re never assured of a constant income.

2. Their patience. Hustlers wait every day for customers who may never come. Think of shoe shiners or kiosk operators. Their patience goes beyond that – they learn a trade or a hustle for years and build a customer base. And then one day they start their own business and leave the owner high and dry. That’s common with barbers and other personal service hustlers where personal attention matters. Professionals don’t have this luxury; it’s hard to just up and start another parastatal or university after working there for years.

3. The freedom. While economic upswings and downswings harass hustlers, they’re still able to enjoy the freedom to be their own boss. Professionals are either harassed by seniors or bureaucratic issues like insubordination. 

4. Their smile. Even when things are bad, hustlers are optimistic. They rarely suffer from diseases of development like the affluent. Maybe they’ve gone through so many hard times that they’ve learnt to cope.

5. Their determination. Hustlers are on a mission to ensure their children have a better life than they did. That’s why private schools or academies are found even in slums.

6. Their support system. Hustlers support each other when times are good and when they are bad. Through chamas and other social organisations, they make up for what formal systems have failed to provide for them.

7. Their contribution. Hustlers are major consumers of goods and services despite their meagre resources. They keep the economy humming. They create 83 per cent of jobs in Kenya!

Have you noted the effort banks, saccos , shylocks and even the Government put into getting the attention of hustlers? They may not have money, but their numbers give them admirable economic power and (in whispers) political power.

Even in developed countries, hustlers are admired for their ingenuity and creativity. The multinationals we admire and write case studies about were spawned by hustlers.

You still don’t admire hustlers? Try being one and you’ll pay homage to their contribution to the economy and their resilience. Maybe that’s why the spectre of one of them getting to the House on the Hill has upset the country’s political equilibrium?

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