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We admire hustlers though many of us never say it

Traders pull handcarts (mkokoteni) at Marikiti (Marigit) open-air fruits and vegetables market. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

It’s a fact that only 20 per cent of Kenyans are formally employed. The rest hustle, which is characterised by uncertain sales or jobs. I see men and women walking in search of jobs daily.

Yet hope and resilience keep these men and women going. In Kenya, where automation is still nascent, most of the work is manual. I was surprised that grapes can be picked by a machine, yet we do not want tea picking machines.

And cows are milked by machines too elsewhere.

Do the formerly employed men or women including our political leaders appreciate the work done by hustlers? My hunch tells me we secretly admire hustlers for their tenacity.

Think of someone who has never been employed all his life and still raises a family.

Think of a person who goes to sell by the roadside and is never assured of sales.

Such patience and perseverance are admirable. The affluent probably wish their children would be that resilient, to take their businesses or professions to the next level, and become the next Google, Toyota or IBM.

Some observers say we protect our children so much that they never learn to hustle even when formerly employed.

Listed firms

Hustling is not just about the unemployed, it’s a can-do spirit. Do you go beyond the call of duty or just do the minimum to keep your job?

I admire hustlers, yet we have no time for them, preferring to study the listed firms that have data! We think hustlers have no data.

Yet they probably have better insights into business than the listed firms. They are in touch with reality every day.

If you want to change your attitude towards hustlers, take a walk in downtown Nairobi. Visit Eastlands or Kariobangi Light Industries and watch the men and women who run our economy.

Remember how they rode through Covid-19 and kept the economy running as the rest of us hid in our homes? Contrary to elites’ belief, hustlers are very proud of their self-reliance. Politicians made promises to hustlers in the run-up to the polls.

They should have started by thanking them and appreciating their role in economic growth.

And stating a fact - hustlers will remain indispensable to the economy, not just ours but globally.

Their economic contribution matters as much as their votes. We should now focus on scaling up their hustles. Over to the new government.

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