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Have an idea? It’s now your turn to eat

By Tania Ngima | March 10th 2015

I remember reading about the theory of making a million shillings. It's not ad verbatim, but it is a version of 'If you want to make a million dollars (or shillings), find a million customers and sell to them with one dollar worth of markup'.

According to Google though, the fastest way to your first million is to start a church. I have deep-seated problems with the underpinning of prosperity theology so I'll leave that route to those who don't have visions of fire and brimstone when they imagine affinity fraud and the like.

I'm also not talking about the recent Kenyan fad of tenderpreneurship. I have in the past talked about the perils of a system that creates overnight millionaires, because of the destruction it leaves in its wake.

Ours is one that has the unfortunate effect of increasing the inequalities and the gap between the rich and the poor.

Aside from the long-term social ills that follow nations with high inequality of wealth, the erosion on our value systems and work ethic is something that will plague us for a long time to come.

Back to making a million shillings the legitimate, and in many cases, a path laced with sweat. We have two types of people in this category.

Those who think of a niche product that they can sell to a select group of people for a premium price.

Then there are those who identify a need that afflicts the masses and attends to it for a minimal margin. If you belong to the latter group, then this is a great time for you to be part of an emerging market.

I use this term loosely because by economic definition, Kenya is yet to officially be categorised as an emerging market.

So far, the recognised emerging economies include the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China and in some cases, South Africa) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia Nigeria and Turkey).

There is also the N11 list that refers to the Next Eleven. Egypt, South Africa and Egypt overlap on some of these lists, being the only recognised African economies and for obvious reasons in each case.

However, Kenya has unofficially been making it into the conversation around emerging markets in various reputable foreign publications.

And though we certainly do not need outsiders extolling our virtues for us to be aware of them, the purpose this recognition serves is two-fold.


First, foreign tax dollars follow foreign opinions. And second, there is hope still for FDI regardless of our internal, ethnic-political driven wrangles and the related sometimes seemingly irredeemable image.

A marked slowdown in growth in China and the recession and inflation-related issues plaguing the rouble in Russia make other regions in Africa a natural target for scrutiny.

Additionally, while growth in most countries is forecast between 1 and 3 per cent, the African continent is predicted to grow at an average of 5 per cent, with some countries even averaging higher for 2015.

The population demographic also makes some of the emerging markets less attractive. Statistics place population in Europe and Asian countries in the slowing or ageing categories, leaving Africa as one of the few continents where a population increase is expected to carry on for the next five years.

So, as a part of this market, you have a few things skewed in your favour; a high economic growth rate into the next couple of years, a growth in population, a rapidly expanding middle class and increased disposable incomes.

If you can find a way to serve part of the world's next billion, then you are poised for long-term success.

But keep a few things in mind. Whether your focus is in fast-moving retail or niche products, the next billion, as they are commonly referred to, are a different breed of consumers. They have access to more information, a hankering for value and by far the most discerning tastes.

They have growing access to the internet and e-commerce, meaning that the traditional modes of goods and service delivery, though not defunct, must evolve significantly. Just look at the growing success and proliferation of e-commerce sites.

Even with our sometimes shifty and less-than-reliable internet and online payment models, more and more people are making online purchases. Door-to-door delivery is now not just a preserve of those living in the west.

In fact, Kenya is among Africa's top three countries on Twitter, so you can imagine what it would do to your brand if customers truly had a bone to pick with you. You can be certain five years ago these were not the same challenges firms had to contend with.

We also joke that if you can sell a product or service to the Kenyan consumer with their peculiar habits and their affinity for being finicky, then your battle for regional domination is half won.

If you don't believe me, speak to the South African firms that have tried to get a foothold in the country by replicating strategy from their home turf.



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