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Building more trust cuts the cost of doing business

You are more likely to trust someone if you can be trusted yourself. [iStockphoto]

I recently bought a beaded key holder on the outskirts of Ngong town from a Maasai lady for only Sh200. But I got more than what I bargained for.

Without money, I requested to pay her through M-Pesa. She pulled a piece of paper from her purse and told me to send the money to that number which I promptly did.

“Can you check if the money has come through?” I asked her. “The phone is dead, I will check later.” And she went away. My head was left spinning.

Why did that lady trust me to send the money and not reverse it as was common during the Covid-19 pandemic?

That’s when we started withdrawing money from the agent on M-Pesa instead of sending it directly to the other party.

Trust is becoming rare in Kenya yet there are still trustworthy people around. The Maasai lady, her name from M-Pesa was Naomi trusted me, probably because she is also trustworthy.

You are more likely to trust someone if you can be trusted yourself.

And it seems traditional societies are more trusted than modern ones. Think of the number of people who earn their living because of a lack of trust.

Policemen, watchmen, counterfeit agents, lawyers, CID officers, password designers, padlock makers, car alarm makers and pastors. The list can get longer. But the jobs created by the abundance of trust are more than those created by lack of trust.

Trust differentiates developed from developing countries and civilised from uncivilised countries. Sadly we have come to accept being untrustworthy as normal.

Employers nowadays put more premium on trust more than your qualifications. Can one be trusted with money? With completing tasks to the highest standards possible? Not leaving anytime?

All the big cases of corruption are about trust. Divorces and heartbreaks are about trust. Why do you say I love you when you do not mean it? If there is one thing the next government should build, it’s trust.

That will reduce the cost of doing business and lead to happier citizens, liberated from the long shadow of fear.

That key holder may be small, but if we can be trusted and trust others, like the Maasai lady, this country would be a better home for all of us.

Think of the cost of lack of trust in your workplace, entrepreneurship and even relationship.

Paradoxically, traditional societies have more trust than modern societies which spend a fortune enforcing trust. Who then is more civilised, the traditional or modern society?