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Why starting a business in Kenya is seen more as a crime than a good cause


“It is easier to save capital to start a business in Kenya than actually starting the business!”  A Bachelor of Commerce student in one of the public Universities in Kenya raised this statement a few days ago during a chama meeting. I sadly agree with him. Starting a business in Kenya is seen more as a crime than a good cause. The cost of licenses you are supposed to apply for may compete with the cost of the business. The numerous offices you are supposed to visit and the arrogant civil servants you meet may be traumatizing. It requires a brave dedicated individual to face the government bureaucracies to fully start a business.

You have started the business. Yes! You applied for all licenses that are required. Yes! You went for all medical tests that are required. Yes! Now you are ready for the second phase of trauma. Harassment from authorities! I am sure you have seen a video clip doing round of a lady salonist being harassed by Nairobi county askari. I am yet to know her crime. The county official was trying to forcefully take away her business license from where it was hanged on the wall. That is the kind of environment we are in! Haven’t you seen police officers collecting bribes from legal businesses in your estate especially liquor business?

The unemployment menace in this country can be overcome by creating employment opportunities both formal and informal by the young people. It will be hard for that young ambitious graduate to employ him/herself in an environment that sees small businesses including hawking as crime.

Developed nations have appreciated the need for entrepreneurship and embraced it. It is through that spirit that crimes can be eradicated that are otherwise rising because of hard economic conditions.  It is through that spirit that Kenya can achieve its vision 2030.

I am not saying that businesses should not be regulated! For safety, fair competition, security and ethics, businesses should be regulated however; the costs of regulations and assessment should not be passed down to young business starters. I am fully aware that these regulation departments are each allocated monies from the national and county budgets. They should use these monies to assess and regulate business. In this era of information, all licenses need to be consolidated to a single license. In that I mean, anyone can visit one government office, apply for a single license, and start a business immediately. The license ought to be free by the way. This will increase an entrepreneur spirit of young people. The president through the relevant ministry and the heads of county governments through their relevant departments need to work as a team to encourage self-employment in this nation. If not, young people will be crying because of joblessness until 2031.

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