State should seize opportunity to make Kenya a nation of entrepreneurs

President William Ruto during the opening of the 13th Parliament, Nairobi on September 29th, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenya has a new administration under the leadership of President William Ruto. Kenyans have demonstrated to the world the reliability and maturity of the nation’s guardrails of democracy, security and statehood. The inauguration ceremony of the President was indeed 'the President’s thunder' with 20 heads of state and governments, and 60,000 citizens gracing the occasion. 

On December 12, we will celebrate the nation’s 59th year of independence. As a country, we could have done even better. Nevertheless, the country has maintained peace and economic growth where the nation’s budget and GDP are comparable with those of Nigeria and South Africa. The nation has had sustained political and economic improvement since independence. 

The country’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the President. Then we have 47 county governors who are also the CEO's of their respective counties. As a CEO, its generally argued that  success requires the understanding of the values of the 7Es; executive, efficiency, effectiveness, ethics, enabling, empowerment and excitement. The new CEOs in the block must start seizing the moment, ride the tiger and address challenges facing the country.

The greatest motivation of a public leader seems to be fear of letting citizens down. The single biggest challenge facing Kenya today is on the economic front. The political power of any country follows its economic power. Whereas the law of resource scarcity argues that there would never be enough resources to meet all our wants and desires, good leadership and management can lessen extreme poverty among our citizens.

Kenyans are experiencing challenges in this post-election era. As the Central Bank Governor, Dr Patrick Njoroge said to the legislators, “We are living in hard economic times where the public debt is pilling. The nation is not falling. The nation is collapsing.” There are unsustainable huge public debts consuming about 60 per cent of the nation’s revenues, broke universities and the need to create jobs for the 800,000 youths who join the labour force every year. Transformative leadership at all levels and building a nation bursting at the seams with entrepreneurs are key to addressing this challenge.

Both top-down and bottom-up transformative leadership are needed to address our national challenges. The questions of why and how to build a nation of entrepreneurs are old ones. In 1776 Adam Smith first published the book, 'The Causes of the Wealth of Nations'. Smith argued that wealth of nations is driven both by the invisible hands of the market and the visible hands of the state through the necessary laws, regulations and enforcement mechanisms. Given the current social and economic challenges facing most of Kenyans, the notion of building a nation of determined entrepreneurs with little room of failure is becoming a critical goal for many households and youth.

Even our universities are aiming to become hotbeds of great ideas, innovation and entrepreneurial activities. To make Kenya a nation of entrepreneurs, its time for both the national and county governments to lead the way with effective policies and financial incentives. As an example, Nairobi’s Muthurwa market could be upgraded to multi-storied world class commercial centre for Nairobi’s SMEs. All the other 46 counties need also to plan well, and create smart locations and towns for their SMEs. The owners of the SMEs are hardworking, patriotic citizens.