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Hustling may have lost its lustre, but the spirit lives on

Traders hawk Maasai traditional regalia in Kisii town on March 21, 2023. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

In my view, hustling lost its lustre and mojo this year.

Previously, hustling was a respectable term that signified resilience, toughness, pride and self-reliance.

“I am hustling” was a byword for someone making enough money to take care of their family and possibly save a little. That was before the political elite appropriated the term and rode on it to power. 

Even some affluent Kenyans were attracted to the term hustling: it is a Kenyan thing.

Even the employed have been sucked into hustling and have a side hustle. In a sample of employed Kenyans, I found 65 per cent have a side hustle.

It is not just about money, side hustles are good hobbies and experiments. Some eventually mature into full-time businesses, creating jobs and giving the entrepreneur meaning and pride.

In many communities, it is also a source of respect.

We talk of "Nairobi businessman,” with other towns hardly ever mentioned. 

Two events elevated hustling into the mainstream - Covid-19 and a new tax regime. With jobs lost as the pandemic closed the economy, hustling was the saviour, with car boots being turned into shops. Why didn’t we sustain that? I thought it was very innovative. 

New taxes have forced the hustlers to work harder to break even. New taxes add to the cost of living.

We cut our costs leading to lower demand for goods and services and less income for hustlers.

Hustlers are innovative; they keep trying new products and services. "KDF" (a type of popular bun named after the Kenya Defence Forces) stands out. Unlike the employed, there is no waiting for a salary or pension.  

The international events like the Russia-Ukraine and Hamas-Israel wars have made matters worse by raising the price of fuel; remember any hustling has transport and logistic costs.  

Hustlers never give up, they have been resilient seeing the year-end despite subdued Christmas and New Year celebrations.

 Well done all hustlers. We have successfully hustled our way to the year-end. Forget the political promises in the run-up to the 2022 polls, which made it appear the golden age of hustling was nigh. Did you feel it?  

The pedestal on which hustling stands will not change with political transitions. Your focus, creativity, resilience and innovation will remain indispensable assets. 

We shall successfully hustle in the New Year and beyond. Our choices are limited. The spirit of hustling like that of Christmas must never die. Happy holidays to all hustlers in Kenya and beyond! 

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