Our Survival Kit From the
Business Daily (Nairobi)
15 February 2008
The hero in Robinson Crusoe is faced with a challenge of how to
survive after a tragic sea wreckage. He must figure how to keep
alive while he hopes to be rescued. Fortunately Crusoe is able to
salvage some useful survival items; some tools, guns, a little
food and drink. Ironically, one item is of no value to Crusoe
despite its abundance; a bounty of cash.
We could interpret Crusoe's survival kit as industry, security,
sustenance and gains from commerce. All four are symbiotic; one
depending on the others. For most businesses and indeed the
country, the New Year is akin to Crusoe's shipwreck.
To survive we need to take stock of our survival kit; what will
enable us pull through. Like Crusoe, our meagre kit can only last
so long. We however still possess certain assets and potential
that can be harnessed to surmount the challenges; but only if we
We have a comparative advantage borne of our geographical location
- Kilindini and a logistic choice route to Central Africa and
Southern Sudan. Although our neighbours may capitalise on our
hiatus from the trading scene, they face a steep learning curve
while their new-found customers will have to contend with
The sooner the clogging at the port is eased and a risk free
conduit beyond Nairobi assured, a crucial part of our commercial
jigsaw will haven fallen into place.
The proposed fibre optic connectivity could not come sooner; its
slated completion date of 2009 seems such a distant future. Sign
are good as EASSY secured the requisite financing of $71m. The
impact of this on outsourcing businesses, growth of e-commerce and
telecommunications will be immense.
EASSY and France Telcom's investment represent faith in our
economy as they break new ground for a lucrative gap in the market.
Kenya possesses human capital of regional note.
The World Business Magazine of last March lists our Catholic
University, USIU and University of Nairobi School of Business
among some of Africa's leading business schools.
Equally significant is Strathmore University's positioning as a
premier institution represented on the Association of African
Business Schools (AABS) governing body. Graduates from these
varsities form a much needed middle and entrepreneurial class that
will drive industry.
An oft - quoted statistic is our five per cent GDP achievements.
This quantifies but our innate potential. Having "been there, done
that", our experience in generating wealth from vibrant economic
activities represents an experience curve albeit short lived, that
would stand us in good stead.
However, this potential and experience needs a business-friendly
environment devoid of security risks to thrive or else investors
will relocate. The gesture by some insurers to cover assets
damaged in the unrest will imbue enterprise with confidence.
Likewise, any gains our flagship product, tourism, are
inextricably dependent on security. While we mire in politics,
competitor tourist attraction in the Indian Ocean and southern
Africa are enriching and entrenching their markets at our expense.
Undoubtedly, Kenya has received unparalleled benevolence from the
international community. In comparison to other security trouble
spots in Africa, the Congo, Rwanda, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Chad et a
have not received the same affection, support and concern.
It is arguable this is based on Nairobi being the choice location
of UN agencies while cynics may theorise that US interests stem
from geopolitics and the crusade against terrorism.
Whatever the rationale, their goodwill has a use-by date and is
crucial currency in our rehabilitation. It will be foolhardy of
the political leadership to fail to grab the opportunity provided.
Unlike Mr Crusoe, our rescuers are already in town and we have a
much larger kitbag than he had. Should we allow the opportunity to
lapse, we might as well have a Darwinian view of our commerce.