NAIROBI, KENYA-I have got a great idea for business. But I don’t have any money to start it up.

This phrase is something many of us have heard again and again . . . and again—from students, friends, and sometimes even colleagues. While it’s true that a generous credit line, a team of investors, or an uncle with deep pockets can make starting a company easier, not having money is no excuse.

If you are confident that you have a product or service people want, don’t allow the lack of capital to deter you from your business goals. By pivoting, grinding it out, getting creative, and differentiating yourself, you can bootstrap your way to a successful business.

And you know how? By stopping to listen to voices’ stopping or discouraging you from implementing an idea. Put your mind into action, make it up, this is the ultimate capital. But it has been referred to as Africa’s elusive asset because most of us fail to make it up and keep on saying “I will try” thus ending up not even trying at all.

It was against this background that the Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) organized a two day fifth Eastern Africa Thought Leader’s forum on theme “Africa’s Elusive Asset: The Mind as the Ultimate Capital.

The forum held at Lake Naivasha, Simba Lodge reflected on why utilization of Africans’ intellectual capabilities has remained elusive.

IREN Director James Shikwati explained that the quest for fast paced development (maendeleo chap chap!) continues to compromise the African peoples’ ability to interrogate and reflect on priorities.

“In the process, self-doubt and low confidence levels lead to the outsourcing of the continent’s intellectual capabilities, he said adding that little fidelity to evidence- based public discourse further fuels pessimism on African capabilities.

He said that accepting to play in “global games” without necessary information makes it difficult for Africa to tap into its elusive asset – the mind as the ultimate capital.

He advises that “To tap into Africans’ intellectual capabilities, the agency is on the African person to address some basic requirements such as promote clarity in communication; promote precision on how one interacts with time and space and finally promote a high sense of obligation to get rid of pervasive self-doubt,”.

He pointed out that this calls for heavy investments in role modeling, mentorship and the requisite framework of modules for African youth. He argues that Africa as an emerging business hub faces unique challenges in attaining growth in bankable ideas, human resource development and a sense of obligation.

African policy makers should learn from Kiswahili saying “Akili ni mali” (Knowledge is wealth) and initiate deliberate programs to interact with the continent’s academia and intellectuals to foster development.

It is from this argument that he criticizes Kenya and Uganda for budgeting for youth funds initiatives that do not include platforms to grow intellectual capability of the beneficiaries hence ending up bringing no value to employment creation in the East African Community (EAC) Partner States.

However, there are also other causes of youth unemployment that are believed to be multifaceted, ranging from an inadequate investment/supply side of jobs, insufficient employable skills (i.e., youth possess skills that are not compatible with available jobs) and high rates of labor force growth at 4.7 percent per annum.

The idea is that we need to move away from the mindset of looking for white collar jobs to employment of our skills, innovation and creativeness.

“But people who design the youths’ programmes think that the youths want money, but money is number two, we need intellectual capability first where an individual observes an environment and develops a business idea and it is that idea that requires capital or funds,” he counsels..

“But giving money to somebody without any business idea is like throwing it in water. That is why the governments of Kenya and Uganda are stuck with women and youths funds because they have not given them the ability to utilize the funds,”.

“But there should be no limits to freedom of thought, innovation, creativity as long as society evolves’ around the values of what is ethical and what is not,” advises Dr. Alex Owiti, Director of the East African Institute, The Agakhan University.

He however adds that education institutions train students to find jobs, to work for others. “We are telling them to create jobs but without providing them with the required tools,” he noted.

Perhaps this could be one of the reasons as to why a certain section of the unemployed youths in Uganda have resorted being innovative and creative by dropping yellow painted piglets on the roadsides and Parliament.

“We have done all what it takes to find jobs, wealth and dignity in our country but all in vain,” they said in one of the statements tagged to the piglets.

“If it is not political, their mindset is that it is only government that creates jobs but they should be creative and innovative by not holding demos, painting and tagging statements to piglets but apply their mind as the ultimate capital to start own jobs,” a source who requested for anonymity told The East African Review.

Dr. Awiti also urgues that apart from a pro-activated mind, which is elusive asset, we need an education system that trains and allows a free innovative, creative mind that equips skills into a student to be able to create a job, we need a curriculum that imparts’ skills, innovativeness and creativity into the student,”.

Non state actors such non- governmental organizations and media among others should identify their own interests and agenda in the global context and push for evidence led advocacy and mobilization.

Dr. Auma Obama, the chief executive of the Sauti Kuu foundation added that Africans have not utilized all the opportunities available thus making the continent uncompetitive in the world market.

How do we compete if there is lack of creativeness, innovativeness by such associations?

“We need to become confident of ourselves, self-assertive instead of thinking that others are better than us, so we can’t do it, for example when governments plans to supply text books to schools, why should they not consider local firms instead of foreign companies?” Obama re-affirmed.

“We need to improve on our identity, develop strategic development goals and conquer that international space instead of always looking to Europe or the US to determine our destiny,”.

We need to understand the dynamics of the world and improve on our identity as well as availing local investment opportunities to the Diaspora in order to attract them to invest home.

She pointed out that Africans need to redefine their own interests within the global context and see where we fit.

We are not competitive because we are not part of the negotiating teams. We are telling our children’s to read and get jobs but we are not creating space for them to read and get jobs by not providing them with careers guidance on the subjects they do and encouraging them not be fully dependent on their parents if they are of age.

Patrick Madanda, Counseling Consultant and Lecturer Africa Nazarene University contends’ that you can not make an effective decision if you are angry, worried and in fear. “You are nearly committing suicide”. Most of the youths are always in such conditions that discourage them from being developmental. This is the most killer disease for the African person, thus requiring counseling because the three make us vulnerable, cause depression thus causing no resilience in Africa.


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