In 2007, Kenya led the whole world in Google searches for the word Entrepreneurship. Read this interesting article Greg Watson Article that gives the numbers on this. This is very peculiar because with only a population of just about 3 million with internet access, we must have been extremely obsessed with entrepreneurship to trump all the other countries in the world. I came by this piece of information a while back and since this is still a new year, I became curious about what the most searched word in Kenya in 2009 was… According to Google zeitgeist 2009, “jobs in Kenya” ranks 4th among the fastest rising searches in Kenya, and “jobs” and “management” rank 5th and 7th respectively among the most popular searches in Kenya. And just to make a point, entrepreneurship shows up nowhere in the top 10 of any category.
Look at it any way you like and you most likely arrive at the same question and probably the following follow-up rationalizations:
Whatever caused the spike in searches for the word entrepreneurship in Kenya in 2007 is beyond me; but why the trend did not continue in the subsequent years also baffles me? The fact that we were out there looking harder than any other country either for entrepreneurship ideas, inspiring entrepreneurship stories, some advice on start-ups, and any other reason that prompted these searches points to an entrepreneurial lot than Kenyans aspire(d) to be. I am tempted to imagine what the results would have spelt if we had greater internet penetration levels in the country since the demography of would-be entrepreneurs without internet access is colossal. And because 2007 saw many Kenyans searching for Entrepreneurship, 2008 should have seen a fair number of them setting up and walking the talk but did it?
The Entrepreneurship bug that bit Kenyans in 2007 died with the post-election violence and the need for jobs arose in its place. The happenings of late 2007 early 2008 are a nightmare to any businessman or woman. Economics in itself means nothing today because most economic issues are contingent on the political climate, hence my preference of Political Economy. Political instability, insecurity, and disregard for the private property law are make multinationals close shop and leave and prevent more from setting up shop in Kenya. But what goes almost unmentioned is the impact of the same on local entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs. Many business premises went up in flames during this period, billions of shillings in losses, and I am inclined to believe that entrepreneurship dreams went up in smoke too. Getting employed became a safer less costly and usually the only bet for those whose business premises and houses were burnt. Those thinking of venturing into entrepreneurship now had at least three more cons to add to their list – hence they Google “jobs in Kenya” instead of Entrepreneurship.
Once employed, the only way up is management. What better way to advance further than peers than to drown oneself with the latest in management know-how. So Google records an increase in searches for management as Kenyans look for management buzzwords that they can throw around the office to better their chances. Others search for management courses that they can enroll on to butter their resumes. More still are looking for management this and that even before they are employed in their efforts to ensure they rise to the top in the least time possible when employed. Consequently, management in 2009 ends up 5th in the most popular searches category, beating jobs to 7th place and entrepreneurship to no place in the top 10. Management thus replaced entrepreneurship in the ranks of favoured occupations as people sought – via Google – for ways to become better managers in their places of work.
Banks got scared of giving people loans at a politically unstable time. Entrepreneurs could predict business risks and mitigate them but not if such risks cost them their lives. No mother would want to give birth to a child when the air outside is poison that will surely kill it. For these and many other reasons, entrepreneurship took a back seat in 2008/2009.
But when the air is cleaner with a little bit of stability and the usual business risks, it behoves any would-be entrepreneur to make a go at it. And when the referendum time comes, ask yourself whether it protects you and your investment as an entrepreneur then vote accordingly.
What say you as an emerging entrepreneur?