It's not a well kept secret that a majority of the news covering the continent of Africa is negative. Stories of disease, corruption, violence, terrorism and the like seem to easily strangle out those of success, opportunity, hope and achievement. As a spokesman from the Red Cross recently said, More than 75 percent of the stories in Africa were negative. And research firm Media Tenor echoed the same concern: Africa received the worst overall rating of positive stories versus negative stories of all the continents.
Although there are undoubtedly many overwhelming challenges facing the continent (a few of which are mentioned in this blog), there are also countless rays of light and beauty to be discovered. So, in an effort to unveil just a fragment of this beauty, I plan to highlight the stories of several entrepreneurs that are making the continent a better place through their tireless efforts.
But first, a few thoughts on entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship has been recognized as the foundation to economic development, stability and poverty alleviation in Kenya (and in most developing countries). As a government official recently noted, No country will realize sustained economic growth without supporting small business ventures (The Standard). And as a local professor stressed, if Kenya is to evade its 'developing country' status, it needs to produce job creators, not job takers (The Daily Nation).
Sure, there are countless political issues that -- if sorted out -- would make an unprecedented impact on the well being of millions. But unfortunately, these are not easy fixes and rely on factors that are less controllable by an average citizen. Fortunately, however, economic development -- catalyzed by entrepreneurship -- is much more accessible and tangible and can even occur despite the ongoing political landscape transformation.
And the entrepreneurship opportunities are more than abundant. From basic goods and services such as clean water, public latrines or affordable mosquito nets, to higher end offerings such as designer clothes, online book stores or even event planning. If one were to compare the established business offerings in a developed country to those in the developing world, the possibilities would be astonishing.
Unfortunately, however, most educated Kenyans do not look to entrepreneurship (outside of farming) as a lucrative career option. Perhaps the risks are too high, or the status garnered is subpar (compared to, say, a doctor or lawyer) or access to credit is limited. Whatever the reason(s), the problem is undoubtedly perpetuated by the absence of existing entrepreneurs who can serve as entrepreneurship advocates. Because individuals do not see their peers achieving success through a tool such as entrepreneurship, they are much less likely to consider that tool viable.
For this reason, it is critical to unveil the 'new news' and share the successes of those that are creating a better world through their entrepreneurial ventures. These are the stories that need to be heard.