We, the slaves of the beast

It is no big secret, for the past 3 weeks, I and my team, have been embroiled in a bitter battle to try and save what took four long years of sacrifice to build; to save an investment that exposed us to risk beyond our ability to recover. While I cannot share the exact details, for legality’s sake, it is abundantly clear that this battle, like the last one we faced, and the one before it, and the one ahead, will be the same long tedious battle, drawn out and extremely unnecessary. My battle, however, regardless of the threat to ruin me personally and professionally, is nothing compared to the battle that Information and Communication Technology practitioners (for lack of a better phrase) will have to face and endure, yet another unnecessary battle, that will at best stifle the country, disenfranchising the many “hustlers” that are trying to change the country for the better.

We, as a country, lag far behind when it comes to technology, with a single mobile money tale to tell the world to prove our prowess. Our “success stories” are told by our technology leaders who are primarily foreign, and/or well connected, face far lesser constraints both here and back home, and gain far more advantages in our markets than we do. Said advantages include a freely open helping hand from our Government, with a near “no questions asked” policy. Their primary key to succeed is that their own governments do not have a so called “ICT Practitioners License”. In the real world, full of people who willingly and rationally accept their realities, there is no such thing as an “ICT Practitioners License”. There never has been, and anyone who believes that this serves to put Kenya at an advantage is by definition, aggressively delusional. Those behind this Bill are disjointed from the real Kenya, and only wish to further promote the inequality that exists in Kenya.

This is not to belittle the efforts of our Government to try and industrialise Kenya, but we need to accept that in the eyes of a rational man, we stand no chance against our own neighbours in achieving true industrialisation. Our own internal policies make us our own worst enemies. Our ideologies, far beyond this Bill, show that we are nowhere close to being an industrial country and the real winners in this quest, that will eventually supercede us, will be Rwanda and Ethiopia, who, at the very least understand when and where the lines are drawn. There are far more important issues to address, from the prohibitive unreliable electricity we have to live with, to the overwhelming inequality in the ICT industry, to empowering and enabling the youth who, due to being idle, transition from being hopeful about life to being terrorists and criminals. For the Kenyan entrepreneur, creating jobs is a nearly impossible mission. To date, our request to the government to assemble small devices in Kenya has never been responded to, after 3 years, consequently forcing us to “Face East”, where in this case, we receive far more subsidies and support including massive manufacturing discounts than here at home, an option that one of our prominent tire manufacturers eventually chose. We have created, sadly, more jobs abroad, than locally, because our internal policies gave us no choice.

As a life rule, you cannot, in business, as in life, succeed, if you spend your every waking moment, with one hand and eye on the rule book, and in our case, a rule book based on a constantly shifting landscape. That is a history lesson that we often selectively choose to ignore. Every single Kenyan, wholeheartedly wants the government to succeed in its endeavour to creating a friendly business environment for entrepreneurs to succeed, but, a fundamental antagonism, our poor policies and practices in place, have led us to accept that this is far from being a reality. The proposed Bill threatens to enslave us, as “Practitioners” to bureaucracy and ultimately to poverty, and if successful, imprisonment for the rebellious ones. This is the best way possible to stifle our creativity, innovativeness and in a sense, our ability to emerge from the economic abyss we are quagmired in. We have an infinite collection of talent, full of will to succeed in Kenya, but the environment is far too hostile to now even try and explore new ideas. The “Silicon Savannah” dream has been dead for years, but its final nail lies in this Bill. If we are not allowed to build things for ourselves, then what is the point of the charade?

Kahenya