So it’s official I have been in Kenya over three weeks now and wow what an experience it has proven to be! I have been paired with my wonderful partner, Tram-Anh, and together we have been given the responsibility of facilitating 5 entrepreneurs. Eeek!
I guess I ‘ll begin with talking about some of the key differences that I have noticed about Kenya and it’s people compared to us back in the UK. Something that has become apparent is the prevalence of religion in the country. More or less every Kenyan that I have spoken to so far attends church on Sunday and has a strong faith in God. I was aware of this before but as we got into our sessions with entrepreneurs it emerged that many of the Kenyan entrepreneurs that we have met actually pray for customers each day. An example of this was when Tram-Anh and I were running a session with an entrepreneur this morning and we really wanted to get her to think about what she needs to do for a successful business. We asked her what was vital to any business and she responded that you must pray in order to have a successful business.
I had never really considered this would be something that people would think about in business and it made me begin to think about the role that religion can play in business. As I thought more and more about this I questioned how valid it is to pray and if praying would actually help the business. I came to the conclusion that, as a non-believer, I don’t think that praying has a direct affect on the business however I think it can have a direct affect on the business owner and if praying each day gives that person the faith to go forward then I say go for it!
Moving onto another key difference that I have noticed about the way the Kenyan entrepreneurs that I have met so far do business is that they are keen to collaborate and help one another. As I have walked around Nakuru I have noticed that many market stalls seem to stick in the same place (for example all the fruit sellers can be found in one place as can the shoe sellers). I began to think about how this could possibly work and why had these business owners not moved away from their competitors.
As I conversed further with the entrepreneurs further it became apparent that many of them actually see it as beneficial to work closely with competitors as then they can see the different ways of doing things and lift each other up. I found this idea very refreshing when comparing it to the UK as you rarely see competing organisations working together in order to share their knowledge and expertise. As I reflected on this I thought that there is real value in actually working together in order to allow everyone the best chance of success.
Written by Callum MetCalf, Balloon Fellow 2014