As it appeared in the Daily Nation on October 22nd 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
On October 20, we marked Mashujaa day. As many are aware, Mashujaa is a Swahili word meaning heroes. Originally set aside to honour those who contributed towards our independence, the day has metamorphosed to also celebrate post-independence heroes and heroines. Government officials, political leaders, sportsmen and ordinary Kenyans from different sectors have been recognized during past Mashujaa day celebrations. As I reflected on this year’s Mashujaa day, I got thinking about our business Mashujaa. Who are they? Why do they deserve to be recognized as Mashujaa?
Some may be quick to pinpoint Kenyans running large multi-million organizations as the business Mashujaa. However, I prefer that we focus our attention on ordinary Kenyans who own or run micro and small enterprises. These form the majority of Kenyans. Many earn an honest living by doing clean business. Many of them are traders; they buy and sell assorted merchandise at a profit. Those who trade in agricultural produce wake up in the wee hours of the morning to be at the marketplace on time for the fresh farm deliveries. Others sell milk, meat, newspapers, clothes, phone and computer accessories and more. Some hawk while some trade from their kiosks or shops or online. They purchase what they believe their customers need or they sell on behalf of larger traders at a commission. Some resell as is while others add some value before reselling; they clean and polish the second hand shoes, they boil or roast green maize. Others go to the extent of assembling their merchandize, some plant seedling along the highways and others fabricate home furnishings or run cottage industries from home. The list is endless; these traders keep the economy vibrant in an effort to earn a living. Every Kenyan trader doing a day’s worth of work in an honest way is a Shujaa.
Besides the traders, we have many micro and small enterprises who offer services. Some run roadside kiosks, others offer transport services, garbage collection and recycling, printing and photocopy services, MPESA services. Many others such as mechanics, plumbers, electricians, painters, hairdressers, and Emcees provide professional services at a fee. This list too is endless. Business owners offering quality services deserve recognition among business Mashujaa.
I recognize micro and small enterprises as business Mashujaa because of the tough reality of what they do. Despite this, many keep going; they consider each day as a new opportunity. One of their priorities is to feed themselves and their families in an honorable way. The next time you interact with a trader or one offering a service, remember they deserve as much respect as those running large corporations. It pains me to imagine that some of the hard-earned cash from these Kenyans goes into the pockets of rogue county staff. This brings to mind one question, how friendly is our business environment to the micro, small and even medium-sized enterprises? Does the government both national and county enable them to thrive or dishearten them resulting to their eventual demise? How can these enterprises be supported to survival? As we recognize other Mashujaa, let us recognize those in business. Hats off to every Kenyan earning an honest living by doing clean business, you are a shujaa!
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy