The Entrepreneurship Space in Kenya is Buzzing

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on May 28th 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

I love the passion with which most Kenyans keep up with what is happening globally. We have not been left behind by the entrepreneurship wave that continues to sweep around the world. A decade ago, one could hardly find an innovation hub, a co-working space, an SME business advisor or coach, a venture capitalist or an equity partner ready to invest in a high potential start-up. In the USA and in many European countries, the entrepreneurship wave was felt much earlier. Countries such as the USA, German, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom and more recently China have been recognized globally for a blossoming culture of entrepreneurship. In Africa, Kenya seems to be leading and attracting most attention on matters innovation and entrepreneurship. Today, we are at a different place and the entrepreneurship space is buzzing.

A few days ago, I sat through the launch of the Association of Start-up and SMEs Enablers of Kenya (ASSEK). I could barely fathom the potential that the youthful Kenya has in the entrepreneurship space. The ASSEK idea born during last year’s Nairobi Innovation Week (NIW) finally saw hundreds of enablers for both start-ups and SME come and reason together. The support and collaboration of the government, private sector, academia, development partners and foreign missions was evident during the event. Bernard Chiira the chairperson highlighted the potential Kenya has as a budding global centre for both start-ups and their enablers. ASSEK seeks to bring together and represent the interests of organisations supporting the development and growth of start-ups and SMEs in Kenya for maximum impact of their wide-ranging activities. There is no doubt that as a country we have the attitude, the knowledge and the skills needed to build a strong and competitive start-up ecosystem.

Globally, entrepreneurship is renowned as an important avenue for promoting economic growth and job creation. It is through entrepreneurship that new and innovative businesses are born and existing businesses are revitalized. As a country, we need to nurture a culture of entrepreneurship. This will create new business ideas that will deal head on with the escalating youth unemployment. Kenya needs to fully unlock its potential of becoming a globally recognized start-up hub. A mushrooming start-up and SME enablers ecosystem is good for this country. In a few weeks, The University of Nairobi will be hosting the fifth Nairobi Innovation Week (NIW). NIW aims at supporting and accelerating the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region. NIW is getting bigger and better year in year out. The NIW Challenge has already enlisted top 30 start-ups six of which will be pitching at NIW Innovation Summit. The NIW remains at the centre of establishing linkages in the start-up ecosystem. The greatest boost that entrepreneurship in Kenya needs is the successful commercialization of innovative ideas.

I believe that Kenya has what it takes to become home to several highly successful companies. This can be steered by strengthening a culture of entrepreneurship countrywide. A strong partnership between the academia, private sector and the government is paramount in making this happen. Besides the passion and the buzz, the entrepreneurship ecosystem must take action to make the many dreams harboured by our flourishing entrepreneurs a reality. We are urgently in need of enterprises able to create new jobs!

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy

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