If you are a young entrepreneur or you own a startup, I must applaud you. It calls for a big resolve and proper focus to make this happen. By being a job creator as opposed to a jobseeker, you are actually at the forefront of propelling our nation to the ultimate destination of achieving the developed country status!
Recently, I had the singular honour and great privilege of presiding over the commissioning ceremony of a graduating team of apprentices on the main campus of the Mount Kenya University (MKU) in Thika. These are budding entrepreneurs drawn from different parts of the country and who were admitted to the university’s Graduate Enterprise Academy in last year.
At the academy, these lucky learners undergo some rigorous training and great emphasis is placed on preparing them to eventually utilize in the field the knowledge and skills they have acquired. The programme is a commendable initiative by the university to address the current needs of our labour market. This academy is the brainchild of a great Kenyan, Mr Simon Gicharu, the founder and chairman of MKU. The days when we educated our youth to venture primarily into white collar jobs are long gone. Our institutions need to focus on churning out graduates who then go out to create employment. To achieve this, there needs to be some heavy investment in the entrepreneurs’ incubation programmes by our government and academic institutions just like what the MKU has done. I am, therefore, encouraged to note that other universities are also appreciating the importance of having such entrepreneurial business incubation labs.
At Kenyatta University, where I studied many years ago, there is today the Chandaria Business Innovation and Incubation Centre that also offers entrepreneurial training to students for a period of six months to one year.
When it comes to information and communications technology and mobile technology, Kenya leads the way in the East African region and probably the rest of the continent. To some extent, this advancement in technology and innovations can be said to have contributed to by the success of initiatives such as iHub. There is also Nailab and other incubators that offer entrepreneurship programmes focusing on growing some innovative technology-driven ideas.
There has also been a recent concern that many students are shunning vocational training in the polytechnics and tertiary colleges in preference for university degrees, which should never be the case. We need mechanics, tailors, plumbers and carpenters just as much as we need architects, computer programmers and doctors. All these professionals can start enterprises, which then create employment for youth.
The burden of easing the high unemployment rate in Kenya, which the United Nations says has hit a new high of 39.1 per cent, does not only lie with the government, but also with graduates who go on to create jobs for others. It is about placing emphasis on job creation than being preoccupied with job seeking, as well as life-long learning and development, developing leadership skills.
In his book Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin states: “You are entering a new chapter in your life in an exciting world, full of challenges, opportunities amplified by the Web and the connection revolution, human beings are no longer rewarded most for being compliant cogs.
“Instead, our chaotic world is open to the work of passionate individuals, intent on carving their own paths. That is the new job of school. Not to hand a map to those willing to follow it, but to inculcate leadership and restlessness into a new generation.”
As the budding entrepreneurs benefit from these programmes, there are some key principles that will enable them to be the catalysts of change. They include having a set vision, values that drive you and a mentor to nudge you to realise your vision.
Remember to be yourself and not try to be someone else, anticipate challenges and take them in your stride. Most importantly, make it your business to enjoy your work and life. These are qualities that will positively impact our communities, our country and the world at large.
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