by Agava Isabwa
Geared up in gumboots and spotting old jeans trouser with an old heavy “US Navy” hooded jumper sweater, she hoped around her business with a crying baby on her back. The rain was beating down hard on her old umbrella as she went in and out of the rain to serve her customers. There were two boiling “sufurias”, one for githeri and the other for plain beans. The baby wailed for her attention while the people eating and others waiting impatiently with hungry bellies longed for her service. If she was not serving, she was washing a plate for another customer or stoking the fire. She ignored the cries of her baby painlessly as she soldiered on to earn a dime.
This is just one among millions of Kenyans who oil and grease the gears that move this nation forward. They are explicitly industrious. They have an entrepreneurial fire that drives them against all odds. They won’t sit around and wait for the government. They might be doing it to survive but they are also doing it to build the nation.
Once in a while I spend my nights at Nailab, where a startup I am working on (Utafiti) is incubated. Recently as I left the place at 5 am in the morning, it was raining and I thought I wouldn’t find anyone out there. To my surprise I met a lot of people whom the rain could not stop from going out and doing what they do best to earn a living. They were in cars, on foot and other riding bikes headed to different places.
This tells you the kind of people Kenyans are. Hardworking would be a lesser description. Kenyans push to the limits. And we don’t just stop within our borders, we cross them. We are into Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and even war torn Sudan. We don’t run away from our country but we actually run the world. From athletics to startups to twitter to governance. We might have an ugly side led by corruption but #KOT doesn’t sit behind those computers for nothing. If it’s a matter of public interest, they will rally keyboard mercenaries and ninjas to make sure the word is home.
As the words start up, incubation and acceleration began to be thrown around the world, Kenya did not lag behind. We got hold of it thus we were christened “the silicon Savannah’ of Africa. We became a hub and an attraction. So many foreign investors drop by scouting for young companies to invest in. Local young minds are representing us on the global stage with innovative ideas that could one day change the way we look at things.
I have friends who have traveled to Tanzania and South Africa. On a lighter note, folks over there don’t like us much. Why? Because we see opportunities where they cannot. We take small things and amplify them. We turn trash into another man’s treasure.
Early this year a friend of mine wanted me to join him abroad where he works, promising to get me into a nice and well-paying job. It was at that time I was finding it hard to fend for myself. I couldn’t manage to pay my bills. I barely could afford my meals. I couldn’t even afford to take my girlfriend out. The lure was irresistible. I began looking for a passport and other papers that would allow me to fly there. Luckily, these things took long to come through. I looked around and at what I could do back here if I stayed and it outweighed going abroad. So I stayed. I love Kenyans for their entrepreneurial spirit. The unending need that pushes them to the brink to innovate and create. I love this country that is full of endless possibilities.
Agava Isabwa is a Blogger, Photographer, tech-enthusiast and co-founder of Utafiti Kenya