Thematic Green Messages

Author: Dr. Isaac Kalua

5th Sep 2020 at 11:45 am

Economic Opportunities

This is how we can turn our hobbies and passions into businesses


Author Dr Kalua writing on This is how we can turn our hobbies and passions into businesses
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According to available data Kenya's unemployment rate has doubled to 10.4 percent in the second quarter of this year. That sharp increase was largely because the Covid-19 pandemic stripped away 1.7 million jobs. To make matters worse, 7 million Kenyans were already unemployed during this second quarter. Even more disturbing, one fifth of these jobless millions are young people between the ages of 20 and 29.

Kenya's unemployment rate must give us all sleepless nights. All of us who are able to, must fill Kenya's jobs void. That is why I remain passionately committed to continue playing my role in restoring jobs and livelihoods across the country. Every day, Honda Kenya where I serve as Chairperson, assembles about 140 motorcycles, which translates to at least 140 full-time jobs once they are bought.

The Motorcycle Assemblers fraternity, which I'm grateful for being part of, produces about 18,000 motorcycles every month resulting to similar number of jobs. Accumulatively, this has resulted to the 900,000 jobs in the Bodaboda sector. Each of those Bodaboda riders upkeeps at least six people in a family consequently the sector supports the livelihoods of 5.4million Kenyans.

Millions of Kenyans must zealously step up and fill the jobs void in their own unique ways. One of the ways we can do this is by turning our passions and hobbies into small or medium-sized enterprises that will create livelihoods for ourselves and others.

I was quite fascinated three months ago when my daughter Michelle bought kienyeji chicken and set them loose in our compound. They have since hatched the many eggs they laid. In turning her poultry passion into a small business, Michelle has taken the first step towards filling the void.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) projections, Kenya's chicken population will increase by 375% between 2015 and 2050. This increase will be occasioned by a growing demand for food. By 2050, Kenya's population will have grown to 96 million, with 50 percent of these people living in urban areas. As such, there will be an even higher demand for food since most people in urban areas purchase their food.

As of 2019, there were 43.8 million chicken in Kenya. There is still a growing market for this number to increase exponentially. Accordingly, the more we invest in the poultry value chain the more jobs will be created even as we attract the global market.

Netherlands, a country that is thirteen times smaller than Kenya is the leading fresh chicken exporter in the world. In 2019, Netherlands earned KShs150 billion from its fresh poultry exports. To put that into context, these poultry earnings were enough to fund half of Kenya's counties. For such poultry export earnings to start materializing in Kenya, investors and policymakers must complement the efforts of fledgling poultry entrepreneurs like my daughter. There is need for several state-of-the-art, large-scale poultry factories that can purchase chicken from across the country and export them, just like Netherlands does.

Incidentally, as of 2017, this Dutch country had become the world's second largest food exporter. While this agricultural supremacy has been caused by several factors, one that has stood out for me is the emphasis that they have placed on educating their agricultural workforce. A Dutch University known as Wageningen University is the world's leading institution for agricultural research. This ensures that the country's agricultural ventures are rooted in the latest knowledge.

Most food entrepreneurs in Kenya usually depend on their own knowledge or the knowledge of their small circles, to inform their business activities. As a result, they often make fatal business assumptions that kill their businesses. It is no wonder the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) revealed in 2016 that nearly 400,000 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) had collapsed before their second year.

Specialized agricultural institutions like Egerton should step up and offer short, practical training to the thousands of agricultural SMEs that are mushrooming across the country. They are creating jobs for themselves and their fellow Kenyans and must be fully supported.

We should all see the silver lining in the 1.7 million jobs that have been destroyed by the coronavirus pandemic. That silver lining entails every single Kenyan asking themselves the question - what can I do within my space and abilities to fill the jobs void? If the answers to these questions results in creation of thousands of viable SMEs, investors and policy makers will be forced to take steps that will open up the global market for our products. This is how to think and act green.

~ Think Green, Act Green!

by Dr. Isaac Kalua, the founder and chairperson, Green Africa Foundation ~ 5th September, 2020.

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Dr. Isaac Kalua

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