Monday, January 01, 2001

When Is My Business Your Business?

Republished on The Benin Epilogue with Permission of Kenyan Empowerment News

When Is My Business Your Business?

by Benin “Mwangi” Brown

My dear reader, if you are seeing these words, right now, chances are very good-that you are might be what I would term a “Kenyan-Atlantan”. Now granted, my observation probably isn’t going to land for me a Nobel Prize. However, there is a reason for my message.

Some of you may know that I am a native to Atlanta, but something that you may not have known is my passion for learning the business climate in Africa and sharing that information with others. Although, I was not born in Kenya, you have made me feel like family. So it’s only natural that my independent research about Africa’s different business scenes finds its way to Kenya. And let me say that Kenya has a very special business air about herself, one that is very unique amongst other developing economies. But, do you know what? This is not the purpose of my appeal to you.

Let me ask you this, have you ever noticed how almost without fail at least every third or fourth American that hears your speech pattern has a certain line of questioning for you? Surely, you must be familiar with this. Why am I bringing this up? Well, from the moment that my feet touched Kenyan soil I found myself at awe at the business climate there. Even before my trip to Kenya, during the time of my first visits to Africa, West Africa, I began to ask myself many questions about the perception of doing business there versus the reality, but then something else also happened. Deep inside me there was a voice that felt compelled to let the world know about the beauty, the diversity, and the unlimited possibilities-for doing business in Africa. With this as a backdrop, the misperceptions that I encountered amongst some who’ve never made the journey to Africa disturbed me to no end. Here I was trying to explain to an educated business person why she or he should consider doing business in Kenya and this person is asking me if they have cars there? My reactions probably embarrassed that person in much the same way that their “interesting” questions offended me.
At some point I began asking myself if there was not a better way to throw light on Kenya or her economic landscape without everyone walking away feeling bitter. To my wonderment I have found that there is.

Now, my friend let’s connect the dots…I have made it my business to share one word at a time with one business person at a time. This was my lesson, that through this approach we can demystify Africa and help create positive change at the same time. The reason that this works is because the understanding and measured briefness given to the person on the receiving end may ignite a small spark within. When this fire becomes lit it may cause the person to do his or her own investigation, as to how or why to start doing business in Africa.

The reason that it took me so long to say this is that you, unlike me, have known for quite some time that more trade and smarter aid is a catalyst that has continued to grow Kenya’s economy. After-all, every year Kenyans in the Diaspora collectively remit over $700m year back home to Kenya. If that is not enough to illustrate the economic power of Kenyans in the Diaspora, go to any major city in the Diaspora where there is a large population of Kenyans and you will find investment clubs, professional organizations, pictures of beautiful homes being built back at home, and the like. All of which, serve to spur more economic growth in Kenya.

Thus, my challenge, what can I say to someone who is already doing the right things to help build up their homeland? Well, if each one of you decides to share one of the world’s best kept secrets- Africa’s robust growth economies, then that’s one more thing that you’d be doing to help. This could mean that one more outside business person may invest their money in a country such as Kenya, than before you spoke. From the single investment of this hypothetical businessperson; one more entrepreneur in Kenya can hire one more employee, one more parent can educate one more child, and so on and so on. So here it is, the next time a someone who’s never been to Africa asks you an “interesting” question about Africa, please make my business your business. In doing so, you may be able to add yet another measure of boost to Kenya’s growing economy-one word at a time.

Benin “Mwangi” Brown is the editor and author of The Benin Epilogue: Africa Ready for Business web log, which can be found at He may be contacted at .

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