So we now have county governments in Kenya. Most governors state that youth employment, entrepreneurship and women empowerment are their top priorities.However, it seems that many counties do not have good ideas on what to do with the groups mentioned above. Some are still struggling to figure out what do to with the county itself, so they do not have time to think about entrepreneurship. Many have not been entrepreneurs.
I am here to help . Here is what they should task their county ministers who either handle the ministries of industry, economic planning, youth matters or the docket that has been tasked to develop a strategy for entrepreneurship. Here are some tips towards developing a county entrepreneurship strategy.
1. Analyse the county
Start by analysing what assets, economic activities or high potential sectors exist that could present an opportunity to develop entrepreneurs . It could be agriculture, light manufacturing, mining or even services like tourism, financial services , hospitality etc. It could also be support services to your main activities which are lacking. for example, construction will always require food services close by . It could be unique products or services that your county can focus on due to its geography,mining potential or cultural make up. Be sure to analyse the county’s history to pick out what the unique DNA of the county is. You will be surprised how something that has been a big weakness amongst your people could be turned into a globally attractive phenomenon. Oh , and crunch the economic numbers as you analyse your county.
2. Analyse the gaps
Clearly identify the gaps that are present and what the economic potential of closing those gaps could be . Also analyse the gaps present in skills , education or infrastructure for the industries identified . Those gaps in themselves could be opportunities. I hope that someone in Turkana is setting up an oil institute with practical intern-ships.
3. Define your county strategy
Once you are clear on where you are and what you have, you can now project into the future a strategy of how do develop the areas where gaps exist. You can develop a set of programs that address fundamental issues that will build up towards other higher level needs in future. Also be sure to build in some quick wins that will inspire and energize the county towards your plan.
Make sure you categorise the entrepreneurs. Everyone seems to think that entrepreneurs are a homogeneous group and therefore they come up with a blanket plan towards all of them. I don’t understand this craze that governments have of funding groups. I am yet to see an example of a great company in the world that was started by a group of 15 people. The norm is that 1 or 2 visionary individuals go ahead to build a team that helps them build a company. Fund individuals , not groups.
5. Develop programs
You can develop programs in line with your strategy like Small Business Development Centers,markets creation programs , capacity building programs, affirmative action procurement programs,subsidies , equity or debt funding, international linkages, investor matching or attraction, venture capital or angel investor programs, the list of potential programs is endless . You could also target partnerships abroad with other counties or regions that could be consumers of your products or services , or those that share similar goals with that of your county and hence they can help you build your entrepreneurs capacity. This is the point at which those “benchmarking trips” can be converted into value adding trips,where you actually go to sign agreements rather than do a “shopping study tour”.
6. Track results (or in government language , monitoring and evaluation)
Ensure you have a clear mechanism for tracking the success of your programs . Kindly note that how much money you have lent or given out is not a good measure of success. But focus more on how many jobs you have created, how much growth and wealth has been created as well as the return on the investment that the county has made . You can also start a program in a small way, which allows you to learn and grow it in future , becoming more and more effective with every step you take.
At the county government level, once your strategy is in place, you can focus on removing or lowering barriers for your entrepreneurs. This is where you can develop policies that can help them address issues like security,internet connectivity, infrastructure, energy costs ,capital requirements ,red tape in your county ,market research amongst others that are beyond their individual reach but once done ,will benefit everyone. The list of barriers entrepreneurs encounter in a place like Kenya is long.
You can also set aside funds to set up Research and development centers and academic linkages in institutions of learning. I still cant understand how Kenya has one of the best agricultural universities yet we still practice sub-optimal agriculture. There is a gap between our research, academicians and the market.
A final word to Governors and their teams , dream on behalf of your constituents.Move away from tokenism and focus on value addition and higher level opportunities . Dont just be comfortable creating micro enterprises, dream of getting companies from your county listed on the NSE or even better NYSE! Dream of them going regional and global! Dream of your people not just setting up kiosks but growing them to be supermarkets and malls. Dream of your farmers selling branded products directly to markets abroad. Dream of setting up industries that are world re-known. Our soapstone carvings should be expensive monuments abroad, our bead work should be a globally competitive industry, our tourism can be more differentiated. And then don’t just dream, but execute.