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What I have learnt handing over a company I founded

Photo Credits Pixabay

Today marks the day I hand over a company I Co-Founded. I join a list of founders who in their lifetime have stepped aside from companies they founded to take on new assignments. Ken Njoroge of Cellulant, Sam Gichuru of Nailab, Julian Kyula of Mode amongst others. We registered Wylde international in 2004 together with my co-founder David Kamau as a youth leadership development company. We were way ahead of our time but believed we could change the world by transforming the generations that were coming after us. We eventually pivoted into a corporate learning company and then added organizational development and strategy consulting to the portfolio in the next 6 years. Eventually we pioneered paid entrepreneurship programs, which turned out to be our niche. David left in 2012 to pursue other related interests and Chris Odongo joined at the same time.

We proceeded to grow our footing in the enterprise development space, training and coaching hundreds of entrepreneurs in our accelerator program dubbed the Greatness Business Club (GBC), which today has evolved into the more powerful and targeted Scalerizer® program. We have in the ten years of running entrepreneurship programs partnered with corporate organizations that had SME clubs, Banks, insurance companies, donors, global tech giants and UN agencies funding SME programs and investors. Our team grew from the initial 3 to 4 at any given time to 17 at one time (it’s almost back there even in my absence). We recruited and retrenched and recruited again, learning painful but valuable lessons. In the background we were baking the idea of putting together a one stop shop concept for supporting SMEs.

This one stop shop came to be in 2019. We had initially envisioned it as a Wylde subsidiary but the more it came together the more we realized it was a gigantic idea that needed its own space and vision. We Christened it SNDBX (Pronounced Sandbox) and we eventually hived it off and registered it as a separate company. I was at one time CEO of SNDBX and Wylde Simultaneously but it became quickly clear to the board and ourselves that I couldn’t run both (How does the twitter/Square guy do it?) So, we made the decision for me to move and focus on growing SNDBX since it was a big opportunity and needed a focused team to unlock its growth. As SNDBX grows, so does Wylde. As of today, I am officially no longer the CEO of WYLDE International. In a continent where leaders and entrepreneurs hold on to power till the grave, this is a monumental step for me and the company

I now feel like I’m running a government at SNDBX (25+ companies under me). But I learnt a lot of lessons in the quiet handover that we did in the 6 months before this announcement was made today.

  1. Set your successor for success – Before I left, we fixed all pending gaps in our structure, developed a full 3-year strategy and hired competencies to fill all positions that were pending. I’m actually a bit jealous at all the firepower Chris has and sometimes wonder why I didn’t do this during my term.
  2. Prepare the ground for your successor to take over – As soon as the decision was made, we began to let the staff, clients and partners know about this decision. Chris began to take over conversations with our key clients and chair meetings. By the time we announced to them that I was leaving most would say “but we have been dealing with Chris anyway” They were confident in his leadership having experienced it. I have even heard a few (painful) comments that some people prefer my successor to me! We also began to get more speaking and media slots for him to build his profile as the Wylde representative instead of myself going for them.
  3. Build confidence in the market about your successor – Every potential client conversation I had in the last 6 months I have finished by mentioning that they will be handled by someone better suited than myself going forward.
  4. Allow your successor to fail and feel the entire burden of leadership – There are times I have foreseen some trouble coming up and kept completely quiet about it and waited for it to happen and then watch to see how my successor and his team will respond. Even when they have tried to rope me into decisions that I feel are now his, I decline to give a comment and send them back to the new leader. It has been hard holding back but it was entirely necessary for them to realize I am no longer calling the shots. And one of the best hallmarks of leadership is dealing with crisis and mistakes. From how I saw them handle the issues? They will be just fine without me.
  5. Allow your successor to break away from your direction and set a new one – In one of the weekly transition meetings I told Chris that he is free to set a new direction once this strategy we developed together begins to run out. He will be the one on the ground interacting with the changes in the internal and external environment. My input will only come at board level. I suspect they will blow our minds with their ideas and investments.
  6. Don’t interfere in your successor’s decisions – the hardest part has been watching my successor come up with decisions that are very different from what I would make, and they work brilliantly. I largely grew Wylde through making grave mistakes but the current teams have a lot of wisdom and resources to draw from.
  7. Decide on your potential successors early – I was lucky that Chris had walked the journey with me for a long time but I always advise leaders to identify 2 or 3 potential successors from their team as soon as they begin their tenure. Why 2 or 3? Its good for an organization to have a pipeline of leaders who are being prepared for the job.

I am still on the Wylde board and I miss being part of the incredibly talented and full of integrity Wylde team, but I’m also excited about the new global possibilities that SNDBX portends. We are talking to large brands, foundations, governments and multilateral agencies which see SNDBX as a unique solution to enterprise challenges especially in emerging markets. We are talking to potential partners around the world about the possibility of setting up SNDBXs in their jurisdictions. We are building a legal network and a fund. We are having big and small conversations from Nebraska to Berlin, China to Joburg. We are setting up a fund and experimenting with digital platforms. We have attracted big names locally and regionally as advisors. SNDBX is exciting and demanding. And I have an awesome team to do this. My 2nd play is bigger than the first.

I miss my first venture and team but they have proven in the first quarter that they will do much better revenues than I did. They have a full management team and highly experienced and qualified consultants on board. Their programs are growing. I miss the product development that Wylde is so good at but I can also see they are a mature company poised for scaling. I look forward to the challenges and lessons that the SNDBX will bring. And I wish Chris Odongo, Wylde’s new CEO all the best. I have all the confidence in you to do greater things than I did because you have diligently been the one who implemented the dreams and strategies that we came up with together anyway, and kept the coffers secure. Oh, and I’m dead serious I won’t interfere but you have my support any time you need it. It’s all yours now!

Broken Mobile phone screens and cars late for service by 6 months: The hallmark of ethical entrepreneurs in Africa?

To buy a new phone, to fix the screen or to pay salaries? Those are the questions that ethical entrepreneurs have to ask themselves when running a business in an African country. Especially those who operate in environments that have normalized corruption. This not only means that they are up against unfair competition but also have to sacrifice a lot when waiting to tire down government officials or acquire all licenses that cost them an arm and a leg. But I admire such individuals because those are signs of the sacrifice they endure to eventually build a successful business. And the strength of character to stick to what is right no matter what.

They are forced to prioritize things that will keep the business going like salaries for staff and rent for the office, plus home expenses like school fees, diapers and rent that cannot wait . They end up foregoing a lot of personal comforts to give their all to their businesses. Its hard to understand this phenomenon if you have not been through it. When you are an ethical entrepreneur you learn to hyper prioritize what is important. You learn what maximization of an asset to beyond its life’s capacity means. Cars, laptops, phones, moving into unfinished houses, cramming an office. Entrepreneurship opens your eyes to possibilities that you would usually frown upon but it leaves you little wiggle room to splurge on luxuries. It also helps you philosophize a lot and learn what humility is while valuing what is important in life. Even those who would waste their employers money when employed are forced to begin maximizing every cent to survive. It comes with the territory. So next time you see an entrepreneur with a broken screen or dent on their car unrepaired. Don’t judge. Just understand where they are coming from.

Why more leaders should be ready to admit when they are clueless

It all started when I read the book the Trillion dollar coach about Silicon valleys Bill Campbell in 2019 and I learnt that most of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and executives had coaches many years after their companies became wildly successful. It hit me that their success had a lot to do with seeking help. I had always thought, albeit wrongly, that their success was a factor of their inherent genius. I realized that part of the genius is seeking help.

I have progressively learnt since then to proactively seek for help for almost any situation that I encounter and think that I lack the right knowledge or perspective to resolve.

When I was younger I prided myself in knowing and being known as the guy who knows everything . Nowadays, I don’t mind not knowing and I’m ok admitting that I don’t know. And I find it very liberating. I embrace failure and mistakes as an entrepreneur because I know they are they are the tickets to valuable lessons that lead to success. What I try not to do is repeat the same mistakes I made earlier. I proactively seek out experts because I know they have spent time, lots of time, years in fact, gaining experience and perfecting that which I need to learn from them. External expert views help me to get to the bottom of issues and give clarity on what’s to be done a lot faster than if I tried to figure it out all by myself. I’ve also become a ruthless implementer without wasting time or second guessing myself when it becomes even vaguely clear what direction I need to take. There’s more to learn while implementing than when I spend time overthinking and perfecting something without executing it on the ground. This means that I implement a lot of half baked ideas that are still cooking and I improve as I go along. This can unsettle those who are used to having all ducks in a row and expecting perfection.

In a world that frowns upon failures and mistakes , it feels like a sin admitting the above publicly. But maybe the world needs to change how it views progress and leadership. Of course there are roles where mistakes are not tolerated or even encouraged. Mission critical professions. Which is why it takes a long time to be certified in those professions and there are very stringent regulations to protect lives. No one wants a COVID 19 vaccine that is half baked or a pilot to try out new maneuvers that they have never tried before up in the air with passengers on board . But to make progress in many other fields, to develop new products and services, new business models or disruptions, or ideas to grand challenges that have plagued us for years, a totally different mindset is required.

All the success I’ve had to date is based on what I knew and learnt from others. The success I will have tomorrow is seated with others , in their minds and their networks. I have a Board, accountability friends and couples, advisors, coaches , leadership trainers amongst others. Diverse perspectives open up new avenues for solutions in a world that is happier with the status quo yet facing bigger and bigger challenges politically, ecologically, technologically and economically. Maybe what’s needed in this complex world is more humility across the board and less chest thumping.

I see a lot of friends and people struggle because they fear or cannot work with complementary partners or advisers and prefer the comfort of their own ignorance. They would rather suffer than seek help, share their problems or submit to the genius and experience of others. A culture of bravado, egoism and heroism has killed and destroyed many people in situations that had simple answers if only one sought out the right experts, advisors or mentors.

Part of the reason why its difficult to seek help is because the very traits that made us entrepreneurs or leaders in the first place, thinking independently, outside the box and challenging the status quo, are the same traits that become liabilities when we are alone in our businesses or at the top and we can fall prey to thinking that we are brilliant and need no help. Or that admitting weakness and lack of knowledge makes us lose credibility. Admittedly, my own success has been accelerated by my ability to seek help as soon as I sense that I need it or as soon as someone points it out. My reading list this year has been about entrepreneurs from all over the world from China to Nigeria and I’m learning a lot of lessons from their stories. Especially their mistakes. I’ve come to hate biographies that only seek to focus on glowing tributes or stories of entrepreneurs that play up their genius and not the battle scars garnered in the path to their success. I want to know the war stories and mistakes. That’s what adds value to me. No one learns much from the inherent genius of another entrepreneur unless they have unlimited access to them.

So in 2021 resolve to stop suffering. Be quick to seek help whether in business, career, marriage ,your mental health, parenting ,name it. The price you pay for getting help is much less than the damage that the situation causes to your quality of life when your issues go unaddressed. Happy 2021!

Feel free to share Widely.

The writer is the CEO of SNDBX http://www.sndbx.ke an innovative growth engine for entrepreneurs

Our response to the Corona virus crisis as business leaders

Leadership article documentThis article is not only for entrepreneurs but anyone in a leadership position and needs to act during this time of crisis.

 

Usually people love to be in a position of leadership when it comes with perks, fame and recognition. But the true test of leadership doesn’t come when things are going great. Its in time of crisis that our leadership ability is tested to the core.

 

When our leadership is tested during this period, it can manifest in giving us sleepless nights, anxiety, worry and fear. These experiences can paralyse one into indecision. The truth is a crisis offers no easy way out for any leader. Payoffs will have to be made and tough decisions will also have to be made. The leader must weigh one tough decision against another. Whatever decisions you make, there will be suffering, pain and hurt in certain quarters. Be it clients, employees, shareholders or the society. A crisis like this COVID-19 crisis (also known as the corona virus), means that the suffering will be widespread, and the options will be like choosing one lesser evil over another. In Africa it will be much harder for governments to cushion their populace when they are already overburdened with debt, poverty and suffering.

 

It is easy to give excuses when there is a widespread crisis. However, true leaders act rather than wallow in self-pity, even when the situation calls for it. Burying our heads in the sand only exacerbates the impact of the crisis and pushes us closer and closer to a catastrophe. Its better to act with the worst-case scenario in mind and be wrong than act with hope only for the situation to turn out ugly. The consequences will only be harder to bear with the leader regretting and wishing they had acted sooner.

 

What can a business leader do in this crisis?

 

  1. Set appropriate measures to be compliant and to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the company

This may involve ensuring that our business premises have the recommended guidelines in place. Sanitizers, cleaning with disinfectants, social distancing of clients and staff as well as instituting work from home policies and supporting employees to be able to work from home effectively by providing internet , communication and private transportation where necessary for them to get to work stations to carry out essential tasks. Educating the staff on how to carry themselves out is also crucial in order to protect themselves. One of the most important things you can also do as a company is a regular check in to ensure that the staff are fine in their stations, especially those who live alone. Should any health challenges be detected, be on hand to assist with travel or medical help. For larger companies, this can be delegated to team leaders to do this. Where possible, reassure the staff of the measures being taken to keep them safe and healthy. If you have staff who have travelled and are stuck abroad, do everything possible to ensure they are well taken care off and eventually get home safely.

 

  1. Negotiate with internal stakeholders

Depending on how badly your business or sector is hit, you may need to make some tough decisions. If your company has a reserve fund, it may only last for a certain period as your revenues and profits dwindle or get wiped out. It’s important to be proactive in taking measures to mitigate this slowdown. For some companies, they may need to reduce or slash salaries or benefits for staff for a period or postpone pay-outs until recoveries happen. Others may sadly have to ask people to take unpaid leave or let them go altogether. Whatever decision you make, in a crisis, put your staff first and shareholders last. Take time to negotiate with landlords definitively to give rent holidays, or reduced rent for the period. This crisis will likely last at least 3 to 6 months before some sense of recovery beings to show. It could make the difference between remaining in business and shutting down completely.

 

  1. Negotiate with external stakeholders

Is it possible for your clients to pay slower but continue to pay if they are hit? Can you target unaffected clients to pay sooner and in advance to keep you afloat for a long-term project you have committed to? Can you get your clients to accept a different format of delivering the service if they still have the funds? Can you negotiate with the bank for a repayment holiday or reduced repayment levels or interest free repayment for some months? Can you negotiate with government through a lobby for a rebate or stimulus package? Its easy to feel helpless in a scenario like this but the advantage of such a crisis is that its visible for everyone to see and decisions within organisations are made by people. This is the time to get your negotiation cap on and any concession is an additional boost to the survival of your company.

 

  1. Innovate for survival and recovery

It may sound cliché but a down time is time to sharpen skills, take time out to reflect, look at alternative ways to work and look for new ways of delivering value, especially if it helps people cope better during the crisis. Today, churches hold services online, retailers who were hesitant to deliver to homes have established e commerce outlets and delivery. There is always a way to keep things going even if on a small scale. Explore these options with your team members.

 

  1. When all is said and done, Make tough decisions

You will need to find ways to cut costs, you may need to reduce some benefits that you and your staff enjoy. Its in the making of these tough decisions that leadership and entrepreneurship becomes a lonely journey. You will make decisions that affect families in a time when they have limited options and the near future looks gloomy. You will need to keep your mental health in check. You will need people to lean on. Coaches, advisors, mentors and peer groups. Do not isolate yourself, keep in good company of other leaders you can learn from. Keep attending (even if online) support forums to learn how to cope through the tough times and to prepare for the recovery.

 

Whatever you do as a leader, always use the principles of compassion, care and hope to make decisions, remembering that there will be life after the corona virus pandemic is over. How you treat people during the pandemic, will determine how they will relate with you after the pandemic, be they staff, clients or shareholders. Compassion will be rewarded with compassion and loyalty. Unkindness and self-preservation will be rewarded with disloyalty and mistrust. I’ve seen one Kenyan company buy and distribute some foodstuffs for their employees this week to support them. It’s possible to be compassionate while pursuing commercial interests. The choice is yours. Be safe and all the best as you act.

 

Joram Mwinamo is the Managing Director and Founder of Wylde International and SNDBX an innovative one stop support centre for entrepreneurs. He is a strategy and entrepreneurship consultant and guides business leaders on matters of leadership and management. He can be found on  joram@wyldeinternational.com and you can find more information about how the SNDBX can help you survive this crisis on www.sndbx.ke

 

Entrepreneurs,do business partnerships really work?

If there is one thing I have seen in my long career advising entrepreneurs and growing enterprises, is just how many business partnerships fall apart. It doesn’t matter how nice and well intention-ed the co-founders or business partners are . Partnerships are like marriages. If you get stuck with the wrong partner or partners, divorce is imminent. And the fallout’s are usually nasty.  Most of the complaints that I see driving business partners apart are things like divergent visions and direction, differing values and modes of operation as well as varied commitment levels. I could dwell on the ugly but I choose to look at what makes good business partnerships work instead.

So what will it take to make a business partnership to work?

  1. Shared values – without a doubt the most important thing to make a business partnership work is shared values. Do you both agree on how to do business? Do you share values like integrity, excellence , passion for client satisfaction or a commitment to delivering high quality products and services? If you do not share values or are not willing to agree on values, then the business is almost guaranteed to fail. A lack of shared values will mean that you will always be at loggerheads on how to carry out a particular task or
  2. Shared vision – do you have a shared vision on how you want the business to look when it succeeds? Does the end picture carry the aspirations of all partners or just a few of them? If you do not share the same end picture, then it is likely that you will pull in different directions and confuse the hell out of your staff.  A shared vision can be built over time and can evolve or morph with your shared growth and perspectives but as long as you always agree, then you increase your chances of success.
  3. Shared horizons of when the business should bring a return – If you do not agree on how to reinvest the business it could end up frustrating one or several partners who expected returns within a short period yet others want to reinvest for the future. Are you also building to keep or building to sell? Its important to agree on one or the other.
  4. Complementary skills and outlook – If you all think too alike, you could end up heading in the wrong direction and none of you will pull the brakes and think outside the box. Different perspectives and even skill sets can be a great asset to an enterprise. There is a study that shows that companies with co-founders tend to succeed more than those with a single owner. If for nothing else, a complementary co founder of founders just ensures that every decision is thought through and reduces chances of failure. It doesn’t guarantee that you wont fail though, but you will always have someone to remind you of the mistake you made in case you want to repeat it.
  5. A commitment to resolving issues – you must be committed to resolving issues conclusively. Problems that hang unresolved can tend to fester and blow up later , sometimes bringing a catastrophe into the business. Conflict is good. Its a sign that you don’t see things the same way. Resolving conflict is even better. You emerge from a conflict  that is conclusively resolved, stronger.
  6. Equal sacrifice – Some of the enterprises I have seen with great frustration are those where you have one partner holding a full time job and the other running the business full time. There can be a sense of unequal sacrifice particularly if there isn’t a financial reward for the partner who is running the business full time in the form of a competitive salary to compensate him or her for the hard work. It can even be more frustrating if only one partner takes the losses and the other still has a salary as a fall back plan which he or she doesn’t share. Entrepreneurship is tough. There has to be a way to compensate the sacrifice if silent partners are not working in the business full time.
  7. Transparency and openness – A business without full transparency on decision making and financial oversight is a ticking time bomb. When one partner realizes they have been shortchanged or kept out of major financial details, the marriage will be short lived. Full transparency improves decision making and also spreads the panic in bad times.
  8. Fewer partners – More partners introduce complexity into decision making. If you plan to start a business with more than 3 to 4 partners, then invest heavily in a decision making process that takes into account the roles, sacrifice, investment and value that all the partners bring onto the table. There isn’t a sentiment that lawyers haven’t figured out how to structure into a legal framework. However, for the most part, such decisions are subject to a lot of negotiation for all partners to feel comfortable and included.

If you have not yet entered a business partnership but considering one, over and above the tips given above , consider the following

  1. Begin your discussions with the end in mind. Talk about the end goals in great detail.
  2. Talk divorce before talking marriage. Discuss what happens if it doesn’t work. This sobers up discussions a lot because a lot of partnership discussions tend to focus on the positive and dreamy picture but not the dark side of the business. And dark sides bring out the worst in people. Coincidentally, so do windfalls.
  3. When in discussions about the hard stuff like equity and roles, never leave the negotiation table uncomfortable with the decision you just made. If possible, postpone a decision and “sleep on it” rather than be rushed into a contract that you will regret.
  4. Follow your gut, it has guided many entrepreneurs away from trouble.
  5. Learn to put things as they are and to talk openly, do not fear conflict. Conflict helps you figure out how you see life differently from your potential partner.
  6. Establish decision making mechanisms early, particularly on hard decisions.
  7. Have an open mind to consider deeply what the other person is seeing.

Partnerships can work,and they do work, but it takes a lot of work to make a partnership work. If that makes sense.

Always remember though, that people grow and their priorities change with time. It is likely that you will do all the right things at the beginning but your partners’ priorities might still change due to family issues , illnesses, tragedies, relocation, big unforeseen opportunities (like government appointments or lucrative jobs)  or simply the fatigue and tiredness of doing the same thing and not seeing returns to the proportions that were anticipated during the dream phase of building the company. If any of the above happens and you have the energy to proceed, then let go of your partner(s). Don’t hold on and don’t beat yourself about it. Mourn. Then pick yourself up and find a way of moving on. What you learn from failure can help you pick a strategy or partner for the future who will work with you to your eventual success.

Take a Test to see if you are compatible with your partner(s) here The Wylde Business Partner Compatibility Test (2)

Joram is a leading strategy and entrepreneurship consultant and founder of http://www.wyldeinternational.com . Read other captivating articles on entrepreneurship from joram on inspiringgreatness001.wordpress.com You can reach him on joram@wyldeinternational.com and follow him on twitter @jorammwinamo 

The year that was and what SMEs can expect in 2018

The year that was

The year 2017 was a year full of anxiety and even turmoil for some Kenyan entrepreneurs and SMEs. Typically , Kenya’s election years are usually characterized by a  “wait and see” atmosphere. This year was no different However, this election was rather special. We ended up having 2 elections, 2 supreme court petitions, 2 nail biting rulings and eventually an inauguration celebrated by the ruling party’s supporters and shunned by the opposition. This scenario prolonged it from a “wait and see” to a “lets talk after all the election madness is over” . The prevailing drought situation affected agricultural output which is a big part of our economy and further dampened the mood in the country.  MPs passed a bill capping interest rates at 14.5% in a move to stem the high interest rate regime. However, as the government borrowed heavily to fund its operations and service its every growing debt, lenders shifted their attention to lending government and not SMEs, pushing SMEs into a corner where funds were not available for their operations. In short it was a tough year and many entrepreneurs felt like they were between a rock and a hard place. Some shut down, some became politicians(temporarily if they lost) and some strengthened their faith in order to keep the doors open. Everyone held on to their money. No new ideas or programs were being funded. Everyone adopted the excuse ” lets talk after elections” . Payments were withheld. If there is a time to begin planning for the next election, its not 4 years from now, its NOW.

The year to come

Despite the bleak 2017, the Future looks a lot brighter. What can we look foreward to in 2018 and beyond?

Despite the continued low key political risk that threatens to blow up into protests at any given time, we are likely to see a number of trends in 2018 and beyond

Interest rate capping reversal.

In 2018, we are likely to see  a Reversal of the 14.5% interest rate capping. The central bank governor has already signaled that they will be pushing for its reversal based on a study of its devastating effects towards SME lending and unsecured lending in general. There is likely to be intense lobbying from lenders as well as other key stakeholders for the reversal. Should the reversal happen, lending towards SMEs will resume against a backdrop of a growing post-election economy.

Foreign Direct Investment

Whilst Kenya saw a dip in foreign direct investments in 2017, it is likely that foreign investors will troop back into the country citing a more stable political environment and clear policy direction from the Kenyan government. Many deals that were in negotiation phase in 2017 were put on hold pending the election outcome and those negotiations are likely to be revived within the first quarter of 2018. There has been increased interest in Kenya by American, Chinese and a few European union countries like France in making investments in Kenya. Sectors of interest have been agriculture, energy and construction. This will present an opportunity for SMEs to position themselves as service providers or partners for the foreign investors. There will also be an increased appetite for mergers and acquisitions as an entry strategy by medium or large multinationals into the East and Central African Market.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange

The stock market is also on the upward trend, something that happens after every election. This usually acts as a signal of the confidence that international investors have in our economy.Since we have continued to experience Economic growth, smart SME owners will invest extra income into strategic companies that are poised to keep generating great returns in the next few years before the next election cycle begins. We are yet to see any major entrants into the GEMS SME segment of the NSE due to the complicated nature of listing and the fear of Kenyan SMEs to open themselves up to public scrutiny.

Government Focus

The president in his inauguration speech made some bold declarations. Like visa on arrival for all Africans. This set the tone for other bold pronouncements and the government has since set out to focus on 4 main areas.We are likely to see growth and opportunities for SMEs in these sectors .The details are still sketchy but here is what we know so far.

  1. Housing – The government plans to build 1 million houses in the next 5 years. Which translates to roughly 200,000 units a year, A feat never seen before in Kenya. Will they uphold the promise despite the demand for housing growing by an estimated 100,000-250,000 units against a supply of 50,000 yearly? We wait to see.
  2. Universal Healthcare – Again the details are still not clear but the government plans to invest in ensuring there is 100% universal health coverage (UHC).
  3. Food Security and Agriculture – The government has set a target of 100% food security. Details yet to be released.
  4. Manufacturing – The government has set a target to have manufacturing account for at least 20% of the GDP. We are currently at an estimated 14% of GDP.

The government has also began a project to set up incubators and hubs in every constituency through the ICT ministry to support entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

An announcement was made in 2017 that we achieved Category A status for JKIA which should see an introduction of direct flights to North America from Kenya. This should boost trade  and tourism between Kenya and North America and potentially latin america as well.

One compliance  body to watch out for is the Kenya Revenue Authority. Several plans have been put in place to rope in additional taxpayers to fund the governments increasing debt and budget. 2017 was the slowest growth in a decade of tax collection in a year where succession plans are in high gear. Will a new broom sweep clean in KRA and will this sweep more evaders into the tax net? A robust itax system together with a  business intelligence system linked to the banking as well as government procurement systems will definitely nab more tax evaders and so SMEs that are not yet compliant should note that the authority is closing in on them and soon there will be no easy avenues to hide from paying tax on all business income activities.

On a sad note, the government has announced impending layoffs of 18,000 workers to tame the wage bill and concerns continue to mount over our indebtedness particularly to China.

The world bank has pledged support of approximately USD 150 Million through the Kenya Youth Empowerment Project , that will go to supporting employment creation, entrepreneurship and scaling of SMEs. It is likely that other donors will follow suit in funding similar projects especially agricultural and value chain support programs.

We are likely to see increased Mergers and acquisitions as international players from larger markets seek to aggressively enter the east african market. European, South african, asian and American companies are actively seeking to partially or fully acquire local SMEs who have substantial traction and growth.

County opportunities

A few progressive counties are likely to have great opportunities. If the governors keep their promises . Nairobi county is heavily backed by the central government and its initiatives are likely to face less opposition and budgetary challenges in order to prove a point. Lamu with the LAPPSET project plodding along also benefits from a large state project that is attracting development. Other counties to watch are Machakos, Kakamega and Makueni  who have had relatively progressive and development oriented incumbents who will benefit from continuity. Kitui , Kisumu, Kirinyaga and Meru have new governors who have made bold declarations for development and have governors who were previously cabinet ministers who had a track record for development in their respective ministries .

Education

Due to the entrance of the over 1 million kids from the Free Primary Education era into high school a year , there has been an increased demand for private secondary school education. With a transition rate of less than 80% , there is currently a shortage of secondary schools to absorb the primary school graduates. As top schools are forced to introduce day wings, there will be concerns from parents on the quality of education and this is likely to build even higher demand for private secondary schools as happened in the primary school section.

Agriculture 

Should there be no drought in 2018 and beyond, there should be improved agricultural harvests. Government investment in food security as well as the increased investments from  private capital sources into agriculture (chamas, investment companies and middle class from urban areas) is likely to grow the sector and its output.

ICT

Despite the growth of innovations in ICT, a proposed ICT bill is likely to stifle innovation and service provision. We are likely to see a growth of the importance of  DATA collected by organisations which will increase the demand for data scientists or entrepreneurs with data oriented solutions. There will however be increased concerns about data protection and privacy and calls for increased regulation around privacy.

Mobile lending

Mobile lending that has already been on an upward trend will grow and we are likely to see lenders finding ways of approving larger loans than the current micro loans that have proven successful for banks as well as new micro lending entrants into the sector.

Regional Opportunities

As the region invests more in infrastructure you are likely to have companies , government agencies and development bodies from neighbouring countries turning to kenya for certain expertise. Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, rwanda and Tanzania despite the hostility will seek collaborations in kenya that can complement their growth initiatives. The EAC will likely strengthen its trade ties.

Globally, Agriculture remains a great opportunity for Africa as demand for agricultural products for China , US and European markets particularly for Herbs , spices, condiments , specialty foods and meat products grows. etc Our challenge in meeting this demand is the ability to produce consistent  quality and ability to supply large quantities of products to wholesale buyers in these large markets.

As a region I see the opportunities for SMEs outweighing the risks and opening up a world of so much potential for Kenyan entrepreneurs who have already braved 2 elections with a lot of resilience and innovation to stay afloat.

 

Help! My spouse’s​ business is killing us!

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Dear Joram,

I got married 6 years ago to an entrepreneur and it all started as a great dream, I supported my spouse and we spent a lot of time talking about the business and its future plans. However, that dream has since turned into a nightmare. As I write this to you, I’ve reached the end of my ability to cope with what is going on. Let me explain.

We started the business modestly where we even converted one room in our house into a home office. We began our operations in a small way and within no time the business picked up quickly and began to make money! It all looked rosy and promising so we invested even more time and money into it. I took loans on the basis of my salary so that we could expand our operations and we even got a nice big office. That’s when things began to go wrong. At some point , the growth of the business went out of control and we began to lose clients. Regulators also stepped in and things quickly went south, and we were left trying to pay up penalties of taxes we were not aware off. Before long the bank had sent auctioneers, and when we began to fall behind on mortgage payments. At this point the bank began to be quite hostile. Our car payments are behind and we have maxed out our  credit cards. One of the cars we are paying for hasnt moved for months due to disrepair.

As all these troubles keep building up my spouse looks unperturbed by it all. My spouse keeps talking about this dream which I am now tired of. Had all the dreams come true we would be operating in  5 countries by now ! We face so much pressure yet they could easily be employed with a 6 figure salary but they will never consider getting a job.

In the company, my spouse bends backwards to pay rent and employees first saying that the lights must be kept on to ensure clients remain confident in the business before signing the big deals that are coming . One employee even got a bonus and a raise! Yet that month my spouse didn’t bring any money home! Apparently, star employees must be maintained at all cost!

I feel like my spouse is not carrying their weight in the home anymore , it feels like the burden of all responsibilities has now been left with me and I now see us grow old being very  poor at this rate.

They seem to prize meetings at odd times and weekends with name-dropping type of  clients more than actually making money. They are always in committees of all these charity organisations and associations with people who are not even close to us. How can we be helping others when it is us who need the most help?

My spouse can’t even seem to stick to one path of doing things. My advice is not welcome and they have shut me out of the business, not wanting my advanced skills  and corporate experience to improve things in the business.

I’m ready to leave, I’m drowning under the weight of this pipe dream,which has turned into a nightmare ! On the contrary, my spouse seems very calm in this storm. It even looks like we will turn out like our friends who separated because of their business.

I’m accused by my spouse of not being supportive when I raise these issues, is there a way out of this mess?

Sincerely, Drowning Spouse.

Dear Drowning spouse,

Thank you for reaching out for help. Your situation is not very easy to solve because the person you are married to is very differently from you

They see the world from a very different perspective and measure progress in many different ways. Many entrepreneurs tend to be visionaries. They see the world as it should be not necessarily as it is today. They see possibilities and opportunities. And the worst bit is that they may never be able to make you see things as they do until their dreams come to pass. They live in their dream and it’s as real to them today as it will be to you in future, but totally invisible to you right now. It takes them a while to find themselves and sometimes the journey is as important a self-discovery process as the destination. Entrepreneurship is the toughest personal development journey in the world.

Also understand that  businesses can take a very long time to take off and this can create resentment , even hatred  on your part and that of your children. Their risk  perception is different , and believe it or not  they are actually doing all of it for you, they do it for everyone but themselves. Despite looking calm, they are also frustrated that things are not working out as fast , they may also not realise what they are doing to you. It usually takes a while for entrepreneurs to get to a place of prioritizing themselves and their families before their company, landlords, employees and suppliers.

Its easy for them to prioritise their employees , suppliers , clients, regulators and landlord because they feel a huge sense of responsibility or fear of failure. They fear hurting their employees and their families as well as losing  them and their loyalty, they are your spouses daily reality. They possibly imagine that things are not as bad in your house as they are in their employees houses. Plus they imagine they have the power to correct things in your house more than their dependants can sort themselves out. The sad truth is that many times, the reality of your home is somewhat cushioned from them, by you.

Your advice is also not welcome because it doesn’t come from a point of empathy. Another entrepreneur will say the same things that you say and they will act on it quickly. They don’t believe you understand where they are coming from and what they are going through.And in truth, your advice  may at times not be very practical from your big company experience for them to implement with their meagre resources. If they left things to you for a week in their office you may not survive to see the next. The fact that the business takes long to take off also affects their self esteem, getting a beating at home only makes it worse for them.

Those meetings and committees they participate in are relationships they are building and trust that will yield business or a referral sometime in the future,widening their network as  they believe that business comes to them through new networks. you never know what may show up. They also come to learn with time that you can’t handle their erratic problems in the company and that’s why many times they will shield you from the challenges they have and you only learn when problems boil over. Clearly entrepreneurs are far from being perfect people.

Despite all the challenges, running a business makes them come alive , and you were possibly attracted to them because of this passion that you saw in them in the first place. If they change abruptly and become employees without a clear conviction just so that you may all become more comfortable or accepting of them , you might lose your passionate spouse psychologically if they are unable to find something in future that they can channel their world changing energies into. They probably get more satisfaction seeing their dream come to life even on a small scale than they would get from a 7 figure salary and a boss breathing down their neck.

It might help to talk to spouses of older entrepreneurs and they will tell you horror stories but you also get to see the end picture of their struggles. It may help to put some things in perspective.

Above all appreciate their resilience,commitment and persistence and what may seem as irrational investments into the future. Whether they succeed or fail, the experience will develop them in ways that they will handle any future responsibilities using what they learnt. That said , the following tips will help restore some sanity in your house.

  1. Be deliberate about putting  a support structure around you – Get a mentor who was in a similar position and other spouses of entrepreneurs as your support group to advise you, exchange ideas and share experiences
  2. Have a win/win discussion – Discuss how you can create short-term wins and goals for both of you which includes getting out of debt and increasing incomes.
  3. Get help together from either a counsellor or a business/life coach
  4. Create a ringfence around your personal lives and business and not just in terms of money but time as well. Let the business try and get its own finances to grow and not siphon your family savings and investments.
  5. Look for short-term alternatives to supplement incomes, there could be other ways your spouse can make money with their skills as the business picks up, but keeping on towards their vision.
  6. Encourage your spouse to read my next article. 🙂

Finally, many visionaries sacrifice a lot for a better world and even future for themselves. If many in the past gave up, we may never have seen some of the progress we see right now, some paid a heavy price particularly on the family front but hopefully you will not have to go down the same path. Your spouse might just be one of those to make the world a little better if its done in a balanced manner.

Sincerely yours

Joram

Do you have any tips for spouses in this position? Please share below!

Joram is a leading strategy and entrepreneurship consultant and founder of http://www.wyldeinternational.com . Read other captivating articles on entrepreneurship from joram on inspiringgreatness001.wordpress.com You can reach him on joram@wyldeinternational.com and follow him on twitter @jorammwinamo

10 mistakes former blue chip employees make as entrepreneurs

10 mistakesThis one might ruffle a few feathers.

Entrepreneurship is all the rage nowadays. I meet many employed executives, some who are very highly placed in C-Suite positions and they begin to tell me, excitedly, how they plan to start a business, jump out of corporate slavery and shake up a certain industry that they have their eyes on. I have become more and more cautious on the advice I give to such friends or acquaintances because after being an entrepreneur for close to 9 years full time after a brief employment stint, I’ve observed some mistakes and hard lessons that former corporate employees and particularly C-Suite executives make when they jump ship and begin to row their canoes. Here are the top 10:

  1. Expensive lifestyle

They maintain an expensive mortgage, going out to expensive restaurants, maintain the same expensive school for their kids that the corporate employer paid for ,big cars that are fuel guzzlers , club memberships…..until they begin to wipe out their account balances and savings and that is when reality hits home and they begin to reconsider some of the choices they make with their new circumstances.

2. Expensive office kick-off

They get an expensive office in an expensive address, with hardwood furniture and with the underlying belief that this will impress clients.They top it off by hiring  expensive employees because they came from an office which drummed in the mantra “always hire the best talent, even if it means paying a premium”. With time they realise a loyal hard worker with unimpressive qualifications and experience could be the best asset an entrepreneur has when starting out.

3. Wrong Investments

They invest in a business , a tool , a software or a type of  infrastructure that they don’t know how to use . Some do this with their generous payout from their retirement and instantly go into a cash crunch. They go into a business they don’t understand. After all , after managing billions of shillings in a corporate organisation and a team of 100, what can be so hard about running a cake business, wedding planning, construction or growing tomatoes? Well, it turns out everything can get quite complicated . Each business has its rules, gatekeepers and cycles and figuring it all out can take a lifetime.

4. Wrong expectations

They expect that their big company friends and colleagues whom they bid goodbye as they pursued their dream will give them business easily. Only to realise that their friends will have to justify to their CEO why they gave business to a “no-recognizable-name”company rather than a well-established brand. Sometimes they find the tendering hoops and due diligence processes that they set up before they left automatically disqualifies them from supplying their former employer despite an impeccable track record.

5. Unrealistic expectations

They expect business to take off quickly since they are used to things moving at lightning speed in their former employer’s empire. They soon realise that the army of analysts , researchers,HR team,Accountants and worker bees that their former employer attached to them, were the reason why they could do in 1 day what they now take 2 weeks to pull off. They also realise that their former employer’s name is the reason why people never let the phone ring twice, but now, they don’t even call back after sending the message that says “I’m in a meeting, I’ll call back”

6. Misplaced Confidence

They take for granted that a lot of their previous results had a lot to do with the brand they worked for and that they have to rebuild their personal credibility from scratch.

7.Idealistic approach

They create idealistic products based on their experience and proceed to do an expensive idealistic launch with confetti, pyrotechnics and fireworks in an upmarket hotel. They go back to the office and wait for phone calls and after a few days realise that they have to knock doors and possibly even beg for deals.

8. Undervaluing clients

Having come from companies with established brands where clients flocked to them, some carry this mentality to their hustles and end up taking customers for granted instead of killing themselves to deliver superior value to their clients. Clients do not care about who you worked with before, all they want is value for what they pay otherwise they vote with their feet (and refuse to sign your cheques)

9.Expect compliance from clients and suppliers

They expect people to pay or supply on time, and get really baffled when it doesn’t happen. They also expect people to adhere to their strict contracts but only realise later that it happened in their blue chip company because they had attack dogs for lawyers on the company’s payroll and cannot afford those lawyers now. It’s only until they begin to default on their own bills,that they realise it’s a vicious cycle they have gotten into and they are now a vital part of the default chain. At this point the harsh judgement they previously had towards those that  looked seemingly disorganised entrepreneur friends, mellows.

10. Impatience

The reality of running a business will hit hard and what I’ve seen is that they end up giving up too early, possibly just before their business idea takes off. Granted, there are bills to pay and families to take care off, but seasoned entrepreneurs also go through the same challenges but find creative ways of surviving, overcoming the challenges and eventually thriving. Hanging in there a bit longer might make the difference between success and going back to your former boss. Knowing when to quit is a topic for another blog post.

I have to admit that its not always doom and gloom and people’s experiences will vary. I’ve watched a few people get lucky and their businesses take off quickly.However, these tend to be outliers. Entrepreneurship has a way of humbling people.

So what can you do to increase chances of success? Conserve cash religiously,  take advantage of your networks, build a good product and brand, go into a business you understand and have expertise in and  don’t despise small moneys  or beginnings.Finally, be patient and surround yourself with veteran entrepreneurs and proven advisors who will keep encouraging you and helping you see that your problems are nothing compared to the nightmares they endured earlier. It helps.

Are you interested in a solution that can help your business grow? Contact me at joram@wyldeinternational.com or visit http://www.wyldeinternational.com

Is Kenya Experiencing an entrepreneurship Bubble?(Part 2)

soap-bubbles-107004_1280Last week we looked at all the hype that has been created around entrepreneurship in Kenya, with cheerleaders ranging from banks and oil companies to president Barrack Obama himself. This article may be considered pouring water on the fire and spoiling the party. Is the opportunity as huge as it is being touted or is it a mirage? Let us analyse the opportunities.

There are many opportunities forKenyan entrepreneurs right now. More than ever. These  range from  the 30% government procurement scheme for youth and women which will be made more transparent through the e-procurement portal .We have  47 county governments carrying out projects that present opportunities of all kinds of entrepreneurs locally. Our extractives sector is beginning to yield fruit in oil and gas as well as coal mining and other precious stones . Tourism is rebounding thanks to the Popes and Obamas visits and the lifting of travel bans. Kenya is increasingly seen as the new financial hub for the continent with a growing middle class, good internet connectivity. There is  what many consider marginally improved governance  and security as well as new laws perceived as being business friendly. It now takes 3 steps to register a business in kenya part of it can be done online. As South Africa self-destructs under the effects of populist leadership , many investors are seeing Kenya as the next destination to put up their africa headquarters. Our investment in agriculture is looking up and infrastructure development is on steroids-we are building roads,a new railway ,new ports in Lamu and Mombasa. We have the massive but faltering Ksh 900 billion Lappset project which should connect the coast to South Sudan . We have  international airports built in remote places like Isiolo as well as resort cities planned in places like Kilifi and Turkana. We will also have computers in every school for education purposes. MPESA keeps us in the global spotlight as the darling in mobile money innovation and related applications are also drawing in investors as well as inventors. We have the Uwezo fund , youth fund , womens fund and many donor funds focused on all types of entrepreneurship programs whose impact we can only question. Kenya is a basketful of opportunities.  And dont forget the world is still saying (in husher tones nowadays) that Africa is still the next frontier.

But the big question remains, are our entrepreneurs really creating sustainable economic value?

What everyone is not talking about , is the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, we have made entrepreneurship look like the most exciting thing for everyone to do.The truth is ,it takes years for a sustainable company to take off, and failure rate is also high. It takes resilience, patience, consistency and a lot of sacrifice in the initial years of building a business to succeed. Entrepreneurship can leave behind a trail of destruction. From broken families, aggressive compliance officers (KRA ,NSSF, NHIF always want a piece of your action),  lost family assets, family feuds,  tainted reputations , depression, no personal time and other dark sides. No one is telling people that this dark side is what they would be exposing themselves to. A few that survive this journey, quietly reinvest and enjoy their spoils in silence away from public attention. Those that try celebrating their wealth publicly are raided by compliance officers and those they purpotedly owed money as they built their wealth. Entrepreneurship is not as rosy as we make it look in the media.

Many donors , private equity investors and social funds have witnessed this destructive force of entrepreneurship firsthand as they watched many of  their initial investments go up in flames either due to the lack of ethics of their investees or outright failures of their investments. Some of them privately admit to having invested more in hyped up companies than substance.What is the actual success rate of entrepreneurial initiatives such as the ones mentioned above? No one really knows, and no one is really willing to measure it either. Many funds have closed down and left a pile of disillusioned and bitter foreign investors , some of whom have had their funds stollen by fraudsters to the tune of millions of dollars. The few that remain committed to funding Kenyan companies have learnt bitter lessons and now scrutinise investment opportunities with a microscope. In the absence of concrete data measuring the success of entrepreneurship programs , hype may continue to win the day until the world decides to find another interesting cause to fund.

Bubbles always burst, eventually and when the entrepreneuship one does , only the well meaning,visionary ,  passionate and dedicated entrepreneurs who are serving real needs in the market with profitable business models will be left standing and will go on to succeed. Sometimes the ones who succeed are the ones who simply held on long enough until everyone else gave up.

Before you jump out of employment to cash in on all the opportunities being flashed in your face,  think twice, entrepreneurship is brutal the world over and it can take you and your family down, nomatter where you are on this planet.

 

Is Kenya experiencing an Entrepreneurship Bubble?(part 1)

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Kenyans have a  tendency to attack new opportunities in droves. First, it was the stock market IPOs. Then came pyramid schemes, then various multi-level marketing schemes, then came greenhouse farming (remember the tomatoes in your friends’ car boot? or your boot?) , then the infamous and magical QUAILS . And now we have the unending land and property buying sprees, despite the fact that some of the property prices make no business or investment sense whatsoever. Some houses have their return on investment pegged on being enjoyed by grandchildren! But that is a story for another day.

We are always looking for what’s hot or for the “next big thing”, trying to catch it before everyone rushes in. We don’t keenly analyze the business opportunity and  many times we will end up being conned or losing money in large quantities and then we begin to petition the government to step in and help us recover what was lost, while forgetting that our investment was  based on decisions made out of poor judgement and a lack of background checks. As a rule of thumb, don’t invest in something you don’t understand or make sure you are advised by an expert with a track record and good reputation, but that is also another topic for another day.

So today, the buzzword is entrepreneurship. Everyone is talking about entrepreneurship, and  everyone is now investing in entrepreneurs or becoming one. I might even say Kenya could be competing with a few countries in the world to become the WORLDs ENTREPRENEURSHIP HEADQUARTERS (whoever sets this up can appoint me CEO). And why not? The worlds’ most celebrated serial entrepreneur, Richard Branson,  loves Kenya and is now doing a few side hustles here (google a place called Mahali Mzuri).

However, the truth is , according to this global entrepreneurship index,  we have a long way to go to have conditions that favour entrepreneurship or providing cushions that encourage people to risk and venture into business more. We currently rank 86th overall. So much for our bravado as a nation.

Lets begin by listing those supporting entrepreneurs today.

First we have the Tech hubs, incubators, accelerators and venture capital funds , or combinations of all of them seeking to produce the next big innovators. Many hold competitions to attract those with great ideas in technology innovations, social enterprise, financial inclusion, agriculture and the best possible local and international ideas. This support sector has also seen the rise of  compepreneurs!  (entrepreneurs who jump from one competition to another and the prize money is enough to live off even without a viable business model ). The dust is beginning to settle with easy funding for such initiatives running out and people have begun asking hard questions as to which model of  building entrepreneurs truly develops great entreprises. Oh, we even have an oil company and a beverage company  running entrepreneurship competitions. It has become that popular.It’s getting harder and harder to find a corporate company that does not have a program targeted at supporting entrepreneurs . Even if it is just to fit in with the corporate crowd.

The rich have also thrown their weight behind entrepreneurs with noble intentions of recreating themselves, or at least making it easier for those coming after them not to suffer like they did. The Chandaria centres in the United States International University(USIU) and Kenyatta University hope to spur entrepreneurs to success largely through education and incubation. The Tony Elumely foundation is also running an Africa-wide competition to support small enterprises.

And then we have Banks! Can you believe it ? Banks love entrepreneurs! KCB has set aside a Ksh 50 billion 2jiajiri fund ,its small brother Chase bank Kenya before the grand scandal had announced a Ksh 60 Billion fund for SMEs (enough  money to fund 12 counties )  ,Equity bank  was given even more , USD 450 Million by OPIC   . All these were announced during the global entrepreneurship summit held in Kenya in 2015. Barclays Bank followed suit with a Ksh 30 billion fund for SMEs. K – Rep rebranded to Sidian Bank  and positioned themselves to serve entrepreneurs.  No bank is being left out of the wave and each has a product now targeted at SMEs and an SME division. However, many are struggling to structure effective programs that will help them deal successfully with entrepreneurs. And that’s because entrepreneurs are not an easy group to understand.They are visionary, but they can also be very erratic.  Value adds to entrepreneurs from the banks are questionable and that’s because its easy after all for banks to make money from entrepreneurs through loan defaults and late penalties  or unfavourably high-interestt rates. Entrepreneurs are always desperately looking for money and will take it , however expensive it is without looking at the fine print, after all they have an empire to build!Why sweat a few percentage points on your loan? Other financial players like the Mastercard foundation are also funding a program for entrepreneurs .

Even Universities have joined the fray and now everyone is teaching entrepreneurship(Is entrepreneurship inborn or are entrepreneurs made? I can hear a professor say) . Some are doing it well, others simply have it in their curriculum because there is demand for the course. Programs like the Goldman Sachs 10,000 women at USIU stand out. Research shows that funding women entrepreneurs creates better outcomes for economies than funding men .

And To crown it all , Uncle Sam came to put the cherry on the cake, and he came with a big cheque, and friends with equally big cheques (after all who goes to shags and doesnt carry lots of gifts from the city when he comes with his friends?) . The US president  Barrack Obama launched a USD 1 Billion fund targeted at entrepreneurs globally. Thats a lot of money, I wonder how its being spent.  He also stressed that  AGOA is still ongoing and he opened a centre to train young leaders and entrepreneurs.

So is the opportunity for entrepreneurship as big as its being presented to be? We analyse this in the next post next week, stay tuned!