[dropcap]K[/dropcap]enyans are entrepreneurial people. Hardworking and business minded. And every day, you find people who are trying to profitably satisfy a society need. The challenge is: most of them are informal, or micro SMEs and semi informal. Just people trying to survive, popularly referred to as hustlers. But once in a while, in the midst of all the hustling are some real gems that if nurtured well could be tomorrow’s industry leaders.
Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), on the other hand, is where companies come to look for funding and investors can find companies to invest in for a future return. The Vision 2030 blue print (now less than 12 years away), dreams of the NSE as a vibrant market place with hundreds of companies. Sadly, the current reality is far from rosy. We have been experiencing a new listing drought and non less a person than Deputy President William Ruto has decried this sorry state of affairs. Many listed companies have issued profit warnings, others rarely give dividends, and many have gobbled taxpayers’ and investors’ funds in bail outs while some have shed share values. This at times leaves the investors with no justification for going to the NSE in the first place.
These two state of affairs need to merge; hustler entrepreneur who’s is currently small and needs support, and the NSE which really needs to add more members into its fold to remain relevant in the future. The third part of this triangle would be the investor willing to put money into initiatives that may not work but if they do, will benefit the economy as a whole.
NSE together with the Capital Markets Authority and other relevant institutions should try to meet the entrepreneur cum hustler halfway. Every day in the news, we hear and learn of people who are finding solutions to every day challenges but cannot scale up due to capital and maybe managerial constraints. Turning hyacinth into paper and other unique businesses.
NSE can set up a fund where people can put money with a disclaimer that the returns will be nil for a period of time say three years, and may or may not succeed. The fund should focus on businesses that are already running, with ideas that are fresh, employs people and can employ more if scaled up. The businesses should also have unique selling points such as employing only former prisoners to help them integrate, or women groups growing bamboo to meet the huge need for wood, etc.
NSE could provide the capital required with little or no strings attached. Offer support to the business person but don’t interfere with the management to enable the vision of the founder to take root and flourish. Just keep the entrepreneur on track, the drive and the hustler in him/her will keep moving.
Also support him by convincing Kenya Revenue Authority to offer the business the tax breaks/ incentives offered to the likes of multinationals.
NSE should be careful to ensure that it goes down to the budding entrepreneur’s level. Administrative changes should be little so as to free the entrepreneur to do what he does best: hustle and create value.
NSE could partner with other stakeholders. Team up with media houses to point out budding and potential businesses and their growth story. This will sensitise people and have the multiplier effect of new customers and markets.
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Banks could be roped in to give loans with longer grace periods etc. Insurance companies could also come in handy. Where necessary, help the business ideas to be patented to avoid unfair copycatting. After a few years of careful monitoring let the companies ease into NSE. Though it may not be its core mandate, there really is no boundary to adding value. And in the long run (read Vision 2030), it will surely pay off.
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