By Ismael Ndung’u
Have you ever paused for a moment and thought to yourself “I must be doing something wrong with my life, how come I don’t have a single profitable investment running under my name despite working diligently for all those years?”
Yes, you have the zeal and willingness to invest…but somehow, things seem not to be going your way. May be you even have a job, with a steady monthly salary and you do your best to save something at the end of the month. But still somehow you’ve not been making any meaningful progress.
If you are in business, despite toiling and moiling all your life, you still can’t narrate any success stories worthy of a gossip blogger’s attention. It’s a painful reality that most of us prefer to not to talk about. It yields a sense of hopelessness and can easily make you wonder what your purpose in life is.
As it turns out, making it in Kenya (or Africa) is not as easy as it may sound on paper. Despite the fact that Africa is on the rise, we still face subtle problems at an individual level. This is partly because of the society we’re born into and partly due to microeconomic factors.
Top among these factors are two lifestyle traps that make it twice as difficult to ditch a peasantry lifestyle. Avoid them if you can.
1. Living a hand-to-mouth lifestyle
A hand-to-mouth kind of lifestyle is the biggest enemy of development. Unfortunately, most of us lead this kind of life due to the high dependency ratio in this part of the world. You find that a typical hard-worker, let’s call him Mr. X, receives hi salary every 30th of the month. He rushes to the bank to pay rent and on his way out he receives a text from his house-wife concerning a few items lacking at home. So he immediately walks into the nearest supermarket for some household shopping.
While at it, Mr. X remembers that his mum had called him a week earlier requesting for money to run a few errands back in the village. So he walks to the nearest Mpesa shop and sends something. On his way out, he passes by the nearest wines and spirits outlet to restock his mini-fridge with a whole month’s supply of liquor.
The next Sunday, Mr. X will attend a church whereby you have to contribute some hefty sums in order to receive blessings. Mr. X has not even paid for his kids school fees and medicare. His inlaws and siblings are on his neck. And at the same time he still owes his local kiosk guy and butcher a tidy sum from last month.
Such is the reality of life around here. We have people busy working but with little or no progress to show. Why? Because the moment you start making a few cents in your new job or business, you come face to face with routine demands.
This is unlike other parts of the world where the society naturally gives you an opportunity to thrive. Around here, once you start showing signs of progress, the society naturally starts to feed on the embryo of your success. You become stunted.
Instead of creating opportunities for others to succeed, we create cycles of dependency. Needless to say, many of the would-be good investors end up stuck in this rat race. This way of life means we end up creating an economy full of consumers instead of producers.
Watch-out so you don’t end up living a hand-to-mouth lifestyle forever. Plan your life in such a way that you are making progress.
I am not telling you to evade responsibilities. All I am trying to tell you is that, if you ever have dreams of becoming a great investor some day, you must dodge this trap, somehow..
2. Making a Series of Wrong Investment Decisions (Scarcity Mentality)
Wrong decisions don’t always have to involve reckless spending. Sometimes, the very decisions that we think are wise, are the ones that cost us big time. Think of it this way, if you give a typical Kenyan Ksh.1 Million, chances are that they will rush to buy a 1/8 th plot of land or to build a cheap house. While those two moves sound like wise choices to make, the truth of the matter is that there are much better ways to invest this kind of cash.
You give another Kenyan some Ksh.100 million, they buy a big rental building in Nairobi and hire two caretakers. You give the same amount of money to a Japanese, they start a small electronics company that eventually grows into a multi-billion shilling business.
We (Africans) operate with a scarcity mentality, always worrying about what could go wrong. What if I lose my job and I don’t have my own house? Society has preconditioned to think that land ownership is the only key to wealth.
Now, what if that typical Kenyan was to start a small value-additional factory and take advantage of Africa’s growing consumer appetite to grow it into a multi-million venture? What if the guy you gave Ksh.100 million was wise enough to set up an FMCG factory that employs thousands. He could even end up building a house worth billions a few years down the line…and create employment in the course of doing that.
I want to challenge you to look around you. How many products are you using that are made in Africa? Your watch is Swiss-made, your car is from Japan, laptop from USA, clothes from Turkey and body lotion is from West Europe. To make matters worse, even the Made in Africa products we have are made from factories that are not owned by African’s themselves.
It is not that Africans don’t have the money to invest in startups. It is just that we all suffer from the “scarcity mentality”.
Change your mindset and adapt to the realities of modern living. Gone are the days when land was the only good investment you could make. Make refined investment decisions that help you make the most out of your available funds. Stop operating from a position of lack. Instead start thinking from a position of abundance.
It is high time we learn the dos and don’ts of successful living. Successful people see opportunities where unsuccessful people see obstacles. Savvy investor see potential growth where everyone else sees potential loss. As you sit down there focusing on risks, successful people are out there focusing on rewards. Make a choice on who you want to be in life and most importantly be sure to dodge the two traps discussed above.