Business Planning: Looking forward to 2012

When will it ever end?

The politicians are at it again, this week’s topic of course is “that envelope”. As entrepreneurs it has now become imperative for our business plans to take into consideration political risk. Many businesses are still reeling from the after shocks of the post-election violence, whilst some of our fellow entrepreneurs lost their businesses and still languish in IDP camps.

This political risk to enterprise goes further than just Kenyan borders. Our fellow East African entrepreneurs should not forget the impact the blocked highways had on the availability of fuel and commodities in their markets.

Since the politicians won’t let us forget, we at Yipe decided to re-publish this blog posted on October 2nd on our sister site. It was written in response to the jostling for positions in political parties for the 2012 elections. Now with all this talk about “that envelope” and the Waki Report that was rejected yesterday “in toto” by ODM, it behoves us to revisit the issue of business planning for 2012….

Business Planning: Looking forward to 2012

As much as politicians may try to deny it, campaigns for the 2012 Kenyan elections are on. Leaders are being anointed as flag bearers, this not even long after the bloody chaos that marked the beginning of 2008.

At Yipe, we just put up a new advice section for startups, but whilst doing that I thought, is it worth the bother? After all, apart from the lives lost and people displaced living in camps, many entrepreneurs lost their livelihoods. It must take a lot of faith on their part to take the bull by the horns (so to speak) and begin a new venture.

As political parties race to comply with the requirements of the new Political Parties Act, news reports frequently tell us this or that leader has been appointed torchbearer to vie in the next elections.

Now, every startup has (or we hope has) a plan, but seriously have we planned for 2012 and indeed 2013 after the results are declared? Unless your business plan is to re-locate out of Kenya, this is a critical consideration. If we don’t it will be as someone (it may have been Judge Johann Kriegler recently formerly of IREC) said, what happened at the beginning of 2008 will look like a Christmas party in 2012 if nothing is done to prevent it.

It seems like the debate for an official “grand” opposition to our “grand” coalition has taken over the national agenda as opposed to pertinent issues such as constitutional review and the agenda 4 items.

So if politicians have forgotten to ensure that 2012 and 2013 are safe for doing business in Kenya, what can the micro and small entrepreneur do? Should we just have a four year plan and spend the beginning of 2012 closing or looking for (gullible) buyers for our businesses?

Will there be any repercussions of what happened this year on consumer demand come 2012? Maybe people will be scared to spend, remembering how prices skyrocketed because normal product distribution channels were closed. This effect could trickle westwards and affect markets in Uganda and Rwanda who bore the brunt of delayed shipments (particularly of fuel) when the Mombasa-Kisumu highway was blocked.

On the other hand, the post election violence may mean booming business in 2012 as consumers stock up in case of the re-emergence of violence. However, this will be felt in a slow market come 2013. What about the kiosk owner in Kibera, Mathare or any other flash-point for that matter? Have they thought if they will stay open past the elections? And if so, how will they manage to get their products past the protestors and the policemen, that is assuming that their property is not looted.

Location, Location, Location: the mantra for business

It matters not where you are in Kenya or indeed Uganda or Rwanda (if you depend on supplies from or through Kenya) for that matter, your business will be affected in some way if due to the early campaigns and jostling for prime positions in political parties means that nothing is done regarding constitutional reform, poverty and inequity, unemployment, cohesion, land reform and transparency, accountability and impunity (Agenda 4 Kenyan National Dialogue and Reconciliation).

On an individual level what can we do?

Recently I did a test that asked me to describe myself in 10 words. My answers in order were my gender, occupation, physical attributes, nationality, belief system and my roles in family and the wider society. It’s a test you should try. Simply imagine you have 10 words to describe who you are to someone who has never met you. But know there are no correct answers for this test. In a nutshell you are who you believe yourself to be.

What does our social identity have to do with our role in 2012 and 2013? The post election violence was mainly driven by ethnicity, with members of one community attacking the other, and the victims responding in revenge attacks.

That means that my ethnicity either marked or saved me from being a victim of the violence. Yet from my top 10 social identities, my ethnic group is not a priority in how I perceive myself as a person and member of Kenyan society. In fact in terms of grouping I feel more affiliation with my fellow entrepreneurs, women and Kenyans long before my tribesmates. Yet, and I can’t help this, there are other people who have made assumptions about me based on what community I happen to be born in (note: I said “born in” and not belong to). They have already foretold that come 2012 I will vote for a certain leader. If say that leader happens to win or lose, I will bear the brunt of their animosity if I happen to be in the wrong business location at the wrong time. That I cannot help.

But I can help in how I conduct myself and business to show that we are above ethnicity. I can be Kenyan. By treating every person I know and customer fairly and equitably (barring the one’s who don’t pay on time!).

I can ensure that amongst my small social group there is understanding that we are all Kenyan, East Africa or African for that matter. The Ubuntu spirit sums it up: if you hurt, then I hurt.

Leave the politicians to the campaigns (however early they have begun), but when they approach us in 2012 to take up arms or fists against (their) perceived enemies, know that it may be YOU in that IDP camp come 2013 figuring out what business to start-up with the Kshs. 10,000 from “Operation Rudi Nyumbani”.

Ok… I just realized there is hope for the startup section!

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About yipe
Yipe an acronym for the Youth Interactive Portal for Enterprise is an organization that assists entrepreneurs to start up and manage their small businesses.

One Response to Business Planning: Looking forward to 2012

  1. Pingback: Jipe moyo wewe Kijana! (don’t give up!) – Kenya’s government has no intention of empowering you! « Yipe log

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