Why Is Kenya’s Startups Dominated By Foreign Nationals


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The Kenya startups have stepped up immensely to offer tech support in lieu with the technological breakthrough sweeping the world. From the ride hailing applications, grocery stores application, and inventory as well as store requisitions application and so on, the startups have etched their names in our society and our ways of living through this innovations.

However, inside these startups from the board members to staff is a sad tale of foreign nationals running the scene. While it is not entirely a problem to have foreign nationals contributing to the growth of private and tech sector, its number is astounding. The absence of Kenyans in strategy teams, marketing, sales, technical team is conspicuous and should be interrogated as why we are here.

There are competent young experienced Kenyans in these fields but sadly overlooked whenever hiring and onboarding take place and preference given to foreign nationals so reasons I will reveal shortly. There is need that the local solutions come from the local market and the local professionals should be in forefront in conjunction with foreign nationals to solve. The incredibly talented young Kenyans should not be eclipsed due to stereotypes and generalizations in the eyes of the expatriates. Here are some of the reasons why Kenyans are being overrun from the startup landscape.

First of all, funding is the root cause as whoever funding an initiative will sadly dictate its operations and the processes therein. The foreign nationals otherwise referred to as venture capitalist are willing to invest heavily in technology startups as they are motivated and driven by the how tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Apple located in the innovation hub of silicon valley have grown to become behemoths from small startups barely 20 years ago for the case of Google and Facebook.

Secondly, educational backgrounds contributes immensely as the skill harnessed by the graduate in Stanford, Oxford or Cambridge will be different from that of graduate from University of Nairobi, Moi University or JKuat. The former being among the leading insititutions of higher learning with its alumni senior world leaders or the top-notch business leaders. These universities have endless resources and perpetually in pursuit of innovations compared to the low standards defining the local universities. Therefore, the startup founders being a foreigner will high likely hire, onboard graduate from the Ivy-league institutions than the local university.

Third is the race card pure and simple. There is a perception that Africans are lazy thinkers and cannot be entrusted to come up with viable ideas that will shape the world. The discrimination in hiring for a simple reason of the skin color is rampant in startups run by the foreign entities and their human resources policies and hiring processes are shrouded in secrecy.

To conclude, the startups growth in Kenya is slow though encouraging but while the foreign entities still run the actions in the Kenyan startups landscape means our dream to use technology to offer the solutions to local challenges is farfetched and should be relook ASAP.

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