If you go to Kibera and ask the number of NGO’s there you’d be shocked as to why it’s still in the same condition. Enter the world of organizations whose mission and purpose is to alleviate poverty, fight hunger and build sustainable communities or so they claim. We have all come to accept and understand that it’s another way to eat donor money, enrich our wazungu brothers and sisters, and if my friend, brother, cousin gets a job in one of these organizations, is able to provide a good lifestyle for their family, by all means register another 500 of them.
I am beneficiary of the Kenyan NGO culture. Back in the 90’s working for an NGO was the dream, my parent used to work for one; serious donor money that allowed most of us to attend private schools, go to splash water world back in the day and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, if you don’t know where splash was you now see what I mean. Not the jokers we have today of sijui a Malaria survivor winning the Nobel peace prize see article here.
I seriously believe that the NGO’s culture has to evolve because times have changed. Organizations whose business model is what my friends call “The Woiye Woiye Concept” need to reconsider their positioning. You go to western donors and pitch your woiye story of how you will help poor dying Africans with solar, clean water, polio, malaria heck you could even pitch oxygen and get a fat grant. It has become increasingly difficult to do woiye woiye projects in Kenya because people are in the business of making money and not waiting for handouts, those days are long gone.
With this devolution business people are up and about making ends meet. I was shocked kuenda ocha and see the level of business, innovation and enterprises going on there, man we in Nairobi are living in a garbage bubble, no pun intended. The level of garbage and trash in the city is unacceptable, be that as it may, the business model of these woiye woiye organizations cannot work in Kenya. If they insist on continuing they should consider going to a country like Chad, not sure exactly where Chad is on the map, it’s just that I’ve never met anybody from there so I assume… Let me just leave it there you get the drift.
So what will these Woiye woiye organizations do because it’s increasingly difficult to pitch Woiye woiye solutions to a people who see you as swindlers? From my interactions with these organizations funds are getting scarce with each passing year. Fortunately there is a silver lining. Last week I had a chance to attend a 2 day Entrepreneurship workshop by an amazing business accelerator in Kenya. while there I got to understand what Social Entrepreneurship is all about, coincidentally while watching Billions the series, yes you can learn something from TV, in season 3 episode 5, Axelrod sees an opportunity in what they call Venture Philanthropy. In this episode they acknowledge that the days of blind philanthropy are dwindling and, donor organizations have to evolve in order remain relevant and sustainable. From this episode and my time at the workshop it’s clear that to remain relevant as an NGO and see the next decade through, you must shift from the Woiye Woiye mindset, business model and embrace the support of social entrepreneurs, it’s the next frontier.
If you want to know where your money has gone look at the number of venture / social capital funds that have setup shop in Nairobi in the last 5 years, more are in the pipeline with much money ready to invest in social enterprises in this region, which is why we are called the silicon savanna.
For entrepreneurs do not be left behind it’s the high time your business model evolves, reengineer your business into a social venture. Do not sit in your office and complain that these wazungu have invaded our country, doing a lot of zero business getting millions of shillings and dollars while at it. The game as I discovered is in the language. You must learn and understand how to speak the social enterprise language. You can then align your business to take advantage of these opportunities. People shall continue doing Zero businesses in Kenya whether we like it or not and this like the NGO’s revolution in the 90’s shall pass. Your business must be ready for the next big international money laundering scheme.
The tide has turned if you are an NGO and do not want to relocate your operations to Chad, talk to one of these social enterprise accelerators, let them explain to you the new game in town. Then take up 5 to 10 entrepreneurs or Kenyan companies learn the landscape, assist them where you can and save your organization from certain demise hence preserving jobs and next time please be ready for the next evolution.