Juan Crisostomo Ibarra once said that he had observed that the prosperity or misery of each person is in direct proportion to their liberties or prejudices and, accordingly, to the sacrifices or the selfishness of their forefathers.
In Kenya, the forefathers we have been told about are only in politics, meaning, the story is half told, its incomplete and this portends a grave risk where those keen to bury the truth will fill the gaps with their own narrative that isn’t true. The fabric of a nation is both social, political, economic and spiritual.
The political fabric has been told over and over until you can’t really tell the difference between facts and myths. My focus is on the economic fabric and essentially the core of an economy; manufacturing and industrialization, the fuel that powers the nation.
To keep any great nation up to a high standard of civilization there must be enough superior characters to hold the balance of economic power, for the wellbeing of the people at prices that are affordable, with policies that are conducive for the growth of the nation through its people via their dreams, aspirations, and sweat.
The very moment the balance of economic power gets into the hands of second-rate men and women, a decline of that nation is inevitable.
We cannot have a nation run by people who design policies to suit their personal interests and circumvent the systems to perpetuate the dominance of select people to be at the top through dynasties.
For me, the Founding Father of Manufacturing in Kenya is Manu Chandaria. The name Chandaria is synonymous with everything manufacturing and produced in Kenya. Am tempted to believe, his empire is one of the few surviving ones that have not faced east and soldier in the doldrums of poor economic policies in the country. Indeed there are others who share the table with him, but their names fail my tongue and my mind searches for even one to no avail.
I focus on Manu because of what I have witnessed online in the last two days where, just because one of his key brands was advertised to be auctioned, the Twittersphere exploded with hashtags that have made me reflect on the importance of our constitutional right of expression.
Where do our rights to freely express ourselves end and those of others begin? Fela Durotoye once said that a nation is not defined by its borders or the boundaries of its land mass, rather he said, a nation is defined by adverse people who have been unified by a cause and a value system and who are committed to a vision for the type of society they wish to live in and give to the future generations to come.
Looking at the hashtag against the Founding Father of Manufacturing, calling him all sorts of names, I wondered just what kind of country Kenya had become? How we easily forget the good others have done when we tend to perceive a mistake they have done and in this case, it wasn’t a mistake but an issue of a loan that has gone south due to many shadowy interests that are pushing the bank to call in the loan, despite calls for realignment of payment installments.
Reading the tweets I weep and cry for this generation because of the ignorance portrayed and the bitterness in their online voices because of their frustrations and failures.
Every country has its own issues and drama and fun. Kenya is no exception, in fact, we seem to be the third on the African continent after South Africa and Nigeria in being vocal as far as our issues are concerned.
However, going after such an iconic figure like Manu Chandaria, an idol of manufacturing has left me wondering just how we live with our neighbors and how we react when they make the slightest of mistakes. Why is the gentleman being unmasked? Why is he being exposed? Why is my generation so keen and eager to crucify someone without any sort of empathy or honest analysis of facts first? Reminds me of the scene in the Bible where Jesus was accused falsely before Pilate and due to mob justice, he was sentenced to be crucified. We never care to understand just how the target of our fake anger is feeling or going through or the damage we are causing to his or her family.
Successful entrepreneurs achieve hero status in our culture. We idolize the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Aliko Dangote, P Diddy, Warren Buffet, and the Elon Musks and we celebrate the blazingly fast growth of the Inc. 500 companies. But we demonize our own entrepreneurial heroes over KES 527 bob.
We talk ill of our listed firms and wish them bad yet we work there. Do we value what is far and which won’t help us and reject our own brands that create jobs, create services and products that sustain our economy? What is wrong with us? What makes us such vile citizens and neighbors? Just how perfect are we that whatever Manu is going through we cannot empathize or even acknowledge as something that is normal for any business growth?
The journey taken by Manu might be different from that of Warren Buffet but the lessons therein are the same. So why do we idolize Warren Buffet and demonize Manu Chandaria? Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair–times when it seemed everything might crumble. This is common amongst all these entrepreneurs, so why do we pick sides instead of harnessing the true value of God and doing what needs to be done. By being helpful.
Not everyone who walks through darkness makes it out. This is a statement that needs to remind us that entrepreneurship is a brutal journey and that those who make it out clean like Manu Chandaria deserve some accolades, not name calling.
Some days you’re smiling and thinking you’re going to make this thing rock. Then the next day a pipe breaks and your costs look too high. You have to learn to keep your eyes on an ultimate goal. If you lose sight of that goal, you have to get out. This is the story of almost entrepreneurs. So why idolize some and demonize our own flesh and blood?
Experience of a seasoned entrepreneur is precious — and no matter how many theoretical models you study, you simply can’t replace the experience they’ve gained through actually doing the work, failing, and succeeding. This rings so true of Manu Chandaria. We should be seeking him out to mentor more, to share more with almost every entrepreneur and not attacking him with lies. It does hurt, no matter how strong we are.
It breaks my heart to see what #KOT are doing to Manu Chandaria just because he took a loan and the business environment was not conducive and now auctions are coming for his business. I pray we all venture into business and we remember this day.