I was solicited for bribe money thrice this week; once by a police officer. I also fed crackers to a family of baboons in the middle of the national highway and was denied access to a simple cash withdrawal due to my bank’s skepticism surrounding the local bank’s legitimacy. This morning; however, my TEM lab team and I confirmed how we would assist our client in its upcoming large corporate expansion. Welcome to Kenya, where myriad business opportunities lie in the midst of apparent disorder.
The events just described capture many factors of a prototypical emerging market. In between “developed markets,” nations characterized by having a rich concentration of regulated intermediaries proliferating throughout their societies, and undeveloped markets, nations with a near total absence of regulated intermediaries; exist what are called emerging markets. In nations like Kenya, the business environment is slowly ripening. Competition is budding but is still low relative to numbers in developed nations, and regulations are lax. Hard infrastructure, like paved roads, reliable electricity and networks of communication services are advancing regularly but cannot be relied upon. Soft infrastructure, consisting of government, economic and social services, are even less reliable.
Our TEM Lab project client, Lesiolo Grain Handlers Ltd., is in a very exciting position right now. It has worked itselfinto the position of being able to expand in any of seven different ways. The limitations preventing the company from tackling all options at once are primarily due to the “emerging” status of Kenya’s business environment; namely lack of financing, lack of communication, and dynamic and unreliable government policy. In addition to providing the regional farming community with a reliable off-take partner, the company is unique because its social impact resonates well beyond the relationships with its customers and suppliers. LHGL actively supports local orphanages and refugee camps. Could there be a better project for a team of Thunderbird students, brimming with enthusiasm, to extract their teeth from the classroom and sink them into a real world project? I do not think so.
One of our five work weeks in Kenya has already come and gone. Thus far, we have met with our client to fully understand the scope of our project, outlined our work for the coming weeks, and comfortably settled into our new residence in Nakuru. It has been exhilarating to live and work in an environment so different from that which we are used to in the United States. This weekend we are looking forward to exploring some of Kenya’s most iconic attractions. Stay tuned next week to hear about our trip to Hell’s Gate National Park!