Live To Die Another Day – The story of Kenyan SMEs

business failure in Kenya
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2 years?

Yep! With the current status of things, we the investment bankers in Kenya don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel for at least 2 years to come.

I couldn’t believe it. And I still refuse to. But I could not take the risk of belittling the words of a second generation Indo-Kenyan investment banker. And even more, he’s a friend and a financial genius who has a keen understanding of the economic evolution of this country.

So the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer? Is that it…? I asked.

Well… he replied.

And we looked at each other, knowing the answer to my question, while both not liking the fact that lay ahead of millions of Kenyans as we undergo a tough economic situation and upcoming elections.

In reality, for me, and certainly for him, two years of slow economic activity and even two years of no economic activity, would be manageable. Despite the challenges that will come with it, we will still be alright.

However, there are hundreds of thousands of small business owners who won’t. The thousands of individuals who were layed off by their companies most likely won’t be able to shift their mindsets from secured employement to uncertain entrepreneurship in only 24 months.

If things do continue like this, many people are going to die. Not physically, but financially.

Now what do they do? is the billion KES question.

To be honest, I don’t know quite frankly! Every entrepreneur and individual in Kenya is living in a unique paradigm, with unique problems and personal circumstances that only they can unlock. However, if you are running an SME and you have started experiencing shortage of cash, and have delayed in paying salaries for the past 2–3 months, then you must seriously consider innovating yourself and innovating your business to survive the next 24 months.

What do I mean by Innovating yourself? I mean start considering yourself as a business unit, and start analysing how you spend your time, your money and your energy. Start evaluating every personal and business decision you have made in the past 6 months and questionning every personal and business plan you have intended to do in the next 6 months.

Why? Because the situation has changed in Kenya, in East Africa, in Africa and in the world. The global politics and economy will have its ripple effects. Added to what is currently happening at home, with the Government asking for more money, and the banks refusing to lend you their money, this is the time to be ferociously focused, stringent, frugal yet bold, aggressive and audacious.

This is the time of opportunity for anyone who can maintain a constant flow of cash. It doesn’t matter how much, as long as it is constant and well managed.

And there lies the problem with most Kenyan SMEs and the reason why many of them will die financially in the next 24 months. The owners are spread out in so many side hustles, that their whole lives are unstable and that affects dramatically their core business.

They will say: but I was told, do not put all of your eggs in one basket.

Yes. That’s when you have a golden goose that produces eggs every day, week or month. If not, you are your wasting your valuable time, energy and financial ressouces trying to push many things in different directions.

This is a time where the market will eject those who give in and give up. It will punish those who lack focus and dedication. And it will reward the patient and the perseverant. Those who double down on their strenghts, spend time on their knees, get their hands dirty, and improve themselves, their abilities, their products and their relationship with their funders and customers.

Choose your camp wisely and remember that in tough times, all that counts are the effectiveness of your actions and not the kindness of your intentions.

Be strong and work on yourself and encourage the people who are still in your team to also invest in themselves.

I suggest you watch or rewatch The Grey. It will probably give you some inspiration on what type of mindset you will need to keep your business alive for the next 24 months.

On the other hand if you seriously want to learn more on how to Innovate yourself and your business to ensure that you make it through the next 24 months and you’re ready to invest time, energy and resources to achieve it, email me at

About Author

Amadou Chico Cissoko is a seasoned Business Innovation, Leadership and Strategy trainer. He founded Guinea’s first Agrotouristic retreat and the largest social entrepreneurship community in the country. Awarded Mandela Washington YALI Fellow for extraordinary leadership, Chico lives to inspire entrepreneurs to build profitable businesses and live meaningful lives.

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About Amadou Chico Cissoko

About Amadou Chico Cissoko

Starting a business is a leap of faith even in the best of circumstances. We at Kuza Biashara are focussed to encourage these daring small business owners who have the potential to innovate and change the world by contributing to the nation’s economy and livelihood.