I remember when I was university I attended a training at one of the big technology companies in Kenya. On our last day of training, our trainer asked us how much we think we would earn after university. We quoted salaries ranging from ksh 10,000 to 200,000. I must tell you the trainer had a big laugh when some of us gave their expectations. He told us that anything above ksh 30,000 was wishful thinking because we do not have any usable skills. We nodded and took notes like the good trainees we were. After the training we laughed it off some saying they wouldn’t accept anything lower than Ksh. 50,000.
Our programming teacher had always told us that he is training us to be employers not employees. Few of us listened because other people have jobs how hard could it be? It was hard, pretty hard. After a few months of finishing school and no job prospects, the same people started lowering their expectations to an internship or an unpaid position. Those who listened are not Chief Technical Officers in a startup or CEOs in their own startups. In the previous year, the class of 12 people had almost 9 of its students having startups and even joining competitions where they won.
We can’t all be employees. In fact, if your long time goal in life is to be an employee, then you are a bit short-sighted, even if it is in these big companies like Google or the big 5 audit firms. Innovation is really needed from us as Africans. Most of the innovations being made are not Africa friendly and we need to be solutions to our own problems.
The Commission for University Education (CUE) has challenged universities and other institutions of higher learning to offer innovative programs relevant to entrepreneurship and the job market. Most of what is taught in school is theory which I have found to be relatively useless when it comes to the job market or when starting a business.
There are lots of incubators that offer office spaces and other amenities for startups. Examples of incubators are iLab in Strathmore, Nairobi garage, iHub and Nailab at Bishop Magua center on Ngong Road just to name a few. The incubators have brought up a lot of companies that are solving everyday problems. For example ma3route that is used to alert users on the state of the roads and other traffic related issues. This is not a problem experienced in the developed world and even if they made a solution it would be tailored for them and would not work for the developing world.
School may not offer practical classes but the internet is your friend and you can find a lot of things to do. Get in touch with your unemployed friends or friends in school and look at what you can come up with. Make solutions for everyday problems and you can be the next Mark Zuckerberg or the next person people look up to in your line of work.
Africa’s solutions have to come from us and not from other people who have not lived here and seen what we go through first hand. If you have an idea, do not fear exploring it and seeing what would come of it.