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STREETWISE MARKETING Jua Kali: The Bane Of African Firms By Evans Majeni A t independence, African governments inherited a fairly formal economy. Rules, procedures and standards were well formulated, articulated and judiciously implemented. independent. ‘Wacha Ukoloni bwana” a Swahili word for stop colonial mentality became a common refrain. Somehow, we believed we could enjoy Mzungu lifestyles without their overbearing standards. The professionals; engineers, architects, doctors, pharmacists, lawyers were all sworn to a strict code of professional ethics. Little wonder that Africa had a working template of budding industries that were sworn to the straight and narrow. The Rain Started Clouds Gathering Came independence and the African big men ‘grabbed’ power to use their own words. These power grabbers were starved of both material wealth and self-esteem. Most of them had been detained and mistreated by the Whiteman and were therefore yearning for a chance to flex their muscles. Their first victim was the “Mzungu” standards. In Kenya for example, anyone who tried to uphold higher standards was promptly reminded that we were now Henceforth, mediocrity and disorder became our second nature. Africans looked for, found or created shortcuts in every public undertaking to the chagrin of formal operators and the general public. In Kenya Matatus, a newly sanctioned group of public transport predators would eventually bring down the giant Kenya Bus Service and other similarly well organized outfits. They, unlike their formal counterparts had a free hand to operate as they wished. They had no fixed fares or a regulated timetable and operated at their convenience mainly during peak hours. Official Chaos Overnight, the Jua Kali operators sprouted almost in every industry. And The multinationals, overwhelmed by the many rats nibbling at their market moved their pro- duction to friendlier nations. Our industrial area turned into an industrial grave yard and our Na- tion, one big supermarket for Chinese fakes. 24 MAL25/18 ISSUE they remained true to their calling - a mockery to investment and a ridicule to standards. Kenya for example, came up with a new one - tender-preneurs, a polite word for officially sanctioned theft from the government. Affirmative actions to Africanize businesses were haphazardly implemented. Expectedly, the formal operators with their strict adherence to standards and quality could not keep up with the government sanctioned predators. The public service institutions such as schools, colleges and hospitals amongst others gave way to private enterprises. One by one, other formal players also fell by the wayside. For example, Sugar companies closed shop as sugar barons took over. Death Of Professions Equally, our professions were under attack from power brokers and influence peddlers. Anyone with power, influence, connections or a little fee could obtain almost anything from the authorities - licenses, certificates, titles name it. That’s how we ended up with more accidents on our roads, collapsing buildings, fraudulent lawyers, doctors procuring abortion at a fee and pharmacists dispensing poison.