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Important Tips for Graduands

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How many of you believe in luck? Anyone? Perhaps no one or very few. I personally believe there is luck, only that it happens to those who are prepared. A Roman philosopher reminds us that ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’

The difference between lucky and unlucky people is all in our perspective. It is all in the lenses we wear and how differently we see the circumstances that unfold before us. Luck is not just being at the right place at the right time, but also about being open to and ready for new opportunities. You will create your own luck by changing your perspectives. Good fortunes are waiting and these will come to be, if and only if you create and notice new opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to your intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies by having positive expectations and having a resilient attitude. Knowing yourself, staying grounded, having self-awareness while scripting your own story, having an iron will, and always using humility which is a non-negotiable so that you keep listening and embracing lifelong learning despite all the wonderful success that comes your way.

I remember waiting to receive my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Back then, we were only a handful number of graduands at the KICC with butterflies in our stomachs eagerly waiting for this important rite of passage and a mindset of “Yote-ya-wezekana” which in English means everything is possible.

I cannot remember what was going through my mind at that time but I was very excited about the possibilities that were waiting for me. I knew that I wanted to be a job creator, which was my way of making an impact.

Kenya and the world is increasingly graduating and injecting fresh graduates into the job market. The work environment is being redefined daily and a lot is rapidly changing. What the industry and the modern-day consumer is looking for in skills is no longer what we had in the 80’s. Competitiveness is the new way of doing things and value creation is all that matters. Are we geared up for this? Becoming the best employers and leaders will mean you will have to work your way up; this is the only Non-negotiable. You have already bought the ticket and it will now be time to win the lottery.

It has also become increasingly important for graduating students to chart their own paths and become job creators as opposed to job seekers. Those who graduate with the mindset to be employed approach life differently from those who graduate with a passion to be job creators. The results are visible within a very short time.

Based on the challenges I have observed over the years, I implore universities to go the extra mile and ensure that they are preparing the next generation of leaders who are sufficiently prepared to contribute significantly whether as employees or as employers.

I highly commend USIU-Africa for going the extra mile to ensure that it increases the employability of its graduates by implementing several pathbreaking initiatives. By establishing initiatives such as the AppFactory, the only one in Kenya and the 14th one in Africa in partnership with Microsoft, the Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Program supported by the Devki Group, the Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunities Project in partnership with the World Bank, the Coding for Employment Center of Excellence through the African Development Bank, the Innovation and Incubation Centre at USIU-Africa, the Social Media Lab (SimeLab) supported by the American Embassy allow students to develop and hone their skills before entering the job market.

An inspiring story of one Robert Otieno Apiyo, who is an alumnus of USIU-Africa and now a renowned radio presenter and producer for the Voice of America in Washington DC is one to pick a lot of learnings from. Chosen as a radio host when USIU Radio was started, he took the opportunity to sharpen his skills and most importantly, to shape his beliefs and attitude from interacting with people from all walks of life. Robert’s consistent urge to learn, explore new tact and the never-say-die attitude has seen him established at the top; even when he was rejected as a starter back in the years past.

The work place is already experiencing significant shifts and we must adapt to that change. A majority of jobs being created are in emerging fields, particularly in the ICT sector. According to the World Economic Forum, four specific technological advances—ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; Artificial Intelligence; widespread adoption of Big Data Analytics; and cloud technology—are set to dominate the next four years as drivers positively affecting business growth. As more young people continue to enter the job markets, these are the key areas we must innovate in order to stay relevant. Each one of you have devices that you hold in your hands all the time and that have empowered you to be as equal to if not better than the global best in technology.

The World Economic Forum further highlights these new areas to include increasing adoption of new technology, increasing availability of big data and data science, advances in mobile internet, advances in Artificial Intelligence, advances in cloud technology, shifts in national Economic Growth, expansion of affluence in developing economies, expansion of education, advances in new renewable and innovative energy supplies and technologies and expansion of the middle class. These shifts are going to dramatically change how we live in Africa and also do business in the next five to ten years and we need to continuously invest our time and resources in them.

According to the United Nations, the number of youths in Africa aged between 15-24 years will be more than 250 million by 2020 and they will be the new entrepreneur’s and job creators of tomorrow. Most of these young people are already running their businesses as was revealed in the 2019 Forbes Africa Top 30 under 30 list of entrepreneurs who range between ages 21 and 29. This inspiring group of driven, young entrepreneurs have already left a mark in the world and are changing how business is done in Africa both in the services and manufacturing worlds but also in the social pillars of healthcare and education and infrastructure.

I would like to share a few tips that have helped me in my own journey as an entrepreneur. It will not be easy but it will be worth it.

Start small and aim big. Never chase the horizon beyond the one that you can see. Go outside your comfort zone. Have a clear vision and focus. There are no short-cuts for hard work. However, work smarter too. Always take responsibility for your actions and take ownership of your actions and the results will be inevitable. It’s not going to be easy; don’t allow challenges to be drawbacks. Stick to your ethical values and never veer off them. Be true to yourself and you won’t have to cheat or lie. Simplify tasks and keep removing complexity. Complexity delays actions. Be decisive and Communicate effectively. Be Congruent and authentic – be who you are, project who you are – avoid being cosmetic

Embrace the new world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity or VUCA as it’s called today, USING speed and agility by unlearning and learning faster than the pace of change.

In this new world Co-Create the future as its now a smaller world, a faster world and all of us in this world are neighbor’s since distance does not matter – everyone is one-click away!

Use your talent, energy and humanity to make the world a better place than you found it with an informed conscious – do more and do it faster leveraging technology.

Create new models that ensure you are balanced in your efforts to help the planet and people while you make your profits. The 3P’s.

We can all agree that small businesses are an essential contributor towards a healthy economy. These businesses create a competitive environment, provide vital employment opportunities and revitalize our communities even through the most challenging times. To this end, how can we ensure that the business environment creates a place to grow entrepreneurs, innovators and businesses? These very small businesses will become medium and then big globally.

Disruption and innovation will be the enabler. Look at Uber, M-Pesa, Jumia and lots of other e-commerce and e-service platforms. Most of these innovations trace their ways back to universities.

Lack of capital is an excuse of the past. I encourage young women to take on this challenge and build their own companies. There is a lot of capital in the world today looking for good returns but very few creditworthy and bankable projects are being effectively communicated to these sources of capital.

However, we must also be alive to the fact that in Africa there are many obstacles and barriers to business. However the good news is that there is a real will across Africa to change the status quo and reform rapidly.

Failure to embrace these opportunities will only lead to slow economic growth and a youthful population that could be a danger to itself.

Dr. Vimal Shah,

BIDCO Chairman.

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