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China 101 for Kenyan Entrepreneurs Takeaways

· Events,Digital

Mettā Nairobi, 14 Riverside Dr, Nairobi, Kenya, Thurs Feb 1st, 6-8 pm

Chinese investments and commitments to Kenya under the Jubilee Government have reached $6.5 billion (around Sh663 billion), not counting the new railway to Mombasa. Historically China-Kenyan collaboration has been very one-sided, but we must solve the information asymmetry if we want to create more bilateral exchange. Our guest speaker will be fintech entrepreneur Angela Nzioki, who was chosen as part of Alibaba’s Inaugural eFounders initiative for a 2 week incubator in China. Stephany Zoo, Chinese entrepreneur and consultant, and founder of China Africa Tech Initiative will then be running a workshop and training on:

  • Overview of main Chinese Business Interests in Kenyan
  • The Chinese Tech and Entrepreneurship Landscape
  • Introduction to Business Culture in China: Rules of Engagement
  • How do you start the relationship? Investors, Production, and Networks

For our inaugural China 101 event, we had a full house at Mettā, with many curious Kenyan entrepreneurs looking to engage with China from ecommerce to ticketing to finance.

We were so excited to have have three eFounders join us— Angela Nzioki of Uhasibu, Sam Gichuru of Nailab/KuHustle, and Isis Nyongo of Mums Village. Another guest speaker was Meredith Karazin, the previous COO of Teach for China, and now the Director of Infrastructure and Growth at Moringa School. We covered everything from the government ownership of data, to how to involve rural users into the conversation, to baijiu. However, we just wanted to share some of the key takeaways:

Black people don’t rate. [Sam Gichuru]

In 2010, when Sam first started traveling and staying at Airbnb‘s in 2010, he rarely rated any of the places he stayed. Because of this lack of accountability across the platform, often times, he found he couldn’t tell which hosts were inhospitable to Africans. In a room of 50 people, only three people raised their hands when asked if they actually rated their Uber drivers. It is not the role of the government to make sure there is quality in the market, it is the role of entrepreneurs to build in mechanisms that build trust. It is the role of users then to self police and give those ratings.

Chinese (including the government) are enthusiastic about rating to an almost vehement degree — whether they love or hate something, the rest of the internet will hear it. Trust is as important in Chinese culture as is it in Kenyan culture, so Chinese developers make sure to build that into the product. Pratik Kumar of OCharge, an airtime rewards app, actually shared when they forced their customers to rate, they actually became really specific in their feedback.

If you bring your business offline to online and nothing changes, you have failed. [Angela Nzioki]

One entrepreneur struggled with trying to get his B2B customers to pay online rather than to come into his office, develop a relationship with him, and then try to get credit. He noted that his Chinese customers always paid in cash and was paid upfront. In Chinese culture, borrowing is shameful, so perhaps that is why both culture of credit and micro-financing does not exist.

As developers we have to remember that e-commerce is not just selling online, it is an entirely new way of business, and a new opportunity to innovate on our existing model. While on one hand we want to be able to emulate aspects of trust and reliability that work so well in the real world, but on the other hand, we need to focus on increasing efficiency and scale.

There are many lessons to be learned from China and perhaps one of the greatest is that the Chinese designed for China. [Meredith Karazin]

In the beginning, Chinese company didn’t care about IP because they were copying so much from the Western companies. But now, IP law and litigation has become significantly more robust in China because now the Chinese are developing more innovative technology, they care about their own IP. That IP matters because in many cases it is very specific to the Chinese— red envelopes on WeChat for example.

In the same way, Kenyans must first learn from the Chinese entrepreneurs and develop the same mentality of humility and diligence. Then, they can apply the innovation with their own cultural background, by which time the government has created institutional stability to protect the work they've put in!

If you’d like to learn more, please read up on our China 101 resources here.

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