It is a hard task running an organization representative of industry, especially when those represented are reluctant to support the same and would much rather lament on social media, become armchair critics or worse still suffer in silence. The downside to this state of things is that it feeds the corruption and broker culture that builds an impermeable wall between the larger industry, making access to legislation, or other positive industry action impossible. Such is our condition in the silicon savannah.
At inception, a credible industry umbrella organization must be driven by personalities who will ensure relevance, drive membership and often times bank roll the creation of the structures that will strengthen and grow the clout and influence where it matters. The problem that we face in Kenya is that many of those invested in the space are yet to come to terms with the process of engagement with government and look at that as the cost of business. A cost that if shared with peers become manageable while de-risking individual businesses from pushback actions that could deadpool them were they to rise up individually.
The Silicon Valley that forms the vision of a successful technology ecosystem has for decades thrived on lobbying, allocating millions of dollars annually to the process. A quick search for numbers reveals that in 2014 Google spent an estimated $16.8 million, Amazon $4.7 million, Apple $ 4.1 million with statistics from a public interest group tracking 15 tech companies putting combined spend in Washington just shy of $ 117 million. Uber, who launched Nairobi operations a month ago is expected to use quite abit of its recent round on lobbying activities across the globe where they have visibly stirred and irked traditional players.
Government it can be argued has bigger problems to deal with and without a chaperone, agenda items get dropped off the table. Enterprise on the other hand must focus on core business and not get lost in the dynamics of politics and legislation. The middleman that is the lobbyist therefore performs a critical role in the development and advancement of any space. Whether that lobby vehicle is packaged as an industry umbrella organization or independent companies focused on particular niches, we should not shy away from visibly agitating for the changes that will see the IT enabled services industry in Kenya develop at the pace that we want and with the support that we require.
Lobbying is not institutionalized corruption.