Long before the actual date, CKP’s picture had been cruising the city of Nairobi via the addposter on the busses, spreading the concept of BOP, which is still not a very wellknown three-letter-abbreviation around here. Although the price for attending this event made it very clear that only TOP were intended, about 300 participants showed up for this event. Of the guests, most were from Kenyan public sector and private companies, plus a few NGOs. I was, representing my current employer Grundfos LIFELINK, one of the only guests from foreign companies.
That, however did not in any way make the event less interesting. On the contrary! One of the key questions of the day was, how the BOP strategy can be applied in Kenya as a tool for development to meet the ambitious Kenyan Vision 2030. CK Prahald’s message was clear: Without an inclusive development strategy that will uplift the 65% of Kenya’s population living below the poverty line in rural areas and urban informal settlements, Kenya will see social conflict and uprising on a large scale like the tragic events of the post-election violence in 2008. You cannot build a prosperous future and a prosperous society without including and developing the resources of the poor majority of the population. Download CK Prahalad’s slides HERE.
I had been looking forward to meeting mr. Prahalad – the guru himself – on this day. And I was not disappointed! CK Prahalad is definetely one of the most visionary and strategic thinkers on this planet today. Implementing his thoughts in a company strategy and everyday operations might cause a bit of a gap from theory to practice, but no doubt that he is pointing the right direction. His presentation of BOP cases from India let the audience very inspired and also a bit amazed. The question between the lines here was, whether it will be possible to make the same kind of systemic innovations in Kenya as in India? What are the differences that make a difference between India and Kenya?
Both countries have a large rural population living below or on the edge of the poverty line, but there are also some very key differences that might cause challenge for doing BOP innovation in Kenya. Based on my experiences from working in both countries, I would say that the most important differences lies in 1. The level of industrialization in the countries, 2. The level of organization and execution power, and 3. Not least some important cultural differences.
As for 1. The level of industrialization, India is able to produce all kinds of goods from low tech mechanics to high tech ITC products. This means that BOP enterprises can rely on ‘home made’ products and technology at the appropriate low cost in stead of relying on importing a good deal of produce and technology which Kenya so far is dependant on.
As for 2. Level of organization and execution power, I am sorry to say, but Kenya really doesn’t rank very high. Yes, bureaucracy and corruption is also a big issue in India, but the overall infrastructure and organization seem to work a bit better. The exceptions in Kenya in terms of organization and execution are of course companies like Safaricom who excell in a high level of innovation and execution, Coca Cola who manage to have a distribution network that reaches even the smalles villages (something to think about for channelling medication and other goods), and the famous Matatus (small bussess) that criss-cross the cities and the country at a speed that makes most people dizzy (and unfortunately also causes way too many accidents). The potential for a new E-Choupal or a diabetes treatment system is definetely there in Kenya also, it might just require a bit more patience and longterm planning.
And as for 3. The cultural differences, I should now as an anthropologist watch myself not to generalize too much here. For both countries, the syndrom of individual intelligence leading to collective stupidity is definetely there – meaning that each individual will optimize his or her own situation, but often at the cost of the collective, thereby leading to large public challenges like garbage everywhere, cutting of water pipes leading to degraded water supply, etc. Still, would it be too much of a generalization to say that the sense of collective responsibility and community is more important in India, whereas the survival of the fittest seem to be more the rule in Kenya? Or is it just the universal syndrom of ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, where things being everyone’s responsibility suddenly are nobody’s responsibility and therefore is destroyed, deserted or degraded? One of the best and most tragic examples here being the huge number of non-functional handpumps and generators around the country.
If and hopefully when the Kenya Government and the Vision 2030 team take on the ideas of BOP, there is a huge potential for developing a holistic and inclusive strategy for development that is not only relying on the constant inflow of donor money and relief food, but actually building a sustainable society and economy from the bottom up!