Karibu Sana. Experiences in Kenya

Claudio Rivera, Associate Professor and Director of the BBA Program, visited Kenya for the second time in a year. Besides enjoying Kenya’s nature, Claudio has been running workshops and getting acquainted with the realities of Africa.

Q:  You have twice spent a month in Kenya during the last year. You really liked it, don’t you?
Claudio: I loved it indeed. This was an old dream of mine. Got the chance and took advantage of it. I could explore Kenya, meet people from different backgrounds, and help a little bit in a couple of projects. It’s wonderful to be there. Karibu Sana means “very welcome” in kswahili, and it reflects the spirit of the Kenyan people. Some people speak of the “illness of Africa”. It is not malaria; it’s that once you’ve been there, you want to stay.

Q: Any project you would like to particularly mention?
Claudio: Yes. Eastlands College of Technology. It’s a professional college, which was launched in the middle of one of the largest slums in Nairobi. The idea is to provide solid professional education to young people from extremely poor backgrounds, and I am supporting the development of the entrepreneurship area. This is very much what we do here with Junior Achievement, but of course, the reality is different. I am aiming to get support in Latvia and elsewhere in Europe to get this up and running.


Q: Why is entrepreneurship so important? It seems people in African slums have other more basic needs
Claudio: There are plenty of NGOs, especially connected with Christian churches and international organizations, which provide plenty of assistance in terms of basic needs. But, if we want a big shift in the development of Africa, it all depends on how much young people become empowered to become the drivers of their own progress.

Q: What is the overall situation in Kenya and Africa?
Claudio: I can talk mainly about Kenya, though its challenges mirror the challenges of the continent. Starting from the positive side, I would say that in Kenya you find a dynamism and creativity that you can hardly get in Europe anymore. From the negative side, tribalism, corruption and lack of institutional development are still major challenges for the whole continent.

Q: What about security? Did you feel safe there?
Claudio: Security is still a major concern in all Africa due to the high levels of poverty, the presence of terrorism, and in some countries, the even prevalence of war. Kenya is comparatively safer and I have never felt threaten. I should say though that there is a certain obsession with security and, in my mind, people are over-cautious.



Q: Would you suggest Kenya as an investment target?
Claudio: As always, it all depends if you got a reliable local partner, which understands the market and have the supporting cloud. Some multinational companies, like Uber, have been moving in lately quite successfully. Otherwise, you have all the traditional consulting companies and major banks. Besides, Kenya is a natural entrance point to the huge African market. It has been so since the times of the British colony.

Q: Has your experience in Africa changed your opinion regarding the refugees’ crisis?
Claudio: Not sure I have a fully developed view on such a complex issue. Just let me hint one thing: Germany and the G20 are clearly targeting Africa as one of their priorities now. The refugees’ crisis has played some part on this. The other is the current geopolitical context. Certainly the refugee crisis could be better solved in Africa and Syria than in Europe.