If you type the words ‘Me Too’ on your Search Engine right now, the top result may be a movement that was created to protest against sexual assault and harassment. The phrase dates back to 2006 during the MySpace era and gained worldwide acclaim in 2017 through Twitter when accusations of sexual harassment against Hollywood Film Producer Harvey Weinstein sprung up. Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano is credited for popularising the hashtag, encouraging other women assaulted by Weinstein and/or other men to share their stories.
Away from this movement, there is a syndrome that has been in existence even before Hollywood came into the picture. This syndrome spreads fast and if you’re not vaccinated against it, you may end up wallowing in the unfortunate mob situation of unhealthy, unnecessary and irrelevant competition. This is a syndrome that is fed majorly on the desire to not get left behind in what’s up; even when what’s up really ain’t what’s up. A disease that drives you into desperation and misery in the quest to make as much money as the businessman next – door who seems to be raking in the millions.
Have you gotten sick of hearing the words, “I am a model” or “I am an actress” or “I am an upcoming photographer” or better still, “I am an artiste in the making” from one out of three Kenyan youth that you meet on the streets? How many DJ (Insert DJ Name) do you know? How many apps are on Google Play Store or on Apple’s App Store and do the exact same thing? Look at all the systems trying to imitate Uber: Taxify (Or is it Bolt?), Mondo Ride, Wasili, Safe Boda and now Swvl. Look at the betting Industry – Let’s not even go there. Look at all the apps on your phone convincing you to take a loan, claiming that their interest rates are the lowest? Every morning, across all Radio stations, some Investment company is selling some piece of land somewhere in a lucrative estate, with water, electricity and close to social amenities.
Why have we become a nation of I also do this. Try me too. My app can do this too. It’s because we are sick. We are suffering from what experts call the ‘Me Too‘ Syndrome. For an actual illustration of patients recovering from this syndrome, talk to any of the people who invested in Gakuyo Real Estate and Ekeza Sacco. After this, ask anyone who invested their money in the internet sensation of two years ago, Public Likes. Then ask anyone who ever told you they were buying quails a while back.
Smokie na Mayai
Take for example, the Smokie na Mayai Business in Kenya. Walk down any street in Nairobi any day and you will not fail to spot a crowd of these vendors hurdled together within the same radius. They are strategically positioned at bus – stops, where Kenyans can’t help but consume their entire bus fare as they ‘wait’ for a specific bus. Or wait for fares to actually come down. Within the same bus stop, you can try out three or four vendors to determine who has the hottest chilli or whose sauce is not heavily diluted. If one of the vendors’ eggs are cold or overcooked, you can actually take two steps to the right and try out the eggs from the young man in a Manchester United jersey, or three steps to the left and try out the middle – aged dread – locked lady’s eggs.
Now, why do we have a bunch of vendors selling the same damn stuff, to the same damn group of people, within the same damn place? It all started out with one vendor, let’s name him Kinuthia. And there was always a long queue since, well, he was a monopoly. So Kang’ethe sees how Kinuthia is pocketing the 20 shillings and he sees an opportunity. He opens a similar shop not too far from Kinuthia’s joint. Now Kinuthia’s customers have been reduced by half since the other half is now trying out Kang’ethe’s eggs. Then Wairimu, Kang’ethe’s friend sees how Kang’ethe is doing well. He has even moved from a single house and now stays in a bedsitter. She finds out that Kang’ethe is reaping a lot from this business and she takes a loan to start the same business. Wamaitha, Wairimu’s friend follows course. Then Waweru, King’ori, Njuguna and Kinyanjui all do the same.
Now they are a bunch of 8 vendors within the same bus stop.
If Kinuthia originally sold to 200 customers per day on average, now the number has been divided by 8 and he is now selling to 25. This is not enough to sustain him and he decides to venture into something else. He gathers all his savings from his Smokie business and they are just enough to buy him a Boxer motorcycle.
He establishes that there are areas that people walk so far to get to the highway. So he starts the Boda Boda Business there. He is the only one. People like him. Sometimes he even carries two customers at a time since there is no one else. Ndung’u sees this and he convinces his father to buy him a motorcycle too. He joins Kinuthia and they become good friends. They are always busy. Kamau also want to join in. They let him. There are plenty of customers to go around anyway. Mburu also wants in and brings his cousin Mwai. Mwai brings his brother in – law Kimani who brings his younger brother Njoroge. Now they are 8 boda boda operators scrambling for the same clientele. Kinuthia looks at his daily sales and they have reduced drastically. He is not even able to sustain his young pregnant wife. Maybe this wasn’t it. He quits.
His place is taken by someone else. Not long after, Njoroge quits. His place is taken by someone else. Kimani quits too and two others replace him. And the cycle continues.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the ‘Me Too’ Syndrome.
So What’s The Solution?
The solution is as easy as pie.
Instead of competing, start complementing.
So, if the Smokie na Mayai business is doing very well, don’t rush to open a Smokie na Mayai joint. Rear chicken and supply the vendors with high – quality and affordable eggs. They will maintain a high customer base (Without you in the picture as an alternative eggs vendor) and you will be in business because they are in business. If the Boda Boad business is doing very well, don’t rush to buy a motorcycle too. Open up a Spares and Servicing Shop for their motor – cycles. Their bikes will always be on the go (without you as a competitor) and they will definitely require servicing. They will get punctures. Their engines will require oil and their mirrors will require to be replaced once they break. They will need helmets and Reflector jackets. And you will be in business because they will be in business.
The reason Africa is a poor region is because we think like the third – world continent that we are. We rush to compete while our Western counterparts rush to complement us. As Albert Einstein popularly stated, we cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. If we ever want to succeed as a generation, as a country and as a region, we have to think really different from our politicians, our clergy and our education system. I have no idea what Kinuthia did next, but there is a high chance that whatever it was, there is a Kiiru or a Macharia trying to compete with him instead of complementing him.