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Unemployed in Kenya? You must be joking!

Apr 09, 2006 Humour, Sunday Nation

We are a nation of creative entrepreneurs, we tell ourselves. Our ability to get something from nothing, to create hot air from thin air is the stuff of legends, we tell visitors. A Working Nation, half a million jobs a year? Ha, we tell our leaders: we have no need for the platitudes that feed the multitudes. We know exactly how to make money, and here’s the beauty of it all – we don’t even have to work to make it!

For the few of you out there who still haven’t found Rich Plaza on Lazy Lane, here’s a quick guide to the best occupations in Kenya. Easy money awaits!

Elder for hire: This is one of the top ways to earn a crust while doing nothing. Simply advertise your services as the most respected community elder ready to bequeath ‘sole leader’ or ‘tribal spokesman’ status on gullible politicians. Believe me, there will be a long line of wannabe presidents lining up to buy your services. But there are a few niceties to observe if you want to make it in this lucrative field.

First, you must actually look like an elder, so matted grey hair, a long beard and scanty attire are a must. If you don’t look the part, fret not: modern makeup can do wonders. Second, you need to learn some interesting chants and carry some strong-smelling potions, not to mention a range of unusual headgear. Again, no capital necessary: nature will provide all the reeds, feathers, skins and pastes you are likely to need. Lastly, you would be wise to not confine yourself to one tribe: learn the rites of all of them and widen your market. So stop disappointing, and start anointing!

Politician’s flunkey: This is a big growth area. Politicians of all parties require a vast entourage of aides, hangers-on, and bodyguards these days. The more the merrier, as it projects an image of power and popularity. Most are willing to pay decent money for long-term flunkeys. Your only duties will be to sit under a tree until the Big Man emerges, run like mad to open his car door, jump into your designated chase car, and then sit pretty with your nose out of the window as your convoy ploughs through Nairobi at high speed. Once you arrive at your destination, find another tree to sit under. Occasionally, you may have to attack journalists and break their cameras, but most of the time the job just entails looking seriously daunting.

Tools of the trade? Just a dark suit and dark shades. Education is actually an impediment; dump it if you have it.

GoK employee: Another good one, so target any ministry, department or parastatal that offers itself. Your best bet is to study the names and origins of those in charge, and find one whose leader comes from within a 100-km radius of your home village. This will allow you to use your trump cards – tribe, clan and kinship – to land the job. Shouldn’t be difficult.

Be careful, though: there are two types of GoK employees. The first, a very small, very hardworking group, does all the work of government and carries the nation on its shoulders; the second, the vast majority, does absolutely nothing. Make sure you don’t end up in the first group by mistake. Once ensconced, you can look forward to a life of idle pleasure and many side businesses. At some stage, however, the World Bank will appear and demand that you and many thousands like you must be retrenched as you are a drain on the economy. Don’t worry; this process will take at least 10 years to effect. And when it does happen, you will receive a handsome payoff that will give you a life of idle pleasure and many side businesses. Enjoy!

Professional dependant: It doesn’t get better than this. You need never work again, yet you will have all your needs taken care of by a close relative. Join the multitudes of Kenyans who have found out that once ‘one of your own’ makes it big, dozens of relations can live off the takings. All you need to perfect are your hard luck stories: the paralysed cuticle that prevents you from working; the collapsed bank that took all your savings; the thirty-five younger siblings to school, feed and clothe.

Keep reminding the successful relative of the happy days you spent together as children in the village; the time you gave him your last maize-cob when he had nothing; what his mother said to you before she died; and how your sister is his wife and your niece is his mistress. Usually works a treat.

Rap artist: if fame is your thing as well as money, then this is the one for you. First, shed some clothes (particularly underwear). Then, get yourself a snappy moniker like L’il Zit or Shameless or even just ‘?’. Next, sit down and write some words, any words, at random: Your opening line could be “whack smack street smart glue train”, for example. Now replace every fourth word with an obscenity. Lastly, go to Luthuli Avenue and find one of those back-street geeks who owns a computer and a synthesiser. He will add a snazzy tune to your lyrics. You are ready for the big time.

If you play your cards right, an adoring public will sing your songs and worship you like a living god. Respect!

Mamluki: Lastly, the big one. If you really want to do nothing and be paid well for it in Africa, a mercenary’s life is the one for you. Some of you may be getting worried here: do I have to pack a gun and dodge bullets in far-off deserts? Nah, you’re thinking seventies. A modern operator drives different cars every day, wears sunglasses even when alone in a dark room at midnight, and wears ‘bling-bling’ that’s measured in kilos, not carats.

Expensive, you say? Don’t worry, you won’t have to part with a penny. In any case, gold-plating is an excellent thing. The only work you may have to do is to look ridiculous and play with dogs. In return, you will rub shoulders with the high and mighty and the low and flighty. The bold and the beautiful will be your companions, and the days of your life will be spent in 7th heaven.

What skills do you need? Ah, OK, this one’s a bit tricky. You may need many passports, for one thing. You will need to travel through Dubai regularly, even though your citizenship will be denied by all known governments. You will require many mysterious backers who will stay in the shadows and get you to front their deals. But the real clincher: to be a modern-day mercenary in modern-day Africa, you must be light-skinned. Any skin shades darker than beige need not apply. You just won’t have the credibility, you see.

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