“When it comes to the people of Kenya -- particularly the youth -- I believe there is no limit to what you can achieve”- President Obama.
Ian Opit is a 25 year old graduate from Strathmore University and Kansas University in the USA. But he isn’t your average 25 year old. While his peers are busy setting up shop in the digital world, Ian is pursuing agriculture.
“One of the major, non-cultural, differences between Strathmore University (SU) and Kansas University (KU) is that at KU, we are advised to study hard so that we may be able to get a good job. At SU, getting a job after graduation is cool, but creating your own job is considered better,” Ian states. This mindset has become increasingly common amongst many young Kenyans who have fostered an entrepreneurial culture through their ‘side hustles’ or indeed through their careers.
Ian’s father, in tune to this culture, felt that his son had an opportunity to be entrepreneurial and thus challenged him to do something with the piece of land they owned in Nanyuki. Guided by his finance background, Ian considered a variety of options until he stumbled across the idea of fish farming.
“After I did the required research on fish farming I brought my proposal to my uncle, who is a successful SME owner in Nanyuki. After about 45 minutes of unfiltered vetting the first thing he said was that it wasn't a small project, it wasn't something I wanted to do just to pass the time,” Ian says.
Ian embarked on the daunting project determined to see it through. The first step was to gather more knowledge about fish farming through government assistance.
“When I first met with [government officials for Laikipia County] I was a bit intimidated…[But] after many sit downs with them I was able to learn about how to get catfish, in what stage of maturity to buy the cat fish, what they need to be fed and how to acquire the feeds at a fair price. They also gave me information about the end user and how to best connect with my potential target markets.”
The 25 year old graduate isn’t entirely a fish out of water; (no pun intended) this project has helped him see the value of his education even though it all seemed very abstract when he was in the classroom.
“When you're in university you might try and get good grades so that you're parents will keep paying school fees and giving you pocket money. But when you're in the driver’s seat you have to see the whole supply chain that you learned about in management class.”
Ian has also grasped one of the key attributes of being a smart entrepreneur; securing different sources of income. Make your money work for you they often say. Ian plans to do just this with fish farming.
“One good thing about this project is I think it's possible to do all this while either pursuing further education or holding down a full time job. I think this project will give me future financial flexibility that will make my 30's and 40's a lot easier to get through,” he argues.
The young Kenyan has faced a bunch of different challenges however. “When you go to see someone and they're in their mid-to-late forties and you're fresh out of business school there's some prejudice and discrimination.” But he hasn’t let it stop him, and as an up and coming agricultural entrepreneur, he is keen to see what will come out of the WTO 10th Ministerial Conference in December.