Accepted paper:

Kenya's middle class entrepreneurs and the state


Maike Voigt (University of Bayreuth)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will investigate entrepreneurship schemes employed by the Kenyan state as a means to further economic development and create job opportunities. These schemes, I argue, are tailored to different groups of people, namely (aspiring) lower and middle class entrepreneurs.

Paper long abstract:

In accordance with the country's long-term development plan the Vision 2030 entrepreneurship development is accorded high importance by the Kenyan government, especially through the newly funded Micro and Small Enterprises Authority. Moreover, entrepreneurship features strongly in the local discourse as an opportunity for self-actualization and to fulfill aspirations of a middle class lifestyle. Entrepreneurship is advertised as a career option both through the media and from the government side. The government programs targeting (future) entrepreneurs run on two levels, I argue. One main target group are the young unemployed without own resources at their disposal. These are catered for especially through diverse funding activities and bodies which aim to provide them with start-up capital for the foundation of a business. To them, entrepreneurship promises a way to reach middle class status. Other initiatives, however, target entrepreneurs who have reached the status of middle class already, i.e. those with (more or less) established businesses and some capital at their disposal. Here, the aim is to better market their products and increase their range nationally and even internationally, through sponsorships for fairs and exhibitions. The aim of this paper is, therefore, to present entrepreneurship schemes undertaken by the Kenyan government both from the initiators' perspective and from that of the entrepreneurs benefiting from them. I will illustrate the envisioned goals as well as the opportunities and drawbacks of these programs as experienced by their recipients.

panel P112
Engineering the Middle Classes: State Institutions, Wealth, and Aspirations of Citizenship