Three people are having an interesting conversation on what it takes to succeed in Kenya.

“There are several cards but you must at least have three crucial ones at any time and know which one to play and when. You cannot play two or more at the same time,” a stout middle-aged man tells his two colleagues.

The first card he called tribalism. This card, he said, will open doors where no other card can. Sadly, there are several people, including the very learned and the religious who do not understand any other language other than their mother tongue.

The second card, he called “what is there for me.” To these people, quality, tribe, race or religion or political affiliation does not matter. For any deal to go through, whether business or otherwise, it must pass this one test – what are they gaining in return? Call it lobbying, greasing the palm or bribery but they must have their take.

The third card, he called competence. This card will take you where all other cards will not. There are several people in our ranks both in government and private sector who do not understand any other language other than competence or integrity, in other words.

They might be few and obscured by the majority but if you seek you will find them. Whether it is hiring someone, awarding a tender or buying a product in the open market, they look for the best in truth and in the interest of what they stand for.

Doing business in an environment where the end justifies the means has never been easy. It is not business as usual to learn that more than 50 per cent of Kenyan youth are willing to compromise their integrity to get rich. This is according to the Kenya Youth Survey by the Aga Khan University.

According to the survey, half of the 1,854 respondents drawn across the country said they do not care how a person makes money as long as he/she does not end up in jail. Another 35 conceded that they would readily give or receive bribe.

As a matter of fact we are not just talking about the youth. We are talking about an important player in our society, present and future. The youth who has no regard for integrity is energetic, very intelligent, and innovative and as we all agree; the future leader.

He/she is our employee or potential employee entrusted with vibrant and challenging enterprises where temptations and opportunities to cut corners meet.

The desire to have it our way by whatever means is manifested at all levels in our society from students selling their bodies, teachers hawking grades, to justice being packaged in briefcases at the highest level.

Back to our cards, there is only one winning card in business and in life. The card of competence and integrity in everything you do. It is the solid rock upon which every successful enterprise must be built. All others are sinking sand and will stand as long as the storm does not come.

Jon Huntsman, an American multibillionaire who started a chemical company from scratch and grew it into a $12 billion enterprise writes in his book, Winners Never Cheat, “There are no moral shortcuts in the game of business or life… there are, basically, three kinds of people: the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character.”

The ancient King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 13:11 that, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.”

The wealth that lasts and brings you peace, happiness and fulfillment is the one you get honestly through your own sweat.

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