In just 12 years, Qatar, while preparing for the World Cup, has created a plethora of infrastructure items that did not exist before and that will be of benefit to its citizens even beyond the tournament. Hotels airports and other amenities that have come up will be a catalyst to further economic development in future, and I foresee an economic silent battle between Dubai and Qatar, in terms of economic policies and job opportunities as both countries try to outdo each other, just like it will be between Kenya and South Africa in the continent.
In most cases, Kenya and South Africa compete on so many fronts notably on the culture and business fronts. Kenyans love amapiano and several South African companies have set up shop in Kenya as a gateway to the larger East African market.
When British bank Barclays left Africa, Absa from South Africa took over and that's how we have Absa Kenya.
Nigeria too, has been making headwinds in Kenya from a business and culture stand point as seen in Nollywood movies on Kenyan Tv stations and in commerce, case in point the buying out of TransNational Bank of Kenya by the Access Bank of Nigeria in 2019.
Most of these things do not just happen overnight. Its the culmination of efforts behind the scenes done silently and strategically. Similarly, the journey of economic empowerment of persons with disabilities has been over the years happening silently its just that because of the negative perception of disability that was strongly cultivated and held on for long in the yester years, nobody wanted to admit that some of the things that we take for granted today came from persons with disabilities. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century was an autistic, yet his theory of relativity is studied in institutions of higher learning all over the world.
Thanks to Walt Disney and its inclusion of Black culture in its offerings, hitting box office levels with massive financial success is no longer a miracle for Walt Disney who was also Autistic. Text to speech software is so engrained in our society today that trillion dollar corporations have spent billions on a technology that was initially meant for a man with a disability: Stephen Hawking. From him, the technology has advanced to give birth to products like Alexa and Siri from Amazon and Apple respectively.
A key driver to disability inclusion has been innovation, given that persons with disabilities have some unique ways of doing things to overcome challenges yet to be addressed. The challenge is that, these innovations often remain unseen to the mainstream platforms that bring awareness to the masses. In addition to this, the issue of affordability or economic sustainability of some innovations make it seem like an undertaking in futility. The innovations could be largely in form of policy and participation of persons with disabilities in creating and matching them to opportunities for individual economic improvement, where their skills and knowledge can be put to use.
But like the changing image of Qatar because of the World Cup, there's a beam of light in terms of economic empowerment of persons with disabilities. Investors are looking at diversity and inclusion as a metric to business sustainability before dedicating resources to a venture. Corporations are slowly adjusting to launching Sustainability Reports as opposed to CSR initiatives as was seen before.
A catalyst to disability inclusion and economic empowerment would be to onboard disability centric ideas in innovation hubs and develop them to become fully fledged businesses. For instance, there's an innovation Hub called Antler that takes ideas and matches idea bearers with co-founders who bring in expertise and capital to turn ideas into businesses. The Nairobi TechStars Weekend is also a similar space, where people submit their ideas in a competition and then work together to turn the idea into a business venture..From these engagements all that one needs to do is implement the idea and as the business grows, job opportunities will be created and persons with disabilities will be economically empowered in the process.
The challenge therefore remains to create safe spaces to discuss disability and business opportunities as well as diseminating information on disability and entrepreneurship, and create the urgency and speed to integrate persons with disabilities in processes that result in economic independence for them.