Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Arrogance or Laziness

Last year for Pivot East, we flew in one of the top trainers in presentation design in the world from Duarte Design to spend two days with the 25 companies who would go on stage. The first day was a general training for all hands. The second day was one-on-one sessions. Only half decided they needed to do the personal session.

IBM decided to open up its new research arm in Kenya, these are well paying internships for university students to understudy with some of the world’s top researchers. 100+ students applied, 20 were shortlisted for interviews. 11 showed up for their interview.

These types of responses by members of the tech community point towards either arrogance or laziness.



  1. Probably because the rest were tied up with yet another Mpesa or USSD application….It’s a arrogance-ignorance-lethargic symptom. An attitude has recently cropped up that we don’t need help, mostly riding on a wave of one or two technologies. A certain skunkworks user out of frustration aptly put it:The Kenyan tech scene is derth of innovation….a death hole. At this rate it’ll take something disruptive to snap us back to our senses. Unfortunately, that might be too late.

  2. More laziness than arrogance. Generally in our region we kind of accept the little we know or have and refuse to look far ahead. I have employed several kenyans (and other Africans) in my organisation and while some have shown a great interest and energy to move things around. The majority just displayed an “akunna matata” mindset accept thing as the come … with no stress 🙂 and no believe that they can be an actor of greater change. Our education system does not put the necessary emphasis on long term thinking and curiosity about things around us …. which should allow us to seize opportunities to learn more, do more and earn more to build a better life for ourselves and future generations …
    I think our challenge as Leaders and Managers in the region is to find out how to deal with that mindset. How to take the maximum advantage of that way of thinking in order to achieve progress. If we can not change people (will take a lot of time and generations) let try to change how we deal we deal with them to help them achieve the maximum.

  3. I have the same problem rounding up students for the Google Summer of Code, initially a whole bunch showed interest and within weeks I was left with none of them, with all sorts of excuses being pulled out of the bag; yet this was an opportunity for them to work with and be mentored by some of the greatest 3D Graphics and game developers out there and get paid for doing it.

    • Geofrey Wesley

      July 3, 2013 at 8:49 am

      hook me up pliz with that or any other opportunity that arises I need it and I wont disappoint

  4. There is a deeper problem here. I was actually surprised when a colleague told me that the internship is irrelevant, that all he wants is to put up some petty app or clone, wrap it up in Phonegap and submit it to the endless competitions and walk away with some prize money. It has never been about the long term.

  5. Should be a question of ~>Are We Kenyans Ready For that Big Break? Not App competitions!

    We’ve had hackathons, business launch pads and various other initiatives however the entrants and the winners never seem to change. Same names always pop up.

    Gen Y is an attention-driven generation and this can be seen in the way we seek recognition for every piece of work that we do….no matter how small! We expect acknowledgment for doing what we are supposed to do…….

    This mentality needs to change as we don’t have to get a pat on the back every time you do something right.

    Definitely the tech scene in Kenya is growing but is the smart hard working devs, designers and entrepreneurial guys ready to take the big break or the big leap who will hack it. We have talent, great ideas and amazing people that can make things happen but we never want to sit and work on it so guys plan and prepare pitch presentations for prize money but that’s not going to set it rolling till someone decides it’s time to do it as the main hustle!

  6. Perhaps this has to do with the cultural attitude towards failure. Do these young techies fear opportunities where failure is a risk and odds of success are small? The cultural perception of rejection and failure is different as well (compared to the US or most of the West). Or maybe its their view on success, that the degree of success on offer is so distant and foreign that its not realistic and therefore not working hard towards.

  7. The short answer is I don’t know why either. I’ve got some theories though.

    First theory:
    I think there’s just more of everything nowadays, compared to 3+ years ago. So, there are more people trying to take advantage of the situation in a good way, and just as many who squander it. All things being equal, we have some outstanding people working very hard and doing good stuff, but the ratio of “hungry” vs “idlers” is the same as ever.

    Second theory:
    A lot of people in tech (in Kenya), come from the middle class. Many of them are used to things being handed to them and not truly having to make something from nothing. They’re simply not as hungry, and it comes out in the lackadaisical attitude towards things that could truly impact their future.

  8. I wouldn’t say it is laziness, neither will I say it is arrogance. It is a question of misplaced priorities among Gen Y students. We ran so fast to things which matters not.
    This is majorly caused by lack of initiative by most youths and the attitude of ‘quick money’

  9. As much as most people would like to blame the Tech community, I tend to think that the society in which we live in is as much as to blame for their character now. The laziness and ignorance depicted in the GEN Y is due to lack of knowledge concerning most of the things around them. One would ask how does society come in? Well, this is because exposure of them to working comes in a little too late when they have already acquired bad vices. If at all we lived in a society where people knew the importance of trying to find solutions to make our lives better, not waiting to attain a certain age: 18, so as to start working this would have make them less of what they are now and more of what we want them to be.
    The Tech community probably has no idea what IBM is all about and thus the outcome received.

  10. Wilson Kivati

    July 3, 2013 at 3:14 am

    I would love to postulate and build on the theory of arrogance. Most Kenyan youth are not patient and so they love quick money. They don’t love investing their time in activities unless they are sure of quick money. A professor at the University of Nairobi recently told me that they are also suspicious of everything, this is due to the emergence of several thievery activities in the country and so it has discouraged many of them.

  11. although the fear of rejection has always been a sad reality . many people prefer not to try out something new or apply for the opportunity at all. they would rather not risk the heartache that comes with that disappointment letter in the mail.
    All the same it is difficult to recognize the failure of so many students to see the importance of early work exposure and in so doing give many opportunities barely than a second thought.

  12. i would not call it arrogance but rather I would attribute the behavior partly to laziness. most young people know that such an opportunity would expose them to the much needed job experience and network. if one is focused and industrious they would not leave that opportunity to chance. If one is however a lazy individual, they may not make it to the interview on time and therefore decide to fore go it altogether. laziness may also cause one to forget that they had an interview to attend in the first place… I say it is partly laziness because, other external unavoidable factors may have led to a few ot the candidates not showing up for the interview…

  13. I’m curious. The article makes no mention of how the shortlisting was done. Perhaps it was flawed?
    I find it hard to believe that 45% of the people selected chose to spurn the opportunity.

    Laziness? I doubt it. That just plays into the stereotype of africans as lazy people. Also I expect that a proper selection process should have weeded out the lazy.
    Arrogance? Spurning an opportunity with IBM is a level of arrogance that is highly unlikely to be possessed by 45% of the youth.
    Impatience? The opportunity was a paid internship. Unless the payment was to be delayed for an inordinate amount of time, then the question of preferring quick money doesn’t arise.

    So how exactly was the shortlisting done?

    As an aside, I’d just like to add my own speculation.
    A lot of Kenyan Universities are massively underwhelming. Relying solely on students grades guarantees that you are going to pick up a lot of chaff along with the one or two genuinely excellent candidates.

  14. I think it’s arrogance. Most specialists view themselves as ready for the market, thus they don’t see the importance of attending the interview.
    A different view is that of laziness, in the sense that, they feel that the job is competitive and there’s a chance that they might even not make the cut. This sense of disbelief in oneself triggers a laziness in them hence they don’t even attend the interview to try out.

  15. I think it’s a bit of both as discussed above and more importantly the fact that students don’t want to waste their time.
    Very many oppurtunities are currently on offer for those who can achieve and unlike in the past,its more of ”what an organisation can do for me”.
    Achievers are no longer begging for oppurtunities but rather weighing and evaluating where to utilize their skills. Ignorance comes in here when students let their pride precede them

  16. I don’t have the final and complete response to this, but I know that there is a lot of laziness borne out of the belief that there is a quick fix somewhere that will give “them” a lot of money without too much effort being put into anything.
    It’s one of the reasons there are many entries to competitions and initiatives that promise funding but very little preparation into achieving the very objectives for which these initiatives are set up.

  17. Douglas Logedi

    July 3, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Well, Gen Y is a generation of people who value their ego higher than they can be valued themselves. To me, it is a question of the society values and lack of clear focus. The current generation assumes that being at the university or graduating is a status in itself and that they must get to the peak of their pride. they are all wrong. Ignorance could be the major factor. A money minded society kills all the morals in the Gen Y. The moment ethical maturity controls the mindset of the people, the employment and generally professional arena will benefit from the GEN Y

  18. I am shocked that students would turn away such an opportunity to improve themselves. With the reate of unemployment I would think interviews would never be missed. I think though they assume the internship is nonpaying and they want to be paid for work but still students in university still pursuing their courses can make time during vacations. I wish such opportunities were there when I was in school, would have jumped at them!

    I think it’s more a case of expectations, they want money fast not just skills

  19. Let’s go back to the data.
    I would look at the two issues discretely.
    For Pivot East,the fundamental question everyone asks is where are the previous winners now? If a better job of highlighting previous Pivot East winners who are currently running successful businesses
    Is done, then the program would get from the get go, a larger percentage of students willing to run successful businesses.
    The public knows nothing of the success stories so the public can only think the worst.

    With regard to IBM, I belive a valid question has been raised on the criteria of the selection.

    Ignorance and fear are huge barriers. The onus is on organisations to properly brand and communicate to as many people as possible in its target audience to get the results they expect.

    Technology internship programs should be integrated with universities.

    The opportunities with IBM research, should be a permanent program integrated with the universities, so that prospective students are dreaming of the opportunity long beforehand.

    Other well known organisations that have been in the region, local and multinational,have consistent internship programs, and their headache is that of turning people away.

    • @William – Neither of these examples are about the top end of the funnel, about the application level, which you keep pointing towards. This is about what people do when they are shortlisted and you have to step up to the plate to make the final cut.

      For the Pivot East example it wasn’t the public, so had nothing to do with the points you’re raising. We had no problems getting applications from all over East Africa, this was the 25 finalists who were set to go on stage in a week from that time. The point you’re putting forward has no bearing on this example at all.

      Similarly, the points you’re raising around the IBM example don’t apply. I’m not even sure how to address this with you as it’s so far off base. IBM is one of the best known brands in the world, they were working directly through a university. They gave clear communication on the program. 100+ applied. 20 were shortlisted. 11 showed up.

  20. It might not be laziness and arrogance. I think it is a matter of expectations. IBM is big compared to any other small enterprise therefore expectations are always high. Then there is also an aspect of weighing if the opportunity will benefit you as an individual job seeker or one in need of skill development.
    GEN Y in my opinion never lets opportunity slip right before their eyes. The 8 individuals who dint show up, was any follow up done? were they informed through all means possible? Maybe they thought they got better deals elsewhere on the very same day and same time.
    However, we need to do our research and consult before making decisions, which means always asking questions.

  21. They picked the wrong guys (clearly). I was told how the interview went and I most certainly would have aced it.

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