One of the most difficult decisions that Ahmed Yusuf has ever had to make was to leave Kenya with his family in 1998 and head to Australia to start a new life.
Life in Kenya then was uncertain and the business environment difficult. The Kakamega-born Yusuf had worked for various local and international firms in Nairobi.
A company he was working for during the reign of then president Daniel arap Moi closed shop due to dwindling business.
Kenya then was a good example of what The Economist magazine termed “The Hopeless Continent” in 2000.
However, 16 years later, the Kenyan-born Australia-based businessman could not resist the temptation to come back home to exploit the opportunities in Kenya and in much of the continent that The Economist would later in 2011 refer to as “The Hopeful Continent”.
“I went to Australia because I wanted a change of scene for my family. Security was a problem, corruption was at its height, and things were really bad in Kenya.
“Even when I was in Australia, the reports I received up until 2002 were disappointing,” he said during an interview.
Yusuf established several businesses that he now says are worth at least $10 million (Sh870 million).
He has been in business since 2010, when he stopped working as a general manager for a firm in Australia.
The businesses he established range from a college that offers courses in building and construction from certificate level to advanced diploma and an early childhood enterprise that assists working or at-school parents who may be working or studying full-time to care for their children from the time they are born to the time they start school.
He also started a technology firm specialising in software development for firms back in Australia.
He is now exploring prospects of extending his business to Kenya and other parts of Africa, where he sees a lot of potential for growth.
AUTOMATE REVENUE COLLECTION
“We have a range of businesses that operate in Australia. The first one is a college that trains people building and construction from certificate level to advanced diploma.
“Often, people who come to the college hope to get a certificate or licence to become builders. In Australia, you cannot build a house until you get a licence,” Yusuf said.
The technology firm, Plycode, is a custom software company that offers services and systems to companies seeking to automate their revenue collection, accounting, or car tracking software.
Currently, Yusuf is exploring partnerships with young technology companies in Eastern Africa for purposes of engaging their respective strengths to deliver outsourcing services to firms abroad or within the region.
The partnership with local companies would entail collaboration in the development of information technology projects depending on the respective strengths of the individuals or firms involved.
In Australia, he also runs an ICT recruitment board, Kazileo, for IT jobs in Australia.
“Within a year, we are going to introduce it to Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore. We have introduced another one for Africa, Employfy, a database for job seekers and employers,” he said.
With blue-chip firms like Toyota and non-profit organisations in their portfolio, Plycode has also built revenue collection systems for firms in Australia.
Yusuf believes that Kenya now has the desire to grow and achieve a lot more for its population and that IT is one of the areas that will help drive the economy forward.
There are many opportunities to be exploited, especially on the ICT front as many things in the country are still manual.
“If Konza City becomes a reality, there will be more business outsourcing in ICT firms and opportunities coming here,” he said, adding that opportunities in the IT sector lie in automating accounting systems and discarding the old manual ones.