Kenyans are notorious for their gullibility to get-rich-quick schemes — whether legitimate or unlawful — which often leave them the poorer. Stories have been told about how people in this country have unwittingly lost small fortunes in their endless quest for a quick buck.
It is a fact that ours is a society entranced with the notion of reaping financial returns from minimum or no investment at all. For most Kenyans, anything goes when it comes to ventures with the slightest promise of quick returns, past experiences notwithstanding.
The more techno-savvy crooks, some of whom are said to be serving time in the dungeons of some of most fortified reformatory institutions in the country, have perfected the art of swindling unsuspecting victims with short message service, notifying them of their windfall in some non-existent product promotion.
At a higher level, the pyramid schemes that thrived in 2006 before sensationally collapsing with investments worth millions of shillings perhaps rank as the biggest financial rip-off that the Kenyan public has ever suffered.
Then came the mad rush of 2008, when Safaricom announced its initial public offering on the stock market. Financial institutions took advantage of the situation with offers of unsecured loans to enable their clients to buy a stake in the country’s most profitable company.
What followed was massive oversubscription. Inevitably, a good number of these retail investors got only a small percentage of the shares they requested. Turns out nobody was going to get the quick profits, but rather huge bank loans to service.
More recently was the faux pas that was the quail eggs craze. Overnight, quail became a code word for shrewd entrepreneurs who ditched chicken farming en masse for the wild birds. The birds, and their spotted eggs, were touted to have all kinds of benefits. Soon enough, the bubble burst and quail went out of fashion.
The clincher of the age-old Kenyan obsession with easy cash has to be the entry of sports betting. Since its emergence in this part of the world a little more than a year ago, nearly all conversations in offices, pubs, public transport vehicles and social places now revolve around betting.
The betting craze seems to be catching on fast. This is every middle-class Kenyan’s guaranteed pathway to the millionaires’ club.
SportPesa — the leading betting firm in the country — has practically become synonymous with betting, and for good reason. Every Kenyan is either betting or wants to. And hey, a few lucky ones have won good money — millions!
Ironically, football betting in Kenya has nothing to do with love for the game or knowledge of the sport, for that matter. Forget the long-held myth that football is a man’s game. Gender does not count here. Kenyan women are just as adept at placing a bet.
On a more objective note, it is only fair to acknowledge that betting, just like gambling, is a legal enterprise. It would, therefore, be wrong to lump it together with the other money-minting scams of the past that have seen Kenyans losing their hard-earned money.
What is curious, though, is the misguided perception of the droves of Kenyans who have jumped onto the bandwagon that is our new national pastime that SportPesa and the handful of other betting firms that have sprung up are here to bequeath them with financial freedom.
There could be nothing farther from the truth. Sports betting firms, like all other commercial ventures, are in business purely for profit, not charity. The sooner the betting “addicts” out there come to terms with this fact the better.
The writer is a sub-editor with the Daily Nation. [email protected]