Jimmy Nzioki

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Lessons from the Streets

Lessons from the Streets (Vincent Ogutu) - Book Review

Do you recall the last time you walked past a hawker or a street vendor on your way to someplace that was more important? Closer home, remember how you bargained for a fare cut from the bodaboda guy not considering the rider’s hustle?


The informal sector and the players therein seem to be living in a world of their own, minting more money than white-collar individuals in a cubicle or the coveted corner office. That is the crucial thesis of Vincent Ogutu’s book- Lessons from the Streets: The Art of Money.


The author has a unique ability to document his observations regarding the informal sector and the means by which people at the bottom of the economic pyramid manage to survive and thrive. His observations are an eye-opener to those who may not have imagined that money flows in abundance from the streets.


The book is full of stories of ordinary men and women who started small with little or no capital and moved on to financial independence via the concepts of Ubuntu and Chamas. Some built big businesses from scratch despite many hurdles along the way. Their collaboration multiplied their efforts while a few who opted to fly solo wound up moving at a much slower pace till their businesses collapsed. 


The myriad examples given from our African context make the book relatable and a delight to read. Drawing lessons from those who might never have a spotlight shone on them to some who received much press coverage for their feats, the book can actually be used as a case-study tool for business and entrepreneurship courses. The use of local idioms adds flavour to the book as well as the sprinkling of quotes at the start and end of every chapter.


The author’s background in economic theory plays out greatly in how it relates the theory with practice. Both academic readers and general readers are bound to learn from the various characters presented in various circumstances in the book be they hawkers, street vendors, matatu drivers, bodaboda riders and budding entrepreneurs. 


The phrase “watu ni pesa” gets clearer and clearer with every page turned as you get to journey from one story to another. Furthermore, the book finishes with a lucid call to action to both the government and other stakeholders to embrace and empower the sector and not try to smother it via bureaucracy and unjust regulations.


Would you like to see where money gets an unusual velocity or perhaps its flow? Look no further than this book.