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KICKBACKS; The Dilemma Faced by Every Businessman in Kenya

a man counting money notes

by Rose Wangari on March 15, 2019     


What is a kickback? It would be explained as a form of negotiated bribery in which a commission is paid to the bribe-taker in exchange for services rendered


For those who have no idea of what kickbacks are; The saying scratch my back and I'll scratch yours (in the business industry not literary of course!) would serve as a good explanation to your curiosity. Otherwise, if you prefer a more broad and real definition it would be something like this:

A form of negotiated bribery in which a commission is paid to the bribe-taker in exchange for services rendered.


Recently a young IT guy had a nasty experience.  He is one of the best software developers I know.

While he was in the university, he managed to develop a management system for a certain cooperative.

He was employed by this cooperative immediately after campus. While working there, he continued to fine tune the system to perfection.


Recently, an organization that supports such cooperatives came checking on the system.

After months of presentations, the organization gave him a tender to install the system in three other cooperatives.

This was a very exciting moment for the guy. It would be his first time to earn ‘real money’. After some days, however, his excitement was cut short.


In the pressure of closing the deal, he had not requested for deposit to facilitate him in travel.

He visited Youth Fund where he was denied funding because the LPO was from a private organization. Apparently, Youth and Women Fund only fund LPO’s for government and parastatal tenders.

Disappointed, he decided to seek help from banks. Apparently, no bank could fund a first-time project. They needed a history of similar projects with successful payments.


The guy was extremely discouraged. `I think in this Kenya you are supposed to steal to see yourself through`, he muttered with disappointment as he left one bank.

I must confess that momentarily I played with the idea of him using his IT skills to steal from an organization that would not notice easily (Hahaha…).

I tried my best to raise his moods reminding him of the fact that unlike me and millions of Kenyan youths, he had an LPO worth some substantial cash. I saw this as the ultimate goal many hoped for.


Finally, he managed to borrow from friends and family to travel and do the installation.

When the installation was completed he was very excited. He had amazing ideas. One was to resign from his current job (he wasn’t earning much there), lease an office and start his software development company. He even thought of buying a car and completing a building project in his village.


His excitement diminished within days - long days of waiting for the payment. Almost every guy with rank who had participated in any way during the presentation demanded a kickback. Some even claimed the system wasn’t functioning in their departments to delay his payment. 


Friends (I am sure I was on the front line) and relatives were also waiting to ask for soft loans.

Honestly, the guy was more depressed after doing this job than I have ever seen him.

You guessed right, he wasn’t able to buy the car or lease the office. The kickbacks guys demanded were more than what he finally received.



We are living in Kenya and if you are fortunate enough to get a tender, kickbacks are killing dreams. However, if you truly believe in your skills and want to go tender hunting, here are a few tips:

  1. Ask for some deposit when doing a huge job to facilitate yourself (It's practical to have 30% down payment)
  2. If possible, be clear on the payment with all the parties involved. Actually, this is the toughest part of getting the tender. …..

Honestly, this has been my toughest part in seeking jobs.

  • How do you deal with this issue guy?
  • Do you ask the tender committee if they will need some ‘thank you cash’?
  • Do you let go of any job where a kickback is asked?
  • Do you just assume the tender committee will need the kickback and factor when designing your quotation?

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About the Author

Rose Wangari

Career ~   PR Consultant & Marketing Strategist.

I graciously nurture businesses by Designing and implementing Marketing, Branding and Public Relations strategies. I also listen to TED talks.

About the Author