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The Kenya Connection



OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

You just bought a new computer. You need someone to talk you through setting up your broadband connection, so you call that 800 number. The techie who helps you could be a Kenyan working for KenCall, a call center in Nairobi. KenCall is the largest of Kenya's blooming outsourcing call centers, with almost 300 employees and annual revenues that have grown to $3.5 million since it opened three years ago. The company's founders wanted to do good for their country and for themselves by taking advantage of Kenya's large pool of educated, English-speaking talent to break into the outsourcing industry. KenCall is one reason Kenya's economy grew 6 percent last year. Yes, Kenya still has all the ills of other African states, from AIDS to poverty. But now Kenya also has a democratically elected government that is learning to get out of the way of entrepreneurs and to get them the bandwidth they need to compete globally. It's too early to declare Kenya an economic "African Tiger," but something is stirring here that bears watching—and KenCall is emblematic of it.

Thomas L. Friedman