By Michelle Munatswa
It appears that everyone in Zimbabwe is an entrepreneur. By virtue of the multitudes having one venture or another in bussiness, we are practically a nation of entrepreneurs. So why can we not turn our entrepreneurial might into sustained economic growth? Why can’t we see the emergence of more Strive Masiyiwa-like business people?
The answer to the above two questions lies in asking a third question: When does entrepreneurship not lead to economic growth? Below I have highlighted some factors contributing to a stagnant economy despite our entrepreneurial activities.
I consider exploitative entrepreneurship as any business or venture that profits without regard to the accepted social and cultural norms and the wellbeing of others. For example, Kombi drivers from my beloved Pumula South come to mind. The normal fare to Pumula South is 50cents, but if it is after 10pm the fair doubles to a dollar. Time of day does not really add to their cost but simply presents an opportunity for them to exploit commuters who are desperate to go home. The drivers see an opportunity to make more money at night but there is no production or value added in the said venture. There is no consideration as to fairness or financial impact on the commuters. There is no value addition or production, but simply an unfair transfer of money. We need to guard against ideas that make the individual profit at the expense of the majority. Such ideas breed a culture of greed and do not encourage innovation but rather exploitation. Such ventures rob the working class of potential savings which are important for the functioning of financial institutions.
Exploitative entrepreneurship does not cause economic growth as few benefit (and live extravagant lives) while the majority wallow in poverty. The majority are robbed of purchasing power meaning that industry will not be profitable.
Occasion entrepreneurship (One hit wonder)
Entrepreneurship involves identifying opportunities. In Zimbabwe we have one hit entrepreneurs, who come across opportunities (‘Gap’) and make a quick buck, buy an ex-japan car and are back at the same cashflows as before. This represents the majority of the Zimbabweans, always looking out to hear of where there is a shortage of anything and try seek supply to meet the demand. Such business practices are not sustainable and do not add economic value as one cannot consistently be guaranteed that an opportunity will come their way. The income from once off deals is often not reinvested but is consumed callously. Once off deals are good as long as the individuals understand the need to reinvest the proceeds as opposed to having a consumptive mentality to profit. (Kudya mbewu). For there to be economic growth, there has to be both constant idea generation and also constant production. Once off deals do not bring individual or national sustainable income. Thus, for our ventures to result in economic growth, they have to be sustainable and continuous ventures.
Value creation and hunter gatherer budgeting.
Until recently, Zimbabweans associated term “Hunter gatherer” with the Khoi-san people, but the Honourable Tendai Biti linked the term to our country’s fiscal policy. I would also like to link it to our entrepreneurial approach. Our entrepreneurs can only invest what they have gathered. Our people have very little disposable income and consequently very little investment income. This means that their business will be limited to buying and selling airtime in the streets or other small ventures. Even though this feeds families, it does not create additional employment as most of the ventures are one man part-time shows. Our entrepreneurial activities are under capitalised and under- funded. Our “hunter gatherer”/cash budgeting approach to development limits the amount of capital available for people to invest in enterprise. Entrepreneurial activities in Zimbabwe have not led to economic growth because many are of the ventures are very small scale and only allow the entrepreneur to feed the family on a monthly basis as opposed to growing industry and trade. There is little or no pooling of resources to enable business growth.
Lack of government support to entrepreneurship
The government is responsible for shaping economic policy and creating an enabling environment for all enterprise to flourish. No clear policy direction has been established. This causes people to shy away from investing in enterprise. One can sight the small scale farmers who were given land as entrepreneurs and the move as a beacon of government involvement in entrepreneurship. However, my contention is that even the small scale farmers have received inadequate support to the extent that they have only been able to produce enough to feed their families and not the nation of Zimbabwe. Until government accepts an increased role in supporting entrepreneurs and creating an enabling environment for the growth of business, our ideas shall always remain barren and our bellies shall forever become empty. Government support should also be conditional and transparent. Government support should not only be financial but it should also be technical. Government policy should be friendly to business.
In the just ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, I interacted with a number of entrepreneurs. It was amazing to see what Africans can do, and it just got me thinking, over and over again.
When I looked at some of the inventions, I thought to myself, I could see a giant rise out of Africa, given the next 20 years of a consistent positive attitude towards development.
So I heard people talk after the whole day at Trade Fair, the complaints ensued from the fact that our African countries do not have opportunities, they were too young and lots of other things. I thought to myself, is it really because there are no opportunities or people are simply not paying attention?
I sincerely believe that we are not too young, too broke or too whatever, we are simply not paying attention.
With the current state of African economies, it might need about 70-140 years of consistent development for it to reach where the first world countries are right now; and to think there are no opportunities is injustice to the future generations.
I’m not necessarily shunning out that Africa, including its leadership have a problem but my point is, we are not doing enough to make ourselves better. One of the biggest opportunities you have is that in trying to answer a need in your society, you inadvertently make yourself better.
One of the things I have learnt in my Critical theory courses and Popular Culture classes is that capitalism, which is largely the driving force behind world systems today thrives on competition and false consciousness where we are made to think that everything we want in the world have. Capitalism creates imaginary solutions, there is a lot we still need and we can still do in Africa, as Africans if we pay attention.
A capitalist system that is also stealing our time right now is the school system. Most of us are made to believe that we can only make meaningful changes after graduating but by the time we graduate, we already have other pressures that force us instead to look for a job and answer immediate needs within our families. This creates little time for us to think bigger and beyond, before we know it, we have all been working for a capitalist and we are looking forward to retiring. What solution have we brought to the world, or our communities? Nothing. To be frank, Africa’s children need to poke the bubble of false consciousness sooner and help Africa be the place to be.
We need to start paying attention to what matters! That which is beyond just us…
“If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business.” – Bill Gates.
Over time, Gates’ words have been gathering moss, pointing to the fact that the future we are headed towards will be determined more by the internet than anything else.
There is so much activity that happens online now, such that most businesses can not do without. Just to carry out an x-ray assessment of this claim; consider how banks, mobile networks, clothing retail stores and gadgets that we now buy or access their services from the comfort of our homes. This simply points to how the world of business has been significantly reconfigured, but the question is, what does it mean to you?
It may simply mean that if you decide to keep your invention off the internet, you definitely will be certain that there is little that invention will do to the world beyond your reach.
So to be quite honest, there has to be a way you can turn your innovation into something bigger and better.
The internet now offers a number of answers to different questions, why cant your innovation be also seen in the list of answers. Probably a lot of advantages you know them and there has been a lot of articles written and awash on the web as to how to ‘neticise’ (putting it on the net) your business.
I will not do that again but all I can say hear is that one of the reasons we are really not marketing our businesses online from this end of the world (Africa) is normally because we lack confidence in our creations. We are not sure if it’s the right answer, if it’s the correct innovation, if people will welcome it well.
I have heard lots of testimonies and testified to a number of unfortunate instances personally but the honest truth is, just do what you have to do. Its gonna be scary at first but I mean, cease the moment, be confident and just do it. Do you still care about what people really have to say, that ain’t gonna bring the money you have been looking for, just do what you have to do.
By Nomathemba Zondo
Homosexuals in Bulawayo said they need to be treated like all other beings in society because it is part of their human rights.
Homosexuals said they are not being treated like normal human beings yet there is nothing abnormal about them.
“The society is treating us like deviants, criminals it is as if we are some kind of species or something,” said one of the gay interviewees.
One of the interviewees said, “I am a woman trapped inside a male body and I feel it is not my fault that I was born like this.”
Interviewees said they face different challenges even in their families which is the reason most of them prefer to keep it to themselves.
“The most painful part about being gay is the fact that our family members find it hard to accept that we are not ‘normal’ as they say,” said another interviewee. “My mom was really hurt when she found out that I was gay. She tried by all means to change me. For example she would force me to join soccer at school thinking maybe I would change and become a boy but unfortunately nothing changed.”
Some interviewees also highlighted that they are usually assaulted both physically and emotionally because of their sexuality.
“This other day I went to Mhlahlandlela to conduct my data gathering as I walked in the secretary stared at me in an unusual manner then when I spoke to her she gave me attitude, added another interviewee. “She intentionally wanted to provoke me maybe to cause a scene and I was really hurt. I just wanted to collect data but felt like I was now being unnecessarily interrogated for a crime that I did not even commit.”
Though some organisations such as Sexual Rights Centre (SRC) and Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) try to raise awareness sexuality and to advocate for tolerance on same sex relationships both homosexuals and bisexual face a lot of discrimination.
By Nomathemba Zondo
Sexual Rights Center (SRC) conducted a baseline survey in tertiary institutions to interrogate young people’s perceptions on sex and sexual rights.
The baseline survey which had a total number of hundred and twenty- three participants revealed that 74% are heterosexuals, 20% are homosexuals and 6% are bisexuals.
“Among the hundred and twenty-three that participated, 53% were females, 43% male and 4% other,” said a SRC representative.
One of the key findings from the survey revealed that 65% of the participants said homosexuals should be allowed in church because sex is a right.
“I believe homosexuals should be allowed in church because they are humans like everyone else so they should be granted the opportunity to have an encounter with God like everyone else,” commented one of the students who were ask to share their views on the issue.
“I think homosexuals should be allowed in church because what they are doing is a sin against God so if they are allowed in church maybe they can repent and give their lives a turn around.”
According to the finding of the baseline, participants 51% of the participants said that homosexuals are immoral.
“It is so unfortunate that some still think being attracted to a person of the same sex is immoral and a crime yet this issue is really based on hormones, said another student. I think this this is scientific really. Being homosexual does not mean I am committing a crime or being disrespectful.
Participants in the baseline recommended that there is a need to raise awareness and critical consciousness on sexual rights and agency among persons in tertiary institutions.