Views, ideas, inspiration, vision and practical tips for a better more prosperous Malawi

In praise of the resourceful Nigerian

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Nigerians are go getters…you just have to admire their fighting spirit. While there are many Nigerian conmen out there (who over the decades have tarnished the reputation of Africa, and Africans), there are many more honest and hardworking Nigerians doing some very interesting things – involved in some innovative businesses, so it’s no overstatement to say we can all learn from their ingenuity http://www.nairaland.com/2512295/top-14-nigerian-innovators-watch

Malawian entreprenuers in contrast appear to be different. While this is a generalisation, some Malawian business people will see the purchase of a private jet or building of a hotel, and think that such is a sign of development or wealth…??

Instead of buying a private jet (in a very poor country) or building a shopping mall, Malawian ‘entrepreneurs’ who have significant capital resources should consider investing their money into something transformative that has a potential to create a massive industry, one that will improve the lives of large numbers of people, especially since Malawi is a country that needs to let go of it’s over-dependence on Tobacco. And this is not about social enterprises as you’ll see below.

To give an example, the Indians invested into call centres after China took over their manufacturing edge, and recently there has been an increase of so many Indian companies getting into industries like the provision of SEO services (they control 6.6% of the global market https://moz.com/industry-survey), building Apps and other businesses which are not only scalable, but have the potential to employ hundreds of thousands of people. That’s even before you mention Automotive (On top of Tata Motors, they also own Jaguar), … But back to Malawi for a moment; we cannot be building shopping Malls, Golf courses or Hotels and claim that such is a sign of development? Building Shopping Malls or Hotels only encourages consumerism, spending… spending… spending… it doesn’t increase the net worth of the majority of people, it doesn’t in itself help improve the lives of those who buy from those malls, and generate incomes for them. A shopping Mall will not increase your earning potential, and only benefits the few families who have the capital to set up shop in them, including those investors who own the Mall.

I would rather Malawians build institutions that provide skills to our people to enable them to be qualified so that they can work in sectors that manufacture goods and compete with the likes of Kenya, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brazil.

All well and good talking about wanting Africa to make stuff, to make motorcycles, cars, aeroplanes, refridgerators and whatever else… but are the people who will make those things sufficiently qualified?

Most people like to give an example of China, South Korea, or Singapore as examples which Africans should emulate, but what they forget to mention is that in these societies, a greater proportion of the workforce is extremely highly qualified (not in terms of just having PhD’s, but they have transferable technical skills: They understand Physics, Electronics and Engineering principles and Manufacturing processes, and can use such skills and knowledge to apply to problems with the hope of finding a solution. If a solution is found, they can come up with a product that embodies that solution). In addition many innovators fromthese countries are trained in business, unlike the situation in our African countries where too many people who run businesses don’t even follow the fundamental concepts essential for a successful business.

What Malawi should be striving for, is to equip it’s young people with skills so that they can become resourceful and attempt to solve the problems within their communities/ global challenges, and in the process increasing their earning potential.

Let me proivide another example. If a Malawian national had invented a device similar to this ocean cleaning bin http://www.boredpanda.com/floating-rubbish-bin-ocean-clean…/ it is possible with visionary leadership, a good strategy and the right kind of funding to create a factory that would employ 3000 – 4000 people in Malawi over 5+ years, making these devices within Malawi, and selling them all over the world. The invention would make huge profits for the owner of that company…. in any case, this is only a simple device, and there’s nothing too complicated about it. In my view it can even be made from dry reeds weaved in the same way as weaved baskets, so no excuse for the unavailability of raw materials:

  reed-basket

In case you are asking why such a business would work, it has to be because sea / ocean debris is a real concern all over the world, and there is a huge demand (a market, which is an essential component for a product based business) for a simple device that can be made cheaply and deployed to clean oceans and lakes of all the plastic and other waste that’s thrown into them(waste that endangers marine life).

In contrast, even if a Shopping Mall or Hotel creates jobs for 200 – 300 people, comparatively it’s far less than what a factory making goods that can be exported globally has the potential to employ. Further, the money that shopping mall makes for the woner would be miniscule compared to the profits that would be generated by a product that is a commercial success globally.

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About Sang N.

Writer, Entrepreneur & Activist. Interests: History, Entrepreneurship, Business, Motors, Architecture, Aviation, Travel, Food and Art.

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2016 by in Africa, African, Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , .
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