Resources alone not key ingredient to prosperity

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Tafirenyika Makunike
REALITY teaches us that it is really inappropriate to talk about financial planning to someone existing just at the edge of the food chain as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs kicks in. Their fundamental question is where or whether they will work tomorrow, whether they will eat, whether they will wear and where they will sleep.Unfortunately, many people in Zimbabwean  fit this description. I believe the fortunes of Zimbabwe can improve by embracing an entrepreneurial culture and mindset.
With our so-called “Look East” policy, there are lessons we can pick from Singapore.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet an agent from Singapore in SA. His agency — International Enterprise Singapore — is an economic body under the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore, spearheading that country’s efforts to develop its external economic wing by providing market information, and assisting enterprises in building up their business capabilities and finding overseas partners.
For the second year running, they are organising the Africa-Singapore Business Forum which is a platform for exchanging insights and promoting collaboration between Africa and Singapore. The forum which meets at the end of August will bring together business and government leaders seeking to identify opportunities of achieving sustainable growth in their economies.
Singapore-Africa trade exceeds US$7 billion and Singapore companies have investments and projects across the continent, spanning industries such as agriculture, infrastructure, urban solutions, transport and logistics. The city-state has formalised agreements with Egypt, SA and Kenya.
Singapore considers itself a hi-tech and wealthy country, home to more US dollar millionaire households per capita than any other country — a “city of opportunities” with entrepreneurial tendencies.  It is not endowed with natural resources like Zimbabwe, but owes much of its prosperity to trade and the knowledge economy.
The port of Singapore is considered one of the five busiest ports in the world. According to the World Bank, Singapore is the easiest place in the world to do business. It is considered as “hybrid regime” by the Economist, which is probably a euphemism for a democracy with some dictatorial traits.
Singapore government agencies achieve good scores for pro-enterprise performance in the surveys on the pro-enterprise orientation commissioned by the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE). The Enterprise Challenge provides funding and test-beds to experiments with risky and unproven ideas and foster pioneering breakthroughs that can create quantum leap improvement in the delivery of service.
Entrepreneurial culture is not just relevant to business and technical students contemplating starting their own businesses, but can be extended to people who intend to seek employment with large companies, enter public service, non-governmental organisations, hospitals, universities, public school administration and all facets of life. Being an entrepreneur is more about attitude than aptitude and it is being an architect of your future.
An empirical study, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), an annual assessment of the national level of entrepreneurial activity, concluded that entrepreneurial spirit was lacking in Singapore way back in 2000. GEM is a global study, which was first conducted in 1997, now on regular one-year basis, which measures differences in the level of entrepreneurial activity among countries.
It listed Singapore very low in the total entrepreneurial activity by country category. But the government and business sector then set out to remove impediments to entrepreneurship as a way to maintain its national competitiveness.
Unfortunately, Zimbabwe has generally been excluded while countries like Uganda have been included.
One key aspect for fostering an entrepreneurial culture is the removal of all barriers, particularly those created by government or within its power to change, that block or discourage people’s entrepreneurship.
The core variables include those initially put in the model as success factors of entrepreneurial culture, like country orientation towards entrepreneurship, social networks, role models, entrepreneurial education, economic enablers, specific legislation, supporting facilities, technology transfer offices and funding.
Programmes Singapore has encouraged include Technopreneurship 21, which was designed to develop entrepreneurship involving technology and innovation and, SME21 which seeks to stimulate high-tech small and medium enterprises (SMEs), moving away from the earlier focus on multinationals and larger corporations.
While Singapore had a pro-business environment, no protection was accorded to SMEs, which naturally could not compete with larger and well-established corporations.
ACE is used by Singapore in building a more pro-enterprise environment through facilitating discussion and debate on the regulatory framework, changing culture and mindset, improving access to finance, and facilitating networking and learning.
In Singapore, universities and technical colleges now have entrepreneurship programmes, and incubators. There is therefore a growing eco-system to support entrepreneurship in Singapore, given its hub position in the region.
Entrepreneurs are pro-active, disciplined self-starters with a drive to succeed, ability to organise and are open to any new ideas which cross their path. They are able to organise various factors effectively and understand key aspects of their business environment.
Entrepreneurial success involves being innovative, blazing new trails, and creating amazing results. All entrepreneurs have a passionate desire to do things better and to improve their products or services.
Zimbabwe has indicated its intentions to develop clusters, although practically nothing much has been done. A cluster is a geographical concentration of actors in vertical and horizontal relationships, showing a clear tendency of co-operating and of sharing their competencies, all involved in a localised infrastructure of support. The advantages of clustering include productivity due to the use of better as well as cheaper specialised inputs and innovation, where proximity between customers and suppliers facilitates the transfer of tacit knowledge.
We can learn from Singapore how to embrace an entrepreneurial culture and apply best practices that have been developed by other nations to our own geographical reality. It is not enough to boast about natural resources. Knowledge has to be applied to beneficiate those resources into value-added products to accrue significant benefits for economic development.

  • Tafirenyika Makunike is the chairman and founder of Nepachem cc (www.nepachem.co.za), an enterprise development and consulting company. He writes in his personal capacity.

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