Are we too poor or too stupid- what happened to the saying “we are our own liberators”?


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Indeed, why should Africa be an exception? Why should Africa listen or look to others for a solution to its problems? Why should Zimbabwe look to outsiders for a solution to its problems? The foundation is already there. Yet, even the government, which introduced the indigenisation laws and gave land to the people seems to be doubting itself too.

An independent study in 2012 established that there are close to 2.8 million small business owners in Zimbabwe, about 46 percent of the adult population. Two million are individual entrepreneurs while about 800 000 are businesses that employ about 2.9 million people.  Almost half the country’s population -5.7 million people- are employed in this sector and generated at least US$7.4 billion in 2012. The World Bank put Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product for 2012 at US$9.8 million and its population at 13.7 million.

The study was conducted by Research Continental Fonkom, an independent research company that works throughout the Southern African Development Community and has an office in Harare, with support from Africa Corporate Advisors, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Department (Zimstat), and Finmark Trust- a Johannesburg based independent trust. It was carried out under the auspices of the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and was funded by the Multi Donor Trust headed by the World Bank.

This was therefore not just a run-of the mill study. The biggest blunder was probably the timing of its release. It was  launched on 19 June 2013, six weeks before the elections, and was immediately written off as a ZANU-PF election gimmick because it endorsed that party’s election campaign platform that of indigenising the economy. Surprisingly, though ZANU-PF won the election, the study’s findings seem to have been shelved immediately. Instead, the party came up with its own Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).

What was interesting about the survey was that it revealed that 86 percent of the small businesses were not banked. If they generated US$7.4 million in 2012, this meant that roughly US$6.4 billion was not banked. The same study indicated that 72 percent of the MSME owners saved, with 65 percent of them keeping their money at home.  Can you imagine US$6 billion in people’s homes!

While there has been much play that Zimbabweans have been forced into the informal sector because they cannot find jobs, only 23 percent said they would close their businesses if they were offered employment. This was despite the fact that 40 percent earned less than US$200 a month. Put simply, most of those with small businesses felt better off working for themselves than being employed by someone.

What is even more amazing is that 85 percent of the small businesses owners did not borrow. They required very little money to get into business.  Forty-eight percent said they required just US$100 or less to start their business while 10 percent did not require any money at all. In other words, only US$112 million at most was required to get their businesses running. ZimAsset, we are told, requires at least US$27 billion.

If Babu is correct, Zimbabwe has already started on the right path. It has taken control of its land and mineral resources. What is required, as Kagame said, is to choose to trust ourselves, expect excellence and take ownership.

“Only this will give us the results that we want.  Nothing about the past is an excuse for failure, even where real wrongs were done,” he said.

“Lack of unity makes liberation more difficult, and puts the pursuit of democracy and development at risk. But even in the context of a world system that would seek to control Africa by dividing it, there is no room to blame anyone else for the mismanagement of our diversity. That is a responsibility which cannot be delegated,” he added. 

Indeed, Zimbabwe’s turn-around and development cannot be delegated, especially to foreigners. Zimbabweans have to do things for themselves. They have to be their own liberators.

 

This is the sixth is the series.  Click here to read the previous instalment and here to read the full story.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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