Too many Chiefs, too few Indians: Not every Zimbabwean can be a business owner

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By Hillary M Chindodo on February 4, 2014. No Comments

There is no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit in Zimbabwe. Almost everyone, young and old, is forever dreaming up that one big idea which will make them a multi-millionaire instantly.

British billionaire businessman and serial entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson once commented that Zimbabweans were natural entrepreneurs. This observation by arguably the world’s best known entrepreneur will not escape anyone who visits Zimbabwe. Entrepreneurship as a way to lift one out of poverty is touted at every forum. In churches, at various motivational seminars taking places around the cities, in schools and universities, the talk is all about starting one’s own business and becoming rich.

On the streets of the capital city Harare, smartly dressed young men and women go up and down without a care about finding a job. It’s all about being an entrepreneur. One young man when asked what he wanted to do after leaving high school did not pause to think before responding. His mind was already made up. He wanted to be an entrepreneur. However, when probed further as to what he would be doing exactly, it was clear his mind had not reached that point yet. He just knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur.

The noise about entrepreneurship is so loud no one heard the penny dropping for the nation to confront the reality that 80% of those that should be working are not doing so formally but all fail to acknowledge that they are unemployed because they believe they are entrepreneurs. Their definition of an entrepreneur is somewhere between going to China to bring cheap goods for resale and spending time in hotel lobbies meeting other “entrepreneurs” to discuss their latest business idea which only requires a few thousand dollars in capital before one can become a millionaire. The thinking is that the latest Mercedes Benz or that house in the plushest of suburbs is only that one idea of being an entrepreneur away.

Kids coming out of school are no longer working towards developing the necessary skills to join the corporate world as a junior staffer before working oneself to the top. It’s all about being the CEO of your own business even if it has zero assets and capital. Even motivational speakers who spent decades working for various companies, and made their money working for such companies go around telling these kids that they don’t have to work for anyone else. They can make it on their own. Is that the message that this country really needs at this moment? The government on its part must be clear in its definitions of employment so as to not encourage a state of mind among the young people which does not add to the growth and development of the economy.

While there are positives that the country has such entrepreneurial spirit, Zimbabwe needs to focus on building a culture where young people coming out of school are prepared to work scrubbing the floors of the hotel lobbies where they spend every day of their lives lounging in those comfy five star chairs pretending to be conducting multi-million dollar business deals.