03 July, 2012

Why black South Africans are not good at entrepreneursip

Call me a pessimist if you like, but this article is based on "real personal experience", not on the false theory that some academics are feeding you

By Anorth Mabunda

I am not a business expert but based on the little knowledge that I have and through consultation with old folks I came to realise why South Africans today after apartheid are still not good entrepreneurs.

Apartheid has deprived many South Africans the opportunity to explore and become innovators and this has spread to the post-apartheid generation. Draconian laws such as the Group Areas Act which restricted movements of our parents and grandparents were a stumbling block that forced them to remain in their homelands under the feudal tribal system. Business is about movement, you cannot just seat in your homeland and expert good earnings. You have to go out and see what’s up on the other side of the world. Such freedom was seldom allowed to local black business people then.

My grandmother told me that in her village of N’wamitwa, ordinary community members were restricted from participating in any entrepreneurial activities and only the chief could own a shop.  Even today, the main supermarkets that have been occupied by Indians and Ethiopians were previously owned by the chief and his aides.

Due to these restrictions on movement and trade, my maternal grandfather who was the first to plant mangoes and oranges in his village couldn’t make any fortune out of them. 

My father told me that back then in his Gazankula homeland, black people were forced to work for a white man, either in a farm or a factory but couldn’t use their arable land for financial gains. “It was a crime for a black man to sell anything,” added my uncle whose dream of becoming a clerk was shattered by apartheid bureaucrats. Uncle got a job as an accounted clerk in Johannesburg but his work permit could only allow him to stay there for a month. Imagine losing such a valuable opportunity.   

My father also told me that his grandpa had a vast of land where they used to plant crops for family survival and as a result, he seems to have inherited the culture of “farming to eat”. Perpetrated by lack of education, he doesn’t even know how the trading system works. He has a huge garden in Limpopo; ask him if he ever thought of trading his vegetables and maize, he will tell you that “they (government) won’t allow me to do it”. You see, he is still stuck in the system.

Our disadvantaged backgrounds are also stumbling blocks because if you have a business idea no one in the family will be able to support you out of their meager salaries and the majority of them haven’t saved for their children’s tertiary education. Ask your neighbor if you think I’m speculating.

It is a known fact that many successful businessmen and women today either come from better families or are politically connected e.g. Patrice Motsepe is an ANC member and son of the late businessman, ABC and Tokyo Sexwale is an ANC stalwart.

But dear reader I am not saying that this system cannot be changed, there are organisations that can help you (but sometimes you will have to join the ANCYL because most of them are run by its members). A good example is the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). But you better have enough cash in your pocket because their offices are situated in cities such as Polokwane, Pretoria and Midrand where an ordinary aspiring entrepreneur from Giyani would struggle to reach. 

I should not leave the fact that you will need access to the internet in order to do your research properly, a computer or laptop to type your business proposal, some money to travel more often while checking your status and also airtime to make contacts. 

So now you see; you really need to come from a better family to be an entrepreneur because the road to entrepreneurship is hard, it has cyclical downturns and needs a concrete financial foundation or background. And if you are like me; a breadwinner whose family depend on whatever I am earning, you are likely to succumb to the pressure and join the workforce and make money for "someone" with your excellent God given skills. That’s why black South Africans are not good entrepreneurs, late and soon. 

Read more on: http://anorthmabunda.blogspot.com/

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