Africans should free themselves from their mind-set


HAS it ever occurred to you gentle reader, that a gun is not only dangerous in a mad man’s hands? Yes, it is a dangerous weapon, no matter in whose hands it is; and if in your faith and moment of passion, you give it to your spouse, friend or sibling, he/she may as well point it at your head.

In such a bellicose state that you are in right now, if a gun is dropped in your hands, what would you do with it? You may even direct it at your head-if you run out of foes. True, a gun is like money; it gives power-real or imagined, and in the end it corrupts. He who has money, like he who wields a gun, no matter his age, is as dangerous as he is tyrannical. He may press the self-destruction button and decimate us all.  

As a hazardous weapon, money should not be allowed to find a haven in mortal beings, no matter their sanity. There is something about it that does something to the psyche. I have always been boggled why Africa is so poor, yet its belly is pregnant with vast mineral resources. 

Do we really need foreign investors who boast about every penny that they extend to us, notwithstanding the stringent conditions attached to such hand-outs?

 You may call me names, or vilify me, but I, like you dear reader, am a patriotic Zimbabwean who prides himself in being African, but there seems to be a certain way that we think or do not think which is abashing. 

Otherwise what may be the explanation in a situation where one is given a company and/or a farm for free, and he runs it down in less than 10 years? It is not uncommon to hear somebody responding: “You know these vanaMuseyamwas (black businessmen) that we work for,” if one asks them about how they are faring at their workplace.

What really do these vanaMuseyamwas do? Is it their skin which is at fault or their mentality? Being an African means being objective, for it is this that builds, not sugaring over the devil simply because he comes donning our own skin; we should shame him and all his incarnates if it is his intention to run us aground. 

We should debunk the notion that Africans have no business acumen of note, and that they lack ingenuity or innovation, for it is only a smokescreen used to hoodwink us into blind submission.

It is mind boggling and yet so much ennobling, to discern that the richest man that ever lived was King Mansa Musa 1, who ruled over the Malian Empire which covered modern day Ghana, Timbuktu and Mali, whose fortune at his death in 1331, by today’s standards was US$400 billion, yet Mali and Ghana are considered to be among the poorest countries in the world. King Mansa Musa was a shrewd businessman, who made his fortune through trading in gold and salt.

 But what exactly happened to all that wealth is befuddling. 

Only the large mosques that he built still stand today, but everything else has since diminished as only two generations after his death, his heirs were unable to wade off war and invading conquerors. 

They could not hold on to their inheritance; such vast wealth-so sad. Although he was an African, his business clout has never been matched by any other man, deceased or living. 

Forget about all the said richest men in the world, King Mansa Musa was and still is the real thing.

Interestingly, Meyer Rothschild (born 1744) whose wealth at death by today’s standards stood at $350 billion was divided amongst hundreds of descendants whose businesses encompass mining, banks, asset management, farming, wine and charities. 

The Rothschild family is considered the richest family on earth today. John. D Rockefeller, the richest American that ever lived, left a fortune of about $340 billion in today’s dollars when he died in 1937 and his legacy still lives today.

If an African could amass such wealth by 1331, what really happened to our wealth? Colonization, you may rightly say, robbed us of our vast mineral resources. But are we not flogging a dead horse here? Are we not overstretching our bitterness?

A close look at Zimbabwe’s Indigenization Laws puts a lot into perspective. Any foreign company with equity in excess of $500 000 should cede 51% to indigenous partners; suffice to say that there are a lot of foreign companies which are worth less than $500 000. Not that it is bad. 

The question is how many of them are operating? If they are not operating because of liquidity problems, why is it that our best brains who earn money by the truck load are not venturing into such businesses as they have the liquid?

There is a new class of Africans that has been created either by default or by design, pretending to be gurus in business, but whose form of investment is befuddling. 

Instead of creating wealth which is beneficial to the entire nation, this class is driven by individualism to invest in consumer goods like real estate and cars.

Honestly, what does one need 40 houses and a 100 residential and commercial stands for? A commercial stand that remains a stand years down the line, does not serve any other purpose than self-aggrandisement, which is the bane of Africa today.

Tell me of any businessman worth his salt, who invests so much in personal houses. 

There are a lot of companies desperately in need of funds to keep them afloat, yet there are some among us who can splash money like confetti at a wedding without giving a hoot about the suffering masses at the receiving end of company closures.

We do not need to think about foreign investors before we look at ourselves in the mirror and accept who we are. We should change our mind-set first.

The Indigenization Laws, though a noble idea, should not be skewed in favour of the minority, for we are yet to see them benefiting the nation in its entirety.  

Some among us were given licences to operate banks and what do they do? They fleece the poor depositors of their hard earned pittances through personal loans. Loans which are always non-performing. 

If the idea in the first place is not to plunder, then what may be the reason for one who owns a bank to borrow from his own bank knowing that doing so would cripple it? For investment where? Such warped ideas are as diabolical as they are nefarious, as they smack in the face of indigenisation.  

Of course there are some within the African flock who have done a lot for our continent through their selfless investments, and business acumen, but a lot more can still be done if all of us decide to think in other terms.

 We should create opportunities for each other as one African family, instead of being unreasonably fretful when those from around the continent; our brothers and sisters, make it big in our individual countries. Xenophobia is as barbaric as it is retrogressive and should not find space in our lexicon as progressive Africans.

The late iconic founding president of a free South African, Nelson Mandela, who may be considered by some as never having thought like an African, which made him remain the darling of the West, even in death, not only because of his charisma but his selflessness, is an inspiration to right thinking Africans. When he died in 2013 at the age of 95, he was worth R46million, a “mere” $4,6million which included two houses. 

How many African leaders or CEOS will be worth only $4,6million at their retirement or death?   Mandela was selfless and he considered wealth as vain in shaping one’s destiny. With his charm and the mere reason that he served 27 years in jail, for his people, he could have decided to amass wealth but he didn’t. May be President Jacob Zuma was right after all: “We should not think like Africans”.

March 2015
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