A fisherman was baffled to see his colleague catch fish and throw some back to the river. Asking about this puzzling behaviour, his friend replied, “You see, I have a small container in which to store my fish. So every time I catch a big fish, I have to throw it back into the water because it can’t fit into my small container.”
I believe that to transform Africa and to earn more from global business, we have to stop throwing our fish back into the river. Instead of going for big business, we are in love with kiosks.
There is nothing wrong with starting a kiosk business – but there should be a vision to grow the business, employ more people and earn more profits.
The African has been a victim of subjugation for many centuries. One defining feature of this subjugation was to create disunity among the people.
For example, the colonial state was built upon divide and rule - where different tribes were poisoned against each other. In effect, we started hating each other while the colonialists continued enjoying our resources.
Such disunity and mistrust works against people coming together to establish big business. To start big business requires that people come together in partnerships, each making a unique contribution to the business.
As long as we look at one another as members of tribe A or B, we will remain with the kiosk mentality. The kiosk mentality is a scarcity mentality where you think small, see small and dream small.
This is a major shortcoming in contemporary Africa. No wonder Africa contributes less than 5% of the world trade - yet all minerals are found in this continent.
The unfortunate thing is that African leaders who inherited the colonial system, also worked to foster this disunity as a strategy of clinging to power.
We have opportunities for big business around us, but we don’t exploit them. Despite African countries having friendly business intuitive such as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), it is Asians who benefit from this by building industries here and exporting their products to the West.
Admittedly some people have good ideas but they either lack capital, skills and time. If we overcame our petty suspicions we can combine forces and form viable businesses.
Myles Munroe, a preacher and motivational speaker from the Bahamas, once told how a Chinese friend of his asked him; “how comes the people of your pigment (black) are the poorest in every continent?”
Munroe admitted he had not thought about that. The Chinese friend told him, “We Chinese go looking for business everywhere we go, while you go looking to work for other people.”
There is some truth in this. Why isn’t our music making money online? Why aren’t our films making money globally?
Why are we content to do small business that will not outlive us? It is only by honestly confronting such issues that we shall stop throwing our big fish back into the river.
Edwin Maina is a social commentator