The Sunday Mail
It has become increasingly apparent that as a nation, we are not producing much to an extent reflected by our consistent trade deficit.
Regrettably, we seem to only take production seriously when undeniably dire scenarios arise such as the present cash crisis.
We should interrogate our seriousness towards production.
An interrogative look at our behaviour hints that an appreciation to be producers does not seem to be within our socio-cultural grooming; at least not enough so!
Consider the social grooming we may, or may not have in terms of being people who make stuff.
This is not necessarily a topic of hard economic analysis, but simple questioning of who we groom ourselves to be as economic agents.
We can evaluate this at multiple societal levels and contrast to other nations.
Or we can have pretty simple and casual questions about our own socio-cultural grooming.
At an educational level, in developed countries, the learning of science is very practical in information assimilation.
More importantly, the learning of science is practical in challenging children to make stuff that corresponds with their level of education.
For instance, by the stage of high school science fairs, children are scored on devices of their own creation. These range from prototypical gadgets to simple replicas on industrial utensils of their imagination.
Admittedly, this may be a biased comparison as average schools in developed countries have some standard of funding to create necessary infrastructure to create these devices.
However, can we not encourage children to create devices from our surroundings?
For instance, certain traditional innovations such as rural brick furnaces or ant-hill ovens have practical scientific relevance that could be expanded to foster the commercial imagination of our future industrialists in rural areas.
Perhaps we can encompass scores for such curiosity within our curriculum to encourage kids to make things and show that there is reward in creativity.
I suppose what we would like to groom are high school graduates with not just “life-skills”, but children who possess an expectation that as they advance their studies, their own productive behaviour is likely to be embraced by industrial and financial support.
The acute nuance here is what differentiates countries such as Zimbabwe creating mere workers, and developing countries grooming self-sufficient innovators and creators.
At the professional level, we are not producers in socio-cultural grooming.
Consider our historic and present entrepreneurial class.
It was disproportionately service-oriented, and more recently it has become transactional focused.
The trend towards service-oriented entrepreneurs was traditionally a cause of black people not having ownership in means of production. Thus, we groomed store owners, bus operators, and diversified retailers.
However, we have significantly changed the reality of means of production, but production output from black people is yet to show.
The modern transactional entrepreneur class is represented by the new age of “super-preneurs”; a young and wealthy class of transactional entrepreneurs.
They supposedly make millions by being middlemen or transactional facilitators, but little production results from their exploits. They do not make stuff!
Because we do not groom competitive producers, opportunistic arbitrage (a result of frequent buying and selling) has become the economic activity.
We compete not to make things, but to exchange things at the highest possible margins. We must create a culture where wealth is in parity to making commercially viable stuff.
Wealth must not necessarily be evident in an individual’s financial status, but it must have tangible and visible evidence in production which society can point to as the sweat on which an individual built wealth.
That is a sign of a productive economy!
It is hard to point out the visible productivity of the wealthy in our country right now. Thirdly, we must groom a culture which appreciates and takes pride in the factors of productive competitiveness.
These include efficiency, quality, and the functionality of stuff.
Easy reference would be the Germans in auto production.
Brands such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW have won reputable acknowledgement for the quality and functionality of their products.
In hard industry, German manufacturing processes are known for excellence in efficiency and precision of processes.
When Zimbabweans make stuff, do we take pride in the work processes and finished products that we offer to the market?
It is something to consider when grooming a generation of producers who are to compete with the rest of the world.
We also need to groom an identity in our products.
Brands such as Mazoe have a distinct Zimbabwean identity on which future producers can aspire to!
A bonus consideration is the utility of finance in production; how we direct capital and customise it to making stuff of different kinds.
We need to groom financiers with an eye for spotting production opportunities and, more importantly, spot production potential in terms of market viability!
It is a curious case how many of our imports in Zimbabwe are of similar make to stuff we see on the side of our major highways and cultural crafts we see at trade events.
For example, Zimbabwe should not be importing furniture.
As you exit all directions of Harare, there are craftsmen working on furniture just as comfortable and well-made as the imports in stores.
This is an issue of misallocated finance.
Likewise, our monetary tendencies such as profiteering and arbitrage show a worrying ignorance to sustainable financing of production in Zimbabwe.
We must interrogate the role of finance in informing, advising and running a manufacturing business because in most cases, it is not the manufacturer or producer who is culpable of financial models that profiteer or arbitrage the market.
Are our financial minds groomed to be the necessary financiers of a production-based economy?
These are just a few considerations of socio-cultural grooming that will determine whether or not we can become a competitively productive country.
Our economic circumstance is a result of who we are as a people.
It would be advisable then for us to interrogate whether or not we groom ourselves to be competitive producers.