The Sunday Mail
Strive is a great guy but his message may not really be relevant. We need roads not apps.
I find Strive Masiyiwa’s message concerning.
I admire the guy not doubt. Who doesn’t? I’m young and certainly quite impressionable. So it goes without saying that I, together with many other young people, pay attention to what he says.
Especially if he’s giving tips on success, I’m all ears!
Many young men and women are glued in just like myself.
Concern arises though, as to the narrative. The underlying sentiment behind his message.
How am I supposed to interpret the narrative of the information he shares?
Mr Masiyiwa recently shared a post on his Facebook page. He meant to advise the youth on how to best prepare ourselves for a digital economy. Included was a list of skills that would help in building a successful business, and attain a competitive edge.
Along with this, the post stresses that the youth can get around the confinements presented by the current Zimbabwean situation. Insightful information.
However, the post left me with profound questions.
Of course like I tell critics of my own posts, it’s only one post and obviously it cannot answer all of your mind’s concerns.
Regardless, having read Masiyiwa’s piece, I believe that if I am competent then I can make it.
Start my own business and become successful.
With digitally inclined skills I can start enterprises like TenCent, Alibaba, Weibo and Twitter.
If I start my own digital enterprises as the ones he mentions, I will make it big big big.
These companies have very lucrative valuation and market capitalisation. They will indeed make me a billionaire.
Notice, however, of all the businesses he mentions, none of them attends to the core necessities that are lacking in Zimbabwe.
Health, education, food, public services and so on are not fulfilled by founding a social media giant. Creating digital apps doesn’t help when the majority of Zimbabwe is deprived of digital infrastructure.
Online retailing does the opposite of creating jobs.
Here comes the importance of a narrative.
With this entrepreneurial consciousness that we are fostering in our youth, with what sentiment is it being delivered?
Because when I see this entrepreneurial push it is often in terms of youth getting the economy going again
Youth starting business for the betterment of our nation. Entrepreneurship supposedly encompasses progressive promise for all of us.
This seems to be the narrative. More enterprising youth, more widespread social upliftment.
So if this is the agreeable narrative we are trying to get across to the youth, let’s stay true to it, and stay rigid in focus.
Let’s direct the entrepreneurial advice to creating businesses that attend to the widespread issues the majority are suffering from.
We must draw a fine line. If entrepreneurship is being pushed for social progression, then let’s teach our youth that the business that we want is business that caters to clearly identified social problems.
Otherwise, the alternative sentiment is entrepreneurship can be used to pursue personal success. It is not a bad sentiment at all. It is also encouraged.
The problem comes, and is prevalent these days, when we mix entrepreneurship for self-advancement and social entrepreneurship.
Unfortunately, our current national narrative, is clouding the difference between the two. We are not clarifying what we expect out of entrepreneurship.
For instance, in Zimbabwe the majority are lacking clean water and sanitation.
Innovative entrepreneurs are using their minds to create cellphone companies like Astro Virtual that sell phones for $500 to a market that can barely meet $300 a month living expenses.
Another instance, we are suffering widespread unemployment.
Simultaneously we are encouraging entrepreneurs to shift operations to online or automated processes. Solutions aren’t matching our problems.
If we are not pushing our youth to solve our most profound problems, then this entrepreneurial push is doing us a disservice.
This is why I was concerned with Mr Masiyiwa’s post. It fits well into this ambiguous narrative.
If we can start to isolate profit-driven entrepreneurship from real social entrepreneurship, that would really help us right now. We need that distinction to be very clear.
So, why are we pushing the youth to be entrepreneurs? Is it really for widespread social benefit?
We cannot leave our social problems as an open-ended assumption that entrepreneurship will solve them; that is not the case.
Finally, the drawback of the current narrative behind entrepreneurship is that it is taking away responsibility.
You see, now the youth are pushed to believe that the answer to social problems is entrepreneurship, we are now overlooking public policy which has the greatest bearing on our collective success.
It has somewhat disappeared from our national consciousness.
I suspect that a contributing factor could also be that public policy has consistently failed us.
Perhaps placing all our hopes on entrepreneurship is all we have left. I hope to be proven wrong.
I hope that with our overreaching dependency on entrepreneurship, Government officials responsible for public policy will not feel comfortable and look at this misplaced narrative as relief to their incompetence.