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Challenges to Improving the Zim Economy 2

Further to my previous post a colleague (London based Dr Shuro) responded and did indicate that while Afrophobia is a challenge an equal and opposite challenge is Afrocentricism (chiMuseyemwa as Dr Shuro calls it). By that term he means that these things belong to Museyamwa a derogatory term for the indigenous. In this posting I argue that the casual and careless approach to business commonly called chiMuseyemwa is really a veiled form of Afrophobia or a self-hatred by black people. This has destroyed national economies in Africa. Unless we deal with this attitude in ourselves ZIMASSET or any other policy initiative will not help the country. As someone aptly said it, “We have finally identified the enemy. The enemy is within us!”

The lack of integrity in business dealings and not being genuine and candid about one feels is part of this self hatred manifesting as ChiMuseyemwa. We simply  do “not mean what we say.” In business an average indigenous business person over-promises and under-delievers. They promise to deliver in two days and then have all kinds of excuses why they could not deliver within four weeks. This gives a bad name to local businesses and then these are generalised to be bad businesses. In some cases, the Caucasian brothers charge more but delivers, while locals charge less but never deliver. This hurts the SME’s who are supposed to provide a solid base for the economy. I should hasten to say this is obviously a generalisation although in the main its true. I have had experiences with Caucasian brothers who also cut corners in business. For example one reknown luxury cars servicing garage would for example change two plugs in a service instead of say four plugs and then charge less. This deception gave the impression that they were cheaper than competitors when in fact they were more expensive.

Afrocentricism manifests also in selfish leadership both at national and corporate spheres. This involves leaders who do not realise that they are stewards on behalf of the nation and they assume that leadership means ownership rather than stewardship. As a result the Boss gets the bigger piece of the pie. Does someone remember growing up and being told that children  do not eat the yellow of the egg because it will make them sick? This was reserved from the Boss (Daddy-Baba). Now take this chiMuseyemwa to the corporate or political world and its not difficult to see how the Boss is entitled to eat a larger piece of the cake. No wonder salarygate has failed to claim the scalps of anybody so far. The entitlement mentality and greed without consideration for workers reigns. It is quite interesting to note some of the salary differences between CEO and general hand at most African companies. If a CEO earns 100 times what his general hand earns but still expects a quality job from them, he would be deceiving himself and inadvertently sabotaging the company. We need to learn to reward appropriately, that is the basic sign of respect by an African for a fellow African. Ubuntu its called. we need to respect the dignity of our workers.  Check this CNN article on CEO vs employee salary gaps

The entitlement mentality also manifests from the shopfloor. Does anyone remember meeting a relative and being asked: Chii chinobuda pabasa penyu? Meaning what benefit can be obtained from your workplace illegally. There is that lack of self respect that teaches kuti murungu anobirwa (you must at least swindle the Employer) because he will never reward you well. So whether murungu (employer) is black or white doe snot matter but it creates a justification of converting funds and equipment from work to own use. This kind of thinking is the reason why government officials and corporate leaders will abuse their offices and corruptly reward themselves with the assets or benefits from the workplace. This hinders productivity.

Another form is the mindset in back employees that justify poor work performance when they work for a black brother or sister. I have a local friend whose business shared offices with a Caucasian brother. They both employed black workers. There was a significant salary gap between the two businesses with the black one paying better but his workers always complained and performed poorly compared to the other business even though he did his best to create a more friendly environment. Initially I thought it was because he probably did not treat his workers well (which some brothers do often). Until one day during a morning walk I overhead a discussion between tow maids who were going to work. The gist of the discussion was that it was better to work for a white person who underpays than to work for another black person. Why would one work better for poor remuneration for one person of one skin colour than your own? And yet genetic studies have shown that despite skin colour our DNA matches up to about 99.5% irrespective of whether you are Indian, White or Black.

Here is another example of chiMuseyemwa. One estate agent was selling property to a former classmate and they were ready to seal the deal. Until another black classmate said to the potential buyer: “Are you crazy, you want to giver her business and your money? Its better to support a white agent or someone you don’t know.” And for that reason alone the deal flopped. The view that I cannot make a fellow black man rich by giving him my custom and business is pervasive. Our caucasian counterparts on the other hand are good at networking and supporting each other in business. Our networking skills are very poor. And yet whether as governments or as people we are not good at supporting  one another. It is a form of self hatred that manifests in not enjoying the success of my brother. In RSA the BEE concept requires that anyone doing major business with government should be BEE compliant. This affirmative action principle exists in Zimbabwe in theory but not in practice. Its like there is a conspiracy against SME doing business with government unless they are connected either through nepotism or corruption with government officials. How can professional SMEs grow without even government support? Our government should support indigenous businesses with contracts in order to grow them and yet hold them accountable for performance. There are mechanisms for disciplining poor performing SME when given government contracts.

This takes me to another manifestation of this concept namely poor service and poor job quality at African businesses. This clearly shows a poor self image of the business owner and so he is not ashamed to put poor products to the market. Its a disregard of clients that emanates from a self hatred. The standard  and quality of your products or service speak volumes about what you think about yourself. If you have a poor self image then you produce poor standard work because its good enough. This Africanness of saying as long as it good enough is detrimental to national development. We should aspire to excellence of products and service and to take short cuts. Yes average is the enemy of good. The quality of your products speaks more about how you see yourself. ChiMuseyemwa or Afrocentricism in this respect is also manifested in the housewife who buys exquisite china, cutlery etc but keeps them in the display. They are only used when there are important visitors. The family never uses these when they are alone because they are for visitors. Its a form a self hatred and self depreciation.

Another from of ChiMuseyemwa is manifested in a poor work ethic and inefficient work systems. Becuase of this attitude we compensate for poor work ethic by hiring more people which them constrain the productivity and profitability of our businesses. This is passed on as high costs of doing business to the client. Once I went to a 200 roomed hotel in USA which was run by only two people effectively. Similarly I went to a massive range which was manned by just a husband and wife team. In Zimbabwe once you have a four roomed house you need two maids. This speaks to a poor work ethic. Its is expensive to the economy. A professional friend of mine left government service and joined a UN institution locally. Her comment after two months was that although they pay well they drive you to work so hard that your output in one week is equivalent to four months in government. They had systems that monitored her performance and worked to targets. She did not need many supervisors to make her work. Why cannot we not do the same?

I could say more but let me rest my case with one more: no concept of the value of time. The average Museyamwa who is an entrepreneurs has no discipline no working hours etc. He comes to work when he wants and leaves whenever he feels like. He spends more time walking around town rather than productively. There is no sense of urgency in their work systems. We open the business when the Boss arrives and not on time. The African concept of time says, “Tinosangana nguva dzinovhurtirwa mombe” What time is that exactly? Haa brother do not worry after all we are 2 hours ahead of Britain. There is no hurry in Africa, I resent the concept of African time. There is no such time. We meet according to the clock and we work according to the clock. Wealth is measured in terms of time value. We lose that concept and we lose money. No wonder in government offices a job that could be done in ten minutes tackles two weeks. No hurry in Africa. We can not improve our economy on African time.

So in conclusion I argue that ChiMuseyamwa is really a form of Afrophobia that is veiled. Its a self hatred that is directed to others. The Bible says Love your neighbour as you love yourself. You cannot love your neighbour when you have self-hatred. We can change Africa and Zimbabwe once we have a healthy self respect and sound self esteem! Lets work on ourselves first before we start blaming others!