A foreign investor was saying the other day that he had been to the country several times over many years but was still waiting to invest. From somewhere in the US in plush offices he came up with a litany of reasons why he hasn’t invested.
These are the so-called foreign investors who want royal treatment and the red carpet rolled out for them before they will put one cent in this country. But what about all those foreign investors that are already here and the local investors who make a go of it despite the political, social and economic environment.
Small business investors come from all over Africa to the country with the hard-earned money and make investments here. Some are improving the food distribution network to reach the under-served markets in the townships. Others have opened trading stores in rural areas providing products at a fraction of what they cost in high end shopping centres.
The other day I needed to renew my driving licence and went in search of someone to take my photograph in an informal traders bazaar. I found an Ethiopian business person who had invested in all the necessary photographic computer equipment. The photos that he gave me – at a good price mind you – were professional and did the job. It’s small business owners like this that see the opportunity to serve a marketplace. Business people like this take the risk to trade in sometimes hostile environments where the community can suddenly turn against them, loot their stores or run them to the ground.
Someone should tell that foreign investor who has never invested in this country about Burger King. This company has seen the opportunity despite a highly competitive fast-food marketplace. Their stores, although limited in number presently, have done exceptionally well. They have created many local jobs and it seems that there entry is also encouraging other fast-food change from the US to enter the local market.
Yes, I can hear you saying that many businesses have left because of the environment. They had their reasons and we must respect them. But new investment arrivals have seen opportunities that they think are worth pursuing despite the environment. These are the entrepreneurial business people that do not wait around for years until they can tick off a long checklist of favourable conditions.
Isn’t it about time we celebrate and honour our own local entrepreneurs in our communities who provide us with services and products that we might not have had it not been for their courage to invest. These entrepreneurially minded small business people provide us with computer shops, clothing stores, laundries, fast-food and entertainment.
Local small businesses are creating jobs for young people. I was talking to a local business person recently who has secured work for his business from the UK, Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand. The skills and experience of his tiny team are excellent and sought after outside of the country.
Investment capital is important for entrepreneurial business formation as is specialised skills. But a vital ingredient without which not much happens is the courage to create of the entrepreneur who knows how to mitigate and manage risk.