Of Patriotism and Entrepreneurship
On Tuesday last week, I was invited to attend a monthly young leaders meet-up organized by Deloitte Consulting. It’s called “the List” and they basically ask companies to send their most promising young leaders. Don’t really consider myself a “promising young leader” but hey, I gladly accepted this invitation only meet-up. You meet some really smart people and the networking is great at such events.
The place was teeming of positive energy. I saw a couple of familiar faces there. Such a small place this Harare! Team Gikko was there and we talked briefly about their change (or refinement) of strategy. More about that in a future Techzim post. Also met part of the Mukela team, Takudzwa Mhlanga and Vimbai Hungwe. Vimbai says they’re working on launching a new version of their website. Mike Weeden, who I was with earlier in the day at the Cloud Computing breakfast briefing, was also there. I also chatted with many other people from non-tech companies like DST, Standard Chartered, Cairns Foods and a lot of Deloitte consultants. Ended up staying much longer than I had intended.
But let me move to the point of this post:
Each month, Deloitte invites a business leader or a prominent figure to speak to the group of about 100 or so young people (some not so young). This month they called Shingai Mutasa, an investor and majority owner of Masawara. Masawara, an investment company listed on the London Stock Exchange acquires interests in companies and projects based in Zimbabwe and the southern African region. You will remember that earlier this year, Masawara acquired 50% of Dandemutande. That Dandemutande.
Shingi talked a lot about why investing in Zimbabwe just makes sense. Zimbabwe is in transition, he said, and wise investors have to look beyond the current politics. In 20 years (or did he say 2020?) Zimbabwe will be one of the most prosperous nations in Africa and nothing the politicians are doing now will change that.
The man explained that it doesn’t matter if President Robert Mugabe stays 3 more years or if he steps down now. That it doesn’t even matter which political party the president who takes over belongs to. Mugabe fought for the correction of the historical imbalances, he said. Whoever takes over will not fight that fight; they’ll have to deal with economic issues head on. According to him that just makes sense. He cited Tanzania and Malawi (Zambia as well if I recall correctly) as examples of how a country’s culture can be transformed significantly with time despite what looks like a hopelessly compromised business and political culture.
Now for all this to take place young leaders have to work hard; “Twice as hard as you would in normal circumstances” the man explained, “and the way I look at it, that’s an exciting challenge to have”.
Ok, now to the crux.
What really struck me about the talk was when a man in the audience asked Shingi something about what drives him as an investor. His answer: “I am passionate about Zimbabwe. I love Zimbabwe.”
For me, the striking thing here is this: Being driven in business by the passion for a country. I know it probably sounds normal to most of you reading this. I have never been felt it. Just the day before, I was discussing with colleagues at the office about this kind of passion for a country and how it’s a primary driver for a lot of people to succeed in what they do. Doing it for the country. To change the circumstances of the country. To make a lasting impact on the country. To have contributed to positive change.
I explained that I have never identified with that feeling. In fact what kicked off the discussion was that earlier in the day we had met an Indian guy, the founder of a local tech startup. He told us he is driven by his love for Zimbabwe. The two colleagues at the office are also passionate about Zimbabwe and the one guy mentions this quite often. He’s also passionate about Africa.
On this issue of patriotic entrepreneurship, I feel like an empty soul right now. Like my reasons for running this race are somewhat worth much less than why the bulk of the people (black, white, yellow) wake up and run it every day.
Let me say here that I was born in Malawi, but left the country still too young to experience any bond with it. Came to Zimbabwe and like any kid in a foreign country, didn’t quite feel at home for a long while. It is home now and I love being here. I say this because the patriotic colleague at the office says this may be the reason I’m not as connected to the country as most people are. I say to him I don’t feel any connection to Malawi either. He’s of Malawian descent himself by the way.
Just to be clear, I do love Zimbabweans. I love Malawians too. And the Mozambicans. The Zambians as well. The one Kenyan I got to know when I worked for a large NGO once was one of the funniest people I’ve met.
The borders, and the passionate pride that comes with belonging to one side, just never meant much to me.
Image source: M-Net