I've been reading this book "Banker to the Poor" by Muhammad Yunus, the economics professor, turned social entrepreneur. He started the micro-lender, Grameen Bank, in Bangladesh that changed the lives of the poor women of that country and beyond.
He says something in the book, which I find extremely profound about entrepreneurship:
"Microeconomic theory, which plays a central role in the analytical framework of economics, is incomplete. It views individual human beings as either consumers or labourers and essentially ignores their potential as self-employed individuals. This theoretical dichotomy between entrepreneurs and labourers disregards the creativity and ingenuity of each human being and considers widespread self-employment in Third World countries as a symptom of underdevelopment”
Talking about changes he proposes in the basic features of capitalism he continues to say:
“The first change relates to this overblown image of a capitalist entrepreneur. To me, an entrepreneur is not an especially gifted person. I rather take the reverse view. I believe that all human beings are potential entrepreneurs. Some of us get the opportunity to express this talent, but many of us never get the chance because we were made to imagine that an entrepreneur is someone enormously gifted and different from ourselves.”
“If all of us started to view every single human being, even the barefooted one begging in the street, as a potential entrepreneur, then we could build an economic system that would allow each man or woman to explore his or her [own] economic potential. The old wall between entrepreneurs and labourers would disappear. It would become a matter of personal choice whether an individual wanted to become an entrepreneur or a wage earner.”
Part of the reason why South Africa’s unemployment problem will take longer (than it should) to resolve is precisely what Yunus is talking about. Entrepreneurship is not seen as an option. Human beings in our economy are largely either seen as consumers and/or labourers NOT as entrepreneurs.
Like Yunus, I am convinced that entrepreneurship must climb up the agenda. Surely the recent emergence US start-up businesses, now worth billions of dollars and employing hundreds of thousands of people, should be driving a shift in paradigm from our policy makers. And I'm not only talking about the Google’s and Facebook’s. I'm also talking about the Microsoft’s and Apple’s.
Every single human being is a potential entrepreneur, yes even the barefooted beggar. Profound!