Thursday, June 14, 2012

Every Single Human Being is a Potential Entrepreneur

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!


  1. I agree with Mr Yunus, we need to change the mental preparation of school children from being employees instead of employers. So how do we solve a problem like the NYDA? They aren't fulfilling their mandate and are failing the youth dismally. Here's my blog entry on how we as the youth view our current environment in our beloved South Africa .

    1. Interesting angle on your blog. I guess I am somewhat cynical about what we really need to address some of our socio-economic isues as a country. I remain flabbergasted that our policy makers do not see the value in promoting and fostering entrepreneuship amongst our people. Not as a last resort when you don't find a job, but as a career option on its own. It seems we are hell bent, as a country, to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to open a business here. Yet we all know that even with 6% GDP growth will not be able to employ the hundreds of thousands of graduates that leave scholl every year. Only new employers can. Only entrepreneurs can. So forgive me, but I don't hold high expectations of institutions such as the NYDA because you have a largely public institution, with no knowledge or experience in business and entrepreneurship attempting to create that which its principals have never been abkle to themselves. The money would be much better spent creating an environment for entrepreneurs to innovate, discover and found new ideas, spawn new industries and create new jobs. Here i am talking about a more enabling compiance regime, a more enabling labour regime, and a Ministry of Entrepreneurship whose only aim is creating and supporting entrepreneurs. All an entrepreneur really needs is opportunity, not handouts. We are being shaped into a development state instead of a developing state. Thanks for reading my post and commenting. AK

  2. Mntungwa, ushayile bhuti. I for one appreciate individuals like yourself, not only do you provide us with a positive role model through your achievements. you also inspire through blog entries like this one.

    1. Thanks Tito. We all do what we can with what we have. I think the internet gives us a platform that can be powerful to spread the right messages about entrepreneurship and especially amonngst our people. No mlonger can we blame apartheid. Our time is now.

  3. I attended a talk of Sello Moloko a couple of days ago and he noted that when investors went into India they were expecting a consumer market but were surprised to find a skilled and driven population. Investment then shifted to allow the people of India to take initiative and alleviate themselves from poverty. What is interesting is that if I reference your previous article Andile (Afrikaans Capital, African Consumption) MBD Solutions, Bayport and Paycorp success is founded on the CONSUMPTION and not the creative, productive and entrepreneurial culture of a majority of South Africans. If only we could adopt or learn from Eastern culture, perhaps models like those of Mr Yunus could thrive in this country...Mathe

    1. Thanks baba. Sello's example of India is in fact where I think the opportunity lies for South Africans, especially Black South Africans. Every consumer-facing business out there is trying to figure out this upwardly mobile Black consumer. All the theories of the past that we are only cheap labour and therefore only consume critical perishables like staple food, soap and beer are out of the window. A Black middle-class in South Africa can only go one way, purely from the low base we come from. We are 80% of the country's population yet have historically consumed a fraction of the so-called luxury products. Therefore, my firm view is that the businesses that "GET" the Black middle-class consumer lifestyle will be ahead of the pack. AK

  4. Let me start by apologizing first for what I am about to do to Andile Khumulos blog and also whoever is reading this…I am sincerely sorry for Hijacking your Blog Andile but I feel it will be waste if I don’t take this opportunity. Firstly let me introduce myself my name is Andile Dube I am an aspiring business man, I co-owner of two companies. The first is in Real Estate (Begrand Holdings) and the second is Called C.R.E.A.M (Creating Revolutionary Entrepreneurs And Moguls).

    C.R.E.A.M is a networking platform where Entrepreneurs come together share business ideas, share information, network, motivate other aspiring entrepreneurs and lastly help promote entrepreneurship. Our core business is however buying and selling business ideas (basically we bring ideas to life).Our aim is to create an entrepreneurial culture in South Africa from grass root level and to encourage the youth to create rather then look for jobs.

    The company is due to be launched properly early next year, however currently we have a Facebook group (with 1360 members).

    Now the reason why I hijacked your blog Mr Khumulo is to send a please invitation “it would be an honor if you could join our group…as I feel with your level of experience we the youth can learn a lot. I know you are a busy man, but all I am asking is if you just join and should it not be your cup of tea you can remove yourself”

    The invitation is extended to everyone not just Andile.

    If you interested in joining please invite me at Bonginhlanhla Dube on Facebook, so I can add you.
    My closing opinion is “the only way South Africa can move forward is by us working together, thank you”
    Apologies once more.

    1. Bra Andile. Thanks for the invitation. I am already a part of a similar initiative that I am leading, so it would be less than ideal for me to join up. No need for apologies, champ. Wish you all the best. AK

    2. ok cool.I guess congratulations are in order,I just saw "mystart" looks very cool,its kind of similar to cream( now understand why you declined our invitation.All the best with the project and good luck on the launch.

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