Entrepreneurship is probably one the things that have become glamorous these days, how could it not be. Imagine working for yourself and being your own boss, doing whatever you want whenever you want, I mean is there anything better than this. I literally cannot blame anyone for wanting this type of life especially since most people have seen their parents slaving away to make ends meet. In South Africa today, the government also encourages economic participation through Black Economic Empowerment(BEE).
There are other ways the government encourages participation but let`s focus on BEE, because I think it could be pivotal if implemented correctly. So, what is this BEE, does it sting? I`m sure you catch the drift. The aim of the policy is to include all South Africans in the participation of the economy especially historically disadvantaged people, amazing policy isn`t it?
Just imagine being a young black ambitious entrepreneur in South Africa where the BEE policy is in full effect and you decide to register a company, get a BEE certificate while at it you register on the central database surely as soon as tenders are advertised you start filling those tender forms. I mean you are black and surely will get something, but keep in mind thousands of young South Africans have done the same thing and are just waiting in line. The reality is that registering on a central database and attending tender briefing meetings has become a definition of being an entrepreneur for most people and this is what they call ‘hustling’.
Most of you can probably point at one person who has registered more than one company in hopes of getting a tender. This results in the weakest form of entrepreneurship as you cannot focus on what you are good at but rather where you can get a contract, imagine applying to be a security provider, cleaning service provider, financial services provider, printing services provider, peripheral provider etc. Talk about being jack of all trades, but the results yielded here is a tenderpreneur with no sense of direction.
When I think of entrepreneurship I think of innovation, creativity, problem solving and growth. BEE has addressed none of these through it`s ridiculous tender system and allowing black people to be used as a front, it makes me furious. Let`s say you are one of the lucky ones and you get a tender, life is finally getting better, and your prayers have been answered. Here you are a young African with your first contract of supplying toilet paper to a hospital, the type of toilet paper required has been stipulated so this is a no brainer and you`re finally in business.
There`s a lot that is wrong with the scenario above, firstly there`s no challenge meaning there will be little development as an entrepreneur. No innovation, no creativity and no problem solving involved all you must do is buy toilet paper from a supplier and deliver it. Honestly that hospital could’ve hired one person to do this and would have paid less. Basically, what is happening here is creating an unnecessary middle man to buy cheap goods which everyone has access to and sell it at an exorbitant price, this is an economical blunder and makes no sense.
How are you supposed to grow when your business requires no thought and is based entirely on luck or how much you had to bribe to get a contract. During economic hardships when cost cutting is unavoidable removing the unnecessary middle man will make economic sense. The reason I used a toilet paper as an example was not as a joke, look by just merely buying and supplying you don’t grow. Owning means of production is what we should aim for.
Here`s another scenario, that initial hospital that advertised a tender was now looking for black toilet paper manufacturer, instead of filling mountains of unnecessary tender documents you go pitch your product and you explain why it`s better and how it will save the hospital costs. This sounds more like economic participation, it allows innovation, creativity, problem solving and job creation. Who knows maybe someone could come up with an alternative paper for producing toilet paper since the world is going green, it might as well be an individual from a disadvantage background. The paper coil on the toilet paper (brown part) manufacturing is also lucrative a business can grow by venturing into this industry, there`s multiple products that can be created from paper coil and growth is imminent.
Now you see toilet paper was not a joke but rather an illustrative simple example and people remember silly examples, you can grow into the paper industry and find alternatives to paper but this cannot be achieved by being a middle man.