Recently I came across an interesting Facebook post which culminated in an interesting discussion. The post was regarding the #SupportAZimbo hashtag; the post was made by Kerita Tawana Choga, the founder and owner of Tuma Kerri, an errand services business in Zimbabwe. I particularly found it interesting because it is one of the most topical issues about Zimbabweans when it comes to business. We all know how it seems as if Zimbabweans are highly opposed to partnering or collaborating in business. There are evidently some deep-seated issues, some valid, some invalid but it is a discussion worth having. So that is what I am focusing on in this article.

Kerita Tawana Choga’s Facebook Post

This is a good place to start because it will set the tone for what I want us to explore. I will translate the Shona parts so that a wider audience gets the full picture:

Zimbos I think it is high time we unite. We need to start making smart decisions in business. I was having a discussion with friends the other day. We noted a few disturbing things among my people. Do you know that Zimbos get on a plane, 35 of them, flying to China and each paid US$2000 on that flight? If you check they are all going to buy more or less the same things i.e. jeans, handbags, and so on. In the same plane, there will be one or 2 Somalis sent by 35 Somalis to go buy stock. The Somalis will definitely enjoy economies of scale. They will ship a container of jeans, handbags, and so on. The ones back home or in South Africa will save a lot of money. This is the reason why their shops sell items that retail less than the Zimbos.

It even gets worse, how many times do we see people rushing to Mbare Musika in the morning and they then set up their stalls around 10 am? Why cannot they come together and sent one of them to go buy stock for everyone else? I was even thinking that they can talk to farmers to deliver their fresh produce at one central place e.g. in Glen Norah. Instead of all of them going to Mbare Musika at 5 am. We still have a long way to go! Individualism is just too much! This also includes those who go to South Africa and Tanzania. In business, the idea is to cut costs as much as you can so that you have a competitive advantage. The ones interested in farming, why cannot 3 or 4 people come together to buy a greenhouse and start something? But Zimbos would want the greenhouse all by themselves. I understand there are trust issues and so on but change begins with us. Maybe our observation was wrong.”

Well, those were definitely valid observations and many Zimbabweans actually relate to that.

 Few Days Prior…

About 2 or so days before her post I had mentioned something along those lines in one of my articles. I wrote an article on why I feel that money clubs (i.e. mukando or stokvel) can be so much more. Coincidentally I cited an example of 6 individuals coming together to start a greenhouse tomato farming business. My proposal was as follows:

If you put aside US$150 every month, you will have US$900 in 6 months. However, if 6 of you do that as a team, you end up with US$5400 in 6 months. Fully setting up a 200 square metre greenhouse and adding the total production costs of one season of tomatoes is roughly US$4000. This essentially means that the initial investment can be recouped after just one season of tomatoes. After which you will now have a sustainable and profitable business moving forward.

Ideally, this shows how 6 people can team up and start a greenhouse tomato farming business in 6 months or less. If you, however, go at it solo, by putting aside US$150 per month, it would take you 2 or more years to start the same business venture. Again we see another perfect example of how individualism brings out much less as compared to us collaborating.

We Have To Get Past This!

There must be a reason why this discussion is becoming centre stage – it has always been anyways. It is now time for a concerted radical paradigm shift in people’s mindsets and leans more towards collaboration in business. The upside of collaboration is so epitomized when you look at Jews, Arabs, and Indians, for example. That is why it is not surprising to find those people owning huge enterprises even in foreign lands. One of the secrets to their wealth is that they circulate money within their circles. Here is how they do it: if I am Jewish whenever I am looking for a product or service I will make sure I buy it from a fellow Jew within my circles. With everyone in my circles thinking like that the inevitable thing is that we will all rise together. This can only happen when we move past individualism and uphold collaboration in all our business pursuits.

One of the fundamental ways of getting rid of a problem is to correctly diagnose it and ascertain its root cause. We need to have a serious look at what the root cause is and what fuels this cancerous individualism amongst Zimbabweans. I think one of the root causes is institutionalized through how Zimbabweans typically raise their kids. I believe Zimbabweans kids are predominantly raised to look out mostly for themselves. This is then exacerbated by the academic system which largely fosters competition and individualism. Those factors contribute immensely to people’s mindsets and become so ingrained that getting rid of them becomes an uphill task. It is all very interesting and I would like to hear your thoughts on this; kindly comment below.