Morris Mpala, MoB Capital Ltd
IF ever there was a city with so much potential, strategic in economics, industrial and cultural hub, rail cornerstone and just a beautiful place, Bulawayo will be that utopia. A place of unparalleled Ubuntu, iconic and photogenic buildings, unprecedented heritage sites, cleanliness and an epicentre for all economic activity in Southern Africa with a relatively well run local authority. A home to livestock, culture, arts, sports, trade fairs, loyal and royal populace and everything entrepreneurial.
For Zimbabwe, it is statistically a home to higher ‘IQ’ levels even though these get exported before they fully mature.
Before we even start to talk about structural marginalisation, devolution, socio economic bankruptcy and political economic shenanigans, let us critically look at our own shortcomings perceived, real or otherwise. The first step to a solution is accepting that indeed we do have shortcomings as an independent stand-alone economy among other challenges. Talk shows and side shows do not yield anything unless supported by action.
Tower light syndrome
Everyone wants to be the centre of attention up there and would not lift those around them to their maximum potential. It’s a game of resenting each other that has affected the number of economically empowered individuals. Financial freedom becomes a preserve of the few and when these go down it affects the whole city.
5 O’clock syndrome
Nothing much happens after 5PM. A city nicknamed ‘ko langa kalitshoni” (a non sleeping city) means a hive of activity on a 24 hour basis. The city has a lower dollar circulation ratio. This habit is worsened by what some call the ‘wait and see syndrome’. The element of isolating oneself from the rest is alarming. New initiatives are never embraced timely and we lag in adoption of process, systems and ideas. Our problem is that we are slow to embrace change and that has serious consequences. Often Bulawayo considers itself an island and the belief that we are ourselves and do not get involved in anything without Bulawayo is cancerous.
The South Africa syndrome
Thinking South Africa is the Alpha and Omega of our language, jobs market, culture, food imports will impoverish Bulawayo. We even speak, act like South Africans but we are Zimbabweans. Bulawayo becomes a skills exporter, imports inflation and mental colonisation. Talk of the small mind mentality.
Everything is done on a smaller scale. It’s like a timid, apologetic approach. Many are content with smaller operations and businesses that are locally based.
Lack of synergies and networking
No one wants to work with locals and preference is for outsiders. Each does his own thing. It’s sort of difficult to work together even contracts (small or big) get awarded to non locals at the expense of locals to the detriment to our synergies. A heavily divided city would not achieve its greater objectives. It’s difficult to bring all stakeholders to work towards a common purpose. The level of interaction between local economic actors is minimal. It is difficult to get information from within Bulawayo and that affects empowerment as info/data is power.
PHD syndrome and pride
There is lack of support among Bulawayo citizenry. There is so much pull him/her down with no qualms for such nefarious activities. When a population knowingly tears itself apart it leaves it exposed to external forces to its detriment. Stunted growth will prevail. We do have that pride in doing business that affects Bulawayo’s economy. We pride ourselves in unnecessary issues like shunning and looking down upon some economic activities.
As a city and its subjects we do not seem to take wise counsel on any issue. Advice is not taken seriously due to deep rooted structural flaws that have cemented over time. Asisagobeki (no advice taken). We have the “I know it all “or “why are you telling me in the first instance or “who are you “or “it’s your fault “or “so what” demeanour. Strategic actors do not appreciate local advice no matter how sound it could be.
We shun everything Bulawayo, be it products/services even each other. A prophet is without honour in his home town. To be appreciated one has to move out of Bulawayo first and then recognition or respect will follow.
Bulawayo businesses do not want to grow and expand their influence outside Bulawayo. Our businesses are solely concentrated in Bulawayo thus no FDI for the city even the best performers don’t exert their influence outside the city.
There is just too much negative energy at the moment that it stifles growth and creates a toxic environment that can’t strategically nurture anything. Evil wishes are normal, general populace not happy for one another. No due credit is given to fellow Bulawayo cadres but its praises galore to outsiders.
The need to go back to basics and start a cohesive, focused and deliberate approach to uplift the economic status of the city. People just need to work together without competing and harness the abundant talent in the City of Kings. Encourage entrepreneurial spirit as only great talent/ideas will solve ills of the community. Re look the economic model, think service provisions as opposed to just products, resuscitate strategic industries only, let go some industries, adopt SEZs concept, and engage all value chain actors from the greater Bulawayo region. Demand Government to create a conducive environment and strategic transformational leadership from local captains of industry and commerce. Team work defeats individualism especially where resources are no longer a preserve for locals but global interest is there.
As a city we need to harness the comparative advantage that the region has. Blame games and pointing fingers is just time wasting. There is nothing wrong in exhibiting smart aggressive marketing initiatives for the city and its businesses. All things being equal we need to stick around Bulawayo and bring about prosperity as someone has to do it because it’s about the future generation.
IF YOU LIVE IN BYO PLEASE CONSERVE WATER. IF YOU LIVE IN ZIMBABWE PLEASE USE ELECTRICITY SPARINGLY: SOS (SWITCH OFF SWITCHES). IF YOU LIVE ON PLANET EARTH PLEASE PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT
Morris Mpala is the managing director of Mob Capital Limited, a Bulawayo-headquartered micro-finance institution with footprint across the country.