Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Entrepreneurship is Not A One Size Fits ALL

Six University of Zambia (UNZA) graduates were recently arrested for protesting because they were unemployed. The wore their gowns and were at Arcades Shopping Complex with cardboards with various words that expressed the views of their current situations. The public has not been too kind to them either, many have condemned their act and provided their various reasons why. They have been called lazy, dull, illiterate literates, stupid, and even foolish. Some have even offered them a solution to their problem, start a business. Unfortunately, if I were them I would be very sceptical taking this advice from a person who is an employee.

Graduates protesting being unemployed

I do not think that people who are employed  either in government or in the private sector are in the best position to dish out the advice of others becoming entrepreneurs. They cannot be  calling people lazy and request them to be entrepreneurial when they wait for the month end to get paid. They have the security of a job, their pension paid, some even have health insurance and other benefits that go with the jobs . It is like an alcoholic telling a fellow alcoholic how to stop drinking. If some employed people feel that they have a right to dispense this advice, I would suggest they hand in their resignation letters and join the hustle out there.  On the other hand if they were giving advice on how to get and keep a job then they would be in their realm of expertise. I am also against this idea of telling people who are unemployed, start a business. Duh!  If it is that simple wouldn't everyone be doing it. It is like Bill Gates asking the rest of the world why they are not billionaires, it is not easy.


There is a tendency to keep telling unemployed people, start a business and make money. They should  go to Kamwala and buy stuff to sell. They are told to think outside the box or even tear the box altogether.  We tell them that they are only seeking white collar jobs that is why they are unemployed. This type of prescriptions do very little to change anyone's situation. This is because there is always the 'How' element missing. People are told to start a business but we do not show them how. We do not show them how they should come up with a business, where to find capital, how to carry out a market research, how to keep their finances instead all we tell them is start a business. And when someone starts and the business collapses we wonder why they never try it again. Business is not a one size fits all kind of arrangement therefore it cannot be given like a painkiller to everyone who is unemployed.


The education system has been blamed for training people to be employees. To some extent that is their job isn't it. The universities and colleges are supposed to train people to be teachers, nurses, doctors, accountants, engineers. There are always people who have to work others. Perhaps where our education system has lacked is stretching one's ability to innovate, creativity is usually stifled and questioning is rarely entertained. In the situation of the graduates they have already gone through the education system, the 'damage' has already been done. We can talk about how wrong the education system is but we cannot ignore the big elephant in the room, the graduates are unemployed. It is the problem that needs sorting while we also attempt to rectify the education system.


The graduates that protested had a right to protest. There are many like them who are faced with the challenge of unemployment that many governments are still grappling with. Prescribing entrepreneurship as the mother of all solutions to their problems is wrong. Some people do possess the entrepreneurial spirit and others do not. We cannot be telling everyone who is unemployed to start a business and that will magically solve the issues. Maybe we should tell them how to be better job seekers too.




Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Thou Shall NOT Increase DStv Subscription

It is not every day in Zambia that you will find a group of people coming together for a common cause. The scene is even more rare when it is a campaign against a perceived injustice. Add the force that social media has become,  a campaign can be ignited in a matter of hours. Oh yes, since last week many have seen it necessary to summon the power of Facebook to right a 'wrong' that is about to befall the Zambian population. Unless the people stand united as one, many generations to come will suffer the consequences. This is a campaign of significant proportion that has to be taken. This is not a campaign to stop child marriages, or increase medicines in the hospitals. Neither is it to reduce road traffic accidents or reduce malnutrition. The campaign is against... wait for it.... Increase of DStv subscription. 


You know you are part of the middle class when your worries do not include putting food on the table or your children's school fees but the impending hike of the DStv subscription. Last week it was reported that the prices of DStv would be hiked. It was initially rumoured that premium bouquet  would cost K710 however, DStv confirmed that the price would be increased to K631 from K520 as of 1 April 2015. There would also be increases in the other packages. This news was not kindly received by many DStv subscribers, many calling it exploitation by a monopolistic organisation that keeps on showing repeat programmes. The vicious attack was so venomous that the passion oozed out of the words on social media primarily on Facebook. People called it an outrage, despicable, disgusting and just about every deplorable adjective under the sun.


Then to translate the distaste for DStv's decision a Facebook page was created called 'Zambians Against High DSTV Rates'. Talk of someone being proactive. In a few days it has over 10,000+ unhappy customers who are determined to take this bull by the horns. Many are calling for the a boycott from paying subscriptions in the month of April. They have vowed to squeeze DStv where it hurts. The boycott has continued to build momentum that the Minister of Information, Hon. Chishimba Kambwili wants to have a meeting with DStv management.


I am also quite disappointed at the pending increase in DStv subscription. However, I am not one of the 10,000+ who has liked the page against DStv neither will I be supporting a boycott. The simple reason is I have not been given a convincing reason why I should do it. Many people are arguing Zambia has the highest DStv rates in the region and some have even been bold enough to compare them to South Africa. It is ridiculous. Zambia and South Africa should not be mentioned in the same sentence period. DStv is from South Africa, its subscriber base is miles ahead of what Zambia's is, so surely you cannot compare the two. We have different tax systems in the regions whether it is Zambia, Malawi or Namibia. Therefore, even comparison with other countries outside South Africa is a difficult one to make. I do not think enough information has been provided to make a comparison. It is clear that the Zambian Kwacha against the dollar is depreciating at an alarming rate, this too coupled with inflation are a plausible reason to increase the rates. Some people are calling for a K50 increase. I do not know what DStv's costs are neither are they obliged to tell me. Are people saying that regardless of what expenses DStv encounters they should just increase by K50? This does not make business sense. DStv is a profit making business and not a charity organisation, it is also in a free market economy which allows it the flexibility to charge what it wants. It is playing within the rules of the game.


DStv is a choice, a person has the option to pay for it or not. DStv is a luxury and not a basic need. I believe no one is being threatened with their lives if they do not succumb to paying the subscription.  If people believe that the price hike for DStv is too hire, they have a choice to not pay for it. One thing that we must not forget is that DStv is a private entity and therefore, we cannot dictate how it should run its operations. I hope that once the 'Zambians Against DSTV High Rates' are done with their campaign with the same vigour may they campaign against child marriages.


P.S.  ZNBC still exists.