Why isn’t the business community leading the anti-Mugabe movement?

The biggest beneficiaries by far from the removal of Mugabe will be Zimbabwe’s business community, from farmers to manufacturers to distributors to retailers, and even the professional classes themselves.

Ally that with a proper attack on poverty – which the business and professional classes should be intimately involved in anyway for their own self-interest – and the result will be an explosion in sales, profits, business expansion and personal fortunes, with a matching growth in the professional class, the fees it can charge and the personal incomes it can generate.

It is well-known in the West that the more people earn, they more they will spend, and the more the business class will benefit. Yet the African business class simply does not understand this. The whole African social system is built upon paying workers as little as possible, or wages that are suspiciously close to slavery. Indeed, some slave artisans earned considerably more than typical Africans today, 91% of whom earn less than US$5 a day, and 43% less than $1.90 a day. In Zimbabwe, over 80% of you now earn under $1.90 a day. Zimbabwean business owners take note: how will that make your businesses prosper?

This attitude of treating workers as little better than slaves is contributed to, and led by Western multinationals (MNCs) and Western-owned businesses, all people who should know better. The fact is, taking an average of the UK and USA, business owners are not allowed by law to pay their workers in the West less than $77 a day. Yet these very same businesses pay their workers in Africa under $5 a day often for doing exactly the same jobs!

If that isn’t a slave owner’s mentality, I don’t know what is.

That attitude will never get Africans out of poverty. Nor, you Zimbabwean business owners, will that help you to prosper.

The fact is, there is nothing difficult about eradicating poverty, and it should have been done years ago had the right things been done. It is perfectly obvious that if Mugabe and ZANU PF are ousted, the business climate will improve and Zimbabwean citizens will be better off. But what will that really mean in terms of lifestyle? let’s not kid ourselves, that will be worth a whole load of manure.

Because what do you Zimbabweans really want: to be slightly better off, or to aspire to the Western-quality lifestyles you thought the Mugabe regime would have led you to 37 years ago? Do you want to aspire to the average of US$41,072 a year that Westerners earn, or do you just want a little more than $694 a year that the great majority of you earn now? Because against that massive gap between Africans and Westerners, what will MDC-T really achieve? Not a lot, which is why I call it a whole load of manure. It could do a lot, but it won’t, and all you will get are pitiful improvements in your standard of living.

Because the reality is, that gap between you Zimbabweans and Westerners could be closed very rapidly if the right people take control, and that is your business and professional community.

Let me explain that. Ask yourself a question: Why are most Africans in poverty? Answer: Because they don’t earn enough to get themselves out of poverty. And what is the solution to that? We have to create businesses that pay our workers above poverty wages. There simply is no other way to do it!

Next question: Why don’t Africans have Western-quality lifestyles? Answer: because they don’t earn enough to be able to afford a Western-quality lifestyle. And what is the solution to that? We have to create businesses that pay our workers enough to be able to afford a Western-quality lifestyle. There is simply no other way to do it!

It’s not exactly rocket science, is it? And who is it who can create these businesses. No one – but no one – except your businesspeople. Governments can’t. Although they can create a few jobs, they cannot create anything like enough to take the majority of Africans out of poverty and into Western-quality lifestyles. And Western aid certainly cannot. That is a complete non-starter where creating these jobs is concerned.

I stress: the only people who can do that are the members of your business community.

If it is only your business community that can solve your poverty and take you into a Western-quality lifestyle, that makes your entrepreneurs and businesspeople the most important people in Zimbabwe. Not the President, not the government, not the opposition politicians, not the police, the army or the Churches.

If your businesspeople are the only people who can solve all your financial problems, it is about time they started behaving like it. It is about time they took responsibility for creating the changes necessary to take you from poverty to affluence. Given the will, they could do it easily.

One example of their inadequacy is their failure to support the AU in its Agenda 2063. That lays out very clearly that Africa’s future lies ENTIRELY in its Black-financed, Black-owned and Black-led businesses. And it lays out exactly what governments must do to support them. Your business community should have latched onto that, and be promoting it as hard as it can.

If your businesspeople had done what they should have done years ago, you would have been taken out of poverty years ago, and by now be living Western-quality lifestyles – or, if not that, at least fast approaching it.

I could understand it if, by keeping you in poverty and letting you stay under Mugabe’s control, your businesspeople were better off. But they aren’t. They have suffered just as badly as you have. Even your very few wealthy businesspeople and professionals would have been much wealthier by now if they had done the right thing to maximise Zimbabwe’s business-base.

In short, your businesspeople and their leaders have let you down badly, and it is about time they did something about it.

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