Although we sometimes desire change, there is no absolute way to measure change. What we do know is that the future invades the present faster than many entrepreneurs can handle.
We go to bed, only to wake up and see that a company with a lean work force and tiny office is now the fastest growing company in the world. The future of wealth creation and multiplication in Africa worries me because of our slow development of basic infrastructure. If Africa entrepreneurs are to be the future leaders in businesses, then our romance with the old rules will have to give way to more ingenious ways of wealth creation.
Steven Silbiger, who has written many business books, describes wealth in a way that contradicts the definition of wealth held by many African entrepreneurs, especially in the 20th century when land was the major factor of economic activities. Silbiger writes that “wealth is portable, it’s knowledge”.
In Africa, the popular understanding of wealth is that it is tangible and usually associated with the acquisition of property. Many African countries are blessed with lands that are either embedded with mineral resources or fertile for farming. This idea that land was a prerequisite for wealth creation led to Africans valuing tangible substance far above the intangible. That preference still prevails today. From Zimbabwe, to South Africa and Nigeria, there is heated discussion on land matters.
Africa’s first entrepreneurs, according to history, were both farmers and traders with extensive trade routes that developed across kingdoms. Famous ancient African business hubs, such as Timbuktu, Ashanti, and Oyo, became wealthy empires due to their wide trade networks of agricultural produce.
Today, many of those business hubs are reduced to passive historical business cities because of an unexpected change that occurred. Have Africans learned lessons from these sudden changes that shocked us in the previous century?
In Nigeria, there is a wave of young entrepreneurs rushing to farming. When I talk to them about starting such a business venture, I see a genuine passion. The challenge is that many of them avoid the discussion on the agriculture value chain. They just want to farm and trade the produce. That was the same thinking of entrepreneurs in the 20th century who had vast cocoa farm, but no factory to produce chocolate.
The dynamics of wealth have shifted from crop farming to agricultural value chain, productive thinking and digital value creation. The rule of wealth creation has extended beyond Adams Smith’s theory of “the rent of the land”.
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In the present business environment, the human brain matters most. An economy with digital technology and an acute investment in the human mind creates an enabling environment for wealth creation. No city can be better than the thinking of the entrepreneurs within it. That is the philosophy that differentiates poor nations from the rich. Business growth now largely depends on workers’ creative ability which cannot be quantified, but explains the underlining factor for all disruptions in business.
Today, creative problem solving and the human mind are the fields for wealth creation. I cannot think of a self-made billionaire who didn’t resolve a problem.
In light of this, an entrepreneur will get rewarded to the degree of the problems they solve. All cities with outstanding development are products of businesses and individuals solving problems and improving existing solutions.
Thinking creatively and prioritizing intelligence will help any business. The next generation of entrepreneurs must embrace creative thinking over tangible assets. – Written by Victor Mamora