An investment door for a window of jobs

  • March 16, 2017

As she was flipping casually through the newspaper, her eyes met the headline “Investments to create new job possibilities in Africa.” She gleamed with the possibility of a better future – a future that promised a healthier standard of living, a new scope of learning and a renewed zest for taking herself and millions like her forward to participate in the economic growth of Africa.

Invest in an idea today!

Every business enterprise in the world began with an idea – a thought to create an innovative product to cater to the masses. However, for any idea to take wings, the most critical prerequisite is capital. Unfortunately, hundreds of ideas that have the capacity to turn into billion dollar enterprises in the future take a backseat because of lack of funds. And when a million dollar idea dies, it buries along with itself the opportunity to employ thousands of promising individuals. Thousands of individuals, whose income would have contributed to the economy through payment of taxes and savings; savings that would have led to future investments. Investments that would have created new enterprises and jobs. In addition, the young generation without any income has no purchasing power. Thus, they supress their desires and do not spend. And when a major population percentage of one of the youngest continents in the world is unable to spend, it hurts the economy. Moreover, young unemployed minds, have the potential to become ‘a devil’s workshop’, wherein they can engage in illegal activities or be lured by militant groups like the Al Shabab in Somalia and the Boko Haram in Nigeria.

The point is, an entire productive cycle suffers just because of lack of that initial outlay. Hence, there is an imperative need to invest in an idea today!

Dream big, start small

Think ‘Flip flops’ can change someone’s life? They certainly can and Fomba Trawally would agree. For this man, who fled Liberia when the civil war broke out in 1989 and settled as a refugee in the Gambia, headed back to his motherland and started a trading business in 1991 with a ‘sole focus on rubber slippers or flip flops’ that were very much in demand at that time. His startup capital? $200, all from his life’s savings. He made a transition from an importer to a manufacturer, when in 2010 he set up National Toiletries Incorporated, Liberia’s first paper and toiletry products manufacturing company. Fast forward to the present, Trawally is a self-made multi-millionaire with three retail stores in Monrovia and is one of the richest and successful entrepreneurs in Liberia. And in this entire journey, he has employed hundreds of individuals.

Had Sebastian Gotter not invested in Jason Njoku’s concept, IrokoTV, Africa’s most popular mobile entertainment and internet TV platform would have remained a dream. Presently, IrokoTV, which is termed as the ‘Netflix of Africa’ attracts up to $40 million in investment funding from foreign investors and has an impressive assemblage of young employees. Does quitting a regular job to create wealth from trash sound like a sane idea? Well, not only is this concept rational, but today it has metamorphosed into a flourishing venture. EcoPost, a wasterecycling business started by Lorna Rutto in 2010, collects and recycles plastic into aesthetic, durable and environmentfriendly fencing posts, as an alternative to wood. However, her eco-friendly business would have remained endangered without the financial pat of international and local NGOs like the Enablis Energy Globe – Safaricom Foundation.

Not only has she contributed to the conservation of forests, but has employed hundreds of Kenyans and is expected to create about 100,000 new positions in the next 15 years. The saga of how small investments created super successful entrepreneurs would be incomplete without the mention of Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote. With a current worth of $18.3 billion, Dangote, who started his business in 1978 with 500,000 Naira borrowed from his grandfather, is no less than an inspiration. Thanks to his aggressive business expansion and diversification efforts, he has built the fortunes of thousands of employees in Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania and Zambia.

More investments for more jobs

The above mentioned examples prove a direct correlation between investments and job – creation. When about 60 Indian companies invested in South Africa in 2003, they created more than 10,000 jobs in the country. If 60 enterprises from India alone can create thousands of jobs, imagine the number of jobs created if at least ten companies from every country poured their investments in the 54 nations of Africa. Investment, by all means, leads to generation of wealth – in terms of both materialistic and human assets. When a foreign firm comes to Africa, it brings with itself a host of employment opportunities. To begin a venture, you start with infrastructure. And infrastructure requires engineers and architects for the brain-work and labourers and machinery for the ground-work. Thus, the very first stage of a business creates a prospect for employing a large number of people from a wide spectrum of fields. There is an ocean of scope for investments in the African continent, which eventually can employ a huge population. Sectors such as Education, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Mining, Renewable energy (primarily solar energy and hydro energy) and Agribusiness are lucrative areas of investment.

Did you know that 60% of the world’s arable land is in Africa? However, a continent that has the potential to feed the world, is already beautifying the world. The Founder and Managing Director of Karuturi Global Limited, Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi, an India-based businessman who is the biggest rose-grower in the world, has employed hundreds of farmers for cultivating his roses in Ethiopia. And these flowers have adorned several occasions including the inaugural of FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg in 2010. On the similar lines, the Tata group is running a pilot agricultural project in Uganda while the Jaipurias of RJ Corp have dairy farms in Uganda and Kenya, giving monetary fodder to hundreds of workers. There is a reason why pioneering economist John R Commons coined the term human resource. Today, governments and corporations are investing on skilling their demographic dividend to make them employable. If a company ‘invests’ in skilling and imparting vocational training to students in their respective domains, they can turn out to be assets for their company and the economy.

Africa needs investment not aid

No country in this world wants to rely on developmental aid. Though every nation aspires to be self-sufficient, they cannot survive on their own no matter how developed or under-developed they are. That is where the role of Foreign Direct Investment or FDIs comes into play. And to become a financially fit nation, Africa needs investment not aid. It’s high time to build ‘investment bridges’ and not walls between economies and unlock the door of investments for a window of jobs.

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