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Africa should learn to create wealth
By James Shikwati

Reggae fans must be familiar with Lucky Dube’s song that goes in part: “Blessed is the hand that giveth… Than the one that taketh.”

Ever since the global economy hit a slowdown, the quest for a new world order devoid of capitalism has dominated opinions. “Capitalism has capitulated!” seems to be the exhilarating feeling by many.

Is the world headed to “The hand that taketh” economy?

In a recent KPMG/SIFE-Kenya business breakfast forum, Lord Michael Hastings of Scarisbrick, (Commander of British Empire) and Global Head of Corporate Citizenship and Diversity KPMG International, inquired from the audience whether one can give what they do not have.

He pointed out that although Western capitalism model may have broken its back, the fundamentals of one must produce in order to give, still remains.

Kenya and by extension other African countries ought to seize the moment and use the opportunities presented by the global economic meltdown to transform their economies to the hand that “giveth.” Listening to Lord Hastings, it reminded me of a question a Rwandan Radio journalist had asked me the previous day.

She wanted to know why East African countries cannot adopt the “Obama strategy” and bail out every one and offer stimulus packages to failing companies.

Responses may vary, but my observation was… East African government treasuries are themselves the hand that “receiveth” from donors.

Our economies have not prepared our populations to be producers to give the treasury the muscle to have and then give.

In fact, our school system teaches that profit is evil, rich people may not go to heaven and history reminds us that Western capitalists plundered Africa — so we must celebrate when we see capitalism on its knees.

Back to Lucky Dube’s song. It is clear that to give one must be a producer of what they give. In Kenya and Africa, we have “capitalists’ who simply loot from what others produced.

The great lesson that one gets from the “broken back of capitalism” is that if one fakes production and assumes to give what they never produced in the first place, the system will implode.

James Shikwati
Director IREN
CEO The African Executive
Nyaku House, Mezzanine Floor
Argwings Kodhek Road, Hurlingham
P.O.Box 135 00100 Nairobi Kenya
Tel: 020 273 1497
Fax: 020 272 3258
Websites: www.irenkenya.com





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