Friends & Friction: We must exploit our business talent

 Muzi Kuzwayo CITY PRESS columnist PHOTO:
Muzi Kuzwayo CITY PRESS columnist PHOTO:

It was not the election of Donald Trump in the US that shocked me when I was in the UK’s largest city, but that there were no birds to wake me up at dawn in London.

I guess the teenagers who grow up in this city will never understand Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. What a travesty.

There is a lot more to be unhappy about, in this city, if you choose to be unhappy.

There are lonely hordes who listen to their phones to protect themselves from the mundane city noise.

There is also the idiocy of Brexit, and the looming Frexit (France also seems to want out of the EU) next year, which, if it happens, will be the death of the EU.

But there is no profit in worrying about things you have no control over. You simply need to manage them, which is a lot simpler than most people think.

If you can’t stop the rain, get an umbrella.

If you can’t protect yourself against lightning, stay indoors when it strikes, and if you feel strongly about something, tweet it out. But whatever you do, don’t bottle it up – it’ll kill you slowly.

The day Trump was elected, I had two reasons to be happy. First, I saw Ruli Diseko, a young man from Soweto, in London. He had come to the city to sign a big deal with a company. I also saw Kennedy Bungane, the CEO of Pembani, who I had last seen more than eight years ago, when he was still the chief executive of corporate and investment banking at Standard Bank. It looked as if the intervening years as chair and CEO at Barclays Africa made him younger. He was in the UK for the board meeting of one of the companies he has invested in.

South Africa has immense business talent, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit, and we must start exploiting it fully if we are to build a stronger and more inclusive economy.

The political poverty of our leaders, their vulgar, post-colonial looting and self-importance are the hurdles that hold back the advancement of our nation. Ignorance and self-doubt are leading us into a dark pit, where there is a vicious scramble for crumbs, instead of allowing us to look up at the unblemished sky of opportunity above us.

Anthony Cardew, a London-based communications and public relations expert, is advising the London Stock Exchange during its merger with Deutsche Börse.

“South Africa is not doing itself any favours with the investor community right now,” he told to me. “Investors want political stability when it comes to the company. They want to know that its relationship with its workers is good.”

The London Stock Exchange provided most of the money that funded the mining industry in South Africa, which provided the base of our economy. Prospectors simply wrote a note, called a prospectus, that said they were planning to develop a mine, and potential investors would have a share in the proceeds.

A “special relationship” is how Winston Churchill described his country’s relationship with the US. How would Cardew describe the relationship between South Africa and Britain, which remains one of our largest trading partners?

He looked at the ceiling as if he was looking deep into his vault of experience.

“Family relationship,” he said. “Family members do quarrel. We did in 1899 and sometimes a relationship can be difficult, but family is family.”

He is probably right. After all, London was the home of the anti-apartheid movement.

“I would like to hear a stronger, African voice here in London, pleading the case for investment in Africa,” Cardew said.

Opportunities do not last a lifetime – they are quick to wilt when the leaders and the soil are poor. Our soil is rich. It’s time to cultivate our talent so it can flourish. The world is waiting, but it won’t wait forever.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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