HomeOpinion & AnalysisEntrepreneurship hustle, the missing link in Zim education

Entrepreneurship hustle, the missing link in Zim education


We always celebrate our fellow Zimbabweans when they have done well at home and in the diaspora. All this attests to a highly educated population. But alas, where are the entrepreneurs? Where are business owners? Where are the hustlers? How come we are good workers, servants, managers, but very weak at business entrepreneurship? I reckon the entrepreneurship hustle is the missing link in our culture and education system.

Tororiro Isaac Chaza

If you ask an ordinary Zimbabwean who is not in formal employment what they are doing for a living, the answer is likely to be, “Ndirikukiya-kiya,” a Shona expression for “I’m hustling.”

But here I am using the word “hustle” not in a negative sense but in the sense quoted by Abe Lincoln when he said: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” So I am promoting hustling.

Zimbabweans are highly educated. There is no dispute about that.

Zimbabweans are not only highly educated but highly skilled too. You will find Zimbabweans working in southern African countries as accountants, operational managers, engineers, teachers, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, in construction, mining, agriculture and many other industries.

In any country in the diaspora, you will find a highly skilled Zimbabwean there.

Try Afghanistan, and you will be surprised that there is a Zimbabwean there doing an excellent job.

There are four million plus Zimbabweans outside the country.

Starting with the culture, I am old school so I was pushed to do academically well to escape poverty.

I mastered Pythagoras Theorem at an early age and proceeded to do an engineering degree. I was groomed to work hard as an employee and aspired to climb the corporate ladder, which I did.

I loved my job and I am sure I was good at it.

I was trapped in a life of largesse, of big cars, of large houses, of shopping sprees for Lacoste, Pringle and Polo.

And I was sold to the idea of a good life after work, from a healthy retirement package and a mature life insurance, which would comfortably sustain me and my family.

I admit, I retired and had a hefty package.

This would have been alright had inflation not turned out to be equally, if not more hefty.

The life insurance came to naught, nada, zilch.

I have had to learn how to hustle in order to put food on my table, despite being fairly educated and skilled. I have had to refire instead of retire.

I have had to learn how to barter, negotiate, market, sell, hire, fire, partner, lose hope and gain hope in time and space.

I have burnt my fingers and trust in many failed ventures.

I am nowhere near prosperous as I am a startup. But I have discovered something in me, which I wish I had had when I was younger, the adrenaline of the hustler, a roller coaster of blunders, near misses and successes, tripping but never giving up.

I am not dissing employment. It is very noble to work for a company.

I worked for a great company and I repeat that I loved my job. But the glaring truth is that it was not mine because I could not take it anywhere with me.

It belonged to the company. It was a rude awakening when somebody remarked to me: “A king can leave the throne to the prince, but the general just leaves the job.”

It hit me that years and years of working does not leave a legacy for my progeny.

Most people of my age are in the same boat.

We can claim that we have done our bit and educated our children, but have we taught them to hustle?

The only legacy most of us Zimbabweans leave is our educational achievements, for example the son of a professor, the daughter of a judge, the grandson of an engineer, all good attributes but no good on the progeny’s table. The rest of the world hustles.

There are a few exceptional local businesspeople who have done well and expanded their empires.

But when I look at most local entrepreneurs I find that they have limited their growth because of wanting the business entity to be a family business.

We do not trust each other and, therefore, we do not want other investors in our businesses, nor do we want to invest in other people’s businesses.

Therefore, growth is limited because of lack of capital. It is said that if you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together with others, meaning that it is better to be part owner of a large and growing consortium than the sole owner of a small limited outfit.

Furthermore, we want quick returns at the expense of consistent hard work, which yields results after a long time.

The sage, King Solomon put it thus in Proverbs 13:11: “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” This is still true today.

We cushion our children and teach them that failure in not acceptable, and yet failing is part of growing and learning.

We encourage our children to shun risk in order not to fail. We ought to teach them to get up when they fail.

“The only way you are going to have success is to have lots of failures first.” — Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google.

I put it that the education system especially at high school and tertiary levels needs to introduce hustling subjects to prepare students for entrepreneurship.

My suggestion is, therefore, that our curricula, post-Form 4 need to include practical hands-on subjects such as agriculture, construction, programming, business finance, marketing, selling, new funding methods, risk management, project management, innovation, etc.

Pythagoras Theorem is still fine but on its own it does not nurture a hustler.

Post-academe, we need to train the next generation to start and own a business.

We need to encourage them to network and train them to invest in joint ventures and partnerships.

Our children need to know that failure is not absolute, but just a rung on the ladder to success.

It is just a necessary part of the lessons learnt on the way up.

Our children need to master the art of dreaming big and trying, failing, and trying again.

Anonymous proffered this: “The dream is free, the hustle is sold separately.”

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