In March's blog, Waddilove Sansole of SNV/ IB Forum of Zimbabwe discusses fragile economies and how IB can play a role in the development of the private sector.
A range of concepts have emerged to describe states that do not live up to common understandings of how states should work, ranging from collapsed, failed and failing states, to fragile, crisis, rogue and poorly performing states, difficult partnerships, and low-income countries under stress. These concepts have often been used indiscriminately. While the terms ‘collapsed’ and ‘failed states’ are usually reserved for cases where central state institutions and authority have ceased to function, ‘fragile states’ is increasingly being recognized – in the donor community at least – as a common descriptor of states that represent persistent challenges for the donor community by not living up to Weberian expectations and by foreshadowing the risk of collapse in the future. (DIIS REPORT, 2008:11) http://www.dcism.dk/graphics/Publications/
The purpose of this discussion is to zero in on the aspect of looking at fragile economies, and how Inclusive Business/ Social Enterprise can play a major role in the development of the private sector, which will enable continued provision of services and products to the low income/base of the pyramid populations. As the above paragraph shows that the concept of fragility is really subjective, but based on a number of indicators there are conclusions that can be made.
The Zimbabwean economy presents a number of unique challenges to any would be entrepreneur and Social enterprise, however this is neither the platform or the purpose of the this article, however these pillars form the major barriers to growth and development of any social enterprise; access to affordable finance, access to markets, access to information and legislation. The same pillars that are challenges, create a number of vantage points to identify opportunities.
In his book Betrayed: Fixing Fragile States- Seth Kaplan explains that the poor across all fragile states have two common characteristics which are 1. they have very little or no money, 2. they are trapped in a web of deprivation. These I tend to agree will become common place in any nation that has economic challenges no matter what the cause of those challenges are, there is a rung on the ladder of wealth that will always be excluded.The story of these Fragile States may not be all doom and gloom; because beneath the shackles that keep the poor bound, there are several opportunities that can enable them to work their way out of their demise and social enterprise can create avenues for them to take the first steps towards end the cycle of deprivation.
Let me bring you back to the case of Zimbabwe; and what Inclusive Business can do to unlock the value and inherent potential that lies beneath the entrepreneurial spirit that is fostered within the economic challenges. One thing about the idea of Inclusive Business is that it can never be separated from Social Entrepreneurship, why these go hand in glove, is because both seek to use business models to solve the challenges that any society is facing. There is a surge in social enterprise in the country, but currently is rather sporadic, a great thumbs up to those who are supporting these ventures in the form of incubation hubs. start-up funds etc, there is however a dire need to consolidate these efforts and create centres of excellence that become learning points for would be social enterpreneurs.
The myriad of challenges bedeviling the Zimbabwean community all have the birth pains of social enterprise. Just to name a few hotspots for opportunity the list is as follows:
Waste management ( this will entail the provision of reliable waste management services such as rubbish collection, landfill management, Recycling of waste).
Public sanitation (everyone no matter how sophisticated loves a clean toilet, there is a potential to provide these services at public sites either moveable or fixed, Sachin Joshi of the Confederation of Indian Industries states that "shit is business") all these are potential business models that can create employment, generate income and yet solve a dire societal problem.
Education: our current education model needs a re-think and some innovation could result in quality education going to the poorest of the poor at an affordable price, there lies a potential business model that can create employment, generate income and yet solve a dire societal problem.
Access to quality consumer goods: retail as we know it is soon to recieve a rude awakening, and there is a call to innovation that will see quality goods reaching the majority markets in an affordable and cost effective way.
Access to financial services: traditional ways have already been challenged and are soon to become obsolete if innovation does not take precedence, there is still more to be done to ensure affordable financial services to all echelons of society.
This is just but a snapshot of a haven of potential that is inherent in a fragile or uncertain economy, but what it means is that its not business as usual for service providers, because the rise of the entreprenuer is soon to shake the traditional way we do business, what is now needed is for resources and abilities to be pooled together to provide support to the growing entrepreneurial space; this support has to come from all the relevant sectors, such that despite the fragility of the economy, there still remains the hope for one to rise from the lowest rung of the wealth ladder to a level that can significantly change the fortunes of individuals in the nation
In conclusion a greater look at the role of the existing mainstream private sector in enabling the emerging private sector will go along way in ensuring that markets continue to grow for existing business and opportunities are created for the emerging ones, all this can happen in a fragile/ unpredictable economy. There is need to merge and diversify the sources and stimulants of innovation, in order to ensure that our economic system encourages and supports innovative individuals. Incubation of ideas will go a long way in ensuring that entrepreneurs are nurtured in a way that will drive progress and at large solve some of societies problems with the use of business models. The NGO sector with an inclination towards private sector development needs to render support and resources towards piloting of models, not just existing ones but also to create avenues to support start-up ventures.
So I believe it is possible, we are already doing it in some of our circles people just might not know its called Inclusive Business or Social Enterprise; and we have already profiled some best practices that lessons can be drawn from, we have seen some successes and some failures, but in all of them we have drawn lessons that will improve as we progress but what is important is that we have demonstrated that Inclusive Business does have its place and its role in enabling Zimbabwe to rise, and yes Zimbabwe can be the "capital of social enterprise".
Visit our website for more information www.inclusivebusiness.org.zw and follow us on Twitter @IBZimbabwe
Posted 6 days ago by IBForum Zimbabwe