19 December 2012

Zimbabwe: MBA Association Experiences Growth

This week's instalment focuses on the positive growth that has been registered by the Zimbabwe Master of Business Administration Association (ZIMMBAA) and the implications of such growth on entrepreneurship in the country.

Before delving into this matter, I would like to make a brief comment on news that iconic Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder and owner of Microsoft, Bill Gates and his family were in the country last week on a private visit in the Lowveld. While those in the tourism and hospitality industry may see this as timely endorsement of the country's tourism sector which had taken a severe battering over the past decade due to negative perception of the country in international markets, I see the visit by Bill Gates as an opportunity for the country to reflect on the role of entrepreneurship in its economic development.

The visit by Gates comes at a time when policy-makers, politicians and academics alike are seized with economic framework models which alleviate poverty, create jobs and drive sustainable economic development and growth. Entrepreneurship has featured prominently as a viable strategy through which this can be achieved on the basis of a vibrant Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector.

Over the past decade, Zimbab-we's economy had gradually informalised and now there is need to nurture the informal entities into viable SMEs whi-ch contribute to job creation. The country is reported to be having a structural unemployment rate of about 63 percent although some sources cite a higher figure. Unemployment is prevalent amongst the country's 60 percent youthful population which makes it a serious political issue. This makes the visit by Gates important to Zimbabwe as it allows the country to reflect on how best to nurture its innovators, small businesses and entrepreneurs to become creators of sustainable jobs.

Gates is one of the very few extraordinary entrepreneurs who have had the opportunity to change the world twice in one lifetime: First, as the world's most influential geek, he helped usher in the personal computer revolution. Today, Microsoft employs 90 000 workers and has a market value of nearly US$250 billion. Gates is currently a renowned social entrepreneur and philanthropist who is tackling the stubbornly difficult challenges of global health and public education under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Here in Zimbabwe, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is reported to have committed about US$5 million in low-cost housing and health initiatives.

The success of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Gates has spawned an archetype of entrepreneurship known as the Silicon Valley Model of entrepreneurship. I do not see why our local research institutions and universities cannot seize the opportunity afforded by the presence of Gates and his foundation in the country to lobby for resources that can trigger entrepreneurship and innovation in the country, particularly in the information and communication technology sector. Significa-ntly, having an international role model like Gates in the country should surely inspire potential entrepreneurs to pursue their own dreams in line with the Hero Model of Entrepreneurship.

Now, statistics released by LinkedIn show that ZIMMBAA - a non-partisan business organisation which emphasises the development of technical and managerial skills of its members and leads in the creation of economic and intellectual wealth for its members and their communities has been on steady growth in its membership since its formation early in 2011.

As a professional association, ZIMMBAA aspires to play a key role in national economic development, especially under the indigenisation and economic empowerment programme which provides for broad-based participation in the economy through community share trust ownership schemes, employee share ownerships and management buy-outs, among other mechanisms.

Latest disaggregated statistics generated by Business Networking site LinkedIn shows that the business association boasts of 217 professional members with the following characteristics:

Location: 55 percent of our members are located in Zimbabwe with the remaining 45 percent in the diaspora namely South Africa especially in the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban Areas, Botswana, United Kingdom and the United States.

Seniority: Twenty two percent of our members hold senior positions in various industries; 20 percent hold managerial positions; 16 percent hold entry level positions; 11 percent are owners; six percent hold director-level positions while a further six percent are at chief operating/executive officer level

Function: The distribution according to functional responsibility shows that 10 percent of our membership is in Finance; seven percent are Entrepreneurs; six percent each are in programme and project management, consulting, and operations respectively. The remaining five percent are in education

Industry: Disaggregated data on Industry shows that the majority of our members are in the Banking and Information Technology and Services sectors (seven percent respectively). The other notable industries are management consulting (six percent); Financial Services (five percent); Accounting (four percent); and Marketing and Advertising (four percent)

These statistics demonstrate that ZIMMBAA is a key knowledge-based community capable of working closely with government and other development partners in generating evidence-based policies and programmes which benefit the country as a whole. Unlike alumni associations at business schools, ZIMMBAA is a national body which represents all members and leads in the creation of economic and intellectual wealth for them.

Significantly, ZIMMBAA would like to see more and more of its members establishing SMEs to take advantage of positive government policies in that regard. To that extent, we welcome statements by RBZ Governor Gideon Gono on scaling support to SMEs and hope this will cascade to our members. The indigenisation and economic empowerment programme represents an attractive route through which our members can leverage on their industry-specific skills and knowledge to participate in this programme as owners of business rather than workers. It is our intention to see consortiums of our members going into banking, mining, agriculture and IT in the short-to-medium term.

ZIMMBAA will continue to grow its membership book and leverage on this knowledge-base to create wealth for its members and the country at large

Anthony Jongwe is a founder member and secretary general of ZIMMBAA. He is also a doctoral researcher in Entrepreneurship

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