Independence Day has come and gone and it brought with it the usual debates of economic freedom and such. Such arguments bore me because that’s all they are. I had the opportunity to experience a new pleasure, the formal discussion of ideas. Eleanor Roosevelt said “Simple minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.” I attended TEDxLusaka which is an event at which ideas are shared. It was the first time I had ever attended anything of this nature and I was a bit apprehensive of how it would turn out. I was hoping I wouldn’t be bored or worse, completely out of place. I shouldn’t have worried because the crowd was sprinkled with a few familiar faces and the speakers were far from boring.
The first speaker was Peter Nawa. I know him as a poet and a blogger but I found out he’s also an auditor. He talked about the tendency we have to do things with people. We are usually too scared to do things on our own. He related his experience of travelling to Malawi alone for the first time. He suggested that travelling alone opens you up to new things. You are more compelled to make new friends and observe nature. There is safety in numbers but that safety prevents us from experiencing new challenges and thus prevents us from growing in certain aspects. Is a dinner less tasty when eaten alone? Is a journey less adventurous when taken on your own?
The next item was a video of Susan Cain. She talked about Introverts. She mentioned that a third to half of people are introverts. She is an introvert and the whole time she was describing herself I kept on thinking “That is so me”. She said sometimes introvert leaders are more productive than extrovert leaders because the loudest in the room is not always the smartest. Examples of introvert leaders include; Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Ghandi and Darwin. She emphasized that most times introverts force themselves to fit in by being talkative and going into careers not suited for them. Solitude matters and is very important. Not everything has to be done as group work; sometimes working alone is more productive. Allow yourself to go into wilderness for solitude and unplug like all the great examples in religious literature e.g Moses, Muhammad and Jesus.
Chisenga Muyoya came up next. She is the co-founder of Asikana Network for women in ICT. She talked about culture and that it is defined by us. Culture is constantly evolving. She mentioned that there is a direct correlation between economic growth and technological penetration. The more we empower women in the use of ICT and education in general, the better our economy will be. But the current oppressive way of life experienced by Zambian women can only change when we redefine the culture. Women are left out of so many opportunities because that’s how it’s always been. Only 9% of women in sub-Saharan Africa access the internet. But this can change with each one of us. You can change the cultural perceptions in your sphere.
Chris Abani was next on video. He talked about the power of story. Storytellers are way more powerful than news reporters. We know a lot about the U.S.A not because we watch the news but because we watch their movies and read their novels. The same should be with Africa; we should allow our novelists and movie script writers to describe Africa to the rest of the world. It is the agents of imagination who shape who we are. Language makes the world that we live in. Story is powerful.
The last speaker was Ireen Banda. I loved this woman! What she spoke about needs a whole post on its own but I’ll just summarize. She talked about SMEs and access to finance. Entrepreneurs usually complain about financiers and their reluctance to lend money to them. Financiers have a list of requirements that should be met before they can lend out money. This ensures that the risk of defaulting is brought to the lowest degree possible. What entrepreneurs forget is that financiers are also entrepreneurs that need to make sure that their money comes back. What entrepreneurs need to do is sit in the seat of a financier and look at it from their perspective. So what should would-be entrepreneurs do?
– Accumulate savings.
Save up for the business idea. Take time to raise enough funds through other avenues. Some people even sell their cars sometimes. If you’re not sacrificing anything for your idea, don’t expect anyone else to do the same. Raise some money and then go to the financiers for a top-up.
– Test the idea
Before you can go to the financiers, make sure your business idea is a possibility. Build a prototype and try it out on a small scale. Financiers need more than just the belief that it can work, they need a demonstration.
– Build a good financial reputation
Develop a good credit record. Make sure that any money you receive is deposited in the bank, even if you need to use it as soon as possible. This will give financiers an idea of how much money your business deals with. Always pay your taxes and PACRA fees.
The points that stuck with me were 1) if you’re going to borrow at all, make it count. 2) There is no one obliged to help you with what you want to do. In conclusion, the challenge is not access to finance; the challenge is meeting the financier’s expectations.
After that the night was done and people moved around and interacted. This is the part that’s usually difficult for me. But I lasted a few minutes and then I was out of there. I can’t wait for the next one or anything like it. I loved it. Plus they had snacks lying around in the front room just begging to be salvaged. A beautiful night if you ask me.