Wall of Whitenessby Andy Davis / 02.08.2011
In modern day Mzanzia, entrepreneurialism is the dominant ideology. Our developmental masterplan. The capitalist mantra to lift ourselves out of poverty by our bootstraps, not waiting for handouts or government interventions. To this end, “promoting entrepreneurialism” has become something of a buzzword at the big financial institutions and has recently spawned an Entrepreneur’s Guide over at Old Mutual, pity then that the big green machine couldn’t find more than two black entrepreneurs to profile. Way to represent the zeitgeist of the not so new South Africa… Eish.
Now I hate to be the guy doing the pencil test, but seriously when only two of the 37 profiled entrepreneurs are black Africans it just leaves you to wonder how Old Mutual intend “connecting with the people” and inspiring entrepreneurial activity on a grass roots level when most of the “role models” dishing out their sage advice are the melanin shy descendents of settlers. Hell, it makes you wonder what South Africa Old Mutual operates in. It’s an entrepreneur’s guide for the moneyed by the moneyed in the spirit of making more money. A howler. A horrific own goal by one of the biggest corporate citizens in the country. At worst it’s racialised and patronising. At best it’s horribly misguided. Regardless of the intention behind the site, this kind of sloppy, misrepresentative branded content just reinforces the old Julius Malema chestnut that whites still control the economy (and largely we do) and that we need to be punished for enjoying the privileged positions we occupy thanks to the collective sins of our parents. Because we sure as hell aren’t getting the message and working towards a more inclusive and equitable future. A better life for all, as it were. Qantas flight QF64 direct to Sydney now boarding at gate C.
Unsurprisingly, a scan through the website credits shows a team defined by white, Anglo-Saxon surnames. But, fuckit, it’s not like this is deep geek or advanced science here. They could have just googled “black female entrepreneur”. And the end result is that because of the lack of representation amongst Old Mutual’s role model entrepreneurs, most of the people who would benefit most from the extensive and well researched guide probably won’t even get exposed to it.
And seriously, who needs the entrepreneurialism masterclass here? The Northern suburbs kid recently belched from the bosom of private school education with a university degree all lined up or the township youth, still smarting from years of shitty schools teaching Outcomes Based Education?
And yet, it’s not like the country has a shortage of inspirational black entrepreneurs. Fuck the BEE crowd, I doubt many of those bum in the butter fatcats would know how to start a business if the keys to the financial citadel hadn’t fallen into their laps circa 1994’s glut of guilt inspired wealth redistribution and the subsequent boomtown of the window-dressing years… And I’m not talking about Mama Jackie here either. But you could start with bonafide old school entrepreneurs like Nthato Motlana and the dark prince of Soweto KFC franchises, Jomo Sono. Or go contemporary by checking in on South Africa’s number 1 knocksman, DJ Sbu. Or keep it fashionable with the likes David Tlale, Craig Native and Themba “Darkie” Mngomezulu. And if you’re looking for women, look no further than Vie Arem or Milisuthando Bongela. They could go check out what David Kau, Kagiso Lediga and Loyiso Gola are doing trying to make their comedy routines pay properly. Go literal with Ntone Edjabe and his Chimurenga. Hell, do a profile on DJ Dimples and that brazen swagfest Pop Bottles. Find out how film makers Khalo Mathabane and Dumisani Phakati fund their increasingly big budget movies? And, as distasteful as it may seem, even Kahnyi Mbau and Nonhle Thema could stake a claim as entrepreneurs worthy of a profile.
And while Old Mutual may not know what a black diamond looks like, they sure as hell know how profitable a blood diamond can be. Remember, they still own a 16% stake in the ZANU PF linked mining company currently digging the “contested” Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe.
But what did we expect? The Mean Green Financial Machine can’t even get the window dressing on their own PR website right. It would be nice if the anachronistic old life assurance company (started in the settler heyday of 1845 by a Scottish entrepreneur) tried to live up to their fancy new pay off line and actually “did great things”. Because seriously dudes, Juju is coming.