Merchants of Ideas

I had a meeting this week with my friend who has just negotiated with a leading cellular company to roll out an innovative telecommunication solution. I congratulated him, because he is a well experienced IT and telecoms expert who could easily start his own business. Only a few weeks ago he had been looking for a job, and I was challenging him to start a business. This is exactly what Africa needs – more entrepreneurs and fewer employees. We need thought leaders and merchants of ideas.

I have traversed the greater breadth and width of Africa and made some observations. The number of traders and hawkers while reflective of the hardworking African ethos is also indicative of the fact that Africa is still at the bottom of the economic food chain. The majority are still consumers and need to move up to become producers. The majority of Africans cannot continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water even as the world has moved into the information age. We need to rise to a new level of consciousness where we create things.

There are treasures in the secret places of the earth, waiting for the entrepreneurs to discover them.
The greatest fortunes are made in times of recession. The global recession offers more opportunities than threats depending on how you see it. The barriers to entry for most industries are very low at the moment. This is the best time to set up an entreprise for yourself if you don’t already have one. The solution to the global economic crisis is not in printing more money as is already happening. It is in encouraging entrepreneurship.

If a country like Zimbabwe could invoke genius spawned inventions like the one which created the Great Zimbabwe City in the 1400s, there will never be a need to look to the East or to the West to repair that economy. Those ancient Zimbabwean people did not go to school of architecture or civil engineering. They consulted the great within! The best solutions come from the great within. Thank God for books, but books can create idea strait jackets killing invention. Make no mistake I read lots of books, but the best books are those inside of me. Invention is ‘out of the book kind of thinking’. To invent is to write your own book.

There are two levels of entrepreneurship – invention and innovation. Invention is about creating a new product or process. Innovation refers to the introduction of an invention into a use that has economic value. Bill Gates is an inventor. He invented Windows and he will have annuity income for the rest of his life from sales and other Microsoft patents (Intellectual Property) IP related income.

Richard Branson of the Virgin Group is an innovator who has packaged cellular technology to provide telecommunication service. MacDonald brothers invented the fast food concept, but Ray Kroc innovated and developed the MacDonald franchising concept. Invention is the highest form of entrepreneurship. Innovation translates inventive genius into the production of goods and services that improve people’s lives.
Inventions and innovation is not about making money. It is about changing the world. Can you just imagine some of the inventions which changed the world – light bulb, penicillin, mobile phones? You can add your own invention to this list. I want to challenge you to think solutions, think possibility. See what no one has ever seen. Imagine what no one has ever imagined.

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