In a comment to an earlier post, Patricia Ferrando shared her experience coaching successful Nigerian entrepreneurs. She highlighted their commitment to giving back to society and to contributing to the development of the less privileged. Patricia’s comment made me reflect upon Africans’ communal mentality. Let me share some examples I have seen while in Lagos.
Mr. Maduadichie (Mr. Madu for his friends) is a self-made entrepreneur. He grew up during the Biafran war – Nigeria’s 1967-1970 civil war – and was unable to finish school. In spite of this and of a complicated family situation, he managed to survive and become self-sufficient. Eventually, he created his own auto spare part business, which has grown very successfully. Mr. Maduaduchie has a need to give back to society: he provides 6-year scholarships for 90 kids in his village. In a talk he gave at Lagos Business School a few weeks ago, he said “if you have money and you don’t have a heart, you have a problem.”
Austin Okere, whom I talked about in another post, is committed to fighting poverty through his business. In that post, I briefly mentioned the so-called CWG 2.0 project. One part of this project aims to empower Nigerian SMEs to create jobs. The owners of many of these companies don’t have any business training and lack the capacity to keep an accounting record. Because of this, banks are unwilling to give them credit. Austin’s idea is to offer a subscription-based account-keeping service using the cloud. So as to get those owners to try the service, he’s trying to convince the Ministry to pay for a 6-month subscription instead of the existing direct subsidy. Once they have tried the service and have seen its usefulness, they will pay for it themselves.
Austin expects to make money out of this business — and he deserves to do so. But his drive is to contribute to job creation, and in turn to poverty alleviation in Nigeria: companies who subscribe to this service will be more likely to grow their business. If 10% of the 17 million small companies operating in Nigeria subscribe to the service, and if each one of these is capable of creating one extra job, then he and his company will be contributing to creating 1.7 million jobs. Speaking of commitment to development…
What do you think about this way of giving back to society? Do we have this communal mentality in the West?