Hello again everyone, and welcome back to Mama’s Round Table! I hope that you enjoyed yesterday’s portion of my interview with Zimbabwean, Nigel Mugamu. Let’s just jump right in where we left off, shall we Nigel?
6. Here is an easy one: freedom or food?
Give me freedom any day
7. You are a well-educated, successful man who is doing well for himself in the West. What has made you decide to contribute to the reversal of “brain drain” from Africa and return home to Zimbabwe? Would you recommend the same move to other Africans living abroad?
Firstly home is home and I always intended on returning. Without getting too sentimental, returning home had to make sense both financially and otherwise period! Let’s be realistic here. This is very important for anyone thinking of this. It made sense for me to return home given my work experience, exposure and the direction of my own life. I have been away from home for several years now. I was fortunate enough to spend a year in Zimbabwe 5/6 years ago so I’m not jumping into the deep end without experience. Economically things were bad then – shortages and so forth. This is no longer the case. I have been home twice in the last 10 months and I am currently involved in a startup which we hope to launch once I am on the ground. So you see it makes sense to go home for me.
People need to realize that this plan has been in the works for 2 years now. It takes time and proper planning and even then things don’t always go according to plan. Reversing the brain drain in my opinion is a direct by-product of my decision to go home. We need to be realistic and less emotional about returning home. I recently wrote about this issue here. I asked the question of others and many people I know personally have real concerns about moving back home. I believe that Zimbabwe or Africa is not for everyone for a variety of reasons. Some are simply accustomed to certain things or a certain life. Some have children to consider and the list goes on. I completed my MBA a few years ago now, and I have to admit that it (MBA) definitely has a direct impact on the way I think and live now. I have always been very entrepreneurial in the way I think but this program pushed me over the edge and now that’s how I live. I see a challenge and opportunity to overcome and I move forward. Others might see a roadblock and simply stop. It’s all relative. Staying here for me meant employment and going home (in my head) meant employing others. So you can see why returning home made sense for someone like me. Like I said, everyone is different and our journeys are certainly not similar.
8. From your experiences living in the U.K., what would you like to take home as a lesson for Africans?
I am a proud African as you know. Proud of our heritage, our ability to ‘make a plan’ and move forward. One of the things I want to take home (in any unorthodox way) is to remind myself and others like me that our way of doing things in Africa isn’t necessarily good or bad. It’s an African way of doing things and we should be proud in some cases. We often need to find middle ground. We also need to learn from others if we are to achieve our potential; for example learn about how some businesses in UK operate and the benefits of some strategic relationships they have whilst remembering the context. It is imperative that we acknowledge that UK businesses operate a certain way but we must, for fear of a better phrase ‘Africanize’ or localize certain business practices when I return. I firmly believe that humility on my part is key. Humility is critical in working out that something that works a certain way in the UK won’t necessarily work in Zimbabwe. Humility is important to realize that one shouldn’t force or expect employees or various stakeholders to adopt completely foreign and unnecessary business practices simply because ‘this is how the British do things’. It’s not right to patronize others – we must encourage cohesion and sharing of ideas. So to answer your question, humility is what I intend to take home with me.
9. The United States is often called the “land of opportunity” because it has become a place that people from all over the world go to live out “The American Dream”. Do you envision an “African Dream”? If so, what is it and how does it include foreigners coming to Africa as their “land of opportunity”?
I’m not too sure about the ‘The American Dream’ and I certainly don’t believe in Africa being viewed as just the ‘land of opportunity’ by foreigners. I want to discourage such practices – this is not the gold rush era. Like I mentioned earlier I believe in Africa first. Africans must be empowered both economically and otherwise. Inward investment is good and in fact encouraged but not at the expense of the local people and their livelihood. Wealth and opportunities must be distributed so that people are involved in the economic process. I would like to see a situation where certain sections of society are not marginalized. Let people become empowered to go out, work hard and achieve prosperity whatever that means to them.
From an investment destination, I see Africa as a place where partnerships via joint ventures and so forth should be sought and in fact encouraged. We need to diversify our partners. Traditionally we have partnered with Europe and the Americas but we need to look east as well. India is an interesting partner with similar challenges and population. I envisage a situation and you know this already, where our African governments are aid-free. Africa has sufficient mineral, land and other such resources to sustain ourselves. We already know that aid doesn’t work and those that push for it have other agendas. I envisage a situation where we increase our intra-trade within Africa from its current levels of approximately 10%. Why shouldn’t we trade more with each other? We definitely need to. I envisage a situation where we borrow and work closely together in terms of resolving various challenges like electricity and so forth.
10. Finally, I couldn’t let you leave our Round Table without asking you what has become my signature question; so here it is. If you could wave a magic wand over Africa and change one thing; what would it be?
One thing only huh? What it means to be a true leadership with respect to governance related issues.
Thank you so much for your time Nigel! I am sure that many will be inspired by your journey. I wish you the very best on your ventures as you return home to our mother, Africa. May God bless and keep you on your road to success. Since I am a mama at heart, I ask you to always keep our people in your hearts as you walk toward the realization of your own dreams; so that you can take many others with you. Even if you never run for political office, this is what will make you part of the leadership change you said you’d be inspired to change in Africa.
Now, friends, please join the discussion via Mama’s comments section because the most important portion of our Round Table discussions isn’t our guest or me… it’s you!