Cultural Constraints are the Root Causes of our Troubles to do Business in South Sudan.

By Apioth Mayom Apioth

Opinion:

Performers get ready to take part in a parade marking the first anniversary of South Sudan's first Independence (Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Performers get ready to take part in a parade marking the first anniversary of South Sudan’s first Independence (Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Jan 22, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — Before the present war took us for a phantasmagorical ride, our neighborly East African communities, and especially those of Somali, Ethiopians and Eritreans, who originated from the horn of Africa, were doing exceptionally well in the area of business in South Sudan. The Somali took over a good share of the gas stations; both the Eritreans and Ethiopians were in the restaurant businesses. Ethiopians used to work from 4am to 4pm; in just eight years, from their first arrival in 2005 up to 2013 when the war broke out, they amassed a wealth which became the envy of our South Sudanese communities. How did they garner such a wealth in such a short time, someone may ask? They reached where they perched through hard work, freeing themselves from cultural constraints, and concerted culture of an entrepreneurial mindset.

From the onset, we can all be lenient toward our people concerning the matter of development of an entrepreneurial mindset; some people may say all these communities had already built an entrepreneurial mindset, centuries or decades before they arrived in South Sudan, and there could be a shade of truth to that.

Our first task to make our present felt in this lucrative field of entrepreneurship would be to free ourselves from the constraints of culture. Our cultures are varied and vastly diverse; however, everyone in the nation put pride before everything else in the nation. A majority of our people think that doing business is beneath their level; in other words, they think people will culturally look down on them if they do those sorts of things. We have come a long way from the earlier times when we were preoccupied with farming and cattle-keeping to our contemporary times where money is the chief obsession. When the East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania got their independence from their European colonizers; the Southeast Indians came in droves and settled down to do business. Now over 50 years later, they own the most profitable businesses in East Africa. The same episode is repeating itself clothed in different customs: mainly through our horn of Africa’s neighbors. For those of us who have the biggest pride, let it be told that at the end of the day a pride is only a feeling; and money has the power to keep you afloat whereas the pride can’t help you in solving your personal problems. Why can’t you hide your pride under the carpet for a few years while working your hands to the bones at the shop and see where this might lead you? You never know your pride might take you further and you might end up one day as the owner of Ramchiel Grand Hotel. Having reached that level, you may never bother with working with your hands; rather you could be doing presentations at the convention centers across town.

Another cultural setback is the baffling occurrence of sharing. In some South Sudanese cultures, there is no distinction between a person and what he/she owns, in this case, business. Friends, relatives and close acquaintances have an easy way to bankrupt the business by taking commodities without paying back a cent. An age-old saying which goes, “Charity begins at home, rings magnificently here. There is nothing completely wrong with helping out a buddy every once in a while; but the principles of business dictate that proper management of assets must be held in high regard, otherwise you are making way for your own downfall. Those in the business are only in it to make profits; how does insatiable thirst for making profits become compatible with communal charity, especially if you are living in rags? If you are just in a small business where your income is like those of our compatriots working in hospitals, dentistry, or what have you; why are you freely intentionally giving away the fruits of your sweat when everyone else in the community, like engineers, or geologists, are keeping full portions of their income? Anyone could be a great philanthropist when he/she is wealthy, and there is enough going around to keep his/her life intact.

By first freeing ourselves from the cultural constraints, we are doing ourselves an enormous favor by removing a threatening hurdle. When that is taken care of; everything else will fall into place. Anyone who dreams of living a good life must sacrifice something in order to reach somewhere; hence hard work is not a big issue here, anyone who dreams that big must work hard to realize their capabilities. An entrepreneurial mindset will develop over time. An entrepreneurial mind involves being economically resourceful and knowing how every pound you invest is going to propagate something profitable.

 You can reach the author at agutkeu@gmail.com

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