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Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Creating Wealth Through Clan Networks by Phillip Bohwasi


There are many questions about African Entrepreneurship and African leadership. No one has been able to come up with a conclusive position and model on African greatness and leadership models. The worst we see are stories of decaying African leadership models, wars, civil strife, hunger, natural and man-made calamities.

Young democracies from little African countries, like Botswana are doing their best to clean up this image. Other countries that have tried to let democracy flow are South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and of course a few in the north, west and east Africa. Africa has not seen its better days. The new generation of African leadership is yet to emerge. The beautiful ones who could take Africa to the world and expand its greatness are yet to be born.

Entrepreneurial leadership has foundations within the extended traditional family system and clan networks. The practice is not removed from day to day social capital networks which drive small family enterprises. The extended family and community system define the practice of enterprise development. The challenge is upon the African academia to begin a process of expanding the entrepreneurship development model to allow traditional economies and communities to begin creating their own wealth and nurture their own leaders.

All over the world, prudent economies create their own wealth, sustain their own development and nurture their own leadership through the local and traditional entrepreneurial class.

Africa’s Obstacles to Growth

African communities have been lagging behind in economic and social development for a long time. Considering the amount of financial assistance that has been injected in Africa through donor intervention and development initiatives, African communities should have risen to better levels of entrepreneurship and social development stewardship by now.

Most African economies, particularly rural areas, are structured in such a way they cannot jump-start the energies responsible for creating wealth or sustainable development. The environment is such that the nurturing of local leadership is often difficult. This creates unstable micro-economic and political environments that can not replicate themselves and are hostile and unpredictable; rendering all best designed development plans a failure.

There is need to explore whether appropriate entrepreneurial strategies such as the use of social capital, nurturing of young leadership, and the use of clan networks have been employed appropriately in African marginal communities.

More work still needs to be done at analyzing entrepreneurship and leadership in the African context, and exploring the social capital and clan network systems within which the enterprises are established and from which leadership potential emerges. It would be imperative that the African environment be scanned to identify the economic, political and leadership drivers and observe how they influence the emergence of strong leadership, established enterprises and industries of the future in Africa. This is based on the motivation that there are sufficient skills and resources in African rural communities to produce future generation leaders, feed African people and establish viable rural enterprises. The prevailing social environment and its first generation leadership, the political environment, capital and clan networks need to be understood, studied, analysed in depth as all have a strong bearing on the entrepreneurial leadership.

If we continued to use the existing modern models of leadership mentorship and business practices without merging them with traditional experience and local entrepreneurial class, it is like creating a structure without a foundation and roots. It is synonymous with moving forward and leaving the entire African population behind and ignored.

Africa needs to be included into the race for democracy, leadership, entrepreneurship and business development. The West can not give Africa what it does not have. The West has fast growing democracies and cannot wait for a slow Africa. It has no moral patience to slowly nurture African leaders into a democratic environment. African leaders as a result of pressure do it “anyhow.” The result is the present day Africa, with civil wars, contentious elections and a food insecure Africa.

Rural African communities and clan networks still fail to create, identify and produce their own wealth, entrepreneurial leaders within the African traditional and clan network production systems. Why?

The Way Forward for Africa

The local elite, academia and rural entrepreneurs have to get rid of the slave mentality and adapt to a royal mind-set which takes pride in its cultural heritage. Social experiments and community based household enterprises should not ignore inspiration from cultural trends. Rural communities should capitalize on social capital and networks to make their business enterprises succeed.

Africa should take a leaf from the Asian community. The top Asian personal values are: hard work; respect for learning; honesty; self discipline and self reliance. These Asian studies exhibit that culture is very important in entrepreneurship and leadership development. There is need to harness this invaluable social experience and innovation of the African people and align them with successful management techniques from both the west and the east. Clan networks can be an enabler to entrepreneurship and leadership in the sense that they moderate and dictate the environment within which social interactions take place, including business transactions and leadership.

Cultural Networks shape the community’s cosmology and as such can be quite difficult to divorce these networks from the understanding of business. This is because the entrepreneur is a social being whose actions are regulated and defined by the social environment. The USA has emerged as number one economy because of its ability to market its cultural products, such as pop, rap music, jeans, TV shows, and films. African communities should attempt to capture about 10 percent of the world market for their cultural products and they can become competitive global players and leaders.


Phillip Bohwasi is a Social Scientist and Founder of Zimbabwe Opportunities Industrialisation Centers (ZOIC). Email him at zoic@mweb.co.zw. This article was published by The African Executive.


Phillip Bohwasi

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

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