At the beginning of independence era, once you graduated, jobs were looking for you. A bachelor’s degree was enough. These days you have to hunt for a job and wait beyond patience. Sometimes they do not offer you a job unless you have a higher degree.
College students are being advised to consider going into business whenever they cannot get employed. Self-employment has become a sound alternative in the employment market. Universities-public and private- are producing graduates at rates faster enough than rates of employment generation.
Is there enough opportunity for everyone to become an entrepreneur after having failed to find a job? Somewhere in the New Testament we read “many were called, few were selected”. Entrepreneurship operates in a similar manner. Many are called but few are selected in the sense that few who start business do succeed. A painful example was the newspaper ventures into this country.
The one-party era was also a one newspaper group era. The Daily Times and Malawi News were owned by President Hastings Kamuzu Banda. No one was allowed to own a newspaper that could comment on politics of the country. In 1993, under pressure from the donor community, Dr Banda broadcast on the radio that anyone could start his own newspaper subject to the provision of the law.
The first man to take advantage of this dispensation was Alaudin Osman. His paper, if I remember, was called Financial Times. The moment it appeared on streets, it sold like proverbial hot cakes. Then there followed a kind of Californian gold rush. In no time, there were 10 or so newspapers being peddled on streets and highways.
Technically, there were newspapers, but in practice they were views paper. Most of them concentrated on attacking the one-party systems and Dr Banda. Once Bakili Muluzi became president, the newspapers redirected their attacks to him. Most of them lasted only a year or two and then disappeared forever.
From that era, only one newspaper group has survived, Nation Publications Limited (NPL). To operate a newspaper successfully just like operating any other business, most characteristics of entrepreneurship must be there.
Observers recognise the following as characteristics of successful entrepreneurs:
(i) Motivation: Successful entrepreneurs are extremely self-motivated and enthusiastic. Those who set up a business merely because they see someone apparently making a lot of money sooner or later encounter difficulties which force them to quit as did most of those who launched newspapers in the aftermath of one-party era.
(ii) Flexibility and innovation: Success entrepreneurs have specific dreams and goals. They are creative; they listen to their customers and adapt to meet their needs. When some newspaper owners noticed that they papers were no longer selling they were at a loss because there were unable to create something else that could appeal to readers.
(iii) Risk taking: Successful entrepreneurs first estimate the risks involved in an enterprise and when assured, they take on the risks. But they are not gamblers. The newspaper people were merely gamblers. They thought what the other had done they could also do.
(iv) Proactive leaders: Successful entrepreneurs have a lot of initiative. They act, not just reach, they make things happens even in situations which to others seem impossible. For those that have a will, there is a way; they make the way across a maze of woods and grasses. The newspaper owners gave up too soon.
(v) Planning and organising: Successful entrepreneurs are good at planning and organising their work, entrepreneurs who do not plan t heir work plan to fail.
(vi) Previous experiences: Successful entrepreneurs go into fields of business in which they have some previous experience. He that has worked for someone as a sales representative goes to business as a shop keeper and a mechanic sets up his own garage. Going into a business of which you are totally ignorant is gambling. If you do not know what is involved in a certain business do some research first. (vii) Technical knowledge: Successful entrepreneurs have both managerial and technical know-how of their business. The more skills they have the more likely they are to succeed.
(viii) Hard workers: Needless to say unless you work extremely hard, at least 12 hours a day, you cannot make it as an entrepreneur. Lord Thomson of Canada, the successful newspaper proprietor explained his success by saying “No leisure, no pleasure”.
(ix) Personal financial resource: These are the seeds out of which the business sprouts. Aptly, it has been said, if you do not have money, no banker will lend you his or her money.