While regretting the existence of xenophoibia in his country, South Africa President Jacob Zuma put up a rejoinder: Why are these people here in South Africa and not in their own countries?
While some of the foreigners found in South Africa have fled from civil wars, some like Malawians are there for purely economic reasons. There are not enough jobs in Malawi for all able bodied and educated men and women. If we can create more jobs, more Malawians will be satisfied to remain at home. Their expulsion has reminded them of the maxim, “kwanu n’kwanu”, meaning east or west home is best.
Job creation in undeveloped countries is to enhance development. In developed countries economists and policy makers try to create jobs by applying Keynesian demand management principles to revive an economy that is in recession or the supply side principles of the likes of Milton Friedman to overcome stagflation when Keynesians principles result in higher inflation and unemployment than growth rates.
In a country like Malawi, the key to creating jobs lies in developing the resources. This requires knowledge. This is the age of knowledge, relevant knowledge that is.
It has become a mantra to advocate the teaching of mathematics and natural sciences as an open sesame to development. Let us produce scientists, engineers and doctors and presto, development will take place by leaps and bounds. Not much is being advocated about the role of management.
One of the three great minds of the 20th century whose writings I always read with zest, Peter Drucker of the United States is widely acknowledged as the management guru. The other two are John Maynard Keynes the economist and Bertrand Russell the philosopher.
It is about Drucker we will talk about. Before the end of the 20th century, the country that threatened economic dominance of western nations was Japan. All over the world Japanese exports were winning markets, sages of the west went to Japan to find out the secret of its economic miracle.
Some of these sages were Americans. If only they had listened to Booker T Washington’s advice: “Cast your bucket where you are.” They would have realised that the management techniques Japan was using had been theorised by American gurus, and that Japan put the theories into practice much more than the Americans.
In 1985, when the West’s curiosity and envy about Japan’s success were at the peak when Drucker wrote an essay titled, Management as a Liberal Art; the essay opened thus: “Three foreigners all Americans are thought by the Japanese to be mainly responsible for the recovery of their country after World War and for its emergence as a leading economy.”
He goes on to give names of these great minds of the west, Edward Deming taught the Japanese quality control and quality circles; Juran taught them how to organise production in the factory, especially the principle of just in time or kanban in Japanese.
The third guru was Drucker himself. The Japanese said he taught them about management, marketing that people are a resource not a cost and so on.
We see in this that the Japanese attributed their success to putting into practice principles of management they had learned from the Americans. They said nothing about mathematics and science subjects. They regularly invited Drucker and the other gurus to hold workshops in Japan which were attended by chief executives.
One of the principal reasons for the success of Japanese business is that Japanese managers, according to Drucker, do not start with a desired profit in mind. Rather they start out with business objectives and especially with market objectives. They ask what new products do we need for this.
The success of the Japanese and other Asians in the Far East is in a function or curiosity about the techniques used by the developed west. They read text books, journals and they travelled abroad with eyes open and inquisitive minds.
Our first president Hastings Kamuzu Banda said again and again you learn a lot by travelling abroad. He was right, but not in his choice of people he sent abroad. They were mostly praise singers. They went there, saw the wonders of Britain, Taiwan, Egypt and Isreal, but brought no knowledge from there.
Development will move faster if first of all men and women are placed in key position because of their abilities and their willingness to keep learning. They should not fool themselves that because they have masters or PhD degrees they have acquired all the knowledge necessary for them to be productive. A well educated person is always learning, and does not confine himself/herself to a narrow field. Management, says Drucker, feeds off economics psychology, mathematics, political theory, history and philosophy. But like medicine, management is a discipline in its own right.
If technocrats are to spend time reading current publications, books or journals they must not be treated like political footballs, shuffled here then there by political masters. Knowledge and expertise are never acquired in this way.