Stella Sata And Her Provocative And Demeaning Statement – My Personal View.
The statement by Stella Sata on the action of some former University of Zambia graduates who recently protested over unemployment has sparked a lot of angry reactions from a cross section of society. While, others have viewed her statement as progressive and in line with government’s stand on trying to foster entrepreneurship, many, especially university graduates consider it as demeaning and a lack of respect for the educated lot.
Stella Sata is a child of a former business man, councillor, governor, minister and more importantly republican president who many view as having lived a luxurious life because of her father’s success and does not understand the economic hardships many unemployed Zambians face.
Many parents send their children to college and university, not only to go and acquire a certificate that should later gather dust, but with the hope that the education they receive will one day help them get a decent job.
It is so depressing for parents who have sacrificed massively to have their children get a degree or diploma see them languishing in a bottom less pity of unemployment. For most of these graduates, a decent job is their only hope of having a taste of the good life Stella Sata has freely enjoyed over the years.
Over the past few days, I have been wrestling with the following questions. “What did Stella Sata have in mind for her to issue such a provocative statement against graduates who were rightfully protesting against unemployment?”. “Why of all things does she suggest they should start selling tomatoes as a means of earning an income instead of crying foul over unemployment?” “Does she understand the intellectual capital that is invested in a university graduate through many years of learning?” Should that intellectual capital be wasted by selling tomatoes on the streets?” “Or was she trying to imply university graduates must be entrepreneurial and not wait on government to provide them with jobs?”
It is difficult, if not impossible to understand what was going on in Stella’ s shallow mind to make such a demeaning and provocative statement. However, from my perspective, the young lady is a spoiled individual who lacks an understanding of what being entrepreneurial is. The best she should have done was to keep quiet than to expose her ignorance in the manner she did. To suggest that graduates must start selling tomatoes on the streets is an insult to the world of academia.
University graduates must indeed be entrepreneurial, and not wait on government to provide them with jobs. But what level of entrepreneurship should a university graduate engage in? Entrepreneurship is the emergence and growth of new business. It is a process that causes changes in the economic system through innovations of individuals who respond to opportunities in the market. In the process entrepreneurs create value for themselves and society. It is about identifying opportunities, being creative and innovative by coming up with something novel, gathering resources, taking a risk, managing a business and being rewarded in the end.
Our university graduates must indeed be encouraged to identify gaps in the market, and through creativity and innovation come up with products or services which fill that gap. Surely, there is nothing creative or innovative with selling tomatoes on the street. Selling of tomatoes on the streets can be classified as a form of “basic survivalist entrepreneurship” which involves people with low literacy levels, who are unaware of their own potential and are satisfied with low-income generating activities solely for survival. On the other hand, university graduates must be encouraged to become high impact entrepreneurs who are innovation driven. Society needs to benefit from their intellectual capital.
To achieve this, a lot needs to be done. Government must put in place a supportive, and cooperative environment that encourages university graduates to be entrepreneurial. Measures must be put in place that encourage business start-ups. Infrastructure development, ease access to capital, business development services such as business advice, counseling mentoring, incubation, reduction of red- tape, entrepreneurial training must be put in place. Finance and training are most probably the most important of these services in a developing economy like Zambia. Universities and other educational institutions should do research in order to improve the board of knowledge in entrepreneurship through formal programmes.
Large firms and non-governmental organizations also have an important role to play. Through their social responsibility programmes and funds, they could help tertiary and other institutions to encourage research and development. They can also assist in funding innovative ventures.
Instead of castigating castigating the innocent unemployed graduates, Stella Sata must first advise government to put in place an environment that is supportive of entrepreneurship. If government and the all stakeholders do their part, entrepreneurship in Zambia will become the engine of economic and job growth.
Stella Sata must not comment on issues she has little knowledge of.
By Lubinda Mubita
Master of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management Student
University of Pretoria