Ever heard the little story about the shoe salesman who was sent to Africa? Before I repeat it, let me say by way of disclaimer that I’m always intrigued at the ignorance of those who think of Africa as one large mystical troubled country! Not wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I’ll tell the story anyway.
So, two shoe salesmen were sent to ‘Africa’ to see if there was a market for their product. After a few weeks, they sent back their sales reports to headquarters. The first one reported back, “There is no opportunity to increase sales here; no-one here wears shoes.” The second one however had a different view of the same situation. “Wow, this is a fantastic business opportunity to grow the business; no-one here wears shoes!”
As a nation, we certainly are great at identifying our problems. A casual scanning of our daily newspapers or our online conversations will quickly confirm that we love to discuss and vent about our issues – whether it’s our traffic or the state of our roads, our school system or the corruption in our country, and of course our favorite, our political leaders! We all know what they did wrong and what we would have done better if we were in their shoes. And often we’ll shrug our shoulders and say knowingly or despairingly depending on our situation, ‘only in Kenya’.
As we complain, its easy to miss out on the fact that others across the world are waking up to – that Africa is the world’s last frontier, with huge opportunities for all who are willing to see them. The world’s governments and multinationals are beating their way here to exploit these opportunities. They can see the vast untapped mineral wealth in this part of the world, and the increasing investments in infrastructure that are making it more accessible. They can see the huge market that is our growing middle class, as well as our bulging youth population. They can see the maturing of our institutions that is making business a whole lot easier. While all we see are the problems, they see the opportunities!
The good book teaches that in the beginning, God created an orderly and beautiful universe out of darkness and chaos. And then He created humans ‘in His image’. In other words, we too were created to invent solutions and create beauty out of darkness and chaos. We were created to be the problem solvers for our society!
It’s been said that ‘average people see difficulty in every opportunity but great people see opportunity in every difficulty’. As citizens of this great nation, we need to learn the truth of the simple saying, ‘don’t vent, invent!’ It’s time to stop seeing the ‘half-empty cup’ of what’s going wrong and start to focus on the ‘half-full cup’ of the opportunities presented to us by our many problems. Because every problem is an opportunity in disguise!