From today onwards we are taking a new approach we will call it the New Paradigm, it should actually be called the old paradigm as we will do business the way it should be done in Africa. A new paradigm is a new way of thinking or doing things that replaces the old way. But because South Africa is regressing to a less developed state what is old is new. That means replacing the expensive Eurocentric ways that keep most entrepreneurs from earning a living in modern South Africa. Yes, that’s right are going to wake up to the reality that we are operating in a poor African country.
In the last few years, we tried many things, often tiptoeing around the elephant in the room: South Africa’s poor education system. A system so poor that graduates with degrees are begging at the robots for work, despite 15+ years of primary, secondary, and tertiary education they are still unable to help themselves eke out a living while others sit on Twitter and complain how they have forgotten what they have learnt. We started with very basic ideas to start for < R1000 and people still asked about “training” unable even to help themselves and grasp the basic research required to do rudimentary things. Then we went to step-by-step guides that people still couldn’t follow. I said in my last sermon that we will not be doing basic ideas anymore and that SA’s education system first needs to be fixed but I can’t see that happening unless we overthrow the government. So we are going back to our roots again: helping people who want to help themselves.
We are going to be inspired not by dream worlds like Silicon Valley but by projects that worked in poor African countries such as Appropriate technology – a movement (and its manifestations) encompassing technological choice and application that is small-scale, affordable by locals, decentralised, labor-intensive, energy-efficient, environmentally sound, and locally autonomous as well as other concepts that suit a majority poor country. I will be moving in the opposite direction that most “innovators” in SA are going, we need to devolve with the country not go against the grain. How can we work with complex machinery when we don’t have reliable electricity? This means one thing: there will be a lot of hard work and manual labour involved so people allergic to those should stop reading and close the page.
We will be taking a different approach to usual, instead of business ideas we will be looking at business opportunities that can be acted on right now. As you know we always look at solutions aimed at the man in the street, with as little capital as possible. Put those R350’s away. The opportunities are coming. We are going to try at least. We will only look at pockets of opportunities (with little similar competition) and solve the chicken and egg problem by providing linkages for supply and demand.
We will be looking at small business opportunities that are quick and simple to execute. These businesses will be simple and require mostly common sense. If you are struggling to grasp it (even after research) then maybe it is not for you.
Forget everything you were told, forget about business plans, forget about focussing on one thing, forget thinking about finance, forget about thinking big, forget dreams (at least for now), just act based on your gut. Most opportunities will be easy enough to figure out on your own if it’s not then it’s not for you, if it’s too far away (or too expensive to ship) then it’s not for you.
Don’t worry about registering a business or taxes or separate bank accounts or red tape or waiting till everything is *just* right just do it, stop trying to operate like you in Europe this is Africa. Stop trying to be clever and overthink that is why the foreigners from poor African countries come here and beat the locals they are operating like they are in Africa. South Africans are not. South Africa is approaching an iceberg, stop trying to rearrange deck chairs. Just do it.
Forget long formal plans, going forward the “business plan” will be this:
- Focus on what you going to do / Immerse yourself in research (resist the need to ask for help try to figure things out on your own). Try to foster a “find a way or make a way mentality”. It will be basic stuff with no need for formal training.
- Who you gonna buy from and who to sell to (same logic with making/manufacturing) something)
- Where are you going to do it from (bedroom, garage, mother’s kitchen table etc.)
- And how are you going to tell people you do it
That is all you need. If your plan is longer than an A4 sheet it is probably too long unless if it has illustrations on or something.
The why is simple, both the cost of living and doing business in SA is just too high for most entrepreneurs to get traction.
The how a bit more complex:
The new paradigm will have a few fundamentals:
The plan is simple. Forget thinking big. If you starting with nothing or little it’s OK to start small than to focus on unrealistic things and daydream your life away. And forget advice on focussing on one thing, this will be cheap and simple enough so you can do various different things.
The reason this strategy is adopted when finding pockets of opportunity is because South Africa already has a well-established big business. And when you find a pocket, you often find:
- Demand exceeds supply
- The product is so niche that it takes a while to sell, if you are diversified the other “business(es)” will carry until you make a sale. This may be recurring as we might have to go quite avant-garde (experimenting with new ideas which are hit and miss because there might be a good reason it is not popular here, or there might very well be an opportunity).
However, even if the business flies below the radar, we are still faced with a massive macro problem: the high cost of living. Everything in South Africa is expensive from electricity to petrol to toll gates not because it is expensive but because there is usually some kind of wastage premium from either corruption or incompetence. This means we have to focus on making a minimum amount of money for a reasonable quality of living. Self-employment is stressful enough it can’t not be profitable as well.
We will be looking at opportunities that can make a minimum of R100 an hour, where it is possible all that is needed is determination (you won’t make anything if you are not determined enough).
I would say a good personal goal to start out is to make R1000 a day or R100 an hour (over ten hours), now knowing South Africa this will either be a lot of money to many and to few it will be a nothingburger amount. But we are not targeted at SA’s 0.1% wealthy.
Start off by wanting to make R100 an hour, then R200, then R300. You will eventually hit a plateau where you would need to “scale” up and grow, you can decide if it’s worth the drama of hiring (more) people.
From an appropriate technology perspective is this an attainable amount? While our focus is not exclusively on appropriate technology, I would say it is possible to use a common example, the universal nut sheller. It can remove the shells of 57 kilograms of raw, sun-dried peanuts per hour. To make R100 an hour you would need to charge just over R1.75 per kg to shell. With peanuts costing R100 per kg this is a reasonable amount. Yes, we don’t do a lot of peanut shelling here but it is an example of how we will be thinking and what can be done with a machine that costs as little as R150 to make and can last as long as 25 years.
Not only that but it was written in the stars one of the appropriate technology pioneers used this song and shared some of his photos of his work in Africa.
In the video you can see various appropriate technology machines, this includes:
metal bending, metal rolling machines and cutting shears for metal work.
Now we not doing to generally look at this but you can get an idea of the direction we are moving in.