The Year in Review – Where to From Here?

In the past year, we saw that people believed that the democratisation of finance will likely be cryptocurrency (mainly shitcoins or meme tokens), meme stocks with other concepts such as NFT’s and the “metaverse” thrown in. Those people who invested 1000’s in cat and dog coins saw their net worth rise to millions only to see them end the year in the 100’s. I’m not sure how something that fluctuates every time Elon Musk tweets can be a store of value. But what do I know? In 2022 we will see the continuing mainstreaming of cryptocurrencies as people pin their hopes that their chosen token will go to the moon.

This meteoric rise has prompted some people who live in failed states like South Africa to ask why bother to work hard when they can just hope Elon Musk tweets about the shitcoin they are holding, which is a valid question considering that South Africa’s 30% pass rate is unlikely to prepare people for the real world.

In the physicalverse we have seen mass business failures with South Africa’s business failure rate at 70-80%. Like the unemployment rate, the official rate is likely to be far higher at around 99%, with only 1 in 100 making it.

With South Africa going nowhere slowly the question is then where to from here? President Cyril Ramaphosa looks like a deer in headlights. I personally think the ANC should have stuck with the Guptas’ for another term. At least they have operational experience, unlike Ramaphosa who sat on the boards of hundreds of companies for BEE points. It still remains to be seen what he plans to do after 4 years in power or rather what his bosses in Stellenbosch tells him to do. The irony of a billionaire being the least effective president since 1994 – which includes a primary school dropout – tells you everything you need to know about BEE and tenderpreneuring. A matter that is compounded by the fact that the bar was not very high, to begin with. Had he done something, anything, he might have been considered one of the top presidents we ever had.

Business conditions in South Africa are still horrific and a sub-optimal operating environment is compounded by high crime and an ineffective police force. At this stage, it is probably better to simply dissolve the South African Police Service (SAPS) and start over. On the business side finance is hard to come by and expensive, the retail finance companies that have sprung up claiming to help entrepreneurs are nothing but glorified payday lenders with sky-high interest rates.

We have locally seen social media influencers such as Koshiek Karan and his cohorts talk a lot about democratisation of finance in the local context and “owning the economy” with the launch of (still to be launched) platforms such as “AltVest” and “BankerX” although I struggle to see how the fractional ownership of vanity assets such as “fine art, classic cars, wine & designer handbags” will change anything. Nor do I understand how a blog can call itself a “technology company” besides for the fact that it is hosted on a computer. But if WeWork and Greensill can call themselves tech companies then I guess a blog can also.

So where to? What is the key to success in 2022?

What is clear is that we cannot maintain the status quo. South Africa is not only going nowhere but in decline, the structural challenges are too steep to resolve anytime soon – even if we did have a president that was competent (which we don’t).

But we cannot achieve any change on our own, we have seen the power of people working together in regards to the above-mentioned crypto and meme stock communities. But how can we achieve success when we each act in our own individual best interests? This is where I do believe there is some potential with the blockchain and smart contracts not in buying and hoping but in utility. The main goal of a smart contract is to enable two anonymous parties to do business with each other; combining this with a ledger-based system like the blockchain opening up the opportunity to put the power in the hand of the people rather than in the hands of a few in the most unequal country in the world.

Blockchain-based businesses such as defi (decentralised finance) are still very new and the whole ecosystem can be described as being the early days of the internet. There are lots of opportunity but it is risky.

We won’t dive headfirst into the blockchain industry but gradually.

The most important thing is to have a source of income and to be able to keep the wolf from the door and avoid a catastrophic event such as homelessness which will make it much harder to bounce back. And you should always only risk the capital that you can afford to lose.

This year we will start out with a series looking at the affordable property business and ask why is it so hard to both own a house and run a business building affordable houses.

If I can leave you with one piece of advice this year it would be this: don’t have children young – or ever. All my friends who are self-made (wealthy by their own efforts) all have this in common. I think the youngest was like 40 when he had his first child. Children are a big burden when you are poor or even when you hustling and up and coming. They cost money – money that could have been spent elsewhere. You better off having them when you are only well-established. If you are not wealthy and still up and coming a child can be a massive burden, but will also force you to make decisions that are ultimately detrimental to success. Without a child the path to success is clear, no extra mouth to feed, no extra stress, no having to make such decisions such as whether or not there are good schools which is important as you can live a pretty nice cheap life close to the sea if this is not one of the factors to consider as you will see in our next series.