Does Luck Exist on Home Soil?

Posted in Life and Culture on February 25th, 2014 By Yvonne Mtengwa

So the adage goes that when opportunity meets preparedness success has every potential to ensue. Roman philosopher Seneca defined luck as the moment when preparedness and opportunity collide. Others simply assert that it is about being at the right place at the right time. In the advent of the economic collapse in my home country Zimbabwe, juxtaposed with reports of upsurges in growth in other African economies such as those of Uganda, Ghana, and Angola for instance, I got to thinking about what it is that creates the successful African entrepreneur or economy for that matter. Having migrated from the U.S several years ago, settling on home ground for several years and now working towards exploiting an opportunity that arose away from my continent, my heart still yearns to be a part of the big picture in Zimbabwe. I love my country with a love that has grown as I have become older in my years. I want my children to speak Shona fluently, to ride bicycles through my city’s leafy suburbs, to not debate about the cost of living when pitted against all the other countries I’ve had the good pleasure of living in and for the notion of opportunity to not be a topic of melancholic debate. I do wonder however, what it takes to really make it in an environment that resembles that from which I hail. I wonder most importantly, what it will take for my generation to impact lasting change on an economy and environment inflicted by deep wounds of hardship and poverty, when only a short while ago we were described as the “bread basket of Africa.”

My thinking was incited by one morning’s bible reading. As I navigated through the verses of Matthew 25 – the story of the 10 bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. The bible describes 5 of them as being foolish and the other as being wise; foolish in that they took lamps but carried no back-up in terms of olive oil for their lamps. The wise dames on the other hand carried with them reserves; that is, they were prepared. As the story continues we are told that the bridegroom is delayed to the extent that the bridesmaids fell asleep. When the bridegroom arrives at the midnight hour, the OPPORTUNITY that the bridesmaids had been waiting for all along presented itself. As suggested by the words of Seneca, the wise bridesmaids lucky and were therefore able to attend the marriage feast while the other 5 foolish bridesmaids missed out on the opportunity as they had to go and source more oil to keep their lamps alight. Simple yet intriguing a story it is in that it so very accurately describes what is commonplace in the lives of many of us. Opportunities come about, but due to lack of preparedness, many of us are left in a quandary, talking about what could have been had the conditions been different. Alternatively and much to the benefit of the prepared ones, they are able to exploit and maximise upon what they are presented with regardless of what the environment dictates.

So I bring it to my nation of Zimbabwe. In the advent of the so-called crackdowns on corruption (yes, I’m sceptical - 9 times out of 10 very few if anyone at all will be brought to book…smh), exposure of those taking home monthly salaries that surpass those of the United States President – I ask myself whether there is such a thing called “luck” or “opportunity meeting preparedness” in a country like Zimbabwe. Can you do all your research, write all your proposals, draw up all the graphs, practice your pitches a thousand times in front of the mirror, put in your 10k hours, take all the professional development courses on offer – and really get your break, THAT BIG BREAK THAT LITERALLY CHANGES YOUR LIFE!? Is it possible to do business based on merit and credibility as opposed to knowing “such and such” who holds position of “Director of So and so” at the Institution of “what not?” Fellow Zimbabweans in the diaspora ask me often enough, what opportunities can be exploited back home. The truth is, perhaps there are many sizeable opportunities, but one needs luck to remotely access them. By LUCK I mean MONEY and CONNECTIONS. Without those two things – the road to travel is marred with grit and every concrete boulder on every which way you turn. The path is perilous, the trials enormous, with folks asking you to do the unorthodox to see your vision through. I stand corrected here, but a good number would agree with me on this observation.

In the days of “burning” the Zimbabwe dollar circa 2007/2008, many because of their access to foreign currency, were able to make lucrative business investment decisions that saw them prepared for the downturn of events that ensued with the introduction of the multi-currency system. Some bought land and built properties whilst others invested in organizations or started businesses that are still standing despite the abysmal reports on the economy. That’s a classic example of opportunity meeting preparedness – LUCK EVEN… (and either Seneca’s or my assertion of “Zim Luck” applies here). Then there was the guy who from the money made through “burning”, imported multiple high-end luxury vehicles and flew to Joburg for an omelette everyday (you see because if you can have a Sandton omelette as opposed to a Harare omelette…YOU HAVE ARRIVED#cueChrisBrown….”Look at me now”), whilst renting an apartment on Harare’s Fife Avenue. This guy threw parties at the hottest clubs in town, threw money on the dance floor, had a bevy of women around him at all times, drank himself to stupor and was in the church pews on Sunday morning, tithing “burned” monies and making pledges to donate vehicles and the likes. No exaggeration here – I was in Zimbabwe during those days and saw it with my own eyes #TOMFOOLERY.ALL .AROUND. But when things changed and the U.S dollar came into circulation – #LAWDAMERCY!#BROKE.2.BEHIND.THE.BACK.OF.BEYOND.

Now I find myself asking what next. Every which Zimbabwe related page you open, there are reports of this and that not working, big wig so and so being exposed and to that I ask – what’s next. Ideas and potentially profitably concepts abound within the people of Zimbabwe without a shadow of a doubt. After all, we still boast of an education system that surpasses that of any other African country in the very least despite what’s on the ground. Our people have survived the inexplicable save for war – GOD’S DESIGN TO MAINTAIN A PEACEFUL NATION. But are we really free? Do we really have a fighting chance at birthing radical change that puts us back on the map? I guess the debates of what needs to happen will rage on and all remains to be seen.

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