Roger Cowdrey - International Business Consultant. Writer & Motivational Speaker
My Blog

Self sustaining entrepreneurial deserts.

One of my roles as an international consultant is to act as a technical writer on drafting of economic development projects. Invariably the focus of the project is to develop the businesses in order to increase employment and thereby develop the economy of the local region.

Invariably these projects target areas of lower than average economic performance and focus on the primary industries of the area where it is assumed that increased efficiency is the answer.

Usually the primary industry is one of producing a particular raw material or categories of raw materials. Even more interestingly, the region often holds a prominent or even dominant position in production of the raw material.

However, the problem arises in that the local producers invariably sell on the raw materials at low wholesale prices to other regions or countries where the recipient gets a significantly larger return working further along the value chain.

What the region being helped needs is a regular supply of young entrepreneurs that can recognise the benefits of keeping the work further along the value chain in the local area. 

Sadly, what is more likely to happen is that the young will move away and work in other areas where the return is greater rather than staying and becoming another low end labourer for raw material production.

What has happened in so many of these areas is that years of doing the same thing has closed their minds to the idea of change. They have almost assumed that the best they can hope for is a bit of efficiency or a marginal increase in the raw material price.

On one occasion I visited one of these regions and the attitude of the old men in the region was one of despair. They were more likely to respond with the idea that they were sick of talking about raw material X. However, when talking to the women's business association they were full of ideas along the value chain that would improve the industry and the area. The same was true when I visited the university.

There are many such regions where the patriarchal society still operates and where entrepreneurship will have no place until the circle is broken and the women and the young people are seen as just as important as the men in the society. 

The men should remember the words of Steve Jobs who said that you don't hire good people to tell them what to do, you hire good people to tell you what to do.

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