Profitable patriotism and economic development

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Batanai Kamunyaru

Economic development is made difficult for a nation that lacks “profitable patriotism”. In simplicity, profitable patriotism refers to a stance when the citizens of a nation invest in business for both personal and national purpose. No straightforward investor will invest in a country that has a low “profitable patriotism”.

Praising J.P Morgan and Warren Buffet, Steve Lohr wrote: “In the midst of a financial crisis, a towering figure of American business steps forward with his reputation and financial resources for public good and personal gain.” Such a stance is taken by people who love and have pride in their own nation. As a nation, when you have created a problem, you must fix it, for there is no one who is going to come and fix your mess! America, for some time, it will remain a strong nation because of the pride of its people. China caught the wave!

When patriotism lacks, instead of keeping wealth in your own country you stash it in other countries, especially in Switzerland – the tragedy of Africa.

However, profitable patriotism calls for a nation’s policies and regulation to inspire confidence in its own people and make the economy stronger. A weak system of policies and regulation scares patriotism and one prefers to make money in a nation and send it abroad for safety – in other words, developing the host nation! It is good policies and regulations that attract investments and economic development – nothing much more.

For a nation not to be treated like a ‘market’ by other nations, it must make and promote the use of its own products – that’s what makes nations great. However, it is people with the ‘profitable patriotism’ mindset who will advance such causes and never lay down. John F. Kennedy once illustrated, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” What are you doing for your country?

Are your efforts building the nation or destroying, for personal gain?

Business leaders should look for sectors of the economy to make an impact on and advance profitable patriotism. Lobby for policy and regulation changes in that sector to enable you to function properly for the benefit of the nation and your own benefit. A problem arises when one is investing or lobbying for policy change in a sector for selfish gains, without the interests of the nation first. When you put the interests of others first before yours, then the reward you get is likely to exceed what you will get when you push your own greediness.

For what purpose does a business exist? The prominent answer is that business is set for making profit. Nevertheless, business is built for something more than just money. The money should follow the number one purpose why the business was setup. If a business is setup sorely for making money, it is easier for such a business to go bankrupt. When the right purpose is being pursued, and people’s needs are being met, then the business can make profit and exist for so many years.

Not less well known, but ignored, it is a nation that set policies and regulations to support the purposes of its businesses that will have a recognisable economic development. When a noble business purpose for a nation is fought by policies and regulations, then the business environment will be highly polluted, and the nation suffers. Also, a nation that fails to nurture one big global business every five years must revisit its policies and regulations, with the intention of promoting a conducive business environment for its own people. There are policies that are toxic to the business playing field, and by such policies “profitable patriotism” is crippled.

When revisiting the nation’s policies and regulations, the policy drafters should aim to answer questions like: What policies are driving the nation away from its basic purpose? Does the policy being crafted stimulate forward progress? Does the policy create momentum? Does the policy get people going? Does the policy get people to exercise their potential and skill? And how do people view the policy? If the answers satisfactorily address these questions, then it is easier to push the agenda of ‘profitable patriotism’. Most importantly, policies should be crafted by people with skills and experience in the targeted sectors! Furthermore, the policies and regulations must be proactive and not reactive – if they are reactive, the ripple effects may cause much more damage than the first.

Before the policy is rolled out at a national level, it should be tried and tested in cities or regions of the nation. Notably, almost every nation is divided into regions or provinces, that should be used for better economic development rather than any purpose that do not benefit the nation.

Unfortunately, damages caused by some policies take years to reverse, causing the nation to be in a reverse gear rather than the forward gears. Operating in a reactive mode is very dangerous for economic development, it is of importance to operate in a proactive mode. When policies and regulations are right, money will not leave the country, but rather come to the country from other nations.

If ‘profitable patriotism’ is low in a nation, economic development suffers as investments are done by individuals to loot rather than develop. To safeguard the assets and interests of a nation, ‘profitable patriotism’ should be promoted at all levels, to the people of the nation for they are the ones who understand their problems better than anyone. A nation that ignores its own people has no future, rather it sells the future to other nations! Economies that practice and promote ‘profitable patriotism’ continue to build for the longterm even during difficult times. It is a certainty that every nation at some point will face difficult times, regardless of who they are and what they have done, but it is those who will not lose sight of the mission or purpose who wins in the future. Investments into the future is a responsibility of every generation, lest generations to come will be no much different from today’s generations, if not worse.

The core ideology and desired progress of a nation must be clearly painted to its citizens. With such, it is easier for the business people to be very patriotic and engage in ‘profitable patriotism’. Let the nation establish practices that work for its own economic development than to rely on other nations for progress. A nation that relies on other nations for progress is a crippled nation. Regrettably, African nations have been relying on the West and the East for too long! When are Africans going to rise and depend on themselves? When are Africans going to implement that which they see in other nations? Economic development will only be experienced if the citizens of a nation rise and be proud in their nation, obviously setting policies and regulations that promote economic growth.

Look at the British model of economic development, look at the USA model of economic development and look at the Chinese model of economic development, what do you see? You cannot separate ‘profitable patriotism’ from the development. It is time not to copy how other nations speak or walk, but to copy models of economic development. As it stands, a nation that has mastered economic development rules the nations that have no clue of how the laws of economics work. As King Solomon expresses it, a nation that borrows will be a slave to the lender!

Business is what drives nations! All other dimensions that govern a nation thrive when the economic dimension is thriving – and when the economic dimension is non-functional, all the other dimensions follow – creating a chaotic situation in a nation. Paul Hawken, an environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and author, once said, “We need to revise our economic thinking to give full value to our natural resources. This revised economics will stabilise both the theory and the practice of free-market capitalism. It will provide business and public policy with a powerful new tool for economic development, profitability, and the promotion of the public good.” His thoughts are the thoughts of ‘profitable patriotism’, which nations should follow for economic development. There is limited hope for a nation that alienate economic development from its own people. Do you see how developed nations deal with its own people? Africa should take a leaf from that! The father of management, Peter Drucker, said, “The ultimate resource in economic development is people. It is people, not capital or raw materials that develop an economy.” Sadly, Africa has been ignoring its people for too long, and chose to go on the search for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) – no wonder it is scarce! The skilled and talented people then find their way to other countries that appreciate them and use them to develop their own economies.

It is time for Africa to change the way it views economic development, and not be short sighted. It is time for Africa to think of generations to come, and make decisions, policies and regulations that create room for ‘profitable patriotism’. The policies should abandon the ‘old industries’ and support the new, by promoting generation of new ideas and taking advantage of ideas generated elsewhere!

Batanai Kamunyaru is a business writer, speaker and coach. He can be contacted on bat. kamunyaru@gmail.com or +263 718 852 489.