Reviewed by Eric Watkins
The news out of Africa is better than it has been for many years." That's the view of Reginald Dale, writing in a recent edition of the International Herald-Tribune. In the face of so many problems, not least the continuing human suffering in Rwanda and Zaire, Dale's optimistic statement may seem foolhardy, to say the least. But Dale has his reasons.
There is, he says, more than one Africa. And, unlike the old Africa which remains mired in problems, there is a new Africa emerging. In contrast to the many countries stuck in the old ways, many more are beginning to take steps down the road to greater stability and prosperity. "In Eastern and Southern Africa," Dale says, "a corridor of political and economic reform now stretches from Ethiopia and Eritrea to South Africa, and many West African countries are following suit."
In particular, Dale points to the development of entrepreneurial thinking as the key to this incipient change now taking place. "What is happening is that with the Cold War over and Western aid budgets in permanent decline, more and more African governments are realising that the era of aid-dependency is over and that the private sector must henceforth be the engine of growth. They understand that they will have to compete for foreign investment by liberalising and privatising their economies and helping entrepreneurship to flourish."
One can certainly agree that this new openness towards business may well lead to a more prosperous and stable future, not only for the countries in the emerging corridor of political and economic reform, but also for all the other countries in Africa, as well.
Yet one must likewise exercise caution in this thinking. After all, even business can have its down-side.
That's where this little book comes in. And little is the operative word: Measuring just 7.5cm by 11.5cm, this is perhaps one of the smallest books you will ever read. But its tiny dimensions are more than made up for by the power of its message. Honest Business is just that: A guide for people who want to start a small business and do it in an honest way. But it also has implications for the whole continent.
"While the concept of honesty in business expressed here is revolutionary, the practice is not," the authors say. But what exactly is their revolutionary concept?
"The concept of honesty is made clear by thinking about your friends who are extremely honest and comparing them in your mind to friends...