Industrialization, Vendors and Religion

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Recently, I came across two particularly interesting events that occurred in Southern Africa. They are: The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap Summit and International Worker’s Day on the first of May.

The SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap Summit

 

This Strategy and Roadmap operationalises the theme of the 34th Summit of SADC, which is Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable, Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition.

The strategy will seek to utilize the diverse natural resources of the region to bring about sustainable economic and social development.

Now, industrialization particularly refers to economic activity which is based upon manufacturing and production, and which ultimately grows economies and creates employment. Some of the preconditions of industrialization are: labour force, markets, access to raw materials and investment.

While critics have pointed at de-industrialization in Zimbabwe as an indicator of the summit’s futility, perhaps it is important to note that de-industrialization is a global phenomenon.

Firstly, de-industrialization refers to the falling in unemployment particularly in the manufacturing sector, and according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during the last 30 years employment in the manufacturing sector has fallen dramatically in the world’s most advanced economies, particularly the United States and Europe.

In fact, if one looks at France (a country with an enviable industrial heritage) as an example, some 350 000 manufacturing sector jobs have been shed since the mid 2000s.

Even if we look at research from Brazil, we’ll notice that “since the late 1980’s, Brazil has begun to deindustrialize, a process which recent growth has done little to stop or reverse. India presents an even more striking case: Manufacturing employment there peaked at a meager 13% in 2002, and has since trended down.”

The reason behind deindustrialization in these countries is arguably that their domestic costs of manufacturing make it difficult for them to compete globally.

Zimbabwean manufacturers are in a similar situation. In fact, the vast amounts of foreign goods on our shelves make it obvious that our manufacturers are failing to compete with South African, Chinese and other goods, and it is in this light that regional industrialization spearheaded by South Africa is the way forward.

Take Pick n Pay as an example. It is already clear that Pick n Pay is contributing positively to our economy in terms of creating jobs and providing goods and services.

Now, if the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap materializes, it will certainly create jobs regionally. Imagine if companies like Vodacom, MTN, Shoprite Checkers, Sasol and Mediclinic set up shop in Zimbabwe.

Such a situation can only be positive, considering that last year South Africa’s top 50 corporate brands had a combined valuation of 34.3 billion dollars.

International Worker’s Day

 

The May 1 holiday is based upon “the International Workers’ Congress held at Paris in July 1889 [which] called upon workers around the world to hold a one-day demonstration to fight for the 8-hour day.

“Originally intended only as a single day of solidarity, May Day captured the attention of working people around the world. A century later, May Day was recognized as an official holiday in 107 countries.”

Now, interestingly, some so called labour activists tend to lament the state of Zimbabwe’s workforce, particularly the levels of unemployment, yet it is those very labour activists who are consistently lobbying for higher wages.

Let me remind them here, that Karl Marx referred to the unemployed as the “industrial reserve army” and that when unemployment is high, wages should remain low in order to create jobs for this reserve army. Conversely when unemployment is low, wages should remain high.

Religion and the “Musika” Phenomenon”

I am particularity curious about a new slogan which is being used by certain labour activists and politicians who are referring to Zimbabwe as “a nation of vendors.”

In order to verify the validity, of this term, I took time to walk through Harare central business district (CBD).

In Harare CBD, there are two things I find peculiar. Firstly, Town house (the administrative center of Harare City Council) is literally encircled by vendors. I can only imagine what the mayor and his cohorts discuss in their chambers when a few meters away they can hear a megaphone marketing rat poison.

Secondly, my observations in CBD diminished the doctrine that it is solely economic forces that create the informal sector, or what I will refer to here as the “musika” phenomenon.

Now let us consider that Western industrialization produced classic social theorists like Karl Marx, who (among other things) referred to religion as “the opium of the people,” and the enemy of the proletariat. On the other hand, Max Weber, an economist wrote “The Protestant Ethic.”

In simple terms, Max Weber’s work argued that religious forces precede economic forces. In other words, during his time, preachers transmitted a doctrine that hard work and frugality allow a believer to save money and increase wealth, and that wealth itself is an indication of God’s blessing and an assurance that a believer will go to heaven.

Today, “The Protestant Ethic” has culminated into what is often referred to as “prosperity gospel.”

Now, if we take Max Weber’s “Protestant Ethic” as an analytical tool and apply it to the “Musika” phenomenon in Harare CBD, we may reach some significant conclusions.

Firstly, let us agree that it makes no economic sense for a person to travel into town in order to sell tomatoes and rat poison, given that, tomatoes can literally be found anywhere.

Secondly, I want to draw attention to the African Apostolic Church, or what we commonly refer to as “Vapostori.”

It is not a secret that the “Vapostri” doctrine often encourages self-employment and enterprise. It is also not a secret that “Vapostori” are perhaps the fastest growing religious group in the country.

Furthermore, I recently dealt with a labour dispute that involved a follower of the “Vapostori” church who quit his job as gardener in order to run a “musika” full-time.

Consequently, using Max Weber’s social theory as a tool, I put it forward that the while the “musika” phenomenon is a somewhat a consequence of economic forces, it is also inspired by religious forces particularly in the forms of self-employment doctrines of “Vapostori.”

I challenge anyone who disputes this to base their arguments on empirical evidence which is drawn from a research survey on vendors in town.

I am particularly keen to conduct that study, because for a nation as educated as Zimbabwe, it makes no sense for anyone to travel into town to sell tomatoes and rat poison.

Furthermore, why doesn’t Harare’s City Council enforce by-laws and regulations that prohibit the selling of meat, tomatoes and rat poison on the side of the road in CBD?

Perhaps it is because certain politicians are banking on the “nation of vendors” slogan and therefore they keep vendors on pavements in town in order to use them later as political capital?

Ultimately, industrialization is the way forward, and the SADC chair should be commended for the initiative.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

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