The power of imagination

first_imgJustice MalalaSometime back I was asked, during a panel discussion on the 2010 Fifa World Cup, whether the South African national football team stood a chance of winning the trophy.Like everyone else on the panel, I laughed at the possibility and said we had better concentrate on other things, such as ensuring that we make this the best and safest tournament in the history of the World Cup. A win? No way, I said.The next day, a Sunday morning, I was sitting in my house when US swimmer Michael Phelps won his eighth Olympic gold medal of the Beijing Games. His win meant he beat Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven gold medals in a single mounting of the games.It was a phenomenal week for Phelps, and among the things he said that day were a few lines that stuck in my mind.“Nothing is impossible. With so many people saying it couldn’t be done, all it takes is an imagination, and that’s something I learned and something that helped me,” he said.It was that word imagination that was key. A few weeks before my panel discussion I had lunch with South African football chief – and the man responsible for bringing the 2010 extravaganza to our shores – Danny Jordaan at his offices in the shadow of the impressive new Soccer City stadium just outside Johannesburg.The stadium will be the home of the final of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.Jordaan believes that imagination is what makes great things happen. He gave me the example of the South African Oscar Pistorius, the inspirational double amputee world record holder in the 100-, 200- and 400-metre sprinting events.Pistorius was born with congenital absence of the fibula in both legs. When he was 11 months old, his legs were amputated halfway between his knees and ankles.Today, known as the “Blade Runner”, he runs with the aid of carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs. He has run in competition with able-bodied athletes and fights to run in the Olympics.“What did it take for Oscar to reach the levels he is at today?” asked Jordaan. “Over the years, from when he was young, what did he have to do to get himself up and to do what he has done?”The football chief said Pistorius had to imagine himself out of his disability and believe that he could not only run, but that he would win. It is this imaginative journey that has drawn him up and above the average man.“Imagination is a powerful thing. What kept Nelson Mandela and the rest of the people on Robben Island going? What were they thinking as year 20 of their incarceration came and went?“It was their imagination that kept them going, that made them achieve what they achieved. They imagined the impossible, and they achieved it,” said Jordaan.And so I wonder, what made Roger Milla, at the ripe old age 42 years and 39 days, dominate the 1994 World Cup and score against Russia? What made him become the anchor for his team and the darling of the world?Some analysts have said that South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup because they believed, after a pep talk from Mandela, that indeed they could do it. It is generally acknowledged that they were on a hiding to nothing, yet many say that imagination and self-belief pulled them through.Nelson Mandela himself once said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”Until 1994, when South Africans queued from the crack of dawn to cast a democratic vote for the first time in their lives, it seemed impossible that such a thing could happen. People like Jordaan say it seemed impossible that an African country would host the world’s greatest football showpiece. And now it will happen in 2010.I have to say that thesis of Phelps, Jordan and Mandela is persuasive. Can it work for our national team, though? We have just under two years to go to the 2010 finals.At the moment our team is a shambles, struggling to stand up to some of the weakest sides on the continent. But no one says a word about imagination, about what is in the heads of the team and what is in the heads of the nation. Perhaps if we believed that we can win, perhaps if our players started imagining themselves as winners rather than losers, perhaps we have a chance.Had I thought about that question at the panel discussion properly, this is what I would have said: For us and Bafana Bafana, it is time to be children again, to dream and imagine ourselves as winners.Justice Malala is an award-winning former newspaper editor, and is now general manager of Avusa’s stable of 56 magazines. He writes weekly columns for The Times newspaper and Financial Mail magazine, as well as a monthly media and politics column for Empire magazine. He is the resident political analyst for independent television channel and has consulted extensively for financial institutions on South African political risk. Malala was also an executive producer on Hard Copy I and II, a ground-breaking television series on SABC 3. Hard Copy I won the Golden Horn Award for best television series. Malala’s work has been published internationally in the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Financial Times, The Independent, Forbes, Institutional Investor, The Age and The Observer.last_img read more

Young entrepreneurs need big business support

first_imgPolitical economist Siya Biniza emphasises the need for big business to act as mentors for young entrepreneurs.Political economist Siya Biniza believes South Africa’s youth possess great ideas that, with enough entrepreneurial verve, can be turned into thriving businesses. However, the only thing preventing them from chasing their dreams is the lack of support from big business.Speaking at a South African Competitiveness Forum research reference group held at Brand South Africa offices on Saturday, 18 August, Biniza said there is little support for young entrepreneurs in terms of finance and knowledge.Biniza, chief financial officer at Rethink Africa, a youth-led non-profit company that looks for alternative solutions to the continent’s economic challenges, said young entrepreneurs without prior business experience are not easily supported because funders are afraid of taking risks on them.Another factor impeding the growth of young businesspeople is intellectual property. Biniza said old entrants’ ideas are readily patented whereas new and young entrants are hardly considered because of the amount of money backers are risking. This occurs even though most business people know that one of the drivers of economic growth is innovation, he added. Fedusa secretary-general Dennis George says that if youth become active citizens, South Africa’s global competitiveness can be boosted. Despite Trevor Manuel’s efforts in getting youth involved with the National Development Plan (NDP), Biniza believes young men and women have not engaged with it as much as they could. “The youth need to take control of the NDP and make it ours by making leaders accountable.”Guest speaker Dennis George, secretary general of the neutral Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), said if youth become active citizens, South Africa’s global competiveness would be boosted.According to the 2014 World Competitiveness Yearbook published by Switzerland’s Institute of Management Development, South Africa’s competitiveness rose slightly in the last year, an indication that its productivity has increased. Its ranking improved from 53rd in 2013 to 52nd this year based on its economic growth.Despite increasing productivity, George said the number of jobs that have been lost in recent years has not been made up.Experience vs youthful enterpriseBiniza said successful entrepreneurs gain experience through making mistakes and learning from them. However, he said experience can hold young entrepreneurs back. “In as much as experience is important, it also inhibits creativity because the more you repeat a task, the more you get used to certain ways of doing things.”The advantage young people have, he added, is they are not “set in a way of conducting business” and have room to be creative; “We do whatever creative thing comes first.”But, he argued, entrepreneurs cannot be innovating all the time; there has to be a point where an idea becomes sustainable. This is when young entrepreneurs need experienced business people and even large corporations to be supportive.“If we are going to start talking about South Africa in 2030, it’s got to be about young people. It does not mean we are cutting big business out. Big business is very important in creating the development capacity of young entrepreneurs through their mentorship and making sure they procure from young businesses.”Biniza said big businesses may generate the most income, but they only employ 10% of the country’s population. Small- to medium-sized businesses, he said, are the backbone of the country’s economy, employing up to 90% of South Africans. In such a situation, small businesses need to access corporate funds for a cooperative form of monetary redistribution to occur.“We can measure the impact of the money you are sending off to smaller businesses,” said Biniza. “And this money can earn you returns if you create infrastructure such as social impact bonds, seed funding and venture capital frameworks. It’s about tapping into that money and having a collaborative approach to redistribution.”last_img read more

NGT bans camping activities within 100 m of Ganga in Uttarakhand

first_imgThe National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday ordered a ban on camping activities within 100 metres of the Ganga. A Bench headed by chairperson Swatanter Kumar said the ban will be imposed from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.There are 33 beaches along the Ganga.Activist Vikrant Tongad had moved the NGT against camping along the river. He had contended that camping and river rafting, when done without any regulations, would disturb the environment.He highlighted that people who had camped along the river disposed of waste in the river and also left behind glass and plastic bottles on the banks.last_img read more