A couple of years ago, I was headhunted to facilitate a strategic thinking workshop for a reputable organisation in Southern Africa. I was elated because the fee structure was generous and, in fact, it was significantly higher than what I would have charged the organisation.
the sunday maverick with GLORia NDORO-MKOMBACHOTO
At my first meeting with the CEO, he advised that he had pegged the fee structure at that level because he expected to be paid 40% of the fee by cash as soon as our invoice was paid. Without hesitating, I stood up, shook the CEO’s hand and let him know that my company, whilst very desirous to work with his company, would not be able to work on the project.
It was sad to lose the business, but not long afterwards, the CEO was fired from his job for maladministration and mismanagement and the last time I followed the story, he was fighting to be reinstated.
Business ethics and trust go together
Trust is a fragile virtue. Like milk, once it is split, it is difficult to gather.
Business ethics, character and trust go together. The three form reputation. Business ethics are codes of behaviour and moral principles that guide the way a person, business or country behaves. There are no shortcuts because underpinned in morality and ethics, is the essence of your character. Countries do not necessarily have characters. It is the players in those countries that do. The total sum of those players constitute the reputational risk associated with that country.
There is no such thing as having different morals and ethics in different settings. The same principles that determine an individual’s actions are the same ones that also apply to business. You therefore cannot compromise trust and ethical behaviour without life-changing consequences.
Trust takes a long time to build, but just an instant to destroy. Being mindful of this, it is advisable to always remember that in all our daily interactions with others, particularly in business, we are dealing with the intangibles like honesty, credibility, character, consistency, integrity and sincerity. These intangibles are the unwritten rules of society that govern our personal and business ethics. These intangibles are the foundation upon which trust is built. Often, when one does not play by these implied rules, word spreads around quickly and a person or an institution inevitably ends up with a bad reputation.
Countries must actively manage their reputational risk
According to Forbes 2018 figures, Zimbabwe has consciously or unconsciously carved out an unfavourably high reputational risk for itself as indicated by the figures below:
Top 5 African countries with most billionaires in 2018
1. South Africa
(NB: Zimbabwe rumoured to have the highest number of unlisted billionaires.)
When a country possesses the largest number of unlisted billionaires, they are unlikely to be paying taxes to the fiscus but most importantly, the wealth is most likely to be ill-gotten due to corruption. In a country whose coffers are empty and can barely fund its own turnaround, this bad reputation is going to make it difficult for Zimbabwe to secure the desired foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into the country. If the unlisted Zimbabwean US$ billionaires are not keen to invest in their own country, why would anyone? The kind of FDI Zimbabwe is likely to receive is the kind that comes with strings attached and of the economic mercenary type.
Top 5 African countries with most of its citizens living outside the country (rated in millions)
1. Zimbabwe: 3,6
2. Nigeria: 2
3. Somalia: 1,6
4. Mozambique: 1,456
5. Malawi: 1,245
Citizens around the world ordinarily prefer to work and thrive within the borders of their countries. This is for the simple reason that a citizen enjoys home advantages by virtue of having grown up in that region. They know people who know them. They have a network of contacts that they built as they were growing up.
It is always harder to start afresh elsewhere as a foreign migrant. Zimbabwe is rated by Forbes 2018 to be having most of its citizens living away from home because thus far, the policy environment has failed to create an enabling environment for many its citizens to work and thrive within its borders.
Top 5 most corrupt countries in Africa 2018
1. Zimbabwe (unparalleled)
2. South Africa
Forbes 2018 indicated that corruption in Zimbabwe has become endemic within its political, private, civil sectors and all other spheres of society. This indicator also explains the note above relating to the country having the largest number of unlisted billionaires in the country. If Zimbabwe is going to arise and shine, corruption, the worst reputational baggage, must be stamped out without fear or favour. Unfortunately the composition of the current Anti-Corruption Commission leaves a lot to be desired.
Top 5 African countries with the best literacy rate
1. Zimbabwe (European standards)
Thus far, while Zimbabwe remains a top dog in having the best literacy rate, it has failed to harness it for its economic growth and prosperity. Government authorities and policymakers are averse to utilising the best Zimbabwean minds it has on offer. Be that as it may, this high literacy rate has allowed Zimbabweans to be mobile and leave the country for better pastures abroad and overseas gaining rare skills and phenomenal experience.
Top 5 African countries with the most HIV/Aids cases in 2018
1. South Africa: 25%
2. Botswana: 17,7%
3. Ghana: 12%
4. Nigeria: 6,6%
5. Zimbabwe: 4,2%
It would appear that there is a high correlation between literacy levels and the incidence of HIV/Aids. Be that as it may, it the absence of hope and tangible opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship in the near future that can make Zimbabwe easily slide to the levels of Nigeria and Ghana.
Top 3 African countries with potential of being the world’s best economies.(Based on the availability of natural resources)
3. South Africa
Certainly to be celebrated for Zimbabwe is the fact that the country is alive with possibilities because of its abundant endowment of natural resources. This is a great reputation and a commendable state of affairs. But opportunities not exploited remain as such, unexploited opportunities. As the country moves forward, those who looted in the past must be stopped in their tracks and fresh talent with innovative ideas allowed a chance to take the country forward.
Reputational risk is bad for people, business and countries
A bad reputation travels fast like the speed of lightning. When one is associated with a bad reputation, it becomes harder to gather the lost credibility and become trustworthy again. It is, therefore, important for one to always stop and check what is informing their thinking before one embarks on behaviour perceived to be untrustworthy by others. Every behaviour has got consequences. As a result, when one chooses the low untrustworthy route over the high trustworthy route, they must be willing to face the consequences of their actions.
Reputational risk is bad for social and business interactions and once your risk profile is etched in the hearts and minds of people, their perception of you stays, sometimes forever.
Sincerity is felt. No one has got the capacity to talk themselves into being perceived as a sincere person. People feel it when there is sincerity from another. It does not matter how much a person postures and masquerades, when there is no sincerity, people see it for what it is: a smokescreen. Therefore, those who represent countries must be beyond reproach and be completely credible people with integrity.
Let your word be your honour in all facets of your life
Talk is cheap. Words are hollow. When we do not mean what we say, we must not say it. When we do not intend our word to be our honour, we should not make empty promises. When there is no harmony between what is said and what is done, the receiver of the spoken word always believes the behaviour; what is done. When one is consistently unreliable and not dependable, that is exactly who they are. You are what you repeatedly do, as a person, business or country. Life is about choices. Perceptions are reality in many people’s minds. When you are considered trustworthy, it is because you would have made that choice. The opposite it equally true.
Trust is a fragile virtue. When it is scattered, like broken china, it is virtually impossible to piece it back together. The most liquid currency for people, business and countries alike is trust and without it, it can be hard to make significant inroads in all endeavours.
Gloria Ndoro-Mkombachoto is an entrepreneur and regional enterprise development consultant. Her experience spans a period of over 25 years. She can be contacted at email@example.com