We live in a country abundant with resources but the question is whether we are using them wisely. It is often amazing to see how resources are managed inefficiently or misused
and we don’t have to go far away from home or our own business to find some examples to illustrate the point, some of which I have pointed out before. Let us have a look.
1. Infrastructure. Roads are being built and expanded everywhere, facilitating more efficient transport of goods and people in the city as well as in remote areas. This is a very good development indeed. Maintenance of the same roads leaves much to be desired however, resulting sometimes in worse conditions than before. Asphalt is not meant to allow smooth driving of our cars although that is a nice effect. It is meant in the first place to prevent water to penetrate into the layers of the road beneath the surface. Once there is a hole, water will do exactly, having destructive effects, which we observe and experience every rainy season. Frequent maintenance will go a long way in preventing the serious damage that we see even within months after a road has been built.
2. Natural resources. Visiting the rural areas of Ethiopia, one cannot help but notice that surrounding hills and mountains are now almost barren, where there were forests before. Massive forest and soil degradation can be observed everywhere, while more and more people settle on and cultivate steeper hill slopes as well as river banks, causing ever faster flows of water, devastating areas downstream and which could be used more for irrigation or stored and saved for dryer periods.
3. Land. Agriculture techniques are mostly outdated and inefficient. While having a look at the way the flower and horticulture industry is operating in Ethiopia, we must realize the potential for more intensive farming techniques for crops like teff, wheat and maize.
4. Equipment. While much money is spent on purchasing machines and other hardware, badly needed frequent maintenance often leaves much to be desired, resulting in preventable break downs and loss of production. We seem to prefer waiting for a problem to occur and subsequently try and repair it as we feel comfortable in our crisis management mode.
5. Money. It is sometimes said that we are busy buying things we don’t want with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. Money touches every aspect of life and when people don’t handle their finances well it causes huge problems. We need to spend and invest our money wisely instead, asking ourselves whether we need what we want and whether we can afford it. Financial planning is essential and we need to remember that failing to plan is almost like planning to fail.
6. Time. Time is probably the most undervalued resource we have at our disposal. Our priorities determine how we spend our time and time is precious. When time is lost, it is lost forever. Very often people say that they need more time to do what they need to do, to complete their assignment, or even to take time off. Well, nobody is going to get more time. There are only twenty four hours in a day and that is it. No matter what you do, you will not get more today or tomorrow. So, never loose a moment.
7. Human resources. The women and men that do the work that needs to be done, probably represent the most challenging resource in as far as management is concerned. They are the most important asset of the business and management wants to get the most and best out of them. But does management know how to achieve this? Like in many other developing economies, productivity of workers in Ethiopia seems to be rather low. One of the reasons causing this is perhaps the fact that labour is cheap here and there is little incentive for the business owner to make more efficient use of this cheap labour. Increasing the productivity of workers may at a first glance even lead to redundancies as now fewer workers are needed to produce the same. But as a matter of fact the opposite is true. Investment flows to countries with high labour productivity, creating more employment instead. Fact of the matter is that few investors want to set up in areas with a history of unproductive labour and surprisingly little attention is being paid to the issue of labour productivity, while in my opinion this is a central issue for firms in Ethiopia, which are attempting to export or to compete with imported goods. Logically speaking, the more a worker produces, the more (s)he can be paid and the more profitable and secure the business will be. If owner-managers would take more interest in supervising and controlling productivity of workers, business profits, individual income and in the end economic development may increase. To enhance productivity, employees need to have a system to follow, know their responsibilities and that there is discipline and order in the business. On the other hand employees must feel they are part of a team, that their health and welfare are looked after and that they are generally treated well.
I admit that the above analysis falls far short of in depth research into the matter but I observe that much can be done in the way we do business in Ethiopia to make much more efficient use of the resources that are abundantly available indeed.