Sat. May 18th, 2024

Corruption is a deadly pest that kills entrepreneurship. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” This sentiment rings true in our society where success is often equated with monetary gain rather than the values one embodies.

Entrepreneurs, true entrepreneurs, are the ones who provide genuine value to society. They utilize innovative management techniques to transform their ideas into thriving businesses, starting from the ground up. Their wealth is earned through hard work and creativity, not through exploitation or privilege.

However, in today’s landscape, we often see individuals abusing their positions of power for personal gain. They siphon public funds into their own businesses and demand kickbacks from contracts they had no hand in securing. This corruption not only undermines the efforts of genuine entrepreneurs but also hampers economic growth and opportunity for all.

Corruption is more than just a financial crime; it is a mindset that erodes trust, destroys institutions, and stifles progress. It prioritizes short-term gains over long-term prosperity, benefiting a few at the expense of the many.

I’ve witnessed firsthand the destructive effects of corruption in business. I once attempted to start a supply business, only to encounter a system rigged in favor of those already in power. Opportunities for honest entrepreneurs were scarce, as those in control sought to maintain their dominance at any cost.

About thirty-five ago, I ventured into corporate supply business, hoping to gather capital for my entrepreneurial endeavors. One incident stands out vividly in my memory from that time.

It was nearing Christmas, and I proposed to provide hampers to organizations for distribution to their clients.

However, upon visiting one organization, I discovered a startling reality: the Bank Manager monopolized all supply operations. With widened eyes, I learned of her affluent status, attributed to her control over procurement processes.

It was an open secret that the procurement department merely served as a rubber stamp for her decisions. She often delegated major supply tasks to her household staff, resulting in subpar products being managed. Indeed, one account manager labeled her as an ‘asset stripper’.

This unchecked power and wealth subdued the staff and hindered entrepreneurial participation in the organization’s growth, ultimately leading to its downfall. Similar tales of business failures abound, pointing to the corrosive effects of official corruption.

In a subsequent encounter with the Bank Manager, I proposed running a restaurant within the bank premises, offering quality, affordable food to staff. However, she demanded a stake in the business and free meals daily. It felt akin to exploitation.

Despite her acknowledgment of my capabilities, she insisted on extracting ‘something’ for granting me an opportunity. This mindset pervades not only the civil service but also strategic government agencies, stifling growth at every turn.

Her unreasonable demands made profitability nearly impossible, leading me to abandon the venture. This scenario reflects the harsh reality faced by many businesses in Nigeria, where corruption undermines financial projections and operational viability.

Entrepreneurs, struggling to secure funding, encounter further frustration as officials expect gratification before processing grants or loans. This cycle of corruption perpetuates a hostile environment for business growth and innovation.

This culture of corruption extends even to the process of obtaining funding for business ventures. Entrepreneurs are often forced to pay bribes simply to access the resources they need to succeed. These upfront kickbacks drain resources that could otherwise be invested in building sustainable enterprises.

But there is hope. Emerging entrepreneurs have the power to resist this cycle of corruption. By upholding integrity and refusing to participate in corrupt practices, they can pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future.

As we strive to build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, let us remember the words of Einstein and strive to become people of value rather than mere seekers of success. Only then can we truly unlock the potential of entrepreneurship to drive positive change in our society.

By Jennifer Ihuoma Abraham

Jennifer Abraham holds a bachelors degree in English Language and Literature and a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. She has practiced journalism since after her national youth service assignment in 1989 as an independent TV producer/presenter and magazine editor; focusing on entrepreneurship, personal and community/natural resources development. She has attended broadcasting courses sponsored by the United States Information Service and Science Reporting Workshops with the African Technology and Policy Studies Network. She is also a teacher, a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ and has partnered with NGOs, Government Agencies and individuals to promote philanthropic causes.

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