Wealth building in African society has not always been a popular subject particularly for present Africans. Where I come from some fathers assume that if they give their children their inheritance early their children may kill them. This creates a hostile environment for Africans to discuss true wealth building in families. We all agree that colonialism has destroyed some of the norms and values that gave our ancestors pride and the ability to live in harmonious and productive societies.
However, there is an opportunity for us to go back to some things that worked for our ancestors that we can emulate in order to succeed. For starters, my ancestors, the Shona had a tradition of the father dividing the land he owned and giving each son a portion as soon as they came of age. This land was then used for their sustenance when they got married and started a family. I am not in any way advocating that women should be excluded from this process but hoping that we can all learn something. How many modern parents still emulate this?
With the advent of increased migration overseas the tables may have ‘overturned’. There are often stories of able-bodied parents leaving their jobs while still in their prime working years to wait for a monthly check from their children living overseas. Land is a very valuable commodity that if parents continued to will to their children can be a huge wealth building block for African families. At this point, we should not despise the communal or rural lands if we receive these because before long they will be a valuable commodity. As you may have already heard, there are a lot of foreign investors buying huge tracts of land in countries like Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa.
Another wealth building block would be the establishment of retirement accounts. When someone enters the workforce at 21, 24 or even 28 this must become a necessity. A retirement account in and of itself is not the tool that is going to create wealth for generations but it creates an environment that fosters wealth building. If a parent has a healthy retirement account they will generally require less aid from their children which will allow the children to save more and have more to invest in their own families. For example a child whose parent’s solely rely on them to provide 5%-10% of their income for medical bills and living expenses essentially robs the next generation of the almost 15%-20% in true wealth because of the power of compound interest. I do not condone children who do not support their parents because of selfish desires that lead to the pursuit of driving luxury vehicles. However I write this as a call to action. True wealth is never really established in one generation but it continues to suffice and multiply for several generations to come.
African parents who are under 35 must step up to begin to build wealth for their families. The way we build wealth is not by hoping to win the lottery where by playing numbers or hoping our children marry a rich man but by taking small steps that yield great dividends.
By Lillian Mhosva
Politics Across Africa August 2017
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