A few months ago, I read in one American publication that millennials in that country were returning home. While debt and joblessness are usually the reasons why kids return home to live with their parents, this particular writer chose to focus on the positive side of returning home. These millennials, according to the writer, were returning home from big cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to small cities such as Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Nashville, to develop and build their hometowns into vibrant, bustling metropoles.
These millennials – who are engineers, architects, graphic designers, teachers, doctors, artists, scientists and so on – were tired of going home only to complain about how slow things were in their hometowns. Things had to change, and they were going to change them themselves. Instead of complaining about services in their hometowns, blaming politicians and government for not delivering on their promises, they were now going to take initiative. Just like that, their minds switched, and they began to realise the enormous potential they possessed to make the changes they desire for the progress of their own communities.
Six months ago, like those millennials in America, I took the difficult decision of abandoning the energetic, fast-paced life of the city and opted for the quiet, slow life of a small town. I moved from Johannesburg in the east of South Africa to the north-west of the country in Kuruman – home to the historic Moffat Mission – an approximate draining distance of 600km. While economic reasons might have played a role in my decision, the yearning to return home to improve what I had spent – read wasted – years moaning about, also played a part. Perhaps another reason was that I had had enough of the city and had been seduced by the idea of living in the quietness of a rural environment; after all, I am a village boy.
In the foreword to a report titled Rise of the Global Startup City: The New Map of Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital, written by American scholars, Richard Florida and Ian Hathaway, Brad Feld, Managing Director of Foundry Group and co-founder of Techstars, makes the following observation about the growth of startup culture around the world: ‘I have long believed that in the modern era, you can start a scalable, high-growth company almost anywhere, and every metropolitan area with over 100,000 people should have a thriving startup community. Ian’s and Richard’s research demonstrates that this vision is quickly becoming a reality, as empirically verifiable startup activity is taking shape in many corners of the planet… As a citizen of the world, I am delighted to see so many communities participating in the startup economy. A sizable body of research demonstrates the importance of entrepreneurship to innovation, job creation, and economic growth, and it is encouraging to see that a broad set of cities worldwide are benefiting. It’s also heartening to see that a growing number of entrepreneurs are able to stay close to home and live out their dreams in the places where they grew up or have chosen to live their adult lives.’
Over a century ago a great African intellectual, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, as if to preempt Feld’s statement, made the following bold statement, coincidentally in America. He proudly declared thus: ‘The giant is awakening! From the four corners of the earth Africa’s sons, who have been proved through fire and sword, are marching to the future’s golden door bearing the records of deeds of valor done… Man knows his home now in a sense never known before.’
Ladies and gentlemen, bana le bagolo, after twelve years of absentia, it feels good to be home. It feels good to be back in Kuruman – the capital of John Taolo Gaetsewe District. Here at home, a three-legged black pot is centred in the middle of a ferociously burning fire, boiling and brimming with change and revolution. In this town and across the lengths and breaths of the JTG District, sons and daughters of this region who have been proved through fire and sword are marching to the future’s golden door. Indeed Seme was correct; man knows his home now in a sense never known before.
However, to become a vibrant, bustling metropolis – a centre of entrepreneurship and innovation – and home to the brightest ideas and cutting-edge 21st century companies, the sons and daughters of JTG across the globe need to return home to contribute to the progressive revolution that is rapidly taking ship this side of the mighty Orange River. With a population hovering around 250 000, the JTG District is more than qualified to become a metropolitan city. From Klein Damroos along the N14 route in the east to Olifantshoek in the west, Morula Avenue – the three-legged black pot of creativity and innovation – is ready to be reckoned with the very best in the world; all it requires are efficient services and modern infrastructure.
Ladies and gentlemen, bomalome le borakgadi, Morula Avenue is no longer just a dream, or a concept confined to the imagination. It is a living organism rapidly, albeit quietly, marching to the future’s golden door. Situated north-west of Johannesburg – the heartbeat of Africa – in the Northern Cape, Kuruman is home to the largest and finest iron ore and manganese deposits in the world. This part of South Africa is arguably the richest region in the country, so why not aggressively invest the proceeds that are gained from exploiting the grounds of this region into the community of this fine district? It only makes sense that the mining bosses and investors of the companies digging large holes into the bowels of the soil of John Taolo Gaetsewe District invest aggressively in the lasting and permanent development of this community; that they fund radical high-level ideas from this place that will benefit the people of this fine district. After all, it’s not like those ideas don’t exist.
Dear reader, the rest of the world speaks of the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution – quantum computing, robotics, artificial intelligence, smart cities – and yet JTG District seems to still be stuck in the rubble of political squabbles. Ironically and therefore fortunately, due to its vast lands and lack of infrastructure, this part of the country is actually perfect for greenfield projects. The rollout of modern infrastructure would also not be costly because majority of the land is not occupied. Thus, it is important that those who are exploiting the soil of this district invest in sustainable projects that would actually boost the local economy and desist from insulting our community with food packages as if they are politicians with ambitions to run for office.
In their report, Richard Florida and Ian Hathaway note that unlike in the mid-20th century and early 21st century, venture capital no longer flows exclusively into the United States of America. Even foreign entrepreneurs who once left their home countries armed with groundbreaking ideas to chase the American dream are opting to stay home to build and develop their countries. For the first time in almost a century, venture capital firms are looking elsewhere to invest in new, bright and innovative ideas.
Morula Avenue – a live concept that represents radical progress and innovation in the JTG District – should be promoted aggressively to invite not only outside venture capital but equally radical and brilliant entrepreneurs to come and help us build our home – the JTG District metropolitan city. The narrow-minded tribal mentality that one does not originate from here and therefore they should leave should be relegated to the dustbin; for so long as anyone brings positive change and development to these parts, we should embrace them warmly, and most importantly shield them from any predators.
Bagaetsho, the United States of America has Silicon Valley. South Africa, courtesy of Kuruman – the capital of the JTG District and hometown of yours truly – now has Morula Avenue. Please guard this precious gift jealously. Pula!