The Whole World Wants a Good Job

During one of my early visits to Africa, the Anglican Archbishop of Rwanda gave me a guided tour of his church’s development projects outside of Kigali. As we approached one small village, we could see an excited crowd of children gathered around the back of a large truck. Smiling aid workers were handing each child a small ribbon-wrapped box containing gifts from America: toothbrushes, combs, school supplies, books and small toys. During previous Christmas seasons, my family had helped pack small boxes like these at our church in America. Watching this scene quickly shrunk my world and erected a bridge between these kids in Rwanda and mine back home.

While I was thinking about how to share this encouraging Aha! moment with our church family back home, the Archbishop gently directed my attention to the numerous adults surrounding the crowd of children. They were watching from a distance – observing but not participating. “How do you think these parents feel?” he said quietly. “These boxes contain basic items that our children need. While we appreciate the efforts of our friends in America, God’s plan is for parents to take care of their children. Rather than give-away programs, these people need jobs to support their families and the dignity that’s earned by productive work.”

That day came to mind recently when I read the new book, The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup Inc. Six years ago, Gallup created the World Poll to find out what the globe’s 7 billion inhabitants are thinking. Its findings are clear; whether in North America or Europe, the expanding economies of Asia, the changing nations of the Arab Spring or the least developed countries of Africa, the single most dominant desire in people’s hearts is to have a good job. The book concludes that for the next 30 years, global success will be driven by economic force, rather than political or military power. In other words, success will be driven by each nation’s ability to create jobs and generate quality economic growth.

How are good sustainable jobs created? Gallup concluded that governments can’t do it, and in the aggregate, large companies rarely increase employment. What they found was that across the world almost all new job and economic growth comes from the formation and growth of small and medium-sized companies created, owned and operated by private entrepreneurs. No other way works. Tomorrow’s winners will be those communities that relentlessly focus everything they do on creating conditions that encourage and help entrepreneurs launch new businesses and thrive.

The power of entrepreneurship can transform Africa. Rather than charity, the best way to make a difference in the world is to encourage and equip the next generation to be principled entrepreneurs. The businesses they build will enrich their communities, generate jobs and improve the chances of a better life for everybody. The Archbishop’s shrewd counsel was true: jobs beat charity every time.