The Lesson the Pakistanis Taught South Africa

xenophobia pakistanis small businesses entrepeneurs

We all know the fable about the two dogs who fought over the same bone and while they were busy fighting each other, a third dog came and took away the bone from them.

While we South Africans were fighting each other over the colour of our skins, Pakistani citizens came to our country in thousands, taking the business opportunities we were too blind to see through our hate. Pakistanis and other foreign entrepreneurs teach us a lesson through their successful cellular phone, electronics and cafe businesses.

How could we have missed those opportunities for us? I have no problem with Pakistani people. The fact is that they came from overseas and saw those business opportunities while we were too blind to see it for ourselves says a lot about how enormously blind we are.

xenophobia pakistanis small businesses entrepeneurs Or so we would like to lie to ourselves and not accept that us South Africans have become so entangled in fighting each other that people from other countries had enough time to open businesses we could have started ourselves.

I still remember how Pakistani people started to get one stall after the other at the Sunnyside Flea Market in Pretoria in the early 2000’s. To such extent that these magnificent entrepreneurs run almost all independent cellular and electronic shops in every major business centre even ousting our own Indian citizens.

The days of going to a cafe owned by the Greek or Portuguese uncle Tito have also come to an end where basically every new cafe on the corner is now also operated by another Pakistani wonder.

The Pakistani people have taught us a great lesson but will us South Africans learn from it? We are our own worst enemies, fighting each other while we were could have identified business and social opportunities together.

Pakistani are not our only teachers. Foreigners from Nigeria, Congo, Somalia and China are teaching us about ourselves too. And then we have the audacity to commit ourselves to xenophobic attacks on them as if that could ever make up for our own shortcomings.

Hopefully one day we shall realise that we are all Africans, notwithstanding the colour of our skins and cultural differences. We can learn from our foreign brothers and sisters, and let them guide us to accept that we are all human beings with the same origin.