Andrew FenwickBy Andrew Fenwick|May 30, 2022|9 Minutes|In Risk & Glory League

Risk and Glory

Belt up and hold tight on the African roller coaster.

As I type this, we have no internet connection, in Durban, South Africa. Just another challenge is thrown our way on the Southern tip of Africa. With all the obstacles thrown our way, an African entrepreneur can make it anywhere in the world, we have the training!

The above implies that we would want to set up our business elsewhere in the world. The problem is that most of us just love our country and our continent of Africa. We would love to make Africa thrive and its people prosper.

I joined our family business in 2001. My father had started the business from scratch when he was 49, when he was out of work. That is the age that I am now! Our company is Saddler Belts & Leathercraft (Pty) Ltd. Started in 1990, we are in our 32nd year of existence. We manufacture Genuine Leather and Synthetic Belts for large and small retailers in the Southern region of Africa. The smart type of belts that keep your pants up!

My journey after school was that I studied Engineering and worked for a global car company in Durban, South Africa, for five years. My time there was an enjoyable one and I learnt so much that I have used in our business. What a privilege to have been exposed to this experience and training. Just as my career there was taking off, I chose to apply for a two year work visa in the United Kingdom. I was keen to earn some pounds and travel and experience Europe.

It was a fantastic opportunity and built upon my earlier work experience. My employers down in the South West of England were keen for me to stay and offered to arrange for me to stay for longer than my 2 years. I had achieved what I wanted to and missed South Africa and my family there, I turned them down. That is when I returned and joined this family business, Saddler Belts. What a ride it has been and I have my own family now and we love Durban, South Africa.

This year I turn 50, my Dad turns 80. He is still involved in our business, but more on strategic input. My mom is also involved in our business.

If I look back on the path I took to get here, it certainly wasn’t the easy path. I gave up a great corporate job to go overseas. I then turned down an offer to stay in a corporate job in the UK, to come home to South Africa and join our family business. Someone once said that unless we have our own plans, we are destined to live out the plans of others…

I suppose the same could be said for the whole continent of our beautiful Africa. Unless we have our own plans, we will be a part of a greater plan by others. If we don’t stand together, we will fall. Just like individuals can take their lives into their own hands, so can countries. It is interesting to see how various African countries are doing just that. Just like life, the world is a competitive place, money flows to where it is best put to use and makes returns. The most successful parts of the world are free market countries. Their citizens enjoy the fruits of countless generations that have built their lives up and taken their countries with them.

My country of South Africa is one that has a mixture of free market ideas and socialist ideas. For the last few decades, the socialist ideas have been winning the argument. The result is that we have pockets of excellence in a country full of unemployment and people on social grants, exceeding those that are working! The last few decades have also ensured that those who are part of the inner circle have got the big jobs in government. This system of jobs for pals has led to various government departments collapsing. Instead of the best people for the jobs, we have had anyone with influence in them. The same people have tried the same things for decades and our economy is like a giant jumping castle, with the fans turned off, collapsing in on itself…

Its time new people tried new ideas and I think our populations are ready for it. We are surrounded by entrepreneurs doing things successfully every day. They are doing it in a free market way. The voices of these successful entrepreneurs are growing louder every day. An unstoppable movement of people wanting to take their lives into their own hands. Never before has there been a time where these needs of self-determination been matched by opportunities to learn from a global community and to speak to a global community. Never before has our government spoken so much about public-private partnerships and the prosperity it will bring.

In Kwazulu-Natal province, where we are, we seem to have been hit from all sides. Our economy in the country has been quite stagnant in the last few years, then we were hit by Covid-19, like the rest of the world. Last year we had large scale rioting and looting in our province, causing billions of damage to property and people losing their lives! Just as we had picked up some of the pieces from the unrest, we had huge flooding a month ago too. Again, it caused all sorts of damage, loss of life and chaos.

We will get up again, as a people and as businesses and get our lives back to normal, Africa is not for sissies. We have some of the toughest and most resilient people in the world. Africa will rise as we take our lives into our own hands. Our company has also experienced the good and the bad times, and we have learnt from every of them and grown.

It is time for Africa to dream, to DREAM BIG. As we build our continent into the powerhouse it will be one day, let’s get into a huddle together and work as a team. We have many platforms to talk, we have many platforms to grow together and improve our infrastructure and economies.

We must trade more with one another and help each other up. There are millions more like me that have the training and the will to make it work. There are actually people from all over the world that want Africa to thrive. I would like to thank them for their continued support. And to all the entrepreneurs out there that get up every day and put in the long, hard hours, we salute you. We are in this together, lets continue to enjoy the ride, just hold tight!

God Bless Africa

Share story