Awards 1994 World Vision Award for Development Initiative

World Vision Award for Development Initiative

Peter Morrison

Peter Morrison as detective used to solve crimes. Now, as director of the business advice centre run by Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in Zululand, he solves business problems.

After leaving the police, he worked for a consumer goods company and got to know hundreds of Zulu traders. He increased sales dramatically by attending to their problems and offering training in merchandising, stock control and service to customers. He later joined the small-industries division of the KwaZulu Finance Corporation, and helped township manufacturers.

Between 1984 and 1988 he also ran three successful businesses of his own, selling curios, fast food and clothes. He maintains this experience provided him with a practical degree in managing small businesses.

When RBM, which mines mineral sands on the Zululand coast, decided to set up a business advice centre at Empangeni near by, it appointed Peter Morrison as director.

The centre, where he has the help of Arnold Mthembu, business consultant, Sarah Molokoane, secretary and Dorothy Blacklaws, co-ordinator of entrepreneurship education, conducts about 1,800 consultations a year. It has helped set up factory units in the Umbonambi area.

Morrison says that, for every period of satisfaction, he experiences at least nine of frustration; but satisfaction does come in seeing a businessman or woman, after years of counselling, succeed. "It's like being present when a blind man has his sight restored," he says.

Confident people emerge whose example is contagious, particularly when they begin helping other traders. One notable success is that of Erny Dlamini, a former RBM employee who now runs Erny's Electrical, a contracting business employing over 30 people. The BAC sponsors a sewing school which helps the families of people in prison make a living.

One of Peter Morrison's initiatives is an education programme called EASE (Entrepreneurship and Self Employment). While on holiday in the United States, he got in touch with Ohio State University and developed EASE from this approach.

It is being taught as a one-year subject at Tisand Technical High School which RBM built. It can also be used as a six-week course for school drop-outs and for people threatened with unemployment. More and more schools throughout South Africa are using this material as well. Johannesburg Consolidated Investment recently agreed to train 20 teachers from Botswana to teach the EASE programme.

Roy Macpherson, managing director of RBM, points out that seven in ten pupils who complete a full school career fail to find formal jobs. He hopes that teaching entrepreneurship in schools will help develop a new generation who will address this problem.

Peter Morrison has commissioned a video for hawkers entitled Better Bus Rank Business. He has set up small-business exhibitions and business opportunities centres in Durban and Richards Bay, helping small subcontractors get work from large companies.

As a policeman, he enforced red tape restricting business freedom. Now he sees over-regulation as discriminating against people seeking to improve their lives. He writes:

"Enthusiastic but misguided bureaucrats enforcing government, provincial and local-authority legislation have done almost everything in their power to stamp out entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have been forced to operate outside the law with little or no access to finance. They were regarded as pests and litterers and as creating additional work for bureaucrats."

"Generally speaking, only a fifth of any population possesses entrepreneurial talent. We have to identify that fifth and develop and encourage that talent." An RBM colleague writes: "A key factor contributing to the business advice centre's success is the ability of the director to understand the problems facing his clients and to identify practical ways of empowering them to develop."

The BAC has become one of South Africa's leading privately-sponsored business advice centres, and much of the credit belongs to Peter Morrison.