Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Flashback: What's New in Era of Choice?

By John A. Akec

Today, I looked with fresh mind at this article written more tha 3 years ago (and reposted below). I was in Diaspora then when I wrote it (very idealistic, even divorced from reality, perhaps). Or better, probably playing the role of an intellectual as a "creative liar" to borrow from Prof. Abdallah Ali Ibrahim of the Citizen newspaper.

There has been lots of reference to tea-man in my article. Yet, to my great shock now in retrospect, not a single reference to "tea-woman" was made. Sorry. For sure, since I got back home more than 2 years ago, I noticed that the "tea business" is dominated by women in both our capitals (Juba and Khartoum) and probably all over the country. The good thing is that they (the women) do offer better choice than the "tea-men" I knew when I was growing up in my native home town, Gogrial, which has been referenced in this article.

Forget about tea-man. This is about politics. Good politics ought to translate to more choice and plenty of life's sustaining needs such as cheap bread, clean water, good schools, and hospital, and freedom from fear of any sort.

Comrades Salva, Pagan, Yasir, and Malik (the list is very long as there are countless unsung heroes behind the scene) did put a fantastic fight against NCP this and last week. They deserve our applauses. We love them dearly, to bits, that is. What excellent fighters we have in them!

I wish Comrade Salva and his comrades can be as well the "good tea-men" or "tea-women" for that matter to give us better choices.

You see, in Britain they say, Labour is the Party of services. Conservatives is the Party of war. That explained why the Labour party lost elections to Churchill’s party, the Conservatives, when Hitler threatened to invade British Isles. Churchill won the war but lost the elections at the end of war. Labour came back to power, thankfully. They deliverd the NHS, the Britih answer to heallth system. Thus give to each according their ability. SPLM is the Party of war. No match.

Where is the party of Services?

I bet the answer lies within us all. Just a quick thought to share. The article below was my full thought on the the issue of choice. Looking forward to your comments.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Era of Choice is here!

By John A. Akec

As school boy in my hometown of Gogrial in early seventies, I recall the time when many South Sudanese entrepreneurs had rushed to open up their own restaurants and teashops under small tukuls. The notion of having your own shop was unheard of then. Business was the preserve of Northern traders (or Jalaba). Little did we know that for the vast majority of Northern traders, the tanks in the army barracks gave them security. That situation changed overnight when Addis Ababa agreement was signed in 1972. The army and their tanks withdrew from the South except in large provincial capitals such as Wau, Juba, and Malakal. Even so, the new barracks were a mixture of brown-eared Northerner and blue-eared Southerners. Also, the police force got fully southrenised.

In short, it was a new order- that of freedom, choice, and opportunity. Many Northern traders packed and headed home. A few well-rooted individuals remained behind. It was an opportunity for the long deprived and marginalized Southerners to open their own businesses. Many of them did. Except that many of them not know how to care for their customers.

The brown-eared trader was out. The dark-eared trader was in. When the "tea-man" was asked: why there is too little sugar? Or why is my cup not filled to brim? The answer that frequently came back was: Take it or leave it! But as more teashops opened up, it became extremely easy to switch one tea-man for another. And quickly, our entrepreneurs learned to listen and do as the customer wanted.

A British entrepreneur Richards Branson, founder and majority shareholder in Virgin Trains says: "Customer complaint is a free market research!"Such civility as putting the customer in the driving seat will not come over night. It takes time. It is always a pain for me when I go out eating in London. When thought I have already made my choice of what to eat from the menu, the waiter comes back with more questions before accepting my order as a done deal: do you want it large, medium, or small? Would you like it with hot, medium, or mild chilli sauce? Would you prefer fried rice or boiled rice, white rice or brown rice? Or is it white bread or brown bread? White coffee or black coffee? It is an endless choice. But the secret is that they want to make good business and know that people have different taste.

Choice, and more of it seems to be what defines the last part of last millennium after the defeat of fascism in Europe. Choice is also very much at the heart of this 21st century culture. The right to choose the government we want. The religion we want. The partner we want. The career we want. The life we want. The newspaper we want. The websites we like. The TV and radio channels we enjoy.We need regard the lack of choice in any environment to be an abnormal situation that people in that environment must overcome.

This needs commitment from all. If we all do not believe in free choice, it is inevitable that somebody, somewhere is going to fiddle with the rules of the game in order to create unlevelled playing field.We can learn a great deal from the tea-man that gained customers as well as one that lost.

One thing is clear: you cannot convince people's hearts to part with their money or their votes by being bad or intimidating. You can only win them over by being nice to them. It does not matter what kind of trade you are in. The rule of free choice will still apply, even behind your back.

Aristotle once explained gravity as the tendency of natural objects to settle in state of rest on earth surface. In the like manner, human nature has the tendency to gravitate towards more freedom and more choice. And as long as this law of nature holds, the future belongs to those who want us to have more choice, not less.


  • Hi, John, My name is Kuot Garang, Kuot,I am from Gorial East. I am very much fascinated by your skill of writtings. I wish I could write like you.You are the best writter of all times in Sudan.I have a question for you.
    Do you thing NGOs are really part of Civil Society in Southern Sudan or in Africa?

    By Blogger Angelo Kuot Garang, At 6:48 AM  

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