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Show me where the money is and I will show you where the war is. Show me where the money is and I will show you where the power is; where the innovation is, where the love is. Money has become very important in our lives. This is because almost everything is for sale and you need money to get some. For urban folks in particular, money is food, shelter and clothing. Even saints need money to run their charities. You only have to walk the streets in any city to see how many men and women, young and old, strong and sick are out there in the sun or rain struggling for money; any money. Of course, wealth is relative.
One man’s million is another man’s pennies. Apart from necessities, if you talk to a thousand people as to why they want money, they may give you one thousand different reasons for wanting to be have money. A few want to be “filthy rich” but many people ‘just want to be comfortable’. By that, they mean having access to: good food, nice home, decent clothing, effective medicine, good schools, reliable car and extra money for “just in case”. Some people on the other hand, don’t want money so much for their own comfort as much as it is to support the causes and institutions they believe in. Whatever people’s motives may be, it is clear that after all is said and done, money runs the world. Without it, it is almost impossible to survive in the urban world.
Because almost everything has been monetized, money has come to dominate our thoughts and feelings. Everything, including emotional and social relationships are being measured by their monetary values to those involved. The result is that increasingly, things or relationships that don’t bring money are usually ignored. Without money, even religious “blessings” become difficult to receive. Repeated attendance in certain religious establishments without payment of “collection” or “charity” can single a person out for labeling, for counseling and even condemnation.
Money is necessary for survival but unlike air, it is not given freely by nature. Those who print cash and those who distribute them make it very difficult to get some. You only have to look at the endless startups and innumerable crimes of people for money to know how difficult it is to earn money. Nevertheless, some people are rich. We see thriving businesses and signs of opulence every day. So, that must mean that there is a way to make money without shooting some body. Let’s see. To start with, it would be helpful to think of money as a place; as a destination. It definitely has maps, routes and vehicles to get there. Some of the routes to money are crooked; others are difficult and full of twists and unhealthy risks. Many are straight forward. What you want is to avoid the crooked and the poisonous paths and to go for the straight forward. The straight forward route however, does not mean easy; it simply means healthy, legal and guaranteed. What are the secrets of making money; to having plenty of money without having armed robbery or fraudulent schemes?
There are many answers. One answer is that if you want to become rich, you have to be born into a rich family or marry into one. Those who say this would tell you that working for money cannot make you rich enough and that when your family has money that is the surest and simplest guarantee of plenty of cash. Are they right? There is no question that you can definitely become rich through friendship, through marriage, through adoption or simply through inheritance. A lot of economies are driven by emotions. Money usually moves from richer to poorer as a result of love, lust, sympathy, fear, etc. Those poor people who can get the rich to fall deeply, madly in love with them have the surest ticket to improvements in their material conditions. Perhaps, this route works better for attractive people and for beautiful younger women in particular. Whether you agree with this position or not it is no secret that many rich men are attracted to and therefore, are more charitable to predominantly beautiful and young women. As a way of making money however, the emotional route is more limited, morally debatable and highly uncertain. It normally requires a great deal of “kissing of frogs” who more often than not, fail to turn into princes. Besides, if you don’t know about how to make or keep money, whatever you inherit will sooner or later disappear into the wrong hands.
Another view of how to make money is that only the state or the government in any country has most of the money. Therefore, the best way to make money is to get elected or to get appointed to a government post with a fat budget and then to use that office for personal gain. This theory appears to work best in jurisdictions with little or no accountability or in places where corruption is “understood” so that accountability is nothing but lip-service. In jurisdictions where corruption in high places is a duty and a socially approved means to wealth, to get elected or appointed into office, is surely an easy and fast way of becoming rich. In many places in the world, the money and power one can access when your party is in power for say four years only, can be far greater than the financial returns from 100 years of solid business investments. This explains why many people are willing to be agents, diehards and to be ‘yes men’ to a whole number of political parties, institutions and regimes. The down side to this is that if you join marginal parties that never come to power, or if you do not manage to get in to the juicy roles, you thereby waste your time and resources. Another down side is that according to the religious, the corrupt incur the wrath of God and may therefore, end in hell.
Stardom, according to many people, is the best way to make money. The money that a star may earn in one deal can be astronomical and certainly more than the earnings from a lifetime of good service to town and country. There is no question that if you are fortunate enough to make it to stardom in any internationally recognized field of endeavor, you can easily make millions of dollars. But here again, it is not that easy to become a star. Stardom is about super talent, hard work, luck, networks and good timing. You need a whole number of things to come together at the right place at the right time in order to make it as a star.
Destiny, more than anything, appears to determine who makes it as a star. For every talented star, there may be greater numbers of equally or better talented who remain anonymous and end nowhere. Many are called only a few truly become stars. Therefore, those who choose the paths of stardoms are confronted with the hard fact that only a few can become rich through that route. You can try stardom but it is surely a very risky business. There is another theory about how to make money. It says that if you really want to be rich in a way that is sustainable for generations to come, then the best way is to become a business man or business woman. According to this line of thinking, the surest way of making loads of money is to become a large service-provider or an industrialist or manufacturer of big-ticket items such as machines, houses, medicines, technologies, etc. The problem is that it is not that easy to start up a good business and to sustain it unless you get some financial support from a bank or elsewhere. We all know how difficult that is.
All the different ways of making money that we have discussed so far are interesting. Whether they are right or wrong would depend in part on your assumptions and circumstances. We will however focus briefly on the best rules open to everyone for making money. As I mentioned earlier, money is like a place you can go to; but like every destination, you need the right map and the right conditions to get there. Let’s call these the money rules or the keys to money. The rules are many but we will focus on only one for now. The rest will follow piece by piece in due course. If you put the rules into practice, they can make or save you money regardless of where you are and what you are up to. The first rule of legitimate money-making is the exchange. In order to make money, you positively need to have something valuable to give to others. What you need to give does not have to be oil or diamonds. The exchange could be anything that people want.
The defining quality of what you must have is that it has to be valuable somehow to those concerned. Diamonds, for example, are useless to the dying. When you are in the desert, what people need are shelter and water. Lonely people need companionship. Rich people need recognition. Poor people need a few necessities and plenty of hope. The point is, what is in demand depends upon the conditions of the people around you. What you may have to offer could be goods, services or even something as intangible as a promise or a distinct feeling. Whatever it is that you have to offer, someone with money must want it so badly or must desire it to the extent that they would be prepared to give you money for it. This is the rule. Money is made when you have something (sustainable or producible) that people with money want and when you are wise enough to exchange what you have for more money than it cost you to have your thing. If you don’t have anything of substance to offer to any group of human beings, it would be very difficult to be rich. In order to make money, you must have access to and control over some things of value to some people.
The greater the number of people with money who want what you have, the more you are likely to be rich. The sky is the limit on this. If you can convince people that rocks, for example, are of value to them and if you happen to be the one controlling the supply of same, that could be your ticket to money. If you could persuade people that the act of giving you their money would result in a shower of blessings from the heavens and that the more they give you, the more they would get in return, that could be your ticket to millions of dollars. Underlying all the above however is one thing; and one thing only. That is, knowledge of the people around you and of their conditions and needs. This is business intelligence. Business intelligence is not an application that you can download and plug into your frame-work. It is built in the old fashioned way of being alive in a community with your ears and eyes open and collecting, systematizing and analyzing data and using same strategically for profit. Do you have business intelligence? If ‘yes’, what are you doing with it? If ‘no’, you don’t want ‘business stupidity’, right? Eishhh![i]
By Nana Oppong
 President of the Distinguished Scholars of Africa