As an agorist I’m always interesting in learning how other cultures do business. I came across a very interesting article that discusses how Somali immigrants in Minneapolis have overcome many of the issues that traditional American entrepreneurs suffer. It’s pretty insightful and I think agorists and those looking to start “legitimate” businesses could learn a thing or two:
One marked difference between Somali immigrants and other Minnesota business owners is their devout adherence to the beliefs and practices of Islam. A recent survey, conducted out of the University of Minnesota, titled Achieving Success in Business: A Comparison of Somali and American-Born Entrepreneurs in Minneapolis, found that 98.9% of Somalis described their religious beliefs as ‘extremely important’ whereas only 48.9% of non-migrants surveyed expressed this level of commitment to their faith and 15.6% reported their religious beliefs to be ‘not important at all’.
Many Muslims, Somalis included, believe that Islam strongly discourages or even strictly prohibits the use of credit or accepting loans that include the payment of interest. Obviously, this belief has a significant impact on how Somalis must go about funding their businesses.
Luckily for Somalis, Minnesota has the highest number of immigrants as a result of second-migration than any other state and is home to several organizations and nonprofits that work to provide loans and ways of financing that are sensitive to those of varying cultural backgrounds. Thus, Somalis have the opportunity to start businesses without having to worry about large loan and interest payments haunting them years into the future.
One of the biggest hurdles prospective business owners face is acquiring the capital needed to get a business idea off of the ground. Traditional banks generally charge a great deal of interest but such practices are not allowed under the teachings of Islam so many of the Somali immigrants in this country have found an alternative, which is very reminiscent of mutual banking systems often advocated by mutualists. A mutual bank works differently from traditional banks in the United States. The idea is to lend money to prospective business owners and charge just enough interest to cover overhead. In effect it grants potential business owners a method of acquiring capital without suffering years of crushing debt.
Somalis aren’t the only ones who can benefit from mutual banking, prospective agorists could stand to benefit greatly from agorist mutual banks. Most agorists that I’ve talked to have plans to start small businesses but even small businesses require investment capital. Investment capital, especially for those looking to establish businesses seen as illegitimate by much of society, is difficult to come by this day and age of high unemployment Agorists also, unlike “legitimate” prospective entrepreneurs, don’t have the option of seeking a small business loan from traditional banks. This is where agorists could practice a form of mutual aid by pooling their available resources for the purpose of assisting fellow agorists wanting to start new businesses. Consider how well such a system has worked for Somali immigrants who often come to this country with no money or credit.
Living your entire life in one country and under one culture has negative side-effects, the biggest of which may be a lack of creativity. People who grow up living a certain way often get trapped into thinking that that way is the only way that works. When you look at other cultures you learn that isn’t the fact though. Every culture has managed to get by using various different methods. Because of this it’s valuable to look at how other cultures do things and consider adopting ideas that work well.