JOHANNESBURG. When you zip through the airport, getting from aircraft to taxi in twenty minutes, you can't help but wonder why this process can't be just as fast in Nepal. However, seeing watch businesses in Johannesburg close before sunset and people too scared to venture out at night without security, you feel thankful that Nepal has not seen urban crime escalate to that extent. South Africa has emerged as a big economic player on the global stage. But the country first needs to resolve crime issues and reduce the gaps between the haves and the have-nots.
The African continent is full of action. Passing through Nairobi, one overhears conversations about the promulgation of the constitution. This constitution is expected to herald a new era in Kenyan history and also help the country fulfill its ambition of becoming the political and economic hub of East Africa. It makes you dream of developing Kathmandu as the economic hub of the Himalayan belt, and extend its influence into the Gangetic plains.
If Rwanda can make an effort to keep up its pace of GDP growth despite its major political and social upheavals, Nepal should at least aspire to compete. Nepal, comparatively, has a lot going for it â�" biodiversity, a natural bounty of water, and the geographical proximity of the world's two emerging economic superpowers, China and India. People say that apart from the natives, it is the Chinese and the Indians who are seen most frequently travelling through airports in Nepal. We have a long history of bilateral relations with these countries, both of which have invested in Nepal. We simply need to tap into their pace of development.
South Africa hosted the World Cup football tournament this year, putting itself in the global map with a high brand recall. Football united the diverse South African people as they proudly rooted for their team in the world arena. Closer to home, every Indian identifies with cricket and Bollywood. Nepal also needs something that can give us a sense of pan-national belonging, in a polity that is so fragmented at present. It is time for us to find something that will give us this sense of national pride â�" in sports or the arts, or anything that can unite us. Perhaps Nepal Tourism Year 2011 is an opportunity for us to bond as a nation.
The biggest asset for Nepal is that the world still sees Nepalis as trustworthy, friendly and polite people. We can leverage this image to develop our competencies in the service sector, especially in hospitality and the care-giving industry. If we do things right, we might be able to build a brand on this comparative advantage of ours.
DHL Express has been helping to spruce up library facilities for schools in Nepal in association with Room to Read. In 2006, a school in Nuwakot and another in Nala, Kavre benefited from this association. Earlier this month, DHL's Senior Vice President and Area Director for South Asia, Malcolm Monterio, made a dedication for a library for Shree Mahendra Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur district.
DHL is also managing the logistics for the worldwide distribution of 'Zak the Yak', a children's book authored by Room to Read founder John Wood. The adventures of Zak the Yak are sure to leave a strong impression in the minds of children about Nepal's cultural landscape.
The organisation has a structured approach to corporate social responsibility with its programs for Education (Go Teach), Environment (Go Green) and Disaster Management (Go Help). One hopes that such initiatives will be replicated; given the obvious shortage of resources at the 3,000 government-run schools in Nepal, attractive libraries are certainly one way to keep children in school.