Nelson Mandela’s 100 life and leadership lessons for startups

Nelson Mandela’s 100 life and leadership lessons for startups

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | JULY 17, 2018

He is a legend, a father and icon of this and many generations to come. I have compiled from various books and authors, one hundred quotes and snippets to help live what we’ve learned from Nelson Mandela in life and leadership in celebration of his 100 year anniversary.

  1. Anything worth having is worth fighting for.
  2. Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.
  3. Remain true to your principles.
  4. All people are equal and therefore deserving of basic respect and dignity.
  5. Forgiveness makes us stronger and happier people overall.
  6. Embrace diversity in all spheres of society, including the workplace.
  7. Leaders must take accountability for their actions in both the private and public sectors.
  8. Have the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and environments.
  9. While it is difficult to change society, it is even more difficult to change yourself, which is vital to become better at what you do.
  10. Learn and grow as an individual in times of conflict and tough experiences.
  11. It takes people of integrity to build ethical organisational cultures and ultimately create an ethical society.
  12. Life is about building good relationships at the individual and collective level.
  13. You pass through this world once and opportunities you miss will never be available to you again.
  14. Show your leadership during moments of suffering and opportunity.
  15. The human soul and human body have an infinite capacity of adaptation and it is amazing just how hardened one can come to be.
  16. Prove them wrong.
  17. Use your time wisely.
  18. If wealth is a magnet, then poverty is a kind of repellent. Yet poverty often brings out the true generosity in others.
  19. Be humble.
  20. Have heroes.
  21. Take a stand.
  22. Manage your emotions.
  23. Speak with conviction.
  24. Leadership is as much about delivering results as it is about uplifting those who worked and strove with me.
  25. The habit of attending to small things and of appreciating small courtesies is one of the important marks of a good person.
  26. Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.
  27. It always seems impossible until it is done.
  28. If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.
  29. Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically.
  30. Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
  31. I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.
  32. A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.
  33. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it
  34. Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.
  35. The things that are truly worth having in life are usually the hardest to come by. It’s the people who persevere and push through the difficulties who ultimately accomplish what they set out to achieve.
  36. Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.
  37. A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.
  38. it’s time for the dawning of a new age — one in which people remember that the same frame of bones lies underneath every person’s skin, no matter the colour.
  39. A good leader can engage in debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger.
  40. It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.
  41. There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
  42. Have faith in justice.
  43. Courage will triumph over fear.
  44. With hard work comes progress.
  45. Take pride in your convictions.
  46. Show compassion to everyone.
  47. Significant progress is always possible if we ourselves try to plan every detail of our lives and actions.
  48. One of the things I learnt when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.
  49. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.
  50. If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
  51. When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat.
  52. Demand respect.
  53. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
  54. If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.
  55. One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.
  56. It is not the kings and generals that makes history but the masses of people.
  57. It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it.
  58. I have a special attachment to the people who befriended me during times of distress.
  59. I am not a saint, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps trying.
  60. When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.
  61. The colour of my skin is beautiful, like the soil of Mother Africa.
  62. No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.
  63. We must strive to be moved by a generosity of spirit that will enable us to outgrow the hatred and conflicts of the past.
  64. We must all strive to be inspired by a deep-seated love of our country, without regard to race, colour, gender or station in life.
  65. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.
  66. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
  67. You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.
  68. A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.
  69. We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.
  70. A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.
  71. Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.
  72. Money won’t create success. The freedom to make it will.
  73. Of course we desire education and we think it is a good thing, but you don’t have to have education in order to know that you want certain fundamental rights, you have got aspirations, you have got claims.
  74. History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.
  75. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine.
  76. I am the product of Africa and her long-cherished view of rebirth that can now be realised so that all of her children may play in the sun.
  77. There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.
  78. The children who sleep in the streets, reduced to begging to make a living, are testimony to an unfinished job.
  79. It is an achievement for a man to do his duty on Earth, irrespective of the consequences.
  80. Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.
  81. It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my people became a hunger for the freedom of all people.
  82. To be an African in South Africa means that one is politicized from the moment of one’s birth, whether one acknowledges it or not.
  83. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
  84. The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
  85. The only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla. In Xhosa, Rolihlahla means pulling the branch of a tree.
  86. I could not imagine that the future I was walking toward could compare in any way to the past that I was leaving behind.
  87. To be a father of a nation is a great honour, but to be the father of a family is a greater joy. But it was a joy I had far too little of.
  88. We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom.
  89. I have spent all my life dreaming of a golden age in which all problems will be solved and our wildest hopes fulfilled.
  90. When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.
  91. Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.
  92. I shall neither impose my own customs on others nor follow any practice which will offend my comrades.
  93. Until I was jailed, I never fully appreciated the capacity of memory, the endless string of information the head can carry.
  94. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.
  95. Greed and power have turned brother against brother.
  96. For to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
  97. I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say.
  98. Our people have the right to hope, the right to a future, the right to life itself.
  99. What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.
  100. Men and women, all over the world, right down the centuries, come and go. Some leave nothing behind. Not even their names.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Urban Grown – How committed are our start-ups?

How committed are our start-ups?

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | JULY 10, 2018

Pictured Above: Simba Chimhandamba

Entrepreneurship is not an easy road, it never has been and never will be. The risk and reward factor is often skewed largely towards risk, making aspirant entrepreneurs deeming it too challenging, according to their vision, lifestyle, wants and needs.
With the constantly rising unemployment rate in South Africa, especially amongst the youth, many are questioning whether various entrepreneurship programmes and support activities within the ecosystem actually add value in producing and scaling high impact start-ups. As an entrepreneur myself, I believe they do. The proof is always in the pudding and my question is “just how committed are our start-ups?” How committed are they to push and realise their dream by continually knocking on doors (when one closes another may open!), be it for support, funding, partnership or even consolidation?

Entrepreneurship is a two-way street and it’s so easy to blame government agencies. But how has your large corporate, your accelerator or your incubator helped to change the entrepreneurial landscape for the better?
A few years ago, Nonhlanhla Mokoena and her husband Simba Chimhandamba started an agricultural and agro processing business called Urban Grown. Their vision was to change the age-old belief that farming is done by old people in rural villages. Yet their farming techniques can easily be adopted in urban areas, as their produce is farmed hydroponically. Their tunnels allow them to farm enough produce to make the business sustainable by being in close proximity to the city.

Hydroponics farming is the practice of growing plants in water using a non-soil based substrate, such as coco-peat or perlite. Coco-peat is derived from recycled coconut husks and can retain 11 times more water than soil.

The beauty of hydroponic farming is that it benefits both the environment and the consumer. Hydroponics uses 95% less water than conventional farming and fewer pesticides, as there are far fewer diseases associated with hydroponic farming. What’s more, farmers are able to grow crops throughout the year, all the time generating income. For the consumer, they have direct access to quality nutritious produce all year round, grown and supplied in the city.

Recently, the pair acquired a few hectare plots of land on which they expanded their farming activities. Currently, they produce baby marrow, lettuce and other crops, supplying large retail chains, such as Pick ‘n Pay, City Lodge hotels, Bidvest and many more.

I met Simba a while back before he started his business and he shared his vision with me. I too, am not a big fan of agriculture, as I also associate the practice with old people in villages, yet as an entrepreneur, I did encourage him to go for it, if it was his passion. He has proven us all wrong and that it can be done. Today, he and his wife run a multimillion-rand business that employs around dozens of people.

Pictured Above: Nonhlanhla Mokoena

A few years ago, he participated in one of the Global Entrepreneurship Network competitions during the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Week and won prize money, which also assisted him to scale his company, thanks to Absa bank, a loyal strategic sponsor of the Global Entrepreneurship Week in South Africa. Their company was also one of the top ten start-ups that were featured at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, held in Johannesburg last year, which saw over 173 nations and 8000 people descend on the city.

I must reiterate that starting any business is not easy and to do so, one needs a multi-stakeholder approach. Sometimes one accelerator or incubator might not have all the resources to start and scale, but the key aspect is how committed are the start-ups to keep pushing and keep getting help as little as possible from the ecosystem.

To start Urban Grown, they needed to rent a space that is conducive for their business vision, which they did from Riversands incubator at a subsidized rate, due to the Gauteng Government’s partnership with the hub. Last year, Simba was accepted into the Endeavor Entrepreneurship Programme and their business is still growing, further proof that by staying committed to the process, you’ll reap the fruit of your labour.

Over the past month, I took the time to meet each of the 70 resident start-ups face to face at 22 On Sloane. They really inspired me and fuelled the hope that we can definitely achieve the jobs target set by President Ramaphosa in his budget speech. I believe that Africa is the next big thing and that our start-ups have a much better chance of making it and succeeding than ever before.

Many of the start-ups are passionate and visionary and I see most of them soon becoming a success, like Simba and Nonhlanhla.
In this light, we are also getting a lot closer to achieving the Africa Union Agenda 2063, which states in its entrepreneurship vision that “we would like to remove the syndrome of Africans always coming up with great ideas, but with no significant achievement”.
Our mutual vision should be to fully support African startups in every way possible and help connect them with credible, visionary and like-minded stakeholders within the ecosystem to enhance their sustainable growth.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of GEN Africa 22 on Sloane. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus

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Is there a future for start-ups after 2030?

Is there a future for start-ups after 2030?

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | JUNE 27, 2018

As we all know, start-ups have always existed, as documented by a recent CNN report on the historical brands that are now celebrating their 100 year existence, which includes household names like Tabasco sauce and Nikon. Over the past few years, start-ups across the world have also been making a significant impact by contributing to both their local economy and the global economy. Yet, these were prominently propelled by the rise of organisations such as Facebook, Stripe, Uber, Mpesa and various others.

The question now is whether start-ups can continue to exist in the future, or whether we will see a different kind of start-up. Also, what led to these start-ups becoming so prominent, so quickly? One thing we’ve learnt is that it’s mainly because large corporations lacked innovation, or even the desire to innovate, rather choosing the safe and rigid path ‘more’ travelled. Imagine if Kodak innovated to be the next Instagram? Imagine if General Motors or some of the yellow cabs companies became the next Uber? Imagine if Sun International hotel group became the next Airbnb?

In my opinion, start-ups as independent companies will cease to exist in the near future. This is due to the fact that currently, large corporations are quickly realising that they have to keep up and innovate to ensure they meet the needs of their innovation-embracing customers. So now they’re starting to work closely with start-ups that align with their customer-centric business visions. This means partnering with start-ups, either through a trade exchange where the corporation offers to train and upskill them but ends up taking their initiatives or buying equity in the business. Some corporations also just choose to employ the founder of the start-up full-time, by dangling a juicy and lucrative corporate carrot in front of them.

new report from the Brookings Institution finds that in nearly every industry, from agriculture to finance, the share of new companies is falling.

So what’s going on?

Dan Kopf in his latest piece analysed this as…

One possibility: Start-ups are struggling in this era of rising market concentration. In most industries, since the 1980s, the share of all sales going to the top firms is increasing. Start-ups may have a hard time competing with these mega firms, which can out-pay them for the best talent and sometimes attempt to drive them out of the industry.

Another related possibility that Dan mentioned was that the most-educated American workers are no longer attracted to entrepreneurship. In 1992, 4% of 25-54-year-olds with a master’s degree or PhD owned a small company with at least 10 employees. In 2017, this was true of only 2.2%. Companies started by the highly educated are often unusually productive.

The Brookings report suggests that high salaries for educated employees at big companies have made entrepreneurship less compelling. Why compete with Google or Walmart when they are offering you an enormous amount of money to come work for them? He wrote.

According to Joseph Flaherty, three prominent tech thinkers recently declared the end of the start-up era, questioned the future of tech innovation generally and heralded the rise of the “Frightful Five”, being Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, who will dominate the future of tech. All of the posts make credible arguments, but they ignore how consolidation could be good, even great, for start-ups.

If we define start-up success as building cornerstone companies that will go down in history and be worth hundreds of billions of dollars, we may, in fact, be entering a lean period. If we define success as building an ever wider assortment of products, shipping them to tens of millions of users and earning hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars in short time frames, the good times may just be getting started.

Just look at the case of tbh, an anonymous social media app available in all 50 US states designed for high school students. Reports suggest that Facebook likely paid $80 million for the seed-funded, one-year-old company. Each founder probably made close to $15 million for a year of work, making them better paid than All-Star NBA Champion Stephen Curry. Entrepreneurs may have to settle for acquiring mere generational wealth, rather than becoming ‘pledge to cure all diseases’ wealthy, but the death of start-ups has been greatly exaggerated.

The kind of industry consolidation we see with the “Frightful Five” isn’t new to tech, it’s the norm in most industries and can actually spur innovation. The pharmaceutical and packaged food industries are heavily consolidated, have thriving start-up scenes, are hyperactive in M&A and provide a glimpse of how the future of tech may unfold.

So where does this leave African, or more specifically South African start-ups? Your guess is as good as mine.

In 2030, it will become easier to launch a business-to-customer startup because the next generation — unlike its predecessors won’t be shy about the risk/reward aspect of trying new products. Once a brand or company becomes established, however, it might be ditched for the new “new thing.”

In conclusion, the death of traditional ‘permanent stand-alone’ start-ups may be looming in some sense, but I feel there are endless possibilities and avenues for start-ups to fully exploit their innovative talents and realise prosperity, both personally and for their local economies.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of GEN Africa 22 on Sloane. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Africans On The Outside

Africans On The Outside

Looking at the social and economic impact of migrating entrepreneurs

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | JUNE 12, 2018

In 2016, we conducted a study interviewing entrepreneurial African diasporas living and working in the UK and the US.

We found that migration for entrepreneurial purposes could obviously present an opportunity, but can also present numerous challenges. Visionaries and innovative entrepreneurs are present in all communities, yet not all communities adapt quickly to the disruptive changes they provoke. This prompts entrepreneurs, professionals and innovators to either challenge the resistant nature of disruptive innovation, pursue rent-seeking opportunities or migrate to an environment that is more welcoming and embracing of economic creativity and innovation.

In Africa, very limited data and research is available on entrepreneurial migration patterns. The research studies that have been conducted did contribute to shaping the literature on entrepreneurship activity across the continent. Yet, they focus mainly on aspects such as the growing informal sector, entrepreneurship as a survivalist activity, the barriers which entrepreneurs face and the nature of the entrepreneurial activity. Very few demonstrate the entrepreneurial activities of Africans living in other parts of the world.

The highest number of African migrants residing in the US and UK are Nigerians, followed by Kenyans, Zimbabweans and South Africans. Noting the aforementioned migration trend, an exploratory study was conducted to determine some of the socio-economic factors that induce Africans to migrate to these countries.

Although the sample of the study conducted only reflected input from second-generation migrants, who are mostly educated with postgraduate qualifications and with a professional background in the finance and technology sectors, it still gives us a glimpse of the entrepreneurship migration landscape on the continent.

In an article two years ago, Njeri Kimani, the leader of the Africa Capacity Building Foundation also highlighted that there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of highly-skilled Zimbabweans in the diaspora. Their departure is Zimbabwe’s loss, and the rest of the world’s gain. If Zimbabwe is ever going to turn itself around, it will have to somehow start convincing these talented people to stay. In 2011, over 1 000 medical graduates who were born or trained in Africa, migrated and were registered to practice in the USA alone.

Many African start-ups also take part in various competitions, which promise to develop them in world-class accelerators and hubs around the globe. Although these are opportunities, they present hidden challenges, as most of them end up losing their product’s IP, get convinced into selling their prototype for a song or their initiatives gets ‘stolen’ by the accelerators or hubs in the host countries.

The International Organisation for Migration estimates that there are 300 000 African professionals residing outside Africa, with 20 000 more leaving the continent every year. Meanwhile, Africa must employ some 150 000 expatriate professionals at a staggering cost, estimated at around US$4 billion per year.
When it comes to the adverse impact on revenue, our study estimated that in 2016, the African continent lost close to US$652 billion per year, due to African entrepreneurs and professionals operating outside the continent. In 2050, it is estimated that the continent can expect to lose an estimated US$1.5 trillion.

How can we fix this?

  1. Infrastructure development is a key driver for growth. To create an inclusive economy, Africa needs to ensure that it invests in its infrastructure to accelerate growth and development. Basic services such as roads, water, electricity, telecommunications (most importantly access to affordable data, specifically in South Africa) and reliable public transport systems are all needed to ensure that economic growth is stimulated.
  2. Focusing on product need is very important. African governments need to focus on what is being consumed, who consumes it and where does it come from? Only then can we open up a wealth of opportunities for various start-ups to tap into. Even the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement signed by dozens of African Presidents earlier this year should follow the product concept.
  3. Equipping our youth with education is critical, but not just generic by nature. We must ensure that the skills taught match the opportunities available on the market.
  4. Responsible leadership will ensure that various African leaders put the interest of their people first, by doing all they can to empower them.
  5. Build and sustain a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem that will support the development of start-ups across the entire continent. At the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa, we will continue working with various stakeholders in building and sustaining our ecosystem.
  6. Explore and open up more opportunities for start-ups and create market pipelines for them

On the flip side, migration doesn’t only offer cons, there are pros as well. Many African diaspora now leave their host country equipped with skills to advance economic development in their home country. An opportunity, given that the African diaspora entrepreneurship communities are a growing phenomenon that has been under-utilized within the African entrepreneurship communities. The communities will be at an advantage because their ethnic and social affiliations position them strategically in shaping cross-border trade and commerce activities within the African community.

Although most countries would much rather keep and empower their start-ups and entrepreneurs, we can’t lose sight of the fact that today, there are 215 million first-generation migrants around the world, representing 3% of the global population.

If migration continues to grow at the same rate as over the past 20 years, some analysts predict that there could 405 million international migrants by 2050. These trends illustrate that diaspora networks offer an enormous global reach and are potentially the new and pervasive tool of global development and entrepreneurship.

Finally, we need to strive to promote African startups, appreciate their talent and find ways to keep and commercialize their initiatives on the continent.

Kizito Okechukwu is the Co-Chair of GEN Africa 22 on Sloane and Executive Head of SEA Africa. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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10 tips to help you begin your start-up business

10 Tips To Help You Begin Your Start-Up Business

GEN AFRICA | JUNE 11, 2018

Getting your start-up business off the ground, requires careful thought and planning. One of the greatest things that you can do is to get going on an action plan.

Many of us have a hundred ideas for a business that we somehow never end up starting or executing. For whatever reason, we get up close to the proverbial window of our dreams and feel overwhelmed and unable to proceed. The excuses that we give ourselves when it comes to our start-up business are many:

  • We are too tired
  • Too busy
  • Too scared
  • We have no money
  • No support structure

Yet in as much as we feed ourselves these excuses, we somehow know at the end of the day that we have cheated ourselves of our dreams. The time has come to put aside the excuses, the feelings of disenfranchisement and helplessness and ask yourself a critical question.

How badly do you want to achieve your dream?

If deep down in your soul you know that you will be unable to sleep another night without taking some action toward your start-up business idea, here are some tips to help you along the way.

Ask yourself why?

You over there reading this? Yes you! Why do you want to start your business? Do you want to enrich lives? Change the way in which people see the world? Simply sell products that earn a high profit margin? Part of the start-up journey is about being brutally honest with yourself about the motivations that you have about doing what you do.

Research

Take the moment to look at the market. Do the people that you wish to service have a need for the product that you wish to offer? Sometimes preparing for a start-up business might mean that you need to enrol in a management course in order to get you there. Research requires more than just finding out about your market though. You will also need to look at suppliers, products, understand the logistical requirements of a business and so much more.

Speak to people who are living your dream

Nothing helps better than speaking to people who can relate to your dreams and who are more importantly, living your dream. Find those people, speak with them. Get to know who they are and what makes them tick. Get their insights and gain an understanding of their hopes, victories and challenges, as this will inform your own journey.

Pay attention to the critics

No matter what you are doing in life, one thing is certain. There will always be critics and people who pick holes through what you are doing. Some of them are energy vampires and people who will drain you. Others if you pay careful attention, actually have valid and sound advice that can inform and shape what you are trying to build.

Don’t focus immediately on money

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t focus on money at all. However if the only reason that you are starting up a business initiative is because of money, you might want to rethink your motives. Focus first on providing value, fulfilling a need or a service and once people are able to see that you do this, they will willingly pay the prices that you pitch.

Mobilise a community on social media

Long before products are popular and take off, you will find that they have an extensive social media presence before that. In addition to that many start-up companies also engage in online and offline marketing events that serve as a visual showcase for their social media community pages.

Be willing to be wrong

So you are super excited that your start-up idea will be the next best thing since sliced bread. But you find that after you’ve put yourself out there, that your idea is not as well received as you expected. Don’t feel disheartened. Give yourself a pat on the back and go back to the drawing board. Your entrepreneurial spirit can be channeled into other avenues.

A strong follow-up game

The road to success is built with many bricks, rocks and craters. Many of these obstacles are not easy to overcome and require a lot of inner emotional resources to deal with. Part of dealing with these challenges and obstacles means that you need to have a strong follow up game. Find it in yourself to come back from adversity by engaging in dialogue, picking up difficult tasks, and not giving up hope in the things that you need to get done.

Study your competition

It doesn’t help to hit the start-up companies’ market blind. If your dream is to open up that cupcake shop, you need to know exactly who your competitors are. What their motivations are, what they are selling, which sectors of the market are yet untapped. This isn’t to say that you wish to steal their ideas, but to also understand how you can provide value in ways that your competitors have yet to offer. This will give you the edge.

Persevere

Many start-up founders at the helm of successful start-ups have endured unimaginable stresses and adversity in order to make it in this world. Although we may see the gloss of success once a start-up founder is successful, we can rest assured that perseverance is a quality that we all need to have if we need to succeed. The founders of the PayPal service actually first ran at a loss and gave away funds for new users to join their service at $10 each. This may have seemed like a huge loss, but the amount of traffic that they gained, more than made for this. Pinterest co-founder Ben Silbermann, also took intensive action to nurture his first following of 7,000 people to truly understand what they wanted from the site. A move that he feels is responsible for the popularity of his site.

Wherever you may be right now in your life in terms of your own personal development, know this. Your dreams and goals do matter and the start-up business that you want to create can and will materialise if you begin to move toward it. Have the courage to step out of your own way and move toward creating the business of your dreams.

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Could South Africa miss out on the potential of the demographic dividend for economic prosperity?

Could South Africa miss out on the potential of the demographic dividend for economic prosperity?

GEN AFRICA | JUNE 11, 2018

The youth population grew from 18.5 million to 19.6 million and according to Stats SA 2017 young people constituted 36.5 per cent of the total South African population.   This is often described as a demographic dividend that could potentially propel the economy and the country onto a new growth trajectory.

The concept of a demographic dividend is based on the link between a country’s demographic profile and its potential for an increase in economic growth. Typically, starting from a position of a high fertility rate and a relatively large young population, if there is a decline in the country’s fertility rate over time, there follows an increase in its working-age ratio, which is the population of working age (15–64 years) as a percentage of the total population.

An increase in the working-age ratio does not lead to a demographic dividend automatically. Rather, it presents an opportunity for higher economic growth which may be achieved in full or in part or not at all. For the demographic dividend to reach its full potential, favourable socioeconomic conditions are required. If socio-economic conditions are unfavourable, a demographic dividend could remain elusive.

South Africa is at a relatively advanced point within the demographic transition. The youngest cohorts within the working-age population are expected to stabilise in size and begin to contract. At the same time the number of older working-age people – who would comprise a large proportion of effective consumers – is expected to grow rapidly. The magnitude of South Africa’s demographic dividend is in line with that of other middle-income countries. But estimates of the first demographic dividend show that South Africa has passed through at least half of the period in which it is expected to be positive. It is now in the stage during which the magnitude of the dividend is falling.

To realise the benefit of the final phase of the demographic dividend, the South African economy needs to grow employment and improve the labour market prospects for younger working-age people. Greater employment will raise mean incomes, allowing South Africans to invest in education and save. These actions are crucial for achieving the second demographic dividend.  President Nelson Mandela reminds us that ‘significant progress is always possible if we ourselves plan every detail and allow intervention of fate only on our own terms.  Preparing a master plan and applying it are totally different things.’ The NDP is a master plan and applying it requires a planning system and above all a detailed integrated plan underpinned by crucial statistical evidence.

The evidence confirms that inequality in consumption across age in South Africa is limiting the size of the demographic dividend. This suggests that weak sharing mechanisms in the country may have a negative impact on per capita income growth over time. In some sense, this provides support for the argument that inequality can act as a brake on economic growth.

The Significance of June 16, Youth Month

June is celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa, paying tribute to the school pupils and ordinary citizens who lost their lives during the 16 June 1976 uprisings in Soweto.  As we remember the bold actions taken by the youth of Soweto, against an oppressive education regime in a now 39-year old uprising, one wonders whether a similar protest is not warranted in the context of youth entrepreneurship.

It is critical for our youth to begin to understand that even at a young age they are key to the economy. They influence the buying habits of their parents, they are a target market for many companies, they do have the ability to earn income through entrepreneurship, they already understand negotiation skills, they can save for their future with the right knowledge and strategy, and they can develop a habit of giving back and practicing social responsibility.

We at 22 ON SLOANE continue to see that instilling positive values in the youth around finances, business and social responsibility builds strong character, confidence, furthers interest in the economy, and reinforces state testing requirements that are now demanding students to apply critical thinking and greater analytical skills.

We know that entrepreneurial skills are academically complimentary and beneficial for the youth, whether they wish to start a business venture or not. Having an entrepreneurial mindset has increasingly become valuable for individuals working in the competitive corporate world. It requires critical thinking skills and the ability to determine when to take necessary risks, as well as, it is grounded in creativity and innovation. Entrepreneurship is also a natural fit to enhance and compliment business education in advanced education because it integrates the core areas of business—accounting, finance, marketing, and management, as well as, the legal and economic environments in which any new venture operates.

GEN 22 ON SLOANE to celebrate Youth Day with 35 school pupils. We continue to empower young people and encourage their participation in the country’s socio-economic activities.

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5 key ingredients for long-term digital success

5 Key Ingredients For Long-Term Digital Success

GEN AFRICA | JUNE 11, 2018

The fourth industrial revolution continues to disrupt how businesses operate with creative, digital start-ups challenging established organisations. Traditional industries are being transformed by digital pioneers such as Airbnb.

Business leaders agree that digital transformation – the ongoing implementation of digital technologies in key industries – is essential to drive growth, optimise performance and remain competitive. One of the top digital business trends in 2018 is digital supremacy, which can only be achieved with the correct architectures and data structures.

While many have taken the digital plunge, organisational challenges often cause businesses to stagnate at different stages of digital transformation. With so many moving parts, businesses often don’t know where to start and how to keep going.

Here are five building blocks for long-term digital success:

Strong leadership

Digital transformation starts with a clear vision, a well-formulated digital strategy and strong leadership. Be clear on where you want to go, how digital transformation can get you there and what solutions fit into your business culture, daily operations and budget. Partner with experts if you need assistance with the planning stage.

Renewed thinking

The methodologies of the past production-oriented industrial economy are now outdated. Business leaders must rethink everything from organisational structures, processes and big data, to employee responsibilities, online security and overall business management. Keep up with trends and developments in automation, digitisation, analytics and algorithms to make swift strategic decisions and to implement insights on an ongoing basis.

Renovate the core

To embrace an ever-changing business model, organisations have to transform legacy architecture and modernise business operations. Take Nashua’s document management services as an example. This can range from the way data is organised, filed and stored, to increased document security on your network and devices. Integrated business solutions like managed document services can optimise business processes and workflows. This will enable you to respond proactively to changing customer needs and market conditions.

Employee mobility

Workforces are becoming increasingly mobile and many traditional careers will be redundant in the near future. Consider how automation can free up employees to refocus on innovation and more strategic tasks. Empower them to work from anywhere with instant access to data, applications and real-time knowledge sharing. Use multi-touch interactive whiteboards to easily analyse, modify and share information with employees regardless of the location.

Safety first

The digital space is fraught with cyber security risks. Make sure your offline and online security is up to date and fosters a culture of cyber vigilance with sufficient training, policies and procedures. This will ensure long-term digital sustainability. With intelligent software to manage printing devices and documents, you can maintain the integrity of critical business information.

Companies across the world are benefiting from a digital transformation. To secure long-term digital success without losing focus of your core business, you need to get the right building blocks in place from the onset.

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Statement By Ministry of Small Business Development

Statement by Ministry Of Small Business Development

MINISTRY OF SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT | June 08, 2018

STATEMENT BY MINISTRY OF SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT ON MINISTER ZULU’S ATTENDANCE AND ADDRESS ON THE CENTENARIES OF PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA AND ALBERTINA SISULU, THE 12TH EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT DAYS IN BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

Minister of Small Business Development; Ms. Lindiwe Zulu has today on 08 June 2018 returned home after concluding a successful visit to Brussels, Belgium wherein she participated in the 12th European Union Development Days (EUDD) and; addressed a special session dedicated to the Centenaries of Former President Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu. Minister Zulu’s address reinforced Governments decision to declare 2018 as the year to celebrate and commemorate its two struggle hero’s for the important role they played in South Africa’s journey towards freedom and democracy. Minister Zulu said, “We thank the European Commission for this unique and indeed historic opportunity to honour our struggle heroes in recognising the legendary contribution made by President Mandela in uniting South Africans through its democratic process and Mama Albertina Sisulu on her pioneering role in the emancipation of women”. It is also expected that the European Parliament will later this year adopt a resolution on the Centenary Celebrations for President Nelson Mandela.

The EUDD was held from 05-06 June in Brussels, Belgium on the theme; Women and Girls at the forefront of Sustainable Development: protect, empower and invest. The EUDD brings together the development community to share ideas to inspire new partnerships and innovation solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. (see www EuropeAid)

The EU is South Africa’s largest trading partner and largest foreign investor, representing 77% of total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country. Total trade has increased from R150 billion in 2000 to R599.86 billion in 2017. South African exports to the EU increased from R64 billion in 2000 to R262 billion in 2017. Over 2,000 EU companies operate in South Africa creating more than 500,000 direct and indirect jobs. In this regard, the EUDD Minister Zulu also met with the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Ms Federica Mogherini and exchanged views on strengthening South Africa’s strategic partnership with the EU towards the EU-SA Summit later this year, as well as reforming and strengthening global multilateral system of governance, deepening African Union and European partnership as well as other global issues such as climate change, peace and security etc. They reaffirmed close cooperation with between the two sides as SA prepares to take a non-permanent seat in the UNSC.

Minister Zulu will also meet with her Belgian counterpart the Minister of Middle Income Classes, Self Employed, SMMEs, Agriculture and Social Integration, H.E. Mr Denis Ducarme, and with H.E. Mr Pieter De Crem, Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of SMME and Cooperatives development and agreed to forge stronger relations aimed at increasing trade and investment opportunities for the benefit of SMMEs.

In line with President Ramaphosa’s call to encourage investment into the country, the Minister had a successful meeting with the Africa Business Angels Network (ABAN); the European Angels Business Network (EBAN) as well as Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Belgium to work towards opening markets for South African SMMEs in Europe. Minister Zulu also met with the Director General of the European Business Summit, Mr Arnaud Thysen to explore areas of cooperation, especially in light of the upcoming President’s Investment Summit in South Africa.

Minister Zulu also address the European Parliament Conference on the EU and Western Sahara. The Minister reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment and support to the aspirations to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. This meeting follows President, Cyril Ramaphosa with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic President, Brahim Ghali in Pretoria on the 5th June 2018, where the President reaffirmed our support for the occupied people of Western Sahara.

Minister Zulu also welcomed the EU’s increased development corporation efforts towards South Africa and the EUs support towards South Africa’s efforts towards redress of historic imbalanced land ownership.

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Start-up visas can help boost job creation in South Africa

Start-up visas can help boost job creation in South Africa

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | JUNE 5, 2018

A start-up visa programme targets immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in a guest or host country that are innovative; can create jobs; compete on a global scale and are sustainable.

History is now rich with successful ‘new generation’ firms, such as Facebook, Uber, Stripe and Airbnb, all of which began as start-ups. Today, many countries are working overtime to ensure that there is adequate support for their country’s start-ups, as this entrepreneurial space is undeniably where the ‘next big thing’ will come from.

Most countries are now resolving to attract not just their own local talent, but also talent from other parts of the world. On the continent, we are blessed with a pool of young and dynamic ideation leaders, which are constantly generating exciting and innovative concepts. However, the environment and the ecosystem in the countries they operate, as well as the lack of support, hinder their development.

In this regard, the African Union Agenda 2063 focuses on Africa we, as a continent, want. It reflects a vision for Africa based on the aspirations of African countries and their people. The agenda articulates the following – an integrated, people-centered, prosperous Africa, at peace with itself and enhances the ideology of a Pan-African state.

Yet when it comes to startups and entrepreneurs in general under the banner of the “The Future We Want for Africa”, many African countries lack the institutions that can provide adequate funding, skills development programmes, access to markets and even government support.

South Africa on the other hand, has the ability to provide the much-needed infrastructures and resources that can support entrepreneurship. In addition, the legislation in South Africa has been fairly progressive in ensuring that various private sector open up their supply chains to smaller players, though more still need to be done. There is also an array of programmes that various local entrepreneurs can tap into, including access to seed grants for prototypes from various government agencies and corporates.

Amidst all of this, we must keep our eyes constantly on the current unemployment rate, as stronger support for start-ups and entrepreneurs can help change these figures for the better, albeit slowly. According to data from Trading Economics, South Africa’s unemployment rate was at 26.7% in the first quarter of 2018, unchanged from the previous period. The number of unemployed increased by 100 000 to 5.98 million and the number of employed rose by 207 000 to 16.38 million. Millions of youth are unemployed in South Africa.

Start-up Visa Programme Case Studies

Canada

Applicants can secure a Canadian Start-up visa by proving that they have been accepted into a business incubator programme and received a Letter of Commitment from the incubator.

Those successful are granted permanent residence immediately and can apply for, and receive, a work permit within a week, while their permanent residence application is being processed. The initial work permit enables an applicant to enter Canada, attend workshops at the incubator and incorporate their company under Canadian Federal law.

Designated business incubators are similar to elite business schools that all entrepreneurs want to attend. They are for profit organisations and all entrepreneurs have to pay fees for programmes and services. The incubators deliver curriculum and mentorship to accentuate attendee strengths and overcome challenges. They connect start-up ventures with international customers and networks to accelerate growth. At the conclusion of the 12 or 24 month incubation programme, the international entrepreneur’s business venture will be launched in Canada. Ongoing mentorship is also provided to ensure that the business grows across North America.

Since its introduction in late 2014, the number of applicants to the Canadian Start-up visa programme has risen and its potential is being realised. The country’s unemployment rate has fallen sharply to 5.7%.

United Kingdom

In the UK, the entrepreneur visa lasts for a total of 3 years and 4 months. This can be extended for a further period of two years if the applicant has met certain conditions in relation to investment, job creation, and business generation. Entrepreneurs must show that two full-time jobs have been maintained. If not, two new full-time jobs for British citizens or permanent residents must have been created and existed for at least 12 months. The country’s unemployment rate is at 4.2%.

Italy

The Italian government’s Start-up Visa programme is a special permit reserved for entrepreneurs coming from outside the Eurozone with innovative business ideas. Recently, it extended the programme to foreign students who have received a degree in Italy and want to stay in the country to start a business. Although the Italian start-up scene overall still lags behind that of Germany, France and the UK, Italy’s visa programme is arguably one of the best around. The strengths of it include its relatively quick turnaround time and applicants need to demonstrate they have access to at least €50 000 in start-up funding. Italy’s unemployment rate is at 10.2%.

France

The French Ministry for Economy and Finance has what is called “Passport Talent” program, which was set up to attract more foreign workers. Now, as part of the so-called French Tech Visa, entrepreneurs, startup employees, and angel investors can apply to grow their ventures in France.

The visa is valid for four years, and also covers spouses. One way to get the visa is by applying for the related French Tech Ticket program, that is, of course, if you’re willing to launch your business in France. Those selected for this program will work with one of 41 partner incubators for 12 months, which will provide mentorship and funding to the recipients. The Tech Ticket comes with 45,000 euros ($48,330) to cover the costs of relocation. This is by far the most sophisticated programme given that government puts some substantial initial investment in the startup for relocation. France’s unemployment rate is at 9.5%.

As one of the continent’s economic powerhouses, what can South Africa do regarding ‘immigrant’ start-up visas?

  • Attract dynamic start-ups from various African countries that can collaborate with their South African counterparts in various key sectors. This could begin by giving special start-up visas to 100 of those selected that will be based in the country for 1-2 years. The benefit is that their start-up ideas can be commercialized in South Africa for the benefit of the country and for that of the continent. Critics could argue that South Africa will be exploiting these start-ups, but the fact remains that this is already being done by the Americans and Europeans, who are beneficiaries of these by taking our African start-ups and commercializing them in the Western countries.
  • Place the selected start-ups in an accelerated programme with clear monitoring, evaluation and implementation strategies. Programmes should be ‘certified’ by government agencies, which will be given the mandate to track and report on their progress.
  • Ensure that there is a benefit to the start-up’s country of origin, either by licensing the IP in their home country.
  • Provide private sector firms with access to a broader range of entrepreneurs, including the best and the brightest minds from around the world and encourage more partnership between big business and startups.

In conclusion, a South African Start-up Visa programme could establish an exciting and prosperous ‘business without borders’ environment for the entire continent’s start-up entrepreneurs, in light of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 mandate.

Kizito Okechukwu is the Co-Chair of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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22 ON SLOANE to celebrate Africa Day

22 ON SLOANE To Celebrate Africa Day

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | MAY 15, 2018

On the 25th May 1963, Africa made history by establishing the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union), which brought the continent together. This led to the creation of Africa Day on the 25th of May, an annual celebration of the continent’s identity and unity across the world, particularly in Africa.

The African Union’s Agenda 2063

The AU’s Agenda 2063 is to lead Africa towards the “Africa we want”; one with a more prosperous future in which all its citizens, young, old, male, female, rural, urban, of all creeds and backgrounds, are empowered to realise their full potential, live with satisfaction and pride about their continent; a future with healthy, well-educated people living in robust and developed economies. Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 particularly talks of “an Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African People, especially its women, youth and caring for children”.

The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa fully embraces the ideals of Agenda 2063. For example 22 ON SLOANE, the GEN’s innovative start-up campus, offers disruptive start-ups and innovative SMEs a complete turnkey solution to scale, from the initial idea all the way to commercialisation, source funding opportunities and access to markets. Its aim is to nurture the entrepreneurial mindset, ensure their sustainability, explore the development of new industries and contribute towards job creation in Africa.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

After two years of negotiations, one of the AU’s flagship projects for greater African integration is now a reality. To further solidify the continent’s collaborative efforts to strengthen economic prowess, and in so doing empower its people more, forty-four African countries recently signed the historic trade agreement to open the paths to a liberalised market for goods and services across the continent.

Known as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the agreement follows the European Union’s version and was signed in 2018 during the 10th Ordinary Session of African Union Heads of State summit, held in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. At the historical event, nineteen presidents were present, as well as various prime ministers and government representatives to sign for their respective countries. The AfCFTA is now the world’s largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization was formed in 1995 and is expected to culminate in the creation of the almost US$3trn African trade bloc.

Five Key Challenges facing African Startups

Though the African startup ecosystem continues to advance, there are still a few challenges that hinder startup growth on the continent. According to the recent study conducted by 22 on Sloane, below are some of the key challenges faced by African startups:

1. Inadequate analysis of the Need
2. Inadequate infrastructure
3. Access to Startup financing
4. Unfair competition by big business
5. Lack of targeted Business support programmes

Join GEN Africa to celebrate entrepreneurship on Africa Day

GEN Africa represents 42 countries on the continent with more than one million networks within the ecosystem. We offer an exciting platform to encourage intra-continental trade by offering Market Research, Access to Markets and Entrepreneurship Exchange Programmes, Technical Skills, to name a few.

Please join us on Africa Day for an informal networking and drinks session with our resident startups, entrepreneurs and business chambers from across the continent and 20 MBA students from George Washington University! Networking session starts at 16h00 – 18h00 on Friday 25 May 2018. Dress code is African attire.

For more information on the 22 ON SLOANE Africa Day Networking session, please visit www.22onsloane.co

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Startup Nations South Africa to hack policy barriers facing SMEs

22 ON SLOANE

THE LARGEST STARTUP CAMPUS IN AFRICA

Startup Nations South Africa to hack policy barriers facing SMEs

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | MAY 04, 2018

The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa, the World Bank, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) South Africa and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), have partnered together to host a Startup Nations Policy Hackathon.

In a common sense, a hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers or thinkers and others involved in software development and other developmental initiatives, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, leaders and others put their collective heads together on software projects. These days, the scope of hackathons has broadened significantly and are now conducted in various and diverse industry sectors, which need the intensive collaborative input of all role players and subject-matter-experts to reach conclusions and implement decisive and positive actions.

According to Mulalo Rambau, Startup Nations South Africa policy lead, this hackathon will gather together start-up ecosystem representatives, which includes the participation of entrepreneurs to ‘hack’ a specific policy solution in response to identified challenges in the ecosystem.

In most market economies, except the most flexible and deregulated, there are significant barriers to business growth. For example, in the UK the important issues have been highlighted in a report by the Federation of Small Businesses, entitled ‘Barriers to Survival and Growth in UK Small Firms’. It reveals that transition economies can expect more severe barriers regarding the growth of SMEs. Therefore, special attention need to be given to the barriers which hinder the development of potentially fast growth firms, i.e. those that have the greatest capacity to provide employment and introduce innovations as well as new technologies.

During his state of the nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the issues of bureaucracy, red tape and inflexible legislation and how these hinder and limit enterprise growth for start-ups, small, micro and medium-sized businesses.

The policy hack concept is focused on real policy challenges, actual implementation and impact; results produced from the hack should be tested in an identified area.

22 ON SLOANE will host The Startup Nation Policy Hack in South Africa on the 11th May 2018 and it will focus on themes identified through a consultative process between the IDC, the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD), the World Bank and UNCTAD representatives.  The themes identified include the following:

  • Reducing barriers to entry for start-ups (e.g. company registration process, regulatory burden, tax burden)
  • Reducing late invoice payments (from public to private sector)
  • Monitoring and evaluating 30% procurement and access to markets from SMMEs and cooperatives
  • Reducing trade barriers between regional blocs in Africa (SADC, EAC, ECOWAS)
  • Implementing entrepreneurship education in basic education curriculums

I, and all involved in this process, look forward to sharing the key outcomes and lessons learnt from the five African countries over the next few months. I am also confident that through constant collaboration and like-minded thinking we can significantly reduce the barriers to SME growth.

To R.S.V.P visit: http://22onsloane.co/events/startup-nations-policy-hackathon/

Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of SEA Africa and Co-chair of GEN Africa – 22 on Sloane. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest Startup campus.

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Making a case for small business development institutions.

Making a case for small business development institutions.

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | APRIL 20, 2018

Pictured Above: Turkey President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan

For many years, there has been an ongoing debate in many countries regarding the significance and importance of entrepreneurial ministries in the public sector.

Some countries are for, while others are against them. Some categorize their entrepreneurship agendas under their department of trade or industry, others under science and technology, while some place them in their innovation departments.

The UK had a Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, created by merging the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. It was disbanded to form the current Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in which entrepreneurship is just one of its many mandates.

However, in the US, a global economic powerhouse, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been championing entrepreneurship development for many years and the thriving start-up environment that now exists in the country pays testimony to the vital role the SBA plays in its small business development.

On a larger scale, one of the world’s most prominent contributors to small business development is the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC), a programme of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN). The annual week-long congress gathers thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers and other start-up champions from more than 170 countries to identify innovative ways to help founders start and scale new ventures around the world. Delegates can network, gain insights, learn about new research and leave ready to renew their programmes, policy ideas or founder skills.

This year, the GEC was held in Istanbul, Turkey, a thriving start-up hub that is both an economic and cultural cornerstone of Europe and Asia. The congress kicked off with the Start-up Nations Ministerial, co-hosted by the World Bank and GEN with over 30 ministers from around the globe. The Ministerial agenda is informed by year-round regional policy conversations and research emerging from a global network of institutions and is guided by a Steering Committee.

The host city Istanbul is home to 18 million people out of Turkey’s total estimated population of 80 million with a business community that generates roughly 40% of Turkey’s economy and approximately 60% of its exports. In the past decade alone, the Istanbul-centric entrepreneurship ecosystem in Turkey has mobilized and matured very rapidly. Today, the country has more than 60 incubators and accelerators, 40 angel networks and 20 local venture capital funds with new ecosystem builder initiatives emerging every day.
At GEC 2018, Turkish President Erdogan stated that “our goal is to make our country one of the top ten economies in the world by evaluating our position in the best possible way. We are determined to continue this path by investing more, producing more, exporting more and creating more jobs. Of course, we are aware that big goals require major reforms. For this, entrepreneurs and investors provide very important support incentives.”

He went on to add that the country’s first indigenous car projects and the new Istanbul airport, which was built by five entrepreneurs, highlighted the country’s strong sense of entrepreneurship. “Ministries will also be accessible to entrepreneurs at any point and this is our commitment to fully support and develop entrepreneurship in our country. We trust and believe that hosting the congress in Istanbul will assist us to achieve our goal to grow sustainable businesses”, he concluded.

Speaking at the GEC 2018 Ministerial, South Africa’s Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu shared insights into activities and successes achieved through GEN Africa. “Great work has been achieved through the support of the GEN Community. I look forward to seeing GEN Africa facilitate regional dialogues that encourage and support the implementation of policy interventions to guide and support the public and private sector.”

South Africa bags three prestigious awards at GEC 2018

Since the formation of the Department of Small Business Development, many stakeholders have noted some challenges and successes faced by the department.

Yet the recent GEC 2018 awards bestowed on South Africa and received by Minister Lindiwe Zulu, strongly emphasize the crucial role the department plays in empowering a culture of entrepreneurship in South Africa. The awards, listed below, rewarded the effort of both the department and the GEN in Africa.
The Compass Award for GEN Country of the Year in recognition of South Africa’s rapid progress in the creation of a GEN country entity that encompasses strong board leadership, strategic planning and performance in achieving outcomes ahead of schedule.

The Brand Champions award which acknowledges the country’s outstanding work in promoting the Global Entrepreneurship Network brand and its values across not only South Africa, but also the continent.
The Research Champion of the Year Award with special thanks to the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, which championed various entrepreneurship study and research programmes in the country.

“We are extremely pleased with the outcomes. Team SA has done us proud as these awards are recognition for our collective efforts and commitment to creating a dynamic South African entrepreneurial ecosystem”, she lauded.

In summary, it’s clearly evident that entrepreneurs and small businesses are, and always will be, the lifeblood of any country’s economy. Yet In South Africa, the question remains whether our Department of Small Business Development is still relevant in this regard.

In my view, however, and with the above in mind, the question now should rather be how do the ecosystem stakeholders support the department by giving it the staying power it deserves – and not how to disband it.

Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of SEA Africa and Co-chair of GEN Africa, 22 on Sloane. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest Startup campus.

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