Empowering entrepreneurial minds across Africa

“Entrepreneurship isn’t the finish line – it’s a journey of continuous learning, unlearning and relearning. As an entrepreneur you must strive to be an expert in your respective field. You may not have all the answers, and that’s okay, but don’t settle for the mediocrity of not knowing.”

This is the expert advice from Anele Mkhuzo-Magape who founded Zinde Zinde (Pty) Ltd t/a African Entrepreneurship Initiative – a consulting and entrepreneurship education training company with a focus on youth in townships and peri-urban areas.

Mkhuzo-Magape is an entrant in the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS.

She started her career at the Gordon Institute of Business Science’s (GIBS) Enterprise Development Academy, designing programmes for long-term sustainability in entrepreneurship. After three years in the position, she discovered that there was a gap in the market: there were too few Enterprise Development Agencies creating programmes specifically targeted at young black entrepreneurs in townships and peri-urban areas. Some entrepreneurs had to travel far to access these programmes and access was further worsened by a language barrier in their execution. This meant that some entrepreneurs didn’t have the confidence to adequately express themselves and what their businesses do.

When she left her job to focus on her business full time, Mkhuzo-Magape had almost nine years of corporate experience in customer service management and project management, and an education background in Economics and Business Administration. This, she says was a solid foundation to build from and she felt very privileged for the opportunities that she had – she knows this is not every entrepreneur’s story.

“I knew I wanted to change that narrative through education and entrepreneurship. It is my responsibility as a young person to plough back into the community what I have learnt and to continue learning every day.”

New business development is always difficult. Mkhuzo-Magape says her greatest challenge was identifying corporates and government departments that were truly passionate about realising her vision. “We didn’t want to simply consult and deliver training as a tick box exercise; we wanted to create sustainable and thriving enterprises, and programmes that change lives and communities.”

Mkhuzo-Magape says the business model is built on accessibility, and that beneficiaries do not pay for their services. Funding comes from corporate and government institutions that they partner with. “Our greatest challenge is convincing potential investors of our passion and making them see the value it offers in terms of their long term strategy.”

But she says seeing entrepreneurs who have been through their programmes develop and reach for opportunities to realise their ideas is her greatest achievement. “There are so many talented young people with amazing ideas but they just need the right support and platforms to help elevate them– I get to do that every day, and that’s my success.”

Over the next five years, Mkhuzo-Magape envisions African Entrepreneurship Initiative to grow into a knowledge hub for young entrepreneurs across the continent, and says she has structured the business’ growth strategies to achieve this. “We want to bring innovation to entrepreneurial education through practical tools such as simulations and gamification. Our training must be relevant and accessible to youth and be presented in the vernacular languages that are appropriate to the youth we want to target.”

Past winner catch-up – where are they now?

2018 marks our 30th year in honouring entrepreneurs and the contributions they make toward growing the South African economy. We’re celebrating this milestone by catching up with some of the past winners of the competition.

Catching up with: Kim Whitaker

Winning year: Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® – 2015

Winning business: Once in Cape Town is a combined product of two different accommodation types – a backpackers’ lodge and a luxury hotel – globally dubbed as a ‘poshtel’.

It’s been almost 3 years since you won the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® title in 2015, how has business been since then?

Business has been very good – we’ve grown year-on-year and even achieved some goals that we had set out back when we started our journey.

Shortly after winning the title in 2015, we were fortunate enough to realise one of our big dreams – expansion into Gauteng with “Once in Jo’Burg” in 2016. It has been incredibly exciting to watch the new branch grow from strength to strength.

Since the 2015 competition, I also became a parent and being a working-mom has now brought a few new challenges to my life – such as needing to travel and attend business meetings with my child (even to Germany for a trade show!).

Have you made any new developments within your business since winning?

We very recently launched a tourism academy for young women in the tourism industry. The academy will begin in May 2018 with 20 students initially – taking them through the basics of tourism management. We hope this will empower these young women to forge long and successful careers within the local tourism industry.

Eventually we hope to grow the academy to host up to 100 students per year. We want to be a driver of growth in our sector and contribute toward bolstering youth employment in our country.
We were also recently awarded our Fair Trade stamp after a thorough audit – achieving a 100% pass rate which we’re very proud of.

What was the biggest lesson you learnt from your stint in the EOY competition?

The competition was an eye-opener. Bearing witness to the innovative things others are doing reminded me to always put my best foot forward, and to be proud of our achievements.

The entire experience was exceptionally inspirational. I was able to meet and learn from so many like-minded entrepreneurs who have amazing businesses. In turn, this has led me to discover a personal passion for networking with other local entrepreneurs and for investigating the entrepreneurial landscape in South Africa. I am eager to be more involved in helping others discover their entrepreneurial talents and seeing how we, collectively, can grow our country.

What would your top piece of advice be for anyone looking to enter this year’s competition?

I think the biggest, and possibly the most important piece of advice I could offer other entrepreneurs looking to enter the competition would be to be themselves completely. Don’t be something you’re not – you should be proud of your business, and your uniqueness. Be proud to fit outside the box. Most importantly – know your business inside and out – and don’t be shy to show it off.

Six ways for businesses to become pillars of the community

Many businesses make a point of giving, from sponsoring sports gear to donating goods to a nearby charity. By helping out in this way, the thinking goes, the business fosters goodwill and loyalty in the community.

But charitable giving is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways in which businesses can contribute towards the welfare of the communities and cement their position as good corporate citizens. Gugu Mjadu, executive general manager: marketing at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), lists six ways in which businesses are sure to become pillars of their community.

Make your business profitable

In a certain sense, it sounds like the polar opposite of being community minded or charitable. But being profitable is the single biggest contribution that a business can make to the community in which it is based. It means that the service it provides is sustainable, and that community members will be able to rely on it being there next year and the year after.

Being profitable means that the jobs provided by the business to members of the community are stable, dependable and long-term.

In contrast, the respect earned by the big-tipping type of business owner who prioritizes buying flashy cars over business sustainability is as superficial and short-lived as the business itself.

Train your staff

All over the world, small and medium businesses are responsible for a huge amount of work-place training, simply because they cannot afford to appoint fully trained workers like big corporations can. They appoint youngsters with the understanding that the salary will not be great to start off with, but there will be lots of training. And in a small-business setting the worker is often in close proximity to the owner, who can constantly give expert feedback and on-the-job training.

In South Africa, where state-provided basic education and vocational training is to a large extent struggling, the role of the small business in keeping vocational skills alive has become absolutely critical. The few workers who are well trained and educated tend to work for bigger companies, while small businesses tend to employ untrained youngsters from their community in return for on-the-job training.

Yet the idea of training sits uncomfortably with many small business owners, who fear that all their investment in the on-the-job training of a youngster will be lost when they are poached by bigger businesses as soon as they are proficient.

It is bound to happen at some stage to every small business, but the fear is overrated. Research shows that one of the best ways to instill loyalty in workers is by providing skills development. The few who do leave for better-paying jobs are indeed the business owner’s contribution to the industry skills pool, which, although it may not be immediately apparent, benefits every business in the long term.

Be visible to the community

A business owner’s presence in the community provides another crucial contribution to the development of South Africa, which urgently needs role models to show the youth that self-employment or entrepreneurship is a valid and worthy alternative to working for someone else.

Business owners do not have to be flashy or glamorous in order to make an impression on the youth. A solid presence as a role model can be established by low-key involvement such as giving talks at schools or serving on the board of a local community project. And here charitable giving can play its most important role. When business owners sponsor the kit of a local soccer team, for example, the value they provide as role models is worth much more than the price of the donation.

Mentor young entrepreneurs

Apart from the general role modeling that business owners can do in their communities, they can also focus on imparting skills and knowledge to up and coming young business owners in their industry.

Even though they are strictly speaking competitors, the bond developed by mentorship is beneficial to both businesses. Experienced business owners can refer overflow work to the young entrepreneurs they mentor, and can strengthen their capacity by forming joint ventures with them.

Experienced business owners can also join, or set up, formal mentorship programmes. BUSINESS/PARTNERS, for example, has a pool of more than 300 business owners in its mentorship programme. Many of the participants are retired business owners who want to contribute to South Africa’s economic development by sharing their extensive experience with the younger generation of business owners.

Be vocal about issues that hurt your business

Workers have well established structures and methods to make a noise and exert pressure when they feel their rights are being threatened. Students are again finding their voice to raise awareness about their plight. But the voice of the business owner is largely silent, even in the face of serious damage inflicted by unnecessary red tape. Big business, when they do speak up, often do not face the same challenges as small businesses.

An important part of the problem is that business owners are too busy to spend much time participating and setting up local business associations. But it also has to do with a lack of a culture of activism. Join your local chamber or business association, even if it is dominated by big business, and even if you contribute just an hour or two per month. In their numbers, the voice of small business can become powerful.


You don’t have to change the world like Google, or shake up industries like Elon Musk. Incremental and localized innovation is hugely beneficial to the community. Every time a business introduces something as simple as SMS notifications to its clients, or a new method copied from overseas, life becomes a little more convenient, products and services a little better or cheaper, and the business itself a little stronger.

Alternative ways to seek education – think entrepreneurship

Despite the high demand placed on tertiary education in South Africa, only a small percentage of the 700 000 recent high school graduates are expected to be placed in institutions of higher learning as the new academic year begins. Largely owing to finances, or a lack of space to accommodate current and new students, many school leavers are unsure of how to further their education for future career paths or making a living.

Whilst the benefits of a formal tertiary education are well documented, it is not the only opportunity available to post-matriculants. Rather than adding to the statistics of the unemployed, students should think entrepreneurially about furthering their education, says Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS.

She says that similarly to becoming a successful entrepreneur, there is no single path to becoming a success in the workplace. “It doesn’t start and end with a degree – the determination to succeed, innovation and a passion for a chosen field also contribute to success. While in many instances a formal education is advantageous and encouraged, it does not guarantee a successful work career. For instance, some of the most successful entrepreneurs do not possess an educational qualification, but have succeeded in growing an established and thriving business.”

With the unemployment rate currently recorded at 27,1% (according to Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey – Q3 2016), it is crucial that displaced students find other ways to learn and further themselves within their careers, even if it is for the short-to-medium term until they are able to further their education at a tertiary establishment.

“Tertiary institution applicants who were not accepted into those institutions should use this time as an opportunity to take their education into their own hands by seeking mentorship and exploring how to learn new, hands-on skills from an established business owner in their chosen field. This way students will gain not only knowledge, but valuable hands-on experience, which can prove to be invaluable when starting their chosen careers later on,” says Mjadu.

With the 38,2% of South Africans between the ages of 15 and 34 reportedly unemployed during the third quarter of 2016, the private sector and entrepreneurs have the opportunity and responsibility to proactively and positively contribute towards the growth of the local economy by providing practical learning opportunities to the youth.

Mjadu explains that this approach will not only assist in job creation, but the hiring of interns can also be beneficial for businesses, especially entrepreneurial businesses. “Interns can bring fresh ideas to the table, and in order to give them the most valuable experience, they can work across various departments to find their niche.”

Mjadu says that youth considering this option should find the right match to ensure the best learning outcomes. “Firstly, young individuals should contemplate the choice of entrepreneur to shadow. It is important to carefully assess who to approach to shadow or learn from, what you would like to learn from them and why, as well as what to offer the entrepreneur in return. Applicants should make sure their qualities and skills match that of the company in order to motivate why they are fit for the position.

Secondly, the youth need to be persistent. Most entrepreneurs who are willing to provide such learning opportunities are not necessarily looking for qualified graduates – but enthusiastic, hard-working and passionate candidates.

She adds: “Being an intern is much like being an entrepreneur – you need to find the right person to invest in your career. If you are hungry to learn and have a good work ethic, keep seeking out these opportunities.”

Mjadu concludes: “In order to assist in rectifying the youth unemployment crisis in South Africa, the youth should be encouraged to explore entrepreneurial workplace options that will upskill them. Likewise, business owners should create more opportunities for the youth in their businesses and support the younger generation of potential entrepreneurs and their entrepreneurial ventures.”

How business owners can drive SA’s youth entrepreneurship levels

The 2015/2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report for South Africa shows an upsettingly low entrepreneurial involvement level among 18-to-24-year-olds, when compared to the average figure for Africa in the same age group. This is particularly alarming when considering the majority of South African school-leavers do not enter into tertiary education and therefore enter the work force during this period of their life .

With an unemployment rate that has just reached a 10-year high – at a time when almost half the population is under 25 – this low prevalence of youth entrepreneurial activity represents a gross waste of human resources and will most certainly have a negative impact on the country’s future growth prospects. Furthermore, the social implications of long-term unemployment among the youth is significant and could potentially lead to an increased incidence of crime and political disruption.

While the challenge of unemployment among the South African youth is a complex issue, to which there is no one simple solution, increasing the involvement of young individuals in business could contribute to the development of entrepreneurial skills and allow young people an opportunity to participate in the economy in a meaningful way. Whether or not they decide to pursue entrepreneurship in the long run, the experience will also help in developing non-cognitive skills, such as opportunity recognition, innovation and critical thinking.

Here are three simple ways that business owners can help to drive youth entrepreneurship levels:

1. Create an enterprise culture that encourages entrepreneurial activity

In order to encourage entrepreneurial behaviour amongst the youth, South African business owners need to develop and encourage an enterprise culture that positively promotes entrepreneurship. Whether this is done by way of public addresses and seminars, or simply writing a monthly newsletter or blog, business owners should proactively share their entrepreneurial stories and encourage the cultural traits that foster entrepreneurship. These include the notion of acknowledging failure as an opportunity to learn and encouraging creativity and innovation.

2. Become a mentor

This can be done through a formally implemented internal mentorship programme or a more casual invitation to job-shadow for the day and experience the working environment. Either way, allowing a young person to experience the dignity of working, contributing and developing skills may give them the motivation necessary to start a business in the future. In return, a business owner will benefit from the talents, energy and ideas that young people generally bring to the labour force and may even learn something themselves.

3. Open up access to business facilities

One of the easiest and most beneficial ways that business owners can support young and budding entrepreneurs is by allowing them use of their office’s infrastructure, whether this be a desk to work at, access to electronic equipment after hours or use of a boardroom to present ideas to potential investors. While not requiring any effort or time on the part of the business owner, like a mentorship programme would, this inclusive initiative will still allow young people the opportunity to observe a thriving business environment and may spark an idea or passion to create something similar for themselves.

While entrepreneurship is not the sole solution to South Africa’s problem of youth unemployment, it can contribute in unleashing the economic potential of the country’s youth and improve their economic independence, possibly providing an avenue to new job opportunities and career growth.

It’s never too late to start your own business

50 is the new 21 age for entrepreneurs

There is a common misconception among many budding entrepreneurs that starting a business is a journey that is best initiated at a young age. Entrepreneurship is however not just for the youth, and can be embarked upon at any stage of life.

This is according to Kobus Engelbrecht, spokesperson for the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, who says despite the success stories about young individuals pursuing entrepreneurial ventures – such as  Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (then 20) and Airbnb’s Brian Chesk co-founder (then 26) –  these individuals are the exceptions rather than the norm. “The average entrepreneur tends to be a middle-aged professional who, through experience, has identified an opportunity to establish a business and fill a gap in the market.

He points to research conducted in the US by Kauffman Foundation titled the Anatomy of an Entrepreneur. Surveying over 500 high growth founders, it revealed that the typical successful high growth entrepreneur is 40 years old, and that there are more than twice as many successful entrepreneurs over the age of 50 compared to under the age of 25.

Our experience with the competition confirms that there are still are a number of ‘older’ entrepreneurs making a name for themselves – those that have had a successful career and have since developed a business after identifying  a gap in the market, says Engelbrecht. “Our 2013 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® category winner, Jonathan Pepler, spent 30 years in the corporate retail sector before embarking on his entrepreneurial journey in the construction industry.”

Engelbrecht adds, the 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year® overall winner, Tommy Makhatho – owner of BiBi Cash & Carry – is another example. “While he had entrepreneurial aspirations from a very young age, Makhatho’s business only thrived later in life due to the experience he had accumulated. Having left school after standard nine in 1976, he went on to pursue many avenues from hairdressing to a distributing of hair-care products. In 1998, Makhatho opened the first Bibi Cash & Carry Family Supermarket and subsequently Bibi Wholesaler and Bibi Cash & Carry. The retail group has grown in profit and size significantly, and today, Makhatho  employs over 500 people.”

The average age of an entrepreneur in South Africa is between 22 – 45 years, according to the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) South Africa 2014 report. Although there is no prescribed age to pursue entrepreneurship, each age group has its advantages, explains Engelbrecht. “Young entrepreneurs benefit from their propensity to take risks, a characteristic that is synonymous with entrepreneurial traits, as well as a youthful energy to persevere should a risk not pay off at first.

“However, in contrast, older entrepreneurs have the advantage of experience, as well as the ability to take more calculated risks given that they are likely to have more weighing on the risks they opt to take, such as family or investment responsibilities. Older entrepreneurs, those with more working experience, also tend to have more skills in running a business and wider networks to utilise for business gains.”

Engelbrecht says that the fear of ‘being too old’ to start a business shouldn’t be a reason that aspiring entrepreneurs don’t take the leap. “Some aspiring entrepreneurs shrug off the idea of owning a business out of fear that their internal clock has long ticked past the proverbial deadline. This mind-set needs to change.

“There are many successful business men and women who, after years of experience in the workplace – whether near to or far from retirement – find that their minds and bodies are still active and fit enough to begin a new venture, even well into retirement years.”

Engelbrecht concludes with a reminder that it is never too early or too late to start a business – with calculated risks, sufficient research, a good business plan and the right support – opportunities for success are always in sight.

Hard work and a passion for excellent customer service leads entrepreneur to success

For most entrepreneurs, the journey of entrepreneurship starts at the very bottom of the proverbial ladder. Yet, a keen eye for gaps in the market, coupled with willingness to learn and master every skill, climbing the ladder one step at a time comes naturally and with ease. This most certainly rang true for Christopher Kapanga, owner of Randburg based We Clean It All and a 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition entrant, who embarked on his entrepreneurial journey at the tender age of 26.

Like many entrepreneurs, Kapanga grew tired of working for someone else’s vision. As he grew up with an entrepreneurial family, Kapanga always had a desire to become known for doing something great.

He describes himself as ‘street smart’ rather than ‘book smart’. “I was never a great student and found university difficult. I felt like a failure for not completing my studies, until one day I realised that life is what you make of it. Through my work experience I discovered that there was more I could offer once I understood what I excelled at, and I soon discovered that it was delivering on excellent customer service,” says Kapanga.

Having started his working career as a floor sales assistant at a large clothing retailer, Kapanga quickly learnt the importance of excellent customer service, and was swiftly promoted to supervisor. Soon after he was head hunted by Builders Warehouse, and in his position as a junior manager, he soon learnt that customer service was non-negotiable. In this role, he also enhanced his communication skills through his liaisons with suppliers, and realised he could in fact run his own business.

With the seed planted, Kapanga opted to enter the service industry and joined a carpet cleaning company as an area manager. It was during his five years with the company that his inspiration for growing a business increased, and which ultimately sparked his entrepreneurial journey.

“My then manager was very strict and had an eye on everything. He always knew who worked hard, who slacked, how much stock was on hand, how much petrol was in each van for example. His drive and determination to make his business succeed was what I admired most about him, and so I aimed to be just like him one day,” says Kapanga.

After starting to clean carpets over the weekends for extra money, Kapanga identified a gap in the market for high quality and reliable carpet cleaning services in households and with homeowners who continued to ask for additional cleaning services. He subsequently started his own carpet cleaning company, We Clean It All.

Kapanga says that he knew that delivering unrivalled customer service would set his business apart from competitors. “We don’t only provide a cleaning service to our clients, but also create a beneficial relationship by providing clients with long term advice and solutions for maintenance of their material goods.”

He pegs the first few months of 2008 (after launching his business) as the most challenging – struggling to attract and retain even two clients during the winter months, and having their pricing structure dictated to them by their biggest source of clients – the real estate agencies, many of whom took advantage of his business’ youth in the market.

Today, Kapanga can look back and smile at the growth his business has achieved over the past eight years. His services have broadened to include window cleaning, floor cleaning, post renovation cleaning and flood damage among other services. His staff complement has also increased significantly, with additional office and operational staff members. There are also new exciting projects on the cards which Kapanga hopes will bring the business to the forefront of delivering on-the-go services that will be easily accessible to future customers.

When asked what advice he would give budding entrepreneurs, Kapanga provides three top tips:

  1. Write all your business ideas down;
  2. Do it now: Don’t wait for the perfect time as it will never come. The know how to run the business only starts when you are in it;
  3. Hard work will make your business a success.

He also stresses that education is important. “While I may have struggled with formal education, I make sure to constantly surround myself with business-minded individuals by attending workshops, online education courses, networking events and business management seminars.

“I firmly believe that lessons are not only learned in the classroom. To succeed, you need to always be in the know, and this is why I strive to read as many books on entrepreneurial subjects and stay in touch with business owners and motivational speakers,” Kapanga concludes.

SA businesses encouraged to create incubators to develop tomorrow’s entrepreneurs

“If all business owners in South Africa commit to mentoring one young entrepreneur, we have the potential to double entrepreneurship in two to three years.”

This suggestion was made by a local entrepreneur at the inaugural 2015 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® Alumni Association, an entrepreneurial platform established in an effort to stimulate conversation and action amongst established local entrepreneurs.

During the session the entrepreneurial community – consisting of over 50 past competition title holders and seasoned South African business owners from across various sectors – recognised the urgent need for business incubation in South Africa, and raised valid points about how seasoned business owners can play a vital role facilitating and building entrepreneurship in the country.

Now in its 27th year, the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition holds a database of top entrepreneurs and through the alumni, we seek to harness entrepreneurs’ expertise to remove the barriers they see as hindering entrepreneurship within the country.

Entrepreneurs in attendance agreed that small and medium enterprise (SMEs) owners underestimate the value and the difference they can make by guiding and supporting potential entrepreneurs who need support in starting or growing their business.

Now more than ever the market needs more employers

The recently released GEM Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs report states that by 2040 Africa’s young workforce will be the largest in the world, surpassing both China and India. In South Africa, this potential workforce is largely unemployed with the figure already reading 53% when compared to the adult population figure of 21%.

In South Africa, the formal sector is increasingly feeling the pressure and is unable to serve the current employment demands. This pressure is only set to grow if additional measures to drive youth entrepreneurship are not implemented in the country.

To curb this, youth need to be encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship as a viable career option. More importantly, young entrepreneurs embarking on the journey need to be supported in order to succeed so that they too can develop into successful entrepreneurs who will go on to create additional job opportunities.

South Africa’s youth are being taught to be job seekers, rather than job creators.

Past GEM research shows that only 11% of South Africa’s youth indicate that they intend to start a business in the next 3 years.

As a country, we need to encourage entrepreneurship from a young age. Education institutes can only inspire youth to a certain degree. Families need to groom their kids to become entrepreneurs and young, budding entrepreneurs need to have access to business owners they admire and spend time with them in a working environment where they can experience an entrepreneur’s passion for business first hand.

Leading by example

A Western Cape based alumni member operating in the construction space recently implemented an internal mentorship programme and incubator space within his business as he believes that ‘giving someone an opportunity can lead to great things’. The programme provides a platform for start-ups to make use of his office’s infrastructure, whether it is a desk, access to the printer or use of the boardroom. The entrepreneur also mentors young entrepreneurs by providing advice when needed, as well as introducing them to the business world by allowing them access to business engagements or seminars.

While there are barriers to entry for young entrepreneurs, if the small business community can inspire more youth to consider entrepreneurship, one battle will be won.

In South Africa, there aren’t enough grassroots organisations that equip young entrepreneurs with technical knowledge. A retired entrepreneur in attendance said that having recently mentored her son who owns a business, made her realise how desperately the youth seek guidance. She explained that while they have the passion and ideas, they struggle to implement these ideas and that more should be done to make it easier for them to grow their business.

The youth therefore need to have the opportunity to shadow a seasoned entrepreneur and be shown what it takes to run a business and what can be achieved with commitment and dedication.

Give back and get back

Not only are these mentorship and incubator initiatives relatively easy to implement, but entrepreneurs can also reap rewards from these engagements. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely job and an incubator environment can create an immediate sounding board for your business. It creates an opportunity for you to also learn and possibly think of new ways to do business.

Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition and co-facilitator of the alumni events which were hosted across the country in 2015.

What measures need to be taken to improve entrepreneurship levels in South Africa?

The latest South Africa Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2014 revealed that entrepreneurial activity in South Africa is not sufficient, and is not in line with other sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, nor the rest of the world – despite the level of activity increasing marginally over the last 10 years.

While the country has a good infrastructure and banking system, both of which are enablers of entrepreneurship, South Africa is faced with many other constraints hindering the growth of entrepreneurial activity.

South Africa’s largest problem is unemployment – officially reported as 26.40%. It is however believed that this figure is largely understated as it doesn’t include the percentage of the population underemployed – earning very low wages – as well as the discouraged unemployed workers who have stopped reporting their unemployment status, and are therefore not included in the official statistics. It is therefore estimated that the unemployment rate could be as high as 45%, and youth unemployment even higher.

Over the last few years, the private sector’s employment levels have not grown, each year either remaining at the same level, or shrinking. In order to improve unemployment levels there needs to be a call for the sector to become more involved with initiatives contributing towards growing the pool of interest in entrepreneurship.

While Government has implemented several initiatives to improve entrepreneurship, the most successful have been supported by only a few select private companies. Enterprise development and entrepreneurship must therefore be seen as a key area that can unlock growth.

When considering a statement by Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu on the aspirations for the Ministry of Small Business Development – “All of us must accept that we carry a joint responsibility to re-distribute the wealth of our nation” – it is hoped that civil society and Government will consider ways and means to ‘crowd-in’ the business sector’s considerable resources, skills and capacity to foster sustainable development.

There are six fundamental policy, legal and regulatory tools which Government can make use of to ‘crowd-in’ and engage the private sector:

  1. To celebrate, encourage and foster entrepreneurship – both commercially and socially – as one of the most noble human endeavours of all. This is the core to the reasoning behind the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, and during the competition’s 27 years existence; we have strived to promote entrepreneurship as a viable, and rewarding career choice.
  2. Develop a SME-friendly, and business in general, enabling environment with fair, clear, stable and predictable policies, laws and regulations uniformly implemented across the different tiers of Government as found in most countries. This will mean that the private sector is protected and won’t be surprised with new regulatory compliance issues.
  3. Foster, encourage, regulate and police competition between businesses, with significant sanctions being enforced for uncompetitive behaviour.
  4. Reduce the proverbial red-tape which often places onerous burdens on entrepreneurs to register businesses, obtain business/trading licences, obtain tax compliance/clearance status, to list a few. Such compliance can discourage individuals from pursuing, or continuing, entrepreneurship as a career due to all the red tape.
  5. With governments being the single largest purchaser and consumer of goods and services in most countries – South Africa being no exception – Government can utilise the power of procurement to create markets for SMEs, ensure local community participation and benefits, and generally shape the behaviour of business as good corporate citizens.
  6. Modernise, improve and build infrastructure as these projects will employ and upskill many people, thereby creating skills and an infrastructural platform which will facilitate economic development in a competitive world. The same infrastructural projects would provide additional business opportunities for SMEs.

If we can increase the number of intentional entrepreneurs in South Africa (11.8% of South African adults in 2014 had entrepreneurial intentions vs. 58% in sub-Saharan African), as well as our nascent entrepreneurial rate of 3.9% (vs. in sub-Saharan African rate of 14.1%) for those that have taken steps to start a business, we can fill the entrepreneurial pipeline, and aid them to become new entrepreneurs, and later on, established entrepreneurs.

If the business environment is enabling – and the mentioned six points are being adhered to by civil society, government and the business sector – the failure rate and number of discontinued businesses will decrease as these entrepreneurs would be being nurtured, and not left to their own devises.

By implementing these six measures in a real and collaborative way, it will assist in lowering the levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality in the country, as well as aid in improving South Africa’s total entrepreneurial activity numbers.

*Commentary by Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition spokesperson, Christo Botes.

What are you views on South Africa’s current entrepreneurship levels? Do you agree with the six mentioned methods? Share your views with us on our social media platforms:

Artisan skills training centre collects Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® award


Marthie Jansen van Rensburg, founder of Gauteng-based Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre, walked away with the Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award ® at the annual Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® Competition, held in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 3 September 2014.

Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre was established in 2006 following the identification of a need for an alternative way to the traditional schooling system. Students who did not have the academic ability to finish secondary schooling are given the opportunity to equip themselves with more practical artisanal skills, thus enabling them to become artisans or potential entrepreneurs.

Jansen van Rensburg says that there is currently a great shortage of well-trained artisans in South Africa and it is vital that similar places of learning become attractive to young South Africans in order to close the gap. “Too often, young students who do not have the academic ability fall by the wayside and do not consider the prospects an artisanal career may present. In light of this, our purpose is to rebrand these once underestimated career options as an attractive choice for young South Africans.”

According to Lionel Billings, a member of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® judging panel, whilst not a trained artisan, Marthie was able to identify a unique gap in the education sector to train and up skill young South Africans to become qualified artisans. “Having started the centre without any outside funding, Marthie, through her passion and drive, has been able to make a direct and real impact in an environment, especially the youth, where unemployment is a growing concern.

Billings adds that what makes Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre stand out, apart from the approach Marthie follows, is that artisans that graduate from the centre are employable. “The centre provides real and practical skills which also enable graduates to gain further training and accreditation.”

With a key objective to increase the number of skilled artisans added to the South African labour market, Ekurhuleni Artisans and Training Centre offers a number of courses spanning across different industrial trades from boilermaking and bricklaying to professional painting and carpentry. In addition, the training centre provides individuals with the necessary assistance in preparing for their trade test. Existing tradesmen who would like to sharpen their skills can do so with the refresher courses on offer.

Since opening its doors, Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre has successfully upskilled over 19,000 students and plans to double this number by 2020.

“We are very proud to receive this accolade for the work we have done thus far, but it definitely doesn’t stop here. While we take the time to relish in this milestone, we will continue to achieve excellence and add value to South Africa’s social development.” concludes Janse van Rensburg

For more information on Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre, please visit www.eastc.co.za.