World entrepreneurship day a rallying call to aspiring SA entrepreneurs

Aspiring South African entrepreneurs need to take note of the successes being celebrated by their global counterparts on World Entrepreneurship Day (WED), 15 April 2012, as well as use the day as motivation to get better at spotting and taking advantage of ‘entrepreneurial gaps’ in specific industries, in order to create sustainable businesses.

This was the message from Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® competition, in the run-up to WED, who says that South Africa’s economic prosperity relies heavily on the actions and successes of the country’s existing and future entrepreneurs.

“The Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI) recently revealed that South Africa’s global entrepreneurial ranking has fallen from 39 in 2011 to 45 in 2012, losing pace with smaller GDP countries such as Colombia and Peru. Entrepreneurship serves as a catalyst for economic growth and national competitiveness, and for an emerging economy such as ours this ranking is simply too low,” says Naidoo.

She says that in order to foster a culture of entrepreneurship locally, prospective entrepreneurs need to overcome barriers such as fear of failure and funding. “Tackling the first barrier is not always so simple, as South Africa’s society has a culture that neglects entrepreneurial activities, especially individuals who have failed in the past.”

Naidoo suggests that more needs to be done to identify and profile entrepreneurial role models, in order to give aspiring entrepreneurs an idea of the rewards and benefits of enterprise creation and reduce the stigma of failure.

“Initiatives such as entrepreneurial competitions, formation of bodies, government-sponsored awards and recognition from the private sector would all contribute to raising the profile of South Africa’s most innovative and successful entrepreneurs. In addition, these actions would also assist with creating a society that values and respects entrepreneurial spirit.

“Initiatives already in place to promote and grow entrepreneurship, such as Global Entrepreneurship Week in November and The Jobs Fund, under the custodianship of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, which co-finances projects by public, private and non-governmental organisations, have already had a positive effect with regards to job creation and entrepreneurial spirit in South Africa.”

She adds that role models are also key to educating South Africa’s youth about entrepreneurship. “There is a great opportunity for our youth to choose entrepreneurship as a career and become job creators rather than job seekers. Our education system should also promote entrepreneurship as a career. Entrepreneurship will then also address unemployment issues at a youth level by providing an outlet for the talents of many highly educated young people, such as college and university graduates, especially in globally-growing industries such as information technology.”

On the barrier of funding, she says that more support and attention in fiscal and government policy is necessary to stimulate entrepreneurial activity, which can ultimately lead to the country’s economic recovery. “We also need to investigate the implementation of new finance models and methods in order to broaden the access of finance to more entrepreneurs.”

Naidoo adds that the inclusion of structural policies that determines and clarifies the overall economic framework in which the local business sector operates, such as policies affecting labour markets, tax, competition, financial markets and bankruptcy laws, will also be conducive to entrepreneurial growth.

“As a group, entrepreneurs represent the best hope of creating sustained economic growth in South Africa. As we celebrate WED, we can see the tangible economic benefits that pro-entrepreneurial policies in emerging economies such as Brazil and India have achieved.

“It is now our country’s turn to create an entrepreneurship climate to create employment and build sustainable, high growth companies,” concludes Naidoo.