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Motlokwe Thobejane
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Does entrepreneurship really matter in SA or just a buzzword used to sound sophisticated?

01 April 2014, 08:48

The current unemployment statistics from Statistics South Africa show that 24.1% of South Africans are unemployed. In addition, the 2013 IMF Report shows that South Africa faces low growth and widespread unemployment due to the weak global economic outlook and local labour tension especially in our mining sector.

Emerging countries like BRIC claimed to have high levels of entrepreneurial drive as the basis of their economic success rate over that of South Africa. With high levels of un-employment of our youth, perhaps entrepreneurship is a practical option that this country can critically investigate and prioritises.  The creation of business ventures might be an African solution.

Based on South Africa’s performance during the Global Entrepreneurship Week last year November 2013, it was evident that South Africans have failed to come together to promote entrepreneurship on a national scale. There is no collaboration among organisations; there is too much fragmentation and self-interestedness. In addition, many leaders and entrepreneurs like Taddy Blecher alluded to what is lacking in our country in terms of entrepreneurial initiatives - sustainability is the integration and ability to scale up some of the entrepreneurial initiatives.

How effective are our government business support interventions? Do the current government business support initiatives like NYDA, Seda, etc. known and reachable among most entrepreneurs – wannabes and ordinary people, or do they just benefit only a few connected and elite individuals?

Our government should perhaps have an entrepreneurial ministerial department which will solely deal with the issues of entrepreneurship in collaboration with government departments like DTI and other role players. Their role will be to lead, drive and consolidate the efforts from all stakeholders in setting the tone, a clear vision and consistent strategies on how entrepreneurship will be implemented and embedded in our (economic) systems. I believe we need a common holistic national vision and strategy of where, as a country we need to achieve an entrepreneurship agenda.

Do we have effective venture capitalists in the country to support start-ups? Private sector and investors must come to the party if this vision needs to be punted as a beautiful story to be told in future. I know of once promising start-ups that are easily swallowed by big corporates because they do not have much voice in the areas they operate, with no necessary support, and their only option was to give in. We need our Silicon Valley and more of the Silicon Cape Initiatives for us to reap benefits and become competitive as a country among our peers. But these private venture capitalists need a conducive environment (legislations) to play their part.

Do we have the type of people, especially youth, like Warren Buffet, those who are passionate and patient enough to take 1 hurdle at a time to sleep over it? Not the ones who will try to jump over 7-foot hurdles, not the ones with tenderpreneur tendencies, who are only looking for quick cash?

The study by Simeon Djankov et al (2006) “Entrepreneurship in China and Russia Compared” and other studies show that Chinese and Russian entrepreneurs have more entrepreneurs in their families and among childhood friends; value work more relative to leisure and have higher wealth (not rich) ambitions. They also value education and are risk-taking. As a country we need more of such type of youth than most of the Skhothane we have. We need more of the producers than consumers.

I believe if entrepreneurship in this country is to be a success story we need to up the standard of learning and enforce the competitiveness of the school curriculum. Entrepreneurship must form part of our school curriculum which will instil and equip learners to choose entrepreneurship as a career choice among other professions.

Which entrepreneurial system is suitable for our country, capitalism, socialism, combinations of many, etc.? Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner once said social business is ideal for any country to flourish. He said "Forget about personal profit making. Once you get out of the personal profit idea, business is a very powerful tool. You can use it to solve human problems." South Africa has alarming numbers of socio-economic problems (inequality, unemployment, poverty, sanitation, etc.) among others. Perhaps the so-called social entrepreneurs need to be nurtured in numbers and be supported with necessary resources, and coaching and/or mentoring.

What are your viewpoints?

Motlokwe Thobejane is a co-founder of Mohlotlo Thuto Foundation.

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