South Africa last month became the first country in Africa to become a member of the global network Startup Nations.
As the country kicks off its Startup Nations South Africa programme, local entrepreneurs will be keen to find out exactly what this latest initiative will mean to them.
The programme’s launch last month at Wits Business School – which is partnering with the Innovation Hub and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in the initiative – was less about specifics than it was about encouraging what promises to be a constructive initiative.
The organisation is a national collaboration platform formed between government, the private sector, academia and civil society to create one voice to encourage, support and build a national support network for the South African entrepreneurship ecosystem.
The idea has certainly impressed Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu who delivered the keynote address.
“As we join other progressive nations around the globe who have embraced this initiative, I am confident that it will immensely benefit South Africa and future generations,” said Zulu.
Over 150 countries are now members of Startup Nations, including the US, Britain, Chile, Malaysia, China, Norway, Brazil, Vietnam and Korea.
Innovation Hub chief executive McLean Sibanda says the collaborators in Startup Nations South Africa shared a commitment to “investing resources, mentoring and creating an enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship to support South African startups to become high-growth businesses that contribute toward addressing the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.”
Sibanda says the aim is that the initiative will help foster new ideas, grassroots innovation and strengthen South Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. The idea was to go beyond the archetypal “How to Start a Small Business in 10 Days” seminars to provide in-depth knowledge, support and tools that are relevant to youth and small businesses in our country today.
Emphasising the potential of new growth frontiers for small businesses, IDC chief executive Geoffrey Qhena said Startup Nations would contribute to informing the youth about opportunities in the green economy.
“The IDC is one of the biggest funders, if not the biggest funder, of the green economy in SA, and we have to use these renewable energy projects to add additional capacity and skills to our manufacturing capabilities,” said Qhena.
Addressing the launch in a video presentation, Global Entrepreneurship Week president Jonathan Ortman said that entrepreneurship offered more than just a commercial benefit; rather, it was an opportunity for a personal endeavour to benefit all of society.
“It gives each person across the globe a way to participate in finding ways to improve our societies and the lot of our fellow citizens,” said Ortman.
Zulu said she hoped this network will help draw lessons from experts and experienced policymakers and leaders on what needs to be done to create a conducive regulatory environment for the growth and development of small businesses.
At the same time, she acknowledged that “South Africans are very good at putting policy on paper, but the biggest challenge we have is the implementation of those policies.” She reminded delegates that entrepreneurship levels in SA were the lowest they had been in three years, and that it was vital to create a culture of entrepreneurship. “We must consciously strive to build a nation of entrepreneurs and not a nation of job-seekers”.