South Africa’s only incubator that has as its sole focus, the bio-fuels industry, Mapfura Makhura Incubator, provides its 250 incubatees with tailor-made support. We spoke to Nakampe Seoka, the incubator’s business development manager, on how to access assistance and support from the organisation.
What is the name of your incubator?
The incubator’s name is Mapfura Makhura Incubator or MMI in short. It means oil in Sepedi and TshiVenda.
How would you describe your focus?
MMI focuses on incubating emerging small-scale farmers producing oil-seed crops namely sunflower and soya bean required to produce bio-diesel.
The incubator focuses primarily on the management of an incubation programme on agro-processing and the production of bio-diesel.
Where are you based and from which areas do you recruit new incubatees?
MMI is based at Tompi Seleka College of Agriculture in Ephraim Mohale Local Municipality in Limpopo and the incubator is in the process of rolling out its incubation programme to other provinces such as Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the North West. Incubatees are recruited from the three district municipalities of Limpopo province, namely Sekhukhune, Waterberg and Capricorn District.
Which businesses are best suited to join?
Those mainly in agriculture, agro-processing (production of edible vegetable oil and seed cake) and bio-fuels production (this includes bio-diesel and glycerol).
How do they apply?
The incubator embarks on awareness campaigns and the targeted clients are usually identified during incubation days which are conducted by the Small Enterprise Development Agency’s (Seda) Technology Programme.
During the event the incubator displays its products and services.
Entrepreneurs can also gain access to information by contacting the incubator’s offices directly.
How long do businesses stay in your programmes?
The duration of the programme is three years for full incubation and two years of post-incubation.
What are the two key elements of your support that sets you apart from other incubators?
MMI provides tailor-made incubation support to incubatees. The incubator is also in the position of processing plants which incubatees are able to utilise free of charge. Incubatees are only required to pay a royalty fee of 10% of the profit they make while under incubation.
How long have you been going?
We have been operational since 2006.
How many incubatees are now in your programme?
The incubator is currently incubating 250 incubatees.
What are your fees?
The incubator is registered as a section 21 company and is therefore a non-profit organisation. The incubatees will only pay a royalty fee of 10% of the profit they acquired while trading under the assistance of MMI.
What commitments do incubatees make before they enter your programme? And what commitment do you make to them?
MMI and its incubatees enter into to a legally-binding agreement. Our incubatees must have a passion for growing their businesses and a willingness to learn and be able to fully commit to the programme.
What are the average sales of your incubatees over a year in your programme? After two years? After three years?
Most of the incubatees are still in primary agriculture and the sales normally depend on the hectares and yields achieved from year to year.
What is the best thing you heard someone say about your incubator?
The communities located nearby the incubator appreciate the fact that the incubator is located next to their communities and that they are currently members of the incubator as co-operatives.
And the worst?
In my time spent at MMI as the business development manager, I have never heard or been made aware of any negative aspect from someone about this incubator.
What was your biggest success thus far?
Buwane Mishack was able to plant crops over the years while being monitored and supported by MMI through its incubation programme. The farmer was able to generate an income of more than R1.5 million. This is one of the milestones achieved by MMI through the business and technical advice the centre provided to its incubatee.
And biggest failure?
Our biggest failure thus far has been the lack of buy-in from the market and the slow pace of regulating the bio-fuels industry. The industry is still in its infant stage and there is not much buy-in from the industry due to lack of knowledge about the industry.
Why are you involved in supporting new businesses?
As an incubator we have a mandate from the Seda Technology Programme to build small business owners who will be fully-equipped to participate in the bio-diesel production value chain.
What is your biggest wish for improving support to entrepreneurs in South Africa?
Our biggest wish is to have a thriving agricultural and bio-fuels industry growing at a faster pace because those are the key sectors where the majority of jobs are going to be created. We would also like to roll out the incubation programme in other provinces and help to contribute towards the growth of the South African economy.
Farmer boosts earning thanks to support