Kizito Okechukwu | Dec 7, 2021
Even soothsayers, fortune tellers, numerologists and sangoma’s couldn’t predict what has befallen our globe. Of course, many of us are just grateful to be alive amidst one of the worst pandemics the world has experienced, since the likes of the Black Death in the mid 1300’s – a bubonic plague and the most fatal pandemic in human history.
This year also taught us that a lot we thought we could control, we simply cannot.
Yet, as a glass half-full kind of guy, I would like share some of my highlights of the year.
1. US president Inauguration: Unlike his predecessor, Biden’s administration took the pandemic seriously, ensuring vaccines are manufactured and distributed to as many countries around the world as possible. And who can forget the beautiful poem “The Hill we Climb” by Amanda Gorman during Biden’s swearing in? “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it and only if we’re brave enough to be it”.
2. Africa Free Continental Free Trade Opens For Business: The new market is estimated to involve some 1.3 billion people across Africa, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion. It is expected to also promote industrialization, create millions of jobs and improve the competitiveness of African industries on the global stage. The recent Intra Africa Trade Fair also promises to boost trade between nations.
3. Appointment of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as Head of World Trade: The first African to lead the WTO was well received globally. I deem this an invaluable opportunity for the WTO and AfCFTA to work together to support African trade.
4. Death of A Business Icon and Mentor: This was sadly a huge lowlight for me. I lost a great mentor and friend, Jabu Mabuza to COVID-19. He was one of the most revered business people in the country. He went from a taxi driver to single-handedly building the Tsogo Sun Group and played a pivotal part in ensuring the stability of business and government partnerships. His legacy will forever live in our hearts.
5. US Innovation and Competition Act: This Act authorized about USD$250bn for basic and advanced technology research and innovation. Analysts dubbed it the anti-Chinese bill. Regardless, China and the US lead the innovation race and Africa needs to step up to the plate and quickly. One can now understand why no African country could manufacture its own vaccine.
6. Rocket Man: Richard Branson became the first billionaire to be etched in stratospheric history, so to speak, as he headed to the edge of Space with his Virgin Galactic programme. Is space not the final frontier anymore and could it open for all to visit? Let’s leave it to the Three Spaceketeers (i.e. Jeff and Elon too).
7. The insurrections in KZN and Gauteng: Although some say these were politically motivated, many local youths used the opportunity to bemoan and protest against rife unemployment in their communities at large and their constant frustrations are valid. Unfortunately, many situations turned violent and deadly. Our country’s unemployment rate, now at 34%, is no longer a ticking time bomb – it’s a primed nuclear warhead. Government, corporates and social partners need to get their job creation game faces on (no more lip service!).
8. Partner Dialogue at 22 on Sloane: This was a key discussion on how best to reboot our economies and ensure better support for local startups and small businesses. We hosted many relevant high-profile government representatives and dozens of startups and SMMEs to focus on developing home grown solutions for better and sustainable support. With our key partners, we ensured that hundreds of startups continue to be supported at 22 On Sloane.
9. Facebook is Now Meta: Facebook’s investment into the metaverse basically seeks to build the next computing platform. An advanced version of the internet using various technologies that will change the way we live, work and play. A lot of companies and startups are now betting on leveraging the opportunities this will realise.
10. Global Entrepreneurship Week Hackathon: 22 On Sloane hosted the GEW Hackathon with Telkom, where we had over 100 software developers from around the country to solve various challenges. We also looked at opportunities in industries such as Fintech, Edtech, and many more. We awarded over R1.2m (USD$80k) to the six winners, who are on now on track to develop their projects for commercialization. 22 On Sloane re-designed and re-launched its accelerator programme as the new Catalytic Programme for startups. It will support dozens of startups each year with capacity building programmes worth over USD$200k and a cash investment of USD$10k for every startup selected. It also gives selected startups access to markets through the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and access to capital through Sloane’s investor network. It is a programme that ultimately aims to build the next generation of high impact entrepreneurs.
As we wind down this year, let’s use our time off to quietly pause, think and contemplate how we can make 2022 a better place for all.
Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane, Africa’s Largest Startup Campus.
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22 On Sloane is the largest startup campus in Africa. The campus offers disruptive startups and innovative SMEs a complete turnkey solution to scale, from the initial idea all the way to commercialisation, funding opportunities and access to markets. Its aim is to nurture the entrepreneurial mindset, ensure their sustainability, and explore development of new industries and contribute towards job creation in Africa.
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