Time to Address South Africa’s Unemployment Crisis

Time to Address South Africa’s Unemployment Crisis

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | MAY 20, 2019

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As Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) released its report last week, I was sitting with Dr Pali Lehohla, the former Statistician General of South Africa and the question we kept asking ourselves was, ‘what has gone wrong?’ Not ‘what could go wrong?’ as the well-known Santam insurance TV commercial asks.

Stats SA revealed that our unemployment rate increased from 27.1% to 27.6%, while, in parallel, a TIME magazine piece earlier this month stated that our society is the most unequal in the world. So, to try and decipher what exactly went wrong, I compiled a few scenarios of what I think happened – and what we could do to solve this rather pressing predicament.

To set a backstory, South Africa prides itself on having some of the best policies and regulations in the world. But whether the lack of implementation of these policies inhibits job creation is something we must pay serious mind to. Yes, South Africa has a plethora of institutions (estimated at over 400) mandated or involved in creating jobs and supporting the growth of businesses, such as the Small Enterprise Finance Agency, the Small Enterprise Development Agency, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Industrial Development Corporation, the National Empowerment Fund, the Technology Innovation Agency, Provincial Local Economic Development Agencies, incubators, accelerators and various other private sector Enterprise Development initiatives and the list goes on and on. It is believed that these institutions combined, spend in excess of R100bn per annum.

Yet, the fact remains that all these great programmes, resources and initiatives have not really addressed the issue of rising youth unemployment, which is now at 55% and a ticking time-bomb. The challenges we face are systemic and hence have to be handled as such. Though I applaud the solid principles and intentions of the Government’s Youth Employment Service (YES) programme, and the impact it has made thus far, it’s just a quick fix. We must dig deeper and solve some systemic issues first if we are to have a long-term impact.

I’m obliged to keep to my weekly word-count quota, so I’ve identified four key areas which I think when addressed will help accelerate new small businesses and scale existing ones, while creating much-needed jobs in the economy. I believe that over the next five years, South Africa can reduce its unemployment figures to about 20%.

Here are my four points:

1. Lack of an open economy: Professor Michael Pence from the New York State University described that the word “openness” has two related but distinct connotations. It can mean that something is unrestricted, accessible, and possibly vulnerable; or it can mean that something, such as a person or institution, is transparent, as opposed to secretive. The first meaning is often applied to trade, investment and technology (though most definitions do not match opportunity with vulnerability), which have always driven structural economic changes, especially with respect to employment. Structural change can be simultaneously beneficial and disruptive. And policymakers have long had to strike a balance between the abstract principle of openness and concrete measures to limit the worst effects of change. Though South Africa operates an open economy in relation to trade with other countries, its internal economic policy has been somewhat closed.

A basic example is an SME that wants to start a cement factory, yet may have to go through a long process of setting up this facility, which includes going through an approval process with a Bureau of Standards (like the SABS), finding capital and a location. This is all expensive and most early stage funders shy away from backing the

initial set-up process, resulting in the industry being monopolized. Same goes with access to many of the industries.

 

At the same time, there’s also all the red tape to deal with and lack of access (capital) to key processes that can help to set up. If the economy was open, then our processes needed to ensure that if the SME was good in what he/she does and has a great business model and plan, they can be supported to access institutions like the Bureau of Standards (at an affordable/subsidized cost) and receive the needed funds to set up operations.

 

Lack of an open economy limits the involvement of young firms making it into the formal economy and contributing to the needed jobs and growth of the economy. While visiting the 22 on Sloane startup campus last year, Minister Ebrahim Patel mentioned that he was working with the competition commissioners to sign an agreement regarding unfair competitive behaviour from businesses in order to enable ways to support more small businesses to compete fairly with them. This, I believe was signed late last year. And hopefully, if we monitor this process and support more SMEs and keep the economy more open, we can see signs of mushrooming new businesses and job growth. A closed economy creates an unfair and harsh competitive landscape, severely curtailing entrance for new small businesses. Ultimately, SMEs in South Africa stand little chance because capital and access is king to break into any market.

 

2. Lack of access to strategic resources: By resources I mean skills, mentors, knowledge and finance, which remains the main issue faced by SMEs in South Africa. This is not unique to South Africa. This is a challenge faced by many SMEs globally, especially on the African continent. This may be because although the money is there, but the people (often qualified, but with no business experience to vet applicants) tasked to deploy it fail dismally, or perhaps the SME is unable to get the requisite support needed to access the capital.

 

Recently, we completed a report with the World Bank on the SME Finance Gap and the above was evidenced within it. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to share the key findings yet till it’s published within the next few weeks, but I’m sure they will be an eye-opener for ecosystem stakeholders to understand how funds are being deployed and who gets access to it and who are the under-served group in the startup/SME space.

 

Information and data remain critical. Many of the township and rural small businesses simply do not know how and where to access the information – and even if they do, data costs are prohibitively restrictive. This is also sometimes the case for SMEs in the suburbs.

 

Mentors to nurture the fledglings. Many of our communities live in dream-crushing, isolated silos and it seems most of the knowledgeable individuals either do not have time to mentor them or simply don’t want to get involved. We need to build a mentor-driven capital model. There are many wealthy South African business people who can put on their philanthropic hats (or delegate an associate to do so) and commit to mentor one startup a year and report on the success/failure, lessons learnt and how best to drive development. Imagine if the CEO’s from the top 100 JSE-listed firms mentored just one startup each a year? These are the leaders that can create sustainable jobs. Entrepreneurs also need to network with their peers who have been through the

journey and what this means is that an ecosystem, such as conducive co-working spaces or a network needs to be created to engineer such engagements amongst peers. Obviously, these initiatives need proper design, thought-out processes and systems.

 

Innovative SMEs are largely influenced by knowledge spill-overs, access to networks and opportunities to partner with other players, including larger enterprises. Globalisation has increased the importance of cross-border collaboration in innovation – both in obtaining inputs for innovation (ideas, finance, skills, technologies) from abroad and in exploiting its outputs (products and services, patents, licenses, etc.) in foreign markets. How do we ensure that our SMEs think beyond borders? By this I simply mean, even thinking outside of one’s city/province and ensuring that various programmes run by private sectors within the Enterprise/Supplier Development (ESD) space are targeted and sustainable and that the SMEs connect with their peers outside of their provinces and find better ways to grow their businesses and, most importantly, become part of some local/global network that they can leverage for market access.

 

3. Make startups and SMEs a national priority: So much attention and cotton-wool care is given to big businesses to ensure that they keep investing in South Africa. Yet, the same level of attention is not given to SMEs, which in fact are the real new job creators. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report in 2016, in the OECD area, SMEs are the predominant form of enterprise, accounting for approximately 99% of all firms. They provide the main source of employment, accounting for about 70% of jobs on average and are major contributors to value creation, generating between 50% and 60% of value added on average.

 

In emerging economies, SMEs contribute up to 45% of total employment and 33% of GDP. When taking the contribution of informal businesses into account, SMEs contribute to more than half of employment and GDP in most countries, irrespective of income levels. We recently did an analysis and picked up that the informal market in South Africa, if supported and equipped, could double its annual revenue from the R350bn that it is currently at to around R700bn. This is a recipe for an inflow of jobs into the economy. Even the formal SME market can also grow in the same proportion, if proper targeted support and nurturing is provided.

 

In addition, SME development can contribute to economic diversification and resilience. This is especially relevant for resource-rich countries that are particularly vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations. SMEs play an important role in the wider ecosystem of firms. Start-ups and young firms, which are generally small or micro firms, are the primary source of net job creation in many countries.

 

The OECD report also highlighted that stronger participation by SMEs in global markets can help to strengthen their contributions to economic development and social well-being, by creating opportunities to scale up, accelerating innovation, facilitating spill-overs of technology and managerial know-how, broadening and deepening the skill-set and enhancing productivity.

 

What’s more, greater flexibility and capacity to customise and differentiate products can give SMEs a competitive advantage in global markets relative to larger firms, as they are able to respond rapidly to changing market conditions and increasingly shorter

product life cycles. Some niche international markets are dominated by SMEs and innovative small enterprises are often key partners of larger multinationals in developing new products or serving new markets. We need to encourage and find ways to coerce more big businesses to partner with small businesses. The sustainability of big businesses critically depends on partnering with small ones to grow – or else even they face extinction.

 

At the same time, closer global integration increases competition for SMEs in local markets, in some cases with disruptive effects, demanding enhanced market knowledge and increased competitiveness for small businesses that do not operate internationally.

 

4. Clear understanding on consumption and production patterns: This has been one of the topics that Dr Pali Lehohla has been passionate about. China and the US, among a few other nations, have mastered this model. The key challenge we face is that we have not succinctly understood the patterns of what we consume, who consumes it, why and where – and the same applies to what is being produced.

 

I read a lovely piece over the weekend on Business Insider Online, written by Paige Leskin, who analysed how Google is scanning our Gmail inboxes to keep a detailed list of everything we buy and consume. However, regarding the article, a Google spokesperson said this is private and not meant for ad targeting, but I think they have mastered and clearly understood the importance of keeping our production and consumption patterns. Any country that also masters this is a winner. So we must find ways to analyse what we’re doing and also what our neighbouring countries are, in order to use this as a competitive advantage to get more SMEs into the marketplace and create more much-needed jobs in the country.

 

Other points I would have liked to cover include issues such as reforms in our education and skills system, which will incorporate instilling the entrepreneurial mind-set, government possibly creating labour-intensive jobs for the unskilled though this will be short term given the technology revolution that is upon us, equipping young people with digital skills and the impact of digital technology on our everyday lives and businesses. I hope time will allow me to share my analyses on these and others in the near future!

 

As Mr Jabu Mabuza (Chair of Telkom and Eskom) said in his opinion piece for Financial Mail last week, “the stakes couldn’t be higher. Everyone must take a hard look at themselves and see whether they are part of the solution or the problem. It is no time for bystanders”.

 

In closing, I must mention that getting this process right, will also assist the SMEs to tap into the opportunity that exists with the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfTCTA), which is set to be one of the world’s single largest markets accounting for US$4tn in spending and investment across all 54 African nations. The production and consumption patterns of Africans is also key to making this continental agreement a success.

 

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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South Africa starts its path to glory

South Africa starts its path to glory

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | MAY 14, 2019

Caption : 16 MBA students from George Washington University US

 

With the elections done and dusted, all eyes will now be on the governing party to deliver on its election promises, mostly underlined by “Let’s Grow South Africa Together”.

For most people, especially the previously disadvantaged, this translates into creating much-needed jobs. Yet these can only be created by supporting small businesses and drastically reducing the sticky red tape engulfing them, improving service delivery, sustaining good governance and, most importantly, attracting investment into the country.

My article last week included a survey conducted with 3000 small businesses and ecosystem stakeholders that revealed crucial data on what start-ups want in return for their vote.

Also in the survey were voting outcomes. The participants predicted 60% for the ANC, 18% for the DA and 8.5% for the EFF. The result was not far off, seeing 57.5% for the ANC, 20.7% for the DA and 10.7% for the EFF. This means that what our small businesses and the entrepreneurship ecosystem think and say should be taken seriously and their pain points should be a top priority on the President’s to-do list.

As the continent’s economic powerhouse, South Africa has faced many challenges, many of which are quite common across the globe. These include bad governance, the rise of rightists and leftists, youth unemployment and being too inward-focused. Countries which fail to radically address these, do so at their peril

Yet challenges open the doors to opportunity, such as creating new thinking, new processes, procedures and protocols, while offering totally transparent accountability. So now is the ideal time to question more and critique more. Many African countries will still experience this transition and the youth across Africa will continue to rise and fight for their rights, holding government to public account.

I believe that South Africa is one of the best democracies in the world. Although it’s one of the most (if not the most) unequal socio-economic countries in the world, its democratic structures and processes are strong enough to rectify this, especially if the elected President takes the baton. At his speech at the IEC centre on Saturday, he assured the media to go and rest and leave the work to them, which has instilled hope and faith in many everyday South Africans.

Last week, we hosted 16 MBA students from the George Washington University at 22 on Sloane to learn, observe and engage. After interacting with them, I quickly realised just how many people of all ages across the globe still have high hopes for South Africa. These students could have chosen many other countries to visit, but they chose South Africa because they wanted to understand what makes our entrepreneurship ecosystem tick, how it connects with the rest of the continent and what opportunities exist within the ecosystem. They also reviewed ideas and the challenges faced by a few select entrepreneurs and devised solutions to address these.

As a country, we have so much to be proud of and I hope that we are a working model for the continent on how best to conduct free, fair, peaceful and inclusive elections – and always put the will of the people first!

The future is ours and only we can make it bright. I wish the new administration the very best on their path to make South Africa great again!

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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What Small Businesses want in return for their Vote

What Small Businesses want in return for their Vote

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | MAY 06, 2019

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For some time now, political parties have been criss-crossing the entire country campaigning to lure and convince South Africans to vote for them.

As with any election, the parties make loud, clear and passionate promises as they pack-out sports stadiums and other venues. Life will be better once they are in power, or if you keep them in power, blah, blah, blah. It’s common political rhetoric in any country. Yet, there is always some sort of a pain-point for specific voter sections, such as in the entrepreneurial space, which political parties or candidates must address.

South Africa holds its national and provincial elections on the 8th of May, and this promises to be the most contested since the dawn of democracy. Dozens of African countries are also scheduled to hold elections this year. Nigeria held theirs just a few months ago – though it was dramatically postponed by a week just a few hours before voting was set to begin. Fortunately, from what I can see, South Africa’s electoral commission is up to the task in terms of delivering free and fair elections.

Having perused the manifestos of the three major parties, the ANC, the DA and the EFF, I believe that a party that can really help create jobs (not just pay lip service) and offer small business support, should have your vote, also considering the massive amount of youth unemployment.

In November last year, we interviewed over 4000 startups, small businesses and people within the entrepreneurship ecosystem. They shared many pointers on which political parties should focus to win their votes. Here are a few key ones:

1. Support for the development of small businesses: Although they praised the ANC government for the support they have provided over the years with programmes at the Department of Trade and Industry and the introduction of the Department of Small Business Development five years ago, they believe that support still lags behind, especially when it comes to developing quality programmes and support structures. These includes financial support, such as early-stage seed grants, affordable work facilities, mentors and access to markets. Startups also stressed the amount of time it takes to secure capital from various Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) and the lack of support for township entrepreneurs.

2. Skills development: Ensure that universities focus on providing young people with the relevant future skills to meet the demand in the job market.

3. Sound policies for economic development: South Africa prides itself on having some of the best policies on the continent but implementing these remains a major problem. Our survey revealed that the entrepreneurship ecosystem hopes that the next government will focus more on implementing policies that will create jobs. For example, making it easy to obtain tourist visas to boost the tourism industry, developing competition clauses that will help small businesses to compete with big ones and impose stiff penalties for anti-competitive behaviour, as well as creating policies that force big businesses to support small businesses.

4. Land redistribution: This has been a seriously hot campaigning topic for most parties. The entrepreneurship ecosystem hopes that the land redistribution issue should be accelerated, and more young black people should be trained and equipped with the skills and capital to till the land, ensure food security, create jobs and boost the economy via export initiatives.

5. Tax incentives and Prompt Invoice Payments: The government should offer small businesses tax reduction and relief. Small Businesses also do not understand the 30day rule payment. They prefer that payment is made within 7 days of delivery.

6. People-centric: Political parties need to be more people/citizen-focused than overly party-focused. This includes being inclusive, transformative, results-driven and selecting the best leaders in all key positions, while shunning cadre deployment.

Our survey also revealed that most have great faith in President Cyril Ramaphosa and his ‘New Dawn’. This could be due to his history of business success and his passion for supporting small businesses, such as the Shanduka Black Umbrellas incubator (now called the Black Umbrellas), which he founded. Small business support was also a key topic in all his addresses along the campaign trail, so there is no doubt that this sector will be a priority in his mandate if he’s elected head of state.

From the 3000 respondents, over 60% seems to be aligned with the ANC; 18% with the DA and 8.5% with the EFF, while 13.5% are spread across various other political parties. We all know that polls do change constantly, however it seems the pecking order of the top three will remain basically as is.

Whoever wins, it is vital that small business support forms a critical part of their mandate. Of key importance is ensuring that officials (private and public sector) placed to support them understand their mandate and deliver on this.

Happy voting!

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Building One Global Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

Building One Global Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | APRIL 29, 2019

Caption :  GEC 2019 hosted in Bahrain

 

Over the last two weeks, the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) held its annual get together in Manama, Bahrain, seeing some 170 nations and 2000 delegates descend upon the Kingdom Island country in the Persian Gulf.

Today, Bahrain is undoubtedly becoming a forward-thinking country. It’s moving quickly from being just another oil-reliant economy to one that’s more inclusive for other key sectors, most notably, and with relevance to the GEC, investing in entrepreneurs and high-impact startups.

This initiative is led by Tamkeen, a public authority established in 2006, tasked with supporting Bahrain’s private sector and positioning it as the key driver of economic growth and development. Tamkeen is one of the cornerstones of Bahrain’s national reform initiatives and Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030.

Tamkeen has two primary objectives. One, to foster the development and growth of enterprises, and two, to provide support to enhance the productivity and training of the national workforce.

It offers a number of innovative programmes to Bahrainis and businesses across all economic sectors, which include training, financing, grants, advisory and entrepreneurship support to name a few. These programmes help develop crucial capabilities and also integrate new critical concepts for a vibrant sustainable private sector.

Using more than 330 different programmes, Tamkeen has empowered over 170 000 individuals and businesses to date. If my memory serves, I believe around US$2billion has already been invested in Bahrain’s entrepreneurs.

A key highlight for me at the GEC was meeting the former President of Estonia, H.E Toomas, His Excellency Shaikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al-Khalifa and His Excellency Zayed R Bin Alzayani. They shared updates on the progress and efforts they are making as a country to support Bahraini entrepreneurs to become global founders and also to attract the best high-impact startup talent into the country.

The week-long congress opened with a welcome address from the Global Entrepreneurship Network President Jonathan Ortmans, whose in-depth opening speech I found very insightful and have borrowed from it to share GEN’s progress and activities.

He began by stressing that “at the Global Entrepreneurship Network, our true north is about making it possible for anyone, anywhere to have a vision, to unleash an idea, to test, to listen, to do, to make and to create new value. We know anyone can be an entrepreneur. Within GEN, we share a common commitment to the collective possibilities of human endeavour sparked at the intersection of cultures, peoples and disciplines for the benefit of all.

“Looking around the world in 2019, we see great disruption and uncertainty – but being a curator in this global entrepreneurial ecosystem is very exhilarating. While for some, uncertain environments and constant disruption breed fear. For entrepreneurs and those of us enabling them, it is an energizing thrill.

“Diverse and curious founders chasing down answers and opportunities fuel ecosystems with adrenaline, ideas and actions. In turn, this attracts both more entrepreneurs and those fighting for them, igniting and crowdsourcing a global revolution for improving the way we do things. In short, entrepreneurs relish problems because they need their gifts”.

He added that “GEN offers a compass for decentralized communities around the world to navigate this new normal. Better than a linear blueprint, the global entrepreneurial ecosystem is breathing and alive, made up of people randomly connecting, listening, collaborating and

acting. GEN brings you a guide, a platform of programmes and policy ideas and a trusted community to help.”

To overview the past year, he said that “GEN has been as busy as always. We have broadened our partnership with the US Government around the Global Initiative for Science and Technology (GIST) programme, Global Enterprise Registration and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit coming this June in the Netherlands.

“We have also grown our Startup Nations community of governments sharing their experiences with new startup policies and programmes. For our Startup Nations Ministerial, following the Startup Nations Summit in Surabaya last November, we are especially honoured to have ministers and staff from 40 nations who have answered the call of their entrepreneurs to collaborate with their peers around the world in sourcing new ideas to develop their ecosystems and accelerate the pipeline of the entrepreneurs experimenting within them. The outputs from the Ministerial discussions will be taken to the broader Startup Nations policy network and develop a new round of narratives and outputs leading into the Startup Nations Summit, hosted by the Government of South Africa and City of Durban in November and all policymakers are welcome.

“Our research arm, the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network, has been adding partners, aligning agendas and beginning the task of helping entrepreneurial support organizations find quantifiable methods and data to measure effectiveness. We began to form a ‘data-ready community’ to co-design new tools around determining what to measure, how to collect data and how to analyse it. We have released the Index of Dynamic Entrepreneurship and a preview copy of the Global Startup Ecosystem Report will be released soon”.

When it came to collaboration, a vital part of the GEN’s mandate, he mentioned that “our investors, entrepreneurs and ecosystem leaders have been actively collaborating across borders and gathering at our local GEC+ events, Global Entrepreneurship Week and other global events and activities – all the time sharing knowledge, networks and trust” and he requested all relevant parties to please attend the next GEC+Africa event in Kigali on October 8th and 9th this year.

What’s also new this year is a fresh strategy for deepening the GEC’s support for those who lead – the entrepreneurs – by reinventing its programmes on the frontline.

He explained that “first, recognizing the role density plays in local ecosystem connectivity – and following the success of the 22 On Sloane in South Africa – we broke ground on our second GEN Campus, GEN@Bloomfields, where alongside university labs, we will offer some of the best entrepreneurial learning programmes in the world” and he invited all to bring their ideas and help co-design this exciting new space alongside their peers.

On the second point, he was proud to announce that “we have launched GEN Accelerates to provide seasoned expertise to nascent entrepreneurs and capacity- building programming for ecosystem builders. Run by a team under the guidance of Susan Amat, Executive Director for GEN Accelerates and Vice President for Education, the platform has already served tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and several cohorts of ecosystem builders.

“Third, having been active for years in promoting multiple global pitch competitions, GEN is refocusing its work around the Entrepreneurship World Cup concentrating on a one pitch competition platform. Centralizing GEN’s competition efforts forged a path for us to directly support early stage startups through virtual and live training and expanded mentorship capacity. Aligning the Entrepreneurship World Cup with GEN Accelerates and our GEN Starters Club is allowing us to better serve startups – whether they win prizes or return to re-

work their ideas. Since we challenged the world to join this effort in early February, over 40 000 entrepreneurs have entered the EWC and over 50 nations have signed up to host a national final this summer”.

He went on to encourage each national delegation to make sure their ecosystem has a plan to participate, as GEN hopes to – and expects – entrepreneurs from every nation in the world to use the free virtual accelerator, compete and leverage a friendly and global ecosystem of support.

“Finally, in an effort to help one entrepreneur at a time, GEN has expanded the Startup Huddle programme now to 33 chapters. Built on an ingenious model developed by the Kauffman Foundation, communities come together to listen and give feedback to one or two entrepreneurs a week. The effort is creating communities and providing intensive support for startups,” he concluded.

As the co-Chair of the GEN Africa, I would like to join GEN Global President Ortmans in congratulating Egypt, which won the GEN Country of the Year award. This is in recognition of the work its government and the private sector are doing to build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as the work of the youth, which are driven daily to find solutions for the most pressing problems facing them in order to grow their local economy.

The GEC 2020 has been scheduled for mid-April in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. We look forward to seeing you there.

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Now’s the time to get Africa’s youth to work

Now’s the time to get Africa’s youth to work

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | APRIL 9, 2019

 

Let’s start with Nigeria, where the youth population is over 35 million with many unemployed and struggling just for a daily meal.

Then there’s Rwanda, which is marking the 25th anniversary of its genocide and has done a great job rebuilding the country and reducing its unemployment rate to 15%.

Next up South Africa, where injustices of the apartheid era and lack of skills have left the majority of its youth destitute, with little hope evidenced by the protests seen during the past few weeks. Unemployment remains at a shocking 27% with youth unemployment set to have skyrocketed, leaving over ten million young people without jobs.

Last, Algeria where the voice of its youth was heard loud and clear, resulting in its 82 year-old leader to step down.

Research indicates that the continent’s youth population will reach almost 1 billion in the next 30 years, making it the largest on the planet. But this brings both challenges and opportunities. Recently, there were widespread protests here in South Africa, where various youth groups vented their ire about foreigners taking their jobs and housing allocations.

All of this should prompt us to think that as much as we think we’re doing our best, the next major conflict will stem from simple economics. We already see signs of this between the US and China, as well as the ongoing and tedious Brexit situation and the various regulations set by some countries to curb, for example, the influence of tech institutions like Uber and Facebook.

The key question is how do we unlock opportunities for Africa’s burgeoning youth population and get them into the value chain of economic growth? It won’t be easy as many are rurally-based, disadvantaged due to race or simply just ignored.

I believe that now is the time to invest in Africa’s youth, as there is nothing more powerful than young, energetic and eager minds, which are willing to participate and contribute economically towards a better, brighter and inclusive future.

It is imperative that in order to make this happen, a new thinking needs to be developed. The mind-set needs to shift from ‘poverty reduction’, which is associated with hand-outs and aid, to an inclusive ‘job-and-wealth creation’ mind-set, to accelerate industrialization goals.

As important, is the creation of a new economy, new entrepreneurs and sustainable businesses. Although Africa continues to “rise,” the fruits of its economic growth must be broadly shared going forward. Its growth is crucial to the success of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise the SDGs will fall short of eradicating global and regional inequalities. Many African countries are implementing positive policy reforms to improve the business investment climate. As a result, private sector investors have chosen to increase their presence in Africa, despite the recent macroeconomic turbulence.

However, more effort is needed to convert this investment into job creation and inclusive growth. Youth unemployment and underemployment constitute central challenges to Africa’s development. If youth unemployment rates remain unchanged in Africa, nearly 50% of youth – including students – will be unemployed, discouraged, or economically inactive by 2025. A sustained economic slowdown could exacerbate this situation with slower growth rates, depressed incomes and a reduced labour demand, making it even more challenging for many Africans to meet their basic needs.

The problem is expected to be the most severe in Africa’s resource-rich countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa, where low commodity prices and the threat of recession make a solution to the youth unemployment challenge more urgent. The likely consequences include increased poverty, social and economic exclusion, migration off the continent and an increased risk of political tensions.

Today’s status quo. The growing consensus shows that there is immense opportunity on the African continent. It also shows that Africa continues to receive massive investment from both the global

community and via intra-Africa trade. The recent Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) highlighted that Africa needs to trade more within and prioritise key sectors that will improve and advance youth employment and infrastructure development on the continent.

Although Africa has seen growth in investments over the years, these have not translated into increased youth employment. The lack of implementation of policies and good leadership has also contributed to the lack of growth and unemployment challenges faced in South Africa. Here a few points to consider, which I feel could help get our youth back on track:

1. Good local government leadership: Although a lot of focus has been on getting national governments to work, the problem actually lies at the heart of the communities, which are the local governments. The majority of these are non-functional as those running them are unqualified to do so and lack the basic knowledge to turn things around and create local jobs for the people.

2. Build our manufacturing sector: Many of us probably saw the YouTube clip where a Nigerian minister is briefing parliament on the shock state of its manufacturing sector, highlighting that even toothpicks are imported in Nigeria. I think this says it all…

3. Get the youth to lead: Perhaps the African Union should champion an initiative to get all countries to sign an agreement that only 30-60 year-olds can lead their country in various government positions.

4. Digital skills: Upskill the youth with various digital skills, rather than redundant teachings, to ensure that they are future-fit for the dynamics of the ever-changing global work environment.

5. Big business support: Big businesses should change their perspective from Corporate Social Investment (CSI), which is largely deemed as a hollow PR exercise, to a Sustainable Investment that brings shared value and ensures a higher and more tangible impact in the communities where they operate

6. Build entrepreneurs: I can’t say this loud enough! I’m probably sounding like a broken record, but we must build and nurture our young entrepreneurs. Invest in them from the get-go – after all, they are our continent’s economic ‘tomorrows’.

Yes, all African countries have faced significant challenges, but our youth are the only drivers that can prevent a continental economic meltdown. So let’s stand together and get them to work. There’s no time like the present!

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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The Business of Music

The Business of Music

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | APRIL 2, 2019

Photo: Chaka Khan at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2019

Music is the art that makes us heard. Whether it’s expressing love, sharing memories and experiences or even making political statements, music finds the ear of everyone, young or old, often helping to make the day or night a better one.

For musicians, agents, managers, marketers and record labels, it’s an industry that employs millions of people and is worth over US$17.3 billion globally.

However, in the entrepreneurial space, it’s an industry that has not gained much traction. Many people do not see musicians as entrepreneurs, but they are! I doubt there are entrepreneurship programmes or initiatives that focus on incubating and mentoring young musicians, polishing their talents and promoting their talent. Sure, TV shows like Idols and The Voice have proved hugely popular and advanced quite a few musical careers, but in a broader context, their contribution is fairly minimal. I might be ignorant, but I think organisations like Sony do have some programmes for attracting music talents. The truth is that the entrepreneurship ecosystem has greatly ignored this industry and I’m not sure that the venture capitalists and developmental financial institutions in the entrepreneurship space even consider budding musicians investment-worthy.

 Last week, I attended the annual International Cape Town Jazz Festival. I try to do this every year, yes as a music lover but actually more as a business person, as I also find it a great space to network with my peers and key individuals in both the private and public sector within the corporate hospitality village – and the jazz provides the perfect relaxed ambiance to do just that. The festival had quite a few business A-listers in attendance. I saw Patrice Motsepe and his wife Dr Precious Motsepe, a few ministers, MECs, corporate CEOs and business people. Even Alan Winde, the MEC of Economic Development from Western Cape, who’s set to be the next Premier of Western Cape was there. We had a brief chat and he jokingly said we must connect in 39 days’ time – showing he’s really counting down the days before the elections. Among other performers at the jazz, Chaka Khan also had a stellar performance with a packed crowd. This is the power of music. It brings people, be they business-minded or social butterflies, together from everywhere and anywhere.

So what about the monetizing power of music? I believe that young, upcoming musicians should be regarded as entrepreneurs – even as start-ups. Simply put, they’ve got a product to sell, yet need support and investment to maximize their market presence. Let’s crunch a few numbers.

Just last week alone, South Africa hosted Ed Sheeran for two shows in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. I think the Johannesburg show had over 70 000 in attendance each day with an average ticket price of R900. That, over two days, equates to R126 million, excluding drinks and snacks sold. Cape Town had over 50 000 fans each day, raking in some R90 million. Both venues (including drinks/snacks) together should have brought in almost R300 million for the organisers.

With ticket prices of R1300, the Jazz Festival generated some R26 million over two days, which excludes sales of merchandise, drinks and snacks sales. With corporate sponsors in play, I reckon the festival could have generated close to R100 million. This is great for South Africa’s economy and I think we must exploit young musical talents and grow them to become global and local brands.

The monetizing muscle of the music industry will never wane. Now we must find avenues to empower more ‘musical start-ups’ to get their piece of the pie and be sustainable. In addition to TV talent shows, we need to incubate, mentor and accelerate their growth, much as we do

with other sectors – or any other start-ups. Venture capitalists and developmental financial institutions should consider them as a viable business model that needs to be supported and formalized, much like what’s been done in the US. I guess big names in South Africa like AKA, Cassper Nyovest, and Shekhinah are already formalised and are doing good stuff. The focus must also be in growing young talents.

I could close with a musical analogy, but there are just too many to choose from!

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Choosing Africa: France’s commitment to the continent’s startups.

Choosing Africa: France’s commitment to the continent’s startups.

Last week I visited Paris to attend Total’s Startup of the Year awards as a guest of Patrick Pouyanne, Chairman and CEO of Total. The company is a French multinational integrated oil, gas, solar and renewable energies company founded in 1924 and one of the world’s seven “Supermajor” oil companies.

The Startup of the Year is an initiative to support startups in the countries where Total has a presence, especially in Africa. It looks at startups that are solving today’s social challenges in their communities and most applicants were from Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa. Pouyanne reiterated just how important it is for Total to invest in the communities in which they operate. This includes supporting these social entrepreneurs with mentorship, coaching and seed grants to help them scale their businesses. The grand prize winners were from Nigeria, with one winner from Uganda and one from South Africa.

 

 

Photo : CEO and Chairman of Total Patrick Pouyanne

It was my third visit to Paris and the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem remains inspirational to me. It might not be perfect, but it’s something to experience and absorb where the active stakeholders and the coordination that exists among them is strong. My visit was not without controversies as the yellow vest movement protested all over Paris seeking economic justice for the middle- and low-income class. That’s discussion for another day!

Paris also boasts Station F, the world’s largest startup campus, while organisations such as Paris & Co, Jokkolabs led by Karim SY that provide incubation and help build startups are also worth noting. Karim also seats on the French Presidential Advisory Council for African startups. In addition, the French Development Agency (AFD) and Proparco are always eager to look at new initiatives and high impact startups to fund, with the spotlight specifically on Africa.

The French President Emmanuel Macron is a leader that recognises that Africa is the new frontier and he’s launched an initiative called Choose Africa to accelerate the growth of MSMEs and entrepreneurship on the continent. The initiative aims to commit over €2.5 billion to financing MSMEs and entrepreneurs by 2022. This is divided as €1.5 billion in credit lines and guarantees to local financial institutions dedicated to MSME financing, or guarantees to banks to share the risk on MSME lending and €1billion in private equity, either through direct investments in companies or indirectly, via private equity MSME-focused funds. He has frequented Africa since his Presidency and has even accelerated visits to the non-francophone African countries with visits just last two weeks to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya where he announced an estimated 3 billion euros worth of deals to the East African powerhouse.

 

Choose Africa is evidence of France’s strong commitment to support the African entrepreneurial impetus. With Choose Africa, the AFD Group aims to assist MSMEs and entrepreneurs at all stages of their development, via a wide range of financing and support solutions, tailored to meet local needs and contexts, across the entire value chain. Its goal is to strengthen the performance of these small businesses so that they continue to play their fundamental role in creating jobs, boosting economic growth and innovation.

It also provides venture capital equity investment into innovative high-potential start-ups, ranging from seed capital to Series C funding. Examples include Lynk Job Ltd, a Kenyan start-up that is transforming the informal sector, which received an indirect equity investment via the Novastar fund of US$ 5.5 million. Launched in 2016, the start-up has developed an online services platform that connects skilled workers in the informal sector with individuals or companies.

The initiative also supports the capacity development of incubators, accelerators, and investment readiness programmes. France is now really flexing its strategic muscle as a prominent partner to Africa’s development, with the focus on high-impact startups.

All I can say is Vive la France!

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Jack Ma’s $10 Million prize for African Startups

Jack Ma’s $10 million prize for African Startups.

Any person remotely business-minded knows that the name Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group, is instantly synonymous with entrepreneurial royalty. He’s living proof that starting, scaling and sustaining a business is one of – if not the – toughest jobs in the world. The journey is often riddled with frustrations, challenges and failures. And that’s before you’ve even cashed your first pay cheque.

Therefore, I reckon Ma created a fantastic philanthropic initiative called the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) worth US$10 million, which focuses on supporting the continent’s startups.

 

Photo (Disrupt Africa): Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group.

To put Ma a little more into perspective, in his book, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, Galloway, an entrepreneur and professor at NYU Stern, provides a perceptive analysis of the four-horse race to become the first trillion-dollar company (if memory serves, I think Apple did hit it sometime last year, but then dropped off again). With a casually incisive style, he uncovers how each of these companies has deployed iconic leadership, technology, fearless innovation, and lightning execution. Galloway positions Alibaba among a few other companies as the possible fifth in the race. The history of Jack Ma’s perseverance and dogged, never-say-die attitude which led him to success is truly remarkable, starting with shortcomings in school to a barrage of rejected job applications, which I’m sure, many of us probably also faced, yet perhaps lacked his entrepreneurial tenacity.

Now, research into the entrepreneurial space questions the validity of necessity- driven entrepreneurs. But the fact is that they exist and most times if these entrepreneurs couple a deeper understanding and a bigger picture vision of the opportunity they are pursuing, is what the world needs more of – more Jack Ma’s. I bet the world needs both necessity and opportunity driven entrepreneurs. I must acknowledge that I argued differently in my 2013 MBA thesis but knowledge and experience over the past six years has advanced my current views.

Every year for the next ten years, the ANPI will host a pitching competition across Africa, after which ten finalists will compete for US$1 million in prize money. The Initiative aims to support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors, who are building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future. The ANPI has banded together a strong ecosystem of players to support both technology-driven and traditional businesses.

The ANPI Structure

The ANPI is led by the Jack Ma Foundation in partnership with:

Nailab – an East African accelerator in Kenya and a lead partner to the ANPI

NINE – a West African partner and the largest incubator network in Nigeria

RiseUp – a North Africa partner and a platform that connects startups with resources

22 on Sloane – a Southern African partner and the largest startup campus in Africa

 

The Advisory board of the ANPI includes Jack Ma, Graca Machel, Chair of the Graca Machel Trust Board and Ban Ki-moon, the 8th Secretary General of the United Nations.

The Jack Ma Foundation (JMF) is a charitable organisation founded in 2014. The foundation aims to promote human development in harmony with both society and the environment, while

its mission is to work towards a world of bluer skies, cleaner water, healthier communities and more open thinking.

By 2030, the ANPI hopes to identify and shine a spotlight on 100 African entrepreneur heroes who will inspire the continent. From day one, its approach has been community-based and focused on inclusiveness; to be truly for Africans and by Africans.

ANPI Core Application Criteria

  1. Open to entrepreneurs who are nationals from any of the 54 African countries
  2. Open to all industry sectors
  3. The youth and women entrepreneurs are strongly encouraged to apply

ANPI Key Activities and Dates

  1. Applications Launch: 27th March 2019
  2. Deadline for applications: 30th June 2019
  3. Announcement of the top 50 regional finalists: August 2019
  4. Announcement of the final 10 finalists: October 2019
  5. Grand Finale pitch event: November 2019

22 on Sloane is proud to be launching the Southern African prize Initiative at its campus on Wednesday 27th March 2019 at 12h30. To attend the launch, please visit: https://anpi.22onsloane.co

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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The Eruption of Disruption

The Eruption of disruption

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | MARCH 11, 2019

Last week I attended a disruption symposium in Sandton hosted by Absa. The guest speaker was Salim Ismail, a Canadian entrepreneur, founding executive director of the Singularity University and the lead author of Exponential Organizations.

Just to set the scene, disruption is not only a new buzz word in the 21st century, it’s real, happening and rapidly gaining momentum. Its primary objective is to create a new market and value system using innovative methods that aim to derange or disrupt the status quo in an existing market.

The question now is why do some organizations fail? Research shows that 70% of small businesses or start-ups fail within 2 to 5 years of operation. Research also shows that many large businesses or corporations that were relevant in the 20th century will be redundant in the 21st century.

Photo: Salim Ismail speaking at a disruption symposium in Sandton, hosted by Absa.

So why is this? More often than not, organisations fail not because of increased market competition and other external forces, but rather because they failed to innovate internally. Organisations love their comfort zones, are highly protective of their territory and find it difficult to change or adapt introspectively. When individuals become disruptive, their positions within the company are affected. Imagine if those that failed (or are failing) to exist tried to harness change? Maybe our world would be a better place. On the flipside, maybe it’s for the better that they do not, because then we’re almost forced to create new wealth, embrace new thinking and fresh technology to improve our lives.

We need to accelerate the use of disruptive technologies that can help improve our lives. Let’s take Elon Musk with his proactive, forward-thinking and anticipatory mind-set for example, which is all about where will the world be in ten years? This visionary approach saw Musk develop SpaceX, electric cars and even the Hyperloop. So where will banking, transportation, education and even energy be in ten years?

Coal is now regarded as a toxic pollutant, a climate-change foe and fast-becoming a redundant energy source. Yet here at home, we’re still pumping billions into financing coal-based solutions and plants because jobs will be lost if we don’t – and this is just not seeing the bigger picture at all. The truth is, that in 12 years from now, all energy will be solar-driven. Energy which has been scarce is about to become abundant and it will change everything. A quarter of the farms in California are now solar-powered. Chile, as poor as it is, generates so much power that it’s sharing it with its neighbours for free. Battery is also another invaluable source, as Musk proved with his Tesla range. Also waste to energy is gaining momentum and it’s another energy mix to consider.

To improve and accelerate the use of technologies we must do four things: digitize, disrupt, demonetize and democratize. There are many institutions that will face disruption, even including marriage – where predictions and technology will make it possible for people to live and stay married for longer with an injection or something. No one expects to be married for more than 50 years, so does that make marriage redundant from the get-go? Disruptive technology will change everything from the institution of religion, stock markets and democracy to the criminal justice system and voting systems.

Technology enables us to live in a world where everything is open, there are no boundaries and there is no bureaucracy. When a company moves digital, three things happen – marginal cost moves to zero, domain explodes and problem space shifts.

The existing policies we have now form an immune system. We cannot resist technology and cannot regulate it. In the automotive industry, ride-sharing and self-driving cars will take over in the next eight years. Any entrepreneur, even an inexperienced one, can enter an industry and disrupt it. Uber is ‘deliberately’ breaking the law and waiting for the policymakers to catch up. Even companies the size of Facebook, which get fined for data protection breaches know that the fine is a mere slap on the wrist and they’ll just keep pushing to conquer the world. According to the writer Lance Ng, Facebook’s new ambition is to be the biggest bank that ever existed by creating its own cryptocurrency to be used on WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) to facilitate transactions between users. Collectively, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram (all owned by Facebook) have 2.7 billion users.

If Facebook decides to back the value of its digital coin with a basket of foreign currencies, then it could potentially become the largest central bank in the world – because that’s what central banks do; print money backed by their country’s economy and foreign currency reserves. Not only will this become monumental in the world’s economic history, it is also going to become a serious and rapid threat for the existing giants in the financial sector.

Technology has even made it easier for us mere mortals to design our own cars and build them off the shelf, so no more need for engineering school. The education system will be heavily disrupted – spending five years at varsity will be a thing of the past, as a year learning critical market-relevant skills will be ample. We now have more unicorn companies than ever before, about 320 to be precise, worth over US$1billion dollars that never existed ten years ago.

Back to guest speaker Salim Ismail, who wrote in his book that “new organisations are ten times better, faster and cheaper than yours”.

His business advice to bring your company/organisation up to speed includes the following salient points:

  • Transform leadership: ensure diversity, good skills and education, board management
  • Inspire EXOs at edges: Disrupt but do this outside your firm by partnering with incubators, accelerators and hacker teams (more reason to partner with the likes of 22 on Sloane startup campus)
  • Invest or partner with adjacent EXO
  • Leverage or expose data
  • Hire a Black Ops team
  • Set up a Google X equivalent

So how did we fail or how are we going to fail? We are failing both gradually and suddenly. Company lifespans are reducing significantly. I think maybe it’s not just technology, it’s also about our inability to predict, plan and produce for the future. We need to build exponential organizations. Ask yourself, what would Elon Musk do?

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Togo Powers Up For Progress With New National Development Plan

Togo powers up for progress with new National Development Plan.

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | MARCH 4, 2019

Last month, I had the invaluable opportunity to meet Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe. We discussed on how best to embrace and exploit the passion and potential of his country’s youth towards building an inclusive entrepreneurial nation for all. Critical to this, is ensuring that its young entrepreneurs become global founders and can compete with their peers on both the continent and around the world, while creating much needed jobs locally.

Recently, I returned to Togo for the launch of its much anticipated National Development Plan 2018-2022. Dubbed ‘Togo First’, the plan sets strategic goals for economic and social development, as well as for growth over the period 2018-2022.

At the launch, the President acknowledged the need to redistribute wealth and become more inclusive, reiterating that all who work for the wealth must also share in the wealth. He also called for renewal and a firm commitment to achieve, without delay, the necessary transformation and construction of a new, revitalized Togo that all citizens will be proud to live in and leave for the generations to come.

The plan focuses on three key deliverables:

  • Create a world-class logistics hub and a business/entrepreneurship centre of reference in the region.
  • Develop poles of agricultural processing, manufacturing and mining.
  • Consolidate social development and boost inclusion mechanisms.

 

Photo: President Faure Gnassingbe speaking at the launch of Togo’s National Development Plan 2018-2022. 

By implementing the plan, the Togolese government aims to create 500 000 jobs by 2022 and achieve a GDP growth of 7.6%. It also seeks to attract USD$7billion from the private sector to help achieve this goal. Recently, the country held the first China-Africa business forum, as China has become a highly significant and vital role player in economic development across the continent. Evidence of this is the Debre Birhan industrial park constructed by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) in Ehtiopia at a cost of more than USD$71million The park spans some 75 hectares, has eight industrial sheds ready to accommodate prospective investors and is expected to create job opportunities for over 1000 Ethiopians.

Togo is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to its new and inclusive economic uprising. It also plans to hold an EU-Togo business forum in June to attract various investors and development partners from the European region.

Carlos Lopes, the Chief National Adviser of the NDP, hailed the development of Togo over the past few years. He said that although development is clearly evident, the country also needs to focus more on transformation and inclusiveness.

Africa must mobilize technical, financial and managerial resources in order to meet its developmental needs and also create strong infrastructures to lessen external dependencies. What’s more, we must draw inspiration from existing and new technological innovations because the advantage that Africans have is that we’re

‘late-comers’, so we simply have to ‘copy and paste’. By this I mean that most of what we’re trying to do has been tried and tested by various other nations, showing models that work and those that don’t – so job done. Let’s implement the existing off-the-shelf solutions that suit us.

At the NDP launch, I was pleased to see the inclusion and participation of entrepreneurs. Koudou Komi Dovi, an agro-processing entrepreneur producing rice and beans, shared his journey of becoming an entrepreneur and what more the government can do to support many of the country’s unemployed youth. One recommendation was to develop impactful training programmes that will equip young people to meet the needs of the job market.

In a nutshell, Togo’s NDP to build a prosperous country for all will focus on creating an invigorative investment climate, increased employment, better healthcare and social development.

During the launch, there was a palpable sense of collegiality, collaboration and optimism amongst various stakeholders. Yes, Togo’s NDP is ambitious, yet I believe it’s achievable, as long as the stakeholder commitment stays strong and never wanes.

To close, I borrow from the President’s speech in which he mirrored my sentiment and encouraged all stakeholders to work together to achieve the NDP’s objectives by saying that “big rivers are made of small streams….”

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

 

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Africa Netpreneur Prize Announces Regional African Partners

AFRICA NETPRENEUR PRIZE ANNOUNCES REGIONAL AFRICAN PARTNERS

JACK MA FOUNDATION | MARCH 4, 2019

The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) has appointed NINE from Nigeria, RiseUp from Egypt, and 22 On Sloane from South Africa as the official Western, Northern, and Southern Africa regional partners, respectively. The three organizations will work closely with Nailab, the continental and Eastern Africa partner, to promote the Prize in their respective regions.

The ANPI is a prize competition for African entrepreneurs, founded by the Jack Ma Foundation. For the next ten years, the ANPI will host a pitch competition across Africa culminating in a finale where ten finalists will compete for US$1 million in total prize money. The Prize aims to support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors, who are building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future.

 

Photo: Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma speaks with Kago Kagichiri Co-Founder Eneza Education & Derrick Muturi Chief Executive Officer of grocery delivery enterprise, Herdy, at Nailab during his visit in Africa.

 

The regional partners will mobilize aspiring entrepreneurs across the continent through grassroots outreach. Nailab Founder and CEO Sam Gichuru said, “We are excited to work with these reputable and mission-aligned partners who will help us bring the Prize to all corners of Africa, as well as discover and spotlight a new generation of entrepreneurs from across the continent. Together with our partners, we will support both technology-driven and traditional companies with a special focus on small businesses, grassroots communities and women-founded enterprises.”

Graca Machel, Chair of the Graca Machel Trust Board and a member of ANPI advisory board, noted that the regional partners will help support the Prize’s inclusive and community-based approach and praised the Prize’s strong focus on women entrepreneurs. “There are so many undiscovered entrepreneurial heroes, women and men alike, who once unearthed can become game-changers of the African entrepreneurship landscape. I am happy the Africa Netpreneur Prize has decided to make women a priority.”

The southern partner, 22 On Sloane, is a legacy project of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Africa (GEN Africa) and home to the largest startup campus on the continent. The organization seeks to nurture the development of new industries by supporting disruptive startups. The northern partner, RiseUp, is the creator and organizer of the MENA region’s largest entrepreneurship event, RiseUp Summit. RiseUp is a platform that connects startups with needed resources from across the continent. The western partner, NINE is Nigeria’s largest network of Incubators supporting the growth of entrepreneurs.

“We look forward to supporting the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative in its mission to empower entrepreneurs from Africa. 22 On Sloane has received support from world leaders and a network of more than 15,000 partner organizations which has enabled us to catapult the growth of many businesses, and is indicative of the strong entrepreneurial potential we have across the continent to thrive globally,” said GEN Africa Chairperson Kizito Okechukwu.

Abdelhameed Sharara, CEO of RiseUp noted, “We are looking for against-the-grain entrepreneurs who will provide visionary solutions to today’s most important challenges. We define an entrepreneur as anyone who’s willing to take on innovation and challenge the norm. This Prize will be an important catalyst to support budding entrepreneurs from across the continent and give them a platform for effective innovation.”

“We are excited to discover vibrant enterprises that would benefit from the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative. We believe that the Prize finalists have the power to inspire the continent with their commitment and dedication, as well as show the potential of our African Entrepreneurs,” said Bankole Oloruntoba, Founder of NINE.

ANPI will officially call for applications starting from the 27th of March to the 30th of June 2019. All ten finalists will receive grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation, as well as access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage the community’s shared expertise, best practices, and resources.

For more information about the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative, please visit: www.netpreneur.africa

 

 

 
 
 

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4IR’s Impact on the Creative Industry

4IR’S IMPACT ON THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | FEBRUARY 25, 2019

Think of all the creative ‘gods’ that have been a significant part of our life over the years – favourite actors, actresses and directors, bands, singers, musicians, models, fashion designers, authors, poets and artists. Each of these connected with us because “their true value is their ability to generate something real and tangible, simply by unlocking the creative potential that exists everywhere in all communities and societies on our planet”, explains Caroline Norbury MBE, founding Chief Executive of Creative England. President Mitterrand, speaking about the French film industry also famously said “These are not just commodities; they are creations of the spirit.”

The deity bestowed upon our creative gods is massive with religious-like social media followings and making money which, at times, is incomprehensible, yet their influence on us is powerfully palpable; how we think, what we wear, watch, eat, drink and listen to – a song by a low-key artist from some town or village will probably not be memorable, but if exactly the same song is ‘dropped’ by Kanye West, we’re all over it!

Last week Friday, the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and her Deputy Pinky Kekana hosted over 200 creatives in a round table engagement at the 22 on Sloane start-up campus in Bryanston. They were joined by the Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu.

This focused on how best the creative industry can leverage the advent of the 4IR and included local musicians, artists, actors, producers and many other creatives.

 

Photo: Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

As alluded to earlier, the true value of this sector is that most, if not all their work, borrows from their real personal experiences, all the emotional influences, both happy and sad, from within their communities along their life’s journey, which deeply resonates with all of us, young or old (and often subliminally, whether we realise it or not). Think of South Africa’s very own multiple award-winning Trevor Noah and how many people watch his Daily Show and how is he, as a brand, influencing the minds of his millions of daily viewers?

Recently, British actor Nicholas Pinnock visited South Africa to film a TV commercial for one of the country’s top financial brands, which coincidently promotes the fact that amidst all the 4IR-hype, the company still offers solutions constructed by real people for real people. He said he did it because he loved the script as it mirrored his mission, which is to understand and connect with people because that’s what he does for a living.

Also, think of South Africa’s ‘infamous’ Rasta, the artist who is renowned for painting deceased famous people or controversial figures. I bet his work is not just for fun, he must have had a personal connection with his subjects.

Let’s look at the 4IR challenges facing the creative industry, starting with the technical journey and how it can impact it. Years ago, we bought music on CD’s and rented videos on VHS from our corner store Blockbuster. Now everything’s changed. One can literally watch movies and series on the device of your choice (TV, tablet, laptop or mobile) from various streaming providers, such as Netflix, StreamShark, YouTube, Facebook and Periscope (and that’s really just naming a few). Also, gone are the days of lucrative album deals for muso’s because now you can just download or listen to your music (often just your favourite track rather than the entire album) from Spotify, ITunes, Deezer, Mixclouds, grooveshark and yes, loads of others for a mere pittance. Today, arguably many artists make the most of their moolla from live concerts. For authors, it is believed that AI will write the first best seller and produce the best movie, it will write the script complete with stage instructions. AI will also help with music composition and sound tracks. Gone are those days you seat in studios cracking your brains. The machines are coming, and we have to ready for it. AI technology can now even make descriptions of what you instruct it to do. Just check out the website: www.thispersondoesnotexist.com – I came across it last week.

To get yourself seen or heard (or both) you’d need to travel and audition live. Now you just shoot content with a smartphone and upload it in seconds onto one of the various social sharing digital platforms to be viewed across the world with a click, while you chill out and cash in.

Yes, digital has made the industry more accessible for creative content providers, but it’s also creating a content overload environment (for all forms thereof) forcing the content consumer to constantly separate the wheat from the chaff, which takes time. My family have access to DStV premium and Netflix and I’m sure between us, we haven’t consumed even 1% of the offered content. I bet many people find themselves in the same quagmire.

Amidst the 4IR, ‘change is the only constant’ rings truer than ever before and many creative players will find it difficult to cope. With the competition increasing rapidly on a mind-blowing level and more people having easy access to the industry, the revenue generated in the industry will also continue to decrease because there’s so many players vying for their piece of the pie, except for the sacred cows.

Another difficulty the industry faces especially for young creatives is access to capital and for the various financial institutions, venture capitalists and investors to take them seriously. That’s because there is no way to actually value the industry, or rather the value of the industry is based on perceptions or your ability to convince your content consumer to like your product and keep supporting you. It is estimated that the creative industry is worth over USD$600billion. On the upside, the digital world has collapsed all barriers. So any young creative, anywhere can become a YouTube sensation in literally ten minutes. One can also easily experience a safari tour without really being at a safari tour. The work of the guys from latest sightings now makes it easier for anyone to take a video when they are at a safari and post it online.

Still on the upside, it’s important to note that out of all the labour sectors, the two that will be least affected by the 4IR are the IT and Creative sectors. In addition, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the top three skills needed in the labour market by 2020, will be Critical Thinking Skills, Complex Problem Solving Ability and yes, Creativity.

For my closing, I chose a short piece which really hits home for all the young, hopeful and creative South Africans out there. According to the Leaders in Motion Academy (LIM), “Without an understanding, nurturing and skilling of the cultural and creative industries in our economy, South Africa runs the risk of skilling our creative and multi-talented youth for jobs that will no longer exist in the next twenty years. Alternatively, South Africa could be on the cutting edge of empowering a workforce of young, emerging creatives that will find employment and innovate new businesses in the vast digital networks and markets that cross borders, the holders of the ‘currency’ of the future.

There is also a widely held view that modern economies that will undergo a Fourth Industrial Revolution successfully will not be those that worship machines, but those that support human creativity”.

The Machines are coming but building and nurturing the human element and creativity will only make it even better.

 

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa, 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

 

 

 

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