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Global Entrepreneurship Congress Africa welcomes 2000 delegates to Cape Town

Kizito Okechukwu

Kizito Okechukwu | March 14, 2024

The long-awaited Global Entrepreneurship Congress Africa kicked off yesterday in the Mother City with thousands of delegates comprising of entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and entrepreneur support organisations. About a dozen ministers from across the continent also jetted in with their delegation of entrepreneurs and ecosystem stakeholders to network and connect with top minds and players in Africa’s ecosystem.

The congress, which is hosted by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa is powered by the Department of Small Business Development and African Bank in partnership with Seda, Sefa, Department of Social Development, Eskom, WRSeta, NYDA, Allan and Gill Gray Philanthropy, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, Amazon, Microsoft, Telkom, SAB Foundation, IDC and UNDP.

Opening the congress was the Deputy President of South Africa, Paul Mashatile, who was welcomed by Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams from the Department of Small Business Development.

I would like to share some key takeaways from the Deputy President’s address, in which he said that South Africa, like the continent, must be more deliberate in its intent and efforts to become more competitive in higher productivity tradable goods and services – and in preparing for a future that is more digital and greener.

Agriculture is a case in point he added. The sector is made up almost entirely of single-person businesses involved in low value, low productivity farming. This keeps us dependent as a net food importer, which has become more problematic now with rising fuel and food prices.

Innovation and entrepreneurship will be a game-changer for us. Precision farming and agri-tech will unleash what the African Development Bank suggests could be a US$1 trillion industry for the continent by 2030.

Fintech is bringing tens of millions of Africans into the credit and payment system. E-commerce is connecting millions of African SMMEs to formal and more lucrative markets.

“The point I am making is that African innovators and entrepreneurs will level the playing fields for the continent and allow us to connect to the global economy as equals. It will allow us to reap our youth dividend. But only if we create a more enabling environment for our entrepreneurs”.

“First, we must ensure that the core foundations of the digital economy are in place, including digital infrastructure, digital skills, cybersecurity capabilities and affordable and accessible data. We need to do more to implement the African Union’s Digital Transformation Agenda adopted at its Summit of Heads of State in February 2019. We must ensure that by 2030, every individual, business and government on the continent is digitally enabled and ready to support a growing digital economy”.

He continued that, “government must cut the red-tape and make it easy for entrepreneurs to do business. This includes cross border trade, and here the AfCFTA will be a game-changer. Generally, our countries on the continent do not perform well on the various doing business and competitiveness rankings. Unfortunately, I think there is truth in the perception that our large bureaucracies stifle business.  We need fit for purpose government”.

“Third, we must improve on governance. This includes tackling corruption, improving our macro-economic management and settling disputes through negotiations, rather than violent conflict. We must do more to shift the narrative that Africa is a difficult place to do business.

Fourth, we must address the SMME and start-up credit gap. Africa has 18% of the world’s population but attracts only 2% of global capital – and even less global venture capital for start-ups”.

The two days of the GEC+Africa has promised to be enlightening for the delegates and many people I have engaged are left inspired by prospects of the new connections and building their businesses.

Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane and co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.

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