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As Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrations begin to wind down in as many as 170 countries over the weekend, a group of startup-savvy policymakers and advisors have gathered in Surabaya, Indonesia, to explore innovative approaches being deployed to help stimulate the creation and growth of new businesses. The Startup Nations Summit is held each November as the official capstone to GEW when millions participate in 35,000 events, activities and competitions across the world.

For the second year in a row, the Summit features a policy hack where seven teams of public and private sector leaders, guided by experienced mentors, design policy solutions to real-world challenges restricting the growth of entrepreneurs in their countries.

Team leaders hail from Argentina, Brazil, Estonia, India, Indonesia, Peru, South Africa and Turkey with challenges such as increasing the number of women investors and attracting high-skilled immigrants, amongst others.


An increased participation of African delegates joined and participated at this year’s annual SNS meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia.  Another important achievement by team Africa at this important summit is that South Africa will host the 2019 edition of the Start-up Nations Summit in November 2019. This will be the first time the Summit is held in Africa and will look to focus on ways to enhance the African entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The South African delegation was led by Linton Mchunu, Chief of Staff for the Ministry of Small Business Development.  Mchunu says “Over the past 10 years, a new field has emerged in public policy around smarter ways for governments to enable the founders of new firms to start and scale more quickly in pursuit of economic stability and job creation. As more entrepreneurial societies have taken root, disruptive technologies have been unleashed on traditional industries bringing new, unfamiliar regulatory challenges to governments” Mchunu further added that “the Department of Small Business Development led by Minister Lindiwe Zulu, has been consistent in promoting a culture of entrepreneurship and creating a dynamic entrepreneurship which would contribute to the aspirations of the National Development Plan (NDP) specifically, the reduction of poverty, inequality and unemployment, which are common challenges globally, especially for developing countries.”

Leading to this global summit, early on this year, Johannesburg hosted the first Startup Nations Policy Hack in May 2018.  Over 50 stakeholders gathered at GEN22 on Sloane to hack policy solutions that addressed various policy barriers that hindered the startup ecosystem in South Africa.  The winning solution led by Jak Koseff, a Chief Director at the Gauteng Premiers Office, focused on elevating the procurement policies of government by spatially targeting quotas for procurement of goods and services from SMMEs, and better enabling pipelines of SMMEs from disadvantaged areas. The policy proposal, working with a team of senior officials from across Africa including from Nigeria and Kenya, was elevated and refined for the global policy hack in Surabaya.

Under the title of “Digitizing Procurement of SMME inclusion”, the team focused on enabling the 60-80% of African SMMEs that are considered informal to evolve into suppliers to both government and public sector value chains.

The solution, presented by Koseff as team leader, that won second place in Surabaya outlined what the team called the 3 D’s :

  • enabling Discovery – using digitization via mobile phones to make informal firms visible as potential contractors and service providers , As well as provoking the state – and then corporates –  to find or build a pipeline of SMMEs in the most deprived areas , at the bottom of the pyramid .
  • enabling De-risking – using the data gathered via digital means and  via the process of  supporting SMMEs to make it less risky for govts and corporates  to procure from SMMEs and for banks to finance them when they do get contracts
  • Enabling Delivery by building programmatic support into main contracts to enable SMMEs from the bottom of the pyramid to be effective sub-contractors and to grow in to fully fledged suppliers

The policy team which produced this solution included the following representatives:

  • Alesimo Mwanga, Research Director, GEN Africa – 22 on Sloane, South Africa;
  • Florence Kimata, SME Advisor to the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Trade & Cooperatives, Kenya;
  • Shehu Abdulkadir, Special Assistant to the Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Nigeria

The African Team are in the process of working together to design, test and implement the refined proposed digital procurement solution with the support of global mentors.  In 2019, the first phase of testing will take place in South Africa & Kenya, the final beta version in Nigeria. The initial phase draws upon work done by the Gauteng Provincial government as well as national level initiatives in Kenya and Nigeria.   Results from the proposed tool will be shared with the wider community for further development and public input towards the end of 2019.


Alesimo Mwanga – Research Director

GEN Africa – 22 on Sloane