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Startup Nations South Africa to hack policy barriers facing SMEs


The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa, the World Bank, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) South Africa and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), have partnered together to host a Startup Nations Policy Hackathon.

In a common sense, a hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers or thinkers and others involved in software development and other developmental initiatives, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, leaders and others put their collective heads together on software projects. These days, the scope of hackathons has broadened significantly and are now conducted in various and diverse industry sectors, which need the intensive collaborative input of all role players and subject-matter-experts to reach conclusions and implement decisive and positive actions.

According to Mulalo Rambau, Startup Nations South Africa policy lead, this hackathon will gather together start-up ecosystem representatives, which includes the participation of entrepreneurs to ‘hack’ a specific policy solution in response to identified challenges in the ecosystem.

In most market economies, except the most flexible and deregulated, there are significant barriers to business growth. For example, in the UK the important issues have been highlighted in a report by the Federation of Small Businesses, entitled ‘Barriers to Survival and Growth in UK Small Firms’. It reveals that transition economies can expect more severe barriers regarding the growth of SMEs. Therefore, special attention need to be given to the barriers which hinder the development of potentially fast growth firms, i.e. those that have the greatest capacity to provide employment and introduce innovations as well as new technologies.

During his state of the nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the issues of bureaucracy, red tape and inflexible legislation and how these hinder and limit enterprise growth for start-ups, small, micro and medium-sized businesses.

The policy hack concept is focused on real policy challenges, actual implementation and impact; results produced from the hack should be tested in an identified area.

22 ON SLOANE will host The Startup Nation Policy Hack in South Africa on the 11th May 2018 and it will focus on themes identified through a consultative process between the IDC, the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD), the World Bank and UNCTAD representatives.  The themes identified include the following:

  • Reducing barriers to entry for start-ups (e.g. company registration process, regulatory burden, tax burden)
  • Reducing late invoice payments (from public to private sector)
  • Monitoring and evaluating 30% procurement and access to markets from SMMEs and cooperatives
  • Reducing trade barriers between regional blocs in Africa (SADC, EAC, ECOWAS)
  • Implementing entrepreneurship education in basic education curriculums

I, and all involved in this process, look forward to sharing the key outcomes and lessons learnt from the five African countries over the next few months. I am also confident that through constant collaboration and like-minded thinking we can significantly reduce the barriers to SME growth.

To R.S.V.P visit:

Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of SEA Africa and Co-chair of GEN Africa – 22 on Sloane. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest Startup campus.