June, 2015 | Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
How to shift the economy by 1% – Schramm’s Law and African Lions

How to shift the economy by 1% – Schramm’s Law and African Lions

carl schrammIn the search for much needed growth in South Africa a different approach prescribed by Schramm’s Law would shift our attention to fostering the formation and acceleration of billion rand companies, so called African lions.  We would only need 10 of these African lions a year to fundamentally change the long term growth rate of South Africa.

As the South African economy growth rate dropped to a level of 1.3% in 2015 Quarter One, it moved further and further away from the requirements of the National Development plan that we grow the economy by at least 5.4% over the next 15 years – a minimum requirement if we are to have any hope of addressing the unacceptable levels of unemployment and poverty in this country.

It raises the question for which we are all seeking an answer.  How do we grow the economy? In fact let’s simplify and quantify this question.  How do we grow the economy by 1%? Over the years we have been subjected to a number of different economic theories as to how this might be possible.  Yet in recent times it has become clearer that there is an actor in this economic landscape that deserves more attention.  Fundamentally new research suggests that the formation and growth of firms is the most important variable in the growth question.  In fact, the past president of the Kauffman Foundation, Carl Schramm, described once by the Economist as the “Evangelist of Entrepreneurship”, formulated what has become known as Schramm’s law which states that:

“The single most important contributor to a nation’s economic growth is the number of start-ups that grow to a billion dollars in revenue within 20 years.”

Now if true, this is a staggering and powerful claim.  It suggests that rather than the usual suspects such as fixed investment, levels of innovation, exchange rates and inflation, the single most important variable is the number of new firms that reach significant scale over time.

In order to demonstrate how big an impact just a few of these firms might have on an economy, let’s rephrase our initial question to ask: “How many billion dollar companies do we require to grow the economy by 1%?”

In order to answer this question we need to rely on the work of Yale economist William Nordhaus, who estimated that inventors, which we will assume here to be proxies for innovative entrepreneurs, capture only 4 percent of the total social gains from their innovations. This is why it is important for Schramm’s law to talk about billion dollar companies. The cut off number (a billion) is slightly arbitrary, but the purpose behind it is that companies of this sort of scale must have been in some way innovative, and by virtue of them being innovative the 4% Nordhaus relationship holds. Essentially these innovative companies generate far more value to society than they are able to capture for themselves.  The majority of the gains leak out to benefit many other firms and industries that use the innovation in other ways.  The immediate example would be smart phones which have added far more value to society than that captured by the individual firms producing the devices.

Armed with this ratio we can now do the calculation of how many billion dollar firms it would take to grow the South African economy by 1%:

Size of SA Economy: $370bn
1% of SA Economy $3.7bn
Required Firm Value Capture: $148m (4%)
Required Total Firm Revenue $1bn (Assuming 15% return on revenue in SA)
Required number of firms: 1

If these firms were to increase the economy by 1% ($3.7bn), which is the total value added to society, they would themselves have captured $148m of that value (4% of the total value they had added to society). If they had captured $148m of value/profit and we assume a return on revenue of 15%, then the total revenue (sales) of these firms to shift the economy by 1% would be $1bn – simply we would require one billion dollar company a year to shift the long term growth rate in South Africa by 1%. Only one!

Even if we made it more contextually relevant and changed the requirement to billion Rand companies, it would still only be 10 a year.  Only 10 out of the many thousands of companies that are started every year. Let’s identify these companies. Let’s celebrate them.  To assist us in doing this we need to give them a name. The entrepreneurial world has fallen into a pattern of naming special companies after animals. Fast growing companies are called gazelles, companies that reach a valuation of $1b are called unicorns.  So our own name for these billion Rand companies should be African Lions.

How many of these African lion companies do we currently produce?  As a rough starting point we can look at companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.  Based on the Financial Mail 2014 Top Companies Report there are 189 companies that have reached the billion rand revenue mark.  Our exchange has been in existence for over a 100 years.  So the rough average number of these companies produced per annum over time is about two.  It is likely that this rate has increased in recent years and so a conservative baseline would be that South Africa produces 3 of these billion dollar companies a year.

Our challenge is therefore simple – we need to increase this rate three fold and move it into double figures. Now there is a goal to mobilise around! It’s time for us to find some Africa lions.

Finding solutions to South Africa’s weak entrepreneurial pipeline – Commentary on the South Africa 2014 GEM Report Part II

Finding solutions to South Africa’s weak entrepreneurial pipeline – Commentary on the South Africa 2014 GEM Report Part II

In Part I of our commentary on the 2014 SA GEM Report, posted earlier this month, we concluded by saying that this second and final commentary would suggest solutions to address the alarmingly downward trend in entrepreneurship in South Africa.

The GEM report elegantly concluded with self-explanatory recommendations for policy and practice under five distinct categories:

  • Education and training
  • Government policies and regulations
  • Market openness (which is often heavily influenced by government policies and regulations)
  • Government programmes
  • Entrepreneurial finance support

Our intention here is not to reproduce the GEM’s findings, so with the help of two members of Foundation Talent Sara Bux (PhD Candidate and Regional Fellowship Manager) and Phumlani Nkontwana (Fellowship Programme Officer: Entrepreneurial Leadership) we focus on two inter-related factors, that is, educational attainment and youth entrepreneurship.

As illustrated in the figure below, the 2014 GEM report shows clearly the strong correlation between perceived capabilities (skills) and the Total Entrepreneurial Activity Rate, confirming that all forms of education are important in developing entrepreneurial competencies.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 8.17.54 AM


In an, as yet, unpublished paper for the University of Pretoria, Bux maintains that the problem in South Africa is not restricted to the quality of entrepreneurship education and training per se. In her opinion, the broader challenge exists at primary and secondary education level. SA’s youth need to experience favourably revised patterns of quality education and to access opportunities that enable them to grow, develop and prosper as fully engaged, responsive and productive citizens. That we would have to adopt transformative strategies to fast track the inclusivity and economic growth of youth is implicit in the assertion that youth must be equipped with education and training that enables them to become job creators – regardless of the stage at which they exit the formal school system.

Youth entrepreneurship education promotes both enterprise culture and provides a long-term solution to unemployment. The type of education associated with Higher Education Institutions alone, can no longer be seen as a ‘reliable’ solution to youth unemployment problems because entrepreneurship requires a specific kind of education and experience.

Nkontwana notes that the GEM Report begins with the bold acknowledgement that “the main challenge is to provide jobs and/or opportunities for the youth, where the estimated unemployment level is in excess of 60%.” Of the 500 000 pupils who write matric exams every year in SA only about 23% get a ‘pass’ and merely half of these even qualify for university entrance.

Over 74 million young people aged 15–24 were unemployed in 2013. Viewed as a function of lack of opportunities, youth unemployment contributes to rising impatience, intolerance and frustration in the society. Empirical evidence supports the positive association between youth bulges and political violence. Hence Nkontwana believes that Moeletsi Mbeki’s description of SA as a ‘ticking bomb’ is apt.

The prevalence of early-stage entrepreneurial activity tends to be relatively low in the 18–24 years cohort, peaks among 25–34 year olds, and then declines as age increases with the sharpest decrease after the age of 54. South Africans aged between 25–44 years are the most entrepreneurially active. They account for between 50% and 60% of all early-stage activity.

In order to shift youth entrepreneurship we need to address the weakest link in South Africa’s already weak entrepreneurial pipeline, namely our level of entrepreneurial intention (what proportion of the population intend to become entrepreneurs), which sits at 10% which is less than half of the level of other efficiency driven economies.  The biggest lever we have to shift intention is to improve the country’s entrepreneurial culture. Shifting entrepreneurial culture is a multifaceted exercise but we have an immediate opportunity with Johannesburg hosting the 2017 Global Entrepreneruship Congress.  This is one of the most important annual entrepreneurship events on the calendar and will be the first time this “world cup” of entrepreneurship is hosted in Africa. This opportunity can be a powerful catalyst and platform for shifting the nation’s perception around entrepreneurship. It is a unique opportunity we can’t afford to waste.

Finally it must be borne in mind, as stated in the GEM, that while it is not the government’s responsibility to start new businesses and provide employment, it is their responsibility to provide an environment that is conducive to starting and sustaining a new business, through reforms and regulations that increase the ease of doing business and lessen unnecessary bureaucratic burdens. An alternative measure of the government’s success in achieving this is to review the country’s performance in the annual index of Economic Freedom.  Over the last ten years South Africa’s ranking has fallen dramatically in this index from 53 to its current ranking of 72. What is the implication of such a fall? It is conveniently quantified by looking at the example of Colombia a country very similar in economic size, levels of inequality and even crime. Colombia has been committed in recent times to economic freedom enhancing measures.  As a result over the same 10 year period they have moved from a ranking of 72 to a current ranking of 28. In the previous GEM blog piece it was noted that relative to its economic size South Africa was missing two thirds of its entrepreneurs and should have around 20% of its adult population engaged in entrepreneurial activity instead of the current 7%.  It is therefore interesting to note that the entrepreneurship level in Colombia last year was 18.5%. As they say, freedom works!

What does the youth of ’76 teach us about entrepreneurship?

What does the youth of ’76 teach us about entrepreneurship?

youth-daySouth Africa is no different from the rest of the world in contending with a youth unemployment crisis. We know the stats. We’ve heard the rhetoric. As we remember the bold actions taken by the youth of Soweto, against an oppressive education regime in a now 39-year old uprising, one wonders whether a similar protest is not warranted in the context of our shallow youth entrepreneurship.

The barriers to deepening South Africa’s youth entrepreneurship include the technological divide, restricted access to capital, collateral, business networks and a lack of experience. Global consensus is that successful entrepreneurs have an average age of 35 since it is expected and accepted that, at this age, individuals leverage off life’s experiences, networks and other human resources. However the majority of young people in South Africa are “age constrained” and therefore lack the necessary skills to navigate complex entrepreneurial terrain. So what resources can inexperienced 18 – 34 year olds leverage off in South Africa?

Lesson 1 – Boost your educational qualifications

The students of ’76 knew that a quality, globally-competitive education was critical to their future. Part of the reason that survivalist enterprises do not become high-impact is that they are generally started out of desperation by people who, particularly in a country like South Africa, cannot find alternative employment – hence these enterprises provide only enough income to employ the Founder and one or two other people at best.

The GEM’s recommendations for improving our entrepreneurial climate centre around overhauling the education system with a particular focus on improving uptake and pass rates for Maths and Science and partnering with entrepreneurial role models within communities. Research supports the positive link between education and both the choice to become an entrepreneur and subsequent entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurial skills development programmes, targeted mentorship and financial support also go a long way towards bolstering the chances of survival for young entrepreneurs.

Lesson 2 – Turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones

The students of ’76 knew that they had to take a stand but they were less certain that their actions would result in meaningful change. By vocalising their discontent, they took a leap of faith and, in so doing, garnered international support for their stumbling block. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 392 which condemned both the uprising and the apartheid government. The former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was due to visit South Africa shortly before the riot. He said that the uprisings cast a negative light on the entire country. Youth’s willingness to accept the possibility that a business may fail is a good indicator of entrepreneurial capacity. Contemporary attitudes are complicated by youth’s culture of entitlement and the perpetuation of the “bling bling” road to success by tender-preneurs. It takes years to become an overnight success.

Lesson 3 – Keep looking

The Department of Trade and Industry’s Youth Enterprise Development Strategy (2013-2023) is one example of South Africa’s ongoing efforts to stimulate youth entrepreneurship. The policy instrument intends to provide support schemes for young entrepreneurs with the objective of creating and managing sustainable businesses that are capable of providing decent permanent jobs and employment growth.It is important for young entrepreneurs to stay focussed on the bigger picture and, like the youth of ’76, to keep looking for solutions that will outlive them. The award opportunities below can help in casting the vision further. Happy Youth (Entrepreneurship) Day!

  • R100,000 up for grabs for Social Entrepreneurs in the SEIF award and R10,000 grants from the NYDA. Entries for both close on 30 June 2015
Journey to the Continental Championships

Journey to the Continental Championships

Jason_1Foundation Scholar Development Officer, Jason Pentz, describes his incredible journey supporting blind athlete David Jones to the summit of the international triathlons.

I met David through a mutual friend in June 2014. David, an avid and world-ranked visually impaired athlete, was looking for a pilot to assist him with his cycling and with my history of being a cyclist and someone who is always looking for a challenge, our partnership seemed to be a good match.

A new challenge

This decision by the two of us was something new, a challenge that we tackled with some excitement. David’s goal to include competitive cycling onto his list of abilities required two things: 1) someone who could teach him the secrets and 2) someone to pilot his bike. Having been a professional cyclist, I could certainly teach him secrets as well as pilot the tandem bike we ride.

Being a pilot was a something new for me. As a pilot for a visually impaired athlete, my role is to guide him through the race. In guiding him, we do the race together and are considered a team who races under the name of the visually impaired athlete.

Starting Out

Having raced a couple of cycling races, we did our first Duathlon in October of 2014 on a warm Clanwilliam day which consisted of a 5km run, a 20km cycle and then a 2.5km run. As this was our first event that included a run, we had a tough time getting through the race. The main thing that we took from this event was that we had lots of fun and would definitely like to do more of these kinds of events.

In December 2014, with some training and a bit more focus, we took part in the Western Province Triathlon Championships. We had a much better day and managed to win the PT5 race (Para-Triathlon 5-category for blind and visually impaired athletes). As a result of being the WP champions, we took part in the South African Triathlon Championships in February 2015 and, here too, we managed to win which afforded us the opportunity to be part of national squad, which went to Egypt for the Continental Championships.

Our First International Race

On a very warm morning in May 2015 (It was 35 °C by 7 am.) we started the race in Sharm el Shiehk.  After the 750m swim, 20km ride and 5km run incredibly we had won the Para-Triathlon 5 race of the Continental Championships.  As a result of the win, David scored 400 ITU (International Triathlon Union) points, which moved David’s world ranking to 14th. Not a bad result or ranking for some who has only spent one season in the sport of triathlon

By Jason Pentz

Scholars National Development Camp

Scholars National Development Camp

camp 8&9The picturesque town of Hermanus recently provided the backdrop to the development camp for Grade 8 and 9 Scholars that was held at the Habonim camp site. It marked a very exciting time for the Scholarship Programme because for the first time the National Development Camp would be integrated with the Candidate Fellows’ Connect Camp and their LEGACY PROJECT.

The National Development Camp is the part of the Foundation Scholarship Programme where Scholars can demonstrate their developability in terms of entrepreneurial mindset and behaviours as well as personal mastery.

Scholars shared in enjoyable and interactive activities that aimed to reinforce the principles, practice and philosophy of entrepreneurship, specifically the Foundation’s focus on developing an entrepreneurial mindset. They took part in entrepreneurial pitching sessions as well as fun games and contests that promoted healthy competition and a sense of community among the Scholars as a group. The Grade 9 Scholars sat for psychometric tests geared towards helping them make subject choices for their Grade 10 year. During this time the Grade 8 Scholars had a session on their own during which a development psychologist helped them become better equipped for high school.

The Scholars also interacted with the second-year Candidate Fellows. It turned the camp into more than just a weekend of training in the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. In addition it became one in which they met and engaged with older, wiser versions of people who were once just like them – learners in Grade 8 and 9. These interactions no doubt added a realness to their dreams. Dreams of one day also being a Candidate Fellow and an entrepreneur.


Foundation Leadership Changes

Foundation Leadership Changes

There have been a number of exciting developments within the Foundation’s senior leadership team in recent months. These changes are the result of the investment in Talent Development by the Foundation and Talent themselves.


Managing Director

Graeme de Bruyn joined the Foundation in January 2012 as the Organisational Development Manager. His positive contribution at senior management level was self-evident and warranted his promotion in July 2013 to the second-most senior position: Head of Programmes. Throughout his tenure, Graeme handled a number of senior roles simultaneously – a clear indication of his readiness for increased responsibility. We were pleased when Graeme accepted the role of Managing Director of our Foundations in three other SADC countries at the end of 2014. However, it created a critical vacancy.


While we were planning the appointment process for Head of Programmes, Jonathan Marks indicated that he would step down as the Head of Impact Assurance at the end of April 2015. He felt that his optimal contribution to the Foundation would be made in the areas of research and programmatic curriculum development. Jonathan has therefore been appointed as an independent contractor in the role of Academic-at-Large.

Head of Programmes and Head of Impact Assurance

It made strategic sense for the Foundation to undertake both recruitment processes (Head of Programmes and Head of Impact Assurance) simultaneously in the interests of operational efficacy. Consideration was given to suitably qualified Talent at the next tier of management.

Zimkhitha Peter, who used to be the Association Director, and Immanuel Commarmond, former Fellowship Director, each have an impressive seven years at the Foundation. It was thus with great pleasure that we appointed Zimkhitha as the new Head of Programmes and Immanuel as our new Head of Impact Assurance in April 2015. Once again, however, the promotions created senior vacancies.

Fellowship Director

We are also delighted that Nontobeko Mabizela agreed to serve as our new Fellowship Director with effect from 1 June. She has been with the Foundation for eight years with extensive experience in various roles.

Recruitment for the Association Director role is still underway. Once the process has been concluded and a successful appointment has been made, we will communicate the relevant details.

We thank Graeme, Jonathan, Zimkhitha, Immanuel and Nontobeko for their years of service, congratulate them on their promotions and wish them the very best in this next phase of their careers at the Foundation!

Fellowship Connect Community Camp

Fellowship Connect Community Camp

equip campAll Candidate Fellows, in their second year (Year Equip) of the Fellowship Programme, have the opportunity to engage, in a very real way, with one of the Foundation’s Pillars, the Spirit of Significance. They are allowed to step out of the life they know – the familiar campus surroundings and academic endeavours – for a weekend to discover their voice as a group and get a taste of their collective potential. Siphokazi Mbatani reflects on this experience.

“As we gathered for the first time as an entire year group, we each had our own ideas and expectations about the plan and programme of the weekend ahead. Individually we are all strong leaders and innovators, yet as a community there seemed to be a disconnect. However, none of us could have anticipated the growth we would have experienced individually and as a group in just a short weekend.

Interacting with driven Grade 8 and 9 Allan Gray Scholars reminded us of our individual journeys, specifically where we had all come from and where we still wanted to go. We agreed that after only a year at university we had all thoroughly realised the importance of staying true to oneself. This would be the message we would convey. The day with the Scholars was both inspiring and humbling.

Connect Camp helped us find our centre as a year group. We determined what we wanted to achieve and how we wanted to do it. This time away allowed us to foster a sense of community as well as lay a foundation in respect of the impact we wanted to leave through LEGACY PROJECT. It also provided a much-needed escape from the stress and pressure that had become everyday life for us.

By the end of the weekend the camp’s theme song ‘we want to have a Spirit of Significance and we want to make an impact’ resonated in our hearts ever more strongly.”

By Siphokazi Mbatani

Circle of Excellence Schools 2015

Circle of Excellence Schools 2015

3P14-34_AGOF067A number of years ago the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation launched an initiative to increase the pool of applicants for the Allan Gray Fellowship. The Circle of Excellence (COE) initiative connected the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation with 100 schools for the first time in 2008. The annual COE selection serves as recognition and appreciation for the work that these schools are doing in developing exceptional individuals with high entrepreneurial potential. Schools are selected based on the number of Candidate Allan Gray Fellows they have produced over the previous five years. In other words, schools from where applicants have either been invited to a selection camp or accepted into the Allan Gray Fellowship are tracked over a five-year period and the most successful 100 schools based on these metrics are then recognised annually as COE members.

We believe that by supporting a network of feeder high schools we will enhance not just the number of applications we receive but also the quality of the applicants as well. By partnering with these schools we aim to grow their exposure to entrepreneurial thinking and practices and promote the inclusion of such principles and practices in their school curricula, thus promoting our mandate of entrepreneurial progress in South Africa.

Among the 100 schools selected this year for 2015, 16 are new COE members and 84 schools are being recognised once again for their contribution.

Each year the principal of each COE school is invited to attend the Circle of Excellence Principals’ Conference where they have the opportunity to engage and network with like-minded individuals. They are also exposed to entrepreneurial thought leadership, development tools and practice. In addition, the conference is also an opportunity for the Foundation to thank the COE schools and their leaders for the critically important role they are playing in setting a solid foundation from which our country’s next generation of change agents can build.

The 2015 edition of this conference will be held in Johannesburg in September and will be hosted at the African Leadership Academy.



The Missing Two Thirds: Where are South Africa’s entrepreneurs? Commentary on the South African 2014 GEM Report

The Missing Two Thirds: Where are South Africa’s entrepreneurs? Commentary on the South African 2014 GEM Report

The annual South African Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (“GEM”) report has recently been published for 2014.  As described in the 2013 GEM report reflection, GEM is the largest annual global study of entrepreneurship covering 90% of the world’s GDP. Following the encouraging developments in the 2013 report, there was some excitement for the 2014 results. Sadly these expectations were misplaced, and in part explained the rather muted release of the report with no launch or government involvement, only the quiet loading of the South African report onto the global GEM website.  The 2014 fall in the main measure, Total Entrepreneurship Activity, was dramatic from 10.6% in 2013 to 7.0% in 2014 – a startling fall of 34% in a single year.  If we apply these percentages to the related South African population numbers, it means we have roughly a million less entrepreneurs than in the prior year. Simply Staggering!

The quantum of this drop led the Foundation to ask GEM South Africa author, Mike Herrington, whether such a drop in a single year was even possible. He stated that it is possible if the environment is not conducive to entrepreneurship and it certainly hasn’t been over the past year. Remember that although it is a 34% drop it is from a very low base.” Hardly comforting.

To put this TEA rate outcome in perspective, it is the worst ever performance by South Africa over the last 12 years of GEM participation with us falling 18 places below the median of all the countries included in the survey.  The 2014 SA GEM report observes: “It appears that entrepreneurship in South Africa is regressing when compared to its counterparts in the rest of Africa.” And just when you think it couldn’t get worse the report goes on: “It is expected that the rates of entrepreneurial activity will further decline in the next few years unless the supply of electricity issues can be addressed.”

But perhaps a better way to understand these results is to use the power of GEM’s global database to establish where a country like South Africa’s levels of entrepreneurship should be. Armed with years of data and 73 countries participating, it is possible to create a normalised trend of entrepreneurial activity relative to the GDP per capita of a country. As shown in the figure below, when applying this to South Africa, our current GDP per capita should translate into a TEA rate of around 20% – nearly three times more than our current rate!

blog pic

One of the advantages of the GEM methodology is that it attempts to show a holistic picture of the full entrepreneurial pipeline rather than merely listing current entrepreneurial activity (quantity). This allows us, in addition to current entrepreneurial activity, to evaluate both the future entrepreneurial activity through measures of potential entrepreneurs (potential) as well as quality of entrepreneurship in terms of the ongoing sustainability of entrepreneurship activity (quality).  On all three measures of potential, quantity and quality South Africa’s performance is woeful. But rather than throwing our hands in the air and giving up, by looking more closely at each of these areas relative to past performance, performance of Sub-Saharan and efficiency-driven economy peers we can start to identify the levers for turning this situation around.

The table below measures South Africa’s entrepreneurial performance in these three areas.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.53.01 AM

In terms of the potential stage of the pipeline, while there are serious concerns related to our performance in terms of perceived capabilities, where we score at less than 60% of the level achieved by our Sub-Saharan peers, it is South Africa’s entrepreneurial intention that is the killer metric in the pipeline.  Our intention is less than half of efficiency driven economy peers and just more than a fifth of the level of our Sub-Saharan peers.  Currently our entrepreneurial intention is half the level that we require for our entrepreneurial activity stated above (20%).  Unless we can improve this pipeline all later stage efforts to support entrepreneurship are largely futile.

At the quantity stage the bigger driver of poor performance between nascent business (those who have committed resources to starting a business, but have not paid salaries for more than three months) and new business owners (those who have moved beyond nascent and have paid salaries for more than three months) is with nascent business which has dropped by 41% since 2013.

Finally our quality where only 2.7% of the population between ages 18 and 64 have established businesses, places South Africa fourth last on this measure across all participating GEM countries or three times less than our efficiency-driven economy peers.

Clearly there is much work to be done. For those with strong constitutions the full 2014 South Africa report can be found here. In the next GEM post, we shift shift gears and suggest some possible solutions to rectify this downward trend in entrepreneurship in South Africa.  A trend we simply cannot allow to continue.


Seeing through vision and not sight alone

Seeing through vision and not sight alone

Gcobisa Sotashe_smallBCom (Hons) graduate, @GcobisaSotashe, was admitted to the Association of Allan Gray Fellows in 2013. When she applied for the Fellowship in 2009 she already envisioned herself as a high impact entrepreneur. In the Fellows’ Yearbook she commented: “In the next seven years, I see myself as a business leader who is actively involved in driving the economy of my country.”

This commitment manifested itself at a young age. Growing up in East London, Gcobisa and her friends ran various businesses to raise money during the school holidays. This experience shaped her understanding of entrepreneurship significantly. “It taught me to think of alternative ways to raise money,” she says. The other important lesson that she carries from her childhood is that one will only go as far as one sees – having a vision in life is paramount.

It was a clear vision that carried her throughout her childhood and the Fellowship to her current role as a Trainee Accountant at a leading listed company. Innovation is at the heart of Gcobisa’s Chartered Accountancy training. She is constantly encouraged to add value to each business unit that she is seconded to by using every opportunity to contribute to key business decisions that the company makes.

Gcobisa is also involved in two committees of the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (ABASA) – the bursary committee being closest to her heart. Over and above these major commitments, she mentors small businesses in creating efficient and effective financial systems through Business Hub Johannesburg. In her personal capacity, Gcobisa also mentors a young lady who participated in the Foundation’s Raise-a-R100-Challenge last year. She intends to help her mentee raise adequate capital for her business.

She’s no doubt a mover and shaker but despite having a finger in every pie, Gcobisa is reluctant to call herself a multi-tasker. Her ultimate goal is to be a high impact entrepreneur, which she defines as ‘the creator of innovative businesses who addresses critical needs in society’.

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