Last week’s blog introduced the concept of a South Africa State of Entrepreneurship Address. We concluded that no “State of” address would be complete without an action plan. And so in a similar manner to our President’s Nine Point Plan for the country’s growth and without the distraction of continuous ‘points of order’, we allowed our imagination to soar and our optimism to rise. The result is a Nine Point Plan for Entrepreneurship in South Africa. It is built around the three pillars of “Better culture, better information and better skills”
A: Better Culture:
Peter Drucker famously said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and it is no different for entrepreneurship. It is where we must start.
- The Institution of an annual State of Entrepreneurship Address
The idea of a state of Entrepreneurship Address should be built up into a pinnacle event of the year, supported by major campaigns elevating the awareness of significant entrepreneurial role models and coinciding with a number of awards, competitions and report releases. It should be a signature day in the year for entrepreneurship where the subject is discussed by the entire country and a clear indication is given around entrepreneurial progress.
- Creation of South African Economic Independence Crowd Funding Platform.
In 2012, Rwanda initiated the Agaciro (Dignity) Fund to promote a culture of self-reliance with voluntary contributions from Rwandan citizens in Rwanda and abroad, private companies and friends of Rwanda. The Fund is intended to set the tone that Rwandans will work together to drive their own development. With a similar intent, but different mechanism South Africa will establish a crowd funding platform focussed on entrepreneurship, as part of supporting inclusive involvement in creating an entrepreneurial culture and dismantling any culture of entitlement. Addressing the early stage funding gap, it will be privately run, supported by tax incentives and only offer funding to entrepreneurs on a matched basis. While this platform might be seen as largely symbolic, it is an important mechanism for providing a platform for inclusive involvement in shifting entrepreneurial culture.
- Icon Campaign leading mentoring revolution
Success breeds success. There will be an entrepreneurial icon campaign providing regular amplification of South Africa’s important entrepeneurial role models, including those icons now part of the diaspora. This campaign will include a strong mentoring focus, where entrepreneurial icons while being widely celebrated through the campaign, will actively commit to mentorship of the emerging generation of South African entrepreneurs. A commitment that will be used to drive a structured Mentoring Revolution, fostering greater momentum for mentoring and knowledge sharing in South Africa.
B: Better Information:
It is not possible to take sensible action without first having sensible information. There are key information gaps that need to be filled before we can move forward with the correct responses.
- Funding of a complete firm formation study in South Africa
The difference between new business and small business must be properly understood. In South Africa the debate seems to be framed around big versus small business, whereas the real question hinges around new versus old. As Dan Isenberg states, “Small business without growth is the problem to be solved. They are net job destroyers, not job creators. Growing businesses are the solution.” All net job growth in USA comes from firms less than 5 years old. We currently don’t have accurate numbers for firm formation which hampers our assessment of entrepreneurial progress.
- Mapping of Entrepreneurship Ecosystems in the country
Every entrepreneurship ecosystem is different and has its own unique comparative advantages. For this reason entrepreneurship should be driven by cities and regions, not by countries. In order to do this there needs to be a comprehensive mapping of these ecosystems. There are a number of global initiatives currently being undertaken which would provide the framework for this exercise and the basis for comparison.
- Regional Entrepreneurial Portal providing one stop access to all entrepreneurial information
Building on the above city and region ecosystem mapping, regional entrepreneurial portals will be established consolidating the current numerous information sources into a single point of access for entrepreneurial training, support and funding. It will include transparent disclosure of current “doing business” measures such as average time taken to register businesses.
C: Better Skills:
Lack of human capital is at the heart of our entrepreneurial challenge at the moment. For any future progress, this has to be addressed head on. It is clearly a long term challenge and hence the plan suggests long term, medium and immediate responses.
- Entrepreneurial education integrated holistically into education
Implement an entrepreneurial curriculum for learners in all grades with increased exposure to entrepreneurship (intra- and extra-curricular) including a national Entrepreneurial Olympiad, entrepreneurial teachers award, entrepreneur related examples in existing curriculum and 21st century thinking concepts throughout curriculum. Teach entrepreneurship as a cross-cutting key competence not a stand-alone subject.
- National Entrepreneurial Talent Identification System
Initiate a National assessment of entrepreneurial potential for all learners at the end of high school. This will allow for the identification of a pipeline of high potential entrepreneurs who can then be fast tracked into entrepreneurial curriculum, internships and mentoring programmes. It has been increasingly acknowledged that it only takes a few successful high ambition, growth orientated entrepreneurs to shift the system. This early talent spotting would provide the best possible chance of finding these few.
- Open the doors to highly skilled immigrant entrepreneurs
If exceptional talent is evenly distributed, then South Africa can only be expected to have less than 1% of this exceptional talent, as is the proportion of our population relative to the rest of the world. But we start to shift this number if we make ourselves accessible to other exceptional talent. It is one of the unsung pillars of America’s entrepreneurial success – that one quarter of American high-tech start-ups have immigrant founders. In the developing world, Chile has led the way in this regard with its Start-Up Chile, actively encouraging exceptional entrepreneurs to come to Chile with financial incentives thrown in. We must make South Africa as attractive and as easy to come to as possible for highly skilled immigrant entrepreneurs.
Now this might well be a Nine Point Plan to get excited about! What points would you want to see in the 2015 SOEA?