Business In Africa

The man in the arena: Be a bold supporter, not a critic

‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …” These are the unforgettable word s uttered by US president Theodore Roosevelt in 1910, a little more than a decade after America had emerged as a new world power. He wanted to emphasise that the success of a country rests on the quality of its leaders and the discipline of its citizens, as opposed to the distracting commentary of others. There is a reason that his words are still referred to in presidential speeches and literature. Nelson Mandela, whose passing we commemorated this week, gave a copy of Roosevelt’s words to the captain of the South African rugby team, Francois Pienaar, just before the team proceeded to beat the All...

Out of Africa, always lessons for SA

The many challenges and opportunities that come from doing business in Africa have been studied and documented by international and local stakeholders interested in benefiting from the region’s significant growth opportunities. I am often puzzled by how some South Africans react when this topic of doing business in Africa comes up. Typically, two groups emerge. One becomes completely engaged as its members are expanding into the rest of Africa or plan to. The second group becomes completely disengaged as its members have no plans to “go into Africa” and are often surprised that I give talks to South African business audiences on doing business in Africa, as this apparently would alienate executives and entrepreneurs not interested in expanding into the region. Both groups are fundamentally flawed in their mindset. All insights on doing business in Africa are based on having reviewed the African region as a whole, South Africa included. So the insights...

Angel investors must let start-ups learn from mistakes

The smallest cash infusion can make a big difference It is puzzling that early-stage investing in new businesses in South Africa is not growing as fast as it should, irrespective of economic factors. It stays low year on year even with initiatives to foster an uptick, from the section 12J venture-capital class introduced by the state, to various “angel investor” networks driven by private investors. We cannot wholly place the burden on investors – entrepreneurs need to play their part in being investor-ready and having the guts to put themselves out there and find the right financial supporters. This step is difficult for many, especially since being at an early stage might mean you have no clue how to present yourself and your product in an investable way. Let us also put it down to the low levels of understanding nationwide of what it means to be an investable entrepreneur. Unless you...

Learn from youth’s street smarts

Informal learning helps mould new leaders. With Youth Day having been celebrated this week, at a time when the economy is in the state it is, I cannot help but be reminded of the increasing role that today’s young people will play in driving economic growth. They are the leaders of tomorrow who must be groomed today. They will be responsible for ensuring that our businesses and institutions are led in ways that will help us revive growth and achieve the long-term goals of the country. They will also need to learn how to become the kind of leaders who understand how to build an economy that creates opportunities for the youth, especially when all the numbers show that Africa will have the world’s biggest and youngest population of working age within a few decades. This is something we need to turn into an advantage, rather than a disadvantage. We have not yet...