The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM’s) National Entrepreneurship Context Index does not seem to favour South Africa’s climate for aspiring business owners. The index, which measures the twelve entrepreneurial environment conditions (EFCs) that make up the context in which a country’s entrepreneurial activity takes place, positioned South Africa 45th out of 50 eligible countries in 2021 (Online: Gem Consortium). Yet the country boasts a wealth of vibrant and hungry citizens willing and able to take the plunge and commit themselves to an entrepreneurial journey. In fact, 69.7% of polled South Africans believed they had “the knowledge, skills and experience to be entrepreneurs” with 80% viewing it as “a good career choice” in 2021 (a figure which was below 70% pre-pandemic), (ibid.)
According to GVI Africa, South Africa also has solid foundations for fledging businesses and the “most developed start up system in Africa” (van Vuuren, 2022). So, with a keen energy for business growth and a resourced start-up network, it’s surprising that South Africa is rated so unfavourably on the GEM index. These statistics seem to point to a rather substantial disconnect between entrepreneurial potential and SMME sustainability.
Last year, Brand South Africa launched Play Your Part Ignite – an initiative designed to address this dissonance to provide a platform of opportunities for young entrepreneurs in the country. A team of diverse CEOs, businesspeople, and Play Your Part Ambassadors, collaborated to produce activations and masterclasses across four different provinces, focusing on how to pitch and position a business or business idea to a potential investor most effectively.
Many of the participants who pitched their ideas (to a panel of seasoned industry judges), expressed the same concerns that many entrepreneurs have. Firstly, a majority thought they had a great idea, but had no idea how to communicate it or who to communicate it to. And secondly, many participants acknowledged that they had held back on starting a business for fear of failure.
This on-the-ground observation seemed to, if perhaps only on a surface level, connect some of the dots between South Africa’s wealth of budding business owners and the country’s lesser outcome of successful and sustainable businesses.
The country’s talent is tangible. It is real. It is passionate and it’s ready to take on the world. Imagine being the greatest dancer in the world, but never seeing a stage. Imagine being the fastest runner in the world, but never seeing the Olympic flame. Imagine holding an idea that could revolutionise South Africa’s socio-economic growth, but not having the voice to say it, or the means to communicate it.
Play Your Part Ignite has been intent on making it happen; reinvigorating the entrepreneurial spirit within South Africa’s future business owners, visionaries and innovators, by providing guidance, a platform and a roadmap. Each activation allowed participants to fine-tune their business ideas and network with potential investors and mentors, receiving valuable insights from established professionals.
While the initiative has given away over R100 000 in prizes to participants, those involved have been keenly aware of the real value of the Play Your Part Ignite Initiative. They valued the ability to voice their ideas in front of their peers and experts. They valued the opportunity to network with industry professionals. They appreciated the keen insights provided turning into potential funding opportunities. They valued the effort Play Your Part Ignite was making to nurture entrepreneurial endeavours in the country.
And as individuals, communities and citizens, we need to remind entrepreneurs how much we value them. In many ways, entrepreneurs engender skills development, job creation and ultimately economic growth. They may not be made of gold or platinum, but they are a priceless, and largely untapped resource, waiting to be given the tools to succeed. Play Your Part Ignite is determined to provide these tools to its best ability, by embracing our outstanding human capital and carefully mining South Africa’s young talented minds for the ideas that might never have been.
Gem Consortium Research: New Gem South Africa National Report: Early Stage Entrepreneurs are Growing into Established Businesses, https://www.gemconsortium.org/news/new-gem-south-africa-national-report:-early-stage-entrepreneurs-are-growing-into-established-businesses
Van Vuuren J (2022), Five of the most common challenges faced by South African entrepreneurs, https://www.gviafrica.co.za/blog/5-of-the-most-common-challenges-faced-by-south-african-entrepreneurs/ (online)