Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2017, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg
Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu,
Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura,
Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Mr Herman Mashaba,
President of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, Mr Jonathan Ortmans,
Executive Head of SEA Africa, Mr Kizito Okechukwu,
Leaders of business, government and civil society,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour and privilege to address the Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2017, which is taking place for the first time on African soil.
We welcome you to the continent that is the birthplace of humanity.
As kinsmen and kinswomen from all corners of the world, we meet to break the kola nut in the land of our common ancestors.
We meet to share ideas on how collectively we can generate inclusive development, restore humanity’s dignity and rekindle hope for a better tomorrow.
We meet to discuss how we can effectively harness the energy of enterprise and the tools of technology to build a better world.
For our continent, this Congress provides many benefits.
It provides a unique opportunity for African entrepreneurs to interact with potential global partners.
It enables entrepreneurs to engage with policy makers and business leaders.
It is an avenue for mentorship, knowledge exchange and investment.
It showcases African entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors alongside their global counterparts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Entrepreneurs are creators.
They possess the zeal, tenacity and fortitude to change the world.
They are optimistic. They relish risk. They defy convention.
When others lament, entrepreneurs look for solutions.
Where others see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunities.
That is why our continent needs more innovative entrepreneurs, so that we may better respond to our developmental challenges.
African entrepreneurs are poised to change the economic trajectory and shape the social landscape of our continent.
The millions of jobs that our people need will not be created by governments or big industry alone.
They will be created by emerging entrepreneurs supported by sound government policies and deliberate action by established business.
Small business will grow, thrive and create jobs when governments’ procurement policies set aside funds to buy from SMMEs.
They will thrive if regulatory and taxation regimes are reformed to promote, rather than stifle, SMME development.
They will prosper if we eliminate barriers to entry by reducing the cost of data, transport and financial services.
They will be sustainable if society is united in combating uncompetitive business behaviour, collusion and price fixing by monopolistic cartels.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The rapid changes ushered in by technological advances are transforming human experience and business culture everywhere.
The theme for this Congress – Digital Disruption – is opportune and appropriate for a continent that is a familiar with rapid change.
The theme resonates with an Igbo proverb quoted in the novel, Arrow of God, by the late Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe.
In the novel, the High Priest Ezeulu warns his son Oduche that:
“The world is like a Mask dancing. If you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place.”
If we want to see the future of enterprise well, if we want to benefit fully from innovation, we need to adapt to the reality of technological change.
We cannot stand in one place.
We must recognise that digital disruption is a cornerstone of a modern, diversified economy.
It is digital disruptors who redefine the competitive landscape as they strengthen knowledge-based economies.
They enhance customer experiences of products and services, offering something fundamentally different and better.
Across the world, digital innovators are already bringing massive change in every market.
In Africa, they serve as development partners who exploit digital innovation to bring improved basic services to communities in remote rural areas and impoverished urban settlements.
They are making banking more accessible to the poor and excluded.
They are broadening the delivery of health care services and disrupting old models of education delivery and learning.
For adolescent girls who miss school because they lack sanitary towels, they develop affordable and re-usable sanitary towels to keep girls in class.
From waste, they generate energy and make our environment safer, while creating employment.
Successful entrepreneurs know that a business’ real value derives from focusing on customer value and needs.
To succeed, we need to understand that today’s customer is e-astute, internet-savvy and increasingly armed with a smartphone.
To be a step ahead, organisations and businesses must embrace digital disruption and innovation as an enabler of growth.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Across the globe, entrepreneurship is a powerful tool for development.
South Africa’s National Development Plan recognises small business as a vehicle to grow an inclusive economy and reduce poverty, unemployment and inequality.
In 2014, our country established a new national ministry of Small Business Development to give dedicated and focused attention to small enterprises and cooperatives.
It mobilises finance, coordinates entrepreneurial training and supports business incubation.
Small businesses are being integrated into the country’s industrialisation programme.
Small businesses, for example, will benefit from the R4.2 billion allocated this year for industrial infrastructure in special economic zones and industrial parks.
To broaden economic participation, government will ensure that firms awarded government tenders of R30 million or more will need to subcontract at least 30% of the value of the work to black owned SMMEs.
The corporate sector in South Africa is increasingly more prominent in this endeavour.
Through the Presidential CEO Initiative – in which the CEOs of the country’s largest firms are working with government and organised labour to promote economic growth – a fund of R1.5 billion has been established to support small enterprise development.
But there is much more we can be doing.
Entrepreneurship must be part of the school curriculum.
Young people must, from an early age, be encouraged to innovate and be problem-solvers.
They must be given the skills to turn ideas into viable businesses.
Most importantly, they must leave school appreciating that entrepreneurship can be a viable career option.
While many people have the aptitude to be successful entrepreneurs, our experience in South Africa is that many struggle to fulfil their potential without effective support.
Under apartheid, the black majority were stripped of their assets, denied essential skills and prevented from engaging in most business activity.
That is a deficit we are working hard to bridge.
Through business incubation programmes – both public and private – we are moving beyond merely providing a desk and a phone and a coffee machine.
We are providing training, assistance in meeting regulatory requirements, identifying potential customers and facilitating access to finance.
In doing so, we have discovered – as any business person starting out would attest – that no entrepreneurial initiative can have lasting benefits if there is no sustained market into which SMMEs can supply.
As government, we are steadily opening up market opportunities for SMMEs, both through our own procurement spend and also through black economic empowerment policies.
Established business needs to take a similar approach if any of these efforts are to succeed.
Effective monitoring and evaluation is also central to the effectiveness of small business support.
There needs to be a clear link between effort, activity and results.
Training, coaching or incubating cannot in themselves be assumed to be successful if the key economic benefits are missing – or at least unproven.
This Global Entrepreneurship Congress is about networking and collaboration.
It recognises that there is no such thing as the ideal entrepreneur, just as there is no single model for entrepreneurial development.
But there are common needs and interests.
This Congress goes a long way in connecting our entrepreneurs to the best resources and networks.
It serves as an opportunity to enhance an entrepreneurial culture among our youth, women and people with disabilities.
It must allow us to share new developments in start-up financing.
Ultimately, we must foster an African Entrepreneurship Network where participants will collaborate well beyond this event in promoting intra-African trade.
We invite entrepreneurs from our continent and the world to collaborate with entrepreneurs in this country to start sustainable, profitable businesses that will create jobs.
We urge you, our creative and courageous entrepreneurs, to apply your minds to the challenges of our continent.
Be with the children of Africa to realise the promise of freedom.
This was the promise of Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Samora Machel, Ahmed Ben Bella, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Ahmed Sékou Toure and many more.
Allow me to conclude by citing from a poem by celebrated Nigerian author, Ben Okri, when he wrote:
“Will you be at the harvest,
Among the gatherers of new fruits?
Then you must begin today to remake
Your mental and spiritual world,
And join the warriors and celebrants
Of freedom, realisers of great dreams.
You can’t remake the world
Without remaking yourself.
Each new era begins within.
It is an inward event,
With unsuspected possibilities
For inner liberation.
We could use it to turn on
Our inward lights.
We could use it to use even the dark
And negative things positively.
We could use the new era
To clean our eyes,
To see the world differently,
To see ourselves more clearly.
Only free people can make a free world.
Infect the world with your light.
Help fulfil the golden prophecies.
Press forward the human genius.
Our future is greater than our past.”
This Global Entrepreneurship Congress is, at its essence, about our shared effort to press forward the human genius.
If we succeed, as I believe we will, our future shall be much greater than our past.
I thank you.