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Putting some numbers on entrepreneurship: Dr. Pali Lehohla, former Statistician General, joins 22 ON SLOANE

Former Statistician General, Dr. Pali Lehohla, joins 22 ON SLOANE as a Research Resident Advisor from the 1st of March 2018. Dr. Lehohla was at the helm of Statistics South Africa for almost seventeen years. At 22 ON SLOANE, his role will include, but not limited to:
  • Train, guide and mentor the team of researchers working with startups at Sloane
  • Co-author an annual research on the state of entrepreneurship in Africa with the team at Sloane
  • Support the research team at Sloane in their work with various private and public sector organisations on the African continent
  • Host Masterclass session with the startup residents once a month looking at data and trends in their various sectors

Speaking from his office at 22 ON SLOANE, Dr. Lehohla expressed his excitement in coming into the campus.

“I am very thrilled to be here. I am not a businessman but I think I can help business people with information that will help them thrive. The vibrancy and energy in this environment is addictive and I look forward to engaging young people in this space and adding as much value as I can”.

Jonathan Ortmans, president of GEN, said, “Dr. Pali Lehohla not only possesses a great deal of knowledge of the underlying factors challenging the growth of new businesses, but it was clear to me the first time we met that he has an extraordinary, almost magical talent for communicating it in a way relevant to those looking to start and scale. Engaging him as a mentor to startups while contributing to research being conducted by our team at 22 ON SLOANE is further proof that Kizito Okechukwu, co-chair of GEN Africa, is already making tremendous strides in supporting the spread of entrepreneurship throughout the continent.”

Minister of Small Business Development, Ms. Lindiwe Zulu, described the appointment of Dr. Pali Lehohla as good news for all entrepreneurs in South Africa and the entire continent. “I am confident that entrepreneurs will benefit enormously from his sharp intellect and extraordinary ability to utilise data as a tool of planning and decision-making. We are confident that effective use of information and research will ultimately contribute to the growth, sustainability and success of emerging enterprises”, said Minister Zulu.

Enquiries: Bongiwe Melwa, PR & Communications Manager, 22 ON SLOANE
Tel: +27 (0) 11 463 7602

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Branson Centre partners with Liberian entrepreneurs

From the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship:

Entrepreneurial ties between Liberia and South Africa received a boost recently when a group of 15 entrepreneurs from the West African state attended a foundation course at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship (BCOE) in Johannesburg. It was the first time that BCOE has opened its doors to entrepreneurs from other countries in Africa.
While the course covers fundamentals, such as accounting and business planning, the approach is “truly Virgin”! Entrepreneurs are taught the art and science of breaking the rules to capture the imagination of customers and investors alike. In addition to insights from the Virgin Group of Companies and its British billionaire founder, Sir Richard Branson, there were practical tips and real-life experiences from a number of sought-after guest speakers. Among them were:
·                               Paul Smith, South Africa’s foremost authority of entrepreneurship;
·                               Clive Butkow, former COO of Accenture South Africa; and
·              Tracey Webster, Executive Director of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s African Leadership Initiative.
The Liberians were also given the opportunity to engage South African entrepreneurs who have been trained by BCOE and will act as mentors moving forward.  
Although Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, its entrepreneurs are finding solutions that have the capacity to grow the economy and improve peoples’ lives in the future. Some of the entrepreneurs in the group are in agriculture, food manufacturing/processing, renewable energy, transport and water/sanitation. For example, Agro Inc. links farmers to markets, so Liberia can “eat what it grows” and We Trade Liberia specialises in renewable forms of energy. Since electrification is a major issue (statistics put it at 5% nationwide and 50% in cities), solar lighting is an accessible, cost-effective alternative. At the same time, the socio-economic environment is conducive to the emergence of service industries, like beauty, catering, fashion design, marketing, printing and tourism. A strong commitment to social upliftment and the empowerment of women were prevalent throughout.
The entrepreneurs are due back in South Africa in a few months to do BCOE’s advanced course. According to Jane Rankin, the Chief Executive of BCOE, this is where the rubber meets the road. “Between now and then, the entrepreneurs implement their business plans. Once everything is in place, we give them the tools they need to take their businesses to the next level.”
While BCOE provided the training, funding was received from Humanity United, an American NGO focused on overcoming the legacy of conflict and slavery in Liberia and Sudan. The Programme Manager from the University of Liberia in Monrovia, Wilson Idahor, says that the entrepreneurs were identified by means of a print media campaign. “Approximately 250 applications were received. After interviewing the shortlist of 25 applicants, 15 were chosen.”
BCOE plans to offer its courses to other NGOs involved in the fields of entrepreneurial development and job creation. Programmes can be designed around audiences, budgets and timeframes. In the case of the group from Liberia, the foundation course was done over a period of five consecutive days instead of one day a week for six weeks.
BCOE launched in Johannesburg in 2005. Its primary aim is to help entrepreneurs become innovative business leaders who create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
Issued by:
Lauren Winchester
The Red Phone
T. 011 469 3770
C. 083 421 9683
For and on behalf of:
Gavin Meiring
Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship
T. 011 403 0622

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Awethu! Unleashing the power of youth entrepreneurship

Christopher Pienaar (entrepreneur) & Yusuf Randera-Rees (founder)

Saturday afternoon in a big, Italian-style restaurant in Rosebank: it is noisy – what with clanging cutlery and high energy Jozi conversations competing with non-descript music.  And the waiter is grumpy. But that won’t get us down at this corner table upstairs. I am meeting with the founder of the Awethu Project, Yusuf Randera-Rees, and two of the organisation’s entrepreneurs, Sekhabile Lekgoate and Chris Pienaar.

Founded by Yusuf Randera-Rees and Ryan Pakter, Awethu aims “to ignite a youth entrepreneurship revolution in under-resourced communities across South Africa.” The organisation is a for-profit venture that identifies entrepreneurial potential and backs it with money and resources. I appreciate the fundamental optimism of this model – this is not about the traditional charity or corporate social responsibility approach to enterprise development. As Yusuf explains it, there is no reason to believe that under-resourced communities lack talent.
When I first heard of Awethu, I immediately warmed to the idea, but I could also see the challenges it might face. Such as endeavour faces selection challenges in separating good candidates from possibly high risk individuals who couldn’t crack it in the labour market. It could also provide the wrong incentives as it appears to extend finance and resources to  entrepreneurs who are not taking that much risk in their personal capacity. But the two young men sitting across the table exude talent, motivation and determination.  
During Awethu’s intense screening process, young applicants are taken through a series of practical challenges and psychometric tests to determine if they have the ability and the commitment it takes to build a business.  After the first round of tests, only 30 out of a 1 000 applicants made it to the next stage.
The Awethu Project raises important and unsettling questions about what we think about young South Africans, especially black ones. This is a country where the commentariat likes to talk about lost generations. They said this about the 1976 generation. It’s being said about today’s youths too, given that at 51% (the South African Institute of Race Relations as cited by Business Day), South Africa faces one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world.
Words like unemployable, uneducated and unskilled are thrown about carelessly. But as Yusuf points out, living and thriving in a typical township environment can bring out leadership and problem solving skills in an individual. Sure, you need expensive, formal training to produce engineers and mathematicians, but the entrepreneurial skills set can emerge develop in many kinds of environments. Yusuf believes that it should take about three years for mentees to become fully fledged entrepreneurs that are independent of the support that Awethu provides.
Sekhabile first heard about Awethu on the radio. A graduate of the Tshwane University of Technology, he was once a foreman at a construction company. Marking time in a big firm didn’t suit him so he started an Internet café in Soweto. That first venture, didn’t work out so well. Then he went into catering, selling wors outside nightclubs.
The chisa nyama experience

Sekhabile appreciates the fact that the project acknowledges an individuals’ potential and willingness to work hard. Bra Wor, the enterprise he founded, brings the chisa nyama experience to office parks, such as Constitutional Hill. A classic township chisa nyama usually involves a barbecue stand serving meat, music playing in the background and perhaps a car wash service. Bra Wor recreates some of this experience through its mobile stands and also offers a catering service for events. Being part of Awethu has given Bra Wor access to finance and connections.

For Chris, Awethu has been a reality check. His ambition is to make a lot of money but he says he has had to take a few steps backwards to learn about the nuts and bolts of running a business such as financial management and the importance of sacrifice. His company, Straight to your Door started as a bread delivery service in Alexandra. It has now extended into offering research and distribution services to corporates wanting to trade in Alexandra.  
On the vexed topic of barriers to entrepreneurship in South Africa, Sekhabile doesn’t think that money is the most significant challenge. Most times, one can find interesting sources of finance to kick start a business. Rather, the key issue facing aspirant entrepreneurs is how to deploy those limited resources to make a profit.

I suggest to the table that tapping into low-income markets represents an important opportunity for entrepreneurs in South Africa. I put forward C.K. Prahalad’s proposition that ‘the next big thing’ in business is to find and exploit the fortune in low income communities in Africa. I am met with a tepid response from a group of entrepreneurs that I imagined would be best poised to realise such opportunities.
We kick this topic around, and finally come to some sort of consensus. The opportunities at the base of the income pyramid have to do with socio-economic upward mobility and the emergence of a middle class in developing countries. I agree. There may be opportunities in bringing innovations to the market that make products cheaper and accessible to more people, but the real story is about people emerging from poverty and becoming attractive markets for businesses. It will always be easier to make money in middle to upper markets. In fact, some of the Awethu businesses are well suited to bridging the gap between the township and surbubia. Straight to your Door helps corporates crack their low income distribution challenge. Bra Wor repackages a classic township experience for an office environment.

Awethu Project featured on Play your Part 
The Awethu Project received an Echoing Green fellowship in 2011, a $60 000 award that also comes with mentorship and support. This places Awethu in a league of prestigious social enterprises such as Teach for America and SKS Microfinance, an Indian microfinance company that scored a $1.2 billion stock exchange listing.  Other Awethu businesses include Free Oranges and Ek Se Tours. The underlying businesses have achieved significant turnover growth, from almost nothing, and some are meeting their profit targets. Sekhabile sees his future at the JSE, just not serving lunch.

TV coverage of the Awethu Project (Play your PartPart 1 Part 2
Business Day on youth unemploymentImages: Awethu Project, SABC
Text: G. B. Makhaya