In a country plagued by unemployment, creating new job opportunities is crucial. Our future together will remain unknown unless we work together to address the issue. And the importance of entrepreneurship to South Africa’s economic success cannot be overstated.
In this article, we speak to industry experts to find out how businesses can empower consumers and entrepreneurs.
Enable interoperability for consumers and businesses
Dare Okoudjou, Founder and CEO of MFS Africa believes that when it comes to Africa and financial opportunity, we need to recognize that customers have the same wants and needs as consumers anywhere in the world.
“For us at MFS Africa, that means connecting mobile money to the rest of the world. Card networks seem to be the best way to do this. We’ve been working on that for some time. For example, in 2019 we entered into an agreement with Visa to connect our MFS Africa HUB to the Visa Network to enable large-scale card issuance. It’s been slow, but with the recent acquisition of GPT, we’re in a prime position to accelerate interoperability,” says Okoudjou.
Empowering SMEs by providing finance for business growth
SMEs are a crucial source of development and employment in Africa, but struggle to access growth finance, particularly from traditional financiers such as banks. And so other types of funders have entered the market. Private equity – where the lender provides the money needed for growth and participates in running the business – is one such source. “This type of financing is becoming increasingly popular in the region,” said Bryan Turner, partner at Spear Capital, a private equity firm that invests in companies in the SADC region with funds from investors in Europe. Further emphasizing this, Turner cites the figure for private equity investments in Africa in 2021, which hit an all-time high of USD 7.4 billion, double the previous year’s figure.
Private lenders are also busy in the region. For example, Norsad Capital has provided financing to approximately 150 companies in Africa and has raised more than US$500 million in funds for companies in Africa. As an impact investor, Norsad is focused on delivering societal benefits through the companies it invests in, empowering these local businesses to create jobs and become leaders in environmental sustainability in the region.
Deploy the right platform at the right price
SMEs are powerful engines of economic growth, but they can also bring great benefits to the communities in which they operate. Not only do they create employment opportunities — in South Africa, SMEs make up 98% of formal businesses and employ between 50% and 60% of the country’s workforce — they also help develop communities, says Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager, Zoho Corp.
Zoho has seen how the right platform at the right price can enable small businesses to operate on an equal footing with larger companies that have access to broader resources. For example, low- and no-code tools make it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs to build their own customer-facing applications. These platforms can be easily adjusted as the business grows. “Community-based organizations that have access to the right technology will be more efficient, better organized and more effective,” says Bourne. “The long-term impact on the people who live in these communities will be significant.”
Find a pain point – and release it
Aisha Pandor, co-founder and CEO of SweepSouth, South Africa’s largest on-demand home cleaning service, believes that if you really want to make a difference with your business, you need to find a pain point for your prospect and solve it. “Once you’ve done that, find the next one. They will soon make an impression,” she says.
At SweepSouth, Impact means Empowerment, which in turn means ensuring domestic workers earn above market rates and giving people the opportunity to choose through the platform who, from where and at what times they take work. “As such, empowerment is also about connectivity, and technology is one of the key enablers of connectivity. Through our platform, we wanted to harness this potential to ensure that domestic workers can connect with as many employment opportunities as conveniently as possible,” says Pandor.
Funding black founders in Africa promotes generational and systemic change. The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund for Africa program reaffirms Google’s commitment to empowering entrepreneurs and startups in the region as essential to boosting jobs and growth on the continent. The fund just announced its second cohort, made up of 60 of the most promising black-founded startups across Africa, who will receive their share of $4 million in funding, as well as access to a network of mentors to help solve unique challenges to them.
“Africa is a diverse continent with tremendous opportunity, but the continent faces the challenge of limited diversity in venture capital funding,” said Folarin Aiyegbusi, Head of Startup Ecosystem for Google in Sub-Saharan Africa.