Global Entrepreneurship Congress Africa welcomes 2 000 delegates to Cape Town

Deputy President Paul Mashatile speaking yesterday at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress Africa. Photo: Supplied

Deputy President Paul Mashatile speaking yesterday at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress Africa. Photo: Supplied

Published Mar 14, 2024


The long-awaited Global Entrepreneurship Congress Africa kicked off yesterday in the Mother City with thousands of delegates comprising entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and entrepreneur support organisations.

About a dozen ministers from across the continent also jetted in with their delegation of entrepreneurs and ecosystem stakeholders to network and connect with top minds and players in Africa’s ecosystem.

The congress, which is hosted by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa, is powered by the Department of Small Business Development and African Bank in partnership with Seda, Sefa, the Department of Social Development, Eskom, WRSeta, NYDA, Allan and Gill Gray Philanthropy, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, Amazon, Microsoft, Telkom, SAB Foundation, Industrial Development Corporation, and UN Development Programme.

Opening the congress was Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who was welcomed by Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams from the Department of Small Business Development.

I would like to share some key takeaways from Mashatile’s address, in which he said that South Africa, like the continent, must be more deliberate in its intent and efforts to become more competitive in higher productivity, tradeable goods and services – and in preparing for a future that is more digital and greener.

Agriculture was a case in point, he added.

He said the sector was made up almost entirely of single-person businesses involved in low value, low productivity farming. This keeps South Africa dependent as a net food importer, which had become more problematic now with rising fuel and food prices.

Innovation and entrepreneurship would be a game changer for the country. Precision farming and agri-tech would unleash what the African Development Bank suggests could be a $1 trillion (R18.7 trillion) industry for the continent by 2030.

Fintech is bringing tens of millions of Africans into the credit and payment system. E-commerce is connecting millions of African small, medium and micro-sized enterprises to formal and more lucrative markets.

Mashatile said: “The point I am making is that African innovators and entrepreneurs will level the playing fields for the continent and allow us to connect to the global economy as equals. It will allow us to reap our youth dividend. But only if we create a more enabling environment for our entrepreneurs.”

“First, we must ensure that the core foundations of the digital economy are in place, including digital infrastructure, digital skills, cybersecurity capabilities and affordable and accessible data. We need to do more to implement the AU’s Digital Transformation Agenda adopted at its Summit of Heads of State in February 2019. We must ensure that by 2030, every individual, business and government on the continent is digitally enabled and ready to support a growing digital economy.”

He said: “The government must cut the red tape and make it easy for entrepreneurs to do business. This includes cross-border trade, and here the AfCFTA will be a game changer. Generally, our countries on the continent do not perform well on the various doing business and competitiveness rankings. Unfortunately, I think there is truth in the perception that our large bureaucracies stifle business. We need fit-for-purpose government.”

“Third,” said Mashatile, “we must improve on governance. This includes tackling corruption, improving our macroeconomic management and settling disputes through negotiations, rather than violent conflict. We must do more to shift the narrative that Africa is a difficult place to do business.

“Fourth, we must address the SMME and start-up credit gap. Africa has 18% of the world’s population but attracts only 2% of global capital – and even less global venture capital for start-ups”.

The two days of the GEC+Africa promise to be enlightening for the delegates and many people I have engaged are left inspired by prospects of the new connections and building their businesses.

Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane and co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.