Palesa Phili is the chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
DURBAN -  If we are to ever address South Africa’s current and historical socio-economic challenges, then entrepreneurship needs to be actively promoted with targeted, achievable objectives.

Entrepreneurs represent the most significant catalyst for meaningful social and economic change and upliftment in KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa as a whole. Everyone is ‘beating the same drum’, sharing and promoting this sentiment.

The investment and financial support for entrepreneurial development are at an all-time high as the public and private sectors are actively developing, funding and investing in entrepreneurs.

This week marks the start of the 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) which will run from 18 – 24 November 2019 and is a collection of tens of thousands of events, activities and competitions across the globe meant to inspire millions to explore their potential as entrepreneurs.

According to the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Index, only 15 percent of South African start-ups are successful so this year, Global Entrepreneurship Week has chosen four critical global themes, which are education, ecosystems, inclusion and policy, in order to reverse this trend. For this week’s column, I will discuss education and ecosystem.

Providing the correct support and skills development for entrepreneurs and start-ups in the first 18 months is vital to empower the new venture to be sustainable enough to contribute to job and wealth creation. The adage that entrepreneurship cannot be taught and it can be only learnt through the ‘try-fail-learn-repeat’ practice model does not work
in the SouthAfrican socio-economic context. 

The main criticism around entrepreneurial education is that the current format of entrepreneurial education is out of sync with the real-life practica lrequirements of local entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs need to be educated to adopt an enhanced practice model that allows then to ‘learn-practice-try-fail(LESS)-repeat’.

The majority of entrepreneurs learn through practice while they are engaged in various forms of economic activity to make their business profitable and successful to secure their livelihoods.

This is important because entrepreneurs need to experience the practical benefits of what they have learnt in real-time as the majority of start-ups only become profitable 18 months into their business journey. Entrepreneurs make their decisions on what their educational priorities are based on their immediate real-time needs and requirements.

That is why there is always an evident focus on sales and marketing development, but limited attention is given to learning about financial planning and management, talent management and strategy formulation and implementation.

This is where the second theme, ecosystem, becomes interrelated as the entrepreneurs find it more accessible learning from other entrepreneurs and business people and the first port of call for most entrepreneurs looking for business and entrepreneurial knowledge and expertise are family, friends and colleagues.

People rely on their social circle and network when they first learn about business and entrepreneurship and continue to rely on this source as they face challenges they need to overcome as a start-up. But for entrepreneurs to keep overcoming challenges and to ensure the sustainability and profitability of their business, they need to expand that social and business network in order.

Locally, encouraging mentoring of entrepreneurs is a critical need especially if the mentor is a fellow entrepreneur from the same locale that has the relevant industry expertise and understanding of the unique challenges having successfully navigated the business journey themselves.

The Durban Chamber and the Chamber movement can play a crucial role here by creating platforms were local business leaders and entrepreneurs can connect to share knowledge and experience, and network to build a healthy and thriving local entrepreneurial community that inspires rising start-ups to succeed.

Palesa Phili is the chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

BUSINESS REPORT