Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Hope for social enterprise amid SA challenges

By Pali Lehohla Time of article published Oct 12, 2021

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LAST FRIDAY I stepped out of my cocoon of Covid-19 fear on the insistence of Kizito Okechuku, the chief executive of 22OnSloane, where I am a resident research adviser.

The session I facilitated looked at the vexing question of moving towards equitable societies and germinating social entrepreneurship against the challenge of red tape.

This against a backdrop of an unemployment rate where almost one in two able-bodied and minded South Africans are willing to work, but are discouraged by the lack or absence of employment possibilities, thus remaining unemployed, while gross domestic product per capita growth rates stagnated well below 1 percent per annum.

On the panel was Ts’epo Headbus, the co-founder of Bright On Capital. Ts’epo means hope.

Bright on Capital is a black-owned and managed alternative financial services company that has applied technology and innovation to expand and simplify access to affordable finance for small and medium enterprises (SMMEs). Bright On Capital operates an online peer-to-peer enterprise-lending platform that enables SMMEs to access working capital funding.

In his experience over the past four years, Ts’epo said: “We are clear that our firm’s limited success, and that of our many black-owned SME clients, can be in part, probably a large part, attributed to the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment.

The existing BBEEE policies, particularly those pertaining to Enterprise Development, have sought to increase the participation of black-owned firms in the mainstream economy.

“These policies have sought to encourage corporates and public sector entities to include black firms in their respective supply chains. In the case of the state procurement, this has been referred to as tenderpreneurship (a derogatory term referring to state-supported black entrepreneurship), while in the case of the private sector this support is referred to as supplier or enterprise development.”

Ts’epo said enterprise development, whether state or private sector-supported, had led to the creation, development and growth of thousands of black-owned firms.

He said: “Many of these firms, including our own, would upon inception have lacked a track record, capacity and competitiveness and as a result access to markets.

“However, the introduction of the BBEEE policies will encourage corporates and public sector entities to offer procurement opportunities to these emerging firms.

“Without these policies, without tenderpreneurship, whether government or private, we would never have witnessed the creation, development and growth of black firms.

“Are these policies and the implementation thereof perfect? Probably not. But no true innovation ever is. We learn from our success and failures and we grow from there,” Ts’epo said.

However, the race in search for scalable solutions have remained very illusive.

Is Ts’epo optimistic? Probably. He spoke about the thousands of firms supported and millions of jobs that these policies created.

But maybe Ts’epo (whose name means hope) is more a prisoner of hope than an optimist.

A nation without hope perishes, and one who provides hope brings light.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him at www.pie.org.za and @Palilj01.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.

BUSINESS REPORT

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