OPINION: Fire up our Small Business Ministry

By Kizito Okechukwu Time of article published Apr 24, 2018

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JOHANNEBSURG - For many years, there has been an ongoing debate in many countries regarding the significance and importance of entrepreneurial ministries in the public sector.

Some countries are for, while others are against them.

Some categorise their entrepreneurship agendas under their department of trade or industry, others under science and technology, while some place them in their innovation departments.

The UK had a Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, created by merging the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. It was disbanded to form the current Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in which entrepreneurship is just one of its many mandates.

However, in the US, a global economic powerhouse, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been championing entrepreneurship development for many years, and the thriving start-up environment that now exists in that country pays testimony to the vital role the SBA plays in its small business development.

On a larger scale, one of the world’s most prominent contributors to small business development is the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC), a programme of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN).

The annual week-long congress gathers thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers and other start-up champions from more than 170 countries to identify innovative ways to help founders start and scale new ventures around the world.

Delegates can network, gain insights, learn about new research and leave ready to renew their programmes, policy ideas or founder skills.

This year, the GEC was held in Istanbul, Turkey, a thriving start-up hub that is both an economic and cultural cornerstone of Europe and Asia.

The congress kicked off with the Start-up Nations Ministerial, co-hosted by the World Bank and GEN, with more than 30 ministers from around the globe.

The Ministerial agenda is informed by year-round regional policy conversations and research emerging from a global network of institutions, and is guided by a steering committee.

The host city, Istanbul, is home to 18million people out of Turkey’s total estimated population of 80million, with a business community that generates about 40percent of Turkey’s economy and 60percent of its exports.

In the past decade alone, the Istanbul-centric entrepreneurship ecosystem in Turkey has mobilised and matured rapidly. Today, the country has more than 60 incubators and accelerators, 40 angel networks and 20 local venture capital funds with new ecosystem-builder initiatives emerging every day.

At GEC 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “Our goal is to make our country one of the top 10 economies in the world by evaluating our position in the best possible way.

“We are determined to continue this path by investing more, producing more, exporting more and creating more jobs. Of course, we are aware that big goals require major reforms. For this, entrepreneurs and investors provide very important support incentives,” he added.

Erdogan went on to say that the country’s first indigenous car projects and the new Istanbul airport, which was built by five entrepreneurs, highlighted the country’s strong sense of entrepreneurship.

“Ministries will also be accessible to entrepreneurs at any point and this is our commitment to fully support and develop entrepreneurship in our country.

“We trust and believe that hosting the congress in Istanbul will assist us to achieve our goal to grow sustainable businesses,” he added.

Speaking at the GEC 2018 Ministerial, South Africa’s Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, shared insights into activities and successes achieved through GEN Africa.

“Great work has been achieved through the support of the GEN community. I look forward to seeing GEN Africa facilitate regional dialogues that encourage and support implementation of policy interventions to guide and support the public and private sector.”

South Africa bagged three prestigious awards at GEC 2018.

Since the formation of the Department of Small Business Development, many stakeholders have noted some challenges and successes faced by the department.

Yet the recent GEC 2018 awards bestowed on South Africa and received by Zulu strongly emphasise the crucial role the department plays in empowering a culture of entrepreneurship in South Africa.

The awards, listed below, rewarded the efforts of both the department and the GEN in Africa.

* The Compass Award for GEN Country of the Year in recognition of South Africa’s rapid progress in the creation of a GEN country entity that encompasses strong board leadership, strategic planning and performance in achieving outcomes ahead of schedule.

* The Brand Champions Award which acknowledges the country’s outstanding work in promoting the Global Entrepreneurship Network brand and its values across South Africa, but also the continent.

* The Research Champion of the Year Award with special thanks to the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, which championed various entrepreneurship study and research programmes in the country.

“We are extremely pleased with the outcomes. Team SA has done us proud, as these awards are recognition for our collective efforts and commitment to creating a dynamic South African entrepreneurial ecosystem,” she lauded.

It’s evident that entrepreneurs and small businesses are, and always will be, the lifeblood of any country’s economy.

Yet in South Africa, the question remains whether our Department of Small Business Development is still relevant in this regard.

In my view, however, and with the above in mind, the question now should rather be how do the ecosystem stakeholders support the department by giving it the staying power it deserves - and not how to just disband it.

Kizito Okechukwu is the executive head of SEA Africa and co-chair of GEN Africa, 22 on Sloane. 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest start-up campus.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.


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