Kizito Okechukwu, the co-chairperson of GEN Africa. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency/ANA
JOHANNESBURG - This year, Istanbul, Turkey, now a thriving start-up hub that is both an economic and cultural cornerstone of Europe and Asia, will host the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) 2018 from April 16 to 19.

Held annually, the week-long GEC regularly attracts thousands of like-minded entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers and other start-up champions from all over the world to collaborate, share insights and identify new ways of empowering and fast-tracking sustainable new ventures across the globe.

Just a year ago, the GEC was held in Johannesburg, which marked the congress’s inaugural gathering on the continent and recorded the highest number of delegates in attendance since its inception.

President Cyril Ramaphosa officially opened the event, alongside Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu and Gauteng Premier David Makhura.

In his keynote address, Ramaphosa encouraged ecosystems within the continent to embrace and foster an African entrepreneurship network where participants will collaborate well beyond this event in promoting intra-African trade.

The overall success, vibrancy and interest in the congress from across the continent also led to the opening of Africa’s largest Startup Campus, 22 On Sloane, in November 2017.

The 2018 congress will feature sessions on leading-edge topics that focus on exponential thinking, the entrepreneurial mindset, culture and the barriers that exist within all entrepreneurship ecosystems. More than 900 delegates from several African countries will be heading to Turkey, making it one of the largest and strongest continental delegations to attend the global event since its inception in 2007.

This is mostly due to the lead-up and awareness campaigns initiated by the Global Entrepreneurial Network (GEN) and its partners, which targeted various key rural communities and cities in various countries ahead of and after the GEC 2017.

The GEN in South Africa will be well represented by a delegation that includes both public and private-sector key stakeholders, such as the chairperson of GEN South Africa and executive of Hollard, Nyeleti Magadze, who will be participating in various discussions at GEC 2018.

A ministerial in Istanbul will be held where Minister Lindiwe Zulu will be joined by ministers from Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Kenya, The Gambia and many more.

“I am pleased to see a great attendance from the African delegation. This will enable us to showcase our entrepreneurial prowess to the world with one voice and as one very large community,” says the Small Business Development Minister.

Mqondisi Mhlanzi, founder of Primetime Studios and a 22 On Sloane resident, will join the South African delegation and participate in various activities in Turkey. He adds that “growing up in a small township of KwaZulu-Natal as kids, we felt certain things were just not meant for us”.

Mhlanzi says occasions where there is access to opportunity are few and far between. However, he feels 22 On Sloane has created a great platform for young people.

“This trip to Istanbul couldn’t have come at a better time for us. We look forward to learning and connecting with fellow entrepreneurs from around the world. The programme has amazing activities and speakers lined up and we are very grateful for this wonderful opportunity and we plan to take full advantage of it,” he concludes.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chairperson of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa - 22 On Sloane and executive head of SEA Africa.

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

- BUSINESS REPORT