Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General for Statistics South Africa
JOHANNESBURG - When I left Statistics SA, among a number of options I had to consider in the after-life of the organisation was a call by the co-chairperson of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN Africa), Kizito Okechuku, to join 22OnSloane as a resident researcher, adviser.

It is very difficult to resist Kizito, many will tell you. At his wedding earlier in the year many of us who were there, including political representatives, had unique stories about his charming and unobtrusive, but definitely persuasive, approach that tells you a no is a non-answer.

Little did I expect that during BRICS 22OnSloane would be privileged as the venue that would host the BRICS First Ladies, and thought to myself that 22OnSloane certainly punches above its weight and should, therefore, be poised even for greater things in the future. We had the privilege of actually connecting with many people who were coming to 22OnSloane for the first time.

Precious Motsepe was one of them.

We had the opportunity to engage with her on a range of challenges confronting our country, and she promised to come back shortly to see and understand what 22OnSloane is about.

Surely there would have been many venues more elegant and possibly more comfortable with high visibility security in the very glitzy higher than five-star facilities in Sandton that could have hosted the distinguished excellencies for showcasing South Africa’s creative arts and fashion designs. But 22OnSloane, which is modest, albeit impressive, in its outward trappings compared to a five-star hotel or conference centre, offers more - and it’s this more that I would like to elaborate on and what that portends for the future.

History was made at 22OnSloane on the 100th anniversary of Madiba. The facility prides itself with an insatiable ambition. 22OnSloane collaborates with others, and advocates for entrepreneurship and broker opportunities through a unique practice of learning through doing.

But central to the ambition, which I surmise could not go unnoticed, as reflected by it being a venue for display to excellencies, 22OnSloane immersed itself in research and fact-based practice to entrepreneurship.

There are some significant facts about 22OnSloane.

It has a horizon that aims to resolve some of the human conditions of deprivation and want. Let me cover one each in the three areas of achievements, challenges and risks.

Within the very short period of conception of 22OnSloane, there are now 80 resident start-ups. These are predominantly in technology. They were selected out of an arduous process that whittled them down from 800 applicants.

The selection process was robust and remained driven by the human spirit of ubuntu. It lacked neither the flair, nor the whistles and bells of “you are fired” for those who were in the running and could not make it, as we whittled it down to the selection of 80.

It is important to realise that it could not have been possible to come to the 80 without the contribution of the endeavour of the 800.

Who knows, in the fullness of time it may not be inconceivable to discover gems in the 720 that did not make it. Perhaps by then we shall have discovered lenses hitherto unknown, that will reveal the beauty of the ideas the 720 advanced.

The more than 800 aspirant start-ups that knocked on the doors of 22OnSloane seeking participation and inclusion remain a significant challenge to address. However, through partnerships we mitigate the challenge.

Our environment allows for the flow of ideas and self-management of expression by would-be partners and would-be suitors that they make on the ideas that flow freely at 22OnSloane.

While there is power in numbers, and BRICS knows this too well because its members count their populations in multiples of a hundred million, the staff complement at 22OnSloane is only 14, and the exposure it got to the billions of population going forward could be an interesting risk to address.

We, however, mitigate this by defining 22OnSloane as a collaborator in entrepreneurship, 22OnSloane as an advocate for entrepreneurship and 22OnSloane as an entrepreneurship broker.

This deliberate and superior leveraging strategy delivers operational effectiveness and efficiency throughout the value chains 22OnSloane has been exposed to. What better way of demonstrating scaling up through leverage. 22OnSloane is a laboratory with far reaching impact.

In conclusion, 22OnSloane was conceived nine months ago with pedigree sperm from none other than Richard Branson.

It has been in gestation waiting patiently for its birth and its beauty to be revealed. The moment of birth came.


Representatives of First Ladies of BRICS performed the midwifery responsibility of delivering 22OnSloane to the world through an auspicious show of talent and creative arts.

In this regard the First Ladies of BRICS are the rights holders to the secrets of the umbilical cord and placenta of 22OnSloane. In the BRICS First Ladies 22OnSloane has established permanent and trusted parenting, motherhood and guidance as it pursues its mission.

Like Zakia, the short one who climbed the tree to see Jesus as he marched through crowds, here at BRICS like Jesus, 22OnSloane unmounted the tree and had the privilege of dining with dignitaries of BRICS.

The staff are young, energetic and are committed boys and girls, who will benefit from the motherly guidance of First Ladies of BRICS. Through this unforgettable gesture 22OnSloane has become a city on the hill.

A city that shines and one that cannot be hidden. The ambition of 22OnSloane certainly has been given a boost and is within reach.

With the constant presence and support from Minister Lindiwe Zulu of Small Businesses 22OnSloane is poised for greater things.

Dr Pali Lehohla is a Resident Research Adviser at 22OnSloane. He is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and Former Head of Statistics South Africa.

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