Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu. File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – 22 on Sloane has come a long way since its launch and looking ahead it aims to start Sloane Capital to raise capital to meet the demands of the ecosystem of entrepreneurship. But I need to look at the past, to explain the future.

During Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) 22 On Sloane looks back with pride as it remembers November 2017, when it carried the GEN brand across a 10 000m2 entrepreneurship campus – 22 On Sloane – to support and welcome entrepreneurs from across Africa. 22 On Sloane was born. 

The campus was launched in November 2017 during the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), where more than 1 200 delegates attended. Attendees included the Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu; Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group; and Gauteng Premier David Makhura. 

Since then, the organisation has enjoyed an array of successes.

On that day I recall GEN Africa co-chairperson Kizito Okechukwu took me through the facility and as we parted ways he then beamed his broad contentious smile: “You see this is it – but now I need you to help me.” 

I was surprised as I knew nothing about entrepreneurship.

I said: “Kizito, I am a bean counter. What can you get out of such a profession?” He said: “Look Dr Pali, be our Resident Research Adviser and ensure that the research conducted by GEN Africa is of a high quality, whether commissioned or for the residents.” 

It was impossible to say no to the youthful far-sighted smile of Kizito, who does not have the word “no” in his dictionary. 

It has been amazing how my lens as a bean-counter has been enriched by this youthful vibrant team at 22 On Sloane. 

To date, we have hosted successful hackathons, including one dedicated to policy. Various role-players within the entrepreneurship policy hacked five key policy issues, so as to contribute towards creating a more favourable environment for entrepreneurs to thrive in.

The campus introduced monthly Start-up Huddles, with the aim of creating a conducive and comfortable environment for entrepreneurs to share their challenges and receive feedback from peers as well as ecosystem role-players. The Huddles have grown in number, attracting more than 100 people on Thursday nights.

As we head towards the end of 2018, 22 On Sloane, in partnership with the World Bank, conducted research to map government funds available for SME finance in South Africa. 

Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2018 Awards gave top honours to South Africa 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. 

Colombia also got an award. It surfaced out of more than 42 countries for their outstanding effort and commitment to starting and scaling new ventures and supporting entrepreneurship in their respective countries.

South Africa also received the award for Brand Champions – recognising the country’s outstanding work in promoting the Global Entrepreneurship Network brand and its value across not only South Africa, but also the continent.

Every year during August, which is Women’s Month, GirlCode invites female programmers to enter the GirlCode Hackathon which took place in three cities. 

In Johannesburg it took place at 22 On Sloane, which hosted 200 girls aged between 18 and 35.

22 On Sloane, was honoured to host the BRICS First Ladies Evening. Produced by the renowned Carol Bouwer, the show saw fashionistas such as Rubicon and David Tlale, among others, embrace the opportunity for models to grace the catwalk and parade their creations in front of the BRICS delegates.

Dr Precious Motsepe, the founder of African Fashion International, was among the dignitaries, which included the British high commissioner and other prominent ministers, who attended the occasion.

GEN Africa co-chairperson Kizito Okechukwu has contributed to a weekly opinion piece column in Business Report, which is a national insert in The Star, Natal Mercury, Pretoria News and Cape Times. Most articles focus on the state of the entrepreneurship ecosystem environment and highlight opportunities and challenges.

22 On Sloane has more than proven itself since its launch and demonstrates that it remains true to our mission.

Going forward the organisation shall remain an honest broker of ideas committed to connecting ideas, products, markets and above all entrepreneurs. 

It has now become clear that GEN22 On Sloane will have to raise capital to meet the demands of the ecosystem of entrepreneurship. 

As a trusted broker, collaborator and advocate the time has arrived for GEN22 On Sloane to not only embed our activities into collaboration and advocacy, but also to set our eyes on what will be Sloane Capital. 

We believe that the Sloane model of understanding, connecting, supporting and celebrating places GEN 22 On Sloane in good stead to open this new ground.

Challenges facing us among others are that we do not know the extent to which entrepreneurship is serviced in South Africa. We may not quantify its full extent, how many thirsty throats remain outside GEN22 On Sloane and other like-minded.   

There are partial studies and information bases that describe the ecosystem of the start-ups, but what we need in order to manage the challenging quantities of the unemployed are the current pipelines of entrepreneurship under-serviced and unserviced in this landscape.   

New areas and terminology such as social entrepreneurship have emerged and are now with us and we shall seek to embrace this approach as it is a movement that holds promise to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda.

We commit to our external stakeholders a seamless service from the staff of GEN 22 On Sloane in whose youthful being we are assured of learning and growth. Our systems are adapting to the new environment of technology and serve as the platform facilitating this outside the learning process.

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

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Independent Media.

BUSINESS REPORT