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JSE, Sagarmatha first to tame African Unicorn

By George Sebulela Time of article published Apr 6, 2018

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We salute the JSE and Sagarmatha Technologies for being the first to tame an "African Unicorn": the first company to list on the South African stock exchange with a valuation of over $1billion (R11.9bn).

It’s been an interesting business-news week in South Africa. First, the announcement that Cape Town-based Sagarmatha Technologies, Africa’s first multi-sided- platform Unicorn, prepares to list on the JSE, then confirmation of South Africa’s ascendancy to the chairmanship of Brics and leadership of the Brics Business Council. The week has also witnessed fuel-price adjustments, VAT increases and reactions, the ups-and-downs of the local and international bourses, and the usual goings-on in the general business world.

But, let’s go back to the beginning. Sagarmatha’s pre-listing statement, while it has certainly raised a few eyebrows, has also been met with some acclaim - from those who understand the convergence of media, e-commerce and m-commerce.

But, what strikes me most about this week’s news, is the stark absence of acknowledgement for the JSE’s move to grant Sagarmatha Technologies its listing.

While it’s a first for African Unicorns, it’s also a first for an African stock exchange. It marks a new and very exciting era.

Understanding multi-sided- platforms, their potential and their value, is intricate. Kudos then, to the venerable institution for recognising the future of economic growth and business transformation. It is, indeed, radical.

It’s a historic occasion for South Africans too. There are literally millions of people who will benefit directly from Sagarmatha’s growth in the years to come.

I am all too aware of how this may appear as a sweeping statement, but the Black Business Council's (BBC) support of Sagarmatha Technologies is based on its own interrogation of the business model, and the fact that broad-based black involvement in this venture will free up participative economic growth by putting it into the hands of the people - literally.

It would be remiss of us at the BBC to ignore the attempts this week to derail Sagarmatha Technologies’ listing, with attacks from certain quarters on some of the personalities, businesses and institutions involved.

While focused on this, they have missed the finer points of the MSP business model, especially when in South Africa alone, the forecast for online spending is expected to reach more than R53 billion in 2018*. Much of that will be from black South Africans included in the digital economy. As this number probably only represents around 2% of people transacting on mobile or via digital means, the scope for growth is exponential - especially when considering the rapid adoption of alternative settlement means.

Beyond the benefits to the immediate stakeholders, are the new jobs, training and skills that will be created as a result of the capital raised.

This is a fundamental mandate for Sagarmatha and its leadership. IT engineers are in short supply in South Africa (and across the continent) - 5 000 are already planned, but it is envisaged that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the new types of jobs and opportunities that will be opened by more MSPs coming to fruition as a result of this first listing.

All of this speaks to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address and his Youth Employment Service initiative (YES).

Africa is known as an innovative continent - while necessity has often motivated this, our inventions are nevertheless ground-breaking and admired.

They are also starting to be adopted around the world. 54% of MSPs are located in the US and 23% come from China, but Africa is rising, and companies like Sagarmatha Technologies stand ready to catch that wave and ride it.

We as the BBC, say “Yes” to this.

* PayPal’s 3rd annual global report on cross-border trade in partnership with IPSOS.

** Sebulela is secretary general of the Black Business Council

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