It’s very rare for the South African tech start-up ecosystem to get attention from the South African government. By nature start-ups just do what they do without the need to consult with government. Across the globe, most start-ups surprise governments with innovations that get governments to pay attention. In South Africa the tech start-up ecosystem needs governments to listen and pay attention. A group of tech start-up organisations that are mostly in Cape Town have recommended that SA should establish a start-up act to address challenges within the ecosystem. They include AfricArena, Digital Collective Africa, Endeavor South Africa, i4Policy, Loudhailer, the Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SAVCA), Silicon Cape, SiMODiSA, and Wesgro.
Matsi Modise, founder and investor in Furaha Afrika Holdings, vice-chairperson of SiMODiSA, and chairperson of the SA Startup Act Steering Committee, indicated to the president that there was no better time than now for South Africa to reposition itself as a gateway for high impact, high growth technology entrepreneurship on the continent. She stated that South Africa was losing a lot of talented entrepreneurs due to outdated and a disabling policy framework. “In order for South Africa to be an attractive destination for investors, talent and entrepreneurs, we must implement a Start-up Act which will be an all-encompassing pathway for South Africa to be an African start-up nation.”
Among the leaders who attended the session is the former Wesgro CEO and Digital Collective Africa board member Tim Harris, who pointed out that: “There is an urgency to implementing these proposals now because South Africa's tech leadership on the African continent is under threat, even as the world is waking up to the potential in the market. I was in Europe last week with a group of young African tech entrepreneurs, and it was clear that momentum is shifting to Kenya and Nigeria. We are losing our competitiveness on the continent.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa responded positively to the demands by the start-up ecosystem, “With regards to the South African Start-up Act, I would like us to consider that … if we are serious about promoting entrepreneurship, we need to think about how we boost start-up activity.”
It remains to be seen, however, how various parts of the government will respond to the proposed start-up act which will require a diverse group of government entities to co-operate.