You’vebeen with The Business Trust since its inception. What is the most importantthing you’ve learnt there?
There are some things we can’t doalone. The Business Trust seeks to combine the resources of government andbusiness to make a better society, but to achieve that South Africans need todevelop efficient ways of working together. That doesn’t mean we always have toagree with each other but it does mean that some things progress further andfaster when people work together. I’ve also learnt, however, that this is notalways easy to do – human beings are more competitive than they arecooperative.
Whatinspires you most?
When we can turn our dreams intoreality. I’ve been involved in getting large foreign corporations to outsourcetheir business processes to South Africa, and I am inspired when I see theimpact that new investment can have on poor communities. It provides peoplewith jobs, training and skills and links them to the global economy. It’sutterly life-changing for them and immensely inspiring to see.
Whathas been your most humbling experience in business?
I was involved in a project with theDepartment of Public Works; through that I met a worker, an elderly woman,whose job was to maintain a portion of the road. It was really tough physicalwork but she did the job for her family and she had the foresight to save someof her money to send her daughter to nursing college. It made me think abouthow tough some people’s lives are but how, if they are just given the rightopportunities, they can change the reality of future generations.
Whatdo you see as the top three challenges facing emerging entrepreneurs in SA?
One of the most important things I’velearnt comes from trying to encourage entrepreneurship in poor communities.South African entrepreneurs face a combination of unique challenges that aren’tfound in other developing nations. I refer to this as the Bermuda Trianglebecause there are three parts. Firstly, South African small businesses need todevelop cheek by jowl with a well-developed modern economy. Secondly, they arecompeting in the context of an Apartheid-designed racial economy, in otherwords, an economy that was figured not by economic rationale but rather on thebasis of political ideology. And thirdly, they are competing with an extensivewelfare system when compared to the very poor parts of Asia or Africa. These structural conditions are outside of theircontrol and set a much higher entry level threshold than in countries where thestructural conditions are different.
Howcan these challenges be overcome?
To succeed and gain access to themarket, entrepreneurs must offer products and services that meet high qualitystandards. Stronger links need to be created between established companies andthe poor and isolated areas of our country. This will help spread the benefitsof the formal economy into poor areas, while also serving the long-terminterests of large organisations by getting their products and services intoplaces they would otherwise find difficult to reach.