Entrepreneurship got a much-needed shot in the arm with the launch yesterday of Startup Nations South Africa (Sunsa), a collaborative effort aimed at helping start-ups in South Africa.
It was launched at Wits Business School on 10 November by Minister of Small Business Lindiwe Zulu, The Innovation Hub chief executive McLean Sibanda, and Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) chief executive Geoffrey Qhena. Sunsa is a collaborative effort between The Innovation Hub, a subsidiary of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency that helps to drive sustainable job creation and inclusive economic growth and development in Gauteng; the IDC, the state-owned development finance institution; and Wits Business School.
Sunsa joins a global network, including Startup Britain, Startup Chile, Startup Malaysia, Startup China, Startup Norway, Startup Australia and more recently Startup Brazil, Startup Vietnam and Startup Korea. This is a global community leading a revolution in entrepreneurship. It focuses on advancing the national agenda for entrepreneurship and the creation of a sustainable environment where start-ups and small businesses can meaningfully contribute to the economic and social development of a country.
In South Africa, Sunsa aims to build a trusted knowledge-network of highly connected local and global innovation and entrepreneur thought leaders who will provide strategic guidance on how best to create a national impact and encourage dialogue on entrepreneurship capacity development.
It will focus on creating a national collaboration platform between the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society. It is believed this collaborative effort will mobilise human, financial and institutional resources as a means to support, develop and grow start-up businesses in South Africa.
“Get up, step up and ride the entrepreneurship wave rising in South Africa,” said Zulu. “The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 annual survey reminds us that entrepreneurship levels in our country are the lowest they have been in three years. The call to action is for all of us to work hard to inculcate a culture of entrepreneurship in the country. We must consciously strive to build a nation of entrepreneurs and not a nation of job-seekers.”
In the spirit of vukuzenzele – an IsiZulu words that loosely translates as “wake up and do for self” – she added, “our people must seize the economic opportunities presented by our democracy and freedom to build and grow businesses”.
Qhena said that while challenges continued to characterise certain sectors of the economy, “I need to emphasise this point to small business owners – there are abundant opportunities for growth in certain sectors of the economy… As the IDC and Startup Nations South Africa, we need to inform them of these opportunities and help them to commercialise these opportunities and get a slice of the pie.”
Sunsa will work to make concrete South Africa’s National Development Plan or Vision 2030. Qhena explained that the IDC’s infrastructure would be used to leverage Sunsa’s activities and impact so that it could support, uplift and develop small and medium enterprises and youth.
INNOVATION IS KEY
An entrepreneur ecosystem that drives innovative solutions for local problems is needed, Sunsa contends, hence its mantra – spark, seed and sustain. As a full member of Startup Nations and Global Entrepreneurship Week, supported by the Kauffman Foundation, it will enable local start-up businesses to share best practices and collaborate with like-minded peers around the world.
“Innovation is critical for the growth of our economy, as the National Development Plan acknowledges,” Sibanda said. “Start-ups are important elements of ensuring that innovation reaches the market and starts to contribute towards job creation, poverty reduction and competitiveness… The Innovation Hub supports the establishment of the Startup Nations South Africa platform as a means of creating an enabling environment that will contribute to start-ups becoming high growth businesses.”