South Africa: Businesses Urged to Embrace Tech Revolution

South Africa Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa

South African’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has encouraged businesses to embrace digital disruption and innovation as an enabler of growth.

“To succeed, we need to understand that today’s customer is e-astute, internet-savvy and increasingly armed with a smartphone,” Deputy President Ramaphosa said on Tuesday.

Addressing the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC), which is being held in Johannesburg this year, he said the rapid changes ushered in by technological advances are transforming the human experience and business culture everywhere.

Every year, the GEC gathers together thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers and other start-up champions from more than 160 countries to identify new ways of helping founders start and scale new ventures around the world.

At the weeklong GEC, delegates make connections, gain insights, learn about new research, and leave ready to renew their programmes, policy ideas or firm founder skills.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said entrepreneurs must learn to ride the technology bandwagon to propel their businesses to success.

“Successful entrepreneurs know that a business’s real value derives from focusing on customer value and needs. We must recognise that digital disruption is a cornerstone of a modern, diversified economy.

“It is digital disruptors who redefine the competitive landscape as they strengthen knowledge-based economies,” Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

He said South Africa’s National Development Plan recognises small business as a vehicle to grow an inclusive economy and reduce poverty, unemployment and inequality.

“Small businesses, for example, will benefit from the R4.2 billion allocated this year for industrial infrastructure in Special Economic Zones and Industrial Parks.

“To broaden economic participation, government will ensure that firms awarded government tenders of R30 million or more will need to subcontract at least 30% of the value of the work to black owned SMMEs [Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises],” he said.

Furthermore, a fund of R1.5 billion has been established to support small enterprise development. The fund was established through the Presidential CEO Initiative, in which the CEOs of the country’s largest firms work with government and organised labour to promote economic growth.

“As government, we are steadily opening up market opportunities for SMMEs, both through our own procurement spend and also through black economic empowerment policies.

“Established business needs to take a similar approach if any of these efforts are to succeed,” Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

Building a continent of entrepreneurs

He also called for entrepreneurship to be part of the school curriculum.

“Young people must, from an early age, be encouraged to innovate and be problem-solvers. They must be given the skills to turn ideas into viable businesses.

“Most importantly, they must leave school appreciating that entrepreneurship can be a viable career option,” he said.

MD, Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) South Africa and Executive Head, SEA Africa Kizito Okechukwu, said the GEN will assist entrepreneurs in Africa to ensure that the business ideas they come up with are put to good use, commercialised and businesses can gain access to markets in order to ensure their success.

“We want Africa to be the home of global entrepreneurs and innovators,” Okechukwu said.

South Africa is hosting the 2017 GEC from 13 to 16 March 2017 in Johannesburg. This is the first time this prestigious international event for entrepreneurs is being held on the African continent.

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