If we want radical economic transformation, it needs to be in the entrepreneurial sphere. Entrepreneurs are the job creators in any economy. It’s only entrepreneurs in the mainstream economy that will give us the NDP’s 11 million new jobs by 2030.
The establishment of entrepreneurship is not a top down process, but on ground level by people themselves.
This was according to DeWet Schoeman, director of the Centre for Applied Entrepreneurship at USB Executive Development (USB-ED), speaking as part of a panel at the US Woordfees in Stellenbosch. Supported by USB-ED, the discussion was broadcasted live on the RSG program Praat Saam on Thursday, 9 March 2017.
The discussion was in reference to radical economic empowerment, how it should be interpreted in a changing world and what lessons could be learned from Afrikaner entrepreneurs.
DeWet said that in the past the Afrikaner community managed to create an eco-system in which entrepreneurs could establish and grow themselves. It is a very dynamic and sensitive process. The challenge today is not to destroy this system, but to introduce new players to it.
About the BEE system being only about ticking boxes, Schoeman said box ticking takes the focus away from true entrepreneurship where compliance to all sorts of regulations become important to only survive.
“If you only survive there is no meaningful growth. One understands where BEE comes from, but it needs to be delicately managed. There is much willingness to assist in BEE, but it should be understood that none of the great ‘super entrepreneurs’ of the past have become rich overnight.
“It did not happen because, but despite of the system they found themselves in. It took time and very hard work. Some good thing are currently happening, but we need to be careful not to disturb this eco-system and make it counterproductive,” Schoeman said.
A systematic approach should be used to support entrepreneurs, while a fine distinction between empowerment and redistribution has to be made. The aim should be to empower people to be just as effective in the new economy. Redistribution only will not work.
In this regard, Dr Anton Ehlers of the history department at Stellenbosch University said that research at the university’s economics department has shown that if the total assets of South Africa’s six billionaires are redistributed equally among the population, everyone will only get R5 758. In American dollar terms there are 38 500 South African millionaires, which will equates to R38 282 for every citizen.
“The problem is that this is a one-off payment with the creators of wealth being eliminated in the process.”
Deputy executive director at Agri SA, Christo van der Rheede, said entrepreneurship is a very special piece of DNA of a person and it is not everyone that has it. It is someone that has the ability to see an opportunity, accepts the risk and to turn it into a profitable business.
“We saw how the Afrikaner community came together 70 years ago and went forward in business - also the Jewish and English community. Today we also see how the black community is searching for ways to do that.
“We should not blame a community for having the skills to create capital. Rather learn from them and take it with into the future.”
Van der Rheede said there is a difference between an entrepreneur and someone that wants to get rich overnight – an entrepreneur grab and make use of opportunities.
“We need to establish a new ethos towards entrepreneurship in the country. It is the heart of economic growth. We need a total cultural shift away from a welfare to wealth creation - also from race to talent,” Van der Rheede said.