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 Look to Africa for Entrepreneurial Opportunities

2017-02-10 00:00
by MediaVision on behalf of USB-ED

In this picture (from left to right): Tim Harris (CEO of Wesgro), De Wet Schoeman, Ruth O'Reilly (Top Student 2016) and Helen Wright.

Understand that the economic environment is changing rapidly and look to Africa for opportunities with a huge market to tap into.

This was the key message from Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris, for the class 2017 at the recent opening of the Young Minds Entrepreneurship Programme on the Stellenbosch University campus.

The program is presented annually by the Centre for Applied Entrepreneurship at USB Executive Development (USB-ED), the public company of Stellenbosch University, with 115 participants taking part this year. The programme was started in 2011 with 27 participants and has grown over the years with more than 400 participant having completed the program.

As guest speaker at the event, Harris said that business models for the future is changing and entrepreneurs must aim to be part of this “disruption” that is taking place. “Otherwise they can be the ones that are ‘disrupted’.”

Aspiring entrepreneurs should also take time to travel the African continent. The real opportunity lies in building businesses that focuses on Africa. ”Having visited 34 African countries, most South Africans do not realise what is happing on the rest of the continent and what huge opportunity it presents.”

Opportunities in Africa is set to get bigger with 53% of income earners on the continent being between 16 and 34 years old. Africa is home to more than 1.1 billion people and is expected to reach 2.4 billion by 2050 with $400 billion in total consumption growth in the next decade.

“It is going to be an inspiring place to do business. Also, if you keep in mind that South Africa currently only supply 2% of services that are consumed in Africa. The Western Cape with it’s universities and educational institutions has the opportunity to be the leading technology hub in Africa with global tech ideas being the main driver,” Harris said.

The Western Cape economy is currently the 11th largest in Africa with business services presenting about three quarters of its output. While the area is famous for agriculture, wine and tourism with 8 of the 10 exporting products being agriculture related and important drivers for export, the Western Cape is in essence a services economy.

International investments, mainly from the UK, USA and Germany, tend to go to software, business services, oil & gas and renewable energy, while South African investment mostly goes to business services, trade & export and manufacturing.

“Internet access is a very important economic driver with 52% of South Africans already having access. This provides tech entrepreneurs with a huge opportunity for operating locally and internationally.

About the issue of Brexit and how that will impact on the Western Cape, Harris said that the UK buys a lot from the area, mainly wine, fresh fruit and beauty products. This happens under EU trading agreements, but with Brexit better trading deals are possible.

Also, with US President Donald Trump’s “America First” drive, a gap might be left by Mexico for fruit exports by the Western Cape. 

DeWet Schoeman, director of the Centre for Applied Entrepreneurship and programme leader, said the aim of the programme is to make young people excited about life and to rather see opportunities than difficulty.

“It’s all about a mind-set and to help young people to develop an attitude for success and self-confidence in a fast changing world, to have a proactive approach to life and to learn to make choices in life for yourself.

“The programme is about creating an entrepreneurial mind-set, not only for starting a business venture, but for life in general – to see opportunities and to create it for yourself. It is about self-actualization to be the best you can be,” Schoeman said.

The top participant of the programme for 2016, Ruth O’Reilly, said there is no one road to success, but many. “You as participants for 2017 have to find that road yourself to make a success in life,” O’Reilly said.  

For more information about the Young Minds Entrepreneurship Programme, contact Nicky Stoffberg on (021) 918 4343 or
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Entrepreneurship; South Africa