CEO of South Africa based Sakhumnotho Group Holdings, Sipho Mseleku, has challenged African governments to put entrepreneurial training at the heart of education and is calling for greater collaboration amongst African business leaders to tackle Africa’s primary economic challenges.
In an interview with AfricaLive.net, Mr Mseleku said “Africa has a failing education system. Africa’s education systems focus more on academic training than entrepreneurial training and that is proving quite problematic.
“We at Sakhumnotho believe that entrepreneurship is the missing piece towards the growth of African economies.”
Mr Mseleku, former President of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and former CEO of the SADC Chambers of Commerce and Industry, has grown Sakhumnotho Group into a diversified investment holding business with interests in financial services, mining, property, media & communications, education, and oil & gas sectors.
In response to the challenges facing economies across the continent, Sakhumnotho has established two organisations set to have a meaningful impact in Mr Mseleku’s native South Africa and internationally. The Global Business Roundtable, an international network of professionals and companies, is focused on making a contribution towards poverty eradication through economic activity and The Global Business School of Entrepreneurship is a Johannesburg based institution that trains aspiring entrepreneurs on how to start, maintain and grow their businesses.
Africa’s Entrepreneurial Challenge
Across the continent, the statistics show both how reliant African economies are on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the challenges that entrepreneurs face in developing job-creating businesses.
SMEs are estimated to be responsible for over 80% of employment in Africa. Small companies account for more than 60% of the continent’s business-to-business spending, and over 80% in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
However, many parts of the continent have the highest failure rates in the world for new businesses. 71% of new companies launched in South Africa will have closed within their first year.
For those who do survive, scaling up is challenging. Only about 1% of micro-enterprises that have started with less than five employees have grown to employ 10 people or more.
Access to capital is a significant challenge for African entrepreneurs and small business owners, with Africa’s SMEs facing a credit gap of $135 billion.
However, the challenge goes beyond finances. As Mr Mseleku explains “When I served as the CEO of the Association of SADC Chambers, my team and I commissioned an entrepreneurship research project where we sought to find out the main challenges that faced SMEs in the SADC region.
“The findings of this research showed how access to information and training were key challenges for SMEs.
“Further key challenges facing SMEs in this region was access to procurement opportunities and access to finance opportunities”
Global Business School of Entrepreneurship
The first step Sakhumnotho Group took towards tackling Africa’s entrepreneurship challenge was the establishment of the Global Business School of Entrepreneurship (GBSE) in 2008.
The role of the school is to provide a solution to the triple threat of unemployment, poverty, and inequality through our entrepreneurial training. Furthermore, GBSE works with corporates, government and non-profit organisations offering training to employees to encourage growth and development of an entrepreneurial culture.
Mr Mseleku sees the challenges facing new entrepreneurs as information, training, and access to opportunities.
The school is structured in a way to tackle these challenges individually.
Mr Mseleku explains “Our SME Business Tool Kit addresses the information part, while the school curriculum tackles the training part.
“We teach students the basics of getting started with their business, compliance issues, registration issues, taxation issues, and even pieces of legislation that concern business. We also go deep into marketing, sales, staff recruitment, and corporate governance.
“The SME Business Toolkit covers everything about SMEs. It is so comprehensive to the point where we are certain that students will not need to go anywhere else for SME information.
“The school tackles the training challenges that aspiring business people face. In our findings, access to business and procurement opportunities, as well as access to finance also came up. The school addresses these by linking graduates to business opportunities. We are also looking to incubate the best students that come through the ranks by mentorship and coaching.”
GBSE is ensuring young African businesspeople develop with the skills to create employment opportunities rather than to seek them.
Global Business Roundtable
Following on from the establishment of GBSE, In 2009 Mr Mseleku established the Global Business Roundtable, of which he is currently President. Ten years later, the Global Business Roundtable has a presence in 82 countries and continues to grow.
GBR is a non-profit organisation that seeks to uplift people in developing countries. By enabling productive networking, GBR can harness the collective power of engaged business leaders prepared to make an impact on society.
In a continent where governments often struggle to create the environment required for broad socio-economic development, the private sector’s role becomes critical.
“Through the GBR, we have funded many organisations over the years. We’ve spent more than fifty million dollars supporting the growth of organisations that seek to improve societies” says Mr Mseleku
“We have also been able to facilitate exhibitions, roundtable discussions, and talk shows that showcase African business. Our next big project will be on agriculture, we have massive land yet our people are starving. We want to play a huge role in ensuring that future generations don’t have to deal with food insecurity.”
Education also sits at the heart of the goals of the GBR. While the GBSE focuses on skills development, the Global Business Roundtable Leadership Academy was established to tackle a particular problem crippling Africa’s economic development.
“The GBR Leadership Academy focuses on producing ethical leaders that have a strong moral code. It is designed to create an immune system against the rampant corruption we have seen in business and politics globally” explains Mr Mseleku.
Given that Africa loses an estimated $148bn to corruption each year – more than enough money to fund that credit gap facing SMEs – installing moral and ethical values in tomorrow’s leaders is paramount to creating a prosperous, fair and safe future for the continent.
Entrepreneurship training from the early education stage – Africa’s Path Forwards
Mr Mseleku calls for both governments and private businesses to increase their focus on training entrepreneurs and supporting SMEs.
“All over Africa, schools focus mostly on academia and rarely on entrepreneurship content. This topic is central to the unemployment crisis on the continent because graduates are seeking employment opportunities instead of starting businesses” says Mr Mseleku.
“Our governments must, therefore, focus on entrepreneurship training right from the early education stage as this can contribute to having future generations thinking innovatively about the continent’s employment crisis. Pro-entrepreneurship legislation would also help considerably. If the creation and support of SMEs were made a key performance indicator for large companies, I believe more jobs would be created.”