In February, I had honoured the invitation of moderating the Investor Forum at the annual Timeless Women’s Conference in Kigali, Rwanda which is one of the leading women empowerment conferences in Africa, and truly a Pan-African experience. Garnished with high-level speakers such as former First Ladies, Members of Parliament, Executives and Impact -driven Entrepreneurs, it was a convening that invited an opportunity to measure and see how Africans and those in the diaspora can do so in engaging discussions, and through that, create shared value.
Traveling to Rwanda for the first time, it certainly lived up to the expectation of it being one of the technology capitals of Africa. The moment I landed at Kigali International Airport, I was met with the warmest of service at the counters and my visa processed on arrival without any hassles. Before I knew it, it was time to get on stage at the two-day event, and moderate the investor forum which highlighted about Investing in Africa through themes including and not limited to Policy and Regulation, FDI and DFI, SMMEs, Digitization and Inclusive Capital Deployment. If anything to come out of the session, it’s that capital and innovation can’t solely be reliant on the private sector, government has to not only be visible in and during elections, but throughout the year, and so its work.
“Intra-Africa trade has been historically low. Intra-African exports were 16.6%
of total exports in 2017, compared with 68% in Europe and 59% in Asia,
pointing to untapped potential.” – World Economic Forum
“According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), under the African
Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), intra-African trade is likely to
increase by 52.3% by 2020.”– United Nations
Taking the above statistics into considerations, the engaged conference and traveling to one of Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Hotspots and one of the five fastest-growing economies on the continent, inspired me to analyse and share the concept of CSV through the diaspore lens, and through the channel of lessons learnt through my few days in Rwanda.
An academic concept coined by Harvard Business School Professors Michael Porter and Mark R. Kramer and was introduced in 2011 in the Harvard Business Review article ‘Creating Shared Value.’, this concepts looks at the core of wealth creation through shared value. CSV asks the question of how do you capitalise the very capitalism to trade, scale and share in profits and social impact by not trading off the one for the other?
CSV has been proposed to be achieved in THREE ways, and that is by Reconceiving products and markets, Redefining productivity in the value chain and Enabling local cluster development. Let’s take a look at how we can enable. Nurture and catalyse the principle of CSV and dive into examples and proposals of such an effort:
- Reconceiving Products and Markets
The first of the three keys of CSV in unlocked in creating new products and services or markets that will serve the socio-economic needs identified. This is the opportunity for intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs to activate value through the channel of new product innovation, and/or integrate them in products and markets that already exist.
Market-creating innovation (innovation that doesn’t rely on post infrastructure society and the financial markets it’ll create) that will help close the infrastructure financing gap in the range of US$68-US$108 billion. We need to propel further access into education for this opportunity and retain young people as per Whitney Houston (I believe the children are our future) – we need to let them lead the way. We need to center the youth in these dialogues, we encourage that.
Examples of such innovations are crowdfunding platforms as open innovation tools for co-creation, startups changing the course of African innovation and a COVID-19 investor matchup tool for startups (piloting). These examples continue to call upon the power of collaboration, creating new products (new or incremental) and a desire for a new market.
- Redefining Productivity in the Value Chain
Creating new products is great, but how do we ensure that efficiency is created, monitored and evaluated on par with the excellence that the product is created with? The value chain in Africa disrupted by one of few mechanisms, that of which includes the role of government in actualising the full potential of its nations. Looking at channels to access, use and manage resources, energy, suppliers, logistics innovatively and to full potential, and more productively is a unique opportunity as it is a challenge. African leadership is more than unfortunately regarded for the moral decay in leadership. Africa needs to become deliberate about the type of leadership that the continent requires to continue to open the runway for investment. Transformational leaders who are thinking generationally.
The difference in policy and regulations is that sometimes the policy frameworks doesn’t gel as well as with the outcome of the policy. We need to ensure that the AfCFTA and its compliance will bear the fruit that the projections of impact are highlighting. Government must lead prioritize in creating an enabling environment where better policies and regulations can be established for not only the multinationals but the SMMEs – creating Startup Acts and executing AfCFTA (now delayed due to COVID-19).
- Enabling Local Network and Development
Over the course of the years, we’ve witnessed and some participated in the FDI and particularly the investment in education, youth and technology as we’ve seen with Andela, Africa Netpreneur Prize (with Alibaba and Jack Ma), the expansion of Facebook Developer Circles across African cities and Mark Zuckerburg’s visit to Nigeria – this trend is one of clear opportunity that has potential to alleviate many social ills of our society. Improving the local operating environment through skills development and development training will invite coding academies like GirlCode, startup competitions like Seedstars World, incubating organisations like Foundervine and government-led innovations like Kigali Innovation City and its collaborators to pave the way. This is nothing new for Africa, and the through the interconnectedness and shared passion across the diaspora, CSV can be leveraged for its economic benefits to serve.
Ready to Create and Impact Value?
When we refer to the industrial revolutions and mention the empires that changed the course of history, that of the African Renaissance is often eclipsed. In his book Tech Adjacent, engages on the pioneering continent that Africa was and still is when it comes to technology, research and development and innovation. This leads us to the statistics provided earlier on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, and the need to develop mechanisms that something like 4IR can bring to radicalize economic value and growth.
So what will it take to tap into this value and create it? The secret sauce is Africa is in the continent’s true diversity, resources, youth, (cross sector) collaboration, intra-African trade, community and innovation.
Investing in Africa and the diaspora is a paradigmatic moment for the continent and is inviting various stakeholders including DFIs and independent investors from across the globe. AFCTA is the heart of investment confidence at present in interstate trade and development talks. Partnerships and collaboration are prime in executing the policy frameworks and projects, and conferences like these hotbeds for creating such opportunities.
Although the science of CSV is that it pays for itself and is Daviding the Goliath of capitalism, capital resource allocation is the root of why the scales are not balanced, and how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has come to pass. Also, in areas and communities where capital and its resources are needed for economic activity, a priority needs to place beyond championing the gift of food parcels. Africa and the diaspora can, are and will maximise the profit of nations and their organisations and continue to connect the thread and networks to inclusively innovate and develop for economic and development purposes.
I was having one of my Sunday bookstore dates one beautiful, sunny Cape Town afternoon and like a bear with honey coated paws, I gravitated my sticky fingers towards the business and personal development sections of the store. At the time, I was with global intelligence and media company, Thomson Reuters, who put a great deal and emphasis on career and personal development, and I wanted so much to bulk study and learn. In its very bold pink letters, I saw a cover with the letters “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office”, and my wallet and I fell for the bait.
Upon further reading and cooping myself up in Exclusive Books’, I realised that I was reading a revised and updated version of the book. “Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage their Careers” was the full name of the book, a mouthful, I know, but Dr Lois Frankel who authored the book does a great job in unceremoniously unpacking these mistakes.
Have you ever found yourself apologizing before you talk or ask a question? Immediately disqualifying your credentials for a job or board opportunity? Invalidate your article before it gets published, and thus never letting it see the light of day? How about always sitting at the back of meetings or using non-words, what Frankel describes as “credibility busters” to communicate? I’ll raise both my hands with you because I’ve been guilty of these behaviours, or what the author calls Nice Girl Behaviour, what she deems necessary but not sustainable for success.
In the book, Frankel confronts over 130 mistakes that women (and I’d like to add early entrants into the workplace and/or industry) make that set them up for corner office sabotage success; with the corner office a metaphor for transactional spaces (mental and physical) where we’ve placed boundaries that limit our potential to actualise our excellence and badassness. The book pairs coaching tips to action after every mistake as well as plentiful resources provided by Frankel and a few appearances from her industry peers. Delivered with the sharpness of freshly squeezed lemon juice, the author doesn’t shy away from recognising patriarchy’s psychological contribution and economic returns, as well as women’s conscious roles in sabotaging their own careers.
With that said, I strongly believe that some of Frankel’s strong biases would fall through the cracks in some chapters and mistakes ,and in particular to the seventh chapter dealing with “How You Look”. As with any self-development resource, you have to take it with a pinch of articulation and understand that it’s as generic as the sand granules unless its tailored to a career development plan for you. There are definitely some coaching tips that I found incredibly helpful and have been using over the past few weeks, and others which the internal consultant in me honoured not for me.
Every few moments that I had to share snippets of the book on my social media platforms, the feedback would be from women who had already read it and provided great feedback and others who hadn’t, but wanted to ardently get their hands on it. I too, continue to greatly endorse this book from international best seller, Dr Lois Frankel, for all genders for self-development as well as conscious empowerment of women in the workplace and in industry.
Entrepreneurship, it’s far beyond meetings at coffee shops, sleek silver grey PCs and colourful socks, it’s a design that’s a function of human-centred solutions and banking on the market in the gap. And, in most emerging markets like Africa and Asia, small and medium businesses contribute a large portion to not only a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but also in alleviating social ills like unemployment and limited access to affordable healthcare. And no business can operate as an island; access to markets, capital investment and capabilities are just some of the tools needed to operate and scale a business, something that the Entrepreneur of the Year® (EOY) Awards offers and enables.
What is Entrepreneur of Year Awards?
Proudly sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, the Entrepreneur of the Year® Awards is an annual competition that recognises and honours small and medium enterprises in South Africa who are innovative in their businesses, and create not only profitable businesses, but enterprises of social and economic impact. The competition invites esteemed entrepreneurs, investors and veterans in business like Matsi Modise and David Morobe to judge this notable competition, and uses various filtering processes to mitigate bias and error.
So, what’s in it for Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS in investing in such a platform? “We’ve been in business for over 38 years and understand that entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. As such, we created the competition as a platform to acknowledge the efforts made by business owners to assure them that they are on the right track and to link them with other entrepreneurs for networking and business opportunities,” says Gugu Mjadu, Spokesperson for the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS.
Gugu adds that the awards were also introduced with the aim to contribute towards stimulating entrepreneurial activity in the country. “We want aspiring entrepreneurs to look at the EOY award winners and believe that it is possible to achieve success and wealth via entrepreneurship,” she adds.
What Access to Market?
With so many competitions, events and awards in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, it can be difficult to track the impact and progress of the capital that the entrepreneurs receive from these organisations. According to the SME Landscape Report An Assessment of South Africa’s SME Landscape: Challenges, Opportunities, Risks & Next Steps’ 2018/2019, it was revealed that almost 52% of entrepreneurs care and prioritize about access to market than anything else for their businesses and also need assistance in access, especially small and medium business, using this is a springboard to enabling their companies to scale.
But what is Access to Market? And how does it enable small and medium businesses to thrive? Market access is the conditions and measures set by countries to enable or to restrict transactions and trade of their products. These conditions for small and medium enterprises are also upheld by the bureaucracy that exists in both public and private sectors, at times making it difficult for the smaller players to get a piece of the market share. This is why, more than ever, it’s important for big players like Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS to enable market access, through either their own market or with the financial capital that is up for grabs in this year’s awards.
EOY's Strategy for Entrepreneurship Access in South Africa
“Take 2017 Innovator of the Year® winner and owner of Pimp my Book, Mpodumo Doubada – he says the direct spin-off from the EOY awards was a far more positive reception from various universities and corporates – who had heard about their company through the media and became a little more open to trying their innovative approach. Post winning, he also opened a new store in Pretoria, signed on more than 1000 new bursary students to their bursary division. The best part is that their revenue has grown by 40% since winning the award. ” says Gugu.
Through the awards and its objective to get the entrepreneurs to build and grow a successful business, the entrepreneurs get an opportunity to leverage social networking and capital, this, with fellow entrepreneurs and credible business experts who carry insights in industries of interest. Winners also have the added advantage of receiving formal mentorship or technical assistance as one of their prizes which they can use to develop tactics for accessing markets.
Adoption Strategy for your Business
So, whether it’s the prizes to the total value of R2 million which include cash prizes of R500 000, expanding networks, receiving media and mentorship exposure, it’s important that not only you just enter the EOY Awards, but to also enter it with clarity of why and how it can benefit the scaling of the development of your business.
Entries close on 31st of May, so don’t forget to submit your applications by visiting www.eoy.co.za
It was after a much needed catch up with my mentor, over some lunch where education was the theme of the few hours we spent building the trust of the relationship and updating each other on what was new and how we could continue building each other and our ecosystems. It was intimidating to sit down with an accomplished, educated and intelligent woman, but I’m glad the tough conversation was had. It was one of the keys that led me to making a decision that was about opening up to being more, experiencing more and living more – getting out of my own way.
I was going to go back to school to obtain my under graduate degree, 6 years post matriculating from high school. Besides the reasons mentioned above, the two other motivations was the value that I know education has the potential to add to my professional and personal life, and this was also a promise that I had made to my father before he passed away.
So why did I wait 6 years to pursue my under graduate qualification? I’ve got very good reasons and excuses which were very good delay tactics, please see below:
· Pending …
- · My application was unsuccessful in two universities through past
- · I was just really lazy and afraid to start all over again
- · I didn’t think I still had it in me, curriculums and times change – insecurity’s timing is perfect. It’s a good thing that it was no measure for faith!
- · I didn’t want to save for the course because I enjoyed being careless with my money, and I didn’t know that my company had a study assistance policy
· You get my drift …
After many dress rehearsals with myself and my mother, close friends, mentors and sponsors, I decided to get over myself and begin the journey, I enrolled.
- 1. Picking the Qualification
After I finally had plucked up the courage to sit on the University of South Africa (UNISA) website, I went through the qualifications that appeared not only intimidating, but relevant for the future of corporate innovation, startups and strategic partnerships through data and modelling in preparing or the current and future economic and industrial revolutions. The data led me to BCOM Business Informatics qualification. The modules looked relevant to the objective of my desire to go back to school. I applied and got accepted. I was extremely nervous and happy at the opportunity to become a better employee and a corporate innovation practitioner.
- 2. Preparing for the Qualification
I was accepted, so what was next?
I had been accepted and found out about my company policy, but because of the university administration and a strike that happened, I was late to apply which meant that the money had to come out of my own pocket. Because I had been intentional about going back to school, I had saved up a couple of thousands of rands, and my mother was also a gem and made an investment in my first semester, that helped. The cost of studying is high, if I were to advise someone on going back who has no financial aid, it would be to starting saving yesterday, a little does go a long way.
I also had to be transparent and disclose the decision to my manager, this so that should time come needed for studying and exam time (quite a few UNISA tutorials are on Saturdays), it would be no issue.
- 3. Doing the Course
You’re going to war, so strategize!
· Prepare a Timetable - To be honest, what’s really helped is having this timetable saved as my phone screensaver and putting in alarms on my phones. Be nice to yourself and schedule in a night off during the week.
· A Strong Ecosystem - Get yourself some considerate and supportive friends who will understand when you cannot go out (time and money) because of the current investment you’re making. In the long run, this will also
· Work Smarter – If you get an assignment that aligned to the theme that you’re already doing at work, or as a side hustle, complement the two and kills as many birds as you can with the assignment stone.
· Be Kind to Yourself – By this I not only mean spa days and popping a bottle of champagne when you’ve aced that exam, but eating better and taking that digital detox when necessary because the stress can manifest in pimples and headaches.
It’s been a tough few months, I won’t lie. To be honest, there was a period where I’d given myself one week off studying because I was just lazy to, even with the grace of my alarms attempt at reminding me only to be snoozed until it stopped. The truth is that you know you and your behaviour better than any tips that I could give you, and the reason of you going back to school fulltime or part time should be motivation enough.
Congratulations to us on taking the step to go back to being educated and seeing its value in our lives, and may continue to pursue by preparing and being ready to participate in our destinies.