Article by Ayanda Mdluli – Business Report Thursday, February 3 2011.

Although the legacy of apartheid has hindered the chances of many South Africans to become entrepreneurs, Africans still have the potential to achieve by establishing businesses that can be drivers of economic growth on the continent, according to Sir Richard Branson, the renowned entrepreneur and billionaire founder of the Virgin Group.

In an interview with Business Report yesterday, Branson stressed the importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as engines that power economies, create jobs, fuel growth and ultimately transform communities.

Branson is in the country to attend an exhibition hosted by the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship at the Fashion Kapitol in Johannesburg.

The main feature of the exhibition was an outdoor fashion show, which featured Lesego Malatsi’s 2011 winter collection. Malatsi is an entrepreneur at the Branson centre and managing director of Mzansi Design Emporium.

Branson said the potential in Africa was one of the reasons the Branson centre was established.

It is located in the Johannesburg central business district and was launched by Branson and the non-profit foundation Virgin Unite in 2006. The centre aims to provide a launch pad for bold and enterprising South Africans to create successful businesses.

The centre supports aspiring entrepreneurs by teaching practical business skills and providing access to coaches. Mentors are available to share their experiences and their networks. Students are also introduces to financing opportunities which enable their businesses to grow.

He stressed that the key to ensuring success of the SME sector was to develop aspiring entrepreneurs with practical business skills and to support entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and provide advice from successful entrepreneurs on how to gain market access and funding.

Branson’s business interests in Africa would not be deterred by the current revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. In fact, he said he supported the revolts, arguing that it was time Africa stopped dictatorships in their tracks.

“I support what’s going on in Egypt and Tunisia because people do not need dictators, people need freedom.

“This is the most exciting thing to happen.”

However, the business mogul pointed out that the crises in Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe were disturbing.

He reiterated that he would not do business with countries that had leaders who disregarded the rule of law and the will of their people.

According to Branson, both political will and economic freedom are critical factors to ensuring sound business practices in a country. He stressed that Africa should not tolerate dictatorships.

Judi Sandrock, the chief executive of the centre, said the biggest challenge with aspiring entrepreneurs in South Africa was that they did not believe in themselves because society and their families had often instilled a stereotype that one should get a job and forget about starting a business.

She said the centre aimed to break down and overcome those psychological barriers and provide security.

“A lot of people are discouraged by their families from starting a business, at least here at the centre they are surrounded and mentored by likeminded people and other successful entrepreneurs.”

She noted that another important asset at the centre was the provision of strong mentors in the process of polishing entrepreneurs to become successful business owners.

Besides listening and understanding where they could best add value, mentors could also provide access to their networks, which was key in successful business practice.

Another issue which affected South African entrepreneurs was the limited access to funding from the large commercial banks.

Branson said banks across the world had a tougher stance towards entrepreneurs and he said a pro-entrepreneurship attitude and banking sector in South Africa was key to ensure faster growth.

“I started with less than a thousand rand, but managed to make it in the long run.

“Banks may lose money nine times out 10, but that one successful entrepreneur could make a significant difference and a valuable contribution to the growth of the economy,” Branson said.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

2 Responses

  1. Sedie says:

    i need to find out if i can be assisted with finance. i need to buy a franchise of R15000.00.i also need to be assisted on mentorship or growing the business as i provide individuals with credit profiles to see if they are blacklisted.

    • Admin says:

      Thank you for your enquiry. You can contact Almarie van der Vyver @ Blue Chip Finance, 0825680349

Leave a Reply

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree