Andrew FenwickBy Andrew Fenwick|May 6, 2022|6 Minutes|In Risk and Glory

Risk and Glory

Banish the bullets and bake a cake!

Operating a business in Africa is very much like the viral video of terror on wheels that went online last year.It was captured by a dashcam and involves an attempted robbery by armed robbers giving chase in another vehicle, in Pretoria. They get through the harrowing ordeal alive.

The blow that this may deal to our tourism industry in South Africa may not do as well !!  Who would want to go to a country like South Africa with this happening? (and this is after the blow of how Covid19 has hit most of our industries) In a few minutes, this video would erase millions spent on huge marketing efforts to encourage people to visit our beautiful South Africa.

But Africans are as resilient as one of the most famous global entrepreneurs the world has seen, Elon Musk. (Who was born just kilometers from where the above incident took place)

It is incredible what Elon Musk has achieved! It seems like he had the tenacity, courage, ability, and skills to get to where he has. I think the most important aspect is that he was able to do what he has because he had the right environment as well.

No place is perfect, but the USA has been the breeding ground creating thousands of companies doing great things all over the world. They may have large companies, but I was surprised to learn of how many millions of thriving small businesses they have too.

In Africa, we need to be on that journey of getting the right environment to be able to do these great things, before we can do many great things ourselves. Things that improve the lives of people, creating jobs, education, and making the environment and the economies sustainable.

It’s so encouraging that there is a growing dialogue in South Africa about how best to grow small businesses. There are countless examples in Asia of what was done there, to draw ideas and concepts.

There are indeed growing examples of African countries that are having success with growing their small businesses too. Where countries have provided the environment for small businesses to grow and flourish and investors are backing these and larger businesses.

The birth of AfCFTA, the African Continental Free Trade Area, on 1 January 2021 marked the dawn of a new era for the African continent.

Part of the right environment for businesses to flourish also involves the law and order of the countries. The move to remove politicians who have been prosecuted, in South Africa, has to be one of the biggest signals that our country is moving in the right direction.

So, overall Africa is moving in the right direction, with increasingly stable democracies and improving macro environments. The pace of progress really needs to change though, we need some drastic steps to get our continent going. The elder statesmen in the respective countries will need to back this increased pace of good change, or they will be bypassed. They will be bypassed by the youth who want to make something of their lives, they will be bypassed by other nations who will slowly take over their countries.

In South Africa and Africa, the leaders will need to stop fighting over the crumbs and sit down with all stakeholders and work out the best recipe to bake a bigger cake.

One example of the above is the way the release of the spectrum has taken many years in South Africa to happen. There is speculation that this delay has been to further the interests of a small club of people who are carving out the industry, for their own personal gains. The alternative would have been to release more spectrum a decade ago and the resulting freeing up of the spectrum for the internet and other proposed uses would have given our economy a much-needed kickstart. Thousands of businesses would have had cheaper internet costs and millions of people would be benefitting from this, for healthcare, schooling, etc. The sad part is that Covid19 was the time when everyone would have really needed this, but it has not happened.

The above example can also be seen in the Energy crisis in South Africa. The crumbs got in the way of the big cake that could have been baked, decades ago!

Africa has much more to show the world, our leaders need to take us to that place where people and companies can get that chance to shine.

In Africa, we have been endowed with rich minerals, abundant sea life, fantastic agricultural lands, rich heritage, and such welcoming and hospitable people. Our people are innovative and resilient. It’s time to get baking…

Andrew Fenwick is an entrepreneur who owns Saddler Belts & Leathercraft in South Africa.