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No Downgrade For SA, Says Fitch – Entrepreneurs Relieved

Members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization are available to discuss the practical steps they are taking for their businesses.

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Entrepreneurs across South Africa feel relieved that the Central Reserve Bank of South Africa has left rates unchanged especially off the back of the economic downgrades by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch as well as the pending Moody’s review, according to the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO).

Further relief is provided by the news that a second damaging credit rating cut from Fitch, has been avoided.

EO recently released a survey (Global Entrepreneurship Indicator) indicating high levels of optimism among entrepreneurs globally, as well as in South Africa prior to the downgrades. Of entrepreneurs in Durban, Cape Town and Gauteng, 61.5% reported an increase in business revenue year on year, with 50.3% of them reporting an increase in net profit at the time of the survey which took place before the downgrade. However, since then, sentiment is shifting. 

“Having spoken to members in the last month, the feeling has certainly changed and there is a strong sense of frustration and anxiety since the cabinet reshuffle and subsequent downgrade among our members,” says Ross Drakes, incoming EO president for Johannesburg. “It will be interesting to see how much the needle shifts in the next survey period, scheduled to take place in September. Until then though, members are keeping an eye on interest rates announcement such as the one made today and have discussed with one another the strategies or approaches they plan to put in place over the short to medium term.”

According to EO member, Andrew Ryan, MD of GOT Holdings, putting investments offshore has been something which he hopes will assist with cushioning any economic downturn. “We set up a business overseas which is managed and controlled by overseas employees. As a business, we have had to be careful in ensuring effective control tax laws and there is purpose in an offshore office, in our case procurement, and is not just a post office.” 

Ryan expects the downgrade to have a 50/50 chance of impacting his business but has three guidelines in mind on how to navigate this period. “I plan to use a three point change as a benchmark in the interest rate when making business decisions. Debt will be the first to go, where possible, as well as underperforming assets not keeping up with inflation. I plan to cut costs but not in the area of marketing. As a matter of fact, this is where I would increase spend and focus on being more effective in our marketing efforts,” says Ryan. 

In terms of businesses which may be more resilient, property and debt recovery are possibly sectors which will be less exposed to risk. 

Saskia Hill, MD of MCS Debt Recovery and an EO member, acknowledges that being in the debt collection industry, they are likely to get more accounts handed over for collections when times are tough.

“When consumers come under pressure, not being able to pay off debt is a negative consequence of a downturn, yet it is also indicative of how opportunities can exist for entrepreneurs when times are tough and that everything is cyclical.  It is important for entrepreneurs to do what they can, whether times are good or not, and for me, cash is king. As and when we can, we pay cash for everything and avoid taking on too much debt. Of course, this is not applicable to all industries but it is about being able to identify opportunities such as this through shared experience,” says Hill. 

Another option for entrepreneurs to consider is the export market. The local Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will sponsor trips overseas (60% of flights and 60% of accommodation) if travelling for potential export business. “I have been to Holland on such a basis while looking at business opportunities. You can get 100% full sponsorship from the national DTI but I found more success with the local DTI,” adds Hill.

Another resilient industry is property. “Great property deals always exist when the rest of the market stops buying and everybody is keen to sell, or required to when bonds become either too expensive or home owners are looking to liquidate assets,” says Grant Gavin, MD of RE/MAX Panache and an EO member. 

Related: Digital Start-Ups Are Growing – And Quickly

“What we do see as a potential threat is our employees who are going to be concerned about job security,” says Gavin.

“Leaders need to bring certainty when none exists. Mind-set becomes important and therefore leaders need to spend more time focussing on motivation and inspiration. At the end of the day, employees still have a job to do, and even though it may be tougher, a job still needs to be done. This is a time when leaders will be defined from the managers. If there is any area where we will not be cutting costs, it will be in training our staff. Another area where we would increase spend is in marketing. That way, when the market rebounds, and our competitors cut marketing spend, we will emerge as a stronger brand. This approach has been tried and tested.”

Based on feedback and discussions with the EO members, there seems to be consensus that while businesses can expect difficult times ahead, a strong network and support system is critical to keeping heads above the water.

“Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely and having a network to tap into is extremely valuable. The purpose of an organisation such as EO is it allows for entrepreneurs to speak to each other and it certainly helps knowing you are not the only one going through certain problems and this helps enormously,” says Drakes.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Obama Calls On The World To Be Madiba’s Legacy

Welcoming assembled guests to the lecture, Nelson Mandela Foundation Chief Executive Sello Hatang said, “It’s a very exciting moment for us.”

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Former US President Barack Obama delivered the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, in partnership with the Motsepe Foundation, in Johannesburg on Tuesday 17 July.

To honour the centennial of Madiba’s birth, the lecture’s theme was “Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World”. It focused on creating conditions for bridging divides, working across ideological lines, and resisting oppression and inequality.

Welcoming assembled guests to the lecture, Nelson Mandela Foundation Chief Executive Sello Hatang said, “It’s a very exciting moment for us.”

The 15 000-strong crowd was addressed by programme director Busi Mkhumbuzi, Foundation Chairperson Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Motsepe Foundation founder and CEO Dr Patrice Motsepe, activist and Madiba’s widow, Ms Graça Machel, and President Cyril Ramaphosa before Obama spoke.

Ndebele said the world had welcomed Obama’s election to the US Presidency in 2008 and that he had inspired universal belief in human unity.

Motsepe, addressing the crowd, said, “The presence of each and every one here is living proof that the legacy and spirit of Nelson Mandela is alive.”

Machel, Mandela’s widow, said Madiba’s centenary was an opportunity to celebrate him “in all his incredible uniqueness”, and also to celebrate him as a representative of a broader collective leadership that had led South Africa and South Africans to freedom.

Machel called on young people to take inspiration from Mandela’s life so that they create a world in which all live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

Ramaphosa said the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, from the very beginning, had been “global in its ambition, and broad and inclusive in its outreach”.

Related: 5 Inspiring Quotes From Madiba To Stir You Into Action On Mandela Day

Ramaphosa said that his “Thuma Mina” (send me) message was “none other than Mandela’s message” of personal service: “Madiba … is sending all of us to deal with corruption, and to root it out of South African soil.”

Obama said: “Madiba’s light shone so brightly … that in the late seventies he could inspire a young college student on the other side of the world to re-examine my own priorities – to reconsider the small role that I might play in bending the arc towards justice.

“And now an entire generation has now grown up in a world that by most measures has gotten steadily freer, healthier, wealthier, less violent and more tolerant during the course of their lifetimes. It should make us hopeful.

“Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision, I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King. I believe in justice and in the premise that all of us are created equal.”

In his speech Obama tracked the enormous social and democratic progress the world has made in the 100 years between Mandela’s 1918 birth and 2018.

Obama went on to outline how the world has changed from one just emerging from a devastating war and in which most of what is now the developing world was under colonial rule. Women, across the world, were seen as subordinate to men, some races were seen – almost universally – as naturally subordinate and inferior to others, and business saw nothing wrong in seeking to exploit workers, of any race or creed.

Since then colonialism had come to an end and the world had, in general, embraced a new vision for humanity, based on the principles of democracy, the rule of law, civil rights and the inherent dignity of every single individual, Obama said.

This kind of progress was the kind of progress to which Mandela had dedicated his life, Obama said.

“Now an entire generation has grown up a world that has become freer, healthier, wealthier and more tolerant, in the course of their lifetime. That should make us hopeful.”

But, Obama cautioned, now  the world stood on the brink of letting go of all this progress.

Some people, world-over, saw the politics of fear and resentment as preferable to the “messiness of democracy”, Obama said.

The former US President said, however, that he still believed in the vision of Nelson Mandela.

“I believe we have no choice but to move forward,” Obama said. “I believe those of us who believe in democracy and human rights have a better story to tell.”

Obama called for the empowerment of young people, who would lead us into the future.

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What NPOs Wish Corporates Knew Before Mandela Day

Joanne van der Walt, Global Director: Sage Foundation Promotions provides a roundup of the best advice to corporates from NPOs.

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“It was 2pm on Mandela Day at the after-care centre. The children were getting ready to go home when suddenly, 80 volunteers from a large local bank arrived, unannounced. We didn’t know who they were, but they wanted to use their 67 minutes with to volunteer with us. We appreciated the effort, but we had to turn them away, partly because the children were overwhelmed by the many unfamiliar faces, but mostly because we had no time to prepare the volunteers or the children.”

I’ve heard variations of this story from most of the NPOs we work with at Sage Foundation. The common thread is that, while highly appreciated, NPOs feel that Mandela Day activities could have a much bigger impact if they were better planned.

Planning to fail

In a recent poll of over 200 NPOs, we asked them what their biggest challenge was when it came to working with corporates on Mandela Day: 73% cited a lack of planning and failure to include them in the decision-making for the day.

Related: 5 Inspiring Quotes From Madiba

Their second-biggest challenge, cited by 24% of NPOs, was that too many volunteers show up. So, not only do NPOs not know what to expect, but it can feel like an onslaught, despite the good intentions.

When asked what they enjoyed most about Mandela Day, 50% of NPOs said exposure and 34% said engagement with the volunteers.

Yet, because of the planning oversight, Mandela Day tends to be a rushed affair, leaving little time to build relationships or raise awareness about the NPOs’ work, which is what CSR is all about.

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Advice from NPOs

So, we asked NPOs how we can do Mandela Day better and what they wished corporates knew about their needs – 36% of NPOs felt that a little education could go a long way.

Here’s a roundup of their best advice:

‘Include us in the planning’. Meet with your chosen NPO well in advance (weeks, even months before) to discuss their needs and plan the day. Mandela Day can be disruptive, and NPOs, especially those caring for children and the sick and elderly, need time to plan and allocate their own resources.

‘Help us get exposure’. Exposure is massive for NPOs and is often the biggest benefit of Mandela Day because it can attract new donors and support. Yet, often, it’s the corporates that get all the publicity. When charity initiatives are rushed or planned at the last minute, there’s no time to create awareness on social media, which often gets more corporates interested in what they do.

‘Treat us how you would a client or business partner’. Don’t cancel Mandela Day activities at the last minute, show up unannounced or not pitch at all. You’re their guest and they feel a lot of pressure to make Mandela Day a good experience for you, too. This is especially hard for smaller NPOs, so please respect their time and space. And please clean up before you leave.

‘Engage with us’. 58% of NPOs say the company of the volunteers is their favourite part about Mandela Day. Take photos but remember to put the phones away and interact with them. This way, you’ll get a better understanding of what they do and what they need.

This ‘Helper’s High’ goes both ways. One Harvard study found that people who volunteer are 42% happier than those who don’t. Another study found that volunteers were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteer, reporting greater increases in psychological wellbeing and physical activity.

‘Slow down’. Corporates squeeze a lot into Mandela Day and, while NPOs love every minute, it often feels rushed and overwhelming. NPOs love demonstrating what they do and the difference they make but there’s often no time on the day to demonstrate this. Also, 67 minutes or even one day once a year is not enough to learn about their needs and make a significant impact but it’s a good starting point, as long as you remember to do it.

‘Come back soon’. 45% of NPOs said they never hear from the corporates again after Mandela Day. To get the most out of their CSR initiatives and to make measurable, long-term impact, corporates should form partnerships with their chosen NPOs and provide support throughout the year.

South African organisations spent over R9 billion on corporate social investment in the 2016/17 financial year – a massive increase from the R1.5 billion spent 20 years ago.

For those that haven’t had a chance to properly plan their activities for Mandela Day this year, NPOs reminded us that financial support is often better than a frenzied one-day event that leaves a big mess and has no real impact. One NPO had to hire a contractor after Mandela Day to repaint a wall that well-meaning volunteers had left in a worse state than before.

Before doing anything, consider Mandela Day from the NPO’s perspective: ask for permission, give them what they need, and respect their time and space.

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10 African Innovators Selected For Global Accelerator Startupbootcamp Afritech

Startupbootcamp AfriTech empowers the top innovative African tech startups, linking them to the fastest-moving corporates on the continent.

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Startupbootcamp (SBC) AfriTech today announced the Top 10 African Innovators selected to participate in the globally renowned, multi-corporate backed accelerator programme for 2018.

Post an intensive 3-month global scouting tour, across 15 countries, and inclusive of 19 FastTrack events and 220 face-to-face startup engagements, the SBC AfriTech team received 1,004 applications from 73 countries in total, attracting double the applications from its inaugural launch in 2017.

The applications were shortlisted to the top 22 startup teams that were flown down to pitch their businesses over 2-days to some of the most progressive leaders in the innovation space in Africa, including corporate sponsors, mentors and investors.

The SBC AfriTech programme (previously SBC Africa) ended on a record high in 2017 with 32 corporate agreements in pilots and proof-of-concepts signed by close of the accelerator.

“Our inaugural year was big, it was bold,” comments Zachariah George, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of SBC AfriTech, “Our phenomenal success of last year has made us the only truly global accelerator for tech ventures in partnership with dynamic corporates on the African continent – we are accelerating the next wave of innovation in Africa.”

Related: A Comprehensive List Of Angel Investors That Fund South African Start-Ups

The top 10 African Innovators selected are:

  1. Akiba Digital, South Africa: A financial savings platform and personal savings coach that leverages A.I., machine learning and gamification to democratize wealth in Africa.
  2. Bankly Technologies, Nigeria: A goal-based savings product that digitizes cash and enables in-country, peer-to-peer transfer services through the use of vouchers available nationwide.
  3. Brandbook Analytics, South Africa: A mobile application providing users free gift-card coupons for completed purchases with the ability to harvest vast amounts of consumer data and improved forecasting and analytics.
  4. CredPal, Nigeria: An innovative solution using deep data that provides individuals with instant access to credit at the point of checkout for various online and offline merchants.
  5. Digitech Group, Ivory Coast: Provides incumbent insurance companies an omni-channel and cloud-based digital platform to sell insurance products through mobile and web.
  6. Inclusive Financial Technologies, Ghana: Inclusive FT’s API helps digital financial services reach the most remote customers across Africa by enabling them to onboard, verify and monitor them via digital channels.
  7. Kudimoney Bank, Nigeria: A no-charge, full-service, online-only bank making banking services more affordable and more accessible by offering an interest-earning spending account with zero charges, a savings account with above-average interest rates and access to low interest instant loans.
  8. Lüla, South Africa: A mobility-as-a-service platform that connects stakeholders to improve mobility by providing transport that is convenient, accessible and safe and enabling operators, cities and passengers to have easy access and understanding of transport.
  9. MPost, Kenya: A patented solution providing legally recognised physical addresses for the 95% of the African population that do not have a postal address.
  10. Prospa, South Africa: A micro-savings solution for low-income earning South Africans, allowing users to purchase savings vouchers at traders that entitle the user to a set amount of savings which are deposited into a mobi-savings account.

The 10 selected tech startups have a month to ready themselves for the 3-month accelerator that will kick off on August 13th in Cape Town and culminate with the Demo Day on November 8th when they will pitch to the world.

Related: 27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

To the Top 10, Philip Kiracofe says: “You are here because your solution is market-ready and the sponsors want to work with you starting from today. The next 3 months are going to be absolutely exhilarating. We are going to be here side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, pushing you, cajoling you, encouraging you, nurturing you, mentoring you and helping you achieve 12 – 18 months’ worth of growth in a 3-month span. On Demo Day you’re not going to believe that just 3 months ago you were standing where you are today. Congratulations and good luck.”

SBC AfriTech is anchored and endorsed by heavyweight corporate sponsors RCS, BNP Paribas Personal Finance, Old Mutual, Nedbank and PwC. The programme also has local service partners Brevity Law, Cloudworx, Inner City Ideas Cartel, and The Loudhailer and is globally supported by Google Cloud, Cisco and Amazon Web Services.

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