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Minister Lindiwe Zulu at SUNSA launch

Start-Up Nations SA helping spread best practices in SA, claims co-ordinator

Three years after the launch of Start-Up Nations South Africa by the Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu in November 2014, Ventureburn has questioned what the role of the initiative — which works mostly behind the scenes — really is.

The initiative is a partnership between the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), The Innovation Hub and the Wits Business School.

Ventureburn spoke to IDC support specialist Mmodi Rambau-Nesengani, who has been tasked with co-ordinating the initiative.

She says her desk is at work trying to connect local organisations with best practice programmes from other countries, while having initiated a local initiative that aims to foster a more inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Recently her desk was also responsible for organising the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Congress held in Johannesburg in March.

Rambau-Nesengani said the aim of Start-Up Nations SA is to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem that can help startups flourish — by addressing things such as capacity development, the regulatory environment and by helping to connect actors in the ecosystem to one another.

‘Aim is to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem in which startups flourish’

Currently a large part of the initiative is aimed at sharing promising SME support programmes sourced through the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) from other parts of the world with local organisations.

She said she had met with a number of business organisations that expressed interest in adopting some GEN programmes.

Though she did not reveal who these were or what the programmes were, she did single out the example of one group which had approached the IDC to rollout a creative group programme that had been run in three countries already. Rambau-Nesengani said her desk is helping the group to implement the programme.

Rambau-Nesengani said her desk is looking at getting Wits Business School to carry out research that can, with the help of the Kauffman Foundation (which runs GEN), influence the policy agenda.

The initiative has also helped rollout Startup Weekends which are co-ordinated by The Innovation Hub and run in Gauteng.

The idea with the weekends is to create a better pipeline of entrepreneurs that can then be assisted by The Innovation Hub’s eKasiLabs programmes and Maxum Business Incubator. These are not aimed at “the creme de la creme”, she said, but rather sought to include those not exposed to tech.

In addition her desk has also partnered with the Durban Innovation Hub to run a Startup Weekend there.

Read more: ‘Shortage of township entrepreneurs with innovative, unique ideas’

Yet while her desk is in constant contact with the Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Small Business Development, she said she couldn’t “promise that a lot will happen there”.