South Africa is a consistently bad performer in terms of entrepreneurship, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. 

“The environment in this country bodes well for entrepreneurs, offering considerable opportunity, availability of finance and indications of both political and business will to encourage development,” says Melt van der Spuy, director: Business Support, Business and Private Banking at Standard Bank.
Sponsored by Standard Bank, Liberty Life, South African Breweries Limited and the National Research Foundation, the GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) Report provides empirical data on the level of entrepreneurship which is intended to stimulate debate and inform policy in 40 developing nations.
In the six years in which South Africa has participated in this research initiative, it has consistently emerged that it has a low level of early stage entrepreneurial activity, nearly half that of the average of the 34 emerging economy countries which participate.
Van der Spuy says the low level of early stage entrepreneurial activity is cause for concern, but he believes the stage is set for development and advancement.
“Ireland serves as a remarkable example of what can be achieved with a holistic, co-ordinated and concerted effort at development. It was one of the poorest in the European Union some years ago, but today is one of the richest. This was achieved by taking note of the problems it faced, marshalling support from big business, guided by government and focusing strongly on education and skills development. There is no question that this is an enormous task, but the Irish have shown that it can be done,” he says.
It is his assertion that South Africa is similarly positioned.
“Legislation is driving increased participation in the economy of emerging businesses, while many big companies, Standard Bank included, have the will and desire to share procurement with emerging businesses,” he says.
Specifying that education and skills development is of critical importance, van der Spuy says individuals are only able to see potential when they have a skill which they can apply to their benefit. Van der Spuy states that with an effective revenue authority, continued tax relief and the extension of amnesties for emerging businesses is also having a positive, stimulatory effect on entrepreneurship.
There is also no shortage of initiatives from government and big business to stimulate growth, he says. Capital is quite freely available, through government-driven initiatives such as the Industrial Development Corporation, from financial institutions and also private investors.
However, respondents to the report indicated that, although there seems to be sufficient funds available, it remains difficult to access these funds – especially for start-ups. Van der Spuy believes this is the result of entrepreneurs not fully understanding the expectations and requirements of financial institutions when applications for finance are made.
“There is no shortage of capital: however, what has emerged in applications for finance is a poor grasp of essentials that are necessary for a financier to extend a loan. This is where education can play a key role; aspirant entrepreneurs need to know certain essentials, such as how to write a business plan and how to present a budget before they succeed in obtaining backing.”
He points to initiatives which Standard Bank operates on an ongoing basis as an example of how involved South African big business is in economic development.