After building South Africa based Sakhumnotho Group Holdings into a thriving, diversified investment firm, CEO Sipho Mseleku began to look at the challenges facing Africa’s entrepreneurs. Realising that Africa’s chances of economic success are limited by an education system that fails to develop an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset in Africa’s youth, Mr Mseleku and Sakhumnotho Group have put entrepreneurial education at the heart of their mission.
Through the Global School of Entrepreneurship (GBSE) and Global Business Roundtable (GBR), Sakhumnotho Group has set about creating the environment required for SMEs to develop across the continent.
In this interview, Mr Mseleku shares his views with AfricaLive on the importance of morals and ethics in business and puts forward an ambitious vision for uplifting Africa through the power of entrepreneurship, impact investing, and empowering the youth of the continent.
AfricaLive: What was your vision for starting Sakhumnotho Group Holdings (Pty) Ltd, and what challenges have you had to overcome?
Mr Mseleku: Sakhumnotho Group Holdings Ltd is a Pan-African investment holding company that invests in diverse sectors of the economy. We invest in several key sectors of this continent, including oil and gas, financial services, mining, media and communication, education, real estate, and ICT. We began with a vision to create an investment holding company hailing from South Africa and growing into other parts of Africa. Today, we have grown immensely and lived up to our name Sakhumnotho, which means ‘build the economy’ in isiZulu. Our main aim is to be a change agent in the community by positively impacting people’s lives.
We have made great strides since inception in enhancing job creation and enabling poverty reduction. Our approach has been a strong focus on entrepreneurship. We at Sakhumnotho believe that entrepreneurship is the missing piece towards the growth of African economies. For this reason, we created the Global School of Entrepreneurship, and are part of the Global Business Roundtable (GBR). We have also established the GBR Leadership Academy two years ago, geared at instilling moral values, ethics and corporate governance into the way we prepare people for their role in business, government and any leadership position.
AfricaLive: Does the Global School of Entrepreneurship serve the same purpose as the GBR Leadership Academy?
Mr Mseleku: They are both educational initiatives geared towards business but have different roles. The GBR Leadership Academy focuses on producing ethical leaders that have a strong moral code. It is designed to create an immune system against the rampant corruption we have seen in business and politics globally.
The Global School of Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, was set up to focus primarily on SMEs. It trains aspiring entrepreneurs on how to start, maintain, and grow their businesses. The programme we provide breaks down everything entrepreneurs need to know about starting and running a business successfully.
Students learn the basics of getting started, registration issues, compliance issues, taxation, and also legislation that might affect them. The school is also very keen on entrepreneurial research.
When I served as the CEO of the Association of SADC Chambers, my team and I commissioned an entrepreneurship research project where we sought to find out the main challenges that faced SMEs in the SADC region. The findings of this research showed how access to information and training were key challenges for SME’s. As a result, our SME Business Tool Kit addresses the information part, while the school curriculum tackles the training part. The other key challenge facing SMEs in this region was access to procurement opportunities and access to finance opportunities.
The Global School of Entrepreneurship also links its graduates to business and network opportunities. All over Africa, schools focus mostly on academia and rarely on entrepreneurship content. This topic is central to the unemployment crisis on the continent because graduates are seeking employment opportunities instead of starting businesses. Our governments must, therefore, focus on entrepreneurship training right from the early education stage as this can contribute to having future generations thinking innovatively about the continents employment crisis. Pro-entrepreneurship legislation would also help considerably. If the creation and support of SMEs was made a key performance indicator for large companies, I believe more jobs would be created.
Africa Live: How important is impact investing in Africa and what will be your role in its promotion?
Mr Mseleku: Impact investing is a must for Africa. If we are to develop Africa, we must look at investing in roads, rails, and ports. Investing in these sectors will be catalytic to the growth of our economies. Impact investing must also be geared towards the energy sector. Constant blackouts and logistics challenges limit the growth of our economies. At Sakhumnotho, we have approached impact investing through our NPO, the Global Business Roundtable. The platform has enabled us to network with over eighty-two countries across the globe. We have funded different investment-driven organisations over the years to the tune of $20 million. We have also facilitated exhibitions, roundtable discussions, and sponsored a television programme that showcases entrepreneurs.
Africa has massive land and agricultural resources yet many of its people are starving. Therefore, we will be increasing our focus on agriculture and food security. We want to invest in agriculture and be part of the reason why future generations don’t have to deal with food scarcity.
Africa Live: With trade barriers being lifted across the continent, where do you see the potential to develop new markets and partnerships?
Mr Mseleku: We are looking at the entire continent as our target market. Africa has a massive market of over 1.3 billion people. If we can capitalise on the land, forest, and water resources, we can do very well. The fact that less than ten per cent of Africa’s arable land is used productively presents a massive opportunity for growth. If we begin to capitalise on our resources, we could see DRC alone feed the entire continent. The Global Business Roundtable, which gives us access to forty-three African countries, can be the launchpad to realising this dream.
AfricaLive: Africa still faces challenges in challenging the perception of risk associated with it, and in making the continent attractive to global capital. How will technology play a role in making investment more attractive?
Mr Mseleku: Technology will lead to Africa having a big pull with foreign investors. We live in an age where technology has made information easily accessible across the globe. We have social media and mobile networks now. If people are educated and see Africa as something other than the train wreck they thought it was, they will surely invest.
AfricaLive: If you would like to send a message to potential partners out there, what would it be?
Mr Mseleku: We need to invest in the youth. We need to invest more in education, specifically entrepreneurship education; otherwise, we will jeopardise our children’s future.