Entrepreneurship vital to address social needs – Min Pravin Gordhan
Entrepreneurs have a vital role to play in society by making opportunities available to more people, Minister of Finance Mr Pravin Gordhan said at a Symposium on Entrepreneurship for Human Development hosted by Stellenbosch University (SU) on Thursday, 17 November.
“We need to unleash innovators, risk-takers and job-creators in society. New businesses are the economy’s engine of growth,” he told the audience.
“But we also need a ‘solidarity economy’ and not just the pursuit of profit. How we become a more caring society is part of entrepreneurship.”
About 200 people attended the seminar, which was held at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study. Roughly half the audience indicated that they are entrepreneurs.
“This is an exciting venture for us, and one that we hope will have a great impact in South Africa and beyond,” SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Russel Botman said of the symposium, which took place under the banner of the HOPE Project. The University aims to make a difference in society by using its academic excellence and cutting-edge research to address urgent challenges, he said.
Min Gordhan said the challenges facing South Africa are “huge”, listing “high structural unemployment and structural inequality” among the factors that give rise to enormous socio-economic problems.
“But we are fortunate to have plenty of opportunities that entrepreneurs can seize. We should see the informal sector not as a nuisance, but as a platform for growth and development.”
Minister Gordhan said corruption is a serious problem, and that civil society should strengthen the hand of those in the government who are trying to do something about it.
“People should make a noise and point fingers whenever they see officials driving expensive cars and living beyond their salaries.”
Prof Botman said that too often, entrepreneurship is equated solely with economic growth.
“When reflecting on the on-going global economic meltdown, I am left with the nagging feeling that one of the key causes is in fact the dark side of entrepreneurship – greed, no moral framework, no sense of purpose beyond self-enrichment.
“Instead, we need to focus on the bigger picture. Human development is the moral imperative of our time, and social entrepreneurship can play a crucial role in improving the lives of people.”
Prof John Powell, Director of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), said one of the best ways of learning about entrepreneurship is to speak to entrepreneurs who have failed because “they would have learnt valuable lessons.”
“Also, you can’t learn how to be an entrepreneur without being an entrepreneur,” he said.
Mr Goosain Solomon of SU’s Department of Business Management provided the youth perspective on entrepreneurship by presenting some of the findings of the strength of the Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Students’ Survey (GUESSS).
“Students are very aware of entrepreneurship but not very active in the field, he said.
“Only 5% of students said they were planning to jump into entrepreneurship immediately after leaving university, but 28% said they would do so after gaining some work experience.”
Mr Sisa Ntshona, the Head of Enterprise Development at Absa Bank, said, “Entrepreneurs don’t take time off. They work Sunday nights.”
Mr Solomon had the following advice for budding entrepreneurs: “Just get up and go.”
- Read Prof Russel Botman’s speech here.
- Click here to download Minister Pravin’s speech (audio file, 6.3Mb).