An open letter to business stakeholders, 20 years into democracy

Updated on 9 April 2017

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An open letter to business stakeholders, 20 years into democracy

There is no way I’d be running a relatively successful business for 10 years in South Africa if not for BBBEE and the strides made by our government – so thank you ANC. However, there is not a shadow of doubt in all spheres of South Africa that we still have a long way to go and perhaps we need to move away from all hands on deck, to all shoulders behind the economic wheel. Yes, it is critical to get behind the economic machinery and create a better life for all.

Business has lost its voice and this frankly cannot be the case when it is our responsibility to maintain the economy.

I would like to see a campaign encouraging South Africans to move away from entitlement to putting on our overalls and getting to work. We owe it to this beautiful country and our forefathers to rise out of the heap of economic despair, but it will take work. Let’s get back to a culture of work. How do we? create a paradigm shift and instil the culture of hard work for big rewards in every South African.

Entrepreneurs as rock stars

I would like to see more indigenous businesses being built from the soil and making it to the JSE. We need to dominate the JSE by building our own and give the existing players a run for their money. The nationalisation argument is simply not the right one, right now. How do we create an environment that makes it easy for indigenous businesses to grow exponentially and be listed on the main exchange, not only ALTX?

I would like to see entrepreneurs occupy the rock star space held by politicians. The media’s focus on politicians baffles me when we have entrepreneurs grinding daily to create a better life for all. How do we get to a place where news bulletins and front pages are littered with stories of ordinary South Africans getting up daily with a deep love for this country and making a difference?

“How do we create more confident, bold entrepreneurs?”

I would like to see indigenous businesses being more confident in their product offering. We can no longer approach business with a cap-in-hand attitude. You need to believe in what you bring to the table and approach funders and clients boldly. Now let’s be clear there is a distinct difference between believing in your product and being entitled. Nobody owes you anything. How do we create more confident, bold entrepreneurs?

Challenges and red tape

I would like to see our labour laws adjusted drastically and having SMMEs and indigenous businesses in mind. The existing labour laws seem to have been drafted for multi-nationals who will have a strong capitalist agenda. It is more likely that indigenous businesses are driven by making a difference for our people and creating solutions that addresses our country’s concerns so adjusting the labour laws to fit our agenda simply makes business sense. How do we get government to truly start listening to our plea to adjust our labour laws for the sake of creating sustainable jobs?

I would like to see corporates and state do business with SMMEs not out of pity but because you understand the role we play. When we step into your boardroom, don’t wear your pity hat but treat us with the rock star status we deserve and appoint us based on merit, not because you need to tick a box on your BEE scorecard. How do we get managers in government and corporate to stop fearing that SMMEs will let them down and to get on with it?

I would like to see our unions move away from destroying the economy in an effort to negotiate better wages. I’m sure we don’t have to go the Margaret Thatcher route and force unions to stay in their lane. How do we become manufacturing giant when unions stifle growth and those same workers they protect suffer in the end because something ultimately has to give?

” I would like to see South Africans become the skilled labour force, we so desperately need”

I would like to see Eskom consider SMMEs when they push for an increase in rates and think about the consequences for a hair salon in Rosebank being slapped with a bill of R125,000 per month. The possibility is that they cannot sustain their business which leads to closure which leads to job losses. How do we avoid further job losses?

I would like to see government hand-over the job creation machinery to entrepreneurs. The role of government is not to take the lead in job creation but to create a conducive environment for business to get on with the business of creating jobs and maintaining our economy. How do we get government to consider privatising SAA and the SABC and take their role as watchdog as they so successfully did with the ICASA versus MTN and Vodacom war?

Local solutions for local problems

I would like to see South Africans become the skilled labour force, we so desperately need. I am so tired of hearing that we have to import fabric from Italy because we simply don’t have the capacity to manufacture the type of quality Italy does. Italy started somewhere, years ago. How do we get foreign investment to successfully transfer skills, in order to build our capacity to create world-class?

I would like to sit across a venture capitalist or angel investors and chat about how funding should address local challenges. This is not the US so creating a Silicon Valley is not our top priority. Yes we need to harness the iEconomy created by the increased use of mobiles by Africans but can we do this within the ambit of what we have at our fingertips. How do we get investors to look at agriculture and manufacturing as vehicles to solving our unemployment crisis?

These are the questions that keep me tossing and turning at night. I will spend the next 20 years of democracy doing my bit to create solutions to these challenges by working with government, labour and other entrepreneurs. Let’s Go!!!

About the author: Antoinette Prophy is an entrepreneur by DNA. Passionate Afro-Optimist. Golfer. Realist. Always enjoy a good laugh. Love a good book. Antoinette is also the founder of Afrofusion Advertising. Follow her on Twitter at @AntoProphy.

This article first appeared on and is published with permission.

Picture source: MediaClubSouthAfrica

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