The Top Business Ideas in South Africa in 2024

4th ,April, 2023
SME Guides

There are many potentially lucrative business ideas that entrepreneurs can explore in South Africa today. The most successful business ideas exploit the country’s vast natural resources. Entrepreneurs are also finding similar success launching business ideas that address the biggest challenges facing ordinary South Africans, such as limited access to education and healthcare, and financial exclusion that sees large parts of the population without financial services.

Identifying Opportunities And Challenges

South Africa has a diverse economy with a number of promising sectors that entrepreneurs can take advantage of. The biggest economic sectors currently driving the economy are manufacturing, retail, financial services, mining, agriculture and tourism.

The country is, however, making a shift towards becoming a knowledge-based economy, emphasising technology, e-commerce, financial, and other services. Similarly, South Africa’s green economy is growing as the country seeks to address environmental challenges and create new opportunities for sustainable growth.

While there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs in South Africa, starting a business in the country can be challenging due to a variety of factors.

According to the University of the Western Cape, 70-80% of small businesses fail in the first five years. Some of the reasons that have been identified are a lack of planning, failure to separate personal and business accounts, lack of proper record keeping and financial systems, a lack of requisite skill, among others. Other challenges that business owners face is a lack of funding, market access and inadequate infrastructure.

The COVID-19 pandemic also severely impacted local businesses . Small businesses with limited financial resources and without adequate access to funding were unable to weather the financial impact of the pandemic. Many of the businesses that were unable to shift their operations online or without financial reserves were forced to close.

Entrepreneurs starting businesses are however not without support. There are various business support programmes and development services that assist first time entrepreneurs bringing their business to life. Incubators provide entrepreneurs with specialised support, including skills training and resources to increase their chances of success in areas such as sales, marketing, business strategy and finance.

Read: A Guide to Business Incubators in South Africa 


The Importance Of Validating Your Business Idea

The biggest reasons why business ideas don’t succeed is because entrepreneurs are selling the wrong product or service, says Anton Ressel, a senior consultant and mentor at Fetola Business Growth Professionals.

To increase the chances of success of your business idea entrepreneurs must validate and test their business idea before going to the market with it.

“This process includes product testing and sourcing market feedback which will provide valuable insights which, in turn, will help you refine your original idea,” he says.

The following questions can be used to get feedback from a potential customer. These can asked in the form of a survey or even through a competition on social media, says Ressel.

  • Does this product or service already exist?
  • Who is my target market and where would I find them?
  • Who is the competition and what do they offer that I perhaps cannot at this early stage?
  • How could I penetrate the market and what sort of funds do I need to successfully do so?


Digital Business Ideas

Digital businesses provide a variety of services over the internet. This is a growing sector with plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to leverage digital technologies and platforms.

Read: Everything You Need to Know About a Digital Business 

There are various forms that digital entrepreneurship can take, including creating a new online business, developing a mobile app, launching a new digital product or service, or using technology to innovate and transform an existing business.

For entrepreneurs, digital businesses offer many advantages. They are typically cheaper to start and to run. To succeed in this sector, however, you must be able to effectively use social media and other digital marketing tools to promote your digital business.
Here are some potential digital business opportunities in South Africa:

E-commerce – The selling of goods and services over the internet. Popular product categories include health and wellness products, fashion and accessories and electronics and gadgets.

Online marketplaces – Online platforms connect buyers and sellers and allow consumers to buy and sell products.

Mobile apps – Mobile app businesses deliver a range of services to customers from grocery and takeaway delivery, networking, games and e-commerce.
Read more: So You Have an App Idea? Answer These 8 Questions To See If It Could Work 

Digital payments – Fintech payment processing companies enable businesses and consumers to make fast, secure, and convenient payments online and in person.

Digital advertising – Advertising agencies help businesses to market themselves through online channels, such as websites, streaming content, and more.

Digital marketing – Digital marketing agencies offer services to help businesses to market themselves online through activities such as search, social media, and paid channels.

Digital sales – Service-based businesses that support clients through the process of selling advertising space on digital mediums such as websites, blogs, social media platforms.

Software-as-a-service (Saas) – Providers of cloud-based services that provide customers with access to software applications over the internet on a subscription basis.

Streaming media – Entertainment digital platforms that broadcasts video content (TV shows, movies, and other media) on-demand.


Green Business Ideas

The green sector in South Africa offers a range of possibilities for entrepreneurs interested in sustainable and environmentally-friendly technologies and practices.

Some of the opportunities in the sector are in renewable energy, particularly solar, waste management including recycling and sustainable packaging. There are also opportunities to meet the growing demand for sustainable and energy-efficient building practices in South Africa.

Similarly, the eco-friendly products sector in South Africa is growing as consumers demand more ethical and eco-friendly consumer products in South Africa. Research by Mastercard shows that 81% of adults in South Africa are more mindful of their impact on the environment since COVID-19, with the trend being led by Gen Z (89%).

Read: Green Business Ideas in South Africa 

Here are some potential green business opportunities in South Africa:

Small-scale solar and wind power systems – Manufacturers and installers of solar panels for both homes and businesses.

Recycling – Recycling businesses collect waste and other recycling materials such as tin cans, paper and plastics from households and businesses.

Organic beauty products – Beauty brands that specialise in manufacturing beauty products without toxic chemicals and without harmful effects on humans or the environment.

Organic and natural cleaning products – Manufacturers of eco-friendly cleaning products, such as natural detergents, organic soaps, and biodegradable cleaning agents.

Organic produce – Producers that focus on organic produce, sustainably-raised meat, and plant-based alternatives.

Ecotourism – Accommodation and tourism establishments that prioritise environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices that reduce energy consumption, waste and carbon footprint.

Sustainable fashion – Fashion brands that manufacture eco-friendly clothing and taking a sustainable approach to the materials they use such as organic cotton, bamboo, and recycled fabrics.

Sustainable packaging – Manufacturers of sustainable packaging alternatives, such as biodegradable plastics, compostable materials, and reusable packaging.

Read: Green Business Ideas in South Africa


Download: The Best Time To Start A Business Is Now

For entrepreneurs in search of business ideas, ‘The Best Time to Start a Business is Now – 20+ Business Opportunities to Venture Into’ guide provides a comprehensive list of lucrative ventures they can launch – from COVID-19-specific ideas and digital products to ideas targeting the township market, and more.

GET YOUR COPY: Download 25+ business ideas for all industries in South Africa, including:

– Retail
– Digital
– Food & beverage
– Entertainment
– Health and fitness
– PLUS – Business ideas for COVID-19


Tech Startup Ideas

South Africa;s tech startup ecosystem has grown leaps and bounds over the past decade. We have seen innovative tech solutions launch in almost every industry, including manufacturing, agriculture, health and retail. No other industry has produced more successful startups than the financial services industry. Fintech startups are some of the most successful tech startups in South Africa, and are some of the continent’s fastest-growing companies.

The growth of the tech startup market credited to the availability of funding and support for tech startups in South Africa. According to Disrupt Africa’s ‘African Tech Startups Funding Report 2022’.

Overall, the growth of tech startups in South Africa is considered a positive trend that is helping to create new job opportunities, drive innovation, and contribute to the country’s economic growth.

Here are some potential technology startup opportunities in South Africa:

Proptech – Startups using tech tools to optimise the way people buy, sell, research, market, and manage a property.

Agritech – Agritechs aims to improve the efficiency and sustainability of agriculture, by reducing waste, increasing yields, and promoting sustainable practices.

Edtech – Companies that combine computer hardware, software, and educational theory and practice to facilitate learning.

Biotech – Startups use biotechnology to develop new products, services, and solutions in a variety of industries, including healthcare, agriculture, food, and energy.

Healthtech – Healthtechs use technology and innovation to transform and optimise healthcare practices, products, and services.

Foodtech – Companies integrating digital technology with food production, preparation, and the sale of food products

Insurtech – Companies that use technology and innovation to disrupt and transform the traditional insurance industry for example, micro and on-demand insurance.

Cleantech and greentech startups – Cleantech startups often focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, waste management, and water and air purification.