South Africa has one of the lowest survival rates among its emerging market peers going on figures produced in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's (Gem) latest global report released earlier this year.
While about half of all adult business owners in Brazil, India and Malaysia are involved in a business older than three and half years (Gem's definition of an established firm), a mere fifth of all adult entrepreneurs in South Africa are running an established firm - suggesting a significant failure rate in comparison to its emerging economy peers.
The figures can be deduced by the ratio of the number of adults in a country involved in running established firms to the total number of adults running firms of all ages, including those running start-ups (those firms younger than three and a half years - termed by Gem as the early stage entrepreneurship or TEA rate).
Latin American countries - principally Chile and Brazil - continue to lead the way among large emerging economies when it comes to the number of adults involved in start-ups, according to the latest Gem report.
Among a select group of emerging economies (see the above graphic) Chile tops the list, with about a quarter of the country's adult population involved in a start-up.
Yet when one considers the wider picture things are a little different. Only a quarter of all adult business owners in Chile are involved in operating an established firm, suggesting that start-ups in the South American country are still failing at a considerable rate. In Russia the situation is similar, where only about a third of adults running a business are involved in an established firm.
However among emerging economies one of the most significant differences between the number of those starting and those running established firms can be found in South Africa.
In addition the Gem report's latest figures also reveal that South Africa falls well below the average of efficiency-driven economies - where 36% of adult business owners are involved in firms older than three and a half years older.
Efficiency-driven economies include those economies cited in the above graph, as well as a number of others, including Argentina, China, Mexico, Poland and Thailand.
However in Africa the high failure rate is not unique to South Africa, bar examples like Uganda and Ghana (where 70% and 50% respectively of adult business owners run established firms), South Africa is similar to Nigeria, Zambia and Angola, where 30%, 29% and 27% of adult business owners run established firms, respectively.
A key difference however between South Africa and many other African countries is that the latter tend to have far higher start-up rates (and in some cases higher established business rates). Start-up rates are often about double or four times higher than the continent's biggest economy (even though most of those that start-up in other African countries do so in the informal sector).
In May last year South Africa's Minister of Trade of Industry Rob Davies revealed that five in every seven small businesses fail in the first year in the country.
At the time Davies dismissed criticism that the high failure rate of small businesses was exacerbated by the amount of red tape that they are burdened with.
He may be right. The amount of red tape that firms in South Africa face is remarkably less than in India, Brazil and Russia.
But a large number of black people (barred from doing business under apartheid) - many with limited resources and with little or no experience in having run a business before - starting out for the first time are discovering just how hard it is to run your own business. Many are failing.
More business support - in the form of mentoring, cheap loans and incubation - is essential to assist these new entrants, but so is better education for the thousands of new South Africans entering school for the first time. Without this any help later on can only do so much.
Stephen Timm is a