SOUTH Africa is in dire need of a massive drive to promote entrepreneurship and could learn from a successful week-long campaign in Brazil, which last year drew a record five million participants.
Global Entrepreneurship Week, which encourages people to get involved in activities related to entrepreneurship, kicked off yesterday and runs until Sunday. It is held in several countries around the world, including in South Africa. But it is Brazil that everyone is talking about.
The South American country notched up the highest number of participants of any country in the week, after drawing 1.4 million participants in its first year in 2008.
In comparison South Africa which last year ran its first Global Entrepreneurship Week, hosted by Endeavor South Africa, managed to reach a mere 8 000 participants.
In the Brazilian event, run by Endeavor Brazil, seminars, presentations and debates accounted for 41% of the 1 735 activities which took place during the week, while workshops and courses made up a further 30% of the activities.
Managing director of Endeavor Brazil Rodrigo Teles wants Brazil to become an example for other countries when it comes to entrepreneurship and promoting a culture of entrepreneurship.
“If everybody starts talking about entrepreneurship, people who are related to access to capital will start finding more ways of giving capital to entrepreneurs. Because you have more entrepreneurs who are starting to run their business, they need more money so people will have to find more ways to give money cheaper and better money,” he said.
By talking about entrepreneurship during the same week a more stronger message about entrepreneurship would be sent out, maintains Ludmilla Figueiredo, who oversees Endeavor Brazil’s Global Entrepreneurship.
Figueirido said many entrepreneurs have reported to Endeavor Brazil that they started their own business after attending an event during the week.
She said the success of the campaign, which last year took place under the slogan Bota para fazer (make it happen), is built on getting key partners involved such as media, community, training and business organisations which have a nationwide presence. In its first year Endeavor Brazil got 30 partners to agree to participate. This swelled to 560 last year, including 60 purely online partners.
Because radio and television channels dedicated prime-time slots to speak about entrepreneurship, partners are drawn to participate by the chance to promote their organisation or brand through the heightened news coverage during the week.
The idea was then that each partner registered various activities – such as workshops, seminars and competitions, which it would run, or even end or start, during the week. The number of participants were drawn from those people that took part.
Endeavor’s online community has also grown to 6 000 and many people phone in requesting to be part of the next event. Participants can also add or view events on Endeavor Brazil’s website.
But commenting on Brazil’s successful campaign, Malik Fal the managing director of Endeavor South Africa said media groups and corporates in South Africa had not shown the same commitment to joining the campaign, as they had in Brazil.
He said his interaction with potential partners had been “like pulling teeth”, with most organisations only wanting to get involved if they were paid for it.
He pointed to the case of Brazil where newspapers agreed to run full-page advertisements promoting the week, for free. A top graphic designer even leant their service free of charge to design the campaign’s advert.
“People in Brazil understand that if you don’t have a country, you don’t have a company,” he said, pointing to their dire need to promote entrepreneurship if the country is to grow its tax base, create more jobs and stave off social unrest.
Khula, the government’s small business agency, recently announced a plan to run a small business campaign headed by ANC stalwart Andrew Mlangeni.
Malose Kekana, chairman of Khula, said the campaign would be conducted in partnership with Business Unity South Africa (Busa), and will focus on: recognition of companies and organisations that were assisting entrepreneurs, funding certain initiatives with the help of the June and Andrew Mlangeni Foundation and building a knowledge repository to hold small business research.
For a list of GEW events visit https://www.fnb.co.za/promotions/GEW-2010.html
* This article appeared in Business Day on 16 November 2010. It forms part of the writer’s report, funded by Trade and Industrial Policy Research (TIPS), on lessons South Africa can learn from India and Brazil, in boosting small business support.
Stephen Timm is a