SABC, Mail & Guardian launch ‘The Big Africa Debate’ in Cape Town

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), in collaboration with the Mail and Guardian, launched the inaugural ‘The Big Africa Debate’ on Tuesday in Cape Town.

The debate series will critically examine topical subjects from the continent’s political, economic, and social realm, focusing on Africa’s bankability and infrastructure development.

The first panel of speakers discussed, among others, how the time has now come to think about how African resource endowments are working for Africans.

Creating economic opportunities

The panellists for the first debate included the Chairperson of a Zambian mining holding company and a pan African venture capitalist and focussed on small start-ups.

Dolika Banda from Zambia said that historically there had been little visionary leadership to support Africans benefiting from the continent’s riches. Despite scepticism, Banda claims that there has been a shift, further stating that in Zambia, there are policies aimed at creating economic opportunities for local communities and businesses that began by adding value to raw materials.

ZCCM Mining Holding Company Zambia’s Dolika Banda said, “It is a time now to think about how Africa’s resources, endowments and assets, working for Africans. so I accept and I agree with you that it has not been well implemented up until now but certainly, when you’re talking to the leadership current there is a change of mind and there is a strategic policy to drive the industries to include the local communities whether it’s through the supply chain, but as well as value addition whatever minerals they’re producing. Producing, adding value on the ground instead of exporting the raw material and then it comes back to us at twice the price or ten times the price.”

Lack of capital

Africa’s population is young and full of promise. However, for small start-up businesses, the road to success is frequently fraught with difficulties such as a lack of capital. This obstructs the development of good ideas into medium and even larger companies.

While Africans have many innovative ideas, finding funding is a major challenge. Both large corporations and governments must play a role.

Launch Africa ventures’ Janade Du Plessis says, “We need governments to create a regulatory environment that is conducive for start-ups to grow. how easy is it to create a new company, how easy is it to have it VAT registered, to have all the correct requirements, how is it to what incentives there are for an entrepreneur to leave their job with their great idea and to start a start-up. These are all very tough things that entrepreneurs have to decide on because they have to often leave a high-paying job and work for no money for a very long time.”

However, according to Du Plessis, Africa’s potential is being recognised, and the investments made in the last decade speak to this.

“If you look at about ten years ago in 2011 only 20 million dollars was invested across the African continent in early-stage start-ups, $20 million, ten years ago, last year it was $5 billion of a small base off course but the rate at which is growing is phenomenal, its actually the world’s fasted growing asset class, venture capitalist the world’s fastest-growing asset class, so we are on an upward trajectory and we need to continue to do that by providing start-ups with capital,” Du Plessis adds.

Banda says Africa was blessed with immense wealth and all Africans should focus their attention on making every day, Africa Day.

“This is our continent and if every day we think about what I’m doing to build this continent, what am I doing in order that I can be the legacy as an individual, you don’t have to have money to make a difference, you make a difference in mentoring, you can make a difference in adopting a child, you can make a difference selling beads from your home, in your community, doing something so I think for each and every one of us as an African every day should be about Africa, broad Africa. Let’s not talk South Africa and Zambia and Rwanda, Uganda, we are one continent.” Banda explained.

The SABC’s Africa Month activities will conclude with a Channel Africa, in association with Mail and Guardian webinar, on the 31st of May on both digital platforms, bringing the annual topic to a close.