In today's ever changing business environment and global economy, technological innovation and entrepreneurship has taken the centre stage. Competition has become knowledge-based and there is growing interest in the relationship between innovation and entrepreneurship and how they can promote global growth and development.
Khonology's CEO Michael Roberts says the key lies in knowledge. "You can only go as far as your knowledge can take you. If information was available to everyone then we could develop entrepreneurs. Information being available isn’t about what we can find on the internet only, it is also about who we can talk to, who can motivate, encourage and inspire upcoming or potential entrepreneurs."
There are thousands of entrepreneurs who are not looking for what to do, but rather looking for 'how' to do what they can do. In order for entrepreneurs to be developed in Africa, young professionals need to make themselves available to shape and form those who already have the gift of entrepreneurship and help those who have the potential.
"Give exposure to fresh minds by giving new opportunities to younger people who have innovative ideas and solutions to complex problems. If companies assist the young minds to fuel their interest, the passion for the interest grows stronger, and when you have passionate people in your team the business that you’re in will have endless opportunities," he stresses.
Khonology’s Africa Nkosi says a few universities are catching up with the dynamic shift in demand for different skills in the marketplace. “Sol Plaatjie University has acted on this shift by being one of the first to offer a data science course. Global institutions are realising the large trend of getting people who understand data, and using the information to leverage of the behaviour interpreted by the data.”
“Opening up South Africans to the buzzing world of data, through data governance, data scientists, business or even market intelligence, allows the economy to unlock potential that could drive new businesses, innovation and inventions that could contribute to the country,” he explains.
What extinguishes the fire of interest and passion within young people when it comes to being entrepreneurs is that they do not have the finances necessary to start their businesses. However, there are a lot of organisations that are available to assist them in starting up their businesses. Once again, it is the lack of knowledge that causes doubt and hesitation in young people.
There are various funding opportunities available for start-up companies, even the Government aids SMEs. The Department of Science and Technology has funding available for technological inventions and ideas, Department of Trade and Industry along with Technology Innovation Agency, Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), Government Funding and Grants, The National Empowerment Fund (NEF) and corporates provide business loans.
The FinTech sector is one that is booming right now with a lot of innovative technological ideas and one that is playing a major role in the evolution of technology and the world as a whole. There are a few trends that are riding the FinTech waves, the rise of Big Data, BlockChain, increased automation, FinTech IPOs, security management regulatory actions, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and robo-advising, rise of alternative products and the sharing economy.
Companies such as 22Seven, RainFin, Snap Scan, Peach payment are taking full advantage of this booming sector which seems to have a lot of opportunities for young entrepreneurs. These are young companies that have just entered the industry.
Roberts says there are quite a number of youth who are developing innovative solutions and selling the ideas to major companies. "The opportunities are there for youth to collaborate and continue developing solutions to complex problems."
When there is an economic slowdown, a lot of industries are extremely cautious but FinTech somewhat thrives on challenges. Whenever there is a problem, one can either choose to focus on the issue or see the opportunity to be the solution to the issue at hand.
"As a start-up, breaking into the FinTech market could be a challenge. One would have to prove that your services will be better than the rest, and you’ll find that the rest have been in the business and have a reputable reputation and a strong client base. So gaining a client base is most probably the hardest part of the whole process of being a start-up," he says.
Roberts says instead of reinventing the wheel in terms of infrastructure, one could find ways to engage with the existing ecosystem of banks. "In the same way that Apple did not seek to rebuild telco infrastructure from scratch but intelligently leveraged what already existed, successful FinTech attackers will find ways to partner with banks."
The major skills required for FinTech are Java, C++, C# or Python. There isn’t a shortage of technical skills, but there is certainly a shortage of the combination of technical skills and finance. Additionally, the social intelligence skills play a major role to becoming an active citizen that offers value across the global economy.
The thinking and approach to solving problem is what is most important, how one tackles complex problems is key to finding relevant and impactful solutions. Engineers have done well at solving complex problems in the technology and finance space, this dynamism has proved that it is not about the degree linked with the job but the thinking and approach that makes one an active citizen in the economy.
The lack of financial knowledge is one of the hindrances of entrepreneurship. This is an issue that can be solved by introducing these subjects at primary and high school level together with business studies. Essentially the problem lies in the gaps within of basic education, a lot of people lack basis or do not fully comprehend the basics.
"In terms of financial education and literacy, we have to tackle this problem at primary and high school level. Financial literacy, technology and economics should not be elective subjects in high schools. They should be compulsory as they are key drivers to ensuring that the future knows the fundamentals of being market makers and players," he concludes.