Africa In Focus

Africa In Focus: "The mainstream thinking now is that Africa is different and we could get it right if we want. The choice is fully ours, and it is now time for us to define what we want."

African Development Bank (AFDB) President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Giving Budding African Entrepreneurs A Leg Up In Business


VENTURES AFRICA – Africa is seen as the next economic hub of the world. To maximize this opportunity, there is need for individuals to be economically self-reliant. To achieve this, one way that has been devised overtime is to proliferate entrepreneurship, which will produce more jobs. This will in turn give them economic freedom and improve the continent’s economic footing.

Many people believe that entrepreneurs are absolutely essential to the growth of Africa, perhaps this is what informed the establishment of Branson Center for Entrepreneurship that currently offer growth opportunities to budding African entrepreneurs.

International business mogul, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Empire fame, established the center in Johannesburg South Africa in 2005. The goal was to identify and support promising young entrepreneurs and equip them with the skill and seed funding to launch successful businesses of their own. It was born out of the passion to groom up-and-coming entrepreneurs like he was helped when he was starting up. Another of such school- Branson Academic Center was established last year in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The business school was set up as a partnership between Virgin Unite, the non-profit organization of Richard Branson’s Group, in partnership with Virgin Holidays and Entrepreneur Teddy Bletcher, the founder of CIDA City Campus’ a university in Johannesburg.

CIDA City campus is South Africa’s first virtually free tertiary institution providing accredited business administration degrees to disadvantaged students. The business academy is a non-profit organization that provides the platform to entrepreneur to bring their entrepreneurship skill and dream to fulfillment.

Branson’s academy that began full operation in 2006 serves as a launch pad for entrepreneurs while supporting rising entrepreneurs in creating jobs and growing local economies by helping them actualize their business ideas. Since inception, the school has been able to help growing South African Entrepreneurs to improve on their business skills thereby giving them a right footing on how to successfully establish and maintain their businesses. It has been able to fulfill its obligation in helping to improve economic growth in South Africa by supporting start-ups and micro-enterprises with skills, mentors, services, networks and finance agreements.

There are many talented entrepreneurs in Africa who are in search of similar opportunities provided by the centre. Sir Branson attests to this fact when he said, “I have met many creative entrepreneurs in South Africa and I have learnt that what they need to launch and grow their businesses are practical business skills.”

Branson Academic Center delivers a world-class curriculum in business and entrepreneurial concepts that relates to running a practical business enterprise and business challenges faced in real life situations. Students offer course like Mathematics and English as elective courses while majoring on business administrative courses that will help launch their business career. They get a tiny bit of seed funding in the first year, a little more in the second year, more in the third year and the person with the best idea will get even more at the end. This money will be in form of loan, which the students will have to pay back into the business seed money kitty for those following them.

The business school offer budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet business gurus in their field. Apart from this, the institution provide young entrepreneurs with social skills as well as people-management skills. They learn the power of delegation and sometimes discover new things about themselves that help them know and manipulate their strengths and weaknesses for the benefit of their businesses.
Branson Academic Center has over the years been able to break the popular principle that setting up a business after school is for those who do not have a choice. The academy has bridged the gap of lack of role models, no access to capital or training that has overtime been an obstacle to willing entrepreneurs.

“For a lot of entrepreneurs, 80 percent of what they learn they are going to learn by just being out in the jungle , trying things occasionally and falling flat on their faces, picking themselves up and trying again. So we can help them with the other 20%, that quite important icing on the cake,” Sir Branson once said while talking about the business school.

One of such entrepreneurs that have been launched into the business world is Lasego Malatsi, co- founder of Mzanzi designers Emporium.  She was one of the African designers to grace the London Fashion Week. Narrating her experience as a product of the Academy, she said, “Like many South Africans, when I finished my studies, I couldn’t find a job so I started my own business instead. However, finding support to help me launch my fashion label wasn’t easy so I approached the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship and received many networking opportunities to promote m business.”

This approach by the school has also been able to boost the image of entrepreneurship as not just a moneymaking venture but as a venture that can be used to tackle social problems. To keeping the school going, a Fund raising event is organised yearly where places to join Sir Richard Branson in mentoring and coaching students are auctioned to attendees.

When establishing the business school in South Africa, Branson said “ I believe that increasing entrepreneurship in this country is the golden highway to economic freedom- plus it’s an exciting and fun way to make a living”— and indeed it has. Isn’t South Africa a leading economy in Africa and a force to reckon with globally?

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