“Entrepreneurs and small business are natural allies for freedom,” announced Ghanaian entrepreneur Bright Simons during the opening session of the Africa Liberty Forum in Johannesburg, bringing delegates from across the continent and beyond.
During panels on the rule of law, economic freedom, free speech and human rights it was clear entrepreneurs can be key to securing an enabling environment that makes economic growth possible for all, driven by entrepreneurial minds across society.
Ineng’s Unathi Kwaza shared her story as an SMME owner during a session on Entrepreneurs and the Future of Africa. Unathi, now an Ineng spokesperson and coordinator, warns that entrepreneurs and SMME owners need to stand up when they see government hurting industries that are not their own, using the example of the sugar tax and liquor legislation.
“If they come for another industry today, who says they won’t come after you tomorrow in the form of restrictions and higher taxes,” she explained.
Above: Unathi Kwaza speaking at the Africa Liberty Forum
With South Africa as the host country to the Liberty Forum, following Ghana last year, sharp focus was placed on South Africa’s difficult environment of low economic growth.
Above: Temba Nolutshung speaking at the Africa Liberty Forum
Temba Nolutshungu said he supported the sale of state owned entities with the proceeds sold directly to poor South Africans through a means test – a position previously backed by Ineng entrepreneurs back at workshops in Khayelistha.
Ineng’s work directly with policy makers at the local government level was recognized as one of three featured projects in the Atlas Network’s Think Tank Shark Tank Competition, showcased by Michael Howe-Ely, while Garreth Bloor shared ways to measure progress on projects to support entrepreneurs, using the Ineng model.
Above: Ann Bernstein speaking at the Africa Liberty Forum
Ann Bernstein made the compelling case for growth-focused policies, showing the benefits of economic growth for inclusiveness. As head of the Centre for Development and Enterprise, Bernstein’s award-winning book The Case for Business in Developing Economies, has been a blueprint for Ineng’s work, focused in particular on entrepreneurs within the business world.
The subject of Radical Economic Transformation arose frequently during the two-day forum.
Above: Leon Louw speaking at the Africa Liberty Forum
FMF Director Leon Louw said he agreed with the need for it in light of “radical poverty”. He explained however the term however needed to be defined, laying out a ten point plan he would propose to the President, Jacob Zuma.
The plan included the immediate granting of title deeds to all formerly disadvantaged South Africans still living on state land, which he pointed out would unlock a trillion rand in value directly to poor South Africans, the size of South Africa’s annual budget and a third the GDP: “People say you cannot give things away free. I say it is not free, we simply want to recognize the rightful owners of state land who still face the risks of evictions”.
Louw also backed Noluthungu’s sale of state owned assets built up during the apartheid years, but said the allocation of shares should be done specifically as reparation to all black South Africans: a point that remained one of disagreement between the two, who both played key roles in Codesa.
Discussions at the Liberty Forum revealed that a lack of direct ownership of land and formal business interests in the hands of the majority of South Africans remains a firm challenge for the growth of entrepreneurship.
It is a structural deficiency that requires scaling back government control over the economy, allocating that control directly to ordinary South Africans through property rights, shares in state companies and doing away with the cosy relationship between big government and big business that exists partly because of “excessive regulations that lock out new businesses”.
Above: Ineng members at the Africa Liberty Forum