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Youth-owned business declines

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Recent research has revealed that there is a decline in locally owned youth businesses, causing concern for South Africa’s unemployment figures.

More impactful business development support that provides entrepreneurs with robust business basics is needed to increase small business success rates, while a decline in youth owned businesses has emerged as cause for concern given South Africa’s dire unemployment figures.

These are just some of the findings of South Africa’s largest entrepreneurial survey, the Real State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa 2017, announced by Donna Rachelson, Seed Engine CEO, incorporating Seed Academy and the WDB Seed Fund. Conducted by Seed Academy and now in its third consecutive year, the survey is the biggest and most widely referenced of its kind. This year’s survey, which canvassed over 1,200 entrepreneurs, expanded its scope from start-ups to all entrepreneurs at any stage of business development to gain valuable insight on the true state of entrepreneurship in South Africa. “Encouragingly, we are seeing the gap between the number of male and female entrepreneurs start to narrow as women represented 47% of entrepreneurs surveyed. This gives some indication that efforts focused on the development of women owned businesses are beginning to pay off. Similar initiatives are now urgently needed to develop youth entrepreneurs so that entrepreneurship is viewed as a ‘real’ career option,” notes Rachelson.

Expanding on the success of previous years, the 2017 survey sharpened its focus on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in key areas such as access to funding, business support and skills development. Although some 65% of survey respondents were in possession of a post-matric qualification and a sizeable majority at 85% had at least one year’s work experience before starting a business, many entrepreneurs indicated that they require education specific to the practicalities of running a business such as marketing support and business planning. Rachelson says that while Centres for Entrepreneurship at TVET colleges are making strides in entrepreneurial education, both the public and private sectors need to look at what more can be done and how this kind of education could be incorporated into both basic and tertiary curricula.

Interestingly, 33% of entrepreneurs that have been in business for more than two and half years attribute the primary reason for their success to cultivating strong personal networks. This finding bears some correlation to the fact that 95% of businesses are funded by a combination of owner’s funds and funds from owner’s friends and family. “What we can interpret from this is that entrepreneurs place a high value on cultivating strong trust-based relationships that can help the business owner with access to markets and other opportunities including access to financing, both of which were stated as the most pressing challenges by 67% and 43% of entrepreneurs respectively.”

Rachelson adds that only 18% of entrepreneurs surveyed have attempted to secure funding from banks or development funding institutions like the IDC or DTI. “Some entrepreneurs indicated that they simply don’t know where to go for funding especially in light of the fact that most early-stage business funding requirements are below the R100k threshold. There is certainly a case to be made for funding providers to revise certain requirements to better accommodate the unique needs of small and early-stage businesses. Of course, one unfortunate implication of self-funding is that growth potential is limited to the owner’s own pocket and diminishes the ability for a small business to increase capacity, hire more staff, and make a more meaningful impact on the South African economy.”

This year’s survey has also revealed that the top sectors represented by respondents are Information Technology (IT), Business Services, Construction, and Advertising, Marketing & PR. These are however weakly aligned to the South African government’s priority sectors of Manufacturing, Construction, Utilities, and Telecoms, indicating that more aggressive efforts are needed to incentivise businesses development in these key priority sectors.

According to Rachelson one important aim of the survey is to positively influence the entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Africa by providing the basis for robust engagement for policy makers and providers of financial and non-financial support to business in South Africa. In addition, the research functions as a useful touchpoint to help educate individuals thinking about starting a business, and those already running businesses, about the current challenges and opportunities facing entrepreneurs in South Africa.

“With each survey, we learn something new that challenges us and the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Africa. Armed with concrete new insights we are better equipped to make significant changes to the way we support entrepreneurs,” says Rachelson.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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