Supporting Black owned SMEs who create jobs

According to the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Index, only 15% of South African start-ups are successful. Research shows that South Africa has over 300 organisations that support entrepreneurs in the country, however the entrepreneurial participation is less than 40%. As the country’s unemployment (38.3%) and youth unemployment (27.5%) continues to increase, now is the time to start supporting businesses that create jobs.

This was the message at this year’s National Enterprise Development Awards (NEDA) event, hosted by Black Umbrellas, an enterprise development incubation programme, which focusses on nurturing young businesses in South Africa.

Basani Maluleke, CEO of African Bank, who delivered the keynote address, praised smaller businesses that managed to create job opportunities within the communities they serve in spite of the current tough economic climate. Speaking from personal experience she shared her own journey.

Maluleke, who grew up in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, is no stranger to the challenges small businesses face. Growing up her father helped her disabled grandfather start a small grocery shop which literally developed from a spaza shop into a Spar franchise that became a major grocery shopping node in Soshanguve.

“My father believed strongly in the importance of serving society. One of the things that he was most proud of was that the shop was able to create employment for people in Soshanguve. He was also proud of the fact that the shop (which become 4 different shops) was able to provide employment for family members. This enabled him to directly assist the broader family,” says Maluleke.

She says the shops were also a place where he could instil a strong work ethic in his children. Both Maluleke and her sister got their first jobs as teenagers at Maluleke Spar. “We started off packing groceries into plastic bags, then we were promoted to becoming cashiers, then we could take delivery of new stock and eventually we were responsible for counting cash and helping to balance the books at the end of each day. While other kids enjoyed school holidays, we had to work. We even worked on Christmas eve and half day, on Christmas day. Fortunately, we were closed on New Years’ Day,” she says.

Maluleke says when she started university she wanted to try something different and her father, who had his own law firm called Maluleke, Msimang and Associates, promptly employed her at the law firm. He also employed other family members at the law firm as drivers, secretaries and so on.

“My father became a lawyer because when his father was disabled in a car accident, it severely limited his ability to work and his overall quality of life. At that time, in Apartheid SA, my grandfather did not know that he could access the Road Accident Fund to obtain money to help with medical bills and compensate for the loss in quality of life. When he learned about the RAF, my father resolved that he would become a lawyer to make sure that black people who needed access to the RAF would have it.”

His entrepreneurial spirit and strong work ethic have been ingrained in both sisters. “When he wasn’t at the law firm or consulting with clients at home, he was at the shops guiding his siblings who were employed by the shops,” she says. This kind of dedication and resilience pays dividends so both girls were ultimately able to attend private schools, go on holiday and attend university. “Because we were so well supported and had developed a strong work ethic, I have three degrees – 2 from UCT and 1 from the Kellogg School of Management in Illinois. My siblings are similarly well educated.”

The four key lessons Maluleke learned from watching her father grow two distinct businesses, include:

  • There’s no substitute for hard work;
  • Work with people who you trust;
  • Work for something greater than yourself, i.e. aim to serve society at large;
  • Listen to your customers and have a genuine concern for them.

And that is exactly why the fit with African Bank made so much sense. She joined African Bank because it is a bank that typically serves underbanked people. “At the time I joined, the Board would talk about creating an Investec Bank type of experience for low income South Africans. This vision for the bank resonates with the vision that the founders of the bank had for African Bank in the 1960s.  NAFCOC, led by Dr Sam Motsuenyane, wanted to build a bank that would serve the interests of black people. This was important because during Apartheid, black people had very little access to financial services.”

It you fast-forward to 2019, Maluleke says black people now have access to financial services, but bank fees are high, banks are intimidating and people often don’t know enough to be able to make their money work for them. She says this is where African Bank comes in. “We offer the lowest bank fees, the highest interest rates on deposits and the easiest process to open accounts and apply for loans. In 2018, we decided that our purpose is to advance lives, through financial and related services. We are deeply committed to this purpose. The launch of our transactional banking product, called MyWORLD, is an important part of our journey to becoming a bank that is known to advance the lives of its customers and staff.”

In conclusion Maluleke’s message was clear. Try and always find a way to serve society and leave people and communities better off.  “As you build your businesses and face dazzling highs and devastating lows, I encourage you to create a purpose for your businesses that involves serving others to the best of your ability; of providing opportunities for your loved ones to guarantee their financial freedom. This will give you  the kind of personal fulfilment that very few people ever achieve.”