Under the theme, “Leadership Lessons from Nature”, the 2019 tt100 Business Awards took place at the Country Club in Johannesburg on Thursday, 14 November. The tt100 Business Innovation Awards are open to businesses of all sizes that have been in operation for more than a year.
This year the awards programme saw a total intake of 198 entries from eight categories. In all, there was a total of 112 category finalists selected and from this, 28 category winners emerged.
The 2019 tt100 Business Awards saw an increase in category finalists as well as an increase in the number of informal, small and emerging enterprises that took part this year.
The 2019 tt100 Awards kicked off with a keynote address by Zain Reddiar, Human Resources Executive at MTN, who spoke about the importance of digital inclusion, smartphone penetration as well as job creation and threats due to technology. Reddiar said, “We are in the midst of technological change, unprecedented in pace and scope and we cannot predict where it will lead. The only thing that we are certain of is that we need to improve our collaboration if we are to steer change towards a common goal.” Reddiar said that we have gone from digital technology being virtually unknown to now having more than half of all humanity being connected to one another through the internet and mobile carriers.
Digital Gender Gap
This year, the proportion of women using the internet is 12 per cent lower than the proportion of men. This gender gap widens to 33 percent in least developed countries, according to the ITU. It is not just access, women have less opportunities.
In terms of venture capital funding, women entrepreneurs are still lagging behind. “Women entrepreneurs can expect just two dollars for every 98 dollars given to their male counterparts,” revealed Reddair.
Job Creation and Opportunities for Youth
With so many ongoing concerns about how new technologies will affect jobs, it is important that South Africa prepares workers for an economy where accelerated technology adoption will disrupt tens of millions of jobs in a matter of years. This applies especially to small businesses.
According to SARS Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter, large businesses and corporates do not really create new jobs anymore. “We hear of mass retrenchments and downsizing daily. The real opportunities for growth come from small businesses. Job opportunities come from young people who have entrepreneurial ideas. Therefore, a programme such as the tt100 which is managed by the Da Vinci Institute in collaboration with the Department of Science Innovation and other partners is to showcase and recognize such emerging and small businesses and most importantly, to inspire them and support them because that is where our future lies.”
The ttt100 Business Awards is one of those catalyzing interventions that can inspire more young people especially said Kieswetter. “I amplify and emphasize the young people component, but that doesn’t mean we exclude the more mature businesses and leaders, for me the future is vested in our young people. In a country with such high levels of youth unemployment, we need to create as many opportunities for young people to be encouraged that there is a place for them in South Africa,” he said.
Rebuilding the Education System
Gauteng MEC of Education, Panyaza Lesufi highlighted that the fourth industrial revolution is not happening only in Europe or America, it is happening everywhere and since Africa is behind the curve, it is important that as a country we close the gap. “How we close the gap is by giving young people opportunities and that is why we are digitalizing schools by providing smart boards, tablets, laptops and now introducing e-teachers.”
Speaking about how the tt100 impacts businesses, Lesufi said “events such as the tt100 bring everyone in the innovative space together, you have representatives from government, from the business side of things, there’s academia, and that is what we need.”
“We can’t operate in isolation. It is also important to acknowledge people that have done well. Sometimes all entrepreneurs need is some motivation. Encouragement that they are on the right track” he concluded.
By Fundisiwe Maseko