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April 7th, 2017

I was driving home tonight from a world-class event executed in the heart of the buzzing Braamfontein in Johannesburg. I know this feeling. It’s a familiar and wonderful feeling. The energy in every major African city that I have been to is palpable and the small business that are fearless in operating in these environments flourish because of an innate understanding and respect for the environment and surrounding ecosystem. Tonight was no different. I left the event feeling proud and hopefully about small business in South Africa and the excellence that they are capable of delivering.

On the way home my phone winked at me out of the corner of it’s all-knowing glowing eye:
“Zuma about to fire Cabinet ministers”

A few minutes later:
“Zuma’s axe falls on Cabinet reshuffle”

And finally, the dreaded confirmation of a Nations fears:
“Zuma Fires Gordhan”

I turn my phone face down and retreat into my own head.
How disappointed must we be as people demanding a better crop of leadership to steer the economy forward. How embarrassed must we get as a result of the unheard plea’s for “number one” to step down. And how discouraged must the approximately 2.2million registered small business be with their daily effort to swallow glass while staring into the uncertain abyss of entrepreneurship.

The lazy solution is to ”Let them Incubate”!

Nowadays, I suffer from fatigue of these endless incubators and incubation processes!
How long must this en vogue form of foreign AID continue? What exactly is the throughput and success rate of these said “incubators” and what impact are they actually delivering?

Personally, incubation is a patronizing way of reminding us how much we don’t know in order to reinforce western methods of creation, going to market and scaling our IP.

I am reminded of a brief conversation I had just before leaving the event in braamfontein.

Me: “How is business going?”
Young Black Entrepreneur: “It’s ok. We are trying. We are in these fancy offices because we need the address to create the perception that we are worth our salt”

Me: “Really?”
Young Black Entrepreneur: “Yebo – although we know that keeping our overheads low and being in a more modest location makes business sense, we can’t shake being black and battling to validate our value. Being in this office is one of those things that we can’t avoid.”

Me: “I hear you – we have black tax, government tax and now perception tax all because of the color of our skin”
*We both chuckle*

It’s a painful thing to chuckle about, but I suppose it’s the only way to deal with the bitter pill of our reality as young entrepreneurs of color.
It’s simply not good enough. Small businesses across the color spectrum, that are delivering should be supported. The wholesale focus of our economic activity should be on creating more of these enterprises and wrapping them in a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Instead, the cabinet is being reshuffled to incubate a cancerous government that is systematically eroding opportunity from young, excellent businesses of color that are creating value and just trying to do the right thing.
Keep your incubators!
We have the skill, knowledge, network and capability. We need an environment in which we can compete fairly at market prices and share in the prosperity of the nation.