The buzz word coming from South Africa’s development finance institutions seems to be, the black industrialists. With the growing movement of African consumers wanting to buy black, as well as platforms such as Brownsense who are pooling a network of black entrepreneurs, the timing of Mbewu Movement’s “Black Industrialist” Masterclass could not have been more pertinent. Furthermore, we successfully curated a conversation where a development financier and two young black industrialists shared insights on what it takes to cut it as a black industrialist. Our guest speakers included: Lerato Mangope (Head of Corporate Funding at the Industrial Development Corporation), Thabiso Molekwa (Black Industrialist and Founder of Embombi Lager) and Palesa Lephallo (Black Industrialist and Founder of AfricanLily Haircare).
According to the Department of Trade & Industry, “the concept of black industrialists refers to black people directly involved in the origination, creation, significant ownership, management and operation of industrial enterprises that derive value from the manufacturing of goods and services at a large scale; acting to unlock the productive potential of our country’s capital assets for massive employment locally.” In support of this, billions of financial resources have been allocated to supporting black entrepreneurs across targeted sectors (see below infographic).
Source: Business Day
Whilst many might see these large sums of money and already start dreaming of rands and nairas, a key insight from the Lerato’s talk was the importance of being able to demonstrate that one is capable of owning and managing an enterprise when applying for funding. Having one’s own skin in the game is an indicator of this.
On the topic of being able to manage one’s business operations and finances, Thabiso shared his personal journey of entrepreneurship. This included insights he remembered from being a young boy selling snacks at school for pocket money, from owning pubs around Johannesburg to losing them all due to mismanagement, then recovering from debt and failure to eventually chasing his dream of founding his own brewery. The pride that Thabiso has in his product today, is a reflection of the authenticity, ambition and resilience that makes the Embombi a craft beer that has a uniquely South African story to tell.
Palesa’s insights as an emerging black industrialist had more to do with understanding customer needs at a granular level and developing a solution that addresses these needs. Although reports show that black hair care is big business Palesa explained that black hair is not homogenous and consumers trust products that are known to deliver results. This is why she invests time with her clients to intimately understand their hair care needs and educate them on the benefits of her products.
What was encouraging about this particular Masterclass was the diversity of the audience, not just from a gender and age perspective, but from an industry perspective as well. So regardless of whether you are interested in filmmaking or pharmaceuticals, beer or beauty the era of the black industrialists has arrived and is likely to last into the long-term.