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On the 26th of April 2016, the Cape Town branch of African Students For Liberty hosted five entrepreneurs and policy makers to discuss whether the government was helping or hindering South Africa’s entrepreneurs. The event took place Tuesday evening in a lecture theatre at the University of Cape Town.

The event was run in tandem with the Rising Tide Foundation essay contest, with panelists offering insight into answering the question for students writing their essays. Ineng helped organise the event, by connecting ASFL with some of the panelists.

First on the panel was Garreth Bloor, a Cape Town city councillor experienced in both the private and public sector. Garreth is a big friend of entrepreneurs and discussed how the government holds back entrepreneurs through regulation and an unwillingness to allow entrepreneurs ownership over their property.

Guy Harris, an entrepreneur, spoke about the need to turn our “wineglass economy into a tumbler”. He highlighted how our government has been doing a disservice not to instil entrepreneurship and valuable skills into students.

Grant Jackson, another entrepreneur, provided insight into the additional barriers and challenges to entrepreneurs as well as some solutions to the problems entrepreneurs face.

James Mittan, also an entrepreneur, discussed how the state fails to help entrepreneurs get their projects off the ground and that most entrepreneurs have to rely on venture capital or hard work. He also discussed how his product, Honest Abe, helps entrepreneurs get off the ground.

Finally, Sheraan Amod discussed how the attempts made by government to help entrepreneurs tend to distort the market and actually fail to help entrepreneurs at the end of the day. He is a self-ascribed libertarian, and called for the government to get out of the way of entrepreneurs who are trying to solve society’s problems.

The meat of the event was in the debate that followed the panel, with the audience and panel engaging in a discussion on what policies they think should be removed, how the land issue should be approached to encourage entrepreneurship through ownership, how traditional leaders are a barrier to families owning land and progressing financially, how policy makers tend to misunderstand basic economic principles and ultimately how the government has failed to help our entrepreneurs – ultimately answering the question of the evening.

The general consensus of the evening was that government needs to get out of the way. Their job is to create an enabling and safe environment for entrepreneurs – something that they have failed to do in South Africa. Socialist and Communist ideologies, which unfortunately dominate our government’s higher echelons, are economically unsound, and this contributes to market distortion and, ultimately, destructive polices that wreck our economy and hurt entrepreneurs.

South Africa’s capacity to achieve a desired future is in its ability to enable entrepreneurs to engage in the market and start producing wealth for themselves and their families. Ultimately, the government cannot create wealth – only the private sector can.

  • Great stuff. NB point about not needing gov to actively help, just passively get out of the way. Unfortunate myth out there that the state needs to ‘support’ SMMEs. Bad idea. Just treat small and large firms alike exactly the same.

  • Altus Pienaar

    It is clear the author must have been wasting his time and money on a masters in politics and economics. He clearly does not understand the difference between socialist and communist ideologies compared to those of capitalist doctrine.

    • Um, what? This is a report back on an event.

      • Altus Pienaar

        “Socialist and Communist ideologies, which unfortunately dominate our government’s higher echelons” – your comment!
        I do not see the ANC as either being socialist or communist. They might make all sorts of socialist and communist noise but the reality is they are riding the capitalist gravy train and will do nothing to derail it.

        • The SACP gets seats in government regardless of election, many self-claimed Communists are members of the ANC and a trade union holds way too much sway in government. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t “true Communists” – they, and many many others, use the ideology to legitimise evil actions.

          And a pursuit of money isn’t Capitalism! Capitalism is a mode of making money through free enterprise. All economic systems are about the generation of wealth and its allocation. Capitalism is just one of those systems. And one the ANC do not subscribe to! Their blatant restrictions on free enterprise and business is a testament to that.

          • Altus Pienaar

            I am not sure which restrictions you refer to? My experience have been that from a small business perspective many policies have been adopted requiring an ever increasing string of administrative steps to perform usually simple and straight forward tasks like transferring money international or even receiving money from overseas. Many new levies and fees have been added to previously free services, all of which makes running a small business a much bigger challenge than what it used to be not very long ago.
            The ANC’s neoliberal approach toward the mining, banking and other large corporate enterprises is surely very capitalist by nature. I believe the expression “never bite the hand that feeds” might apply here. These enterprises is most likely where the ANC’s campaign funding comes from and they in turn have to dance to these corporations capitalist tunes.

            There is two camps in the ANC, one being pro capitalist and the other pro communist. Mbeki came from the pro capitalist camp and I believe he was forced out for that very reason.
            Zuma on the other hand was supposed to be more neutral and his place was to keep the balance between these to camps but I think his neutrality was more on account of stupidity.

            I would like to add that the origin of capitalism has its roots in the need for a means of trading services and product. While I do not see a problem with this simple function of money I do however find the idea of the pursuit of money very repulsive. Money is a means to an end, and money should never be the end itself. At this point money becomes the tool by which much evil have been perpetrated in this world.

            I also believe that we use the term capitalism far too loosely and its definition have become way too diluted. We need to add prefixes in order to start distinguishing between it’s different contexts.

          • “My experience have been that from a small business perspective many policies have been adopted requiring an ever increasing string of administrative steps to perform usually simple and straight forward tasks like transferring money international or even receiving money from overseas. Many new levies and fees have been added to previously free services, all of which makes running a small business a much bigger challenge than what it used to be not very long ago.”

            Restrictions on small businesses is the very essence of an anti-Capitalist system. A Capitalist system isn’t one where the state favours any agent. It is one where they get out of the way. What you are describing is a Cronyist/Statist economy, not a Capitalist one.

            “The ANC’s neoliberal approach toward the mining, banking and other large corporate enterprises is surely very capitalist by nature. I believe the expression “never bite the hand that feeds” might apply here. These enterprises is most likely where the ANC’s campaign funding comes from and they in turn have to dance to these corporations capitalist tunes.”

            Mining in SA has died due to interference by the state and unions. We missed the commodity bubble due to state controls and mining is becoming too precarious due to race-based equity and union interference. Banks are an integral part of any economic system, so cannot reasonably be called neoliberal. The ANC does receive funding from large corporates, but the corporates fund them out of fear, not power. The ANC has a monopoly on licensing, control over corporate ownership, control over entry and exit. They are in charge.

            ” I do however find the idea of the pursuit of money very repulsive. Money is a means to an end, and money should never be the end itself.”

            The pursuit of money as a means in itself is found in depression and nihilism. It is when a person has no goals, so keeps themselves fulfilled in the baseless raising of capital.

            “I also believe that we use the term capitalism far too loosely and its definition have become way too diluted. We need to add prefixes in order to start distinguishing between it’s different contexts.”

            The problem with all ideologies is that their opponents run a smear campaign to change the meaning of their name. Sometimes the campaign is so powerful that many adopt the new meaning – liberals for instance. With Capitalism, I stick to its definition as a free market minimal government interference. There are terms for the alternatives, such as Cronyism for the corrupt financial systems that we face now.