While we find ourselves in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution it is important we never lose sight of where we come from. Not so much as to hold on to the past, rather as to have a solid understanding of our growth trajectory. As Africans, when our ancestors taught us that “it takes a village to raise a child” they were inadvertently articulating the very future we are now realising amidst the furious pace of technological innovation in the 21st century.
The commercial platform strategies that have emerged in recent years that rely on aggregation mechanisms have grown to be the leading businesses of the 21st century. Whether it’s Amazon, Uber, Facebook, AirBnB or Wikipedia – global villages are changing and influencing our day to day lives at an ever increasing rate. Despite the increased emphasis on platforms, the players in the marketplace are not new, their needs and aspirations are largely unchanged. Villages of yesteryear much like those of today are still hubs and environments of commercial exchange. The principle shift between marketplaces of yesteryear and those of today would perhaps be that the influence of technology and innovation have increased our ability to engage, trade, share ideas and leverage off each other. As a result technology and innovation characterised by the 4th Industrial Revolution has increased both the scope and depth of the village. At Tshokoma we continually ask ourselves the simple question; what does the expansion of digital commerce platforms mean for the continent. We realise the vast opportunity that this industrial shift offers, as much as we realise the myriad of potential threats and challenges. The opportunity is to Think Global and Act Global and the challenge is to not be spectators in the on-going change as well as to maintain Afrocentricity. From an a national perspective in the case of South Africa, we ensure that technological advancements promote social and economic transformation and ensures inclusive value creation for all its citizens in line with the NDP and UN SDGs.
We are part of a continent that shares so much culture, history and aspirations. In the same breath we realize that this gives scope to trans-border solutions. Simply put, a solution in Ghana is most likely a solution in Mozambique. However, the success of M-Pesa in Kenya and its dismal failure in South Africa makes us realize that the subtle nuances are still important. Context is everything! At Tshokoma we have made it a priority to study the trends that are shaping our continent. We have built networks that give us insight into the intricacies of the machinery that drives the continent. In addition to alignment to NDP and UN SDG’s are encouraged by the multi-lateral frameworks such as NEPAD and AU Agenda 2063 that build cohesion and consolidate our futures. It was with great joy we recently witnessed five South Africans being sworn in as members of the African Parliament from an African Union perspective and South Africa becoming a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council again.
Tshokoma prides itself on multi-level alignment and high-impact collaboration in strategy and implementation. This is the ontological root of our company. We do not impose our solutions, we co-create. We often face the challenge of clients saying: “You are the experts tell us what we should do”. In this case our response is often: “Well it depends”. Needless to say that at this point many clients want to kick us out of the room. The case here is that solutions are co-created, our clients and collaborators are the architects and we are the facilitators. As you can imagine this has been a flaw in the practice of importing business models, governance structures and policy from outside of our continent. As the Harvard Professor Ricardo Haussman once crisply articulated: “Importation without adaptation is a recipe for disaster”. Recognising this, Tshokoma is putting its hand up and asking, “What does this mean for us? How relevant is this? And can we scale this across the continent?”
What does this mean for us? This question explores the possibility of learning. We have to tie our commercial imperatives with an impetus to learn as an organisation. We are mostly focused on projects that bring us closer to interventions that systemically improve the lives of people. And this means we often identify leaders and support their vision of the future, especially when that vision means growth and prosperity for a significant base of people. We feel quite privileged in the work we have done with Net1, Vukile Property Fund and other clients which has put us in a position to match potential and capital. And we realize that our model here is very fertile and can be scaled far and wide.
How relevant is this? As we have previously mentioned context is everything. As the leader I had the privilege of attending a number of summits over the past twelve months, one that sticks out above the rest was the Global Entrepreneurship Conference in Istanbul. One can easily question the relevance of this given Tshokoma’s focus on the continent. What is important to understand is that these forums are sometimes the only space where you can meet high-level businessmen and politicians who are intimately engaged and committed to resolving a specific problem. And the summit being specifically focused on small business meant that this was the appropriate forum to engage leaders on the continent on how we can collaborate and shift the needle. The 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Congress was a tremendous success for Tshokoma as we not only obtained new insights but we reconnected with people from back home and forged new partnerships.
Sharing is caring. This is a favourite line for kids in playgrounds when they see their friends with chocolate or sweets. This is the scale challenge when we see success stories. How do we spread a story of success, not so much the narrative but the actually intrinsic model that brings wealth and improves lives. In the past few decades we have seen the emergence of black-owned African multinationals that have shown their faith in the continent handsomely rewarded. Tshokoma wants to be part of this story. We want our growth to act on Africa’s challenges.