BNC#6: GG Alcock Q&A – Why SA’s unemployment figures are way overblown, supporting the ‘Kasi’ economy

During a Q&A session at BNC#6 in Hermanus, Alec Hogg and GG Alcock discussed the educational backgrounds of successful informal entrepreneurs and the challenges they face in accessing formal financial support. Alcock highlighted the importance of informal learning from family members and peers in entrepreneurship. He emphasised the role of organisations like Altvest in democratising finance and supporting small businesses, especially those led by women. They also discussed the need for transformative policies in housing and local governance to empower informal businesses. Additionally, they explored the rapid digitization of informal economies, with platforms like WhatsApp driving e-commerce growth. Despite challenges, Alcock’s insights underscored the resilience and potential of informal entrepreneurs.

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Summary of the Q&A session with GG Alcock at BNC#6 in Hermanus

The discussion between Alec Hogg and GG Alcock delves into the intricate dynamics of entrepreneurship, education, informal economies, and the role of digitalization in South Africa. Alcock highlights that historical entrepreneurs often lacked formal education but learned from family members engaged in business, illustrating the intergenerational transfer of entrepreneurial skills. He emphasizes the significant contribution of informal economies to South Africa’s economic landscape, dispelling misconceptions about tax evasion and highlighting the substantial revenues generated by informal businesses. Alcock advocates for recognizing informal businesses’ economic contribution and fostering reciprocal business relationships between formal and informal sector

The conversation also explores the impact of digitalization on informal economies. Alcock reveals the rapid adoption of card payments and smartphone usage, particularly in township businesses. He underscores the transformative potential of digital platforms like Facebook Lite and WhatsApp for facilitating e-commerce and enhancing business operations in informal sectors. These platforms enable seamless communication, order placement, and customer engagement without requiring substantial data usage, making them accessible and practical for entrepreneurs.

Moreover, Alcock challenges conventional narratives surrounding unemployment rates, arguing that traditional metrics fail to capture the nuanced reality of informal employment and passive incomes like rental revenue. He contends that real unemployment may be lower than commonly reported figures suggest, urging a broader perspective on economic participation beyond formal employment metrics.

Overall, the dialogue between Hogg and Alcock paints a nuanced picture of South Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape, emphasizing the resilience and innovation inherent in informal economies. They advocate for recognizing and supporting informal businesses’ contributions while harnessing digital tools to facilitate their growth and integration into the formal economy.

Edited transcript of the Q&A session with GG Alcock at BNC#6 in Hermanus ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Alec Hogg [00:00:07]: GG, always inspiring to hear you talk. Let’s dive into education. There’s a debate about how some historical figures without formal education built successful businesses. How did they learn to be entrepreneurs?

GG Alcock [00:00:34]: Two primary ways. First, learning from family members, especially mothers or grandmothers involved in business. Second, transitioning from formal employment into entrepreneurship, often without formal education.

Alec Hogg [00:02:31]: They help each other, but the formal financial sector isn’t helpful. Are organizations like Outvest making a difference?

GG Alcock [00:02:47]: Outvest aims to democratize finance, especially for women-led businesses. Lack of development finance in South Africa hampers growth for smaller enterprises.

Alec Hogg [00:04:39]: Load shedding challenges businesses, but some adapt and thrive despite the obstacles.

GG Alcock [00:04:51]: Indeed, load shedding prompts resilience and innovation. Many businesses survive despite limited support, relying on each other rather than expecting help from the government.

Alec Hogg [00:06:11]: How about Capitec? Are they making strides in supporting smaller businesses?

GG Alcock [00:06:44]: Capitec has potential in small business banking, but challenges remain in recognizing the vast market and its needs.

Alec Hogg [00:07:04]: Shawn Summers, any collaborations there?

GG Alcock [00:07:59]: Some engagements with Pick n Pay in the past, but more voices advocating for small businesses are needed.

Alec Hogg [00:08:37]: What about property rights and informal housing?

GG Alcock [00:11:34]: Property rights, especially in informal settlements, can unlock economic potential. Permission to occupy (PTO) models offer a way forward, similar to initiatives in Mozambique post-civil war.

Alec Hogg [00:15:18]: Let’s hear your questions. Any thoughts on the book “Factfulness”?

GG Alcock [00:15:29]: “Factfulness” challenges our perception of global progress, urging us to view statistics with nuance and consider biases in storytelling.

BizNews Community Member [00:18:39]: How can entrepreneurs connect with informal sector businesses?

GG Alcock [00:18:44]: Informal businesses often coexist with formal ones. Reciprocal business relationships, like loyalty programs, can bridge the gap between the two sectors.

BizNews Community Member [00:22:38]: How do we address funding challenges for informal sector businesses?

GG Alcock [00:22:38]: Many informal businesses do contribute financially, albeit informally. Assuming tax evasion overlooks their economic contributions and the complexities of informal economies.

BizNews Community Member [00:25:53]: Has the unemployment rate shifted given the economic contributions of the informal sector?

GG Alcock [00:25:53]: Traditional measures overlook informal income streams. A more nuanced understanding, including gig incomes and passive incomes like rentals, paints a fuller picture of employment.

BizNews Community Member [00:29:02]: How do digital possibilities impact informal businesses?

GG Alcock [00:29:02]: Digitization is rapidly transforming informal economies, with initiatives like cashless transactions and e-commerce platforms like Facebook Lite and WhatsApp driving growth and accessibility.

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