Published July 2017
I wrote this Keynote Talk and then one week prior event the Submit was unfortunately postponed.
I have decided to post the online because I am not sure if I will make the next SM Submit.
For those of you who don’t know who I am, quick background to give context to what I’m about to say, so you can assign value to my opinions.
So let’s start right in the beginning,
This is me, with an international illusionist called David Copperfield. Now I started my career with a very unique foundation. I was born in Cape Town, catholic schooling, oldest of 9 children, perhaps there are more, would only know if my dad was cornered and attached to a lie detector. And I started working at kiddies parties as a magician, having studied at the College of Magic in Cape Town, with the likes of the local entertainment celebrities like Riaad Moosa, Stuart Taylor and Conrad Koch to name a few.
From parties, I progressed easily in events and started my first events company while still in high school. I invoiced my first million by the age of 19, my first big client being SAB in Newlands.
From there I went into marketing of events.
Around the same time I also started an NGO, working with SAPS with street children.
Then I moved into marketing in general, and then into web marketing, followed by strategy, management, scenarios.
SA Online was the second company I started. First one failed. I have maintained a 50% success ratio on all my projects actually - more or less.
I am content with this. Not bad at all. Never studied a day in my life, just wanted to get out and work.
I started SA Online over a decade ago, using a business model taken from a travel company selling tours to Botswana. I added the theory to an industry, and it was natural for me to start with an entertainment agency – first division of SA Online.
My 2nd division at SA Online was website design and hosting, which started because I hated the service I was receiving from web designers and was convinced I could run their companies better…
My 3rd company division dealt with law, coming from me having an interest in the fields because of my mom who was a paralegal for over 2 decades.
Then photography / videography,
Then another division for PR, TV and productions. Being involved with adverts and endorsements.
and a few other fields,
What’s interesting is that so few people have any idea what my company is, and that’s because I am service orientated, never punting the name of the company, I accepted that my clients care more about service delivery than me. Harsh, but true.
The nature of a web shopper is normally someone who is a bargain hunter, or wanting a fast convenient service. So that is what I focused on.
I enjoy meeting clients for the first time, and surprising them when they see their references on my client page.
99% of the industries I worked in I had no experience in before I started. All were operating purely on the internet. Each division tweaked to suit the service. I was extremely good at finding web traffic, then building a system to convert visitors into billable clients.
While working on all these divisions, I also did countless other projects, including work in the debt industry, travel, tourism, logistics, mining, e-com, even selling teddy bears made out of departed loved ones clothing… a small odd project I remember from a client in Simon’s Town… any industry you can think of, I’ve had my finger in, not entire hand, in the pie.
Today, I’m responsible for about 600 companies online presence … most of whom have no idea who I am by name,
I am running around 5-7 marketing campaigns for SA Online,
I travel for work, mostly within Africa.
At any time have 2-4 projects pending, new divisions concepts I am working on…
I live and work between CPT and JHB, and still manage to keep 4 pot plants alive.
About 7 months ago, I started a website (the one this article is one) and Facebook page about my areas of work interest in work and my experience, nothing to do with my company, but in prep for my private consultancy which I intend to open in 5-10 years’, and I’m already sitting on 22 000 followers.
So that’s me in a nutshell, and how I have ended up here today to talk about the State of the Internet in South Africa, with focus on SMMEs, and that it is an honour to be invited to speak.
So let’s get going!
I like to refer to South Africa and an aluminium calabash.
For those of you who don’t know, a Calabash is used in making the West African kora (a harp-lute) - a traditional fiddle.
Aluminium is a metal, extracted by Danish chemist, famous for its a low density and extreme strength.
So an aluminium calabash is something that has attributes of both local culture and western world advantages. A mixture of worlds. Now if you try bond the raw materials of a Calabash and aluminium together, you going to need an adhesive.
This is because we are a country fighting to keep our many cultures alive and strong, while enjoying the benefits of the western world.
That can create conflict, so we are in flux.
A nation with internal, politically, socially, and every other conflict you can imagine, and the only constant in SA is that no matter what the subject of debate is, there will be an opposing point of view.
Why I even mention this comparison is to lay the foundation for my opinion, that being, South Africa will never fail.
Or, fully succeed.
In order to do something, we need to actually make a majority decision and take a majority direction and move with it.
If every fish caught in a net swims in a different direction, the net will go nowhere,
but if every fish in the net swims in the same direction, the net will move….
With that said, my point and opinion is that an indecisive environment which
Like South Africa is,
has its opportunities for business.
This is if you are smart, and think like a fox. Which is what Clem Sunter says, a well-known futurologist and scenario planner living in Cape Town, and for whom I actually do web marketing on. Also for several economists like Mike Schussler and JP Landman.
In indecisive environments there is a lack of regulatory control,
for example on the cost of internet cell phone data in this country…
great for big business … but,
not great for the little guy.
Definably not good for SMMes.
There are many opportunities in South Africa to use the internet to support business,
better yet start a supplementary income, gone are the days when we can survive off a single income.
or even better than that
start a new business entirely. Ones own company.
So, why in this environment do we see so few start ups on the internet in SA, and those we do, not lasting?
Why does Cape Town host an e-commerce conference each year, and none of the major role players who help develop E-comm attend?
Why is there not a larger government presence at these sorts of events.
Another challenge we have in general, is a population that uses the internet socially … not for business. The internet is not seen as a business tool in SA.
most data usage in South Africa is used on Whattapp,
followed by facebook.
Both using more data than all business in SA.
We are a social internet nation. This has got pros and cons, because as years go by, facebook is indirectly exposing us to each other cultures, our different likes…
unbeknown to us… we are actually a less divided nation on the internet , than we are in parliament! This is because on the internet the focus is on the Likes,
and not the dislikes
I find that fact fascinating.
So, what about business.
Absolutely not enough is being done. The opportunities make me so excited.
But then as quickly as I get excited, I get quickly disappointed, when business owners have no idea what SEO is, or adwords, or social media marketing. No idea how to run a web campaign, how to add content, how to create web videos….
Our population has 2.2 + cell phones per person. Over 80 million active sim card connections …
If data costs could drop, we will have a new gold rush opportunity.
Our population, and that of Africa in general, is so spread out,
access to people is in some cases only possible by internet on cell phones.
Access to internet in South Africa is possible. We have good internet penetration opportunities.
The average young person in South Africa, spends 15% of their income on cell phones.
In order to have success, and harness the internet,
We need to embrace the aluminium calabash!
We need to find that adhesive.
Adhesive is a Mind-Set .. nothing more.
Accept, most jobs in the future will not come from big business. It will come for small 1-3 people companies. Most of which will use the internet to sell and provide.
This means, at some point, every person leaving school will all start a small company of sorts.
But then education has to change, because it’s designed to prepare us to be a small part of a big business.
Not start our own company.
I would very much like to engage with the department of education on this task ….
Teaching web marketing as a tool for careers …
We could create a youth with the tools needed to excel in the future. Not only locally, but internationally.
It cost me R3000 to start my website design company using a PPC campaign. It is now the market leader for its target clients, completing over 2000 projects a year. That means I have directly been involved with over 14 000 companies online presence. Most of which have no idea who I am.
What did Bill Gates invent? Nothing. Nothing at all.
I didn’t invent any of the services I work on.
We don’t need to invent. We need to know how to innovate. Make something better.
Every day to day frustration can become a business opportunity. The internet allows for low capital start ups. Quick returns and immediate direct access to clients.
The cost to set up a small web e-comm business and run it for an entire year, is in most cases a similar price as one month’s rent and the deposit needed for a store inside a shopping mall.
A web company can also allow for passive income as well as recurring income opportunities.
Free wi fi zones are being rolled out across our country. You could if you had to, start a company at a bus stop or bench at a shopping centre with little more than a cell phone.
We still have no restrictions to information in South Africa. So we have access to all platforms.
Our rand is weak, and the internet gives advantage to us who want international clients ready to spend currency with even a small company or individual.
We even allow the use of digital currencies in SA … meaning, you don’t even need a bank account to start certain web companies …
The world is moving into automation, employment will rise. This is a fact …
We moving into a global era , where borders will no longer be something we find on maps, but on the internet.
We will soon have digital citizens of the world. It’s going to happen.
What are our biggest problems?
South Africa accounts for 50% of all of Africa’s internet usage. We have around 27 million people using the internet. If you take all of Africa’s usage, its less than 18 % of the worlds …
We have 7 primary providers for internet in South Africa … involved at different levels of service delivery. More than half of them have an invested interest from government …. One of which is paying over 5 billion in collective taxes into our state coffers.
South Africa is around the 20th cheapest country to live and work worldwide, but we have the highest package data internet costs.
Over 50% of our internet usage is used by people with an income of between 16 000.00 and 70 000.00 per month. The majority of which, work for big business.
Around 28 % of South Africa’s working force, is unemployed… but, they have 2.2 cell phones …
Therefore to summarize the State of the Internet in South Africa, setting aside all the technical jargon which you can read on some of my other posts, I would say the true state is,
An opportunity waiting to happen,
if we change our mind-sets,
it could even be the solution to employment in South Africa.
Published July 2017