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This Africa Day, SMEs around South Africa are celebrating the spirit of innovation and resilience that characterises the African continent. This year, the African Union’s Africa Day theme – Educate an African fit for the 21st Century – resonates with Lula’s commitment to empowering small businesses across the nation, says Tom Stuart, CMO at Lula.

“Africa Day is a chance to reflect on our paradigm shift from dependence to self-direction, self-reliance, and resilience, and acknowledge the rapid strides made by Africa’s SME sector, and economies overall,” he says.

Africa is home to the world’s youngest population and has become a hub of technological innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.

“The continent is home to a vibrant bourgeoning tech startup ecosystem and our youth and capacity for innovation gives us the potential to leapfrog over the global competition,” he explains.

“By leveraging this youthful mental elasticity at scale as a strategic edge, Africa’s businesses can adopt emerging technologies, trends, and best practices at a more rapid rate than companies elsewhere, to drive business success.”

“With our younger population, and fast-growing tech-enabled economies, Africa is uniquely positioned to rise as a geopolitical superpower in the coming decades, and SMEs – the lifeblood of our economies – will play a pivotal role in getting us there,” he suggests.

This demographic advantage goes hand-in-hand with technology adoption. Mobile connectivity, for example, is expected to surge, surpassing one billion active connections by 2029 in Sub-Saharan Africa. This expansion is opening doors to financial inclusion, ensuring that SMEs can thrive in an increasingly digital landscape.

The continent’s entrepreneurial spirit is supported by a growing focus on small business banking, aimed at creating a more inclusive financial environment.

“As a business banking partner and funding provider, Lula fully supports efforts to bring about a conducive landscape for entrepreneurship, and a regulatory environment that facilitates innovation, and supports startups,” added Stuart.

In keeping with this year’s theme, Lula acknowledges the critical role of education, skills transfer, and knowledge sharing in reaching business objectives.

In Africa, knowledge sharing, teaching, and on-the-job skills transfer happen organically in our workplaces, as mentorship and family values form part of our cultural heritage. Importantly, reverse mentorship has become a trend, with the younger generation leading the charge in integrating new technologies like social media, e-commerce, and AI into business strategies.

“Let’s support a proudly South African and African SME ecosystem instead of over-relying on imports from overseas. Let’s stand behind localisation of supply chains and pan-African collaboration,” says Stuart, citing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which has over 50 signatory states across the continent. The AfCFTA, which was a central theme of last year’s Africa Day, looks set to further the localisation imperative, bolster intra-African trade, and fortify the continent’s economic resilience.

Unpacking the core values behind modern African business practices, Stuart emphasises the role of Ubuntu ethics: “The way we do business in Africa remains rooted in African values, and cultural traditions, prioritising community, and mutual growth – and not just ‘profits above all’…”

“Africa is rising. The challenges SMEs face may be even greater than elsewhere, but the continent is a vibrant powerhouse of enterprise and ingenuity, ready to thrive in the global arena through tenacity, youthful energy, and innovative spirit.”

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