When it comes to growing Africa's economy and creating many more much-needed jobs, particularly for young people aged 16 to 35, strengthening the continent's arsenal of Small, Micro and Medium-size Enterprises (SMMEs) is one of the key solutions. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), small businesses and enterprises create around 80% of the region’s employment opportunities. The problem is that many of these ventures struggle to grow into large and resilient companies with longer shelf lives. That is why Rwandan-born entrepreneur Jacques Sibomana (31), who resides in Cape Town, South Africa, founded Kuba - to help small businesses succeed.
Q. Tell us a bit about your own background, please
A. I grew up in Cape Town, studied Sociology at the University of the Western Cape (with a post-graduate in Business-to-Business Marketing). Before starting Kuba, I was the head of marketing at NICRO, South Africa's National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders.
Q. What is Kuba all about?
A. Kuba is about building partnerships with small businesses, mostly informal SMMEs, and giving them access to business opportunities around them. We are all about simplifying access to resources and using technology to close the socio-economic gap in South Africa.
Q. How did Kuba come about?
A. I wanted to find a way to help informal businesses grow. We started off as an Informal Traders Consultancy with the objective of identifying useful business tools for them. This eventually led to Kuba, which is using tech to build trust and connect informal SMMEs to market. I have run informal businesses myself and faced many challenges. The cost associated with accessing market is one of them. Despite communities struggling to develop and grow, we have small businesses on every corner in Africa. The idea was to connect these businesses and have them trade amongst one another whilst showing corporates how to access the services and products of these SMMEs to trigger growth and development.
Q. What has been the most challenging thing in terms of setting up and running Kuba?
A. We are servicing a market that has been traditionally neglected by other tech companies and other players within the formal economy. This has made it hard to sell our model. Fortunately, we are seeing a change. Another challenge has been accessing operating capital to expand our offering.
Q. What was the highlight?
A. In less than 12 months we had 100 businesses using our platform. Seeing SMMEs using out tech has been very exciting.
Q. How important is it that larger companies and government support small businesses in Africa?
A. We can't grow Africa's economy without the inclusion of SMMEs. In South Africa alone, small businesses account for about 40% of the national GDP. This could be more if SMMEs received more support.
Q. What is Kuba's ultimate goal? Where do you want to be in five years from now?
A. We want to be the ideal software platform that provides services to informal businesses across Africa,
Q. What is your key advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
A. Invest in technology that will simplify your operations. Always seek advice if you need it.