The State of Entrepreneurship (Starter Upper Challange)

South Africa doesn’t support entrepreneurs, if you are not well connected you will fail. If you don’t have the support of any kind you will fail. If you are innovative but have no finance to build your product you will fail. It’s even harder when you are black as well because you have to deal with black tax before even dealing with building your business. It takes about 3-4 years for your business to make it out of the surviving phase and during that phase you are struggling just to maintain yourself. When you see a young entrepreneur being helped by a corporate company, it’s just beautiful to watch.

South Africa is at a point where it actually needs entrepreneurs, it’s small businesses that will hire more youth compared to the private sector; actually, the private sector is looking into replacing people with more machines and Artificial Intelligence, so if there is any hope for the youth it’s with the entrepreneurs. Being part of the Total Startupper from the beginning gave me hope about the role corporate is playing towards building South African small business. At the finale, I was surprised to meet many young entrepreneurs in the energy sector building things that I never even thought would need any solving. More importantly, I was happy to see a lot of women within the entries of the competition. I really believe that entrepreneurship is the long-term solution to unemployment in this country and helping small businesses is the best place to start at this point.

Here is how the Startupper Challenge works

About Startupper of The Year Challenge:

The first Startupper of the Year by Total Challenge, held in 2015-2016, involved 34 African countries. It aimed to encourage social entrepreneurship and help under-35-year-olds develop their concepts or start-ups less than two years old. Following the success of the first Challenge, the 2018-2019 Challenge was extended to a total of 55 countries around the world.


Total’s aim is to support good ideas and projects that help address widespread problems affecting communities in various countries. It could be about providing educational opportunities, reducing child mortality, improving public health, developing access to electricity in rural areas, improving road safety on the roads or building houses with eco-friendly materials — in fact, anything that could make life better across the globe.


Startupper of the Year by Total Challenge supports and rewards young local entrepreneurs in any business sector with a project or business less than two years old. The project or business owner must not be more than 35 years in age and the participant must be a citizen of the country where he/she participates.


Total encouraged participants to enter and demonstrate how their project will help more and more people over time, at home or even abroad. Projects need to empower people, improves living conditions, and contributes to overall economic well-being in order to gain a spot in the finals. In each participating country, a local jury comprised of experts from Total, specialists from incubators and accelerators, business leaders and local community stakeholders will select three winners.

The projects will be assessed based on their:

·        Innovative nature: Innovation isn’t necessarily revolutionary, involving something brand new or a total transformation. It can be incremental as well, improving an existing technology, product or service, or even just the way things are done.

·        Social and community impact: The project should offer a practical way of addressing public health, safety, education, accessibility or other issue affecting local communities.

·        Feasibility and development potential: Projects that demonstrate the feasibility and have the potential to benefit a broader public.


The Prize:

Three winners from each country will receive financial support, extensive publicity, and coaching. From among these three winners per country, Total will be selecting grand winners per region, who will be offered additional support.

This year, a Top Female Entrepreneur category was introduced. During the first Challenge, women accounted for almost 25% of the winners, even though they only made up 13% of the applicants. With this special award this year, Total hopes to give women entrepreneurs an extra push to take part. It is also aligned with Total’s other initiatives for women.

Each winner will be awarded the “Startupper of the Year by Total” label and receive financial support of at least R150 000 up to R500 000, plus professional coaching and extensive publicity to advertise their project.

A grand jury will meet subsequently to select three Grand Winners for the entire continent, from among the first-prize winners in each country.


Photo by Quentin Keller on Unsplash