Why is There a Decline in Entrepreneurship in South Africa?

Why is There a Decline in Entrepreneurship in South Africa

The decline in entrepreneurship in South Africa can be attributed to a variety of factors. These include a lack of access to finance, restrictive regulatory environments, and inadequate education and training. The high rate of business failure and the fear of failure also discourage potential entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, particularly for youth and women-owned businesses.

Access to Finance

Before delving into the details, it’s important to note that financial constraints are a significant barrier to entrepreneurship in South Africa.

Limited Financial Resources

One of the major obstacles to entrepreneurship in South Africa is the lack of access to finance. Many potential entrepreneurs struggle to secure the necessary capital to start or grow their businesses. This is particularly true for early-stage entrepreneurs who often lack the collateral or credit history required by traditional lenders.

High Borrowing Costs

Rising borrowing costs in South Africa have also curtailed consumer spending, which in turn affects the profitability and growth potential of businesses. This financial strain is particularly challenging for new and small businesses, which often operate on thin margins and have less capacity to absorb increased costs.

Regulatory Environment

Moving on to the regulatory environment, it’s worth mentioning that it plays a crucial role in shaping the entrepreneurial landscape in South Africa.

Restrictive Regulations

South Africa’s regulatory environment has been identified as another significant barrier to entrepreneurship. The country’s poor ratings on government programs, restrictive labor laws, and inhibiting regulatory environment have been cited as major reasons for the decline in entrepreneurial activity.

Infrastructure Challenges

Logistical challenges, such as delays at harbors and issues with infrastructure, also pose significant hurdles for businesses. These issues can increase operating costs and create inefficiencies that are particularly challenging for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Education and Training

Education and training are fundamental to fostering a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Lack of Entrepreneurial Education

Education plays a crucial role in entrepreneurial activity. Studies have shown that the higher the level of education a person has, the more likely they are to start a business that is sustainable. However, there is a need for more focused training in South Africa, particularly among the youth, where unemployment continues to increase year on year.

Skills Gap

In addition to formal education, there is also a need for practical business management and entrepreneurial skills. Many entrepreneurs in South Africa enter the ecosystem driven by necessity and high rates of unemployment, but lack the necessary skills to successfully manage and grow a business.

Fear of Failure and High Business Failure Rate

Lastly, the fear of failure and the high business failure rate in South Africa are significant deterrents to entrepreneurship.

Fear of Failure

The fear of failure is a significant deterrent for potential entrepreneurs. This fear can be particularly pronounced in challenging economic climates, where the risks of starting a business are perceived to be higher.

High Business Failure Rate

South Africa has a high business failure rate, which further discourages potential entrepreneurs. This high failure rate is indicative of the many challenges that entrepreneurs face in the country, from financial and regulatory hurdles to gaps in education and skills.

Economic Impact of COVID-19

The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on entrepreneurship in South Africa.

Pandemic-Induced Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in South Africa. The economic fallout has led to reduced consumer spending, increased operating costs, and heightened financial uncertainty. This has particularly affected micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as youth and women-owned businesses.

High Unemployment Rates

The pandemic has also led to increased unemployment rates, which in turn has resulted in more individuals entering the entrepreneurial ecosystem out of necessity rather than opportunity. This necessity-driven entrepreneurship often lacks the sustainability and growth potential of opportunity-driven entrepreneurship.

Societal Attitudes Towards Entrepreneurship

Societal attitudes towards entrepreneurship can also influence the level of entrepreneurial activity in a country.

Perception of Entrepreneurship

In South Africa, entrepreneurship is often seen as a less desirable career choice compared to traditional employment. This perception can discourage potential entrepreneurs and contribute to the decline in entrepreneurial activity.

Status of Successful Entrepreneurs

The status accorded to successful entrepreneurs can also impact the attractiveness of entrepreneurship as a career choice. In societies where successful entrepreneurs are highly regarded, there may be more incentive for individuals to pursue entrepreneurial ventures.


The decline in entrepreneurship in South Africa is a multifaceted issue, influenced by a range of factors. Key takeaways from this article include:

  • Limited access to finance and high borrowing costs are significant barriers for potential entrepreneurs.
  • The regulatory environment, including restrictive regulations and infrastructure challenges, can hinder entrepreneurial activity.
  • There is a need for more focused entrepreneurial education and training to address the skills gap.
  • Fear of failure and a high business failure rate discourage potential entrepreneurs.
  • The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, particularly for MSMEs, youth, and women-owned businesses.
  • Societal attitudes towards entrepreneurship, including the perception of entrepreneurship and the status of successful entrepreneurs, can also influence the level of entrepreneurial activity.

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Hidayat Rizvi
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*Based on a survey of small businesses using QuickBook Online conducted September 2018.