Call to build African brands and create jobs

Theo Baloyi

Africa must build its own products and brands that can be exported in order to create sustainable employment.

This was said by South African entrepreneur and founder of Bathu Shoes, Theo Baloyi, when he addressed local entrepreneurs at the fourth Business Summit Namibia in Windhoek on Saturday.

Baloyi spoke of his entrepreneurship journey as being driven by conviction. This led him to quit his job as a senior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dubai, to establish Bathu Shoes in South Africa in 2015.

“We wanted to change lives and establish sustainable jobs not only in South Africa but in the whole of Africa and beyond.

“The unemployment rate in Africa is 9,53% and South Africa contributes a rate of 29,81% and its unemployment rate is 51,53%.

“The journey was bumpy at times but we never gave up on our dreams and today, Bathu employs 400 people,” he said.

Explaining his philosophy, Baloyi said Africans buy various sneaker brands from across the world and it is time they had their own brand, which is unique to Africa.

“If you buy too much of something, why not own it? Or if you consume too much of anything, why not become part of the supply chain?”

Baloyi has a number of accolades under his belt, including being featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2019. In 2021, he won GQ’s Business Leader of the Year award.

His company owns and operates over 30 stores across South Africa and the Southern African Development Community region.

He said this year he plans to open a store in Namibia and he looks forward to local support.

Martin Nankela, the founder of Business Summit, which hosted the event in partnership with the ride-hailing app, Yango, said the idea behind the summit was to create a platform for Namibians to talk about how to set up businesses, as well as the impact small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have on communities.

“We wanted to emphasise the importance of SMEs and start-ups in creating jobs our communities,” he said.

Entrepreneurs Siena Shipo and Shiwa the Baker shared their entrepreneurial journeys, with Shipo advised aspiring businesspeople to start wherever they are and with the little they have.

“I started small but ensured that I made profit from everything I sold, including items I bought from China Town. Do not give up on your dreams because someone out there is looking up to you,” she said.

Yango Namibia country manager CJ Dumeni and his team also made presentations to the audience, who enjoyed entertainment from Waters and gospel musician UDochi. – email: matthew@namibian.com.na

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