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Jonathan Ortmans’ 3-step game plan to ignite entrepreneurship in Africa

Jonathan Ortmans, the president and founder of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), delivered a keynote speech at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Ignite Africa conference held during Global Entrepreneurship Week from 13 November to 17 November 2023.  

At the annual #IgniteAfrica Conference held in Sandton, Ortmans emphasized the importance of empowering the next generation of global entrepreneurs and unlocking Africa’s potential. He highlighted the need for democratizing entrepreneurship education and ensuring inclusivity, regardless of the socio-economic status of the entrepreneurs.  

To achieve this, Ortmans proposed a gameplan that outlined several key ideas for igniting the entrepreneurship ecosystem in South Africa: 

  • Invest in entrepreneurship education 
    Ortmans said that we cannot sit around and be idle when it comes to educating future entrepreneurs, we need to make a change. This change begins in our schools, with young minds. The earlier these young minds foster an entrepreneurial mindset, the better. 
    Entrepreneurial learning must be practical. It needs to go beyond the classroom and should allow entrepreneurs to connect with society’s cultures, markets, and professional sectors. 
    By encouraging young people to think critically and creatively, we are enabling them with skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. They need to be encouraged to not be afraid to fail, and to look at ideas as experiments in order to find out what will work and what won’t.
  • Encourage Inclusivity 
    Ortmans reiterates that “economies suffer when any individual is excluded”. It does not make logical sense to exclude anyone from the conversation. That’s also why the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Africa Ignite Committee chose #TheSumOfUs as the theme for this year’s event. 
    “Transformative ideas are lost when people lack the opportunity to commercialise them,” said Ortmans. Only by fostering inclusivity and focusing on underrepresented groups can we truly find a way forward. 
  • Engage in healthier entrepreneurial ecosystems 
    Entrepreneurs are not waiting for permission to start creating. They rely on an environment where they can create freely without restrictions. As a society, we need to encourage organic growth and allow entrepreneurs to continue creating without a preconceived blueprint. 
    Ortmans reiterates how entrepreneurs need to be empowered with resources for access to markets and investments to grow. Global connectedness plays an important part in this as it encourages the idea that connecting with other forward-thinkers allows for creative influence. Once you are influenced by your neighbours, you have access to the interface of other ecosystems in a global environment. This creates a better atmosphere, that is more empathetic and encourages failure by means of learning. 

By implementing this gameplan, the entrepreneurial ecosystem will foster an inclusive environment that stimulate growth for generations to come.  

It is clear that South Africa is abuzz with entrepreneurial talent and by coming together to empower the South African youth, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is unlocking the real power of #TheSumOfUs. 

Jonathan Ortmans serves as president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), a platform of programs and initiatives that help people unleash their ideas and turn them into promising new ventures—creating jobs, unearthing innovations for society and strengthening economic stability around the world. 
Born from Global Entrepreneurship Week, GEN reaches millions of people in more than 150 countries with additional programs such as: 

  • Global Entrepreneurship Congress – a gathering of thousands of delegates looking to build and strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems. 
  • Startup Nations – a collection of startup savvy policymakers and startup community supporters exploring different regulatory changes and other policy ideas to help accelerate new firm formation. 
  • Global Entrepreneurship Research Network – a working coalition of institutions dedicated to advancing research in the field. 
  • Global Entrepreneurship Index – annual index that measures the health of entrepreneurship ecosystems in 130 countries and provides a compass for identifying initiatives that positively impact whole societies and a roadmap for interventions that target a country’s most critical areas for economic growth. 

Ortmans also serves as chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress and senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. 

Trained as an economist, with two startups and exits under his belt, Ortmans blogs weekly on high-growth entrepreneurship at and has emerged as a chief global strategist in building startup ecosystems around the world. Ortmans lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and three young children. 

This media release was edited and issued by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

Lynn Brown
Lynn Brown
Lynn is a content marketer that focuses on brand storytelling through digital platforms. Skilled in a background of web development, search engine optimization and content production, Lynn is excited to utilize over 10 years’ experience in digital marketing to help grow the ecosystems that support Africa’s very young entrepreneurs to ensure their success.

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