The Pilanesberg Tourism Incubator

Visiting EICT, the service provider of the Incubator program that focuses specifically on start-ups and SMEs in Tourism in the Moses Kotane region. I am in a beautiful lodge of one of the participants in the incubator program in Mogwase, a small quiet town close to the Pilanesberg National Park. It is a short 3-hour drive north-west of Johannesburg and is a remote area where the mining industry is by far the most important source of income.

But it is also close to SunCity, a mega luxury entertainment park with a Las Vegas-like appearance where tourists come from all over the world and are sometimes flown in with helicopters. There is a lot of unemployment in the region itself, especially among the young. Poverty is high and the average income is € 1,200 per year. The physical infrastructure is very basic, internet connectivity is poor and the ownership rights of the land and the water supply are important issues to act on.

The incubator program was started three years ago and 50 companies are involved. It is a mix of accommodation owners, tour operators, travelagencies, organizers of outdoor adventures and special events. In Moses Kotane, 64% of SMEs are active in tourism. It is only logical that the National Department of Tourism has taken the initiative to start this incubator initiative here. Yet that was a special step because this is the first tourist incubator in South Africa. Only later the regional authorities were involved. In those three years the companies have been trained in marketing, internet / social media, entrepreneurship, accounting, quality standards and how you can work together.

But the incubator also developed a reporting system and database during that period, with which data such as job creation, turnover and seasonal influences are mapped. In this way, the small businesses and start-ups are put on the radar and they know how to find each other better and better, which has resulted in a number of mutual partnerships. But they are now also better able to influence the municipalities and other parties and to make their voice heard. It is still a fragile system, but it is slowly starting.

My mission focuses on realizing the continuous flow of the incubator. The program is coming to an end but the companies and local authorities see the importance of continuing this initiative. But then of course comes the question who will finance this and what is the incubator 2.0 about. In the past week I have sat around the table with smaller and larger parties every day, and I have gained more feeling about how the political and entrepreneurial system works here. The great thing about this mission is that I discuss the insights and options with the client on a daily basis. It is an intensive iterative process where ideas are created together with entrepreneurs and stakeholders. The biggest challenge lies in the packaging and who and how the message will be delivered. The presentation is at the National Department of Tourism at the end of this week and then we know more.

This mission is about creating a new incubator model, finding financing, influencing and positioning stakeholders. Fascinatingly beautiful process. This blog was written at the time that it is very restless in South Africa and an adjusted travel advice has been written by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In Johannesburg there are violent demonstrations, shops of foreign South Africans are set on fire and the country is in turmoil due to the murder of young female students and there are daily manifestations and TV programs about violence against women. Unemployment, poverty and dissatisfaction with the remote government are the humus that cause these unrest.

It is all the more important that initiatives such as this incubator are followed up because I forgot to mention that in those three years 60 new jobs were created and the overall turnover of the incubator companies increased by € 600-800k.