Naspers ‘hungry’ to invest in SA

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Naspers SA CEO Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa.
Naspers SA CEO Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa.

Access to more spectrum opens up a field for more Internet-based businesses to be developed.

So said Naspers SA CEO Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa, noting that finance minister Tito Mboweni’s mention of spectrum in his budget speech was a positive takeaway.

Mahanyele-Dabengwa was part of the post-budget expert panel discussion hosted by PwC on Friday, debating what’s now being described as an encouraging budget speech.

In his budget, Mboweni promised that telecoms regulator ICASA will be appropriately capacitated for the impending licensing of high-demand spectrum.

The incumbent administration has been mulling spectrum allocation through an auction, to boost the country’s fiscus, with National Treasury releasing an economic blueprint showing the telecoms sector as a catalyst industry for SA’s economic growth prospects.

Mahanyele-Dabengwa said availability of more spectrum is “excellent”. “We need to be focusing on growth in the areas that we are in. Instead of just focusing on problematic areas, let’s see where we can provide growth.”

South Africa’s last big set of spectrum issued was in the 2.1GHz band, which helped the operators in their 3G network deployment. Vodacom and MTN were allocated such spectrum, respectively, in 2004 and 2005, while Cell C received such spectrum in 2011.

During this time, mobile operators have had to split and refarm their spectrum resources to mitigate spectrum shortages and expand 4G availability.

Backing founders

Overall, the Naspers SA CEO believes the minister’s budget was not only bold but very encouraging, especially for emphasising entrepreneurialism and growing start-up businesses.

“When you look at potential corporate tax reductions, many businesses are going through a very tough time right now, and when we talk about the fact that many people are unemployed – we need to get more businesses in place.

“As Naspers, this is something we are focusing on because our business is built from backing founders and that’s why with the Naspers Foundry we are backing founders. Seeing his [Mboweni’s] emphasis on entrepreneurialism and businesses being able to grow is something that is positive for the economy.

“The importance is that there is an incentive to triggering business and we want to make sure we are backing founders of business, and this is something that is important if we are going to be focusing on growth of the economies.

“If you look at businesses like Discovery and the many businesses we have here in South Africa, these were businesses that didn’t exist at some point. At some point, somebody had to found that business. If you are backing founders, you are creating the ability for some of our GDP growth to actually happen.”

According to Mahanyele-Dabengwa, Naspers invested R3.2 billion in SA last year, indicating the company is willing to invest more capital in the country.

Through the Naspers Foundry, the company helps talented and ambitious South African technology entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses.

One of the firms to receive financial backing from Naspers’s R1.4 billion start-up fund is online cleaning services platform, SweepSouth.

Founded by Aisha Pandor and Alen Ribec in 2014, SweepSouth has received investment from Smollan, Vumela, CRE VC (previously Africa Angels Network), musician and venture capitalist Black Coffee, and a R30 million cash injection from the Naspers Foundry.

“We are willing to put that extra capital in. We’ve put that capital aside for three years and once that capital is used up, we will put in another portion.

“We are hungry to invest into South Africa. We’ve invested in all the BRICS countries; we want to invest more in South Africa. Hearing the minister speak about spectrum says to us, from a regulatory perspective, there is the will – now we need to see it happen so that these businesses can be available.”

SweepSouth co-founders Alen Ribec and Aisha Pandor.
SweepSouth co-founders Alen Ribec and Aisha Pandor.
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