The Fit: SABTIA and InBIA

A strategic relationship with the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) will connect SABTIA and its affiliates to a wealth of global entrepreneur support systems. 

InBIA is an international membership-based association that provides industry resources, education, networking opportunities and events and global standards and best practices to small business support systems, policy makers and entrepreneurs around the world.

This relationship ultimately seeks to strengthen the success of incubation programmes in Southern Africa and the U.S through joint business consultations and shared resources.

What does this mean for SABTIA members?

  • All SABTIA members will automatically become members of InBIA and receive full access to the platforms membership privileges and discounts.
  • Members will have access to a Display Library on the SABTIA Website, which will provide access to InBIA reference books.
  • In addition, SABTIA clients will, where applicable and appropriate, have access to SABTIA/InBIA joint-consultation projects.
  • Through joint Softlanding and Smart Take-off programmes SABTIA and InBIA will provide their clients with market access.

Central to this partnership is the shared knowledge and capacity building opportunities.  SABTIA has access to the InBIA training and event content which will bolster its local service offerings for its clients.  This partnership will also conduct mutually beneficial research, including an IMPACT index for Southern Africa.

Connecting The Dots

The SABTIA Ecosystem

With the economic spotlight on entrepreneurship and the development of small businesses in Southern Africa– it is critical that all parts of this dynamic ecosystem are connected. To have a living, breathing and productive ecosystem, we must all be engaging, learning and growing in a constructive and cohesive forum.

SABTIA is a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) association. We call on all industry experts, across Southern Africa, to join hands with us. It is only through the strengthening of this ecosystem, that we can address the challenges faced in the incubation space. Together, with you our domain experts, we will form task forces and panels to develop the solutions this industry needs.

Our membership, of more than 30 accredited incubators, are all already effective contributors.

In the economic space, we have formed partnerships with the Small Enterprise Funding Agency (SEFA); The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo, an audit forensic and advisory firm. Together with our funding and finance partners, we will identify and seek to solve, the challenges around capacity-building and access to funding.

The Institute of Directors Southern Africa (IoDSA) plays a fundamental role as a core legal and governance advisory body and through the provision of management and leadership training.

Our academic partners include the North West University and Monash South Africa and through we aim to address the gaps in professional development for our incubators and their clients.

A strategic partnership with Commerce Edge (Smart Procurement world) aims to provide access to procurement opportunities and expose the public and private sectors to incubation hubs. Through this collaboration, we aim to help our members better understand market demands and find SMME’s relevant to their business structures. All SABTIA members receive a 15% discount on Standard Exhibition and Conference Packages at the Smart Procurement World conference.

We have connected to global value chain through our relationship with InBIA, and are looking to partner with the EBN Innovation Network, an international community of specialised organisations that connect and coach innovators, entrepreneurs and SMEs. Only when we address this landscape together, and from all angles and perspectives, can we take decisive, holistic and viable steps forward. To register as a SABTIA ecosystem builder email for more information on the process.

Chairperson’s Quarterly Message

Following our relaunch in April, SABTIA has undertaken the mammoth task of consolidating the South African entrepreneurial ecosystem to provide the essential support required by the incubation industry.

This is an industry that is constantly evolving to meet the dynamic needs of the market and entrepreneurs.   The lack of regulation and coordination in the industry has exposed the sector to ‘fly by night’ or ‘opportunistic’ programmes that are often exclusive, ineffective and have very little impact on small business development.

SABTIA aims to build a more inclusive incubation and acceleration system which will better serve small businesses and start-ups, including those in the informal sector – a sector that has largely been ignored by incubation programmes in the past.

In this regard, we have formed a strategic alliance with the Small Business Development Institute, and will embark on specific initiatives in township economies to ensure that the voices of informal businesses are heard.

We believe that some of the greatest challenges that South African business incubators face are a result of lack of co-ordination and failure to adapt global models to suit local conditions.

In April, we signed a strategic partnership agreement with InBIA, a global network of entrepreneurial ecosystem builders.  This is the first step in our objective to localise global content and best practice.

Together with InBIA, we are working to develop innovative “co-incubation” models to address challenges associated with accessing global markets, innovation and investment into Southern Africa.  I look forward to reporting back on the outcomes of these developments.

I would like to formally welcome the SABTIA Deputy Chairperson, Sibongile Shongwe.  Sibongile is a social entrepreneur at heart and currently serves as the CEO of The Platinum Incubator and is the co-founder of Women in Developing Economies and KZN provincial coordinator for the Progressive Women Movement of South Africa.

She brings with her a wealth of experience in business management and governance specifically within small business and incubation frameworks.

We are pleased to have Advocate Gillium Martines join the SABTIA Board as its Secretary.  Gillium is a retired Advocate and Legal Advisor at CSIR and The Small Enterprise Development Corporation.  He is the board secretary for Seda and his extensive experience in company law and secretarial work is a welcomed asset for Sabtia.

To succeed in our mandate, SABTIA must engage all parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem to share their experiences.  We have had exciting engagements with various academic institutes and secured partners in the financial domain.  Together we can build best practice models that can sustain the future of meaningful business incubation in South Africa.

I invite you to join us.

Yours in development,

Zaid Mohidin
SABTIA Chairperson

The Why and the How

Entrepreneurship activity is at the highest level it has ever been. This is according to the Global Entrepreneurship
Monitor’s latest report for South Africa.

With the economic spotlight on entrepreneurship and the development of small businesses in South Africa over the past few years – it is critical that all players in this dynamic eco-system are engaging, learning and growing. It is for this reason that the Southern African Business and Technology Incubation Association (SABTIA) has been reignited by the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA).

There are at least 150 incubation programmes in South Africa, most of which are supported through government.
There is, however, limited information on the effectiveness of the entrepreneurial ecosystem which is operating in an
industry that is constantly evolving to meet regional dynamics.

And hence, the current debate: Does incubation work? This is a complex question incited by so many contrasting
perceptions from different areas of society; from the private investor looking for good deal flow to government
reviewing job creation outcomes and businesses meeting their compliance expectations. The lens through which we
judge the success of the incubator model is key to answering this question and with so many desired outcomes in play, there is no direct answer.

Measuring the impact of investment made in SMME development programs, specifically incubation, is something the sector needs to get right. We can measure incubation success in a variety of quantitative and qualitative ways, but
what are we measuring it against?

This is where Sabtia becomes relevant. We seek to build best practice models in an inclusive incubation and
acceleration system which will better serve small businesses and can ultimately sustain the future of meaningful
business incubation in South Africa.

How will we do this?

It starts with conversations. Conversations that lead to knowledge-sharing and collaboration. In the next few months
SABTIA will be hosting a series of round-tables that will address:

  •  The status of incubation in South Africa.
  • Incubation models and understanding industry definitions.
  •  Policy affecting Incubation.
  •  The unintended consequences of incubation.
  •  Key challenges in the Value Chain.
  •  Finding Best Practise.

Sabtia will also:

  • Develop and manage an accredited incubation management programme which will provide access to SABTIA’s
    partner network and education platforms. View our membership options here.
  •  Lead several training workshops and boot camps. Stay tuned for more information about our upcoming Tech
  •  Facilitate events that will enable funding opportunities and provide marketing opportunities for SMMEs.
  • Provide consistent and optimised research on local and international SMME development trends.

SABTIA Celebrating Its Official Launch

SABTIA celebrated its official relaunch at an event held at the Gallagher Convention Centre, on 19 April 2018. The launch was hosted in partnership with The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa), and the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD).

SABTIA has been mandated by the government to address the challenges in the local business incubation and acceleration community. It aims to do this by:

  • Enabling supportive activities for incubators;
  • Improving capacities and capabilities within incubators;
  • Creating a platform for collaboration between private and public stakeholders across the region, to address key incubation challenges;
  • Forming strategic and focused partnerships with the likes of the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) in the US and the EBN Innovation Network in Europe, to localise global content and best practice ;
  • Building a more inclusive incubation and acceleration ecosystem, to better serve SMMEs of all complexities, not only those in the BSM 5-7 category, but also businesses in the lower sophistication BSM 1-4 category.

Speaking at the event, Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, said incubation and acceleration programmes are particularly important in developing nations, to accelerate economic growth and transformation. She said her department has recognised the need to develop a new policy framework for re-energising and repositioning business incubators/accelerators to meet the challenges of national development.

In his State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the establishment of a R1 billion fund for primarily township businesses, as the government continues its push to empower informal SMMEs. SABTIA aims to complement those efforts through incubator and accelerator certification, formal training, measurement and consulting.


“Many critics have argued that business incubation has limited success in Africa. But the challenges we face are because we lack coordination and haven’t localised global models to suit our unique conditions. We need to improve capacity and capability within our incubators, and develop effective and distinctive sector and  regional ecosystems to support them,” says Zaid Mohidin, Chairman of SABTIA.

He adds: “We need entrepreneurial ecosystem builders to come together to make a change in Southern Africa. We need to be generous with the learning experience, for the betterment of incubators, for the betterment of entrepreneurs, and for the betterment of the economy.”

By working closely with its stakeholders, which include public and private sector organisations, service providers, consultants, educational institutions and the media, SABTIA plans to:

  • Develop an accredited network of incubators;
  • Define a professional code of conduct;
  • Develop good practice standards;
  • Set benchmarking methodologies;
  • Serve as an entry point for international incubation into South Africa;
  • Equip incubators and accelerators with the tools, knowledge and networks they need to provide quality services and support to SMMEs.

Business incubation is a mechanism used across the world to support and grow SMMEs. It entails ‘incubator companies’ helping early stage companies to overcome the challenges of starting a business. This is done through a range of support mechanisms, including subsidised office space, coaching and mentoring, training, funding, and support for market expansion.

Next week, SABTIA will lead a delegation to Dallas, Texas, to sign a strategic partnership with InBIA. The partnership is geared at developing  innovative “co-incubation” models to address challenges of accessing global markets (smart take-off and soft-landing), innovation and investment into Southern Africa.

SABTIA membership is free for students and faculties. Individuals and incubators/accelerators can choose from a number of different membership options.

To find out more about SABTIA, click here.

SABTIA-InBIA Global Collaboration

With the industry entering a new cycle we see more and more countries not only consolidating their ecosystems but more importantly, ensuring that appropriate local models are developed in alignment with global standards.

SABTIA (Southern African Business and Technology Incubation Association) will be leading a delegation to craft a strategic partnership with InBIA (International Business Innovation Association) for the following objectives:

  • Global Best Practice in order to contextualise and develop the appropriate incubation and acceleration models for Southern Africa and
  • To address Smart take-off and Soft-landing as a platform to scale into the respective countries.

SABTIA was established to…

While South Africa is regarded as the entrepreneurial leader in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s weakest link in terms of its entrepreneurial ecosystem is start-up skills.  It poses the question of… what skills can be taught, to improve the appetite for entrepreneurship?

Statistics South Africa released the latest results of its Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2017, which showed that, apart from the overall unemployment rate reaching a 13 year high of 27,7%, the youth (ages 15 – 34 years) unemployment rate also increased to 38,6%. The increase in unemployment is evidence that there a lack of start-up skills in the country, and calls for an even more focused approach to building an entrepreneurial ethos – from grassroots level.

The number of SMMEs in South Africa increased by 11.2% year-on-year from 2.23 million in 201 to 2.48 million in 2017. Over the same period, the number of formal sector SMMEs increased by 11.6%, while informal sector SMMEs increased by 11.7%. Some of the growth in SMMEs may reflect survivalist operations resulting from economic conditions.

South Africa is in dire need of providing the appropriate support structures in uplifting the potential of entrepreneurs and SMME’s, to a level of independence, self-sufficiency and sustainable productivity.

Business Incubation worldwide has been an established mechanism through which entrepreneurs and SMME’s could be supported and grown. Incubation is geared at assisting early stage companies to overcome start-up challenges. This is achieved through providing a variety of interventions such as subsidized office space, coaching, mentoring, training, and support for market access.

The incubation fraternity has been fast evolving with a number of trends being noticed. Incubators, apart from being support mechanisms, have also evolved into growth acceleration mechanisms. As well as new business models, such as corporate incubators and enterprise development incubators.

There has however been no co-ordination between local incubators, as well as between incubators and international organisations. Better regulation and support of incubators is critical for growth and effectiveness of entrepreneurs and SMME’s.

With this being said, it is evident that there is a need for bringing all incubators under one platform – in response to this need, SABTIA was set up.

The Southern African Business and Technology Incubation Association (SABTIA) was initially set up in 2005 to serve as the incubator industry standards, practitioner and members association, by providing the dissemination of knowledge, skills and expertise to all incubators nationally, continentally and internationally through partnerships with stakeholders like STP.

SABTIA’s vision is to serve as an association that advocates all incubators, accelerators, educational institutions and developmental stakeholders’ credibility through education and consolidation of training, certification programmes, benchmarking and standard codes of good practice, networks and facilitation of events, shared services and innovative solutions.