Alan Knott-Craig tells Finance Indaba he's optimistic about doing business in SA

Despite the general pessimism, South Africa still has a bright side.

In August this year Traveller24 reported that there’s been a 70 percent spike in emigration interest. It’s safe to say South Africans are not very optimistic about the future. Ramaphosa euphoria ? or ‘Rama-phoria’ ? has ended and tackling the rot in government is seemingly in overdrive, with explosive revelations from the various commissions of inquiry peppering our news feeds.

Even those who previously stated they would never leave South Africa are now prepared to pack for Perth if the opportunity comes their way. But this cannot be said for tech whizz, best-selling author and entrepreneur, Alan Knott-Craig.

Speaking at the 2019 Finance Indaba in Sandton, the Isizwe Project founder, says Saffers shouldn’t lose faith in the country now. He does however concede that there is very little to be optimistic about at the moment, and this will probably continue for the next five years, but he still won’t leave South Africa.

No doubt, life in South Africa is risky when you factor in the rising rate of unemployment, high crime levels and state failure. But this has created fertile ground for opportunity and innovation. Alan says one of his most successful projects, the Namola app, was born from state failure to effectively respond to distress calls. 

This app provides an alternative to calling 10111 when you’re in distress, and has signalled a great leap in the field of personal safety. In addition to the app, Namola also released a separate panic button remote with a built-in SIM that tracks your location when you activate the remote. It’s a life-saver if you are robbed of your cell phone at the time of distress, as it sends armed response and medical assistance to your location at the touch of a button. Namola has more than 350 000 downloads till date.

“It worked out, we took state failure and turned that into opportunity.” 

Alan advises that when innovating in South Africa, the trick is to solve problems relevant to this country: “Don’t try to solve American problems in South Africa. America’s 911 works perfectly, so Namola won’t be relevant to the US.”

Alan reminds people who feel trapped and who cannot emigrate because they don’t have the money or are afraid to leave their extended family and friends, that happiness is a choice. “If you are trapped, then you must choose to be happy in South Africa,” he says.

He shared a few personal tips to stay happy and positive:

  1. Stay away from negative people. “The most important person is your spouse. You must be happy with your spouse,” says Alan.
  2. Don’t consume too much news. “When you open a newsfeed or the News 24 App, it’s full of depressing headlines that will affect how you feel. You have to control what you expose yourself to on social media, television, radio, etc.”
  3. Travel internationally, and if you cannot afford it, travel locally. “When you travel, you will meet good, kind people carrying on with their lives. What you see on the ground is not how day-to-day living is reflected in the news.”
  4. Hedge yourself to the rand. Buy stocks in Naspers and Glencore.
  5. Find a purpose that is bigger than you. “For me, it is getting our townships online.”
  6. Don’t panic.

“Everything will be okay, and don’t stress about things that are out of your control.”