In his 2018 State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa reminded South Africans that government remained committed to expand economic opportunities for people with disabilities.  In his speech the President made reference to the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (sefa) and the role it plays in the economic advancement of entrepreneurs with disabilities. “Among other things, the Small Enterprise Finance Agency – sefa – has launched a scheme to develop and fund entrepreneurs with disabilities called the Amavulandlela Funding Scheme,” said President Ramaphosa.

The CEO of sefa, Thakhani Makhuvha says he is pleased with the progress his team has made since the Amavulandlela Funding Scheme started, “We identified a need for a targeted scheme that will mobilise and ensure that we identify a possible client that we can finance. We then decided to form a R30 Million scheme which we called Amavulandlela Funding Scheme for entrepreneurs with disability. This funding comprises of a R24 Million lending part as well as R6 Million for business support where we identify mentorship and other forms of support for entrepreneurs with disability. Since we launched in December 2016 we have approved approximately R24 Million which includes both the loan element and the grant portion of the scheme,” said Makhuva.

Rise ‘n  Shine tracked one of the beneficiaries of sefa’s Amavulandlela Funding Scheme, Mokete Rakgogo, the founder and CEO of Linked Thoughts Consulting.  In 2015, Linked Thoughts Consulting needed funding to conclude a construction project, Rakgogo applied for the Amavulandlela Funding Scheme and his company received a loan of R5 Million.

In an exclusive interview with Rise N’ Shine, Rakgogo shared his entrepreneurial journey, its challenges and his future plans. He believes that he was destined to become an entrepreneur as he started buying and selling goods from an early age. “I believe entrepreneurship was born in me because during my high school years I sold sweets, cigarettes, empty cassettes for recording music and continued to sell used textbooks at University,” said Rakgogo.

While many entrepreneurs drop out of school or university to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions, for Rakgogo this was not an option. He now holds a B.com Accounting qualification from Vista University which he completed in 2001, and later went on to pursue an Honours degree in Accounting at UNISA which he completed in 2003. Rakgogo worked for PricewaterhouseCoppers for 2 years as an accountant and later joined SAFCON Housing Solutions as the Executive Finance Manager.

It was after his stint at these companies that Rakgogo returned to his first love – entrepreneurship. He established a management and accounting services concern in 2008. However, this changed soon when he found an opportunity in construction which gave birth to his current establishment. “I approached a few organisations to render professional services and one of the companies was ACSA, which actually gave me a chance, but they couldn’t give me the opportunity for management and consulting but rather an office renovations project for their preparation of the 2010 World Cup,” said Rakgogo.

Linked Thoughts Consulting is currently a construction company which offers a range of services including building RDP houses and schools, office renovations and civil work.

Since inception the company has received work from various government departments including the Gauteng Human Settlements Department which offered 100 units of RDP houses. “This was a big break for my company but at the same time a setback. At the time the IDC was still offering capital funding, fortunately they advanced me with a loan for the houses however the department was not ready to commission all the 100 houses concurrently, so I had to finish a 6 months project in 1 year 6 months,” said Rakgogo.

Transformation still remains a thorny subject for various sectors and construction is no exception.  Rakgogo believes transformation needs to be fast-tracked especially in the construction sector. “Government does give out construction jobs to black SMMEs but the main problem is that the funds offered to these black SMMEs end up supporting white companies as a result black suppliers receive a lesser percentage because there is just not enough of them,” said Rakgogo

Disability did not stop Rakgogo from realising his dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur, though he feels that more needs to be done to accommodate the disabled community.  “Buildings need to be designed to be accessible for people with disabilities. Also if disabled people could hold more leadership positions then disability will be represented well in decision-making structures especially in government,” adds Rakgogo. Linked Thoughts Consulting employs over 100 people; it has an annual turnover of R80 Million and remains committed to social investment. The company has recently assisted school kids with R140, 000 worth of school uniforms.

Rakgogo says the business support he receives from sefa has helped him grow his business and will certainly assist to take Linked Thought Consulting to even greater heights as construction is a very capital intensive business. Asked how he unwinds, Rakgogo says he reads a lot of autobiographies and enjoys paying it forward by contributing groceries to the poor families in his village in Limpopo.

Amavulandlela Funding Scheme is offered through sefa head and regional offices on a concessionary interest rate of 7%. Through this initiative sefa is able to assist qualifying entrepreneurs to improve their business plans, provided the business is viable. Visit the sefa website for the qualifying criteria under products and services, and direct lending. For more information, please contact a sefa office near you or call 012 748 9600 or visit www.sefa.org.za



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