Interview: Ezra Ndwandwe

Entrepreneurship can lift South Africans out of unemployment says Big Break Legacy creator Ezra Ndwandwe.

By Susan Miller

The creator and producer of The Big Break Legacy, the ‘TV programme that identifies, builds competence and empowers entrepreneurs’ is a firm believer in the power of entrepreneurship to lift South Africans out of unemployment. Born in Vosloorus near Boksburg, Ezra Ndwandwe has worked for a number of international and multinational blue-chip companies. Nowadays, with a Bachelor of Science (Bsc) from Wits, a Masters in Business Leadership qualification and as an expert in Corporate Strategy Development and Business Process Re-Engineering he consults widely as the CEO and founder of Dual Point Consulting.

What does Business Process Re-engineering mean?
We say let’s go back to your basic identity and your aims. Let’s see how you can achieve your objectives and what processes will be needed. Businesses can lose their way and this helps to put them back on track.
We work with small and extremely large businesses like Vodaphone. And some state utilities like the Department of Transport...

Do you believe in affirmative action?
It’s a good intention but it needs to be guided. You can’t just affirm someone – you need to invest in their skills to make up for any shortcomings in experience. Or the programme won’t deliver as well as it could do.
When we look at a business we look at its strategy and whether its processes are correct to meet its goals, we look at its systems and we look at its staff, its human capital and what is needed for it to deliver to the maximum. This would incorporate BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) and affirmative action as part of the overall process.

Have you ever wanted to go into politics?
For my sins (laughs) I have been asked before but I feel I am good at business.

Is the SA government business-friendly?
It aspires to be as business-friendly within the confines of its political agenda. Business needs to find space within the political confines.

Do they make it easy enough for small businesses?
The intention is there but how it plays out sometimes is not ideal. There is a lot of talking the talk but a lack of understanding of entrepreneurship. In South Africa entrepreneurship is a measure you take when you can’t get a job. It should be what people are thinking about every day.”

Tell us how Big Break Legacy came about?
I was watching American Music Idols and it dawned on me that the process made it so much easier for performers and musicians to showcase their talents to the big players in the industry. You could describe the show as Business Idols. It’s a chance for entrepreneurs to showcase what they can do.

Was there a lot of interest in the show?
We had something like 25,000 entries –that gave us a sense of just how hungry South Africans were to be self-sufficient.

What were you looking for?
For creativity and innovation. We wanted new ideas that had to be commercially viable. We also asked if the business could be upscaled. Could it be grown to the next level? The fourth aspect was its potential social impact – including how many jobs it could create.

How does BBL ensure all contestants walk away empowered?
They walk away with unprecedented exposure as business people and their ideas, they all get scholarships to renowned Business Schools where they can get a background in sustainability of business etc, they receive technical tools through our MTN sponsors and get coaching and advisory services for a year on how to structure their businesses.

Is R5million prize money enough to get a business going nowadays?
In SA terms, it is more than enough...

What plans for BBL?
We’ve committed to at least five seasons with the sponsors and the channel, and we are setting up support mechanisms so that anyone who enters will be on our data base and can be offered a place at our Academy and other tools to help them with their business strategy.

You are doing a PhD on the role of entrepreneurship in growing the economy. How important is it?
Any company from a small one to a huge conglomerate started with an idea or a passion. This is the engine of the economy, small businesses create jobs – especially as the conglomerates are downsizing due to the recession.

What is your hope for SA?
South Africa and Africa are full of potential – if only people could realise that. We need more self-sufficient people and communities. We need to get rid of the mindset that looks to government for aid. Our entrepreneurship is survivalist – simply getting food on the table every day – it’s not looking at the big picture. People are thinking too small. I always say SA it is difficult NOT to be an entrepreneur here there are so many opportunities.

What economic model do you believe is right for business and people?
Capitalism with a social conscience. I am just not sure how to ensure that happens. But capital must realise they don’t live in a vacuum and uplift others so that we can overcome poverty.”

The Big Break Legacy is on SABC2 on Thursday nights at 7.30pm, visit

Image: Supplied