Southern Africa and Innovation - Matthew Higgins (Venturemates)

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Our profile this week is one of our speaker for the Talent Series Agenda Johannesburg 2017, Matthew Higgins, the Director of Venturemates Africa Limited. Born and raised in South Africa, Matthew attended Rhodes University to study accounting and began his career with KPMG, before moving into various expatriate roles in finance and general management. Matthew has worked extensively across the African continent, with postings in Eritrea, Ghana, Zambia, Johannesburg and finally Mauritius, with Pan African responsibilities. In 2013, he began his position as Director of Venturemates Africa, a Management Consulting firm, working on strategic planning for business entry into sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on Business Development and Operational Risk Management. He also has an executive MBA from the Graduate School of Business –University of Cape Town, South Africa.  


  1. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing sub-Saharan Africa today?

The three biggest challenges for sub-Saharan Africa are lack of leadership, corruption, and poor infrastructure.

  1. Your company works mainly with small to medium-sized companies. Has there been a big rise in these types of companies in the last 5 years?

Yes, during 2013 and 2014. However, the tough economic conditions that emerged in 2015 and 2016 have had a negative effect on SME growth in sub-Saharan Africa.  The big firms can ride out these tough times, but the smaller firms have often not been able to do so. Also, the transactional cost of doing business in Africa is high, so not too many SME’s can operate in these markets.

3.       VentureMates has had projects across the continent. What would you say is the most exciting and up-and-coming area of Africa?

The most exciting areas are definitely infrastructure developments (which includes renewable energy) and social development in education and healthcare. I would also include agriculture and more broadly, the role that technology can play in all of the above.

4.       The Talent Agenda Series is obviously aimed at HR and business leaders with a view to the changing dynamics of the African professional landscape. Do you think there has been a big development in professional life on the continent?

Definitely. Globalisation and technology have created a new working landscape and opportunities for African professionals.  African professionals now have access to any information, training and resources available and have the opportunity of working for some of the top-tier global organisations that have set up on the continent.