South Africa is home to a vast number of budding entrepreneurs, who play an important role in the economy. Here we consider some of the greatest success stories to come out of the country.



Thawte logo

Thawte was founded in 1995 as a company specializing in digital certificates and internet security. The founder, Mark Shuttleworth, sold the company in 1999 to VeriSign. It’s now the second largest certificate authority (CA) in the world.

Shuttleworth has since gone on to form two other companies, HBD Venture Capital (Here be Dragons) and Canonical Ltd., a company that promotes open-source projects on the Ubuntu platform.

African Rainbow Materials

African Rainbow Materials

ARM logo

Founded as South Africa’s first black-owned mining company, African Rainbow Materials (ARM) now operates around the world. For example, it has mining interests in Zimbabwe and Zambia, and even as far afield as Papua New Guinea. The company began as a gold-mining operation, but now also has interests in iron, coal, copper and platinum group metals.


XtraSpace is a self-storage company. It started business in 2007 with only one facility. As of 2013, it owns and operates 17 facilities nationwide – the largest number of self-storage facilities operated by any South African self-storage company. The company’s strategy is to continue to grow its property portfolio and to offer customers consistently affordable, accessible and secure facilities.

Rembrandt Group

The Rembrandt group, which at one stage was second in wealth only to Anglo-American, was started as a simple cigarette manufacturing company in the garage of former owner Anton Rupert. The modest initial business cost only £10 to start up. It has since grown into a multi-faceted company that also deals in the industrial and luxury-branded goods sectors. The company has now split into two groups – Remgro, an investment company, and Richemont, a Switzerland-based luxury goods group.

Pick ‘n Pay

Founded in 1967 by Raymond Ackerman soon after he was fired by Checkers, this small chain of only three stores went on to become the second largest chain of supermarkets in South Africa. Pick ‘n Pay branches are also found in several other African countries, including Botswana, Zambia, Lesotho, Namibia and Mauritius. More recently, Pick ‘n Pay stores have started opening around Australia, which boasts a large population of South African expats.

Phoenix Distribution

Phoenix Distribution began in 2000 as a small online software distribution group. By 2013, the company’s turnover had grown by a staggering 5,900%. Its main focus is on software re-publishing and distribution.


Afrihost had already established itself as a website hosting business when it decided to enter the ADSL market. With a model to undercut other ADSL providers, it was originally set to lose around R250,000 a month, but hoped that its hosting service would make enough profit to outweigh the losses on their ADSL service. This huge risk paid off. SEACOM – the underwater cable that runs from the UK to South Africa – was built and sent ADSL prices down, leaving Afrihost on top of the affordable ADSL price game.