Our data

EOSA has an extensive set of data on enterprises: not only in South Africa, but also some neighbouring states.

  • South Africa: 96 400 enterprises in 451 cities and towns
  • Swaziland: 3 419 enterprises (blanket coverage)
  • Namibia: 2 397 enterprises in 15 towns
  • Zimbabwe:  1357 enterprises in 12 towns
  • Lesotho:  In process

In the absence of a Business Census and the shortcomings of the CIPC (only incorporated enterprises and no reliable locational information) there exists a data black hole. Donatelli & Rogerson (2010) concluded “the availability of official local level data for SA planning purposes has deteriorated since 1994.”  EOSA’s data set of the number of enterprises per sector in a town or city provides a unique starting point for enterprise research.

Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard conducts interesting research on machine learning (using algorithms to learn from data).  The importance of Big Data is not to determine or understand causal relationships, but to make reliable predictions. (See: More Economists should use machine learning to do their jobs better. Daniel Kahneman, 2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics, argues:

Daniel Kahneman

The indications from the research are unequivocal: When it comes to decision-making, algorithms are superior to people. Algorithms are noise-free. People are not.

— Daniel Kahneman: Thinking fast and slow

The lack of sustainable impact of enterprise incubation programmes, entrepreneurial training and Local Economic Development efforts rests not only on poor implementation, but on inappropriate policies and programmes based on assumptions, not data.  EOSA therefore invests in reliable local level data.


If you wish to explore new opportunities remember the importance of data. Contact Johannes Wessels for more information.

How does EOSA count enterprises? Scroll down …

Counting elephants and enterprises …

When recording enterprises in a town,  EOSA follows an ecological approach: when elephants are counted in a game reserve, both the massive bull elephant and the baby elephant are counted as elephants. A trader is therefore counted as a trader, whether it is a wholesale or a retail store, whether it is a hypermarket or a corner café.