Small businesses get SABS approval

Thursday, December 8, 2011

East London - Co-operatives and small businesses in the Eastern Cape will now be able to sell their products with the prestigious South African Bureau of Standards stamp of approval.

This follows the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) and South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) this week.

"The SABS promotes, accredits, certifies and maintains standards of co-operatives in South Africa. By signing this agreement with ECDC, we are executing our goals," said SABS managing director Sylvester Ratlabala.

He said the agreement would see the quality assurance authority conduct product testing, run product quality systems training and certify co-operatives and other small businesses funded by the ECDC.

Ratlabala said by working together with the SABS, Small Medium Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) and co-operatives could reduce research and development costs.

"We have 6 500 International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards. It takes up to three years of research and development to get a standard written. Instead of spending tens of thousands of rands, small businesses can just buy a standard for R300 and produce according to what has been done before."

As part of the agreement, the ECDC will provide the SABS with R3 million to assist small businesses and co-operatives. The SABS's office in East London, which previously catered only for businesses in the automotive sector, will now extend its services to other business sectors, as well as train ECDC personnel in product quality testing.

ECDC CEO Sitembele Mase said the agreement would see especially rural based co-operatives and other small businesses boost product quality and gain better market access.

"The profile of entrepreneurs to whom we lend money is largely rural. Because they lack managerial and technical skills, they have difficulty in accessing markets due to low product quality."

He said the move to improve product quality was informed by the result of research conducted, and was part of the non-financial support ECDC provides small businesses.

"It is our duty as a development finance institution to develop other aspects of their businesses, which in the long run will translate to extending their markets and ultimately encouraging rural economic development."

ECDC employees will undergo a six-month product quality systems training and certification for co-operatives and small businesses.

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