Online platform links SMMEs to opportunities

Thursday, March 28, 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive of promoting SMMEs and stimulating job creation received a shot in the arm on Thursday when Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) launched an innovative business funding platform.

The BLSA Connect online trading platform is expected to link registered small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) to the supply chain opportunities of large South African corporations that have a global footprint.

According to BLSA, the vetting system will ensure that the risks to established companies is managed and reduced, as the platform will encourage transparency and make visible the compliance status of emerging businesses.

The platform was launched alongside the SA SME Fund CEO Circle.

Speaking at the event, BLSA chairperson Jabu Mabuza said the initiative was the business community’s contribution to resuscitating the country’s struggling economy and ensuring inclusive economic growth.

“Having been engaged in the issue of inclusive growth, addressing job creation and looking for solutions, we have found that funding is but one [aspect]. The bigger challenge is [creating] opportunities…” he said.

Discovery Founder and CEO Adriaan Gore said the BLSA Connect platform was developed over a long process.

“This [SME] fund is about job creation. It’s about spurring on entrepreneurship and helping grow black entrepreneurship. There have been a number of philosophical decisions we’ve made since the formation of the fund,” he said.

Through this project, BLSA said it was committed “to create more jobs by growing the economy, encourage and empower senior black leadership, invest in South Africans, invest in communities, support small business, and finally, condemn and root out corruption”.

The National Development Plan highlights that small businesses can generate up to 80% of the country’s growth and create 90% of the jobs needed by 2030.

Announcing the stimulus package in October last year, President Ramaphosa said government had established a R2.1 billion SMME and Innovation Fund to support innovative start-ups with a reasonable prospect of success.

Government views SMMEs, socially-owned enterprises such as co-operatives and the revitalisation of township and village economies as critical for economic transformation, inclusive growth and job creation.

Speaking at Thursday’s launch, President Ramaphosa said such joint efforts by the BLSA and SME Fund were about creating an ecosystem that was bigger than just getting funders.

“An ecosystem that is about bringing together communities that will be able to create an impact that is required -- for me, this is just a real celebration,” he said.

“What we are seeking to do is to address the challenges our country faces. The challenges are unemployment, which is huge. Even as we have unemployment, we already know that there are certain initiatives that we can embark upon that can address unemployment,” said the President.  

Some of these, he said, were what needed to be done by government.

Cutting the red tape

Business has previously decried rigid government policies that impede economic growth. In response to that, government has in recent times been in deep collaboration with business leaders in an effort to address these and inroads are being made.

“Secondly, it was to launch this ambitious investment drive when we appointed the four envoys. When we started off, some people thought we [were crazy] but it is beginning to pay off,” the President said.

He used the function to announce South Africa would later in the year hold the second investment conference.

The inaugural conference in 2018 saw South Africa securing nearly R290 billion worth of investment announcements for the country, additional to the R400 billion received during the investment drive by the special envoys and from various countries during State visits.

“It will be bigger and we will be seeking to raise even bigger funds. When those funds start flowing into the country, they will lead to the continuous growth of our economy,” he said.

The President said it is through SMMEs that South Africa can create the country’s much-needed jobs.

“That is precisely where we’d like you to keep your target on. From government’s point of view… we decided to create black industrialists and that is bearing fruit.

“We are also getting into the incubation space. When we announced the stimulus package, we said we now want to focus on township economies, as well as rural areas, so that our townships and rural areas are not just dormitories where people just go to sleep. We want them to be areas where business is conducted,” the President said. –