Given the sustained challenging economic environment, there continues to be a focus on how South Africa can grow and compete, particularly in the areas of entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Over the last two decades, the level of government interest in entrepreneurship and small business development as potential solutions to flagging economic growth and rising unemployment has increased.
“Small business development remains firmly on the national agenda and the radar screen of all stakeholders.” These were the words voiced by the Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, as she accepted the award for South Africa to host the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in 2017. Zulu’s comments highlight the role accorded to entrepreneurship as a driver of economic growth in South Africa.
Whether it is running a construction business or an agri-processing venture, many South Africans — particularly young people — are choosing to start their own businesses in an effort to combat the socio-economic challenges they face.
Enterprise development in South Africa allows for the growth of businesses that can provide those entering the job market with opportunities, and ensures that the provision of these opportunities is sustainable.
The local entrepreneurial space is on an upward trajectory and gaining support from government. This is further evidenced by the R475 million which has been re-prioritised to the Department of Small Business Development for assistance to small and medium enterprises and cooperatives, as announced in the recent budget speech.
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To demonstrate their commitment, large corporations are strategically aligning their business goals to support the objectives set out in the National Development Plan (NDP). Through its enterprise development initiative, aptly named Zimele, Anglo American has responded to the entrepreneurial imperative by creating hospitable environments for entrepreneurs to stand on their feet for the past 27 years.
For Anglo American, creating shared value by identifying and developing public-private partnerships is one of the instrumental practices for driving its business goals. Not only that, but leveraging these partnerships enables the business to create social and economic value for communities and address immediate needs and challenges.
By empowering entrepreneurs, Zimele enables employment opportunities, pride and prosperity — making a real difference to countless communities in South Africa. This is achieved through six funds, each one providing developmental funding, training and mentorship support across a broad spectrum of businesses and industries. Since inception in 1989, up to end of 2015, Zimele’s funds concluded 3168 transactions and provided R1.6 billion in funding for 2206 businesses that collectively employed 46,949 people. This further generated a total turnover of R8.6 billion.
Enterprise development programmes, initiated by some of South Africa’s large corporations, prove that the developmental role of big business in a tough economic environment is an imperative. Creating a sustainable and independent economy means that large corporations need to act as mentors for young entrepreneurs and not simply provide financial support.
The current growth landscape also emphasises that entrepreneurs cannot be iterating all the time; there has to be a point where an idea becomes sustainable. This is when entrepreneurs need experienced business people and even large corporations to be supportive.
115 Electrical Solutions — an early-stage, 100% black-owned business providing electrical and mechanical engineering consulting and construction services — is a perfect example of this empowering programme in action. Through Anglo American’s Entrepreneur Internship Programme (EIP), the business received business development support, training and mentorship that enabled it to grow and create jobs. Before EIP, 115 Electrical only employed two people, while today it has 10 permanent employees and 5 contractors.
The concept of entrepreneurship and the pivotal role it plays, features prominently in the NDP and remains an actionable policy agenda for reducing unemployment and stimulating the country’s economic growth. Entrepreneurs continue to transform large portions of the economy and even more encouraging, are several signs that the country is tipping the entrepreneurial scale.