The South African government’s National Development Plan (NDP) identifies SMEs as primary drivers of job creation, and has set a target of 90% of new employment being created in the SME sector by 2030. Many economists agree that rapid SME growth is the only sustainable way to reduce unemployment and expand the middle class.
One would have thought that this was great news for SMEs – most South African small, medium and micro-business owners are unlikely to disagree with the policy. In practice, however, there are certain obstacles to be overcome before the majority of our SMEs will commit themselves to growth as a deliberate contribution to job creation, alongside each company’s primary aim of improved profitability.
A poll of more than 1 300 South African companies, the 2015 SME Insights Survey commissioned by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), revealed that 76% of the respondents employ fewer than 20 people, and 46% have fewer than five employees.
There was also a very interesting correlation between SME longevity, turnover and staff size. By and large, the 25% of SMEs that report turnover above R10-million per annum are also those who have been in business 5 years or longer, and furthermore they are the firms likely to be employing more staff. Only 1% of the sample claimed a turnover above R500-million per annum, and 1% also employ more than 1 000 people.
The implication is clear: If SMEs are to be engines of job creation, the task will be accomplished by SMEs that have survived long enough to achieve substantial annual turnovers on a sustained basis. The government is to be commended for supporting micro enterprises, but their job creation goals will need a new focus.
Barriers to SME growth
These statistics make sense. Most small and medium enterprises actually begin as micro enterprises, with just one out of two entrepreneurs forming their own company. For the first two or three years, they will be totally focussed on the challenges of creating a sustainable business: Funding, production, distribution, cash flow, and market penetration. In many cases, entrepreneurs are also breadwinners, so their immediate priority is providing for their dependants.
This is not to say that they cannot also perform a socially conscious job creation role, and be committed to the NDP vision; but the harsh economic reality is that they cannot afford to focus on providing jobs for others until they are sure that their business will be able to continue supporting them and their families. And they will not be turned into job creation machines until government provides compelling incentives for them to do this.
More than 60% of SMEs fail within their first three years. A rational conclusion from all this data is that supporting and mentoring existing SMEs who have survived three or more years, so that they can achieve the longevity and turnover that allows them to employ more staff, would be an important policy direction, and possibly a more rapid road to the achievement of the NDP goals than a concentration of funding on thousands of new micro-enterprises.
Asked to identify the biggest barrier to entry when starting a business, respondents said the three primary obstacles were government red tape, access to funding and red tape when dealing with big business. If these factors make starting a business harder, it is logical to infer that they remain a deterrent as a business grows, bringing with it more red tape and the need to fund further expansion.
It is hoped that policymakers will take the findings of the 2015 SME Insights Survey into account when trying to formulate policy that will help SMEs address these obstacles, but at the same time, SMEs themselves can take proactive steps to lessen their impact.
By engaging the services of a Chartered Accountant (South Africa) [CA(SA)], an SME owner can lighten the dual burdens of dealing with red tape and the acquisition of funding, while at the same time getting sound business advice that will increase their chances of long-term success.
Related: Getting Your Growth On
SMPs offer multiple benefits
A significant number of CAs(SA) work in small and medium practices (SMPs), providing financial and accounting services to other SMEs. But the value they can offer to these SMEs goes beyond the bookkeeping and tax consulting that most small business owners see as their primary function.
As successful South African entrepreneur Alan Knott-Craig Jr put it when asked about the value of his CA(SA) qualification: ‘There’s a lot of admin that isn’t fun when you’re setting up a business: Registering a company, getting a trademark, doing legal agreements, cash-flow management, accounting, etcetera. All of that gets taught to CAs(SA) – you get so comfortable with statutory company secretarial and regulatory accounting work. It’s something non-CAs(SA) don’t pay much attention to when they get their own small businesses off the ground. And then one day they forget to pay VAT, and SARS comes and takes out their business. A CA(SA) is not going to drop the ball in those areas.’
For many entrepreneurs, the first problem when dealing with red tape is knowing what red tape is even relevant; a consulting CA(SA) will have all that information at their fingertips, whether dealing with government or big business contracts. For example, 55% of the companies in the 2015 SME Insights Survey either do not know how they will be ranked under the latest Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) codes, or presume they will be non-compliant.
Another 12% are unsure if their status will even change. Yet under the new B-BBEE codes, any SME with a turnover less than R10-million per annum qualifies as an Exempt Micro Enterprise (EME), and as such receives an automatic B-BBEE Level 4 or better rating, allowing it to bid for contracts with government and big business. A full 75% of the businesses surveyed qualify as EMEs, and any CA(SA) would be able to tell their owners that they can achieve Level 4 status simply by submitting an affidavit about their turnover.
Business and funding assistance
Apart from the ability of CAs(SA) to deal with red tape, South Africa’s small business bankers agree they can be a great help in mentoring and advising small businesses with an outside perspective – and even in helping to prepare them to be attractive prospects for bank funding.
Thakhani Makhuvha, CEO of the Small Enterprises Finance Agency, thinks that SMEs could consider contracting SMPs to perform the functions of a non-executive director, without a formal appointment to the role. ‘It would be a significant value-add,’ he says. ‘
A small company might not be able to understand the risks that they are facing – it might be in invoicing, creditors, filing, following up with the debtors, etcetera. An audit firm that will provide that insight will definitely be adding value to the small business – if those risks are identified and mitigated, it gives us a firm degree of confidence. You don’t have to be appointed a director – just an independent person who is behaving like a director, questioning the strategy and viability of the business on an on-going basis.’
As Makhuvu’s remarks illustrate, advice and mentorship from a CA(SA) can also help SMEs overcome another barrier: Finding funding. A 2014 survey of all the major SME funders in South Africa revealed that the input of a CA(SA) was seen as a positive advantage, and that lenders felt more secure about providing finance to SME owners who were prepared to rely on qualified guidance and expert financial oversight.
‘If a lender knows you’re a CA(SA), they talk to you differently; it’s just a fact,’ says Alan Knott-Craig Jr. ‘The CA(SA) designation provides instant business credibility.’
The conclusion is readily apparent: entrepreneurs, who want to build long-running, profitable SMEs that can eventually turn into large enterprises and employ significant numbers of people, need to be able to handle red tape and applications for funding along with all the other financial and strategic minutiae of business, both on a day-to-day basis and within a long-term strategy. They would do well to consider consulting a CA(SA) to provide value advice and expertise in all these areas.
If you’re an SME and would like to participate in the 2016 SMME Insights Survey commissioned by SAICA, click here: 2016 SMME Insights Survey
Top 22 Start-ups Chosen For Final Selection Days – Startupbootcamp Africa
After receiving 1,004 applications from all over the world, the SBC team in conjunction with the programme’s corporate sponsors have narrowed the applicants down to 22 top-tier tech start-ups that will be invited to the Final Selection Days on July 11th and 12th at PwC’s headquarters in Cape Town.
SBC Africa received 1,004 total applications from 77 countries on 5 continents. The start-ups that applied were exceptionally impressive and have gained more traction in the market than the applicants for the 2017 cohort. The talent in Africa is phenomenal and the corporate sponsors and SBC team dedicated 2 weeks to narrow it down to the Top 22 to be invited to Final Selection Days.
“It’s been an intense process due to the exceptionally high calibre of start-ups applying to the programme from across the continent,” states Philip Kiracofe, co-founder and CEO of Startupbootcamp Africa. “From 1,004 applications we have managed to narrow down to 22 of the most creative teams tackling daunting African problems. One of the key differentiators for start-ups that participate in the SBC Accelerator is the opportunity to secure commercial contracts with our sponsors. In order to make it onto our Top 22, each start-up has been chosen by at least 2 sponsors for potential proof of concept projects. The 2018 cohort is already shaping up to be a milestone moment for Africa.”
Zachariah George, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Startupbootcamp Africa added, “The investment community across Africa is taking note of the significant traction and access to market that being an alumni of a global accelerator programme like ours provides. We are excited to further galvanize venture capital funding into tech startups through significant de-risking of business models and customer validation with our corporate partners globally.”
From the 22 teams that have been invited to the SBC Africa Final Selection Days, 10 will be selected to join the 2018 cohort. Over the span of the two Final Selection Days, the startups in attendance will have the opportunity to present their pitches to high-profile corporate sponsors, investors, thought leaders and industry experts and will have the chance to sit down with mentors and sponsors alike. At the end of Day Two, the Top 10 will be announced and will be welcomed to the Cape Town-based Accelerator that kicks off in August. During the 3-month period, they will have the opportunity to scale at an incredible pace and seal pilot and proof of concept deals with the corporate sponsors to the programme.
The SBC Africa Accelerator is anchored and endorsed by heavyweight corporate sponsors RCS, BNP Paribas Personal Finance, Nedbank, Old Mutual and PwC.
“We’ve seen an increase in the quality of start-ups applying to the programme. The awareness of the value of the programme has increased and the success of the first year of the bootcamp speaks for itself. More mature start-ups are also seeing the benefits of participating in Startupbootcamp Africa,” comments Stanley Gabriel, Head of Innovation at Old Mutual.
The Top 22 start-ups invited to the Final Selection Days come from 7 different countries. The numbers are as follows: 8 from Nigeria, 5 from South Africa, 3 from Uganda, 2 from the Ivory Coast, 2 from Kenya, 1 from Ghana and 1 from Ireland.
The names of the start-ups invited to Final Selection Days by country:
- Nigeria: Bankly Technologies, Biyabot, CredPal, FriendsVow, Kudimoney Bank, Medikal HMS, NebulaPay, and ZEEZZ Planet Solutions.
- South Africa: Brandbookalytics Big Data, ifileme, LÜLA, Prospa, and Akiba Digital
- Uganda: CoinPesa Ltd, RoundBob Uganda, and Swipe 2 Pay
- Ivory Coast: Digitech Group, and DISTRICASH
- Kenya: Kakbima, and MPost
- Ghana: Inclusive Financial Technologies
- Ireland: Pago Payments
It has been an incredible 3-month scouting journey for SBC Africa and now that the Top 22 have been announced, the Final Selection Days is the only hurdle left before the Accelerator officially kicks off on 13 August 2018.
There are high expectations for the Top 10 of 2018 and if the quality of the start-ups at this stage is any indication, 2018 is set to be a great success for the African tech and innovation ecosystem.
She Works Hard For Her Money – So Pay Her On Time
Sage research finds that female entrepreneurs suffer more negative effects from late payments than men. Charles Pittaway, Managing Director of Sage Pay, comments on the importance of equal pay for equal work.
Women fight inequality and discrimination every day. They fight for equal pay for equal work. They challenge gender stereotypes in their careers and personal lives. They question unfair social and political norms. They unify under passionate causes, evidenced recently by the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns.
With female business builders making up nearly 40% of the global workforce – and heading up 72% of micro-enterprises and 40% of small enterprises in South Africa – any kind of discrimination is unacceptable from a cultural and economic point of view, especially when it involves failure to pay what is owed.
The impact of late payments on small businesses has been widely discussed as an issue that must be eradicated for all entrepreneurs, regardless of gender. But inequality still exists and more needs to be done to eradicate it.
Recent research by Sage highlights that this discrimination doesn’t just impact women in large corporates. Indeed, it identified a worrying trend: female entrepreneurs are more likely to suffer from late payments than their male counterparts.
South Africa was among the six regions (out of 11) surveyed by Sage that reported higher instances of women business builders being paid late. Businesses run by female entrepreneurs in South Africa report that 18% of invoices are paid late and 10% of invoices are written off as bad debt.
Small businesses cannot absorb these costs nor the lost hours spent on admin – amounting to R564 000 in South Africa. The result can be disastrous: in the next 12 months, 1 in 4 female entrepreneurs will prioritise chasing late payments to be more cost efficient, and ironically will become less productive. If these businesses are not paid on time, they will also struggle to pay bonuses and suppliers, and will be forced to delay investments in their businesses.
The fact that late or non-payments is a more common occurrence experienced by female entrepreneurs is part of a wider problem. Women report more instances of sexist comments, disregard for their business ambitions and lack of female mentors as significant underlying reasons why there is now a heightened cultural stigma around chasing late payments amongst female entrepreneurs – more so than men.
In South Africa, the stigma extends past culture, with 40% of Small & Medium Businesses failing to follow up on late payments to protect client relationships. Time and resources are also challenges, with 24% of small businesses saying they don’t have a dedicated resource to chase payments and 13% saying they don’t have time.
There is no place for bias in business – all entrepreneurs should be free to pursue their ambitions without suffering the consequences of these cultural barriers that are encountered far too often – regardless of gender.
Now is the time to disrupt and challenge these harmful stereotypes and create a force for good, making sure that small businesses – the engine room of all economies – are paid what they are duly owed for the services they deliver to our economy.
#RiseToTheChallenge Now By Visiting The SleepOut™ Movement
The SleepOut™ Movement was born out of a desire to address homelessness as a threat to human dignity and the realisation of fundamental human rights. The SleepOut™ Movement is underpinned by the philosophies of Social Innovation and Engaging Business ‘As A Force for Change’.
Primary Beneficiaries appointed by The CEO Sleepout Trust™ for 2018 are Liliesleaf Farm and Museum and The Qunu Food Security Project. These Primary Beneficiaries will be awarded a portion of funds raised from a series of The SleepOut™ Movement Events taking place during July this year honouring the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Donations by the Trust to Primary Beneficiaries from previous years’ events amounted to an impressive R38-Million.
“Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world!”, Nelson Mandela.
The SleepOut™ Movement brings together Businesses and Influencers to purposely and effectively address the Five Pillars that alleviate homelessness: Shelter, Nutrition, Healthcare, Education, and Community. Curated by social enterprise The Philanthropic Collection, whose mission is Creating Conscious Capital, The SleepOut™ Movement aims to spearhead innovation in philanthropy by moving beyond current practices and beliefs, employing business strategies to do good for others.
The SleepOut™ Movement’s mission in 2018 is embodied by its Special Chapters, The Nelson Mandela CEO SleepOut™ – Liliesleaf Edition and The Nelson Mandela Legacy SleepOut™ – Robben Island Edition.
On Wednesday 11 July 2018, The Nelson Mandela CEO SleepOut™ – Liliesleaf Edition, aims to host 200 CEOs (each with four distinguished guests whom embody Madiba’s leadership and humanitarian qualities) as they #RiseToTheChallenge, spending a winter’s night at the iconic Liliesleaf Farm and Museum in Rivonia, Johannesburg. In addition, an auction will be opened to participating CEO’s for Madiba’s outside bedroom at Liliesleaf where he, Madiba, spent countless hours writing, reading and reflecting. Opening bids start at R250 000.00 with an overall goal of raising R30-Million.
On Wednesday 18 July 2018 and what would have been Madiba’s 100th birthday, 67 Global Influencers, Business leaders and Celebrities will spend the night on Robben Island, inside the maximum-security prison and courtyard where Mandela spent 18 years. On this same night, an auction will be held for the highest bidder commencing at $250 00.00 to sleep inside Cell Number 7 – Madiba’s home during his imprisonment. The aim is to raise $6,7 million through our 67 Participants at a Pledge of $100,000.00 each.
As a Primary Beneficiary focused on Community Upliftment, Education and Nutrition, the Qunu Food Security Project is operated by Dr. Brylyne Chitsunge, Pan African Ambassador for Food Security, who stated, “Through the funds generated as a Primary Beneficiary of The SleepOut™ Movement our plan is to develop a platform for Agricultural Stakeholders to work with 250 members of the Qunu community on Mandela’s farm ensuring the development of agriculture and commercial farming within More/….2
South Africa. The funds received will determine how many farmers are trained, the amount of product supplied and the number of bursaries that can be awarded to Scholars wanting to study Agriculture”.
The second of the 2 Primary Beneficiaries is Liliesleaf Farm & Museum, once the nerve centre of the liberation movement and a place of refuge for its leaders, and is today one of South Africa’s foremost, award-winning heritage sites, where the journey to democracy in South Africa is honoured.
Recognised as one of South Africa’s leading heritage sites, Liliesleaf opened to the public in June 2008 and has since attracted thousands of local and international visitors, eager to understand and engage with a pivotal period in South Africa’s liberation struggle. Sir Nicolas Wolpe, CEO of Liliesleaf Trust, states, “We are honoured to have not only been chosen as the venue for The CEO SleepOut™ but also as one of the Primary Beneficiaries of The SleepOut™ Movement enabling us to continue our work in preserving our heritage as an important symbolic presence of our country’s struggle and through our educational programmes we continue to inspire younger audiences to face the challenges of today”.
In addition to the Primary Beneficiaries The SleepOut™ Movement benefits a number of Secondary as well as Satellite Beneficiaries, with the funds raised through the 2 auctions taking place at Liliesleaf and on Robben Island benefitting the Prison-to-College Pipeline SA developed through a partnership between Stellenbosch University and the South African Department of Correctional Services & Western Cape Community Organisations aimed at integrating them back into their communities.
#RiseToTheChallenge now by visiting The SleepOut™ Movement – https://theceosleepoutza.co.za
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