It is now widely accepted that South Africa’s potential to create jobs and drive prosperity will most likely be unleashed if the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector is nurtured and flourishes.
Jolawn Victor, Head of Emerging Markets at Intuit QuickBooks, believes that large businesses can make a massive difference by supporting small businesses. Victor says that even the smallest nudge by a large business can fundamentally change the prospects of a struggling SME.
This, she says, requires the willpower of a big business, but costs far less than the overall benefit enjoyed by a wide network of people. This sentiment is often echoed in government circles, with President Cyril Ramaphosa using his 2019 State of the Nation address to urge South Africans to support local businesses and products.
At the recent launch of the SA SME Fund, an initiative to support small black businesses, Ramaphosa said that government can no longer rely on mining and large factories to produce jobs, and that his government acknowledges that largescale job creation will come from the SME sector.
A Small Business Institute (SBI) report revealed that a staggering 98.5% of the local economy is driven by SMEs, however only 28% are currently producing jobs.
South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) envisages a country where 90% of all jobs by 2030 are created by SMEs. According to the SBI report, currently 56% of jobs in SA are created by the 1000 largest companies.
Victor says that in order to start plotting a path towards the NDPs vision, and fundamentally improve the country’s prospects, a concerted effort must be made to “understand the needs of SMEs, and support them in their quest to become sustainable”.
“What may seem like a small, run-of-the-mill action to an established company, could be life-changing for an SME,” she says. “Having begun as a start-up, this is something that Intuit as a business understands, and an example of this is when we made a conscious decision to give a small business a contract at a company event in South Africa.
“The outcome was that this small business was able to use its successful experience with us as a confidence booster and important validation in terms of its business CV.”
Victor is referring to local South African sewing co-operative Intando Yesizwe, which was awarded a contract to supply bags to an Intuit Quickbooks Get Connected event. Intando Yesizwe, which until that moment had barely survived off social development department contracts, was able to leverage that chance into a stepping stone for contracts with some of South Africa’s leading retailers: Woolworths, Shoprite and Checkers.
Intando Yesizwe founder, Musa Mdhluli agrees that large businesses hold the keys to the doors of success for SMEs. “Big business can assist small businesses with better established resources, such as networking, connections and better equipment,” he said.
Referring to the contract his business signed to supply bags to the QuickBooks Get Connected event, Mdhluli said: “The event, in my opinion has opened the opportunity for us to be known. Normally we only are busy when we have social development or SASSA (South African Social Security Agency) work. Intando Yesizwe has changed since the Get Connected event as we have no longer need to break for months without work and struggle to pay the bills.
“We have been fortunate in having manufactured the Easter Bag promotion for Woolworths and currently we are busy manufacturing aprons for Shoprite and Checkers.”
Victor believes that by providing the platform and step-up to businesses that would otherwise have continued struggling along, large enterprises are able to make a meaningful impact on society.
“Behind every SME is a passionate entrepreneur. When we, as large businesses, provide a step-up in terms of confidence, exposure to networks or processes, or even logistical support, we are directly affecting a human being with hopes and dreams.
“The human story behind every transaction is highly rewarding. At the end of the day, we all want the same – to unleash the immense potential of this beautiful country. As large businesses we are able to make a meaningful impact on this mission,” Victor concludes.