Small & Medium Businesses in South Africa are likely to take inspiration from the upbeat tone of President Cyril Ramaphosa first State of the Nation Address and its positive outlook on how smaller businesses can play a major role in spurring economic growth and addressing the challenge of unemployment, says Pieter Bensch, Executive Vice President, Africa & Middle East at Sage.
“We are pleased to hear the new president of South Africa acknowledge that the growth of our economy will be sustained by small businesses,” says Bensch. “It is especially heartening to hear that he is committed to building a small business ecosystem that assists, nourishes and promotes entrepreneurs.”
“Entrepreneurship doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it is the result of collaboration between big business, government, business builders, universities and other stakeholders to build the skills, infrastructure and support systems entrepreneurs need to succeed.”
Bensch adds that the CEO Small Business Fund – which currently stands at R1.5 billion – is an outstanding example of how government and big business can work together to nurture entrepreneurship. “I was excited to hear that government is finalising a small business and innovation fund targeted at start-ups and that it also has plans to reduce the regulatory barriers for small businesses,” he says. “These sorts of interventions could help us to dramatically improve the success and survival rate of South Africa’s small and start-up businesses.”
President Ramaphosa tackled the burning crisis of youth unemployment when he mentioned the launch the Youth Employment Service initiative, which will place unemployed youth in paid internships in companies across the economy. “Skills in the ICT sector remain a challenge and big business must play a central role supporting government as far as possible through internships and learnerships. This, along with existing initiatives such as the Employment Tax Incentive, could play a major role in upskilling young South Africans – enabling youngsters to play a role in the digital economy, while supplying the skills every business needs to be globally competitive,” Bensch says.
Adds Bensch: “Our new President’s speech was pragmatic, but he also looked towards the future. Industry 4.0 is likely to change the skills employers will be looking for, how entire industries will operate, and the nature of work itself. It was great to hear President Ramaphosa talk about science, technology and innovation as opportunities for our country – we need to seize the chance to put South Africa right at the forefront of the digital industrial revolution if we are to unleash its full potential.”