The small business sector in South Africa plays a significant role in the national economy, with government’s National Development Plan looking to small-, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs) to create 11-million jobs and help drive economic growth, project delivery company Worley project portfolio manager Gladwin Mfolo said on Friday.
According to the SMME landscape report for 2018/19, the SMME landscape is made up of relatively young businesses, with about 60% of small businesses having been in business for less than three years.
For the most part, the SMME owners were operating their first businesses, Mfolo told delegates at the fourth yearly Worley Supplier Grow Conference.
“Our meeting here today is driven by entrepreneurship and need for collaboration. The role of entrepreneurs is critical in any society and South Africa is no exception. Entrepreneurs create new products and services that can produce a cascading effect.
“If successful, their innovations – be it a new or complementary product or service – may create jobs, improve standards of living and contribute to a growing economy. Entrepreneurship is a catalyst for promoting social change and driving innovation,” said Mfolo.
He told Engineering News Online that the focus of this year’s conference had been on how SMMEs could use technology to be competitive.
Worley and conference partner LEAP sought to explore some of the challenges faced in supplier development and to highlight why there was a need to develop more SMMEs.
In his speech, Mfolo reiterated the potential of supplier development in substantially driving the real intent of legislation in South Africa, thus positively impacting on overcoming the socioeconomic challenges facing the country.
“We need to start with understanding the intent of our legislation and not try to find loopholes so as not to comply. We need to develop collaborative platforms for supplier development within and across industries.
“We need both businesses and individuals to play their active citizenry role in ensuring that supplier development is not merely done as a tickbox exercise but done in the intention of the legislation,” he stated.
He called on the private sector to work with government, as well as challenge government, on its responsibilities to create a conducive environment for SMMEs to thrive.
Further, social entrepreneur and keynote speaker Bojane Segooa pointed out that entrepreneurs could not ignore important conversations around the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
While the fear of losing jobs was real, with every industrial revolution, new jobs were created, she highlighted.
“The issue is re-skilling the current workforce and keeping them up to date and abreast [with] the change, including the 4IR,” Segooa suggested.
Subsequently, she also underscored the need for businesses to commit to environment sustainability, in light of climate change. This, she said, would drive a socially prosperous society that is inclusive and diverse and where everyone is an equal economic participant.
“Through the ages, we have seen what drives development, innovation and leadership – it is entrepreneurship. If you take traditional entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs – and match their respective greed for solutions – then imagine what the possibilities are.”