South African business encouraged to give more at conference

Melissa Javan
Brand South Africa board chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama challenged business leaders to go above and beyond to change society for the better. Speaking at the 2016 In Good Company conference at the Atterbury Theatre in Pretoria on 30 August, Kweyama said: “It’s only when we create sustainable, durable solutions that we overcome challenges.”

Sustainable change can be achieved, she argued, when companies are more creative and are courageous in the way it allocates corporate social investment (CSI) budgets. Far too often companies look at CSI as charitable spending rather than funds that can make real change. “CSI programmes can be invested in growing the country.”

Why is enterprise and skills development not funded more often through CSI programmes, she questioned.

She urged corporate leaders to show the way forward by being courageous, tenacious and resilient. “Let’s improve the social conditions and build a strong nation brand.”

Create sustainable solutions

In Good Company is part of an ongoing initiative run by Nation Builder, the conference organisers. Nation Builder helps companies channel it’s CSI into initiatives to make the most sustainable change in South Africa. Founded by the Muthobi Foundation, Nation Builder is a community of businesses and individuals dedicated to changing their communities through action.

Keri Paschal, executive director of the Muthobi Foundation and trustee of Nation Builder, said it can be achieved “through the sharing of practice, lessons learned and the development of collaborative tools to equip all of us to achieve better results in our Good Giving, both individually and within our business.”

Paschal explained that they have benchmarked charities and created tools and resources that help businesses gauge the success of their CSI projects.

Research conducted by Nation Builder Trust has found that R8.1-billion is channelled annually through CSI budgets. It is estimated that that investment, if spent wisely, could generate R25-billion worth of economic activity.

Informal traders, the invisible matrix

GG Marc Alcock, author of Third World Child and KasiNomics, used the novelty of food trucks (entrepreneurial businesses that can generate between R25 000 and R100 000 a month) to explain how the country’s informal traders are contributing to the economy.

When he noticed that employees were willing to spend R35 for a meal from a food truck when meals at the staff canteen were cheaper, he wondered why.

“The food truck’s food doesn’t stay overnight. It is fresh,” was the answer.

It gave Alcock important insight: businesses need to look at unique ways of meeting needs. It was the same with hawkers selling fruit and vegetables – customers bought it because it was fresh.

“What about your neighbour being your competition?” Alcock asked the hawkers who sell the same products but sit next to each other. One answered: “I have my own customers, just like she [the neighbour] has her own.” Alcock said it showed that relationships are important in business.

The value of spaza shops and spazarettes

Alcock said that South Africa’s economy is being sustained by the informal sector. “We need to recognise the role the informal sector plays.”

For example, there are 70 000 spaza shops, defined as a hole in the wall shop that sells basic necessities to customers, each could generate between R30 000 and R80 000 per month turnover. A spazarette is just a bigger version of a spaza shop, where customers buy weekly goods.

He added: “Although they are below the tax bracket in terms of their profit, they pay VAT anyway when they buy their goods.”

Alcock said the informal sector helps the unemployed earn a living. “We [as corporates] need to enhance, and support these businesses.

“They are the invisible economic matrix, their businesses surround us, but we don’t see them.”

Other speakers included Mike Schussler, director of Economists.co.za, and Francois van Niekerk, founder of the Mertech group and co-founder of Atterbury properties. Van Niekerk spoke about the marriage between business and purpose, while Schussler’s talk was titled We ignore the good news about South Africa at our peril.

Conference host and actor Eric Miyeni said CSI should begin the day you start your business. “Most people think CSI is outside. You can start with your first employee, your first partner or yourself.

“CSI is about being good to your fellow citizen.”

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