21 February 2006
The Western Cape’s RED Door initiative for developing small business in the province has grown to 10 centres – including one mobile centre – that offer budding entrepreneurs a range of services to help them get new businesses off the ground.
The Real Enterprise Development initiative, or RED Door, aims to harness the entrepreneurial drive of unemployed and self-employed South Africans. The concept is supported by international research revealing the power of the small business sector to reduce unemployment.
The first RED Door offices were opened in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain in November 2004. Since then, seven other RED Doors have opened across the Western Cape: in Atlantis, Beaufort West, Hermanus, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Paarl and Vredenberg.
And on 20 February, the first mobile RED Door was launched in Cape Town. The unit travels between the Bellville Interchange, Sivuyile College and the Wynberg Library, taking the RED Door’s services to people, such as those with disabilities, who don’t know about, or have difficulty reaching, the stationary offices.
The provincial government plans to have 30 RED Doors across the province by 2007, for which it has budgeted in the region of R110-million. Whether or not some of these are mobile units will depend on the success of the first mobile unit, which is running as a pilot project for six months.
The RED Door is a one-stop shop for new and existing businesses looking for help and advice, from the most basic to the most sophisticated.
Business mentors and advisers speaking Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa offer a range of support, including help with writing a business plan, identifying weak areas in a business, accessing finance, finding accountants and lawyers, taking advantage of government incentives and tenders, improving general business skills and learning how to import and export.
Going through the RED Door also means getting access to the internet, to a growing network of business service providers, and occasional use of small conference facilities.
Since November 2004, the RED Door project has helped small business owners win tenders worth about R11-million.
Delegates to the World Economic Forum’s Africa Economic Summit paid a visit to Khayelitsha’s RED Door in June 2005.
Speaking during the visit, Haiko Alfeld, the WEF’s director for Africa, said that while small enterprises were an important driver of growth and poverty reduction in Africa, “many small businesses face serious constraints to growth, including the lack of access to capital, business skills and information, infrastructure and technology.
“The RED Door concept perhaps offers a way out of this logjam,” Alfeld said. “We have heard very good news about this concept, and wanted our delegates to experience it first-hand.”