Spotlight on small business development

7 September 2012

The 37th International Small Business Congress, taking place in Johannesburg from 15-18 September, will help to chart the way for small business development in South Africa, with a particular focus on emerging industries.

Briefing journalists in Cape Town on Monday, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the congress would provide a platform “to benchmark and draw lessons from both the developed and developing countries with a view of sharpening policy development and high impact programmes in the South African SMME sector”.

It will be the first time that the congress is held on the African soil, and more than 1 000 international delegates are expected to descend on the Sandton Convention Centre to discuss the future and role of SMEs in the global economy.

International Small Business Congress president Catherine Swift will be joining speakers from South Africa, Canada, England, Nigeria, Malaysia, Northern Ireland, Cameroon, Japan, France, Mauritius, Sierra Leone and India.

The theme of the congress will be “Fostering small business in new and high-potential industries worldwide”.

Davies said this theme was “of particular importance to South Africa, especially as we widen the market for South African goods and services through stronger focus on exports to the region and other economic groupings such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).

“The theme is also important as we advocate for a diversified economy and we venture into activities geared towards greening the economy. Based on the latter, there are new opportunities for new enterprises, and this congress will provide for a learning platform in these areas.”

Davies said the South African government hoped to learn from other countries how it could improve its SMME support policies, as “we have not achieved the impact in terms of small business development that we wanted to achieve”.

While incubation programmes had proven to be the most successful of the government’s small business initiatives, Davies said, mentoring small companies in this way was a slow process, and the government would therefore be calling on the private sector to help sponsor programmes.

The congress will be hosted in collaboration with the City of Johannesburg, the Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services (Nafcoc), the Small Enterprise Finance Agency, the Small Enterprise Development Agency, the Industrial Development Corporation, MTN Business, Absa Bank and Shanduka Black Umbrellas.

Nafcoc president Lawrence Mavundla welcomed the initiative taken by the government in bringing the congress to South Africa, saying that small businesses “have always been a main driver for employment in South Africa, and with this congress a lot of jobs can be created.”

Bobby Malabie, the chief executive responsible for retail and business banking at Absa, said that entrepreneurship and small business had been proven globally to be the primary creators of jobs in any economy, and that South African entrepreneurs would benefit immensely from exchanging ideas with their counterparts from other parts of the world.

SAinfo reporter