"Since they are still battling for survival, many SMMEs are expecting strong leadership that will offer outstanding support to the businesses operating in local municipalities," writes Malusi Zondi, chairperson of BBF.
The upcoming local government elections set for 1 November 2021 are an excellent opportunity for Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in South Africa to elect a strong local leadership that they believe will have their best interests at heart.
As the country prepares for the municipal elections, many SMMEs looking for opportunities to expand and be sustainable within the areas they serve expect government support as a means of reforming the national economy to tackle poverty and unemployment, especially in local communities.
According to a Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) report, the number of SMMEs in South Africa declined by 11% in the past year. As a result, 90% of all employment losses in the country occurred in that sector. Since the Covid-19 pandemic forced many SMMEs to close in 2020, the local government can significantly support the small and medium-sized businesses that the pandemic has severely impacted.
Furthermore, a survey conducted in September 2020 by Ipsos South Africa shows that 55% of SMME business owners were concerned about the sustainability of their businesses during this challenging period.
More needs to be done for SMMEs
This shows that more needs to be done in local municipalities to help small and medium-sized businesses thrive amid the pandemic.
Since they are still battling for survival, many SMMEs are expecting strong leadership that will offer outstanding support to the businesses operating in local municipalities. In addition, SMMES will expect newly formed local governments to help establish different models designed to assist them to survive the current lockdown regulations.
We should emphasise that SMMEs are major contributors to the economy, contributing to job creation and economic growth, resulting in fewer poverty cases and lower unemployment rates. Therefore, they can offer a more tangible basis for understanding the potential to boost employment opportunities in the country than any other sector.
SMMEs are a key driver of economic development because they foster economic innovation for local communities. In this regard, we need intensive efforts to elevate their impact at a municipal level. Seda indicates that SMMEs employed more than 10.8 million people in 2019, which accounted for 66% of the country's total employment.
Moreover, many SMMEs are looking forward to working with a benevolent municipal leadership to deploy resources effectively to help the businesses create more jobs to tackle unemployment in communities. As such, the local government must recognise that investing in the growth of small businesses contributes to the development of the local economy.
With the lack of funding and access to financing being one of the challenges of the SMMEs, the local government's interventions to promote the growth of small businesses operating in local municipal spaces will enable local entrepreneurs to thrive and take their businesses to the next level.
In light of this, SMMEs are hoping for leadership that will be innovative in determining how small businesses could play a more prominent role in different markets, even after battling with the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, the political parties that will be elected to run different municipalities must take direct measures to support small businesses, which are crucial to the development of local communities.