by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – GOVERNMENT and stakeholders are preparing and repositioning South Africa’s small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMME) sector to better leverage the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution.
The sector is crucial in Africa’s most advanced economy, with 90 percent of the 11 million new jobs to be created by 2030 come directly from SMMEs.
This is according to the National Development Plan which envisions the Small Business sector employing up to 70 percent of South Africa’s working population.
Addressing the just-ended first Africa Tech Conference in Johannesburg, Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, spoke of the critical need to reduce the crippling effects of government bureaucracy on small business growth in the technology revolution.
“Africa is no longer playing catch up with the rest of the world, we are competing with it,” Zulu said.
“And we are competing in a digital economy with a rate of change faster than the world has seen for the last 300 years,” she added.
Experts believe South Africa has a digital readiness greater than the whole of Sub Saharan Africa put together, putting the country in a position to lead the continent into the fourth industrial revolution.
“Success is starting to look fundamentally different. It’s no longer brick and mortar,” said economist and entrepreneur, Ayabonga Cawe.
“It’s a lot leaner, more diffuse and a lot more geographically disperse. It’s an exciting environment which presents global opportunities. We have to ensure that SMMEs are positioned to leverage such opportunities,” Cawe said.
Tiro Matjiu, Founder of Uhuru shop and accelerator platform, Uhuru Group, explained the biggest challenge in the sector was market access.
“Marketing in an economic downturn is tough, even more so when your industry requires a shift in consumer mindset,” Matjiu said.
He said Industry 4.0, as the fourth industrial revolution is also known, was a huge opportunity for growth and access to global markets.
“…but it requires knowledge, mentorship and training,” Matjiu said.
The Southern Africa Business and Technology Incubation Association (SABTIA) Tech Conference, in partnership with the City of Eukurhuleni and Monash SA, put the spotlight on incubation and acceleration programmes as a primary means to addressing the shortcomings in the development of the SMME industry.
Zaid Mohidin, SABTIA Chairman, believes that this conference is the first step to bring all players together and to revalidate the industry.
He said the SMME sector was constantly evolving to meet the dynamic needs of the market and entrepreneurs.
“The lack of regulation and coordination in the industry has exposed the sector to fly by night or opportunistic programmes that are often exclusive, ineffective and have very little impact on small business development,” Mohidin said.
– CAJ News