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SMEs should be a bigger priority

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SMEs should be a bigger priority as political, business and other leaders of society from across Africa gather at events such the World Economic Forum (WEF), held in Durban last week.

A sector that represents the economic future of the continent is still not being heard by the people shaping economic policies.

Says Anton van Heerden, MD and executive vice-president: Africa & Middle East at Sage: “Our recent research shows that 49% of small businesses in South Africa don’t feel fairly represented in the country’s political decision making.

“Their limited inclusion at forums such as WEF Africa simply confirms that policymakers should allow more time to really understand and provide solutions addressing their concerns.

“As owner-driven and managed enterprises, SMEs create wealth for families and communities as well as much-needed jobs for local people. In fact, small businesses create two thirds of all the jobs in most economies, and represent over 98% of all businesses.

“I’m pleased that Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development, acknowledged the role of SMEs in addressing inequality and poverty in one of the few talks at WEF to focus on small business. It’s also good to see that the data affordability issues facing small business are being addressed.

“We have raised our concern before that business builders are not a priority in forums like Davos, and we once again urge multilateral institutions, big business and policymakers to make space for them at the table. This is also why we launched the Forum for Business Builders recently; a platform that we hope will come to represent the voice of small business owners both locally and globally.”

Van Heerden says that the launch of the South Africa Internet for All project this week, in partnership between the government of South Africa and WEF, is welcome. One of its aims will be to explore how Internet for All can better support the development of SMEs.

“We’d love to see more initiatives like this, with more emphasis on listening to business builders to find out how policymakers can support their growth,” he says.