By: Tebogo Mokwena
So dire is the impact of load-shedding on SMMEs, that the Small Business Development Department has now decided to draw up a relief programme to assist small businesses. Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said this week that her department had a programme in the pipeline to address the challenges that SMMEs faced due to the continuous power cuts. In a statement released by the department, it was announced that the minister and the department had resolved to work on an energy relief package for SMMEs and informal businesses.
This follows the department conducting a study on the impact of load-shedding among those who receive funds from the department and its agencies. The Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA) conducted research on the impact of load-shedding. It found that most of the respondents were highly reliant on electricity for their operations. It was also revealed that about 71% of the respondents indicated that they were negatively impacted by load-shedding and that the majority of them required an alternative power source to stay afloat.
“The minister understands that some small businesses resort to selling perishable goods such as meat and vegetables at low prices to avoid them rotting away, (and) it goes without saying that this eats away on their much-needed income,” the department noted. It said details of the package, the criteria, and avenues to apply for the relief funds would be announced soon. “Our aim is to find immediate solutions that can be urgently effected to avoid disastrous consequences such as the closure of small businesses and job losses in the SMME sector,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.
“This sector is devastated and is still barely recovering from the ruinous effects of Covid-19. We cannot afford to lose more businesses and jobs.” Dieketseng Phulane, who sells vetkoeks at her home in Evaton North in Emfuleni, said that she hoped that informal traders like herself would be considered. She told Vutivi News that she struggled to feed her children since the power cuts had affected her business.
“I do not have the money needed to buy a gas stove or afford to buy gas,” she said. “I hope that (the system) will be able to make it easy for us to qualify for some grant money we can use to buy gas stoves and gas. “It’s been very difficult because I have to wake up in the morning and make vetkoeks for the morning rush, and at that time the power would be gone. “By the time it comes back, most if not all of my customers have gone to work,” Phulane also said.