Small Business Development Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has criticised the agencies that she oversees for not doing enough to support SMMEs. Speaking during the launch of the Youth Challenge Fund, a programme set up to provide support to young entrepreneurs, she slammed the inability of her department and its agencies to carry out their mandates and support small businesses.
She called on the agencies and South Africans, in general, to stand behind these small businesses. “The tendency is to support salons and butcheries, but we never have a braai there, and we expect other people to have confidence in them,” she said. “We say that we support fashion designers, but we never buy from them because we want other (major) designers.”
Ndabeni-Abrahams also criticised the lack of innovation in these agencies and said they needed to take cognisance of the innovative ideas coming from the youth to help build the economy. “The private sector is the one using these entrepreneurs’ products because they understand the importance of innovation, and that’s why they thrive all the time,” she said.
“All this while we as government remain stagnant with our 30% contribution to the GDP. We need to change the way we do things and let young people compete on ideas and innovative solutions,” the minister said. “I am aware of the protocols and bureaucracy that we have in government that for us to procure services, we must issue a tender with specifications. In the innovative world (this is) restricting the capability and potential of entrepreneurs…”
Ndabeni-Abrahams said that the launch of the fund was geared to enhance startups and drive the entrepreneurial spirit of youngsters. “President Cyril Ramaphosa said that we must support 15,000 small businesses by 2024, and he promised that R50 billion must be mobilised, but we cannot be given money if we are not spending on the little that we have to assist these young entrepreneurs,” she said.
The Youth Challenge Fund is a support programme that is intended to stimulate the establishment and growth of youth-owned businesses, promote digital skills, grow the economy and foster job creation. For businesses to qualify they must be owned by people between the ages of 18 and 35 and be 100% owned by South Africans.
The youth must also be involved in the day-to-day running of the business with one or more of them being full-time employees of the company. if the company is not youth-owned.
Ndabeni-Abrahams said that with this fund, young people had the chance to rise. “This is your opportunity to make your own mark, to define your own mission and the role that you want to play, not only to advance yourself but also to put your community and your country on the map,” she said.