Institute of Business Advisors Southern Africa’s (Ibasa) new chairman, Terence Knott-Craig, firmly believes that SMMEs do not need handouts from the government. Instead, they need an ecosystem that can develop their skills, help them be more competitive and provide the knowledge they need for them to contribute to the country’s economic recovery.
In a wide-ranging interview with Vutivi News, Knott-Craig shared some of his views on what he believed was needed to save the economy. He said that the government was not obliged to give SMMEs anything, except to ensure that it created an environment for SMMEs to do business.
“We need to change the way that government dictates to small businesses and how they work and create an ecosystem and an environment that is encouraging for small businesses,” he said. “The question is how we build resilience so that SMMEs can be prepared to be risk-ready and better prepared for the next crisis, whether it is Eskom completely failing, or a taxi strike or even a flood.”
Knott-Craig also criticised government grants to small businesses, saying that instead what was needed was a focus on skills development. “There is no use in giving a small business money because they are in financial distress if they’re only given enough money to cover the financial distress alone,” he pointed out.
“In our country, many of the finance packages for SMMEs are mostly government-driven, but where is the government driving the growth of skills and business skills?” Knott-Craig also commented on the government’s localisation policy, saying that he believed it created a sense of entitlement amongst SMMEs.
“As soon as we say to people that they must buy local and put laws into place to buy local, we are giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to say that we must buy from them irrespective of the quality of the product and that is a form of entitlement,” he warned.
“Let us help our local companies to be more efficient and produce efficiently so that we can compete against international brands. When the product is of good quality and good price, consumers may not see a need to buy overseas.” Knott-Craig said that Ibasa was positioning itself to create a space where SMMEs could get assistance according to the various sectors.
“The core of Ibasa is to accredit business advisors so that entrepreneurs know what to expect when they enlist their services. I believe that Ibasa’s role is changing more to the extent that serves the needs of SMMEs in the SMME ecosystem,” he said.
Ibasa is a non-profit company that was formed in 2001 and is responsible for the grading, accreditation and continuous professional development of business advisors, coaches and mentors serving SMMEs in South Africa and in the southern African region.