By: Anna Majavu
A top-level meeting between The Presidency and business that discussed urgent action against crime, corruption, energy and transport problems has sidelined SMMEs, which were only represented by Small Business Development Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
The meeting between Business Unity SA (Busa), Business for SA (B4SA), Business Leadership SA, President Cyril Ramaphosa and several Cabinet ministers discussed key issues affecting small businesses such as plans to end load-shedding and increase private sector investment in green energy. But there were no SMMEs represented in the room.
In a press release issued after the meeting, Ndabeni-Abrahams said small- and medium-sized businesses were vital partners in the government-business relationship and were “at the coal face of some of the challenges we are seeking to resolve”.
Ndabeni-Abrahams repeated that the government was still working on identifying what it could do to support the growth of SMMEs and the informal economy.
When asked why the representative organisations of SMMEs were not invited to speak for themselves, a B4SA spokesperson was vague, telling Vutivi News that “Busa and Business for SA (B4SA) will be engaging a range of stakeholders, including organisations representing SMMEs”.
“We recognise the critical role SMMEs play in job creation and the importance of addressing obstacles to SMME growth and development. This will be an essential element of the unfolding work,” B4SA spokesperson Esme Arendse said.
Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said SMMEs were not deliberately sidelined from the meeting. It was a report back on work done by the government and big business, which had “set up workstreams” in June to find ways to combat problems with energy supply, transport and logistics, and crime and corruption.
“Small businesses are not part of those workstreams. Big business are investing significant resources to the work being done in these workstreams,” Magwenya added.
When asked why the Small Business Development Minister was in the meeting with big business if small businesses were not invited, Magwenya said Vutivi News should ask the minister for answers.
National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) president Gilbert Mosena said the organisation was very unhappy that it was excluded from the meeting.
“Government always says that the economy is driven by big business and that’s a big mistake. If you look into the overall percentage contribution of big and small in all developing nations, small business is always contributing more than 70%. But when you deal with policy, they just undermine small business,” he told Vutivi News.
“So, we are not happy with that approach because it will be very difficult to drive the township economy and rural revitalisation if we are not party to the meetings where policy and decisions are being made.”
Meanwhile, the meeting agreed to finalise a roadmap for freight logistics that would outline immediate and long-term actions needed to improve freight and harbour infrastructure.
This could increase export revenues by an estimated R50 billion by 2024, a joint statement released after the meeting said.
It also decided to set up a “fit-for-purpose procurement regime for state-owned enterprises” that would speed up procurement and close the gaps for corruption.