The appointment of former Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams as the new Minister of Small Business Development, has elicited mixed reactions from the small business community. Ndabeni-Abrahams’s appointment comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa reshuffled his cabinet. Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, the former small business minister, now heads up communications.
Township Entrepreneurs Alliance CEO Bulelani Balabala told Vutivi News that the strength of her appointment would be determined in the next couple of months. “To be effective in such a department needs one to be able to listen, understand and act on the recommendation of the industry ecosystem and stakeholders so that they can effectively roll out the solutions that are needed,” he said.
“(The Department of Small Business Development) is operating way below capacity and leaves much to be desired because it could do more, but it doesn’t. “The entrepreneurial sentiment you find on the ground is that the department is almost non-existent and that creates a lot of chaos,” the CEO also said.
Balabala said that the department needed to be more visible, and roll out solutions for accessing the market, development and growth. “If SMMEs are the backbone of economy we should be able to see that translated into action, and that action equated to actual equitable solutions because corporate can only move at the pace of government.”
National Union of Municipal Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Albert Jeleni said the new appointment was a good move considering the communication skills Ndabeni-Abrahams had developed.
“I’m thinking that the interpretation of the president is to say that we need to have a dialogue between small businesses and the government, and we need someone that can communicate,” he said. “However, in this space, we don’t need handouts or programmes, but we need to be heard. I think the performance of the Department of Small Business was very disappointing.”
Jeleni said that barriers of entry must be removed for SMMEs and hoped the new minister would help in this regard. These barriers of entry included introducing pro-BBBEE incentives for SMMEs and decreasing administrative costs.
“When you look at the cost of compliance, it is a minimum of R10,000 annually and SMMEs have to outsource these services, and you will see them believe that creating a biz portal is a way of minimising this impact. In reality that does not minimise the impact because many people cannot use computers,” he said. “These are areas the new minister must pick on because previous ministers have treated SMMEs like they cannot do anything for themselves, but we need barriers to be removed.”
The appointment of Ndabeni-Abrahams comes at a critical time for SMMEs. The sector has suffered a double blow with recent lootings in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and the Covid-19 pandemic.