By Luyolo Mkentane (Business Report)
Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has called for more investments in small businesses in order to solve the country’s unemployment problems.
BLSA chief executive Bonang Mohale said the country lagged way behind its BRICS counterparts on investments in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Mohale said local SMEs only created 15% of new jobs, while those in Brazil, Russia, India and China accounted for 80% of new jobs.
“If this is not arrested it might lead to social instability. We’ve got to invest in SMEs and black executives so that the economy is broadly reflective of the demographics,” said Mohale.
“As BLSA, we are moving forward, we will be working with all social partners. If we mess this one up, we will just be another failed African country.”
Mohale’s call came as some of the country’s largest firms told the launch of the BLSA Connect and SA SME Fund CEO Circle in Johannesburg yesterday that they had raised R1.4 billion to invest in emerging black businesses.
BLSA Connect is an online portal aimed at linking Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to established corporate companies with a global footprint, while the SA SME Fund CEO Circle was aimed at financing and scaling up black SMMEs.
Mohale said the country needed to fix the economic structure as only 20% of black people owned the JSE 25 years into democracy with direct ownership accounting for about 3%.
In his keynote address at the launch, President Cyril Ramaphosa said SMEs and not mega factories and mining houses would create jobs in the future.
Ramaphosa said the government had already started its support programmes for SMEs through initiatives such as the black industrialists programme.
He said the BLSA initiatives would play an important role as incubation hub that would enable environments for small businesses to flourish.
“That’s the right approach to growing black owned businesses, as well as a number of young white South Africans who also need to be supported.”
Ramaphosa said the government would also focus on women-led businesses, and the growth of township and rural economies “so that they are no longer dormitories” for labour, but become areas where business was conducted.
He said the BLSA Connect and SA SME Fund chief Circle presented opportunities for the country to move forward.
CEO Initiative convener and Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza said that the initiatives would help black SMEs to reach their potential and that R725 million had been committed to date. (This article first appeared in Business Report on 29 March, 2019)