File picture: Philimon Bulawayo
CAPE TOWN - The Small Business Institute (SBI) has announced a new board to focus on SME research.

The SBI (formerly the AHI) announced this week that it has reconstituted its board of directors following the adoption of a new Memorandum of Incorporation where each board member will be responsible and accountable for a specific portfolio and has been chosen for their expertise.

The organisation, as a priority, will undertake several areas of research this year, exploring the impediments to SME (small and medium enterprises) development and the most significant will be a rigorous baseline study on the small business segment of the economy, a first for the country.
SBI chairman Bernard Swanepoel said South Africa was woefully lacking in authoritative research about small and medium enterprises.

"It's ludicrous that we make assumptions about how many we have, let alone pile more laws and regulations on top of the sector most likely to create jobs in this country. We need to understand whether the decisions and activities by government and big business help or hinder SMEs to start, run and grow."
He said the institute's new partnership with SBP, an organisation focused on promoting a policy, regulatory and operational environment that supportedbusiness growth, will assist the institute to root policy discussions.

The baseline study would capture the size, nature and characteristics of small firms operating in South Africa.

Conducted over three phases, the study, which would  offer open-source access to the data and be peer-reviewed, was set to be completed by the end of the year.

Other pieces of research examining the operating environment, red-tape and the supply of finance will give SBI evidence to promote more effective public positions on all matters concerning enterprise development, as well as a platform for a more cohesive voice for small business in the country's public policy debates.

Swanepoel said the institute was a member in Business Unity South Africa (Busa) and hope to be a thorn in the side of bigger business and government, reminding them to "think small first".

"The evidence we collect and promote at Busa's table and through our five indabas planned as well as township town hall meetings around the country will underscore our claim to be the Big Voice for Small Business. It was humbling that the people we approached to help us this year agreed to direct our organisation. With their expertise and commitment to governance, inclusive growth and job creation in South Africa, our small and medium firms will benefit from their services," said Swanepoel.

- BUSINESS REPORT