The emergency task force will fast-track the process for businesses that are severely affected by Eskom’s power interruptions. Photo: Supplied

CAPE TOWN – A private sector driven task force to provide small businesses with instant financial assistance to survive load shedding was launched in Cape Town on Friday. 

The “SME Loadshedding Task Force” was launched by Lulalend, a fin-tech business that offers business funding to South African small businesses and which counts the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) among its investors. 

The IFC is a triple A-rated financial organisation working alongside the World Bank and other partners across 100 countries to end poverty through investment promotion and business finance. 

Lulalend CEO Trevor Gosling says the task force was set up to prioritise applications and provide an almost instant response to businesses in crisis due to load shedding. Many small businesses do not have the necessary backing to survive such interruptions. Lulalend is stepping in where traditional banks are failing to come to the rescue of small businesses in need of emergency financial assistance. 

Under normal circumstances, funding applications are processed by Lulalend within 24 hours. The emergency task force will however fast-track the process further for businesses that are severely affected by Eskom’s power interruptions. 

Gosling says load shedding has led to the company seeing a 57% spike in bridging finance applications from small businesses.

This worrying trend, and Eskom’s announcement this week that South Africans should brace for at least two more years of intermittent load shedding, prompted the creation of the special emergency response task force. 

“By setting up our emergency response task force, we are now able to prioritise any applications when the applicant tells us it’s load shedding-related.”

How to apply

South African businesses with an annual turnover of R500 000 or more, and that have been in business for at least one year, are eligible to apply. Applicants can apply for bridging finance amounts of between R20 000 and R1.5million. The application process is done online via the Lulalend website. Applicants need to flag that they are applying due to interruptions caused by loadshedding in order to be placed on the emergency priority list. 

Loadshedding survival tips for small businesses

Small businesses need to start looking at workarounds to lessen the impact of load shedding. Gosling says there are a number of things that small businesses can do in the interim to mitigate the fallout from loadshedding: 

  • Download apps like Eskomsepush to make yourself aware of the load shedding times in your area and communicate this with your team. Structure your workdays to tackle the important tasks in those times. 
  • Break up the workload. If you only have a limited number of hours a day – spread the important tasks across team members so that they get accomplished in time. 
  • Invest in surge protectors for your appliances, machinery and hardware. Small surge protectors that are sold in the supermarket will do the trick to keep your PC, fridge, coffee machine and other small appliances from blowing when the power surges back after load shedding. For industrial-size equipment, it’s best to get advice from a trustworthy electrician. 
  • If you run a shop, invest in a mobile or battery-powered point of sale solution so that you can continue to accept card payments when the power is off. 
  • Invest in solar power banks or car chargers for your mobile devices. 
  • Identify which tasks can be done with your mobile device when all other systems are down, such as phone and email communication. Though your data costs might be higher than usual at least you’re able to stay in touch with suppliers, customers and stakeholders.
  • This may seem obvious, but charge your technology while you have power. 
  • Change your online settings to enable you to work offline. If, for example, you work with Google Docs, see Chrome’s instructions on how to set yourself up to work offline. 
  • Backup all systems and important - on the cloud and on an external harddrive. It’s easy to lose documentation and vital information if it’s not saved and backed up in time. 
  • Consider investing in a generator. If it’s difficult to find the extra cash, talk to Lulalend about bridging finance.