There has never been a more challenging time to own a small business.
Over the past eighteen months, South African entrepreneurs have grappled with Covid-19, lockdowns, civil unrest and a fragile economic landscape, resulting in thousands of SMMEs closing their doors.
According to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), South Africa’s SMMEs declined by 11% year-on-year from 2019-2020, with 90% of all job losses during that period coming from the SMME sector.
Through it all, these businesses have received little support from the public sector as poor leadership, lack of service delivery, and red tape continues to hamstring SMMEs and threaten our social and economic future.
But not everyone has given up on small businesses. iKhokha, one of South Africa's fastest-growing mobile payment providers, has taken a stand to help them get back onto their feet.
And they’re doing it by venturing where very few brands have gone before – onto the campaign trail.
In a quirky yet politically charged campaign, iKhokha takes a jab a poor service delivery through the eyes of a baker and his daughter. After losing business due to load shedding, the entrepreneurial pair run for office to save their small business.
Aptly named "Together We Rise", the campaign aims to inspire unity, leadership and ubuntu in South Africa, says iKhokha co-founder and CEO Matt Putman.
“iKhokha was created to help small businesses thrive and uplift the economy. The growth of these businesses is the catalyst that will turn South Africa around, yet they are undersupported and largely ignored,” says Putman.
“There is a clear leadership void in South Africa, predominantly within the public sector. The time has come for the private sector to step up, so we’re putting our best foot forward to rally around SMMEs to give them the support they need,” he says.
With the small business mortality rate increasing, iKhokha recently reduced its transaction rates to the lowest in South Africa to help business owners keep their doors open to promote job creation and skills development.
Since the July unrest, iKhokha has also distributed over R100 million in working capital to help merchants reboot their businesses and distributed hundreds of free card machines to those impacted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
“This isn't a new direction for our brand. It's an amplification of what we've always believed. It’s a promise to our SMMEs, the most resilient and resourceful asset we have in South Africa. They are the backbone of our economy and we’re determined to help them succeed,” says Putman.
The Together We Rise campaign, which launches 1 November, marks the next step in iKhokha’s journey towards financial inclusion for all small South African businesses. The gloves are now off and for the first time in a long-time, small businesses have someone in their corner.