Last week, I called for comments from small business owners on how the law, inclusive of rules and regulations can be amended or ameliorated to ensure that more jobs are created.
The response has been fantastic. Not only did I get numerous emails, I received phone calls, WhatsApps and even an SMS.
It is clear there is appetite from even the smallest of businesses to try to expand.
Many of the comments indicated that as employers they were too scared to enter into future employment relationships in case these turned sour.
Other business owners indicated that they had chosen to invest overseas because the returns, without risk, are greater. When Cosatu says there has been an investment strike from the business community, there might be some truth to this.
I received a mail from Jabu in Soweto explaining that small businesses are not considered “for funding and government tenders”, which he thought was unfair.
“Even if we apply for loans, we get certain laws which are out of our reach. We really need help from the government to grow our businesses and help end poverty. All we ask is to be considered... for procurement to be transparent,” said Jabu.
“I’m a packaging supplier and run a cleaning and gardening service. But I am struggling because it’s hand to mouth. We really need help; our businesses are struggling - even if it’s not with tenders... free mentorship, training, etc would help.”
He said he did not want to be associated with crime, and so had started his business. All he was asking for was to be noticed and helped help so his struggle would end.
He ended by saying: “Truly speaking, we are slowly losing faith in our government.”
My message to Jabu is not to lose faith but to be strong in the face of the regulatory environment. I will liaise with him and see what can be done in terms of him being able to access some of the numerous systems in place to help small business.
Likewise, Chris from Joburg has done a lot of research into small businesses and, in fact, writes numbers of articles on his blog.
He says he doesn’t want loans, overdraft facilities, capital investment or any of those things.
What he really wants “is for the big suppliers to refer a few smaller customers to us, as wholesalers”.
“There’s no reason why municipalities can’t pay upfront for smaller orders of stuff they use all the time. They have the money - we don’t,” he added.
Chris concluded by saying that as a senior citizen, he loved what he did and would like to ensure that his business survived.
I was extremely proud to see a mail from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
They referred to a web tool that both the CCMA and Business Unity SA had devoted specifically for small businesses.
They said it was free to use and included an array of information sheets, templates, check lists, etc that may be useful to small businesses (See: http://smelaboursupport.org.za/).
Their link is fantastic and practical. They have said it would be wonderful to get together and to come up with other suggestions to support small businesses and thereby try to save jobs and increase employment.
I am aware that the CCMA is in the process of drafting its next five-year strategy, and they indicated that this would be a good time for feedback so as to come up with proactive ideas.
The CCMA is, in fact, mandated to save jobs in South Africa.
It would be wonderful to see Independent Media championing the small-business sector and pulling together role-players from both government and the private sector to ensure that small business not only survives, but thrives.
In light of the fact that unemployment is South Africa’s biggest threat and in light of the cry for help from the 10 million unemployed, feedback from the small-business sector is vital.
It has been agreed by economists worldwide that future employment is going to come from the small-business sector. It is up to every citizen to ensure that small businesses are supported and considered when services are in need or goods need to be bought.
We should also look at supporting local goods as opposed to imports, and should encourage our small-business sector to transform our raw materials into finished goods which can be sold at an enhanced price on our own home territory.
Every consumer should first check to see if there are goods made locally and give these preference when buying. All local goods should proudly display the “made in South Africa” sign.
The enormous feedback from our readers shows that people are passionate abut South Africa and want to enhance our economy.
Every single small business is keen to expand and hopefully employ more people.
These are incredibly positive signs and should be applauded and supported.
In essence, every new person employed in the small-business sector will gain skills and the wherewithal to educate their family.
This small beginning will resonate throughout the country and go a long way towards getting the 10 million unemployed working.
* Michael Bagraim is a labour lawyer.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media