The Eskom Development Foundation creates opportunities for future business growth
Innovative and entrepreneurial businesses will be vital to South Africa’s ability to grow our post-pandemic economy. To lead this process, growing businesses will, however, require training, mentorship and solid advice from organisations with proven expertise in these fields.
The Eskom Development Foundation plays this essential role in empowering small enterprises. “For more than two decades we have guided emerging enterprises into becoming viable, provided support to businesses that are on the cusp of growth and promoted entrepreneurship among high school learners,” says Cecil Ramonotsi, the CEO of the Foundation.
With its deep roots within South Africa, the Eskom Development Foundation focuses its efforts on dynamic programmes that can contribute to the growth of sustainable communities, balanced economic development and job creation.
The Foundation is solely funded by Eskom and runs a number of flagship programmes that address educational, welfare and empowerment needs. During the recent financial year, it invested more than R120 million in a total of 209 projects which focus on skills development, job creation and poverty alleviation.
Through its investments and initiatives, it aims to create a healthier, better educated and skilled population which is able to grab the opportunities that present themselves and turn them into productive businesses.
Emerging enterprises are an indispensable element of the country’s economy. Figures show that the SMME sector comprises more than 98% of all businesses and employs close on 60% of the entire workforce. There are, however, real concerns that the steady gains that were made in recent years to improve the viability of this sector will be wiped out by the economic havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The value of the programmes initiated and sustained by the Eskom Development Foundation will become more evident as it continues to contribute to the building and mentoring of businesses that have to survive this onslaught during the early stages of their growth, says Ramonotsi.
A showcase for successful entrepreneurs
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have emerged from the Eskom Business Investment Competition, an annual event that is open to black-owned enterprises in the engineering, construction, manufacturing, agricultural and services sectors.
The competition recognises, and rewards those risk-taking entrepreneurs that are active in society to grow the economy, create jobs and sustain communities – issues that are at the core of the Eskom Foundation’s values.
The 2020 competition was a showcase of the spirit of determination and innovation that still exist among emerging entrepreneurs, and prize money to a value of R1.3 million was recently awarded to businesses involved in activities ranging from borehole drilling, to cleaning services, to rabbit farming.
The Competition culminated in The Business Connect, an annual event designed to link and network the growing businesses with their peers as well as with established industry leaders who have successfully climbed the ladder of success.
Held for the first time in virtual space The Business Connect offered workshops on issues such as financial literacy, strategic planning, tender processes, information technology and marketing. The objective was to equip entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to expand their business and grow their presence in the wider economy.
Another vital initiative sponsored by the Foundation is the Eskom Contractor Academy which provides a structured training programme to emerging contractors and suppliers who want to become participants in the supply chains of major companies such as Eskom. It meets the specific needs of enterprises who have difficulties to participate in contracts because of flawed business models and insufficient collateral.
The training programme runs over eight months and covers subjects relating to financial reporting, tendering, supply chain management and occupational health and safety. The individual models are accredited with the respective SETAS and the graduates receive certificates from the University of Limpopo.
Towards a generation of job creators
The Eskom Development Foundation also recognises that an interest in entrepreneurship should be stimulated and fostered at a much earlier age, says Ramonotsi. “We are introducing high school learners to the exciting prospects that they can become job creators in their own right, rather than job seekers.”
Simama Ranta is a joint initiative with the Education with Enterprise Trust, a non-profit organisation that works with more than 800 schools in all nine provinces to promote entrepreneurship and improve the quality of learning in economic and management sciences. “Simama Ranta” means to uplift and empower society.
Schools submit projects which are evaluated by an independent panel of experts and the winners receive prize money up to a value of R100 000. “Our biggest aim is, however, to light the fires of entrepreneurship among the youth and to inspire them to become risk takers and job creators later in life,” says Ramonotsi.
The initiatives pioneered by the Eskom Development Foundation have already created a positive legacy in South African society. “We are committed to grow and expand our presence within the entrepreneurial sector and, thus, strengthen our economy to survive the current crisis and emerge from it with new vigour and sustainability,” says Ramonotsi.