Entrepreneurs raise concerns at seminar

Panel speakers at the Youth and Small Business Development Seminar are, from left, ANC MP Faiez Jacobs, Vukile Nkabinde from the Department of Small Business Development, Floris van Vuuren from the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), Carlette Egypt from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), Thandile Cebisa from the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), and Shaun Charlie from the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA).

Aspiring and small business owners engaged with members of parliament and government institutions about opportunities available to them, as well as to share their challenges, at a youth and small business development seminar.

The event was held in partnership with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), Biz Portal, and members of Parliament, Faiez Jacobs (ANC MP) and Ganief Hendricks (Al Jamaah MP).

It was well attended, as the hall at Alexander Sinton High School was almost filled, as small business owners made their way from across Cape Town to the event on Saturday March 7.

Some of the entrepreneurs who attended the seminar expressed their dismay about the length of time it takes when they approach government institutions for help.

Aubrey Plaatjies from Belhar, said his business was registered in 2013, and he has since been “in and out of SEFA’s offices”.

“For years, barriers are thrown in front of you. No matter how much you want your product on the market, there seems to be a disconnection between what the president said at the State of the Nation Address and the minister’s budget speech. What is said and the outcome do not correlate. You have a business concept, but when you get to the institutions you are met with red tape. In business one needs a quick turn-around time. It’s hard out there, and the turn-around time is what could make or break any business. If government wants us to succeed, then they should bend over backwards to help small businesses. The policies are in place, but the challenges include having to wait for up to six months for assistance,” Mr Plaatjies said.

Peter Holmes from Kenwyn, said he and his co-operative have also met many challenges, and is yet to receive funding they have been approved for.

The co-operative was registered in 2015, and after a lengthy process over the years, the funding for the co-operative was finally approved in September last year, but no money has been paid out yet.

Mr Holmes said after four years of compliance and sending all the relevant documents, and just as the co-operative was on the verge of “taking life, the trail has suddenly gone cold”.

In response to some of the concerns, Mr Jacobs said the day was about sharing information.

“Sometimes we say government does not care. We said we will bring government services to you. Your job is to test this. My job is to bring government resources. People on the Cape Flats must see themselves as South African citizens, and not to say that we are not black or white enough. We need to get rid of the victim mentality. I’m saying do the application, fill in the forms. Why are we always the sub-contractors when we can build stadiums ourselves. As a sub-contractor, we settle on getting paid less for the work. We also need to support local and small businesses,” Mr Jacobs added.

He also said that the seminar gives government an opportunity to better understand the needs of small and medium enterprises, and to inform small businesses what is available to them.

“This enables better alignment between needs and service offering, whether it be at the level of access to funds, professional support, incubation, mentoring, industrial coaching, skills and training offerings, financial services and support, lobbying and advocacy, grants and grant-making, and unlocking the potential of export markets,” Mr Jacobs said.