As we move into the New Year, there are a number of factors that appear to indicate a better year for South Africa.
For starters, on the southern tip of Africa, it was our scientists who identified the new variant and the country was punished, in ignorance, as being the catalyst for the new variant and its rapid infection rate. While this has indeed spread rapidly – like a quick-burning fire, it has almost spent itself here and the situation has become manageable. A quick look at the rest of the world suggests a very different picture. At the time of drafting this article, South Africa has 74 000 active infections for a population of 56-million people compared to Australia with just over 1.1-million infections for a population of 24-million people. This gives some perspective to the current state of play. The impression left is that the severity of this wave in South Africa has also been milder than in other parts of the world.
Against this background we need to pay attention to our shattered economy. While this has dramatically impacted on every one of us, the effects on the small business sector have been dire. The R500-billion safety net that was supposed to bolster small business, didn’t. Many small businesses that have been around for decades, vanished.
The Chamber set up work streams to address the immediate issues and tabled a set of action recommendations both with the President’s advisors and the Deputy President’s office. The plan is to address the areas which have been found wanting, whether this be government agencies or institutions in the private sector, no-one is blameless, but let’s not harp on the negatives.
SACCI itself has not been absolved from the damaging effects of this two-year lockdown. But the organisation adapted and took measures to limit as far as possible the revenue-stream impact by addressing the costs of its operations.
There can be no doubt that the pressures are on to get more directly involved in the small business community where we are well represented. This required a completely new approach, with the mother body taking a more visible presence in the township economies. A whole suite of measures are being looked at, from fast-tracking grant funding to small businesses, addressing the financial support and administrative functions, communication issues, transport network, supply depots to the business community, creating greater efficiency and lower cost of products are all issues that form part of a pilot programme to be instituted. Indeed, we are enthusiastic to implement our plans with key stakeholders in 2022.
Overall, the organisation has taken the time to go into the townships and engage with the communities to gauge first-hand what are the crucial issues. What’s more important is that we listened to our people and are putting plans in place to make things happen for them.
Using the muscle of the mother body and the networks we have, we believe we can make a difference to fast-track our small businesses out of the devastation caused by the pandemic, the rioting and looting last year in key areas and the drop-off in demand experienced over nearly two years.
SACCI remains committed to these initiatives. As we have not had such an experience before, so we adapt our programmes based on our learning experiences as we go along and build on such experience.
In so doing, we grow the programmes outwards to areas we currently have no presence in. This way, we strengthen our role in a positive way for our business community.
SACCI stands for everything good in our business communities.