Gauteng’s major companies need to prepare to help rebuild the SMME sector, a significant contributor to employment, says Old Mutual.
During the last few months, Old Mutual, like many other leading companies, contributed significantly to Covid-19 relief initiatives. These include supporting health services with donations of personal protective equipment (PPE), providing vulnerable communities with food parcels, and also providing business and private customers with solutions for financial relief, says Ms Thenjiwe Ramorotho, Chairperson of Old Mutual’s Gauteng Provincial Management Board (PMB).
In Gauteng, Old Mutual undertook several programmes, including providing screening tents and masks to OR Tambo Memorial Hospital on the East Rand and the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Tshwane. The company also worked with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to supply sanitisers to disadvantaged municipalities. Food parcels were provided to people in need in Bronkhorstpruit and Hammanskraal in partnership with the Department of Social Development.
Equally important have been measures taken to assist customers and small businesses impacted by the virus. Many families have had their incomes reduced because of pay cuts, while others have had to join the ranks of the unemployed.
Ms Ramorotho stresses that as the lockdown eases and the country moves towards reopening regular activities, enormous national challenges will remain, such as promoting economic inclusivity and building business and consumer confidence. “Old Mutual will be looking to continue its well-developed community outreach programmes to do what it can to stimulate the regrowth of the SMME sector.”
Achieving this in Gauteng will involve appointing small businesses as suppliers and supporting development initiatives and non-governmental agencies (NGOs) through CSI commitments.
“There is no doubt that the pandemic will result in a changed South Africa. Many small businesses that existed when the pandemic struck will be absent. Through forced inactivity, the inability to generate income, and reduced demand for services and products many companies will have been forced to close their doors.”
As activity picks up, even those businesses that survived the challenges will need to work hard to regain lost ground and return to their pre-pandemic business levels. Unexpected expenditure incurred to operate within new regulations and ensure safe working environments will have added further stress.
“The importance of corporate business efforts to assist in rebuilding a vibrant small business sector cannot be emphasised enough. Reviewing aspects of CSI donations and big business/SMME ties will be crucial as the country moves towards reopening the economy.
“A review of the overall operating environment for SMMEs is also urgently needed. We believe reducing the statutory red-tape required to own and operate a business could be instrumental in launching a revitalised, vigorous SMME sector in post-Covid South Africa.
“With full commitment from all parties involved, thousands of our entrepreneurs will benefit, which will open opportunities for job security for thousands more,” says Ms Ramorotho.