Entrepreneurs critical to economic recovery in the Western Cape
21 August is World Entrepreneurs’ Day - an opportunity to celebrate our pioneers in business.
These entrepreneurs deserve to be celebrated because they play a critical role in creating jobs, supporting skills development and providing opportunities for those who need it most. And they are role models for others, especially young people, who can learn from them and be inspired to start their own businesses.
We support and encourage these entrepreneurs, now more than ever, because their entrepreneurial spirit is exactly what we need as we fight both a health pandemic and an unemployment pandemic in the Western Cape.
But with the severe restrictions on economic activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic, times are tough for businesses. They are even more challenging for entrepreneurs wanting to start businesses as capital funding sources dry up or are redirected to support schemes focused on helping businesses to just survive.
And so, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to our many initiatives to support businesses, we have also been working hard to support entrepreneurs in the Western Cape.
Access to funding
We launched the JUMP for entrepreneurs smartphone app which is a one-stop-shop for existing and new business owners in the Western Cape to get all the resources, tools and advice they need to start, scale and grow their companies.
Importantly, this free app includes the FundingAssist feature, which is a tool for business owners to assess their financing needs, receive recommendations on appropriate funders and products available, and then help them with their funding application process.
Digital skills development
Digital technology provides opportunities for new business ideas, for existing businesses to offer their services and products online in a safer way, and even for business operations to move online to support working from home, and so we launched several programmes to support digital skills development in the Western Cape.
The first of these is the #GoDigitalWC webinar series, which brings leading experts in digital technology and business transformation to present ideas and advice on how businesses can adapt and innovate during the Covid-19 crisis. To date we hosted over 13 webinars on subjects ranging from eCommerce to digital marketing, crowdfunding to mobile payments and more.
Our Tech Volunteers programme matches entrepreneurs and small businesses owners with industry experts who volunteer to provide 1-2-1 sessions of ‘free’ advisory tech and digital related support. To date over 137 small businesses received support from our tech volunteers.
And the I-CAN Learn platform, which was developed in partnership with IBM and Google, provides free internationally recognised online courses in digital skills subjects including digital literacy essentials, coding and web development, cloud computing, data science and analytics and more.
Removing red tape
To help businesses navigate the Lockdown and Alert Level regulatory environment, we set up the Covid-19 Content Centre with our partners at Wesgro and the City of Cape Town to provide support to businesses during the crisis. Over 2,754 queries have been answered by this team.
Our Red Tape Reduction Unit has also dealt with 2,148 queries related to challenges with regulations, applications for funding support and access to business services such as the deeds office. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic our Red Tape Reduction Unit played an important role in creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurs, providing advice and assistance to help them launch new businesses in the Western Cape.
And, because in a crisis there is often opportunity, we assisted small businesses and entrepreneurs to adapt and provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to government and the private sector.
Together with industry bodies such as the Craft and Design Institute, we compiled a database of 40 small businesses providing PPE in the Western Cape, which included, several entrepreneurs in the textile industry who were adapting to make cloth masks to keep their businesses operating and their staff employed during the lockdown.
We then provided opportunities adding them to the Western Cape Supplier Evidence Bank so that Western Cape government departments looking for these products can find the businesses supplying them. They were also added to the PPE Marketplace, a website that provides a platform for businesses to market their products to private companies looking for PPE, and they were approached to make cloth masks for our Maskathon Challenge, an initiative that calls upon businesses in South Africa to help donate cloth masks to those who need them most.
Finally, to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in the province, it is important to us that we recognise and reward entrepreneurs in the Western Cape.
Now in its eighth year, our annual Western Cape Entrepreneurship Recognition Awards celebrates the hard work of entrepreneurs and their contribution to job creation and economic growth in the province. The winning entrepreneurs are also awarded prize money and business support services that help them to sustain or expand their businesses.
I had the pleasure of meeting with many of our previous winners such as Debbie Ncube from Eden All Natural, Lufefe Nomjana from Spinach King and Sivu Mongo from Ziyahlanjwa Laundry Services to hear from them how these awards helped them to grow their businesses and hire more staff. And I’m incredibly proud that we’ve helped them do so.
Entries for the Western Cape Entrepreneurship Recognition Awards close on the 23 August, and I’d like to encourage all entrepreneurs, especially women and young people, to enter this year’s awards.
During the Covid-19 pandemic the resilience, innovation and courage of entrepreneurs is more important than ever.
It is their brave leap into the unknown that results in disruption, in competition, in better ways of working and in the new ideas that we need now as we face some of the biggest challenges we've ever had to face, and as we seek to save jobs and start our journey to economic recovery in the Western Cape.
Spokesperson for the Provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities
(Responsible for the Provincial Treasury and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism)
Tel: 021 483 4327
Cell: 071 087 5150