Major boost for small bussinesses

OWN CORRESPONDENT

The University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will continue to support local business after receiving a substantial boost this week.

Last year the centre joined hands with the provincial government and Absa to equip 1 000 entrepreneurs across the Western Cape with the strategic and operational skills needed to help develop and grow their businesses.

With a R1.2 million injection from Absa, UWC hopes to continue with the work they are doing in communities.

For the next three years, the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will work towards tackling social change and driving economic growth by contributing towards the improvement of enterprise, financial and life skills of the next generation through funding initiatives aimed at uplifting disadvantaged young people in the province.

“The importance of these initiatives cannot be overstated, as the success of SMMEs has the potential to make a substantial impact on economic growth and job creation in the country,” said UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius.

“For South Africa to progress, it is very important that institutions – private sector, government and academia – work together to equip our people with the necessary skills, training and support to foster a culture of success and growth.”

Clinton Clarke, regional head: Absa Corporate and Investment Banking, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, said Absa and UWC are in a partnership to tackle social change and drive economic growth. “We’re demonstrating how academia, big and small business can work together.

“We recognise the vital role SMEs play in economic growth and job creation. We are delighted to be partnering with the University of the Western Cape in this programme aimed at supporting the development of small enterprises and entrepreneurship.

“We recognise that SMEs need more than just funding to succeed – they also face other challenges and experience a high failure rate mainly due to a lack of business and financial management skills,” said Mr Clarke.

He said small businesses also often struggle to penetrate existing markets, or create new ones, especially when competing against more established and bigger businesses.

“As such, Absa is committed to developing sustainable SMEs by linking them into the supply chains of big corporates.

“We believe that access to markets is an SME’s biggest challenge; after all, a business without customers cannot succeed. Our Enterprise and Supply Chain Development team will work closely with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to deal with some of these challenges that SMEs face.

“I believe that the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has created an enabling platform. There was no doubt in our decision to contribute R1.2m in funding for the programme. In addition to the bank’s normal lending criteria, Absa has committed R20-million annually in non-traditional lending aimed at the SME sector in South Africa. This fund is available to SMEs that typically would not meet traditional lending criteria but have the ability to generate income in the future,” added Mr Clarke.

The partners will jointly consider and execute initiatives at the university’s CEI by focusing on enhancement of the academic programme, co-ordination of entrepreneurship programmes, enterprise support, fellowship programmes and development of mutually beneficial joint corporate opportunities.