Thursday, 30 July 2015

Confusion reigns over who controls township industrial parks

Recent statements by DTI Director General Lionel October and Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu illustrate government’s inability to provide clear direction over the future of South Africa’s industrial parks.

These parks were set up in the 1970s and 80s in the former homelands and townships to provide work spaces for black-owned small and medium enterprises which were prevented from operating in white-designated areas under the Group Areas Act. The parks have been left to decay over many years with virtually no investment in maintaining the buildings, transport infrastructure or marketing.

South Africa’s development finance institutions not doing enough for SMMEs

South Africa’s development finance institutions (DFIs) only contribute about 5% of the country’s GDP whereas in Germany it is closer to 20%. This startling comparison was revealed by the IDC’s Divisional Executive for Corporate Strategy, David Jarvis, at a workshop convened by the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development last week.

The purpose of the workshop was to understand the funding environment for small businesses and cooperatives and come up with strategies for improving it.

During three days of deliberations, the picture became more and more depressing as we listened to the difficulties facing entrepreneurs seeking financial support.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Letter to Business Day on triangulation and al-Bashir

Today's Business Day publishes my letter on why triangulation in the al-Bashir case is a bad idea. Read it here or below. You can read Michael Harris' article which prompted my letter, here. The article caused quite a bit of debate and correspondence. It is interesting the EU delegation in SA last week also said South Africa should have detained al-Bashir. This controversy is not going to die down, especially since the government is contesting the court order ex post facto.

Empowering women traders and entrepreneurs in Cape Town

On Saturday and Monday I attended two events which show how much is going on quietly behind the scenes to empower women in business in Cape Town.

The first was the Ward 57 Women Economic Empowerment Symposium, the second was the launch of a campaign to equip small traders with a sales kit to sell cigarettes backed up by the very innovative M4JAM system of making extra money. Women make up the bulk of informal traders in this part of the world, particularly on the Cape Flats. Though on the margins of the economy, some of them are breaking into bigger markets and developing products that can compete in the formal economy. Events such as these give a boost to that momentum.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Interview with the Sunday Tribune on measures to assist small businesses

Today's Sunday Tribune business section features a Q&A with me on Page 4. Here is the article.

You can read my full answers below. 

      NOTE: There is an error in the article on the BBBEE scores for procurement and enterprise development. It says the combined points is 25, whereas the correct number is 25 for procurement and 15 for enterprise and supplier development.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Speech to the British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa

This evening DA leader Mmusi Maimane and I addressed a gathering of business people at the Inanda Club in Johannesburg at the invitation of the British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa. Their monthly meetings are an opportunity for discussion and networking among an important collection of leaders in the SA business community.

Below is the text of my prepared speech.

It is an honour and my pleasure to be invited to speak to you here this evening. The decision to re-establish the British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa is to be welcomed by everyone with a stake in building relations between Britain and this region.

British – South Africa trade relations have traditionally been very close. South Africa is Britain’s sixth biggest trading partner globally, while Britain remains South Africa’s seventh largest export market.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Chance Brothers illuminating the world - appearing last night in Birmingham, UK

Publisher of History West Midlands magazine, Mike Gibbs has a passion for the Black Country, an area centred on Wolverhampton, Dudley and Smethwick a few miles west of Birmingham in the UK. He was born and bred there and apart from a few years in South Africa has lived there all his life.

A successful and now retired businessman, he devotes most of his time to establishing and supporting ventures which aim to uncover the rich history of this part of Britain, which was the crucible of the Industrial Revolution and home to many famous inventors and industrial dynasties.

One of these dynasties was the Chance family, who from the 1770s built a trading then a manufacturing business of considerable scale which for five generations led Britain's glassmaking industry. At its height in the early 20th century the firm employed over 3 500 people. The factory finally closed its doors in 1981.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Solving the small business finance conundrum

Today's Sunday Times carries my opinion piece on small business finance - you can read it here.

I had to cut it to 750 words. For the full version, read on below.

Most surveys of small business cite difficulties in accessing finance as one of the top three challenges they face. But talk to providers of finance and they say the opposite: there is a scarcity of fundable small businesses out there.

Solving this conundrum is at the heart of South Africa’s biggest challenge: how to create the 11 million new jobs we need by 2030 to reduce unemployment to 6% from its current 36%.

Attacks on foreign nationals driven by competition for resources

Film-goers will recall director Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi movie District 9 for its dystopian portrayal of a Johannesburg township under the menacing influence of the Prawns. These creatures, from a distant planet, established a precarious existence in a camp set up to keep them away from locals, who despised them for being “non-humans” yet admired their advanced technology and weaponry.

The film was released in 2009, shortly after South Africa suffered an outbreak of violence against foreigners which left over sixty people dead. The parallels between these attacks and the anti-Prawn sentiments of District 9 were not lost on political and social commentators. 

The 2008 attacks were labelled xenophobic because most of the victims were foreigners. They were accused of taking jobs from South Africans and using unfair and sometimes illegal practices to out-wit local traders, putting them out of business and leading to widespread resentment and envy.