Eskom powers up SMMEs coping with Covid-19

12 October 2021

The Eskom Development Foundation (ESDEF), through its annual Business Investment Competition, is making a concerted effort to empower small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) amid the bleak economic environment of the Covid-19 pandemic, announced ESDEF Chief Executive Officer, Cecil Ramonotsi, during a recent virtual media roundtable.

The Business Investment Competition (BIC) is one of ESDEF’s flagship programmes aimed at developing and capacitating SMMEs. It provides a platform for registered black-owned SMMEs in manufacturing, agriculture and agri-processing, construction and engineering, and trade and services to become part of a community of like-minded entrepreneurs as they endeavour to build on their businesses’ solid foundations and realise their true potential.

Ramonotsi gave an overview of the country’s economic outlook and its impact on the small business sector over the past year, stating that SMMEs had been hardest hit by the pandemic. “The impact of Covid-19 on small businesses has been most severe, with many not surviving the hard lockdown.  They also have to face funding challenges as lenders have become more risk-averse. A McKinsey report found that around 42,7% of businesses had shut down due to Covid-19,” he said.   

“To counteract this, Eskom has realised the contribution that SMMEs could make, not only to the country’s economic recovery plan, but also to attaining the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP) of economic transformation, job creation, and poverty alleviation. We are therefore intensifying our efforts to ensure that we assist in whatever way we can, not only to keep small businesses afloat, but also to help grow and sustain them,” added Ramonotsi.

Forming part of the panel alongside Ramonotsi were Nomawethu Mampho Sotshongaye, Founder of Golden Rewards 1981, and overall winner of the 2020 Business Investment Competition, as well as Bonolo Zwane, Founder of the NJE brand who was the 2nd runner-up in the 2020 BIC. Both entrepreneurs expressed their appreciation for Eskom’s support of black entrepreneurs and the positive impact that participating in the BIC has had on their businesses that continue performing well despite the current economic environment.

Ramonotsi pointed out that the BIC had grown considerably over the years, with entries having grown by 322% in 2020 compared with the number of entries in 2016. “We have seen immense growth in the Business Investment Competition over the past 12 years and this affirms that we are headed in the right direction as we refine our approach for maximal impact. This year, we are strengthening our call to designated groups, particularly women, the youth and people with disabilities, to participate in the BIC,” he stated.

“In the South African context, the development of youth and women entrepreneurs is key to bolstering the country’s socio-economic growth, contributing to alleviating poverty, and reducing the inequality gaps in our communities. To this end, Eskom is making a sustained effort to draw more participation from these designated groups for the 2021 Business Investment Competition,” added Nthato Minyuku, Eskom’s Group Executive for Government and Regulatory Affairs.

“It is indisputable that solving the current and future developmental challenges facing South Africa lies with its youth. As the youth unemployment rate is now at an unprecedented high, entities such as Eskom are nurturing innovation, the development of critical skills and entrepreneurism in our leaders of tomorrow,” concluded Minyuku.

Qualifying businesses are encouraged to enter at until midnight on 31 October 2021. Winners in each category will take home substantial cash prizes and the overall winner walks away with a prize that will definitely boost the business.  All entrants also benefit from a two-day workshop that focuses on building various business skills.

For support and assistance, small business owners should email Grounded Media at [email protected]

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