27 June 2024

World Micro-, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, 27 June 2024: In 2017, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared 27 June as the Micro-, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day to raise awareness of the tremendous contributions of smaller businesses to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

MSMEs are also known as SMMEs in South Africa (SA). SMME = Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises. They contribute to local and national economies, account for 90% of the world’s businesses, 60 to 70% of employment, and 50% of the global economy. The importance of such organisations is also acknowledged by SA’s National Development Plan (NDP). They reduce unemployment, drive growth and innovation, and foster new markets and industries but, they are particularly vulnerable to rising inflation and supply chain disruptions.

Enterprises owned by young people and women are some of the most at risk. World MSME Day is an important opportunity to look at this topical issue in a very practical, policy-driven and human-centred way in the global context and call for support to help MSMEs get through the constant ups and downs of the supply chain and build up their ability to handle future shocks. Supply chains are a critical component of global trade and commerce. Conflicts, disasters and pandemics can quickly impact their functioning, increasing costs and making transactions more difficult. It is imperative that countries and their development partners continue to support and empower MSMEs to unlock their full potential.

Tshepo Mangoele, CEO and founder of LignOrganic is the 2023 NSTF-South32 Innovation Award: SMME winner. He is a chemical engineer and a University of Witwatersrand (Wits) graduate from Rustenburg in the North West province. Mangoele started a non-governmental organisation (NGO), then a construction company, until he later developed his science-based business, LignOrganic. He works with biomass using plant materials to create renewable energy, with the aim of developing a complete biorefinery, through the help of a research grant he received from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).

Mangoele was one of the 2023 winners involved in the motivational talks for youth online, hosted by the NSTF on 11 September 2023, to engage with the students of the 2023 NSTF Brilliants Programme. The virtual gathering was aimed at informing and motivating students in their STEM (science, technology engineering and mathematics) studies and for their future careers.

“If you are not doing any marketing and sales,  the business will eventually die because what you are doing is creating a great thing without selling it”.

He advised the students to identify a societal problem and work to create a feasible solution and then try to market that, to turn a science idea into a business. “If you are not doing any marketing and sales, the business will eventually die because what you are doing is creating a great thing without selling it,” said Mangoele. He said jokingly that one should look for capital from the “three Fs: family, friends and fools” when trying to establish any business venture, in other words, search widely for the support you need. Grants and partnerships can be found from various institutions. Mangoele remarked that it can be very helpful to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools such as Udemy, ChatGPT and opportunity desk among others for building a good business model. Mentorship programmes are also pivotal for young South Africans.

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