In an election of red berets (the Economic Freedom Fighters) and purple cows (the newly formed ZACP Capitalists Party), the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurs and their small, micro and medium enterprises are hardly the elephant in the room.
Small business is the facet of the economy that every political party has an opinion about, but none quite seem to have figured out, believes entrepreneur Marnus Broodryk, the man behind a viral video urging voters to support SMMEs rather than any one political party.
The National Development Plan, endorsed by the African National Congress, Parliament and various sectors of society, says SMMEs are key to South Africa’s hopes of creating jobs and getting its economy to grow by 5% annually up until the year 2030.
Yet the country is well below that target. According to the Department of Small Business, at least 70% of all small businesses formed in South Africa don’t make it past their first year of business. In 2016, these beleaguered businesses accounted for 56% of all private sector jobs.
Earlier in April, the International Monetary Fund The International Monetary Fund lowered its growth forecasts for South Africa from 1.5% to 1.3% for 2019, while in late March, Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago said the central bank expected SA's GDP growth for 2019 to average 1.3%, down from the bank's January projection of 1.7%.
Broodryk, an entrepreneur and author, is vocal about the importance supporting local business.
In the video he posted ahead of next week's elections, and which has been viewed more than 500,000 times in a couple of days according to SME.Africa, he made waves when he said SMMEs had the power to carry the economy, regardless of which party won the May polls. He added that if small businesses collectively suffer, no party could save South Africa.
Broodryk’s main business is SME.Africa, which services small and medium businesses through a membership community and platform that small and medium enterprises are subscribed to for coaching, mentoring and consulting purposes.
He has written a book on the world of small business, entitled Ninety Rules For The Entrepreneur. After it sold well, he decided to make it available for free.
All saying it - who's doing it?
In an interview on Thursday, Broodryk told Fin24 all political parties agreed on the importance of supporting small businesses for the sake of SA's growth.
"Everyone is saying it. It is being said worldwide. Currently, there is this thing of waiting for a new party to take over or a different leader in the ANC to take over.
"We need to stop waiting for things to happen and make them happen ourselves," said Broodryk.
Broodryk said every political party’s manifesto that he read spoke the importance of small business, but his unsuccessful attempts at contacting these parties to discuss their manifestos represented how ineffective politicians had proven to be in assisting entrepreneurs.
"We have tried calling political parties to get a sense of what they can do to support SMEs.
"Not one of these parties answered their phones. It just brought forth the message that many of them are not quite equipped to assist us right away," Broodryk said.
There were a number of campaigns he would embark on to raise awareness on the importance of supporting local business, even after the elections, Broodryk added.
Entrepreneurs sharing learning
"We are about to release a new video on awareness. Successful entrepreneurs need to stand up and share what we have learned. The people who need our information are not accessing it. There are great universities and books to get things going, but we need to share more about what we do, as local entrepreneurs," he said.
Broodryk said, aside from an apparent lack of ideas on how to support or kick start local SMMEs, government did not make things easier for small business with their truant payment of small, local suppliers and service providers.
"I don’t think the challenge of government payment has improved much.
"I don’t think there is an intention from government not to pay. I think the problem lies with procedure that is aimed at trying to avoid corruption and enhance transparency. But when government takes to long to pay, it has a devastating impact on small business," Broodryk said.
Not all Ferraris and champagne
Broodryk said ordinary South Africans’ perceptions of entrepreneurship and small business needed to change, as he found the idea of being one’s own boss was overly glamourised without any awareness raised on the challenges starting a business entail.
"When you look on Instagram you see Ferraris and champagne. It’s really not like that. But another big misconception about entrepreneurship is this idea that we need funding. That is not how successful businesses start. It’s about ideas and getting started where you are.
"From Facebook to Apple, the most successful business never started with a business plan and funding. They started where they were," he said.
Broodryk said South Africa could not afford to pay lip service the need to protect workers and entrepreneurs. He said while he agreed that all political parties understood the importance of SMME on paper, in practice, the question loomed on whether they knew how to assist them.