SA SMEs can gain government support through National Gazelles initiative

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South African small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have until Friday, October 16 to apply for the first round of the government’s National Gazelles initiative, aimed at accelerating the growth of high potential small businesses in the country.

The National Gazelles initiative, a collaboration between the Department of Small Business Development and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), was launched last month as a 10-year programme to support 200 businesses each year..

SMEs with an annual turnover of between ZAR1 million (US$75,000) and ZAR30 million (US$2.3 million) are invited to apply for the programme, which will provide technical support and guidance while encouraging peer-to-peer collaboration, knowledge sharing and learning between SMEs through an online portal.

Selected companies will also receive facilitated access to growth funding, grants and business incentives, a detailed analysis of their business to ensure sound support roadmap, access to key decision-makers and business networks, overseas trade visit opportunities with government and the private sector, and a customised local, regional and national tender information service.

“Research has shown that SMEs only start to meaningfully contribute to job creation when they grow to ZAR2 million (US$150,000) or more in turnover. It is therefore key and beneficial to job creation to support the growth of existing SMEs. For this reason, the National Gazelles intervention is post startup. It absorbs SMEs who have already successfully navigated the startup phase and are now positioned for growth,” said SEDA chairman Dr Ivor Zwane.

Zwane said by focusing on businesses that have already survived their first few years, the programme was SEDA’s way of meeting the objectives of the National Development Plan, which includes SMEs creating 90 per cent of jobs by 2030.

The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) last month released its 2015 SME Insight Survey, which surveyed 1,300 business owners across the country and found the success of SMEs increases with mentorship and technical assistance. Dr Thami Mazwai, director of the National Gazelles programme, said it was important for SMEs to have role models and mentors in older, more experienced SMEs.

“Through the National Gazelles programme, our goal is to create such a network and ecosystem of SMEs, ensuring that business owners have access to all the right support at the right time in their growth cycle,” Mazwai said.

The programme will also use its platform to undertake research into the factors shaping SME growth and success in South Africa, with these studies conducted in conjunction with a number of the country’s universities. All SME databases and research will be made available to participating corporations in the private sector, overseas multinationals, state-owned entities and government departments.

“As the National Gazelles rolls out into every province, as one of our flagship programmes, the role of provincial and national agencies, business associations and government departments in making the programme a success is critical. We want to ensure that we mobilise to support our National Gazelles,” said Lindiwe Zulu, minister of small business development.

“Through our approach of focusing on providing specialist advice and business opportunities, we are creating a significant shift in local SME development, ensuring that every small business has the support it needs to operate as closely as possible to its maximum potential.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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