We applaud the interventions that President Cyril Ramaphosa is making to move the needle, by winning back private sector confidence and investment in job creation programmes, especially the increased focus on small business. This is necessary because the year that started with so much promise for small business and business in general is ending on a mixed note. The economy has stagnated and we slipped into recession, and, as we all know, when that happens SMMEs are the most affected. Every effort to claw our way back to business confidence is therefore welcome. Nafcoc members will rightly be expecting the chamber to play an important role in helping rebuild the country’s economy.
However, the elephant in the room is that small business’ voice is missing at the decision making table. The irony of the situation is that even the NDP, the government’s centre piece programme, identifies SMMEs as key catalysts for job creation, as it is the case in most parts of the world. But come decision making time, small business is relegated to the back seat. Nafcoc, as a representative of SMMEs, should prioritise this issue going forward. We are not be negotiable on it. Inclusive growth, the fastest way transform our economy, will only be achieved through inclusive participation.
To illustrate my point on how crucial it is for SMMEs to be recognised as our own social sector, not part of big business; how many times has government spoken of the need for the SMMEs to be paid timeously in the last 10 years? Plenty of times, but we have only had patchy progress in this regard. Why? Because it does not affect those who sit at the decision making table at institutions like Nedlac, especially big business. If this matter affected big business, a summit would have been called and whole host of resolutions taken on it. By now, paying within 15 days would have been the norm if big business was affected.
The same can be said about the planning and implementation of the recent Presidential Jobs Summit and Investment Conference where the planning and execution was led by big business, and, despite investment pledges totalling R290 billion, it would appear the number of jobs expected to be created would be minimal, precisely because SMMEs, the main job creators the world over, are absent from these processes. We will not stop the demand representation in all these structures, including on Presidential committee tasked to monitor progress on resolutions taken at the Jobs Summit.
On the organisational front, this year Nafcoc spent a fair amount of time agitating for the voice of the SMMEs on contentious issues pertaining to the economy – ranging from counterfeit goods in the townships and rural areas to issues of land reform – to be heard. We have utilised all media platforms in this quest. These days hardly a week goes by without our President being interviewed, especially in the indigenous language radio stations such Ukhozi FM with 7.5 million listeners as well the likes of Lesedi FM with an audience of a further 3 million.
This is part of rekindling the Nafcoc brand equity to signal to the market the godfather of black business is back in the mainstream, punching within its weight and carrying the aspirations of small business forward.
As part of that process of enhancing our brand equity, we are relaunching our media platform, Khwebo, in partnership with seasoned black media professionals from an entity called Utloanang MaAfrika Media (UMA Media). The publication will henceforth be converted into the magazine, instead of a tabloid newspaper format, as was the case previously. And, 30 000 copies will be printed quarterly. The publication, together with its vibrant digital platform, will be relaunched at our national conference in Durban end of November. We urge all our members to the support this important voice of our chamber.
Yes, the last few years may have been bumpy here and there, but Nafcoc is re-emerging stronger to reclaim its rightful place in the South African economic landscape. We are here to stay.