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Ina Opperman - 01 April 2023

Image: iStock

The development of small business in South Africa is extremely important as small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of economic development in emerging markets such as India, South Africa, Kenya and Colombia, where these enterprises contribute up to 40% of national gross domestic product.

SMEs in these nations developed at different speeds during recent years, with countries such as Brazil joining economic powerhouses like the UK and America in topping the list of countries with the largest new business growth.

“These inspiring examples are key learning opportunities for South African small businesses,” says Mark Paper, chief operation officer at Business Partners Limited.

The three-pronged approach to sector development

Paper uses the success of India’s IT industry as an example of how strategic positioning and long-term planning can reap huge dividends for the country and its people.

During the early 1990s, India experienced a ‘brain drain’ in its fledgling IT industry, with local talent emigrating to other markets.

This loss of key talent served as a prompt for key decision-makers to boost investment into building new capacities. For India, an intervention at school-level education was identified as a possible solution.

Therefore, government poured resources into encouraging young children to pursue careers in IT and technology-related fields.

Today, India is a global technology hub, producing between 600 000 and 800 000 tertiary IT graduates per year, according to Bombay-listed software and services giant, Zensar Technologies.

“India’s success in this arena cannot be attributed to the state acting alone but rather to the collaborative efforts of multiple stakeholders in civil society, education, training and development, career development and the corporate realm.”

He says true impact for small business development requires the cooperation and collaboration of the golden tripartite: the public sector, the private sector and the South African public.

“Our country is well-positioned to follow India’s lead, albeit in the broader context of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but more investment needs to flow in from multiple directions.”

State-led interventions to encourage education-driven initiatives are important, he says, but points out that the private sector must employ these graduates at scale.

“This also needs the backing of civil society, which plays a crucial role as the parents and caregivers of young talent in promoting STEM education and equipping young people with the tools they need to succeed in these areas.”

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’


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