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SA entrepreneurs stand to benefit from an increasingly collaborative and integrated approach to business finance

11 February 2022 - The business funding landscape in South Africa is rapidly maturing, affording existing and aspirant entrepreneurs and business owners the wide variety of finance mechanisms they need, underpinned by the robust support required, to reignite the much needed sustainable growth and development of 'SA Inc.'

While the event was aimed mainly at highlighting the opportunities created by the OR Tambo Special Economic Zone for businesses in the South African agro-processing sector, the strong key message that came out of the various presentations is that entrepreneurs and business owners across South Africa enjoy a solid support ecosystem of highly committed public and private sector organisations that have a sincere desire to work together to not only provide them with the funding they need, but also to help them succeed, grow and become significant contributors to South Africa's economic recovery and development.

Sivalingum says that, for him, one of the most inspiring outcomes of the webinar was the obvious desire, expressed by all participants, to break down silos and work together for the good of businesses in the country. "For far too long, the various business development and funding role-players in South Africa have taken a compartmentalised approach to the support they offer, with most staying strictly in their specialised lanes," he explains, "but it's clear that public private partnerships in South Africa have matured significantly in recent years, and the various enterprise funding and development stakeholders, while still independent businesses or organisations in their own right, now clearly share a vision, and commitment, to work together to provide the support, guidance, finance and enabling ecosystems that businesses in South Africa need to succeed."

Importantly, Sivalingum says that it's also clear that the business support network that now exists for SA businesses is also underpinned by forward thinking government policies and numerous business-building initiatives and incentives, all focused on optimising the opportunities, and potential, for sustainable business success.

According to Seipati Mangadi, CEO of GIDZ, the Special Economic Zones that were the main focus of the webinar are one important component of these business enabling initiatives, but they form part of a much broader and far-reaching commitment by government to encouraging, enabling, and financially supporting entrepreneurs.

South Africa's SEZ programme needs a collaborative effort, from all areas of government as well as the private sector, to ensure the success of the programme," Mangadi says, "and this is also true on a much larger scale, because the success of the SEZs to date stands as proof of the importance of cooperative public private partnerships in growing businesses across the country and building the inclusive economy we so desperately need."

Mangadi's sentiments were echoed by fellow webinar participants, Tshepo Ramodibe, Head of Corporate Affairs at the IDC, as well as Nkhangweleni Siliga, Divisional Head of Industrial Facilitation in the Economic Development Department of the City of Ekurhuleni. Both highlighted their respective organisations' recognition of the importance of a highly focused mandate by local, provincial and national government for sustainable economic growth.

"Collaboration is everything," Siliga points out, "and we recognise the importance and value of bringing all role-players in the South African economy together and ensuring that we all move forward in concert."

"Growing SA Inc. requires effective and meaningful public private partnerships," Ramodibe concurs, "and the IDC is absolutely committed to creating bespoke funding deals that not only meet the unique requirements of each business, but also help to drive sustainable job creation and inclusive participation in the economy."

Commenting on the unfortunate timing of the webinar, which took place at the height of the unrest that occurred in many parts of KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng and highlighted a number of business risks and concerns for entrepreneurs, Thwala explained that, if anything, the devastating events of late July offer a strong reminder of the importance of a highly united and supportive South African business ecosystem. "It is essential that participants and stakeholders in South Africa's economy remain united and forge strong bonds, so that businesses are effectively helped to overcome the challenges of many sorts, that they will inevitably face on their success journeys," he explains "and it is clear that these vital cooperative funding and operational support ecosystems are rapidly being built and strengthened across the country, not just for the benefit of businesses, but also employees, communities and the broader economy."

"FNB is excited about the prospects that these closer working partnerships with all participants in the South African funding landscape present for the achievement of a highly integrated and holistic business funding ecosystem in our country," Sivalingum says, "one that is characterised by a culture of inclusivity and shared commitment, rather than a desire to 'own' clients; and one that ensures that entrepreneurs can access the full spectrum of flexible, highly customisable finance solutions that can be tailored to the precise needs - current and future - of every business."