Published On: Mon, Nov 21st, 2016

Eskom foundation opens new doors for SMEs

Siya Sibiya KwaZulu-Natal entrepreneur

Siya Sibiya KwaZulu-Natal entrepreneur

RICHARD’S BAY, (CAJ News) – WHILE small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are hailed as the engine room of South Africa’s economic growth, access to markets is an impediment for players in the sector.

The setback is hampering prospects of building sustainable businesses.

It is out of that realisation that Eskom Development Foundation, the charitable entity of the power utility has initiated its Business Investment Competition (BIC).

The competition is also borne out of the reality that while it widely-accepted small businesses are key to poverty alleviation and inclusive economic growth in South Africa, there is need for targeted interventions to ensure these companies are key participants in the value-chain of large industries and markets.

BIC, which started in 2007, is run by the Eskom Development Foundation and is aimed at recognising and rewarding small businesses that are significantly contributing to the fight against unemployment and poverty and growing the economy.

BIC entrant and winner of the manufacturing category, with prize money of R100 000, Siya Sibiya, tells an all too familiar trial faced by small and medium enterprises.

“The biggest challenges are access to markets,” says the Richard’s Bay, KwaZulu-Natal entrepreneur.

“We have really struggled to open doors and get opportunity to quote for work. I entered the Eskom BIC because of this. I am continuing to knock on as many doors as I can in order to access opportunities for work,” says Sibiya.

Metal Products is a general fabrication company, working with steel, aluminium and stainless steel.

Clients include MTN and Vodacom where they fabricate cellphone and radio towers. They have also ventured into manufacturing pipework for Department of Water and Sanitation.

Sibiya’s involvement in the annual BIC provided him with support, mentorship and an opportunity to access new markets and bridge existing gaps.

Even with an annual turnover of R19 million and 25 full-time employees at Metal Products, Sibiya believes there is still room for large companies to incorporate SMEs into their value chains.

His company has not been spared the global economic turbulence either, which has prompted the diversification of Meta Products service offering from a reliance on mining clients only.

“We realised last year that all our core clients were in the mining industry,” recalls Sibiya.

He points out globally the mining industry has gone into recession and is not spending.

“We then took a decision to branch into other market areas that would complement our company but were in different sectors.

In the next two years I want to be working with Eskom and Transnet and growing that relationship,” the ambitious Sibiya says.

“We want to work on towers and corrosion protection for Eskom and we want to fabricate components for Transnet.”

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Eskom Development Foundation, Cecil Ramonotsi, says the organisation acknowledges the difference small black-owned businesses can make to the economy.

“With a deep and accurate understanding of the players in the market and where the linkages are, businesses can then create products and services that will strengthen the chain,” says Ramonotsi.

Ramonotsi says through this way, they will ensure small businesses unlock economic opportunities and lead to inclusive growth.

He encourages small businesses to stay aware of opportunities and keep up to date on any shifts in the value chains of the sectors they operate in.

“What you should aim for is to use the value chain for your own development, knowing that if you develop, so will the value chain. All of which will make you more sustainable,” Ramonotsi concludes.

The Eskom Development Foundation is tasked with implementing Eskom’s corporate social investment (CSI) strategy and operates as a not-for-profit company in sectors including enterprise development, education, environment, agriculture, healthcare, social and community development.

CAJ News


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