Small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) stakeholders in the natural product and agro-processing sectors gathered recently to come up with solutions that will advance the development and sustainability of SMMEs in this sector.
Hosted by the CSIR, the theme of the workshop was: Challenges facing SMMEs in the SADC region and it was sponsored by POL-SABINA, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), The Innovation Hub and eGoliBio.
The first two days of the workshop focused on the challenges facing SMMEs, with the last day being reserved for tours to the ARC, the CSIR and The Innovation Hub.
CSIR Biosciences Social Economic Outcomes Manager, Tshidi Moroka, said: “We hosted this workshop to have a better understanding of the challenges facing South African SMMEs in this sector; the high failure rate and the inability to create sustainable jobs.”
Participants of the workshop were drawn from all over the country and beyond the borders. Speakers from industry, science councils, financial institutions, government as well as government agencies were in attendance to give advice on how SMMEs can access information, funding and the necessary support needed to get their businesses operational, as well as maintain their sustainability.
“The workshop was a success; there was a great turnout. Many challenges were outlined and discussed, for example, finance, access to markets, business acumen of entrepreneurs and regulatory issues, and the workshop crafted a way forward,” said Moroka.
The workshop provided entrepreneurs with an opportunity to share their experiences. They spoke about their encounters in trying to get support from financial institutions, agencies and government departments and how they have gotten their businesses from the ground.
Mosala Moesala, an entrepreneur, said: “My experience with starting a business is quite a challenging one. I knocked on many doors but people kept shutting the door right in my face.
“However, all that did not deter me from attaining my goal; instead it gave me strength and courage to work harder.”
The participants strongly endorsed the need to have a one-stop shop where they will be assisted with all their needs, instead of ‘being sent from pillar to post’ as they experience currently. The entrepreneurs believe that if they are given the support and the right assistance, they will be able to provide solutions to the problems of unemployment, economic growth and skills development in this country.