Pieter Bensch, Executive Vice-President at Sage Africa & Middle East penned this memo to South Africa’s newly re-elected president, his incoming cabinet and government officials.

Congratulations to the people and parties who are about to take office in national and provincial government. You have campaigned hard and won a mandate from South Africa’s people to continue the renewal of our country’s economy and institutions. As you forge ahead with new policies and plans, please don’t forget about how Small & Medium Businesses (SMBs) can help accelerate growth in the next five years.

As you’re acutely aware, our nation needs jobs – lots of them, and urgently. With an unemployment rate of more than 27% and employment declining in industries like mining, it is up to the SMB sector to make the difference. Government should be asking how it can build a nation of entrepreneurs and innovators.

As the voice of small business in South Africa, Sage calls on government to look at ways to reduce red tape for small businesses so they can compete more effectively in the global economy. Our research shows that supporting our importers and exporters, in particular, offers some exciting opportunities for positive change.

An independent survey, We Power the Nation, conducted on Sage’s behalf reveals that around 70% of South African companies trading internationally spend more than 35 hours per week on compliance. Helping them reduce this burden should become a priority as we seek to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area and our BRICS ties.

Businesses in our survey told us that the top three actions government can take to better support their aspirations to increase international trade are:

  1. developing opportunities in international markets (37%),
  2. providing investment incentives and funding (36%), and
  3. removal of trade barriers (35%).

These actions will help government meet its goal of making it easier to do business in South Africa.

The new government and parliament should also be looking closely at the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution. We believe technological change also brings with it the opportunity to build a more just and prosperous society, but only if we consciously and strategically position our country as a digital player. As the sun sets on industries like mining and fossil fuels, we need to be ready for what’s next.

The challenges we face include:

  • Reducing data costs,
  • Moving to greener and more sustainable energy sources,
  • Enabling government and businesses – particularly small businesses – to unleash the efficiency and productivity gains of automation and the ability to do business anywhere at any time via the cloud and Software-as-a-Service, and
  • Building our national competence in science and technology.

We also need to think about how we ensure our workforce does not get left behind as technology automates tasks and creates new jobs. It is a challenge that demands government, labour and business work together to build an inclusive and competitive economy.

We are looking forward to the next chapter of growth and progress in the evolution of South Africa’s young democracy. We are ready to play our part in supporting the growth of our entrepreneurs and small businesses.

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