IFC, IBM, Business Partners, and DTI Launch Web Portal to Help Fuel Growth of South Africa’s Small and Medium Enterprises
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has teamed up with IBM, Business Partners, and South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry to provide a free Web site and toolkit for the country’s budding small businesses and microenterprises. This will help entrepreneurs start, finance, and grow their businesses.
The newly launched South Africa Business Toolkit (http://southafrica.smetoolkit.org) offers the latest information and communication technologies. It will facilitate learning and help implement sustainable business management practices among small and medium enterprises. The goal is to help the 600,000 local small businesses expand their reach into the global economy by increasing productivity, efficiency, and capacity, as well as access to capital and new markets. The toolkit is available via a Web portal, compact disks, mobile alerts, and classroom training.
“The toolkit is a powerful combination of technology and business expertise in a country like South Africa that has high growth potential for small and medium enterprises,” said Mark Harris, IBM South and Central Africa’s Managing Director. “This initiative applies IBM technology, draws on the impressive reach and experience of IFC and Business Partners, and brings in the Department of Trade and Industry as a crucial partner. It is poised to promote job creation and economic prosperity at an unprecedented level.”
The resource was developed by IBM and IFC to leverage information and communication technologies and provide South African businesses with access to key business management information and training. The site has free tools for addressing issues of accounting and finance, business planning, human resources, legal and insurance, marketing and sales, operations, and technology. Features include:
An online calculator that helps small businesses assess their readiness for financing
Software for building a Web site
Forms for employee performance evaluations
Community tools such as online conferencing, blog capability, and group calendars
Survey and quiz builders to help small businesses make decisions
A multilingual business directory to help small businesses link to local, regional, and global partners
“Small businesses are the growth engines of the world’s economies, yet their success rates are not as high as they should be because of poor access to good business management practices,” said IFC Director for Sub-Saharan Africa Thierry Tanoh. “Giving them the information and new collaborative technologies they need will help them grow and prosper.”
Through the toolkit, small businesses can receive workshop training. They can also partner with local support providers and go global by accessing detailed market, investment, and trade information on the 64 countries with the strongest export potential. For South Africa, where about 70 percent of new businesses fail within 18 months, this is particularly useful.
“Many entrepreneurs struggle through issues and get it right only after they have tried and failed a few times. Some do not get it right at all, as they think a good idea is enough,” said Ferose Oaten of Auto Technical Test Centres AVTS. “This toolkit should go a long way in removing obstacles—it goes further to provide the tools for maintenance and sustainability.”
In each host country, local partners like Elite in Nepal, Dunn & Bradstreet in Singapore, FUNDES in Latin America, and Business Partners in South Africa are responsible for ensuring that more than 500 pieces of content, tools, and resources are customized and available in local languages. They also provide local support to small businesses, helping them generate more jobs and improve their chances of survival.
“When a business is in trouble, one of the most important things needed is advice from someone who cares, and who has been through it before,” said Jo’ Schwenke, Managing Director of Business Partners. “The toolkit’s new collaborative features provide that advisory service by allowing smaller business owners to interact with each other as well as access data typically available only to Fortune 1000 companies. It will be a great help to small business owners here in South Africa.”
“Micro, small, and medium enterprises are important channels for addressing job creation, economic growth, and equity in our country. It is clear that the sector still has constraints hampering its development, and that an integrated approach that deals with inherent challenges is key to its growth,” said Mandisa Manjezi, DTI’s Chief Director – Enterprise Development. “We have embarked on this initiative with other stakeholders to set up and develop a network of partners. This will let us continue providing a united response to the challenges facing the sector in South Africa, including access to information.”
“This is a one-stop shop for small businesses that levels the playing field. We know the tools used mostly by large businesses and technology’s role in growth,” said Nicholas Donofrio, IBM Executive Vice President, who announced the launch. “Now, every business can have the same chance to succeed. It is vital that we help these smaller businesses—the major employers and growth engines in developing markets. These are just the kinds of tools that can help underserved markets be successful.”
The toolkit builds on a broader IFC SME toolkit (http://www.smetoolkit.org/smetoolkit/en/index), which was first launched in 2002.
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