Absa, and a throng of partners, officially opened an entrepreneurship centre in Newtown, Johannesburg yesterday.
Supported by various private and public partners including the City of Johannesburg, Absa said the Newtown centre was styled as a flagship within the total of eight of its Centres of Entrepreneurship across South Africa.
The Newtown centre, said Absa, is the flagship and sets a new standard that will inform the way in which the other Entrepreneurship centres will be remodelled.
Absa said the overarching objective of the Centres of Entrepreneurship is to increase cooperation in the development of small businesses through the transfer of skills such as financial literacy, knowledge sharing, mentorship, networking opportunities, infrastructure and HR expertise.
Wendy Lucas-Bull, Chairman of Barclays Africa Group, said “The goal we have set ourselves in the SME sector requires us to be more than simply a financier of new start-ups. It requires us to play a meaningful role by supporting entrepreneurs beyond just their financial needs. Funding is of course vitally important, hence our R250 million commitment this year to help SME businesses prosper that typically would not meet normal lending criteria.”
City of Johannesburg’s Executive Mayor, Councillor Parks Tau, said at the launch the private and public sector cooperation with Absa to keep SMEs in business would contribute significantly to growth and development.
The private and public partners involved in Absa’s SME initiative include: City of Johannesburg, Telkom, Microsoft, SARS, South African Breweries, GIBS, KPMG, MassCash, SAIPA, South African Bureau of Standards, Sustainable Entrepreneurship Accelerator and Proudly South African.
Absa said recognising that a lack of business management skills is a huge reason why there is high failure rate among SMEs, Absa says its entrepreneurship centres will also provide infrastructure such as computers with internet access to process business requirements with speed and ease.
Lucas-Bull said “Unique to these centres is that SMEs are offered Absa’s Procurement Portal, which is a virtual market place that links SME suppliers with Blue Chip companies and government bodies to encourage corporates to buy more services and products from SMEs. To date there are over 19 000 SMEs and 3 000 Corporate buyers registered and actively using the portal.”
“SMEs are the lifeblood of a thriving economy and given the right levels of support, it can make a significant contribution to the Government’s ambition of creating 5 million more jobs by 2020. In our quest to help people achieve their ambitions in the right way, we are fully committed to pursuing similar joint projects and partnerships in the interests of ensuring we can generate sustainable and more equitable economic growth,” said Lucas-Bull.
The Absa statement said contrary to popular belief, Absa believes the largest obstacle facing SMEs is not financial, but rather, access to markets. The ability to penetrate existing markets or create new markets is not easy when there are established businesses with which to compete.