The upcoming International Small Business Congress (ISBC) aims to expose South Africa’s SME operators to global best practice, ISBC director Septi Bukula.
“By giving participants the opportunity to interact with their peers and forge global networks and contacts, they will be able to exchange information and ideas long after their first meeting,” said Bukula.
In a statement released this week the ISBC said its 2012 congress is unique not only because it is the first time that it will be held on African soil, but also because leading international SME support agencies will be sharing their experiences at this year’s Congress. Three of these support agencies will be coming from Japan, Malaysia and Northern Ireland, all countries with an enviable track record of entrepreneurship.
The statement said as countries around the world continue to fight their way out of the recession, support for entrepreneurs and small businesses has never been more critical – particularly in a country such as South Africa where the official unemployment rate stands at over 25%.
Bringing together experts in the field is key in the promotion of entrepreneurship and small business, as it gives fledgling entrepreneurs and other parties the opportunity to exchange ideas on approaches, experiences and lessons learnt in implementing policy measures and support programmes.
SME Support, Japan
The Organisation for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation in Japan is an independent administrative agency, which supports SMEs by providing targeted and personalised support measures.
Specific support is provided in various areas, including infrastructure, funding, human resources and information services, through collaboration with government agencies, support organisations, financial institutions and research institutions. SME Support does this by providing advice through counters situated across Japan, as well as by phone and e-mail.
In addition, the organisation provides ‘security’ through a small-scale enterprise mutual aid system and business safety mutual relief system, for those who wish to be prepared for future ‘what-ifs’, as well as infrastructure for those businesses looking to improve their current facilities or move to new ones.
SME Corp. Malaysia
The SME Corporation, Malaysia, was established to spur the development of SMEs by providing infrastructure facilities, financial assistance, advisory services, market access and other support programmes. Known as the Small and Medium Industries Development Corporation (SMIDEC), its aim was to develop capable and resilient Malaysian SMEs to be competitive in the global market.
According to SME Corp., an enterprise is considered an SME based on their annual sales turnover or number of full-time employees. This system of identification across various sectors and sub-sectors has enabled the Government to formulate effective development policies and support programmes, as well as provide technical and financial assistance where necessary.
The SME development programmes implemented by various Ministries and Agencies are based on three main strategic thrusts which aim to strengthen the enabling infrastructure, build the capacity and capability of domestic SMEs, and enable access to financing by SMEs.
Invest Northern Ireland
As Northern Ireland’s business development agency, Invest Northern Ireland aims to support new and existing businesses to grow and compete internationally, and to attract new inward investment into the country.
By providing business start-up advice, such as how to do market research, how to write a robust business plan, what to be aware of when employing people, and how to deal with tax, Invest NI gets entrepreneurs and small businesses off on the right foot, while also providing access to start-up finance. For those looking to set up a high-technology business, specialist support is also available.
In addition, Invest NI assists companies which are already in business but which want to grow, improve profitability and exploit foreign markets.
“We believe that South African entrepreneurs, small business owners and policymakers can learn a great deal from their global counterparts, as can they from us. With over 70 outstanding local and international speakers representing governments, small business support agencies, entrepreneurs, business membership organisations, academia, financial institutions, international development agencies and others, the ISBC will be a fantastic learning opportunity which will challenge entrepreneurs and small business owners to think in different way about their businesses”, concludes Bukula.
For more information, go to www.isbc2012.org or call Nicole De Klerk on 011 549 8300.