A super SME support hub is in the making under the direction of Microsoft, National Small Business Chamber (NSBC), the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), Vodacom, Absa and Mustek.
An initiative that will conglomerate various support services for SME’s was announced last week during the NSBC myBusinessExpo in Midrand. It will amongst other services offer a free path for SMEs to establish web presence alongside a comprehensive online business support services. These include affordable IT packages that encompasses hardware and software products.
Announcing the initiative Microsoft said the the online hub is a cornerstone of its SME4Afrika initiative, which aims to bring 100 000 SMEs online in the next three years and help them gain access to the solutions and services they need to be successful and grow their business.
The hub will see Microsoft, NSBC, SEDA, Vodacom, Absa and Mustek collaborate to provide relevant skills and services to local SMEs.
The solution includes a PC, laptop or slate, Microsoft Office 365, broadband access, Pastel myBusiness Online, premium access to the ABSA procurement portal, premium access to NSBC and financial advice.
The parties said the name of the solution will be revealed at a joint Microsoft/ABSA small business roadshow in April, which will cover most major and secondary centres across the country.
Microsoft’s Small Business head, Tracey Newman, said the wave of investment in local SMEs is in line with the aims of the company’s 4Afrika programme, which was announced earlier this year.
“Part of 4Afrika is a real commitment by us to building sustainable businesses. We want to inspire a new generation of business owners and create a spirit of entrepreneurialism through ongoing mentorship and support for small and micro-businesses,” said Newman.
“Our approach is multi-pronged: we’ll provide support for SMEs through the SME4Afrika initiative; incubate 200 technology start-ups every year through the BizSpark programme; and ignite 100 000 small businesses through our SME portal.”
As a “welcome offer,” the SME4Afrika partners will provide free domain registration for the period of one year and free tools for SMEs interested in creating a professional web presence with free basic email and online document storage. The hub is expected to open in May, and Newman aims to see 100 000 small businesses sign up for the hub within the next three years.
Through SEDA, Microsoft will help prospective entrepreneurs conduct viability assessments of the small businesses they want to create. With the support of MICT SETA and the government’s Jobs Fund, the company will also place one IT student in each of SEDA’s 43 centres across the country, where they will receive on-the-job-training on technology and other SME-related issues with the opportunity to become fully-fledged SME business and technology advisors.
Through additional funding through 4Afrika and the Jobs Fund, Microsoft’s BizSpark programme will be scaled up significantly over the next three years to incubate as many as 200 local technology start-ups per annum.
“What we are doing with the Job Fund and 4Afrika resources is to put programmes in place to see how we can take these small businesses by the hand to support them really succeed,” said Newman. “We project that if we can put 600 businesses through our model in the next three years, we can not only create 600 new businesses, but around three jobs per entrepreneur, which is a further 1800 jobs.”