THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has launched a newspaper and website called Small Business Connect to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking for business advice.
The launch‚ on Tuesday‚ came as Nedbank published research suggesting SMEs in South Africa were getting cold feet.
SMEs have been singled out by the National Development Plan (NDP) and other policy documents as key among job creators in the South African economy.
The department has‚ however‚ recently been criticised by business organisations for the amount of red tape in government regulation‚ including in its Licensing of Businesses Bill.
Clement Manoko‚ head of communications and marketing at the department‚ said Small Business Connect would be a free monthly newspaper of about 20 pages that would also appear online at www.smallbusinessconnect.co.za
"We have an editorial team of researchers from the department and professionals from SMEs working with us‚” he said. "We also have guest writers‚ and people can pitch their stories about small business.
It is published by BusinessOwner & Co‚ a company that assists entrepreneurs across Southern Africa.
The department’s announcement came as Nedbank gave out damning news about SMEs. Its Small Business Index found that SME owners singled out cash flow and budget constraints‚ changes in the economy and rising costs as their main obstacles to expanding their businesses in South Africa.
These problems were sending SMEs into other parts of Africa‚ Nedbank said.
"As the South African economy contracts‚ business owners are looking at expanding into other markets‚ mostly Africa‚” Nedbank said.
Of the SMEs it surveyed‚ 29% said they did business internationally and a further 32% planned to do business outside South Africa’s borders. Of these‚ two-thirds said they were looking at entering the rest of the African continent‚ while just 12% planned to do business in Europe.”
Free Market Foundation executive director Leon Louw said the Department of Trade and Industry was becoming notorious for its red tape.
"The ink was not even dry on the National Development Plan (South Africa’s socioeconomic road map to 2030) by the time new red tape was out‚” he said. "The department is smothering small business in this country.”
Mr Louw questioned the department’s ability to manage a print newspaper while professional media groups struggled to do so.
"It seems like a neanderthal idea ... They are wasting time here‚” he said. "I still see this as being a propaganda tool for the department. Its rhetoric of wanting to support small business is appreciated but there must be follow-through.”
But Gary Palmer‚ CEO of Paragon Lending Solutions‚ a short-term asset-based lending company‚ said SMEs and organised business often complained about red tape in South Africa just because they found doing business in the country difficult.
"South Africa has far less red tape than the US‚ UK and Australia‚” he said. "Part of the new red tape in South Africa‚ however‚ is around raising money. It is around compliance with respect to banks and is related to international banking regulations as per Basel 3.” © BDlive 2013