Ben Bierman is the managing director of Business Partners Limited.
Ben Bierman is the managing director of Business Partners Limited.

Your vote counts: SME owners making their mark can make all the difference

By Ben Bierman Time of article published Oct 17, 2021

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WITH the 2021 municipal elections on November 1 fast approaching, there has been much public debate around the role of local government in supporting and providing services to communities.

The pivotal role that local government plays in the operational affairs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is, however, often overlooked.

Small business owners are affected by decisions taken at a municipal level and, as such, they should never underestimate the importance of their vote and the value of active participation.

Local government decisions have implications for the licensing of start-ups. The licence entrepreneurs require to start their businesses is governed under the Business Act No. 71 of 1991 (and as Amended No. 186 of 1993).

Many considerations are taken into account when issuing business licences. The process may involve physical inspections to ascertain the viability of the business, its impact on environmental health and safety, town planning (for brick-and-mortar establishments) and regulations around the preparation and serving of food.

In addition to inspections by health and safety officials, there are many by-laws that are taken into account. Failure to demonstrate compliance with the by-laws can result in licences not being issued or SMEs being shut.

Local government also plays a significant role in the development of SMEs – a role that should be informed by practical knowledge and experience coming from SMEs on the ground. The establishment of business support service centres will be prioritised only if small business owners participate in decision-making and feedback.

The relationship between local government and SMEs is symbiotic, in the sense that it is in the government’s best interest for small businesses to thrive as job creators and income generators. It is commonly reported that small businesses are the backbone of the economy, from the informal trading sector through to tech businesses who are leading the charge in innovation on the continent.

Municipalities have dedicated Local Economic Development (LED) offices within their departments. The offices engage with SMEs whose experiences and advice ultimately shapes policy.

To ensure an enabling environment for small businesses, reliable infrastructure and accessible, user friendly regulatory processes for SMEs at a grass-roots level is crucial.

Local government is acutely aware that small business owners are investors into the local economy. It is the duty of the local government to encourage SME participation in initiatives and forums initiated by the LED offices in each province. It is the duty of the private sector to partner with the government and civil society when making decisions that positively impact the business landscape.

The votes of small business owners matter not only in their individual capacities as citizens but also as contributors to the local economy.

LED initiatives shape the business environment within municipalities.

One of the biggest challenges that municipalities face is creating appropriate growth strategies for entrepreneurs in the formal and informal sectors. Business incubators and support initiatives, for example, are key to the prosperity of the SME environment, and requires regulatory reform from the ground up to be realised.

Regulatory reform does not only involve government – it relies on the participation of small business owners as professionals, administrators, lawyers and economists.

Your vote as an SME owner goes a long way in creating the environment your business needs to thrive.

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.


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