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Much better year ahead for South Africa’s SMEs, expert says

Despite the challenges that still face the South African economy, an expert said this week that the fundamentals were in place for local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to have a much better year in 2017, provided that all stakeholders in the economy also played their part.

“We need to continue with the initiatives to improve the framework within which SMEs operate, and this includes business-friendly policies and improved access to markets from both the public and private sectors,” Ben Bierman, managing director of Business Partners Limited (BPL), said.

“The reduction of unnecessary red tape must also continue in order for the SME ecosystem to be conducive for business formation and growth.”

The 2016 appeared to be a testing period for SMEs as the Southern African nation went through painful episodes of political wrangling and macroeconomic tumults. But though the storm is not over yet, the sky seems to be clearing up, sending a signal that better times lie ahead for those who work hard and persevere.

Bierman said: “In the year ahead, SMEs can expect better economic growth, inflation that will not be as severely impacted by rising food costs and an interest rate environment that will at worst not show dramatic increases in the prime rate.

“These improved conditions should provide a more solid platform for local SMEs to grow and pursue their objectives in their respective sectors.”

Business confidence levels are also up from last year, Bierman announced, referring to the December 2016 Business Confidence Index (BCI) released by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“December saw a reverse of the severe year-on-year decline of 10 index points in 2015, with a year-on-year increase of 1.6 index points in December 2016. This is the first time since February 2015 that this BCI has improved on a year-on-year basis, which means local businesses are more bullish about their prospects, he said.

(Final editing by Issa Sikiti)

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