The South African Chamber of Commerce (UK) calls on members and businesses to support South African SMMEs to help them survive the economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the UK, there is the economic depth for help to be offered to smaller businesses, and help ensure a rapid recovery once the crisis passes. The SA government does not have the means to offer equivalent support.

South Africans abroad are alert to the risks Coronavirus poses to the health of South Africans and to the SA economy, but however eager they may be to help, many are not sure how to do so.

The UK is three weeks ahead of SA in terms of the pandemic, but SA is ahead of the UK in terms of the implementation of measures to prevent the spread of the disease and lessen the economic impact.

The SA Chamber is about membership, it is about providing an environment for networking and learning. Given that we are in lock down and are practicing social distancing, we are doing what we can to prevent the spread of the virus in the UK, but we also need to help our SA colleagues, friends and family understand the importance of reducing the impact on South Africa and its citizens.

The SA Chamber will be moving some of our cancelled events online, bringing them to life in the form of webinars, online social gatherings and support groups where we can share ideas and release some of the pressure of isolation.

The pace of global change at the moment is exponential so we’ll be providing up-to-date links to official sources of information from both countries, particularly in relation to resources available to businesses and their employees to support them through this crisis. We already have a number of useful links here, which we’ll be continuously updating, so please check the website regularly.

The Chamber is calling for members, all UK companies with South African connections and South African business and individuals to support South African SMMEs. Those that are customers, those within supply chains, and those that support local communities – all need to survive to continue to add value to the economy and be able to financially support themselves and their dependents.

Whilst the South African government is setting up some support funds through the Department of Small Business Development, there are a few simple, reliable and effective steps that suppliers, customers and the community can take to support their continued successful existence.

So, how can you help support South African SMMEs?

• Show forbearance and extend longer credit
• Allow for different order sizes, and smaller, more frequent orders

• Pay suppliers in full, on time, as quickly as possible to help their cash flow
• Commit to future work now and pay in advance
• Pay more regularly
• If you have scope, increase capacity to order more

• If SMMEs are integral to your business, your community or yourself, consider what day to day support and help you can provide – help with deliveries, sourcing stock for them etc.
• Work with the SMME community to help them access government or bank funding
• Set up a local fund (a bit like stokvel) to support SMME’s and the most vulnerable
• Work together to bring goods, supplies, food to the vulnerable or needy
• Find work or tasks that others can do for you from their home
• Help all to understand the importance of social distancing

South Africa is thankfully 2-3 weeks behind the UK and the initial strong response from the government will hopefully ensure a better outcome than it could have been. Unfortunately, the SA economy is more vulnerable, a higher percentage of the population fall into the vulnerable category and the social risks are higher. This crisis cannot be ignored, it is not somebody else’s problem.

The SA Chamber encourages members and businesses in the UK and in SA to think specifically about SMME support as one of the most effective and rapid ways of helping make a difference to South Africans in this time of crisis. The world will recover, it is important to protect businesses and communities from failing such that recovery is feasible and rapid.

Please do let us know your stories of how you are providing support and where it has helped. Email us on [email protected] and we will add your stories to future newsletters and put them on our website. Let’s share the caring and care more.

Together we can make a difference.

Sharon Constançon

Previous articleWorking Through the Corona Crisis
Next articleMeet the Winner: SA-UK Trade Award 2019