Nomawethu Mampho Sotshongaye a beneficiary of the Eskom enterprise development programme applauded the power supplier’s efforts to empower the small business sector and urged fellow entrepreneurs to pursue the opportunities presented by Eskom.
Sotshongaye, a graduate of Eskom’s Contractor Academy in 2017, participated in, and was the crowned overall winner of, Eskom’s Business Investment Competition (BIC) in 2020; she took home R300,000 in prize money. Her Western-Cape-based company, Golden Rewards 1981, operates in vegetation management and road maintenance, employing over 50 people.
Sotshongaye, who reinvested her BIC prize money in her businesses by securing bigger office space, encouraged entrepreneurs to seize the opportunity and participate in Eskom’s enterprise development programmes such as the Business Investment Competition, Business Connect, and the Eskom Contractor Academy, among others. “I want to emphasise to fellow entrepreneurs how important it is to deliver. When you are given an opportunity, comply and ensure that you commit yourself to fulfilling your contractual obligations,” she advised.
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In conversation with André de Ruyter, Eskom CEO
This was during an enterprise development business webinar held in September. The Trialogue webinar, presented in partnership with the Eskom Development Foundation, focused on how big businesses could leverage their corporate social investment (CSI) to help support the development and growth of small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs), particularly through these challenging times of COVID-19.
Attended by non-profit organisations, CSI practitioners, big business, SMMEs, government, consultants, and academics, the hour-long webinar panel comprised the Eskom Development Foundation CEO, Cecil Ramonotsi, Nomawethu Sotshongaye as Eskom’s enterprise development case study, and Kevin Stroud, supply chain manager at Sibanye-Stillwater.
A survey conducted by Trialogue in 2020 with a number of companies showed that around 35% of the organisations supported small enterprises through CSI interventions, with an average of 5% of their CSI budgets for 2020 having been channelled to SMMEs.
Trialogue Director, Cathy Duff, who facilitated the webinar, gave an overview of the current SMME landscape and said: “SMEs represent over 98% of South Africa’s businesses and employ around 60% of the country’s workforce. The sector was badly impacted by the pandemic, with reports of around 19% of SMEs having closed down in 2020.”
Supporting this sentiment, Sotshongaye added: “As small businesses, our major barriers are access to finance, cash flow, and access to markets. These challenges have unfortunately worsened with COVID-19, and many small businesses did not survive the past year. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who participated in Eskom’s enterprise development programmes whose businesses are going strong amid the bleak economy. I can attest that without the funding and capacity building we all received from Eskom, our businesses would be among those that shut down over the past year.”
She also commented that women in business are still marginalised and overlooked in opportunities, “while our male counterparts continue to enjoy a bigger piece of the pie. I have been in business close to a decade, yet this challenge remains my reality.”
The Eskom Development Foundation CEO said that the Foundation had been active for more than two decades in initiatives that benefitted grassroots communities across a range of activities; “Going forward, Eskom will drive partnerships with government and other public sector entities to maximise on budgets and ensure a good return on investment on our programmes. To realise impact, sustainability, and future growth, there must be a structured, integrated, and unfragmented approach in delivering our CSI efforts for better value both internally and externally.”