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SMMEs are set to drive a just transition and boost job creation

The International Labor Organisation’s data indicates that small to medium sized enterprises (SMMEs) account for a staggering 70% of employment worldwide.

These stats were revealed by Cecelia Kok, head of research and advocacy projects- Friedrich Naumann Foundation, during a digital dialogue themed Green entrepreneurship as driver for change, hosted by South African-based sector development agency, GreenCape.

Kok said the importance of focusing on jobs in South Africa just cannot be overstated, adding that “right now we sit with an expanded unemployment rate, which includes discouraged work-seekers, which sits at 43%”.

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Economic transformation

SMMEs sector

Like most sectors, SMMEs have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The digital dialogue convened to emphasise the importance of growing green SMMEs in South Africa in order to boost job creation.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, GreenCape in partnership with the EU delegation in South Africa embarked on a resilience journey with 12 South African green SMMEs.

These businesses received financial support during the COVID-19 lockdown through the green outcomes fund, stated Claire Pengelly, programme manager for GreenCape Water & Sustainable Agriculture, who also participated in the digital dialogue.

Pengelly said the support was not only to assist these businesses through the pandemic but also to evaluate going forward what are the key policy instruments that would be most effective and impactful in ensuring the survival of green SMMEs.

Kok cited research conducted by the Small Business Institute, which states that in South Africa SMMEs provide 28% of jobs creation. “This research was done before the pandemic hits, that number is likely to have sunken since then. We really need to create the right enabling environment,” urged Kok.

She added that “there is a lot of scope for growth in the SMME sector. The growth of the SMME sector stands to benefit low skilled and unskilled workers and such individuals actually make up a large proportion of the unemployed in South Africa.”

Green economy potential

According to Kok, there is an international consensus that the green economy is where there will be growth post-COVID-19. She said green entrepreneurs through a decentralised and market driven approach have an opportunity to deliver a just transition.

“They stand to change society’s relationship with natural resources and the environment in ways that don’t just benefit the planet, but also people’s livelihoods. So in a nutshell, the green economy is definitely just a no brainer, socially, economically, and environmentally,” said Kok.

In conclusion, Pengelly announced that the GreenCape has launched a green pitch challenge. She encouraged eligible businesses to apply before the closing date on the 27th of November.

“We are looking for green economy innovations. You need to be positioned within the green economy, please refer to some of the investment opportunities that are highlighted and published in our market intelligence reports.”

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Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.