The first International Small Business Congress held in Africa was a resounding success. This was said by the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Elizabeth Thabethe. She was speaking today during the closing ceremony of the 37th Congress which took place at the Sandton Convention Centre, in Johannesburg from Sunday. More than 700 delegates attended the Congress which was held under the theme “Fostering small business in new and high-potential industries worldwide.”
“Entrepreneurs that attended the congress from different parts of the world, spent three days sharing ideas, best practices and experiences which I have no doubt will result in improvement in the way Small Medium Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) are run, supported and developed in various countries. Issues raised at the conference are common in most parts of the world, and the solutions that have been proposed by various speakers will go a long way in assisting us address the challenges that SMMEs have to contend with,” said Thabethe.
Thabethe said although access to finance was one of the issues that dominated discussions at the Congress, the biggest problem in a country like South Africa was the requirements that entrepreneurs have to meet whenever they apply for funding. Some of them do not suit the SMMEs who end up not accessing finance due to the stringent requirements that disadvantage them.
The President of the International Small Business Congress, Ms Catherine Swift from Canada, expressed satisfaction that South Africa hosted a successful and exciting congress, much to the delight of all the delegates. She described the Congress as “wonderful and memorable.”
She added that there were numerous issues that were highlighted by delegates who shared experiences and ideas from different parts of the world. These include the recognition of the critical and enormous role that entrepreneurs play as a driver of the economy in both the developing and developed countries.
“But more importantly, it was becoming clear from delegates that entrepreneurs have started to realise that the SMME sector has significantly become a driver of the movement from entitlement to empowerment. SMMEs contribute significantly to job creation, wealth creation and poverty reduction. We have learnt so much from each over the last few days and I’m optimistic that the only way forward for entrepreneurs that have been here is to grow their enterprises by implementing all the things that they have learnt here,” added Swift.
The Congress closed with the announcement that the Chief Executive Officer of the Small Enterprise Development Agency, Ms Hlonela Lupuwana has been appointed the Vice President of the International Small Business Congress, as well as a proposal that 2013 should be declared the International Year of Entrepreneurs.