Not only as South Africans, but as citizens of the world we are currently in the midst of a very difficult and uncertain time with the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The adverse effect of the pandemic has been staggering for numerous countries as well as the global economy, and we are now experiencing the effect on home front as well. Not only are we as South Africans concerned about keeping our loved ones safe and out of harm’s way from a health perspective, but our economy is also bleeding and our informal businesses and small, medium and micro-sized enterprises are experiencing this on the front lines.
Although the spread of the virus through our beautiful country has been accompanied by a lot of negative aspects such as it having been declared a state of national disaster by our President on 15 March 2020 and the fact that all establishments that sell liquor now have to operate under strict new measures in order to keep our citizens safe (not to mention the few who are trying to capitalise on this time by selling hand sanitiser for outrageous prices), a few positives are also seeing the light.
One of these positives is a statement that has been issued by the Minister of Small Business Development on 19 March 2020.The South African government officially launched a debt relief fund and business growth facility to assist small, medium and micro-sized enterprises
during the pandemic and the subsequent economic slowdown that we are currently anticipating.
The aim of the debt relief fund is to provide relief to small, medium and micro-sized enterprises with regards to their existing debts and the repayment thereof. In order to benefit from the debt relief fund, an applicant has to be able to demonstrate a direct link between the impact or potential impact of COVID-19 and its business operations. The debt relief fund will also provide additional interventions such as assisting with the operational costs required to run small, medium and micro-sized enterprises.
The aim of the business growth facility that accompanies the debt relief fund, is to ensure continued participation of smaller businesses in the economy and the supply chains within which they normally operate, especially in respect of smaller businesses that manufacture or supply goods and products that are currently high in demand and under pressure as a result of shortages due to the pandemic. The business growth facility will include interventions such as bridging finance and the provision of working capital based on the needs of such small, medium and micro-sized enterprises during this time.
In order to request assistance, qualifying small, medium and micro-sized enterprises are required to enrol on the official South African SMME platform which can be accessed at www.smmesa.gov.za
. The platform is set to go live on 24 March 2020.
The debt relief fund and business growth facility is only one of the measures that are being introduced to assist the economy during this time. Not only are banks and other business enterprises rallying to offer support and assistance to those in need, but all over South Africa positive messages are being shared and citizens are working together to keep one another informed and to stay vigilant.
It truly warms the heart to see how many rise to the occasion during the difficult times that our country is facing - and that is why #Imstaying.
*In order to qualify as a small, medium and micro-sized enterprises, certain criteria and accompanying thresholds are prescribed by law, which includes the number of employees of the business and the annual turnover of the business, all based on the industry within which the business operates.