African Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development

October 13, 2017
Exclusive interview with MARC

Unemployment is one of the most important challenges facing the poor people in our country. This has been made worse by the fact that over the last two decades, the formal economy (especially mining) has been shedding jobs and many workers were retrenched. Furthermore, every year hundreds of thousands of new job seekers (the vast majority of them youth) join the army of unemployed.

It is accepted worldwide that the development and growth of small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) can play an important role in turning this situation around. Policies and programmes to support the development of SMMEs are therefore an important part of the democratic government’s programmes to create a better life.

A strategy was outlined in a White paper by the Department of Trade and Industry (the lead department for SMME development) entitled: “A National Strategy for the Development of Small Business in South Africa (May 1995)”. A year later, the National Small Business Act was passed by Parliament, which provided for the institutions to implement this strategy.

  1. Description of Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMME’s)

The National Small Business Act divides SMMEs into the following categories:

Category of SMME


Survivalist enterprises

Operates in the informal sector of the economy.
Mainly undertaken by unemployed persons.
Income generated below the poverty line, providing minimum means to keep the unemployed and their families alive.
Little capital invested, not much assets.
Not much training.
Opportunities for growing the business very small.

Micro enterprises

Between one to five employees, usually the owner and family.
Informal - no license, formal business premises, labour legislation
Turnover below the VAT registration level of R300 000 per year.
Basic business skills and training
Potential to make the transition to a viable formal small business.

Very small enterprise

Part of the formal economy, use technology
Less than 10 paid employees
Include self-employed artisans (electricians, plumbers) and professionals.

Small enterprise

Less than 100 employees
More established than very small enterprises, formal and registered, fixed business premises.
Owner managed, but more complex management structure

Medium enterprise

Up to 200 employees
Still mainly owner managed, but decentralised management structure with division of labour
Operates from fixed premises with all formal requirements.

Note: Women represent approximately 56 percent of the survivalist company category, 38 percent of micro-enterprises with no employees, and 15 percent of micro-enterprises with 1-4 employees.

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