4th Annual Soweto Conference on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development

Encouraging Business Communities to Engage with Township Environment to Create Sustainable Development

The Centre for Small Business Development (CSBD), an outreach centre of the Faculty of Management at University of Johannesburg (UJ), will host the Fourth Annual Soweto Conference on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development this month. The conference, to be held from 28-30 October 2013 at the UJ Soweto Campus, looks to engage Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in previously disadvantaged communities to create vibrant and sustainable township economies.

The theme of the conference for this year is “Turning Tangible and Intangible Assets and Resources in Townships into Business Opportunities”. Says Ms Moipone Molotsi, Director of CSBD: “We hope this year’s event will convince the township community to start engaging with their own environment and explore the opportunities they have available to them already.”

The conference is sponsored by the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Seta (Merseta), the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP), and the University of Johannesburg (UJ). It is expected to attract students, small business owners, as well as academics, government representatives and leaders in small business development.

“With over 600 delegates anticipated, we want to make sure we meet every expectation,” she says. “The conference will present academic papers and insights based on research. We will give voice to SMMEs who have gone through different developmental stages in business and get input from practice-leaders, who will inform businesses of opportunities that are available and developmental programmes that may be accessed going forward,” she added.

The Fourth Annual Soweto Conference on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development promises an information-rich programme. The opening of this much-anticipated conference will feature a keynote address by Gauteng Premier, Ms Nomvula Paula Mokonyane, as well as a presentation on Technology and SMMEs by Mr Stafford Masie, Technology Futurist and Entrepreneur.

Day One of the conference programme includes training on Sales and Marketing, as well as Financial Management. In its objective to develop SMMEs, UJ’s CSBD looks at mentoring small businesses in these areas, as well as looking at infrastructure and skills development. A training session on the need for technological innovation in the sector is also scheduled.

A highlight of the day will be a session on how broad-based BEE and procurement will influence small business in the future. “We’re proud to have sponsor Merseta be a part of this session,” she says. “In the private sector today, it is not about the sum invested in an empowerment programme, but about the measurable difference it makes within a community. With the changes to the BB-BEE codes, we hope to see a change in the landscape of investment—as these codes will push companies to look at the outcomes of the work that they do.”

There will also presentations from SMMEs on their journeys in small business, unpacking the challenges and inspiring delegates with their success stories. “We often hear stories of success and believe these achievements happened over night,” she says. “It helps to understand the process behind the story, to hear that others overcame start-up challenges. These journeys will inspire others not to lose hope,” she added.

On Day Two, a highlight is a plenary session that will examine lessons from Agribusiness and the Green Economy, with speakers from South Africa, Kenya and Israel sharing their experiences in this field. As an agricultural example, Ms Molotsi sites the various pockets of vacant land available in townships. “Traditionally, township people think agriculture happens on a farm away from urban areas,” she says. “We want to stimulate the township community to start to see themselves as food producers, that the vacant land could be used for agriculture. It is about changing mind sets.”

Day Three of the conference will look at funding available in the procurement process from the viewpoint of procurers and suppliers. “We believe government has created an enabling environment for small business in terms of tax breaks, services, and available funding,” she says. “The conference will deal with how to prepare people to take on these opportunities. We need to educate potential entrepreneurs and business develops on the steps they need to secure funding and other available resources.”

Furthermore, she believes that funding institutions and developmental programmes need to be more active in their involvement with communities. “We need to look at the way we design and provide programmes for SMMEs,” Ms Molotsi says. “We should aim to engage government about the requirements needed grow the country’s economy in terms of SMME development.”

South Africa needs a focused structure to make these programmes work more efficiently, she explains. “There is often a scattered focus between government, educational institutions and private companies in terms of SMME development,” she says. “We should investigate a structure that pulls everyone together and gives every initiative focus, especially in terms of the delivery of the programmes for small business.”

UJ’s Faculty of Management and its CSBD is an incubator for these programmes and strategies, there to assist small businesses after the conference. The centre also provides continuous and professional development programmes. These include a Small Business Enrichment Programme, which teaches business management skills to entrepreneurs; a Co-Operative Programme, which shows how to start and run co-ops; and a Computer Programme, which teaches necessary computer skills needed to run a business.

“We hope the conference will convince the township community to start engaging with their own environment and with CSBD,” Ms Molotsi says. “We want them to see the opportunities they already have and utilise our resources to grow their businesses in the township,” she concluded.

For further information about the Centre for Small Business Development and the Fourth Annual Soweto Conference on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development, visit www.csbd.co.za

Follow the 4th Annual Soweto Conference on Twitter: @UJCSBD

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