The City of Cape Town has provided financial aid and business support services to more than 1500 local SMMEs and entrepreneurs via its Business Support Voucher Programme, amongst others.
The programme is designed to "create an environment that will enable entrepreneurs to overcome the formidable barriers of entry into the world of business," says Mansoor Mohamed, the Executive Director for Economic, Social Development and Tourism.
"The voucher programme is aligned to the City's business support strategy, which is aimed at facilitating economic growth and creating an enabling environment for businesses, leading to more jobs for the people of Cape Town. The aim is to create more business so that business can create more jobs, during the difficult economic conditions," explains Cllr Simon Grindrod, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Social Development and Tourism.
Since its inception, the programme has grown steadily. In a report tabled before the City's Portfolio Committee for Economic & Social Development, it was noted that a total of 1 507 business vouchers valued at R3, 2 million had been issued by the end of January 2008. Over the last three financial years, the City has allocated R4,2 million to the programme.
With an estimated 60 000 SMMEs in Cape Town, there is scope for growth. Interested SMMEs, including existing and potential entrepreneurs, can approach The Business Place in the city centre, the Red Door facilities in Atlantis, Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, and the Mobile Red Door for help in identifying their needs and referral to accredited business consultants. Although the programme is implemented by the Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas (CASIDRA), the vouchers are issued by the agencies, which also provide support services, including assistance with feasibility studies, business plans, business 'health checks' and business mentoring. The City's Economic & Human Development Department is reviewing ways to expand the current services on offer.
"What is most encouraging is that business support voucher recipients have used the business skills they have acquired to successfully apply for loans from commercial banks," comments Mohamed. He says that capital of over R5 million has been secured from financial institutions by voucher recipients with innovative and creative business ideas.
The City of Cape Town is the first local authority in South Africa to launch this type of programme.