Eco-inclusive Dialogue Forum for Small and Medium Enterprises to enhance service provision in South Africa

The Eco-Inclusive Dialogue was Organized by SEED on 26 July 2017 at the Protea Hotel-Fire and Ice in Menlyn, Pretoria, South Africa.

The Eco-Inclusive Dialogue Forum consisted of two sessions highlighting interactive discussions and the peer learning market place. The multilateral discussions served as an interactive platform to explore partnerships and solutions for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), in particular eco-inclusive enterprises. BDS Providers used the BDS marketplace to present their service portfolios to the SEED Replicator participants, seeking inspiration from proven and replicable business models. The replicator participants used the BDS marketplace to establish contact with BDS Providers to unlock solutions to their business needs. Furthermore, SEED Replicator participants will continue to be supported by the BDS Providers for an additional month.

How does Eco-Inclusive Dialogue promote entrepreneurship for sustainable development?

The engaging Eco-Inclusive Dialogue Forum brought together about 30 key stakeholders from business, civil society, and government. The Eco-Inclusive Dialogue was Organized by SEED on 26 July 2017 at the Protea Hotel-Fire and Ice in Menlyn, Pretoria, South Africa. The various stakeholders included Business Development Service (BDS) Providers, SEED Replicator Connect Workshop participants, and representatives from various government agencies such as the Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Small Business Development, Small Enterprise Development Agency, Industrial Development Corporation, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, REEDiSA, Conservation South Africa, Tradelane, African Olive Trading 191 and Catalyst for Growth just to mention a few. The Dialogue Forum enabled partnerships and showcased inspirational, replicable business models to promote new business solutions for green growth and sustainable development in South Africa.

The Eco-Inclusive Dialogue Forum follows continued efforts to promote entrepreneurship for sustainable development which result from the implementation of two country-wide and multi-country projects, namely “Building an Ecosystem for Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship in South Africa, with a focus on Limpopo, KwaZulu Natal and Free State” supported by the Government of Flanders, and “Promoting Eco-Entrepreneurship in Africa”, a SWITCH Africa Green project in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Uganda.

What challenges do eco-inclusive SMEs face?

The multilateral discussion highlighted a few challenges which eco-inclusive SMEs face. These challenges included access to finance and market penetration. The participants, including governmental agencies, noted that even though national actors such as Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA) and Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) have funding allocated to enterprise support, channels to access the support lack visibility and accessibility

Another obstacle to the wide distribution of funds is posed by a lack of evaluation and monitoring systems, resulting in only a few SMEs receiving funds from many donors. Improved coordination process to ensure government resources such as the Enterprise Supply Development (ESD) distribute funds evenly would grant more SMEs access to capacity building and financial assistance.

The eco-inclusive Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) raised another concern that BDS Providers tend to promote themselves more than the enterprises. Some discrepancies between the services offered and services provided also served as challenges for SMEs. Renewed focus towards skill transfer from BDS Providers will empower enterprises to reach self-sufficiency in their business development processes. Another concern for SMEs was acquiring sufficient funding for post-proof of concept enterprises and for pilot project funding. It was concluded in the Dialogue Forum that more funding in this area would limit the number of failed businesses.

What challenges do BDS Providers face?

Lack of regulation on BDS Provision seems to the reason behind concerns raised by the enterprises, hence the urgency for a development of a BDS Standard. Ongoing professional education is necessary for BDS Providers to remain ahead of emerging business development trends and for them to enable eco-inclusive initiatives to balance the triple bottom line (TBL), make profits, and operate sustainably. BDS Providers also need clarity about enterprise goals and a willingness to pay for their business services.  

BDS Providers must work on establishing meaningful partnerships with donors and entrepreneurs. A concerning challenge for BDS Providers is that, they sometimes get assigned non-sector aligned clients by organizations, potentially resulting in a lack of in-depth knowledge and expertise in the clients’ core business. This can result in an enormous time investment towards research, ultimately slowing down the support timeline.

Eco-Inclusive Dialogue Forum draws to an end

BDS providers contracted during our Eco-inclusive Dialogue Forum expressed their enthusiasm towards working with the eco-inclusive enterprises during the support phase. Event participants believe that holding similar dialogues regularly will contribute to building good relationships with various stakeholders and will also help improve the provision of good business services.  The Replicator Connect Workshop participants expressed their appreciation and gratitude for a much-needed support to help develop and refine their adopted eco-inclusive business models.  We believe that the replicator connect workshop participants will benefit from this initiative and support.  We are excited about the upcoming replicator connect workshops and the next eco inclusive dialogue forum for the new participants.

Mr. Rensie van Rensburg who supported Tiisetso Sylvia Khabele, one of the replicator adopters, was very happy with the opportunity to support an eco-inclusive enterprise. He said:

We enjoyed working with Tiisetso and hope that we have been able to make some contribution to enable her to progress on the Replicator path with SEED... The biggest benefit for us was the opportunity to refine our “toolbox” of support instruments for entrepreneurs like Tiisetso and to embark a little bit on the “toolification” approach that SEED is also pursuing. Thanks for the opportunity to work with you on launching socio-environmental entrepreneurs into the future!