The Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Pretoria (UP) has launched a National SMME Support Portal (NSSP).
The portal was established to support and enhance small business continuity in South Africa during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The portal offers free professional services and resources online, with all the automated functionality needed to fulfil its objectives.
More than 320 professionals are already offering their valuable and specialised services for free on a weekly basis.
The announcement of the enhanced launch of the NSSP comes after the release of the results of the Wave 2 survey conducted by Stats SA on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment and income in South Africa.
According to the survey, which was conducted between 29 April and 6 May, almost nine in ten (89,5%) of those who were employed before the lockdown remained employed during the lockdown, while 8,1% reported that they lost their jobs or had to close their businesses, and 1,4% became unemployed.
Professor Alex Antonites, a member of the Centre for Entrepreneurship’s steering committee, said they felt it was important to contribute towards the efforts to rescue the country’s economy.
“We believe small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), a sector already in distress, will show very high failure rates in the short and medium term due to the impact of COVID-19,” Prof Antonites said. “Our economy can’t afford further failure, as a significant section of our GDP is driven by the SMME sector – not to mention its role in job creation. We saw it fitting for the Centre for Entrepreneurship to dedicate the knowledge and expertise we have to work towards assisting SMMEs to recover from the damage caused by the pandemic.”
He added that the services that SMMEs would benefit from include: a general chatroom to help ease the burden of social distancing through online proximity; professional counselling services that will be provided by UP alumni and will cover a variety of areas, from psychological distress to HR specialists; strategy consultants; digital marketing and communication specialists; technical assistance in establishing an online presence; a distress test to determine strategic and operational risk areas; professional assistance in turnaround strategies and business model innovation during and after COVID-19; and a resource room that will be filled with links to relevant free business e-books and literature, business templates, free software and applications useful to enhance business productivity.
With SMMEs being especially in need of funding support to get through this crisis, Prof. Antonites said the portal will also work to provide this. “The portal could serve as a preliminary selection tool for funders, providing comprehensive information and guidance on all the new financial resources formed to assist entrepreneurs during these times.”
Webinars and training covering an array of short and relevant topics will also be made available during the pandemic.
The SMME portal is proudly hosted and developed by the Department of Library Services’ Digital Systems and Services Unit.
The portal can be accessed by any registered SMME in South Africa. In order to register to gain access to the free services of the the National SMME Support Portal (NSSP), visit smmeportal.up.ac.za.