Matsi Modise: SMEs are the backbone of the economy

Voices of African women

Matsi Modise: SMEs are the backbone of the economy

Matsi Modise of South Africa is Vice-Chairperson of SiMODiSA and Founding CEO of Furaha Afrika Holdings, a pan-African company with subsidiaries across several sectors. She is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and has won numerous awards for her disruptive work and achievements.

South Africa is the biggest incubator of ideas – people come to South Africa to access its infrastructure, cheap labour and hub location. It is the perfect place to access other African markets, but often with a business registered off-shore.

South Africa needs a plan for itself that leverages our strengths and fortifies our fragile economy. We need to get specific if we want to see South African solutions to global problems.

Currently we have an archaic framework (the Small Business Act of 1996), lack of action and implementation, restrictive Intellectual Property policies and embedded corruption.

With COVID-19, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are in distress and it shows us that we haven’t been investing enough in ensuring a robust economy.

We must create space for the free flow of ideas and collaboration, not a politically-led structure that is entangled with bureaucracy and restrictive regulations.

An ecosystem approach must be future-proof, built bottom up and cantered on the needs of SMEs; where stakeholders across sectors have a shared and vested interest, and understand how they can benefit and contribute.

As it stands, SMEs face barriers of access to market and an ‘old regime’ that doesn’t want to share. We don’t want hand-outs! We don’t need charity, grants and donations facilitated by government. We are delivering value, so SMEs should be seen as investments that will bring return.

We need support in commercialising what we have to offer, policies that allow us to be competitive globally, procurement opportunities and training to equip SMEs to supply consistently.

We start with our strengths: one example is South African fintechs – many SMEs in this space have done exceptionally well, complementing our strong financial services sector and have potential to go international.

At SiMODiSA we support organisations with indigenous solutions and provide access to resources and networks to make it possible for them to participate in building our economy.

We are also coming together with other players to craft a Startup Act for South Africa – a process already a success in Tunisia and Senegal, benefiting those countries with job creation, innovation and collaboration.

A Startup Act would provide the vision, direction and structure needed to make the most of our talent, create jobs and overall, move towards clear outcomes in an intentional manner. 



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