Bay chamber, ECDC partnership reaches historic 10-year milestone Bay chamber, ECDC partnership reaches historic 10-year milestone
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and Eastern Cape Development Corporation’s Enterprise Development Programme has reached a historic milestone. It marks 10 years of... Bay chamber, ECDC partnership reaches historic 10-year milestone

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and Eastern Cape Development Corporation’s Enterprise Development Programme has reached a historic milestone. It marks 10 years of empowering micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Eastern Cape since its inception in 2014.

The programme underscores commitment to supporting entrepreneurship to drive economic development and job creation. It has also been pivotal in fostering growth, sustainability and innovation within the province’s business landscape.

Over the past decade, it has benefitted 218 businesses over eight cohorts. To ensure the businesses are sustainable, a baseline assessment was conducted to evaluate business progress and development after graduating from the programme, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 virus and the subsequent lockdown consequence, which had devastating effects on business.

The results showed that 162 businesses were still operational, while others had ceased operating due to various factors. Therefore, a decision was taken to support these 162 MSMEs further to ensure they are sustainable and growing and creating employment opportunities in an economy characterised by slow economic growth and high unemployment.

“As per the project implementation plan, the ED programme was twofold. Firstly, it offered group workshops at the Chamber and via virtual platforms. The sessions were designed to equip the participants with critical knowledge and skills necessary for business growth and sustainability. Secondly, it offered one-on-one business needs analysis and advisory support wherein appointed service providers dived deeper into each business to identify challenges and gaps and developed SMART goals with each MSME,” says Chamber chief executive Denise van Huyssteen.  

In the 2023/24 financial period, the programme has enrolled and supported 54 MSMEs who operate in the service sector. The largest proportion of the participants are from the events, conferencing and catering industry, followed by the consulting service industry (19%), transport and logistics (17%), training and development (17%), cleaning services (11%), health and fitness (4%) and ICT (1%).

Through the programme, the MSMEs have created 73 employment opportunities and secured nine contracts with various medium—and large-sized companies; four have moved into new operational premises; seven have secured funding for their growth and sustainability; and 10 have reported increases in their sales/revenue as a result of refining their business strategies, models, better communication, and advertising.

“Entrepreneurship is by no means an easy path to pursue. But through out of the box thinking, perseverance and adopting an agile approach – and building resilience – it is possible to create something new or to fill a gap. In fact, there is always opportunity out of this crisis,” she says. 

“We are willing to collaborate with whoever does the right thing and puts our local economy and its people first. On this score, I would like to thank the ECDC for their partnership on enterprise development.”

ECDC senior manager for entrepreneurship and business support Mpumi Fundam says the enterprise development programme is critical to addressing the sustainability and competitiveness of small businesses. It also falls within the ECDC’s goal of promoting the profitability of small enterprises with job creation as the ultimate product of these initiatives.

“When the ECDC initiated the programme, it contacted the Chamber because it has the necessary ecosystem to support enterprise development. In seeking to address the skills gap and the business acumen of small businesses, the Chamber partnership became a logical collaboration as it presented an ideal opportunity to link small businesses with big businesses that form part of its membership.

“The partnership creates another market access platform because big businesses can become a customer base for emerging entrepreneurs. The intention is to help these small businesses grow and prepare them for the ECDC’s funding instruments and incentives, among other things. This intervention is, therefore, significant as it addresses the weaknesses that lead to small business failure in the first three years,” says Fundam.

Antoinette Panton

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