Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV
Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV

A key role of the state is to protect the wellbeing of its people — most importantly and visibly during emergencies such as the recent outbreak of the Covid-19. However, amid the growing uncertainty and the fiscal weakness that SA finds itself in, the state is unable to do enough to support industry and preserve consumer spending power.

“From spending on health care to stimulus packages to fund business continuity, the government has its task cut out for it, and without the support of our smart and well-managed private sector, there is not much hope of recovery,” said Peter Bruce during a panel discussion on recovery strategies for struggling supply chains post-Covid, hosted as part of the Absa Business Day Supplier Development Dialogue Series, presented by Fetola, Cold Press Media and Arena Holdings.

Watch the full discussion below:

“It is predicted that government debt will rise to 80.5% of GDP in this fiscal year. Without being able to cut debt, lend money elsewhere, realise significant savings or literally print money, the government’s role in softening the economic impact of Covid-19 is severely hamstrung,” said the former editor-in-chief of Business Day and Financial Mail.

“SMEs and the industrial sector have, and will, continue to be hardest hit,” said David McGluwa, head of department: small business finance and regions for the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).

A dramatic and sudden loss of revenue for SMEs severely affects their ability to function, and/or causes severe liquidity shortages. Considering the limited resources of SMEs, and existing obstacles in accessing capital, the period over which SMEs can survive the shock is more restricted than for larger firms. To help business weather the storm, the state has funded a R500bn stimulus package, and functional state entities such as the IDC have made a R3bn funding package available to support industrial businesses directly affected by the pandemic.

The IDC has also established a fund for essential suppliers to assist the medical fraternity with goods, services and PPE, as well as  launching the Small Business Manufacturing Fund, which is offered at prime minus 3%.

But this is not enough.

Without partnerships between the public and private sectors, the opportunity to rebuild the economy will be lost, agreed fellow panellists Vusi Fele, Absa chief procurement officer, and Barbara Copelovici, SAB entrepreneurship manager.

Deloitte pointed out, in a recent publication “Recovering from Covid-19 — considering economic scenarios for resilient leaders,” that decisions businesses make in the near term will drive how companies sustain themselves in the long term. Leaders need to take decisive action to soften the shocks we know are still coming as they prepare for what may change in the months ahead.

So how do we do this? Panellists suggested that while times are challenging, supplier development presents a golden opportunity to develop resilience in supply chains and strengthen ecosystems through partnerships between the public and private sector as well as to corporates and small suppliers, that will deliver long-term benefits for all.

It starts with the development of a deliberate supplier development strategy, that aims to bolster small supplier resilience and bridge the divide.

Nine strategic imperatives were identified that draw on three levers, namely linkages, support and finance.

Linkages are a way to leverage network capital, often at no cost to the corporate:

  • build solid partnerships with suppliers and support them in preparing for a competitive future;
  • enable collaborative market access opportunities by referral of suppliers to other companies; and
  • help suppliers to discover other networks and rebuild connections with former networks.

Access to finance, both relief funding and catalytic growth finance, are critical:

  • share information with suppliers about funding relief schemes and offer support to access these by improving investment-readiness capabilities; and
  • take equity in value-adding small businesses in your supply chain but have an exit strategy to reduce long-term dependency.

Support in forms of non-financial assistance is also key:

  • help small suppliers to pivot and build lean, agile and resilient operations that can compete in global and local markets;
  • support skills development — upskilling, multiskilling, and reskilling to prepare for the future;
  • stratify support to match different growth stages of a business (from, start-up to business maturity, growth and beyond); and 
  • commit to local procurement and support small manufacturers on the supply-and-demand side.

“This crisis is an opportunity to improve efficiency and competitiveness,” said moderator Catherine Wijnberg, CEO of Fetola.

“Now is the time for a deliberate strategy of strengthening our local ecosystem with meaningful collaboration within and between sectors, and with government. The sooner we realise we are in this together, the quicker our turnaround will be.”

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