For a segment of the economy that is expected to create close to 10-million jobs by 2030, it is disconcerting how little we still know about small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in SA. To date, no baseline study has been done on SMEs — which means most of our policies have relied on some element of thumb suck. The Small Business Institute (SBI) has taken up the challenge, spending R1.5m of a total estimated requirement of R7m to try and paint a comprehensive picture of this crucial segment of the economy, in order to better inform legislators. According to the National Development Plan, SMEs should create 90% of the new jobs needed to bring unemployment to 6% by 2030. Yet the initial findings of the SBI study, released last week, highlighted a number of disconcerting facts. First, SA’s SME sector is much, much smaller than originally thought, consisting of only about 250,000 businesses — a fragment of previous estimates that were as high as 6-million. Second, SMEs employ far fe...

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