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Opinion Piece: e-commerce solutions are required support impactful MSME development

One of the pain points in corporate procurement practices is the inability to find suitable, credible and qualified small businesses to support. SEDA’s Supplier Development Programme Research Report indicated that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) struggle with financial issues like late payments and cash flow; while corporates have concerns about the reliability, sustainability and quality of MSME suppliers.

Since the inception of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE), there has been a surge in the number of B-BBEE verification agencies and Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) consultants. The main offerings from these agencies and consultants assist corporates to meet their B-BBEE score, specifically under ESD. With ESD making up 40% of the B-BBEE scorecard, ESD is where South African businesses want to be compliant. In their rush, and sometimes nonchalance to get their points, common mistakes are made. This creates missed opportunities to make a real impact.

In our 10 years in operation, we have experienced different forms of both MSME and corporate client needs. We confirm that these needs are changing. They are taking on their own complexities as the definition of social and economic impacts change. Because of their ability to employ more people, MSMEs are the economy’s bedrock. South Africa’s 5.78 million micro, small and medium enterprises employ about half of the country’s workforce and contribute to around 34% of gross domestic product. It is important to support MSMEs with the cooperation of government and corporates.

Fast forward to two years after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and the business landscape, and survival and resilience tactics across all industries has changed. This demands digital solutions. The ESD space is no different. The digitisation of enablement tools, solutions, and platforms is providing smarter ways to achieve integration and efficiency in implementation.[i] Corporations can no longer ignore the need to:

  1. digitise their solutions
  2. demand digital solutions from their alliances
  3. provide digital technologies to support small businesses.

The rising development and application of technology is increasingly showing potential to revolutionise the MSME sector. This means that ESD business and consultants must adapt and grow along with the MSMEs.

ESD programmes are necessary because MSMEs struggle to access large corporate supply chains and find working with large corporates difficult once they do (IFC, 2018)[ii]. The future of ESD must become less cluttered with static and generic support interventions. ESD must become more accessible, approachable, and agile to drive impact for both private companies and MSMEs.

The missed opportunity in the ESD space is appropriately servicing the “small” corporate*. Corporates feel intimidated by red tape and the requirements of finding and supporting small businesses, and fall prey to growing despondency with signing blank cheques with no real view of who is supported, the implemented business support, and the benefit that is derived from their investment in the beneficiary.

It is for this reason that we, Zevoli Growth Partners, an ESD project management company has responded with an on-demand, quick-win, and impact driven turnkey solution: our e-commerce platform called Shared Impact.

With this e-commerce solution, Zevoli Growth Partners aims to service mid-sized companies that are committed to supporting small businesses but who have two key problems:

  • An ESD budget that would otherwise be considered as small in comparison to a large corporate
  • Required swift turnaround times, quick-win interventions, and impact

The SharedImpact provides a dual purpose and benefit for both the investor and MSME:

Investor/funder benefit

MSME benefit

Own budget

Directly linked to funder

Support MSMEs within their environment, or others, with an understanding of their needs

Access to coaches with an understanding of your business needs

Constant and accurate reporting to record and reflect on impact

Rapid understanding of business needs

The peace of mind of seamlessly contributing and being provided with the required supporting documents to ensure that full Enterprise Development points will be recognized when they undergo their annual B-BBEE verification process gains

Added onto onto Linkage and made visible to more corporates creating the potential to showcase products and services to new and prospective clients

The comfort and peace of mind of knowing that their Enterprise Development spend is benefitting a vetted and credible MSME

Access to a comprehensive level of targeted Business Development Support services that are fit for purpose

In our ongoing effort to digitise and bring MSMEs closer to investors, our sister company Linkage is a key enabler in finding, assessing, developing, and monitoring beneficiaries on ESD Programmes. Linkage is an integrated, cloud-based digital platform that facilitates seamless collaboration and transparency between stakeholders to diversify supply chains and small business development. Linkage links MSME suppliers with corporate buyers in a large, virtual, curated marketplace. Linkage provides the added value of grading MSMEs to assess their compliance status against their procurement readiness, the ability to track MSME progress, and the ability to search for MSMEs across different industries and commodities.

The launch of the Zevoli Shared Impact breaks into the market with four packages:

  1. Beginner to Forerunner: end-to end solution from MSME identification to business development support
  2. Gap to Success: assessment and confirmation of business gaps and priority areas with business development support
  3. Pivot Package: quick-win business development support to close gaps in a short timeframe
  4. Asset enablement: acquisition and support of critical business assets for success

Our advocacy for shared value and shared growth between MSMEs and corporates lives throughout the DNA of the company, and we continue to make an effort to package and present our offerings to reflect this conviction. MSMEs are the bedrock of any economy. With overwhelming research detailing the failure of MSMEs and with the digital revolution picking up pace,  there is a strong obligation for corporates to support MSMEs impactfully, sustainably within budget and quickly. Zevoli’s Shared Impact has launched right on time.