How Machines are Boosting South African Entrepreneurship

Small and medium enterprise businesses in South Africa are receiving a welcome boost thanks to the proliferation of more affordable machinery. In addition, a new grant from the Department of Trade and Industry is helping entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

Entrepreneur on a roll

Toilet paper

Image by vagawi

One of South Africa’s greatest entrepreneurial success stories is that of Shereen Crowie. After working for 20 years at a bank, she felt her career had reached an impasse. She took the plunge and started her own business, manufacturing toilet rolls with the aid of a small, 1.3 metre, second-hand toilet roll making machine. After receiving a grant last year from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) for bigger, better machinery, her company Curviro Trading was transformed. Before the new machine, she was only able to use an expensive type of paper, but with the new machine she can now produce her goods at a lower cost and compete more effectively in the marketplace.

Building blocks


Image by marc falardeau

Hydraform supplies affordable brick manufacturing machines. It has helped many small, medium and micro enterprises, or SMMEs, establish themselves. One example is Tshemo ye Lehlabula, who, after hearing about the grants available from SEDA, jumped at the opportunity to begin his own business. With a grant approved and capital in hand, he purchased a Hydraform block machine and began supplying bricks and building materials for constructing low-cost housing. Today his business is thriving, thanks in large part to the manufacturing capacity of the machinery.

Armour entrepreneur

Riot Police

Image by Achifaifa

After being handed down her father’s machinery for manufacturing protective equipment such as riot shields, gas masks and body armour, Louisa Garland-Els opted to go the entrepreneurial route. She founded a company called Imperial Armour in 2000, and taught herself how to operate the machinery. After some early struggles to keep the business running, a chance meeting at the Japanese embassy resulted in a R500,000 order for protective gear. From that point on, orders from Zambia, Tanzania and the Middle East, as well as from within South Africa, began rolling in.

SEDA’s incentive

Job creation in South Africa, which has a 38% unemployment rate, is essential. Providing entrepreneurs with proper incentives is one key to creating new businesses and employment opportunities. Entrepreneurs need passion, education, motivation and tenacity – but these may amount to little unless they can obtain the funds to get things going.

Dependent on the approval of a business plan, SEDA will provide an entrepreneur with non-financial business development support, for example by investing in industrial machinery that the entrepreneur needs.

In addition, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) channels contributions to South African SMMEs for the sustainable growth of industry.

With these incentives and aid programs in place, it can be hoped that we’ll soon see a boom in the registration and growth of local businesses, aided by modern, efficient machinery.

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