It is argued that poorly strategized Enterprise Development (ED) has had limited impact in South Africa, and in some respects and certain contexts, this may be true. But if we recognise ED as an essential tool through which to develop our economy, we must look to fix the problem areas, and essentially commit to it as a strategic national issue; one that encompasses economic, social, governmental and private sectors.

Facilitate access to markets

Successful ED is really about a lot more than providing money for previously disadvantaged SMME ventures. Enterprise Development as a concept is in large part about facilitating access to markets, and developing business skills with which to navigate those markets.

For example, by developing SMME’s, large corporates are potentially developing their own supply chains, their own skills bases, and their own socio-economic impacts. This entails more than donating money, but actually seeking to thread the benefiting enterprises into larger operations as well.

Expand your reach

The same can be said even for non-profits and social programmes and their engagement with ED. Where ED is a strategized component of a not-for-profit operation, it makes sense that engaging in ED expands the reach of that organisation, and its social efficacy as a result.

Provides employment

Enterprise Development should ideally be built into the very fabric of the country and its education and social system. Here in SA, SMMEs are providing the vast majority of the country’s employment – around 60% - and around 45% of the GDP. It makes sense that education and social programmes that focus on ED on a large scale are really a strategy for potential economic growth.

Engage all stakeholders

So it’s also about governance, social programmes, and private sector involvement. All stakeholders and role-players could and should be committed to a plan that drives early interventions in school education, mentorships and – as a given – financial and operational support.

Think short- and long-term

And perhaps most importantly, this approach must include short, medium and long-term goals - the metrics by which the success of any venture is measured. Those goals also need to be realistic, and as mentioned, must include a strategy for upscaling - or at least integrating – these enterprises into a bigger value chain.

In the South African context, where large portions of the population are economically disadvantaged, there are already several organisations and investing time and money into developing small, medium and microbusinesses, helping them to run better and ultimately grow. It is small businesses, after all, that drive community development through employment and social regeneration.

Holistic approach

Too often, in SA, ED is nothing more than a last minute tacked-on box to be ticked off in business’ plans. While every little bit helps, this is by no ways the means in which we will garner the best possible results from ED initiatives. If we can approach ED as an even more holistic engagement of the economic and social landscape, I believe we can see meaningful impact for all stakeholders.

This article was first published on 27 May 2016 by Business Brief.