Can business incubation programmes save SMMEs from the plight of load shedding?

It is estimated that in 2020 alone, each stage of load shedding cost South Africa’s economy R500 million per day. In 2021, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) cautioned that load shedding would cost the country approximately R15 billion if left unresolved. In July 2022, experts estimated that Stage 6 load shedding had wiped over a whopping R4 billion from South Africa’s GDP — daily, that is.


It is a widely known fact that load shedding continues to wreak havoc in the daily operations of most businesses. SMMEs, in particular, bear the brunt of this disrupted supply in electricity — a sad reality considering that the National Development Plan had pinned its hopes on SMMEs aiding in eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030 through, amongst other plans, building an inclusive economy.


If anything, the recent global Covid-19 pandemic cast a spotlight on how interlinked the different facets of any society are — an insight that we already knew, but one that we perhaps were procrastinating on implementing. Now, let us dissect the above logic and how it could benefit SMMEs — and instil hope in budding entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship, after all, is essential for any country’s development, especially in flailing economies. Innovative entrepreneurs hold the key to creating new jobs and increasing business competitiveness. Yet, if entrepreneurial challenges such as lack of access to funding, mentorship and load shedding persist, up-and-coming entrepreneurs may be discouraged to partake in entrepreneurship, while up-and-running start-ups may succumb to the temptation to close shop.


Enter Uyandiswa’s incubation programme, which offers Black female-owned SMMEs customised services, an opportunity to preserve some of their capital and access to external support and expertise — therefore helping to accelerate their chances of growth and success. “The beneficiaries of our incubation programme get access to Uyandiswa premises and infrastructure, which have back-up power, meaning they do not have to worry about rent or load shedding. Having the beneficiaries in our vicinity also allows for easy mentorship, collaboration and partnering. At Uyandiswa, our business ethos is based on supplier development and ensuring that we continuously contribute towards alleviating the social ills brought on largely by poverty and lack of access,” says Uyandiswa Founder and CEO Amanda Dambuza. A critical part of the incubation programme is opening up our own, and our clients’, supply chain to facilitate direct access to opportunities.


Through our incubation programme, Uyandiswa walked away victorious at the 2021 Business Day Supplier Development Awards in the ‘Newcomer’ category. Sponsored by ABSA and Business Day, the awards recognise and celebrate those companies that are leaders in supplier development and who stimulate best business practices through open dialogues and skills development. Lastly, they encourage collaboration throughout the pipeline. “Uyandiswa’s CEO is passionate about using their good standing to unlock opportunities for others by supporting upcoming businesses, especially Black women-owned businesses that typically lack resources. They differentiate their supplier development efforts by letting the SMMEs hold them accountable to ensure they deliver on their promises,” read the motivation behind one of Uyandiswa’s biggest wins to date.

This year, ahead of the 2022 Business Day Supplier Development Awards, we would like to urge more businesses to join the small pool of companies currently offering a lifeline to SMMEs. Support does not always have to be in monetary terms but can also come in the form of strategically taking SMMEs under your wing and shielding them from the sometimes tumultuous winds of entrepreneurship. As we ponder on various ways and our respective roles in contributing to the success of the National Development Plan, may we keep this African proverb by Martha Goedert in mind: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”