Phila Sizwe: Supporting South Africa’s SMMEs Through A Unique Mentor Hotline
The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), under the banner of its Enterprise Development (SAICA ED) entity and the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (ABASA) have collaborated with FNB and Fetola to help small business customers with pro-bono professional services. Through the aptly named “Phila Sizwe” (meaning “healthy nation” in isiZulu) initiative, SAICA is proud to announce that 298 of its members have volunteered to be part of the solution by playing a strategic role in offering pro-bono professional services to ailing SMMEs.
Covid-19 has dealt local SMMEs a bad hand as evident in the grim mid-term economic outlook delivered by the Minister of Finance. Now, more than ever, SMMEs need to be supported to survive the current economic state and the pandemic low growth environment.
With their needs in mind, SAICA ED and Fetola have been on-boarding mentors onto the Mentor Hotline platform in a pilot programme expected to run until 31 August 2020.
How the programme works
As part of this pilot, SMMEs and mentors registered on the project’s Mentor Hotline platform where they are able to post a query that is matched to a volunteer mentor with the relevant skills and expertise to help them.
This virtual support service provides business owners with valuable advice on how to manage the many business challenges and opportunities during this time. Entrepreneurs also have the freedom to choose any topic, including leadership and strategic planning, change management, turnaround strategies, finance and accounting, IT and telecommunications, sales and marketing, compliance and legislation.
Says Jameel Khan, Head of Projects at SAICA ED and one of the mentors for the programme: “It is amazing to see the support and coming together of our members to assist these small businesses. Members are engaging and networking all while really enjoying themselves, which is really powerful to witness, says Khan.
“As SAICA ED, we are grateful to Fetola for providing the project access to its digital mentorship platform, and also capacitating the intervention with some of their own mentors. Throughout the onboarding process, each mentor was required to go through a short vetting process which focused on educating them on what is required, providing them with feedback on what topics fall within their area of expertise and what boundaries are in place when dealing with the SMMEs. In addition to this, Fetola also provided mentors with FAQs to assist with any questions they had and issued certificates confirming that they had completed the short educational course.”
Says Mpho Mokoenene, one of the entrepreneurs using the platform: “My mentor answered queries I hadn’t even asked. It’s a great system – I would rate him a 10! The mentor went above and beyond to reach out to me and assist me.”
Adds Head of SME Development at FNB, Heather Lowe: “We recognise the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on the SME sector. Few have experienced a storm such as this before, and now, more than ever, business owners need to be able to draw on the experience, support and expertise of seasoned entrepreneurs and business specialists. We remain committed to providing real help to our SMEs in whatever form we can to ensure their survival and future sustainability.”
Sibusiso Nduna, an ABASA board member who heads the Wealth Creation portfolio emphasised the importance of this partnership especially because it afforded black accountants to be part of the socio-economic growth agenda of the country. “It is common knowledge that for the economy to grow, small businesses must be supported as they bolster employment and innovation. In addition, this platform allowed our members to demonstrate their skills and competence outside their existing client base which supports their business development initiatives. We are therefore excited that some of our members participated in Phila Sizwe.”
Catherine Wijnberg, CEO of Fetola concludes: “It’s a dream to able to provide this free service to SMEs and entrepreneurs across the country, thanks to the support of FNB, the incredible army of volunteer mentors and specialist partners SAICA and ABASA. The Mentor Hotline has already had an impact on hundreds of SMEs and my wish is that together we can do more, and for longer, to save businesses and jobs, making this the good news story for 2020.”
To date, the volunteer mentors have already helped 300 small and medium sized enterprises. Now this unique initiative is being rolled out to businesses across the country. To find out more about the Mentor Hotline, to help sponsor the project or to register as a volunteer or entrepreneur go to Fetola’s website.