/ 18 March 2024

Empowering marginalised entrepreneurs: A vision for inclusive economic growth


It is essential for SMEs to access finance, mentorship and market opportunities

Nobesuthu Ndlovu, Director of SME at Old Mutual Limited, shared insights into the empowering impact of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly those owned by marginalised groups, on the social fabric of South Africa. With a deep understanding of entrepreneurship and a commitment to driving economic and social change, she shed light on various aspects, including the challenges faced by marginalised SMEs, collaborative approaches for social justice and the future outlook for SMEs in South Africa.

Ndlovu emphasised the empowering impact of SMEs owned by marginalised groups, highlighting their role in fostering economic inclusion and social cohesion. She pointed out that these enterprises not only provide opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship but also prioritise serving the needs of their communities, thus contributing to broader social transformation.

Drawing from her own entrepreneurial journey with Burgundy Fly and her current leadership role at Old Mutual, Ndlovu shared valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by SMEs owned by marginalised groups. She stressed the importance of providing access to finance, mentorship and market opportunities to empower aspiring entrepreneurs from underserved communities.

Addressing the perceived conflict between profitability and social responsibility in business, she stressed the mutual reinforcement of these goals. She highlighted the importance of adopting ethical business practices and collaborating with stakeholders to drive systemic change and address structural inequalities.

Reflecting on the contributions of SMEs to economic development in South Africa, Ndlovu highlighted trends such as the rise of social entrepreneurship and the leveraging of technology by marginalised entrepreneurs. She shared success stories of SMEs overcoming adversity and making a notable impact on their communities, underscoring their resilience.

Discussing the challenges faced by marginalised SMEs, Ndlovu outlined strategies for addressing these them, including improving access to finance, providing mentorship and capacity-building support, addressing structural barriers, and expanding market access opportunities.

As Human Rights Day approaches, Ndlovu emphasized the role of SMEs in promoting human rights within their operations and communities. She highlighted the importance of adopting ethical business practices, engaging with stakeholders and supporting human rights advocacy initiatives.

Regarding Old Mutual’s initiatives to support and empower marginalised SMEs, Ndlovu highlighted SMEgo, a digital platform designed to streamline business operations and access financial resources. She emphasised the impact of these initiatives in improving SMEs’ operations and access to funding, thus contributing to their growth and sustainability.

Looking ahead, Ndlovu identified opportunities such as the evolving digital landscape and growing consumer demand for sustainable products, but she also highlighted challenges such as limited access to finance, inadequate infrastructure and regulatory barriers. She called for collaborative efforts from government and private sector stakeholders to create an enabling environment for the growth and success of SMEs.