By Lerato Thipa

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA, April 13 The development of small, medium and micro enterprise (SMMEs) remains a top priority for the South African government, says Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu.

Speaking at an SMME stakeholder summit here Tuesday, she said her department had forged partnerships with various stakeholders within the government to ensure that SMMEs received all the support they needed to grow.

The summit provided a platform for SMME’S and co-operatives to share their experiences on ways to deal with challenges they face and learned that many of them get by without even the basics.

One entrepreneur, Luyanda Xululu, told the meeting: “It’s not easy to work under such conditions. Everyday we are exposed to the cold, and at times the extreme heat. We are also desperately in need of shelter so that we can work better.”

Another entrepreneur, Catherine Gostin, said: “If you look at the kind of environment we work in, it is bad. I mean look at the tables we are using, they are broken. We are not safe, and anyone can walk past and just fire shots at us.”

The department is also using the summit to acknowledge and correct the pitfalls in the system.

“We have Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) and Sector Education Training Authority (SETA) offices throughout the nine provinces. But the offices are overwhelmed.

If I can say it out-right, it is for this reason that we are looking at core locations and means of working together with local government and local economic development,” said the minister.

“We would like to use the offices of local economic development departments, so [that] they can be a once-stop shop where people can be able to come to one place so that the turnaround time for the assistance that they need is received at that local level and an effective co-ordinated approach to supporting small businesses”

Similar summits are to be hosted in other regions in the country.