Mashaba focused his speech on the inner city, saying its bylaws were under review in a bid to make the work of Johannesburg’s entrepreneurs easier. This included an expansion of small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) hubs from seven to 12 by the end of the year.
“We have initiated a review of all bylaws in the city, with a focus on those bylaws that are involved in the decision-making processes pertaining to economic development. We will be throwing open our doors to make Johannesburg an easier and more attractive destination for doing business in SA,” he told the hundreds of global delegates gathered at the Sandton Convention Centre.
Mashaba, himself an entrepreneur as founder of hair and beauty company Black Like Me, said small-business development was a “key focus area” during his term of office.
“Between August and December 2016, the city provided support to 6 993 SMEs, which is 2 000 more than what was achieved in the months preceding the elections,” he said. He added that a task team had been established to fast-track investment into the city, and was working specifically in the areas of land use, utility services and zoning.
Ramaphosa spoke poetically about the importance of entrepreneurs, saying that modern humans left Africa 100 000 years ago and proceeded to colonise other regions with the “innovative talent and entrepreneurial drive that they had inherited from this continent”.
“All the accepted markers of civilisation which have been perfected in other locales – metallurgy, agriculture and the written language – originated on this continent. So today, we can say that Africa is the cradle not only of humanity but also of entrepreneurship,” Ramaphosa said.
He urged entrepreneurs at the conference to confidently seek out the scores of investors currently in the city for the conference.
“I invite you to put your best foot forward as you engage with them. Shine in front of these investors so they can invest in your business,” he said.
He said small businesses would grow on the back of government procurement policies which would set aside funds to buy goods and services from SMEs.
“Small businesses will thrive if regulation and taxation regimes are reformed to promote rather than stifle small and medium-sized enterprises. It’s pleasing to hear Mayor Mashaba say they’ll be looking closely at bylaws that stifle business. Mayors, we want you to roll out the red carpet for small and medium-sized enterprises. This means reducing the cost of doing business, the cost of data, the cost of transport and the cost of financial services. I want bankers to listen very carefully,” he said to rousing applause.