24 January 2017

New focus for small business chamber

The board of the AHI has made South African businessman Bernard Swanepoel president of the organisation for the 2017 calendar year, according to CEO Dr Ernest Messina.

He said Swanepoel is mandated to assist him with renewing the 74-year old chamber’s relevance and impact, broadening its membership, and increasing its advocacy work around government policies and regulations affecting SMMEs.

“Small- and medium-sized enterprises contribute disproportionately to GDP, to job creation and skills training,” said Messina, “and yet there is no significant voice speaking on their behalf. The AHI is well-placed to do this and we hope to forge new partnerships and collaborations to amplify that voice under Swanepoel’s guidance.”

Messina says that South Africa has a growing entrepreneurial focus – whether opportunistic or out of necessity – and sees AHI continuing and expanding its work with local and provincial governments to improve the odds of business success stories as well as engaging with national policy.

To assess legislation, regulation, or even campaign rhetoric, AHI will evaluate whether it will help or hinder SMEs to take root or grow.

The organisation will also host regular discussions and events focusing on issues and leadership in the SME sector.

Seasoned economics editor and radio current affairs anchor or presenter, Cobus Bester has also been appointed as national spokesperson.

“As a small business owner myself, I know how tough it is to build a business,” said Swanepoel. “South Africa has a lot going for it, but we face many challenges that will require an all-hands-on-deck approach to encourage SMEs to contribute what they should to inclusive growth.

“Nine million unemployed people are counting on us.”

On behalf of the AHI Board Messina said, “We look forward to this new and exciting phase in the history of the AHI as we set out to build an inclusive business chamber movement with a proud heritage and a significant contribution to be made to our young democracy.”


Further information:
Ernest Messina, CEO: 083 571 1795
Bernard Swanepoel, President AHI: 083 303 9922
Cobus Bester, AHI National Spokesperson: 082 457 7218.

The AHI has been the voice of small businesses in South Africa for 74 Years. It supports a free-market approach to job creation through inclusive economic growth and ethical leadership.

Members of the board are Bernard Swanepoel, Winda Austin-Loeve, Sipho Nkosi, and Dr Ernest Messina. “Together we create sustainable prosperity.”

Bernard Swanepoel spent 25 years in the corporate world, the last 12 as CEO of Harmony. Over the past ten years he has been intimately involved in small and medium businesses in SA as an owner, investor and advisor. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and believes that it is a fundamental driver of the economy.