Press release from SBI (Previously AHI)

25 September 2017


For the past year, the AHI business chamber organisation has taken steps to renew itself to safeguard its relevance and diversity and become the ‘Big Voice for Small Business’.

Following its special general meeting on Friday 22 September, the members of AHI adopted a new Memorandum of Incorporation and a new name, SBI.

“We would be proud if over time SBI becomes synonymous with credible research and public positions on all matters of interest to Small Business. Apart from a few hundred corporations and SOE’s, over 95% of all businesses fall into this category,” said President Bernard Swanepoel.

As a member of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), SBI brings together over a hundred Chambers which represent some of the estimated two million SMEs. Small businesses contribute at least 40% of South Africa’s GDP. As the predominant creator of jobs in any society, the nine million unemployed people in SA require a vibrant small business sector with prospects for growth and an enabling environment for success.

CEO Dr Ernest Messina said: “SBI will focus on advancing the best interests of all SMEs in South Africa, working with all role-players, to ensure they remain in business, grow and create jobs.”

SBI has held a series of SME Indabas in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Two further Indabas will be held in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg on 11 October and 2 November respectively. Leaders from government, the media, political and economic analysts, corporate South Africa and inspirational entrepreneurs have participated, generating debate and supporting the challenges put to them by SBI:

That policy makers ‘think small first’ when making law and imposing new regulations;
That government and big businesses pay SMEs on time for work done satisfactorily;
That ‘each one creates two’, our challenge to SBI members to create two new jobs.
A particular frustration for Swanepoel has been the lack of comprehensive research in the sector.

“Though we continue to introduce layers of bureaucracy meant to assist SMEs, we don’t even know how many exist, how many they employ, whether they are growing or contracting, what sectors they dominate and what challenges they face. We hope to raise sufficient funding to undertake a baseline study in the New Year as a priority,” he said.

SBI will be governed by a newly constituted board of experts that all share a passion for small business. This will be a demographically reflective board with distinct ‘portfolios’ for better accountability.

“SBI is committed and enthusiastic about playing a meaningful role in partnership with government, corporate South Africa as well as sister organisations to create a conducive and enabling environment for SMEs,” said Messina.

“SBI will endeavour to bring about tangible results which will make a noticeable difference to the business landscape. We owe this to the current and next generation as our contribution to a new heritage and legacy for SMEs. Like our country, our diverse heritage should be the foundation for a future where we create inclusive wealth for all.”

For more information contact:

Bernard Swanepoel
2017 AHI President
083 303 9922

Ernest Messina
083 571 1795

Cobus Bester
SBI Spokesperson
082 457 7218