by Pr Worx

Enterprise Development at work

Zimele a beacon of hope

Dr Lia Vangelatos: Acting Head of Zimele
Dr Lia Vangelatos.jpg

 While many companies are eager to become more involved in the Enterprise Development (ED) space, they often lack the knowledge and skills required to plan and execute a successful ED programme. Dr. Lia Vangelatos, acting head of Anglo American’s ED arm, Zimele, elaborates on the most important elements of ensuring an ED vision is realised and creates its intended impact. 

Undoubtedly, many companies in South Africa are beginning to recognise that initiating their own ED programmes can transform society and the socio-economic landscape in a meaningful and impactful manner.

The development of these programmes has the capacity to substantively improve the plight of millions in our country by equipping young entrepreneurs and business people, with the relevant skills and knowledge required to forge sustainable business careers.

However, before initiating any programme, it is crucial that certain factors are taken into account in order to strengthen the effectiveness and impact of the programme.

The most critical starting point is to have a real passion and desire to make the programme a success.  Legal or regulatory compliance should not be the primary reason you choose to initiate an ED programme; rather, this decision should arise from the social consciousness of the business, and a philosophy to fundamentally alleviate poverty and improve the lives of people.

A corporate ED programme works best when it resides internally in an organisation, and forms part of the decision-making and forums and/or groups that exist in the company. 

Within this context, it is crucial to have the support of top management, as well as concerted collaboration and contribution from every area of the company, with targets and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) being recorded. 

The ED model that any company adopts should encompass a holistic developmental approach that does not only include funding, but mentorship, support and skills transfer, with effective linkages created in terms of these key facets.

Undoubtedly, the development of this model should also be a consultative process in which all key players will play a role in making it work together in partnership.  The field of ED is very wide, and input is, therefore, required across the whole spectrum of industry role players. 

Stakeholders should include players such as communities, unions, suppliers, customers, training institutions, media, and local and national government. Recognising and identifying key niche players that are specialists in their specific areas can help companies achieve their ED objectives more efficiently.

One should also always bear in mind that it may be easier to get some quick returns by starting small and targeting ‘low hanging fruit’. As such, initially, it would be prudent to identify areas in the business that can be outsourced, such as services and non-core functions, in order to build the necessary confidence levels to support ED.

Along the way, your organisation will have to overcome several challenges, which could hamper any sincere intentions to devise an ED programme. These issues could include a tendency by some to resist change and maintain the status quo, and a lack of education and understanding of the benefits of ED.

Further, problems may also arise from having to compete with a ‘pool of funds’, with other Return on Investment (ROI) projects deemed as a higher priority.

Anglo American’s top management fully supports Zimele, and allocates resources to this dedicated ED arm, in order to help achieve its objectives.  It is recognised as part of the way we do business and enables us to take a holistic approach to ED.

This approach has resulted in our Group being recognised as a global leader in ED, with the Zimele formula having been adopted by both the International Finance Corporate, and the United Nations Development Programme.

Resultantly, we have ensured that Zimele’s ED model is more visible and accessible through a Corporate Centre that is supported by a national footprint of 31 small business hubs, with experts constantly on hand to offer professional advice and service to existing or potential entrepreneurs through every step of their business journey. 

Anglo American also fully recognises the vital importance of partners, and collaborates with a number of key stakeholders in order to achieve ED objectives. Anglo American’s ED philosophy has grown to the successful model that it is today through this very approach over 23 years, which has led to the funding and support of small businesses in a substantial and fundamental way.

The comprehensive strategy has allowed Zimele to flourish since its inception in 1989. In fact, from 2008 to 15 December 2011, its four funds have provided R567 million in funding, supported 1,085 companies, and completed 1,481 loan transactions. Further, funded businesses have employed 19,575 people, and achieved a collective annual turnover of R2,3 billion.

In conclusion, companies in South Africa should be encouraged to initiate their own ED programmes, and incorporate this programme as part of their business model. This objective is eminently and practically achievable, and will ultimately create a tangible and positive legacy for the country.

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