By Bahle Gama | 2020-03-26
The recent outbreak of the coronavirus presents multiple challenges for businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with concerns mainly with longer-term effects on investment, cash flow and the overall future of local SMEs.
The Small Enterprises Development Company (SEDCO) says supporting small businesses through this period is a priority for them in order to ensure their survival and grow the economy.
SEDCO CEO Dorrington Matiwane yesterday said that some practical considerations to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in a SME business operation entailed extreme caution. It also meant abiding by the hygiene protocols issued by the ministry of health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to avoid any transmission, actively encouraging sick employees to stay home.
Employees must notify their supervisors when they are sick and developing and implementing plans to continue their essential business functions in case of higher than usual absenteeism.
He said the COVID-19 outbreak would result in supply chain disruptions within a majority of sectors due to limited cross-border trade.
“The recent stance of the South African government to close some border posts Eswatini shares with them shows the need for business continuity preparedness,” he said.
He said businesses should plan for interruptions in procurement of raw materials, suppliers, sub-contractor services and logistics required to maintain business operations.
“Businesses that carry limited raw material inventory and rely heavily on neighbouring countries for supply have to evaluate their inventory levels as they are at high risk of disruption. Alternative sources of supply have to be identified and as in other areas of business, those companies who identify specific supply risks and actively manage it will find solutions or at least mitigate the impact,” he said.
Matiwane further advised that SMEs could also identify essential business functions, essential jobs/roles and critical elements within their supply chains.
“The Eswatini government through the ministry of commerce, industry and trade is currently exploring alternative sources of supply in different regions.
Also, SEDCO acknowledges and appreciates the measures pronounced by the minister of finance,” he said.
In terms of handling their financial situations, Matiwane said SMEs should approach their bank if their business operations need short-term financial support or relief.
“SMEs can also approach SEDCO for financial counselling and assistance in approaching the banks.
Government has provided an extension of returns filling deadlines by three months before penalties kick-in, hence SMEs should proactively engage SEDCO business counsellors to assist on compliance,” he added.
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