Small medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) from all over Africa competed in the Africa SMME Awards this year and it is significant that a social enterprise ultimately emerged as winner.
A Kenyan social enterprise, Honeycare Africa, was named the top small- to medium-sized business in Africa at a Johannesburg venue last week (22 October 2005). This the first time in the history of the Africa SMME Awards that a non-South African company has been named winner of the competition.
According to Prof Nicholas Biekpe, head of the Africa Centre for Investment Analysis (ACIA) at the University of Stellenbosch Business School and host of the event, the emergence of Honeycare as winner is indicative of ubuntu in Africa.
“The spirit of ubuntu is alive in many African countries and these social enterprises see themselves as extensions of the community,” he said.
Honeycare has an explicit sustainability agenda. With various stakeholders, Honeycare encourages small-scale farmers, most of whom live below the poverty line, to start beekeeping as a sustainable source of income – thereby reducing poverty and environmental degradation, as well as enhancing bio-diversity conservation through pollination. This combination of social factors led to Honeycare’s emergence as winner of the Renewable Energy and Environment category and also as the recipient of the Africa SMME of the Year award.
Honeycare links with donors and micro-finance institutions to provide beekeepers with loans to acquire beekeeping equipment, training, extension services as well as a guaranteed market for their honey. Honeycare then processes, packs, markets, distributes and sells the honey under unique brand names for a profit.
In close overall second position and winner of the Food and Beverage Production category was Ultimate Sports Nutrition (USN). USN founder Albé Geldenhuys correctly anticipated a surge in the need for sports drinks. The company has an extensive product range, including food supplements for professional sportspeople and sports drinks aimed at a wider mass-consumer market.
The overall third position was taken by winner of the Tourism and Transport sector award, Mandla Wilderness, an eco-tourism business on the shores of Lake Niassa in Mozambique. A conservation area surrounding the lodge provides employment and opportunities in a sustainable manner.
The category for Non-Profit Organisations was introduced this year. ASAFE (Association pour le Soutien et l’Appui à la Femme Entrepreneur), a development organisation from Cameroon, won the category. The organisation grew from an educational institution to one that offers entrepreneurs support services, including microfinance.
For excellence in journalism covering small business issues on the continent, South African Stephen Timm of BigNews, a Cape Town-based newspaper, won the Africa SMME Journalist of the Year award. Godwin Nnanna of Business Day, Nigeria, came second, with Siaka Momoh of the same newspaper receiving honourable mention.
Biekpe believes that the development of best practices in the SMME sector could greatly alleviate poverty. “Once a few key issues are in place, small businesses can thrive with relatively little effort. Yet we find that little is done to secure these enabling deliverables.”
He said that factors that need to be addressed are excessive red tape when registering a business, lack of access to information and poor rule of law. These were among the topics discussed at ACIA’s Africa Development Finance Conference which preceded the awards evening.
For more information, contact Jako Volschenk at [email protected]. Visit www.acia.sun.ac.za.
Source: USB, Oct. 28, 2005