May 2020 1st Edition

Small business support during COVID-19

Written by Dale Hes

The uncertainty and financial strain placed on entrepreneurs and small business owners by the global coronavirus pandemic is being alleviated by a host of public and private support schemes.

Small business owners and informal traders are amongst the South Africans who are most heavily impacted by the lockdown. In order to get through this difficult time, these business owners can take advantage of a number of interventions that government has put in place to assist them. 

SMME Debt Relief Fund

Following the announcement of the lockdown, the Department of Small Business Development immediately made a debt relief fund available for small businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

More than R500 million has been made available through the fund, which small and medium enterprises must apply for through an online application process. 

Here are the steps that need to be followed:

Your business must be registered on the SMME South Africa portal. If you are not yet registered, you need to go to to register. 

Once your registration is complete, you can apply for the COVID-19 SMME Debt Relief Fund. You can find the application form on the Department of Small Business Development’s website. 

If you meet all the criteria (such as your business being tax compliant and 100 percent owned by South Africans), relief funding will be paid out to approved applicants within 12 working days. 

If you own a micro-enterprise, then the Small Enterprise Development Agency is available to help you to apply to the debt relief scheme. Requests for assistance must be emailed to

Solidarity Response Fund

President Cyril Ramaphosa also announced the launch of the Solidarity Response Fund, which received a R150 million kickstart from government. The fund allows organisations and individuals to donate to the nationwide effort to support small businesses and COVID-19 response efforts. 

In the first two weeks of the fund, over R2 billion was donated, which will be channelled into relief efforts. 

Support for spaza shops

Government has recognised the unique challenges that the pandemic poses to those working in the informal sector. In this respect, Minister for Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has also released support packages for people working in this sector.

This includes a dedicated support scheme for spaza shops. 

“The spaza shop support will include dedicated networking, purchasing power and bulk purchasing through pre-selected and pre-approved wholesalers,” explains the minister. 

This support will allow spaza shops to gain access to goods which they can sell. Minister Ntshavheni adds that the scheme will also provide credit to spaza shop owners, to allow them to access the money needed to buy stock. 

“This will be followed by a credit facility to enable spaza shop owners to continuously buy, even after the COVID-19 outbreak is over.”

The department will also provide advice on how to successfully run their shops. 

“We are also supporting them with business management support because we know that there are problems in spaza shops running their businesses to be profitable,” Ntshavheni says.

Helping informal traders

Government is also working on creating a package that will provide income relief to informal traders who have lost income due to the crisis. 

Informal businesses also qualify for the SMME Debt Relief Fund but are required to register with the department in the same manner as other small businesses. 

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